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kev67
05-08-2012, 03:59 PM
One thing that surprised me a bit in Great Expectations were the descriptions of the weddings. Apart from the one that did not happen, which caused all the problems, and the other disastrous wedding that took place off screen, there were two others: those between Mr Wemmick and Miss Skiffins, and Joe and Biddy. They seemed to be so low key. Mr Wemmick does not even tell Pip he's taking him to his wedding. He just leads him to a church. Apart from the Aged P, there do not seem to be many guests. Then they head off to an inn for a wedding breakfast. At the end of the book, Pip goes back home intending to propose to Biddy, only to discover the school and the forge are shut because Biddy and Joe are at the church getting married. Again, apparently very few guests. They did not even tell Pip. These days when the average wedding seems to cost 10,000 that seems very strange. These weddings seem more like Las Vegas weddings, or registry weddings between middle-aged couples on their second or third time around.

I seem to remember that divorce was virtually impossible back then. It took an act of parliament and could only be granted for a limited number of reasons: infidelity, cruelty or dissertion, I think. I am not sure, but I don't think you were allowed to re-marry once you did divorce. You could escape a bad marriage if your spouse died, and that happened often enough, but otherwise you were stuck with your choice. In addition, sex outside marriage was frowned upon. No doubt it went on, but if you were a single man and you made a girl pregnant, you were expected to marry her. Marriage was far more economically and socially important to women then. I would have thought for all these reasons weddings would be even more socially important occasions than they are now. Even the wedding between Estella and Bentley Drummle seems to have taken place quite quickly once the proposal was accepted and I don't suppose there were very many guests (I wonder what the atmosphere was like at that one).

kiki1982
05-09-2012, 05:40 AM
You are right about marriages. The idea of lavish weddings is a new thing. Queen Victoria's daughter, when she married the prince of Prussia, had also a low key wedding. Not the likes of Charles and Diana. People did come to Buckingham Palace to 'congratulate' the couple and it was the first recorded case of balcony waving as Victoria pitied the people who were out there that they could not see the couple. So she ordered them to go on the balcony and to wave at the people. A tradition was born.

But, no, not even weddings of political importance were lavish occasions. I don't think Victoria's own wedding to Albert was much of an occasion. Maybe because people did not have the means to actually 'go to a wedding'. Transport was slow or there was none. Getting to the other end of London Must have been a major undertaking. A post chase (according to Worseley) went 10 miles an hour. And that's a post chase.

The concept of the 'wedding breakfast', I would think, stems from timing back then. 11 o'clock at the church and in it was for the rich: the Rochesters, the Darcys who had money to pay the priest, decorate the church. In short, those who had to be seen driving to and from church. The less rich married at around 8 o-clock in the morning. The poor even earlier and in the church hallway (or that's what I read somewhere anyway). But you get the picture: if you get married at 8, you're going to have to get up at at least 6 (depending on where you live) and you're going to be hungry after the wedding, at about 9-10. People also didn't have breakfast as we do nowadays: we get up and eat. Back then, even factory workers often went to work without breakast, had some bread at 10, some lunch and then some dinner. Those who did referred to the ten o-clock meal as 'second breakfast'. The rich had something at 12, had tea/dinner at 4 (so guests could drive home at dusk as total darkness was too dangerous), ad had supper at around 11/12 at night (as at the Netherield ball), then stayed up some more until about 3/4 and went to bed. Ladies were not supposed to eat until dinner, gentlemen usually had something in town while they were on business (a pint of porter with a pasty or something).
So, ater your wedding, indeed, you went to have breakfast, and in order to thank your best friends who were there, your parents (if they were still alive) and your witnesses, you invited them too.
Weddings were also no reasons to splash out on clothes like they are now. Often, depending on the financial situation, the husband bought a new suit he would be wearing as a Sunday suit for the next 10 years maybe and the bride bought a gown she would be wearing for the honeymoon (literally the month after the wedding) and then would be wearing on Sundays too. It was a dress, no more. Not even white one in many cases. White clothing was for those who could afford to show that they could wash it properly. Once the dress or suit was too worn to pass or a Sunday dress/suit, it became a normal one and a new one was purchased.
I think low-key weddings stem from the fact that marriage was mostly not something out of pure love. Granted, you 'liked' each other, but in some cases that was literally all. If you were in love, that was great, but what was the most important: that you, as a man, could support a wife and children. Like that man in GE, he needs to have an investment. The wife should be frugal, should know how to make a small budget do (that was even a virtue for the rich!), etc. Did she know all that, she would make a good wife. Did you have all that, you would make a good husband. Losers were nobodies. Hence, a marriage was more like 'he will give me a good life and will do his best'. Not 'oh, I love him'.
Most people also did not have days off to celebrate as they worked most of the week, only taking time off for church. A wedding was just something in between which changed the makeup of the family somewhat (a family member moved out or moved in), but it wasn't something to take a day off for.
When you're talking about the rich, I expect they mostly also carried on with their lives. There were very few (and they were the very rich) who went on a honeymoon abroad (Bridal Tour as Rochester calls it in JE). In the time of the railways, which is still a while away from GE, they went to Scarborough for the day/a few days, or to Brighton. Otherwise they went somewhere private (to their own estate) and then re-emerged a few weeks later.

