Regency Domesticity: Living the High Life

The Tattler, as she(?) readily admits, has been applied to for advice not only in the arts and sciences, but in matters of astrology (“I have had money offered to me in an attempt to bribe me into a fit of supernatural occasion) and medicine (no less than three letters requesting receipts to cure corns and another for the mode to cure chilblains).

But on matters of marital discord, we find her squarely on the side of Pope, whose famous Epistle to the saintly Anne Blount is prefaced with the well-known eighteenth century notion that ‘most women have no characters at all.’

For example, in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, etc., March 1, 1818, Vol. V, the Tattler addresses two letters from harassed husbands of the Regency.

The first from a husband who has:

“..a clever, managing kind of wife, and, though I say it, rather pretty in her person; but then she has a tongue that never lies still for a moment..”

He has heard of some rubbish that cutting the hand in a certain area will cause lock-jaw. His wife likes to cut her own bread and butter (for the servants are usually wasteful if they do it) and might he be served in his complaint if he were to help said knife along during one of her economizing endeavors?

The Tattler replies, much offended:

…if he can possibly be serious in his request, then he is a fool; and if he thinks it is a good joke to attempt to impose upon and laugh at me, I have a different word to apply to his character, which it does not become me to name.”

To another request for advice on marital discord, she is rather more encouraging. The applicant is possessed of a handsome fortune and seeks remedy for “a serious and vexatious experience,” being married to a female:

“..afflicted with the mania of always being in the height, even to the minutest circumstance, of what is the prevailing fashion of the day.”

All winter they go to fashionable parties, ball, routs, etc., their plans dependent on  his wife’s consultations of card racks and porters’ books to determine their itinerary for conquering the ton.

In summer, she must drag the family to various watering-places, for their fine country estate is:

“..a scene of dullness and stupidity, where she sees and is seen by no one(!)”

Remonstrations by the husband are routinely met with a fit of the vapors by the wife. Her much-harassed physician, when called into consultation, takes the spouse aside and castigates him for causing his poor lady so much upset. Her constitution is too delicate to bear any correction, the good doctor warns, even as he ignores the signs of his patient’s dissipation from staying out late night after night.

What, the husband asks, is

“the least painful mode of convincing the lady in question, that real happiness is not to be found in the riot and rout of what is called the high life?”

The Tattler answers by relating a sanctimonious confessional of a similarly situated female, who was finally recalled to her senses by the most persistent and patient of all husbands.

“..a little reflection, and his kind attentions, not only altered her conduct, but brought her to think so contemptibly of it, that among her friends she will sometimes allude to her folly…”

My advice? Keep living the High Life.

The Ottomann couch, as it appears in the Magazine of July, 1814, volume XII showing "great diversity of form and arrangement, and an unbounded variety of decoration." For living the High Life

The Ottomane couch, as it appears in the Magazine of July, 1814, volume XII showing “great diversity of form and arrangement, and an unbounded variety of decoration.” Perfect for living…the High Life.

10 thoughts on “Regency Domesticity: Living the High Life

  1. Another great post, Angelyn 🙂 As an aside, how desperate must a husband be to contemplate giving his wife lockjaw in order to shut her up? Though I do give him points for creativity! It makes me think of the Heyer novels that refer to ladies who have tongues that “run on wheels” or “run like a fiddlestick.”

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for seeing me on such short notice Dr. Tattler! You are increasingly feeling like the Gossip Girl of the 19th Century…whey do I know that if I’ve never seen the show? I guess that says a lot about me…do you mind if I lie down? What do you mean giving Mr. Blog Hostess lock-jaw is bad?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder how justified these criticisms were. Did wealthy, fashionable women truly rule over their husbands, or were they just trying to gain a firm foothold in the domestic sphere at a time when their husbands had the whole public sphere at their disposal?

    Either way, thanks for the entertaining extracts!


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