Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Victorian Vices: Adultery


Another option for the unhappily married was adultery. Both men and women had love affairs, sometimes prolonged ones. In France, it was taken for granted that a man who could afford it would have a mistress, and the upper classes in England made the same assumptions, while married women often had love affairs. The important thing was to avoid scandal. A gentlemen didn't talk about his conquests, or write explicit love letters, or make physical demonstrations before witnesses; a lady didn't openly leave her husband's house or move into her lover's. If these and other rules were followed, it was possible for the affair to go on for years, sometimes without hard feelings on any side. When Edward VII was on his death bead, Queen Alexandra made a point of giving his last mistress a chance to visit him before he died.

Why didn't these couple divorce and remarry as they chose? Apart from the unthinkable scandal that would result, divorce was not easily arranged. In Catholic counties, it required approval from the Church; in Protestant England, an Act of Parliament. The people who could afford this could also afford to keep up the appearance of a marriage while doing as they pleased in their private lives.

Such private arrangements, of course, gave opportunities for blackmail - a useful source for plots, as many mystery writers have demonstrated.

Stoddard, W.H. (2000) - Gurps Steampunk, pg. 29, SJG:Austin
[edited for removal of game specific content]

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