Posted by Caroline on August 12, 1998 at 10:40:43:
In response to Engagements, short and long, written by Linden on August 11, 1998 at 23:58:51
] Engagements could be any length from a day (with a special licence) to years. According to "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (Daniel Pool), a licence was the snob way to go, which is why Mrs Bennet wants Lizzy & Darcy to have one. On the other hand, engagements could last for years - wasn't Cassandra Austen engaged to someone who died abroad?
Precisely.Two things had to be considered when a couple got engaged.The first, was whether they could support themselves, and many long engagements were between couples who were saving, or waiting until the bridgroom had got enough money together somehow. This is what happened with Cassandra and Tom Fowle, and is mentioned in most of the Austen biographies. It's also what happened to the Duke of Wellington..Kitty Pakenham's family refused to let them marry,probably because he was an impoverished younger son. He went off to India and got rich, and then, having not set eyes on her or having any correspondence with her at all,for nine years, he proposed by letter, and was accepted.I suppose this doesn't count as a proper 'engagement', but it shows what could happen. You can read about their story in "Wellington- the Years of the Sword" by Elizabeth Longford.Another, not so famous 'long engagement' was that of Edward Jenner, the country doctor famous for his Smallpox cure, who was engaged to a girl he'd known most of his life for five long years before he scraped together enough money to set up a home.
The second thing that affected the length of the engagement was the financial transactions that went on concerning the wife's dowry, 'pin money' etc. Sometimes this could be done quickly, but other situations seem to have been very complicated, and went on for six months to a year. If you look carefully at the words of P&P, there are details suggesting that Darcy and Mr Gardiner were doing precisely this for Lydia's wedding. Darcy actually arranges things so that Lydia has a sum of money that Wickham cannot , legally, get his hands on - a sort of 'fall-back' in case the marriage goes horribly wrong. Have a look for yourself, and try and work out just how much of his own money Darcy puts into this marriage..it's actually a fair sum!
This kind of shenanigans suggests to me that engagements in those days normally were rather longer than romance writers would have you believe.
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