Love And Marriage In 18th Century

.. extramarital relations. She Stoops to Conquer sets this example on the figures of Hastings and Neville. The young lovers are truly in love although they are still conditioned by money in a way. They have to hide their love from Mrs. Hardcastle, as she is the proprietor of Nevilles jewels, and to obtain her wealth, Constance must marry whomever Mrs.

Hardcastle pleases, unless the man refuses. To keep the money in the family Mrs. Hardcastle wishes for Neville to marry her son Tony. However, the lovers proclaim several times their love disregarding money. During a conversation that both hold, Miss Neville states she would rather marry him once she owns all her jewels so that they can secure their future: “The instant they (jewels) are put into my possession you shall find me ready to make them and myself yours”. But Hastings exclaims: “Perish the baubles! Your person is all I desire” (p.19).

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Even when the young lady assures that “in the moment of passion, fortune may be despised, but it ever produces a lasting repentance” Hastings insists on letting their feelings flow: “Perish fortune. Love and contempt will increase what we possess beyond a monarchs revenue. Let me prevail” (p.56). Mary narrates a similar story in Mary the Wrongs of Woman. Peggy is married to Daniel, a sailor.

Money was not involved in their marriage but pure love and passion. When Daniel dies Peggy is forced to live on his wages and later on she has to earn a living by doing some hard physical work. She laments the loss of her husband not because of the work she has to do now to sustain the family for “it was pleasant to work for her children” (p.132) but because of her broken heart without his beloved. “Providence to have let him come back without a leg or an arm, it would have been the same thing to her – for she did not love him because he maintained them – no; she had hands of her own.” (p.132). Nevertheless, it should not be striking that eighteenth century women looked for husbands as a means of rising their social position and their wealth, as they hardly had any other way of obtaining it, disregarding love.

And this is Molls resolution: “[..] I was resolved now to be married or nothing, and to be well married or not at all.” (p.77). Working women were not accepted by society and the only jobs that they could get were those implying hard physical work (servitude) or prostitution. Besides, the legal system in this period did not allow women to inherit anything when the spouses died, all the money passing from father to son/son-in-law. Moll Flanders chose her life as a prostitute and states that it caused her all the misery and destruction she will suffer later on in her life: “Well, let her life have been the way it would then, it was certain that my life was very uneasy to me; for I livd, as I have said, but in the worst sort of whoredom, and as I coud expect no Good of it, so really no good issue came and all my seeming prosperity wore off and ended in misery and distruction.” (p.138). Her choice of going to whoredom, however, was only because she felt the need to survive.

All of Molls subsequent sexual relations will have a monetary dimension. Moll does not even try to make a distinction between sex and money and takes for granted that you must make a financial assessment before going to bed with anyone. Sex is therefore a transaction or rather an investment. In this sense she adds up whether she has more money or less after each relationship throughout her life. In the first periods of her life she exploits her sexuality for the purpose of profit.

Later on, when her beauty vanishes, she has to move towards crime as her only means of life. Therefore we could say that her life moves simultaneously between two levels: the sexual and the financial . While Moll makes her choice of life, Mary Wollstonecraft shows in Mary the Wrongs of Woman, the misery of women who prostituted themselves because they did not have any other option. Jemina is a clear example who, after having been raped by her master at the age of sixteen, will be used by men for the rest of her life. She works as a servant, becomes a mistress and then a washerwoman to survive because she has no other choice.

She feels then a slave without any control over her own body, condemned to remain static in this social position . When talking about her job as a washerwoman she affirms: “[..]that this was a wretchedness of situation peculiar to my sex. A man with half my industry, and, I may say, abilities, could have procured a decent livelihood. [..] whilst I, [..] was cast aside as the filfth of society. Condemned to labour, like a machine, only to earn bread, and scarcely that [..]” (p.115-116) In this paragraph Jemina explains that after being obliged to maintain an illicit sexual intercourse she lost her virtue and with it all her rights as a woman in society. This leads us a to the question of womens virtue and how to preserve it. Virtue was one of the main qualities a woman should possess in order to get married.

This idea of chastity and feminine purity was so strong that at the end of the century it was commonly believed that decent women had no sexual desires at all . In this respect, young, inexperienced and chaste characters like Fanny Goodwill (in Joseph Andrews) are opposed to others like Mary, who acts upon her own sexual desires, or Moll, who is depicted as enjoying her trade at least during a period of her life. Thus, Moll makes no resistance to her suitors, not even with her first lover, the young brother, who cunningly persuades her to have a sexual relation with him: “For God knows that I made no resistance to him while he only held me in his arms and kissed; indeed I was too well pleased with it to resist him much” (p. 46). Hence the social and sexual mores between women and men were not equal when applied to both parts separately. For instance, the disparity between male and female chastity can be clearly observed in Joseph Andrews. Thus, when Joseph, a servant, appears in the novel defending his virtue and chastity from the advances of Lady Booby, the whole scene becomes a parody.

And the Lady even talks about the non-existence of mans virtue: “Did ever Mortal hear of a Mans Virtue! Did ever the greatest Man pretend to any of this Kind! Will Magistrates who punish Lewdness, or Parsons, who preach against it, make any scruple of committing it? And a Boy, a Stripling have the Confidence to talk of his Virtue?” (p.80) The double standard that demands chastity on women but not on men, together with the oppression over women, who were considered as a mere possession of their husbands, induces Mary to declare that when one “is born a woman” one is “born to suffer” (p.181). This leads us to the conclusion that marriage in the eighteenth century did not go together with love, moreover they were considered opposed terms most of the times. “A woman would only be expected to maintain; yes, barely grant a subsistence, to a woman rendered odious to habitual intoxication: but who would expect him, or think it possible to love her?” (Mary the Wrongs of Woman, p. 154). The relevance of this remark lays in the depiction Mary gives of her marriage.

She describes the lack of love that runs through it, at the same time transforming it into a general declaration that concerns every marriage in that period. The statement made by the lady who owns the shop where Mary hides from George Vernables is also notable, as she does not believe that Mary can get away from her husband because “when a woman was once married, she must bear everything” (p. 170). All in all we could conclude our essay saying that through all the examples we have analyzed, the separation between love and marriage is clear. In most of the cases women found in marriage the only possible escape from the patriarchal forms embodied in the fathers figure.

It was also the only means to achieve a higher position in the social scale and a certain economic independence and stability. However, the existence of arranged marriages and consequently the lack of love, turned matrimony into a prison where women were locked. A male-ruled world transformed women into virtual slaves that had no rights, and the cases where marriage was the result of a true and passionate love can be counted for as exceptional. Bibliography Wollstonecraft, M., Mary The Wrongs of Woman (1976) Oxford Worlds Classics. ? Fielding, J., Joseph Andrews (1999) Penguin Classics. ? Defoe, D., Moll Flanders (1978) Penguin English Library.

? Goldsmith, O., She Stoops to Conquer (1991) Dover Thrift Editions. ? Stone, L. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800, (1979) Pelikan Books. ? Ty, E. Unsexd Revolutionaries: Five Women Novelists of the 1790s. (1993) University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

? Spencer, J., The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen (1987) Basil Blackwell, Oxford.


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