|GR - Before and after a proposal of marriage
Written by Deborah Julia
(10/20/2003 8:19 a.m.)
What a minefield the courtship, proposal and betrothal stages were! For a woman to declare her sentiments without "being convinced of a suitors intentions" not only damaged her reputation but also pre-empted her right to refuse a proposal. This sheds some light on why Elinor was so anxious about the way Marianne was making it so obvious how she felt for Willoughby without Willoughby having declared himself. Not that his intentions were to pre-empt a refusal from Marianne, but something more wicked.
Even when a proposal had been made, the next hurdle was the "settlement stage", if negotiations broke down the woman's reputation was "tainted" which seems unfair as a woman had no power to negotiate her own settlement.
I think the only time Jane Austen wrote about a marriage settlements was when Darcy stepped in to neogiate a settlement to pursude Whickham to marry Lydia. Had Darcy not stepped, Lydia's reputation would have been more than tainted.
I was struck by the warning "of all the stages in a woman's life....none is more dangerous as the period between her acknowledgement of a passion for a man, and the day set apart for the nuptials" (Hugh Kelly, 1796 pages 53 & 54).
Short engagments were in a woman's interest it seems, get the pair married before either could change their minds.
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