You are also right about the act of parliament. Until way in the 19th century, you just could not get divorced. As this procedure took a long time, it cost a fortune and was, again, only there for the rich (not the middle classes even) and then you had to go through a whole procedure which essentially involved declaring the unfidelity of your wife. However, not merely 'she betrayed me and slept with another', no, the guy himself had to come and defend himself. This practice was kept on later, when the law was changed. My husband's grandmother was respondent in her divorce because she cheated on her husband with my father's grandfather, but he himself was co-respondent. You can't see that happening now. So, in front of parliament (the House of Lords?) you had to lay bare your marriage. Embarrassing, even if you had the money, you probably wanted to avoid everyone hearing what went on adn with whom. So not everyone did it. As mistresses and lovers were allowed (in the latter case after the woman had provided an heir, unless she was saddled with a particularly jealous piece of work for a husband), I suppose most settled for that.
As to women obtaining a divorce: although this was in the law, it was nearly never granted. It had to involve repeated infidelity on his side compared with cruelty and then maybe she could be lucky. A famous case is Lord Byron whose wife obtained a divorce only after a year of marriage, but we are talking about a man who told his wife-to-be in the carriage just before or was it just ater (?) the wedding that he was just marrying her out of spite because she refused him once; a man who fired pistols in the house when she was pregnant, alegedly just 'to frighten her'; and a man who publicly cheated on her with his own sister, even during their honeymoon, sending her upstairs after dinner, alone, with the excuse that 'we don't need you here'.
I'm not sure if desertion was a ground. It would surprise me, regarding the rules even up to the 1920s. Maybe after years and years and years. What I do know is that, even if a wife left her husband or if he left her and she was earning money (to support herself) that the husband could even claim that as everything she had was his property. As well as the children.

As to Estella's wedding: for most weddings, banns were called (they are still now), announcing the marriage for three weeks running (the fourth week would be the wedding) in the church where the couple was going to get married, asking anyone with an impediment to step forward. Another way, and wuicker way, was to get married with a licence. Which involved the groom-to-be swearing an oath that there were no impediments to this marriage, sign it together with, I think, two witnesses. It cost 1 pound, I believe. In literature I believe licences are used by private people or very enthusiastic and rich bridegrooms (Darcy bought one :D, and Rochester obtained one for his second attempt).

kev67
05-09-2012, 10:18 AM
^^^
Excellent post!

The not-so-white dress is interesting. I always thought it was implausible that Miss Havisham could wear a wedding dress for thirty years and it not to cause a great deal more comment than it did. If it was just a fine dress, that would not be as disconcerting. However most the book illustrations of her seem to show her wearing a bridal veil as well. I noticed in one TV adaption, she was wore a fine dress which may have been once a wedding dress, but not conspicuously so.

With regards to only the rich being able to go on honeymoon: I cannot remember reading it in the book, but in the 1981 BBC adaption, Bentley Drummle and Estella went to France after their wedding. It was quite a faithful adpation so I dare say it was in the book.

What you say about co-respondants being cited in divorce trials rings a bell. I imagine it would be humiliating to appear in a divorce trial, either as the adulterer or as the cuckold. Before the 19th century I suppose there was also the possibility, for gentlemen, that you could call your wife's lover out, and fight each other with swords or pistols on Hampstead Heath, or some other suitable location. This is a less humiliating option, but more dangerous. This seemed to happen quite a lot in Patrick O'Brien's novels. However, I think the practice was dying out by the 1820's.

kiki1982
05-09-2012, 02:20 PM
I think possibly Miss Havisham would have worn a white one, but most women not. As I said, only for the rich.

Actually the thing about white wedding dresses only started in hte nineteenth century and became an absolute craze in Victorian times because of the symbolism: the white representing virginity, purity and innocence. So widows never went in white (God forbid).
The wedding dress was also accompanied by mostly lillies in a bouquet which also represented innocence and purity, and preferably orange blossom (wax or real) around the veil, representing, I think, fertility.

You are right about the duel being a better ay to sort out your marriage problems... Actually and surpirsingly, divorce was a lot easier in the 17th century, but the religious purists considered it a sin to get divorced and they made it harder and harder to do so. Resulting in the ridiculous state marriage ended up in the 19th century.

I don't know whether duelling hadn't been outlawed by the late 18th century. I think it was likely, but no-one really cared. According to Wikipedia a death following a duel would have been considered murder, even Queen Victoria hoped that one of her courtiers 'would get off easily' following such an accident.
Most duels were until first blood and not to the death (and in 19th century England were mostly fought with pistols), but even so, the risk of infection, I imagine, must have been high...

