Courtship, Love, and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century English Canada

Courtship, Love, and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century English Canada

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 232
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Courtship, Love, and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century English Canada
    Book Description:

    Courtship, love, and marriage are seen today as very private affairs, and historians have generally concluded that after the late eighteenth century young people began to enjoy great autonomy in courtship and decisions about marriage. Peter Ward disagrees with this conclusion and argues that freedom in nineteenth-century English Canada was constrained by an intricate social, institutional, and familial framework which greatly influenced the behaviour of young couples both before and after marriage.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6241-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    We tend to think of courtship and marriage as intensely private matters, which indeed they are. But they also have a public side that is often overlooked. Matrimony and sexual intimacy matter a great deal not only to a couple directly involved in a close relationship but to their families, friends, and neighbours - and more generally to society as well. Because of this communal interest, the relations of men and women are set in an elaborate web of regulations which guide private conduct and sanction approved behaviour. Some of these codes are formal, written, and enforced by institutions, others...

  5. Prologue
    (pp. 9-14)

    “[Today I made an] acquaintance with that most amiable young Lady Miss Tanswell. I must say that I never met with so amiable & lovely a young Lady. She belongs to the Catholic religion and I am a Protestant. My Mother is a Catholic too, and - but I am foolish, and always thinking of Miss Tanswell. My sisters say her Christian name is ‘Honorine’.” So begins one of the most remarkable diaries kept in nineteenth-century Canada. Its author, Geore Stephen Jones, was a young Quebec City clerk. Between 22 October 1845 and 5 April 1846 he kept a daily...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Christian Setting of Courtship and Marriage
    (pp. 15-31)

    When George and Honorine courted they took part in a series of rituals whose roots lay deeply embedded in the religious culture of the western world. For most of the past two thousand years the primary institutional influence in the West on human sexuality has come from the Christian church. Church law on marriage and religious ideals about sexual conduct have disciplined sexuality in the interests of the social system. For the most part this has meant that the church has subordinated personal desires to the needs of social institutions. In particular, by constructing a framework of rules and ideals...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Law and Property in Courtship and Marriage
    (pp. 32-49)

    Though George and Honorine scarcely considered it at the time, their growing commitment to each other had complex legal implications. Like most young lovers, they were oblivious to the fact that the law invaded every phase of the process of courtship and marriage, enveloping even the most private acts in a web of public regulation. Both civil and criminal law framed the lives of courting couples with a latticework of constraints, which grew ever more intricate the nearer the marriage day approached. In one sense the law is an instrument of definition: it determines what is legal, what is illegal...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Marriage Age and the Marriage Market
    (pp. 50-63)

    George Jones’s romantic troubles stemmed from his age. At nineteen he was too young to marry. If he had had enough income to support a wife and family perhaps Honorine’s father would not have objected to him. But in order to marry in early Victorian Canada, a man required the financial competence which only years might bring, and this is precisely what George so obviously lacked. Honorine, on the other hand, was of an age to marry. At twenty, both she and her parents thought it was time that she should.

    George and Honorine’s dilemma raises three important questions. How...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Territories of Courtship
    (pp. 64-89)

    Nineteenth-century English Canada gave each sex separate territory. Men moved in one world of work, power, and associations, women moved in another. The economic, familial, and civic roles of the sexes were bound up with these social territories. Man’s domain encompassed the field, the workshop, the tavern, and civic affairs; woman’s included the house, the garden, the family, and the church. For the most part mutually exclusive, sometimes these spaces overlapped. The home was shared space even though women presided. In the urban workplace each sex had its own special terrain. Men and women also possessed the church jointly, though...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Rituals of Romance
    (pp. 90-119)

    Nineteenth-century romantic rituals fulfilled important functions for courting couples and communities alike. They gave social form to the personal experience of taking a spouse. For those who wooed and wed, courtship and marriage were intensely private acts. They flowed from the intimacy between a man and woman who turn their backs to the world and gaze into each other’s souls. The chosen one was cherished above all others while the secret bonds of a loving union were veiled from the onlooker’s eyes. But courtship and marriage also were social processes, for society has always had a great stake in family...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Families, Friends, and Property
    (pp. 120-147)

    When George courted Honorine in the mid-1840s their families took an active part in their romantic affairs. The two lovers called at each other’s homes, they strolled about the city with their brothers and sisters, they attended plays and parties in the company of their relations. In fact they passed most of their moments together within a family setting. Honorine’s parents closely supervised her budding romance – to the point of taking sides about George as a possible husband for their daughter. While Honorine’s mother supported George, her father had another candidate for fair Honorine’s hand; the senior Tanswells also consulted...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The Quest for Intimacy
    (pp. 148-168)

    “On this day the most important and serious step in our lives was taken,” Amelia King confided to her diary on 10 March 1852. “This evening at ½ 7 o’clock I was united to one whom I had loved long dearly and sincerely. On this evening we were made one & our whole life’s happiness now solely depends on each other. Love & confidence are the chief objects to be kept in view.”¹ A country girl of eighteen from Windsor, Nova Scotia, Amelia had just married Lewis Hill, twentyfour, who farmed in nearby Falmouth. In these few simple words she...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 169-176)

    As Sigmund Freud once observed, “civilization threatens love with substantial restrictions.”¹ The long history of western marriage bears out the truth of his observation. From time out of mind the intimate relations of men and women have mattered deeply to their families, friends, and neighbours. Through ideologies, laws, customs, institutions, and informal practices the community in the western world has always shaped the course of matrimony. In places and at times when family wishes and property matters assumed more weight in marriage than private inclinations, the role of society in making a match was highly visible. It was not so...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 177-178)

    Like all good love stories, George and Honorine’s tale has a happy ending. The young couple married at the Ghapelle de la Congrégation on 10 February 1847.¹ We will never know how they overcame her parents’ opposition, nor how they endured the tribulations of the ten months between George’s last lament and their wedding, for no sequel to the diary exists. Indeed, from this point onward the newlyweds recede into the shadows of time. By 1851 they had moved to Toronto, but after that we hear from them no more.² In 1873 George’s journal reappeared in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with the...

  15. Appendix
    (pp. 179-182)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 183-214)
  17. Index
    (pp. 215-219)