Monday, January 27, 2014

Take My Wife, Please! The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills Slain In This 19th C. British Satire

by Stephen J. Gertz

The following was anonymously written by Percival Leigh in 1840 and is extracted from The Fiddle Faddle Fashion Book. It is, in essence, a c. 1960 comedy routine in deadly wry 19th century prose - Please take my wife, Sir! For maximum effect readers are advised to imagine Jack Carter, Alan King, Shecky Greene, Morty Gunty, Corbett Monica, Pat Cooper, Buddy Hackett, or yes, Henny Youngman reciting the text. Ladies are beseeched to holster their sidearms for the duration of the post - the author is  throwing popcorn, not grenades. - SJG

The Duties of a Wife

It is our decided opinion that a wife ought by no means to flirt in society in so open a manner as to attract the attention of beholders.

Nevertheless, we esteem it expedient that every married lady of ton should be provided with a crowd of admirers sufficiently numerous to prove to her husband what a treasure he has got; and also to keep him on his best behavior.

She should never pry into her husband's affairs; resting always on the confident belief that he is the best judge of them himself; and therewith should spend as much money as she can persuade him to let her.

Ever anxious to augment the honor and renown of her lord and master, she should be careful never to show herself in public except dressed in the first style of fashion, totally regardless of expense.

Her domestic affairs must be left entirely to the superintendence of her housekeeper; whom, however, (to conduct herself as a good manager), she should occasionally accuse of peculation.

From breakfast to the proper hour for the drive, or promenade, her time should be occupied in sitting in the drawing-room, and receiving visitors; to whom, for the credit of her husband, she is to display herself to the greatest possible advantage.

She should be possessed with the eccentricity of desiring to nurse her own children, she must drink, under pretense of being delicate, much more bottle porter than, strictly speaking, is fit for her; and must obviate the ill effects thereof by taking medicine.

Duly impressed with an awful sense of her responsibility for the education of her family, she should confide it implicitly to the care of a governess. She should however, take good heed that her little girls are imbued, from their earliest years, with a laudable and beneficial love of finery.

To set a good example to those beneath her, she should be unremitting in her attendance at church; and the more strikingly to show her respect for religion, should always go there, if possible, in her carriage. The footmen and coachman are to be strictly charged to remain, meanwhile, absorbed in devout meditation, and on no account whatever to go to a public house.

As she is precluded from practicing that sort of economy who consists in denying herself anything, (to conduct which would be derogatory to her husband's dignity, and painful to his feelings), she must diligently avoid all unnecessary expenditure on others. For example, she must give her servants the very smallest wages which they will take; and be as cautious in the indulgence of her charitable feelings, as the opinion of the world will allow her to be. In particular, let her shun the unprincipled extravagance of throwing away money on poor people and beggars, most of whom are very improper characters, while all of them, as everybody well knows, are amply provided for by a compassionate and Christian legislature.

Our concluding piece of advice may seem impertinent, but our sincerity must be the excuse of our rudeness. She must assiduously cultivate the most rigid morality, that is to say, the study of preserving the purity of her reputation with the world, and the elegance of her personal appearance.

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