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Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Like many gentlemen of his time, Charles Darwin married his first cousin. In fact, marriages between close relatives were commonplace in nineteenth-century England, and Adam Kuper argues that they played a crucial role in the rise of the bourgeoisie. This groundbreaking study brings out the connection between private lives, public fortunes, and the history of imperial Britain.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-05414-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. PROLOGUE: Darwin’s Marriage
    (pp. 1-4)

    Charles Darwin had been thinking about marriage—although not to anyone in particular—since returning to England after his five-year voyage on theBeagle.In July 1838 he took a sheet of paper, wrote “This is the Question” at the top, and divided it into two columns. “Marry” he wrote at the head of one column, “Not Marry” at the head of the other. He then laid out a balance sheet of arguments for and against.¹

    The arguments in favor were solid if unromantic. “Children—(if it Please God)—Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 5-28)

    Josiah Wedgwood, the grandfather of both Charles and Emma Darwin, pretended to be so busy that he could not say what he really was about. “I scarcely know, without a great deal of recollection, whether I am a Landed Gentleman, an Engineer, or a Potter, for indeed I am all three, & many other characters by turns. Pray heaven I may settle to something in earnest at last . . .”¹ In fact, Josiah was a distinguished specimen of a new breed of Englishmen. He was one of those who seized the opportunities offered by the most rapidly growing, the...


    • CHAPTER ONE The Romance of Incest and the Love of Cousins
      (pp. 31-51)

      When Emma Wedgwood’s friend, Georgina Tollet, heard of her engagement to Charles Darwin, she remarked, “It is very like a marriage of Miss Austen’s.”¹ This was not altogether accurate. “The two had no obstacles to overcome,” notes Darwin’s biographer Janet Browne, “no delicate flirtations at picnics or dances, no misunderstandings wrenching the heartstrings.”²

      Yet it is true that romances between cousins feature prominently in Jane Austen’s work, beginning with one of her engaging if badly spelled childhood stories,Frederic and Elfrida:

      The Uncle of Elfrida was the Father of Frederic; in other words, they were first cousins by the Father’s...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Law of Incest
      (pp. 52-82)

      Until the early nineteenth century, marriage law in England was in the hands of the church. “Adultery was not, bigamy was not, incest was not, a temporal crime,” noted Frederic William Maitland, the eminent Victorian legal historian. By the law of England, “fornication, adultery, incest and bigamy were ecclesiastical offences, and the lay courts had nothing to say about them.”¹

      But even in the eighteenth century, ecclesiastical regulation was feeble. The very process of marriage had become chaotic. In the first half of the eighteenth century, rogue clergymen operated an informal market in marriages from alehouses around the Fleet Prison,...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Science of Incest and Heredity
      (pp. 83-104)

      Even many contemporaries thought it decidedly odd that Parliament should devote so much time to debating the rights and wrongs of marriage with a deceased wife’s sister. In the middle of the nineteenth century, just as the long controversy over marriage with the deceased wife’s sister took off, another debate began, this one about cousin marriage. It had a very different tone, however. The protagonists appealed to science, not theology.

      Marriage between first cousins was legalized in France and Italy by the Code Napoléon (1804), and first-cousin marriages soon became much more common in these countries.¹ A generation further on,...


    • CHAPTER FOUR The Family Business
      (pp. 107-134)

      Family businesses in England began to issue shares after the passage of the Joint Stock Act of 1844. Regional stock exchanges sprang up. The number of joint stock companies grew from under a thousand in 1844 to nearly three thousand in 1868, and over ten thousand in 1887.¹ The Company Acts of 1855–1865 allowed for limited liability, which made company shares more attractive.

      Nevertheless, the typical nineteenth-century firm was a private partnership. The owners shared unlimited liability: each and every partner was liable to personal bankruptcy if the business failed. Trust was therefore essential, and so family businesses were...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect
      (pp. 135-158)

      Marriages to each other’s sisters bound business partners together. Cousins might well be encouraged to marry if they stood to inherit shares in a family concern. But would a bourgeois marry—or be pushed into a marriage—simply in order to keep the wealth in the family? The cliché was current, and it was sometimes true enough. Yet material considerations were not necessarily decisive, even in commercial families, as the fortunes of three generations of Wedgwoods indicate. And marriages between cousins or brothers-and sisters-in- law were just as common in families of doctors, lawyers, and clergymen, or in the Anglo-Indian...

    • CHAPTER SIX Difficulties with Siblings
      (pp. 159-178)

      The Claphamites were kindly if not indulgent parents—indeed, Thomas Babington published a remarkably liberal manual of child-rearing.¹ Boys and girls played blindman’s bluff at the Wilberforces. They might enjoy a puppet show written for their entertainment—and instruction—by Hannah More and narrated by Henry Thornton. When they were older they could attend the fancy dress party thrown by Lord Teignmouth on Twelfth Night, to which young Wilberforce once went as the Pope, young Macaulay as Bonaparte, and young Thornton as Don Quixote.²

      The boys started school locally, together with African children brought over to England from Sierra Leone...


    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Bourgeois Intellectuals
      (pp. 181-198)

      In March 1831, when Parliament was debating the first Reform Act, and factions maneuvered for tactical advantage, Thomas Babington Macaulay rose to set the franchise question in a large historical perspective.

      All history is full of revolutions, produced by causes similar to those which are now operating in England. A portion of the community which had been of no account expands and becomes strong. It demands a place in the system, suited, not to its former weakness, but to its present power. If this is granted, all is well. If this is refused, then comes the struggle between the young...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Bloomsbury Version
      (pp. 199-242)

      In an essay written in 1929, E. M. Forster described Bloomsbury as “the only genuinemovementin English civilization” of his day.¹ He did not attempt to defend this large claim in any detail. Perhaps he did not think it necessary, and indeed his assertion would not have seemed entirely extravagant at the time. Forster himself was regarded as a major novelist, Virginia Woolf as a pioneering modernist, Maynard Keynes as a great economist and also a weighty—and witty—commentator on current affairs. Roger Fry had a reputation as a very advanced art critic. His Omega Workshops were becoming...

  8. CODA: The End of the Line
    (pp. 243-256)

    The English bourgeoisie were not unique. Their counterparts in other European countries also favored marriages within the kinship network.¹ Sigmund Freud specialized in the incestuous fantasies of the Viennese bourgeoisie, but he was not bothered by the marriage of close relatives outside the nuclear family. Indeed, two years after the marriage of his favorite sister, Anna, to Eli Bernays, he married Eli’s sister Martha. Later there was gossip about Freud’s special fondness for his wife’s sister, Minna Bernays. Mitzi, a younger sister of Freud, married her cousin, Moritz Freud.

    And, as in England, novelists wove stories around the love of...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 257-287)
  10. Index
    (pp. 288-296)