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Thread: Linton and Cathy's wedding

  1. #1
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Linton and Cathy's wedding

    How did Heathcliff manage to force his son's wedding to Cathy? If I understand correctly, wedding banns would normally need to be read out in Cathy's church for three weeks before the wedding could take place. If anyone objected, the wedding could not take place. In Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jane Eyre, the bridegroom avoided this process by applying for a marriage licence, but Linton Heathcliff is under the age of majority, so could he have done this? Surely it would have been highly unusual for a sixteen or seventeen-year-old woman to undergo a wedding without her parents' consent, especially when Cathy's father was a magistrate, and wealthy and well known member of the local establishment. In addition, the priest would surely ask Cathy whether she was marrying Linton of her own free will.

    Also, did Linton and Cathy ever consummate their marriage? Linton was so ill at the time, he may not have been up to it. If they never consummated the marriage then it could have been annulled, and neither Linton nor his father would get their hands on her property.

    This seems a real weak point in the plot.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Interesting. Apparently Emily Brontë must have known A LOT about this stuff! An amateur lawyer, as it seems.

    The Marriage Act of 1753 (see wikipedia) (the next one was in the 20th century, I think) set out the major points as we know them now, i.e. marriage by banns or licence. Minors (i.e. those persons below 21 years of age) needed parental consent. Before this Act, canonic law of the Church of England mainly governed marriage, this Act took that away from the church. Canonic law stated that a marriage was valid by licence or banns and that it had to be celebrated in one of the parishes where the partners resided. In practice, that did not really take off and illegal marriages of minors (without concent) did take place in 'strange' parishes.

    However, it seems that that parental concent stated in the 1753 Act only amounted to objection against the banns being called in themselves. So, in other words, if Edgar Linton didn't know about the banns (because he never went to church, they were called in another parish or anything else), he couldn't object and thus the marriage was legal. Even if he had known, the banns would have been called and there was nothing left for him to do.
    Minor grooms could obtain a licence with parental consent. If this applies here, Linton Heathcliff could have obtained licence with Heathcliff's 'consent' which invlved paying one pound and swearing there was no legal impediment against the marriage. Cathy would not have been concerned in this licence. At least, she wouldn't have had to be actively involved. Even if you could call the fact that Edgar Linton would not have been happy about that marriage a legal impediment, Linton can always have sworn there wasn't. Undoubtedly there must have been minors whoobtained a licence and got married without their fathers consent. As the courts were not allowed to investigate, I can see that happening very easily.

    In both cases, as long as the marriage was concluded before Edgar Linton was able to protest, it would have been legal.

    It is difficult to prove that a marriage has been consummated or not. Possibly it had. I had the impression that Cathy rather liked Linton and actually tried by marrying him, to bring some love not his lifeor console him. I tink she rather pitied him and sacrificed herself, so to say. A little like her mother.
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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Still, they would have needed a priest and a church to get married in.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    I doubt if the wedding took place in church, because the people of Gimmerton were under the impression that both Cathy and Nelly were lost in Blackhorse marsh. Just as Heathcliff had bought the lawyer, he must have found a clergyman willing to perform the illegal marriage. Problems would have arisen only if someone had objected, but who was there to object? Edgar was dead. Nelly was only a servant and she probably didn't know the laws. Cathy was too young, too friendless and powerless. And as far as she knew, she had consented to marry Linton (in her desperation to return to her dying father).
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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    According to the Marriage Act 1753 referred to by Kiki, it seems the wedding was illegal. Cathy may have consented to marry Linton in return for being allowed to see her father before he died. However, she could not have married by licence because she would have needed her father's consent. It was possible for under-21s to marry without their parents' consent in a parish where they were not known, but that would still have required banns to be read out at church for three consecutive weeks. They would have to be married in church too. This does not seem to have happened. Nelly accused Heathcliff of committing a "felony without the benefit of clergy".
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
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    So Nelly wasn't as uninformed as perhaps her station might indicate. I wouldn't say it was a weak point, Kev-but the fact that you noticed it shows that something wasn't right in the state of Denmark, if you don't mind me quoting another literary source. Something was wrong. Perhaps Catherine went along, but it seems that Heathcliff was manipulating this, whcih certainly seems in character for him. Why is he doing this? That might be the question.
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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Ah, but the Wikipedia entry also said that it is often misconstrued as the marriage being illegal if it was performed on illegal terms. The problem with the Act was that it set out rules like the consent of parents, but as soon as the marriage was performed, the marriage was legal, even if it was performed under illegal conditions.
    If I understood it well, parents of minors had to object before the banns were even called. Once the banns were called for the first time, protest as in no parental consent was not an impediment.

