Love And Marriage In 18th Century Our aim in this paper will be to analyze and discuss the different ways in which love and marriage were dealt with during the eighteenth century and to what extent these two terms were linked together or considered as opposite. To accomplish this matter we are going to focus our attention on several works that are representative from this period and that reflect in an accurate way the social mores and more specifically, marriage conventions and romantic love. Throughout this discussion we will be emphasizing the idea that marriage is represented in these works as an institution completely detached from love and that it pursues more than anything else economic purposes and an rising in the social hierarchy. First of all we should account for the situation of English women during the eighteenth century, that despite several social improvements, continued having less rights or freedom than men within the family and marriage as an institution. Patriarchal forms were still a deep-rooted custom that ruled society, which was male-centered.
Marriage was often forced on women as their only way of having a recognized position in society, but at the same time led them to slavery. Womens property could be spent to the discretion of the husband as she was considered, together with all that she owned, a possession of the husband. Significantly relevant is the fact that the convention of marriages arranged by parents was still widely accepted. Evidences of this aspect can be found in Goldsmiths work She Stoops to Conquer. At the very beginning of the play Mr.Hardcastle expresses that he has already chosen a husband for his young daughter: “Then to be plain with you, Kate, I expect the young gentleman I have chosen to be your husband from town this very day.
I have his fathers letter, in which he informs me his son is set out, and that he intends to follow himself shortly after.” (p. 3) Mr. Hardcastle later explains that he would never control her daughters choice, but in fact claims that Marlow “(he)s a man of excellent understanding” (p.4), this meaning that the young gentleman should be the right option for her. Despite her initial disagreement with the idea of this established encounter with the young boy, she finally accepts the meeting after her fathers exaltation of the young mans virtues. She then joyfully declares: “My dear papa, say no more (kissing his hand), hes mine, Ill have him!” (p.4). Later on in the play, Tonys false directions lead Marlow and Hastings to the Hardcastle residence, where they believe they can lodge for a decent rate before continuing on to meet Mr. Hardcastle and his beautiful daughter at his estate.
This “inn” is actually Mr. Hardcastle mansion, but the travelers do not realize this since the mansion remarkably resembles an inn. Hastings is soon informed of his mistake when he meets Miss Neville, but the couple decides to leave Marlow in ignorance for the time being so that their plans for marriage will not be frustrated by his outrage and embarrassment. In a similar way, in the novel Mary the Wrongs of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft exposes this same tendency of arranged marriages, where love is forgotten and only the possible benefits that both parts can obtain from the union are taken into account. Hence, the way in which Darnford asserts “my father and mother were people of fashion; married by their parents” (p.94) should not be taken as a striking statement for this matter was considered in the eighteenth century the usual procedure to follow . It is also important to remark that Mary loses her case because the judge considers that “it was her duty to love and obey the man chosen by her parents and relations, who were qualified by their experience to judge better for her, than she could for herself ” (p.199). Therefore it is not stunning that the idea of marriage is often understood as a social custom generally detached from love.
This detachment not only concerns marriage directed by someone superior but also the economical benefits taken out of it. We can set an example in Henry Fieldings Joseph Andrews, and more precisely in the chapters referring to the story of the young lovers Leonora and Horatio. With the appearance of Bellarmine, a fine”gentleman who owned a Coach and Six” (p.135), breaking into Leonoras life, she reconsiders her engagement with Horatio, who had “not even a Pair” (p.138). Being a young and inexperienced girl, Leonora asks her aunt for some piece of advice relating her love affair and this one answers that without any doubt she should marry Bellarmine as he possesses all that Horatio lacks, that is, fine clothes, good looks, gallantry and above all fortune. “I have lived longer in it than you, and I assure you there is not any thing worth our Regard besides Money: nor did I ever know one Person who married from other Considerations, who did not afterwards heartily repent it.
Besides, if we examine the two Men, can you prefer a sneaking Fellow, who hath been bred at a University, to a fine Gentleman just come from his Travels?”. (p.138). At first Leonora had appeared in the novel as a young girl madly in love with Horatio, and she even proclaimed that he was her lover or almost her husband (p.137). However, she does not doubt in accepting Bellarmine because of his wealthy position and the monetary benefits she would get from the matrimony, which would also imply her rising in the social scale. Together with this, the thought of marrying Bellarmine provokes a certain feeling of pride that will lead her to think that she could become the envy of the rest of society, although in the end her vacillation and folly will make her lose both suitors: “How vast is the difference between being the Wife of a poor Counsellor, and the Wife of one of Bellarmines Fortune! If I marry Horatio, I shall triumph over no more than one Rival: but my marrying Bellarmine, I shall be the Envy of all my Acquaintance. What Happiness!”.
(p.137) Marriage depending on monetary aspects can be easily understood if we bear in mind the role of women in the eighteenth century English society. We should consider the cases of Leonora, “Daughter of a Gentleman of Fortune” (p.130) and Kate Hardcastle, who belongs to a high social status, as exceptional. For both of them marriage does not represent the only means of getting independence since they both have a certain fortune that could enable them either to remain in the same social status or marry some fine gentleman that could provide them a certain economic stability. However, even among the wealthy, marriage was primarily a business arrangement. In a similar way we should point at lower or middle class circles. Here money was a “critical factor in getting a start in life by buying a shop or starting a business” and it was also “inevitable that financial considerations should continue to play a very large part in marriage plans”. In this sense we should now refer to Defoes Moll Flanders, where the heroine moves within this environment and comes to express: “[..] that marriages were the consequences of politick schemes for forming interests, and carrying on business, and that Love had no share, or but very little in the matter.”(p.83).
Moll Flanders is a story about the evolution of a woman from a low to a mid-class status. Since she was a child her only desire was to become a”gentlewoman” and her only means to ascend in the social scale was to take advantage of the opportunities that life offered her, which are all summed up in one word: marriage. Nevertheless, marriages took place among people belonging to the same social class and this is why Moll Flanders has to pretend to be richer than she really is in order to reach her aim. This can be observed in many different passages all along Molls life, when she “[..] took care to make the world take me as something more than I was” (p.135). It is clear that Molls ideas on marriage depend more on monetary affairs than in love ones, and that her aim in life is getting a better social position. After her second husband dies, she goes to the Mint where she meets a new acquaintance, a widow who would help her to make her husband-to-be believe that she owns a fortune of 1500 pounds, otherwise he would not accept her for not belonging to his same status .
It is for this same reason that in She Stoops to Conquer, Marlow rejects Kate Hardcastle when he is still mistaking her for a simple barmaid instead of a lady: “But to be plain with you, the difference of our birth, fortune and education makes an honourable connection impossible; and I can never harbour a thought of seducing simplicity that trusted in my honour, or bringing ruin upon one whose only fault was being too lovely.” (p.42) Nevertheless, the reader should not be mistaken by generalizing marriage as a term opposed to love. Pure love moved by passion and true feelings did exist and not necessarily linked to …