19th Century Marriage Manuals: Advice for Young Husbands

Published in 1837, The Young Husband’s Book is described as a “manual of domestic duties.”  Written by “a mentor” it contains within its pages advice on everything from choosing a wife to dealing with pesky in-laws.  Some of the information is merely common sense, the sort of generic advice newlyweds might hear from well-meaning relatives today.  The remainder is very pointedly early 19th century – written by someone who was clearly drawing on their own marital experiences gained during the Regency era and applying them to young couples in what was then the new Victorian age.

Despite our 21st century view of the Victorian age as being generally oppressive toward women, the primary emphasis in this manual is not on how to further subjugate a wife who is already under a husband’s complete legal and physical control, but on the solemn duties a gentleman undertakes when marrying.  The foremost of these duties, according to the manual, is the duty to provide for his new bride and future children.  To this end, the manual emphasizes the importance of a young husband being “industrious and frugal.”  It also advises that he should be temperate and not indulge in any expensive personal tastes, stating:

“He should always be ready to sacrifice his present personal pleasure to the future well-being of those who have the first and best claim to his regard.”

The manual reminds the young husband of the great sacrifice his new wife has made in marrying him.  It points out that she has left “her own people and her father’s house,” giving up the society of “those who have been endeared to her from her birth.”  In doing so, she has “entrusted her heart and her happiness” into her new husband’s keeping.  The manual declares that:  [Read More]