    I agree that Emily Brontë meant for Heathcliff to manipulate things, but I disagree that the marriage was illegal once it had been concluded. That as one of the major problems with the Act. It did not make illegal marriages null and void, possibly because there were non-conformist communities like the Jews and the Quakers.

    Nellie could not have prevented the marriage as she was not Cathy's guardian, so she had no say over the matter. She could only watch and tremble. The only thing she could do was inform Cathy's father who could then formally object, but as the solicitor was bought and stayed away even for his will, there would not have been much chance of protest at all.
    I wonder who was Cathy's guardian, though. The solicitor by any chance?

    Obtaining a licence was only the groom's affair. he had to swear there as no impediment. If Linton went to the diocese (I suppose) and swore ether Cathy's father was dead or he did consent, they were not going to ask her father whether that was true. That was also a major problem. You see it often in genealogy too, apparently. Even in the 19th century.
    Last edited by kiki1982; 11-19-2012 at 01:31 PM.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    According to the Marriage Act 1753 referred to by Kiki, it seems the wedding was illegal. Cathy may have consented to marry Linton in return for being allowed to see her father before he died. However, she could not have married by licence because she would have needed her father's consent. It was possible for under-21s to marry without their parents' consent in a parish where they were not known, but that would still have required banns to be read out at church for three consecutive weeks. They would have to be married in church too. This does not seem to have happened. Nelly accused Heathcliff of committing a "felony without the benefit of clergy".
    It is incredible to think that one can read a totally fictional story and yet legality enters into it.
    I thought a story with fictional characters carry no stigma of laws or legal matters.
    A felony as word in a story such as this is a real distractor from the aim of why this story is written.
    To delight or to complicate should be the question?
    A book does not escape its own immediate reality mundane and laws is a real stigma to future generations who have moved on to a modern era. To be burdened by a past full of backwards stratagem while trying to read other more pressing ideas is rather of putting.
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  9. #9
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    It is incredible to think that one can read a totally fictional story and yet legality enters into it.
    I thought a story with fictional characters carry no stigma of laws or legal matters.
    A felony as word in a story such as this is a real distractor from the aim of why this story is written.
    To delight or to complicate should be the question?
    A book does not escape its own immediate reality mundane and laws is a real stigma to future generations who have moved on to a modern era. To be burdened by a past full of backwards stratagem while trying to read other more pressing ideas is rather of putting.
    Sorry I just needed to say it.
    No, I think it is important if there is a weakness in the plot. Wuthering Heights works on several levels and has a lot of interesting aspects (which is no doubt why it is regarded as one of the world's best novels). The romance side does not work for me, I expect, because I am not a woman. However, I find other aspects of it interesting. Heathcliff's long hatched plot of revenge on his enemies, Hindley and Edgar Linton is a major part of the book. He wants to gain possession of both their houses and their other property, which the property inheritance laws were designed to stop people like him from doing. The Marriage Act 1753 was designed in part to prevent abuses of marriage, such as minors marrying without parental consent, and couples being wed against their free will. Heathcliff needs his son Linton to marry Cathy because Linton is dying and Cathy would be next in line to inherit. It may be history now, but when the book was first published, its readers would have been more familiar with the rules and customs. Books were relatively expensive back then. You had to be fairly wealthy to buy them, so I would guess the first readers would be fairly knowledgeable with their inheritance law. I thought Heathcliff's legally dubious acquisition of Wuthering Heights and then Thorncross Grange was adequately addressed. However I don't think E.B. properly explained how Heathcliff managed to force through the wedding of Linton and Cathy around the legal restrictions. If the Yorkshire Moors were not such a Wild West, I doubt this part of the plot would have been plausible.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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