A wife?-if so what sort? A meek and obedient doll a la Lady Bertrum, sitting looking pretty on her sofa , or a strong and competent woman like Sophie Croft  A home- a leased estate like Netherfield, or a more permanent Pemberley or a rectory, part of a family living? Riches? A mistress?  All these questions and more are going to be discussed by Amanda Vickery in the  2010 Joint Royal Historical Society/Gresham College Annual Lecture to be given at  The Cruciform, University College London on Thursday 11th November at 6.30 p.m.

The blurb informs us that:

Such is the gloom that surrounds settling down today and the glamour that attaches to mature bachelor freedom, it is hard to imagine that there was a time when marriage represented the summit of a young man’s hopes.

In the 17th and 18th century, bachelorhood was a temporary and unprestigious state best solved by marriage.  The Batchelor’s Directory of 1694 was unequivocal –  ‘Matrimony – what can better agree with man and more exactly relate to his necessities?’  Even men who felt no attraction to the opposite sex had to marry to gain the full benefits of adulthood.

There were even proposals to levy a tax on mature bachelors as a deterrent and a punishment for their evasion of the burden of domestic government and social provision. Perpetual bachelors were the ‘vermin of the State’ pronounced the Women’s Advocate stonily.  ‘They enjoy the benefit of society, but Contribute not to its Charge and Spunge upon the publick, without making the least return’.

We associate the history of home and private life with women, but what did house and domesticity mean to men?  More than you might think….

This lecture is free and open to all, so if you would like to attend you can: go here to get all the relevant details. There may be a podcast/video of the lecture, which may be made avaialbe for those of us who cant get there, and if there is I’ll flag up the details next week.

More news from Amanda Vickery- the BBC2 TV series based on her book, Behind Closed Doors looks at the moment as if it is going to be scheduled to be broadcast in the UK from the 2nd December at 9p.m.    It is now going to be called At Home with the Georgians and if you go here you can read a little more about it on the BBC’s website. I saw a trailer for it last night and I simply can’t wait…. If you go here you can hear Professor Vickery talking about Behind Closed Doors, as part one of the Blackwell of Oxford’s Bookshop Podcasts. Very interesting stuff. I will say once again, if you have not brought this book yet, please do so (it’s now available in paperback in the UK and is a bargain) as it throws so much light on the domestic arrangements of families in our era, it is not to be missed, and should be part of every Janeites library.