Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice-Dowries and Marriage in 19th-Century England

First published in 1813, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice aptly describes the nature of courtship and marriage in 19th century England. In this novel, Elizabeth Bennett eventually marries Fitzwilliam Darcy, a man who has a considerable estate. This is, presumably, a romantic love, and romantic love was only available to those who could afford it (MacFarlane 205). For the most part, "whom one marries will be heavily circumscribed by which rank one is born into" (MacFarlane 252). According to Park Honan, "romantic love among the gentry was more preached than practiced…a desirable match was engineered by person's unswayed in feeling" (Honan 193).

Courtship came before marriage, and was seen as the chance to determine compatibility. Prospective partners met at church or at dances (where Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy) and continued to meet for some time after (Honan 312). One interesting tidbit of information is that some people considered sex acceptable after the betrothal (MacFarlane 306). In fact, "1/3 of women were pregnant when they married" (MacFarlane 306).

People in 19th-century England placed far more importance on courtship than today's young couples: "Once you propose, your...

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