‘I’d sell my spouse if anyone would purchase her’: spouse sales in England

‘I’d sell my spouse if anyone would purchase her’: spouse sales in England

‘For my component I don’t realise why males who ‘ve got wives and want that is don’t, shouldn’t be rid of ‘em since these gipsy fellows do their old horses…Why should not they place ‘em up and offer ‘em by auction to guys that are looking for such articles? Hey? Why, begad, I’d sell mine this minute if anyone would purchase her!’

Therefore claims the young farm labourer Michael Henchard, in just one of the most arresting passages in Thomas Hardy’s 1886 novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. Nearby the start of guide, Michael gets drunk on rum-laced furmity (frumenty), and contains a disagreement along with his wife, Susan. He chooses to sell Susan and their infant child, that are purchased with a sailor for five guineas. Whenever Michael sobers up, the enormity of exactly exactly what he’s done hits house; he realises he cannot get their daughter and wife straight straight back, and swears down liquor for the following 21 years because of this.