Thursday, June 20, 2019
He says, she says - Early 18C English opposing views on the institution of marriage
To The Ladies
Wife and servant are the same,
But only differ in the name:
For when that fatal knot is ty’d,
Which nothing, nothing can divide:
When she the word obey has said,
And man by law supreme has made,
Then all that’s kind is laid aside,
And nothing left but state and pride:
Fierce as an eastern prince he grows
And all his innate rigor shows:
Then but to look, to laugh, or speak,
Will the nuptual contract break.
Like mutes, she signs alone must make,
And never any freedom take:
But still be govern’d by a nod,
And fear her husband as a God:
Him still must serve, him still obey,
And nothing act, and nothing say,
But what her haughty lord thinks fit,
Who with the power, has all the wit.
Then shun, oh! shun that wretched state,
And all the fawning flatt’rers hate:
Value yourselves, and Men despise:
You must be proud, if you’ll be wise. -Lady Mary Chudleigh
Mary Chudleigh was part of an intellectual circle that included Mary Astell, Elizabeth Thomas, Judith Drake, Elizabeth Elstob, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, & John Norris. In her later years, she published a book of poetry (1703) & 2 books of essays, all dealing with feminist themes; 2 of her books went through 4 editions. Her poetry on human relationships has been anthologized & reprinted ever since.
Mary, the daughter of Richard Lee, was born in August of 1656, at Winslade in Devon, England. While she, like most women of her time, received little in the way of formal education, she read widely & educated herself in theology, science, & philosophy. Despite her strong feelings about women & marriage, she married Sir George Chudleigh of Ashton in Devon. They had at least 3 children: Eliza Maria, George (the next Sir George), Thomas. Little else is known about her life, except for the fact that her daughter must have died young, as her grief is mentioned in her letters & some poetry. Mary Chudleigh died in 1710.
For a contemporary English view of divorce in 1700 from a woman's perspective see, Some Reflections Upon Marriage, Occasioned by the Duke and Dutchess of Mazarine's Case; Which is Also Considered. by Mary Astell, Published by John Nutt, Stationers-Hall, London, 1700.