But yes, the question is what is better: to be exposed as one who can't please his wife enough or to go and fight it out on Hampstead Heath (until the next time...)?

kev67
05-09-2012, 05:21 PM
I have been looking up Regency wedding dresses on google, something I never thought I would do. Yes, I'm sure Miss Havisham's dress was originally white. In the 1981 BBC adaption with Joan Hickson playing Miss Havisham, the dress looked ivory coloured.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/images/great_expect_havisham.jpg

I learn from Wikipedia that the last duel to take place in England was in 1852, between two French men. Duelling in mainland Europe and in America continued until the turn of the century. Two British prime ministers, William Pitt the Younger and the Duke of Wellington, fought in duels during their period in office, while there was a famous duel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Canning) between two cabinet ministers, George Canning and Lord Castlereagh, in 1809. Canning missed and was then shot in the thigh, narrowly missing a major artery. That was lucky for both of them because Castlereagh could have been tried for murder if Canning had died.

While I was getting to the end of GE, I found out from a webpage that Estella was a widow by the end of the book. I wondered whether Estella had managed to get her husband killed, because Jaggers had suggested that if Estella used her intelligence, she would get the upper hand in the struggle for dominance in her marriage. I wondered how she might do that and thought of two options: driving him to suicide, or creating a situation, probably by adultery, in which her husband would feel obliged to fight a duel. I was quite depressed by that thought, and wondered whether that was too melodramatic even for Dickens. However, it turned out she was not quite as wicked as that. Not unless she seduced a stableboy into causing the accident with the horse.

kev67
05-10-2012, 01:01 PM
This link (http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/agunn/teaching/enl3251/vf/pres/ziegenfuss.htm) is relevant. It confirms mostly what Kiki says. It says engagements could last from six months to two years, so Wemmick+Miss Skiffins and Joe+Biddy must have kept it quiet. It says that after the engagement a couple could become more intimate, but no so intimate that reputations would be ruined. If the woman did not follow any of the courtship etiquette, the marriage could be called off, although an honourable gentleman would probably marry her anyway - an alternative way out of the Estella-Drummle wedding possibly?

Victorians were encouraged to marry within their own class. They could marry up, but to marry down was to marry beneath yourself. Thus, Pip's desperation to live the life of a rich gentleman and Estella's delight at Bentley being almost aristocracy.

In the 1981 BBC adaption which I have just finished watching the ending was changed somewhat from the book. The ending always seems to be changed. In this TV serial, they meet again in Satis House. They're both 23 or 24. Pip's just lost all his money and had been sick. Estella has called off the wedding to Bentley (not in the book). It is strongly indicated she and Pip will marry. That seems rather unlikely since Pip is now penniless and Estella is an heiress. In the book ending, they meet eleven years later. Estella has lost most of her wealth, while Pip has paid off his debts and is making what must be pretty good money as a capitalist pig. Marriage seems far more probable now.

CarrollMckenz
05-14-2013, 09:48 AM
One thing that surprised me a bit in Great Expectations were the descriptions of the weddings. Apart from the one that did not happen, which caused all the problems, and the other disastrous wedding that took place off screen, there were two others: those between Mr Wemmick and Miss Skiffins, and Joe and Biddy. They seemed to be so low key. Mr Wemmick does not even tell Pip he's taking him to his wedding. He just leads him to a church. Apart from the Aged P, there do not seem to be many guests. Then they head off to an inn for a wedding breakfast. At the end of the book, Pip goes back home intending to propose to Biddy, only to discover the school and the forge are shut because Biddy and Joe are at the church getting married. Again, apparently very few guests. They did not even tell Pip. These days when the average wedding seems to cost 10,000 that seems very strange. These weddings seem more like Las Vegas weddings, or registry weddings between middle-aged couples on their second or third time around.

I seem to remember that divorce was virtually impossible back then. It took an act of parliament and could only be granted for a limited number of reasons: infidelity, cruelty or dissertion, I think. I am not sure, but I don't think you were allowed to re-marry once you did divorce. You could escape a bad marriage if your spouse died, and that happened often enough, but otherwise you were stuck with your choice. In addition, sex outside marriage was frowned upon. No doubt it went on, but if you were a single man and you made a girl pregnant, you were expected to marry her. Marriage was far more economically and socially important to women then. I would have thought for all these reasons weddings would be even more socially important occasions than they are now. Even the wedding between Estella and Bentley Drummle seems to have taken place quite quickly once the proposal was accepted and I don't suppose there were very many guests (I wonder what the atmosphere was like at that one).

Very nicely written post. Marriage is more important for women then men. I will be getting married next month and its my bride who is forcing to do it so early. She thinks of getting stable but I am happy and now searching for luxury wedding dress for het :)

Catriona L
02-26-2019, 06:34 PM
Dickens says that Miss Havisham's wedding dress was white but is now yellowed. I wondered if maybe this was because by 1861 white wedding dresses had become common practice (inspired by Queen Victoria) and so readers would have expected the dress to be white. I mean, if we were reading a modern book and a polka dot wedding dress was mentioned then we would be surprised!