19th century England was no fun: there was an honest mad king, Daniel Radcliffe hadn’t been invented yet, and if your parents bought or sold you to some stupid fool, you were just stuck in that asshole. Before the Marriage Causation Act of 1857 allowed divorce on the grounds of the asshole, a couple had to spend money the equivalent of $ 15,000 to get the government and the church to let them separate. Working-class couples who couldn’t afford it but couldn’t listen to their spouse chatter about Dickens or whatever for a second longer took their business to the local market or tavern. But it wasn̵
It wasn’t exactly legal, but law enforcement didn’t care, and back then a woman was only property, just like a goat or property. At least 108 documented occurrences occurred between 1837 and 1901, usually with the full participation of the woman. Although she was often tied around her neck by a rope and her sales were overseen by a real auctioneer and all, these were none other than what the slave auctions might have looked like …
The “item” was probably as anxious to get away from its “owner” as it was trying to get rid of it, and she could usually decline an offer if it was from someone particularly toothless. Often times, a woman’s family who had received too many old versions of dramatic Facebook posts would buy them, while a woman who already had a new model in mind would often be bought by her lover. Some were sold for a glass of gin, a case of beer, or a puppy. A woman whose lover did not show up bought for three pounds. We’ve all been through this.
That doesn’t mean these auctions were boring. It was reported that a man described his wife to the crowd as “a born snake” he “believed” to be [his] Comfort “but” became [his] Tormentor; a domestic curse, a nightly invasion, and a daily devil. “Then he announced,” Gentlemen, I am speaking the truth from my heart when I say, May God deliver us from bothersome women and exuberant women. “He admitted that she could. “Read novels and dairy cows … laugh and cry with the same ease with which you could have a glass of beer if you were thirsty … make butter and scold the maid … [and] Making rum, gin or whiskey “, although probably only because he realized he might have undercut them. In all honesty, that was probably as amicable as in the 19th century divorce court.
Manna is a domestic curse, a nightly invasion, and a daily devil Twitter.
Upper picture: Hermitage / Wikimedia Commons