make butter and scold the maid

I love the novels of Thomas Hardy, even the films made of his stories are pretty good.  Made in 1978, The Mayor of Casterbridge starred Alan Bates*** as a man who preferred the old custom of selling his wife as an alternative to getting a divorce.

image by John Willie

“In a sale by auction the husband would lead the wife to a market on market day by a halter round her neck or waist. The sale would proceed only with the wife’s consent and she could also veto it if the purchaser was not to her liking. In one report from Manchester (1824) it was said that after several biddings the wife was knocked down for 5 shillings; but not liking the purchaser, she was put up again for 3 shillings and a pint of ale.”

image found here

According to the periodical “All the Year Round” (1832), Joseph Thompson, a farmer, agreed to separate from his wife of three years. He put her up for auction with this sales pitch…

She is a born serpent and my tormentor. but she can also read novels and milk cows, make butter and scold the maid, and while she can’t make rum, gin or whiskey, she is a good judge of the quality from long experience of tasting them. She is offered at 50 shillings.”

However, Thompson seemed to have oversold her faults. After an hour, she was knocked down to Henry Mears for 20 shillings and a New Foundland dog, with the parties then going their separate ways, apparently mutually pleased with the bargain.

***Alan Bates had a lengthy affair with Peter Wyngarde, better known as 60s television sleuth, Jason King. You can read about Alan and his many paramours here

image of Peter Wyngarde found here

Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 7:36 am  Comments (32)  
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32 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. If I were married I’d never sell my wife, it would be far smarter in the long run to rent her…

    • Would you have a half price Tuesday?

      • Yes it could coincide with tight arse tuesday at the flicks, that way she could also bring me home some popcorn… I’m increasingly liking this plan, now I just have to meet a woman.

  2. Dang, there are so many ‘queens for rent’ it’d create confusion in the classifieds.

    The King

    • You don’t HAVE to advertise in the Star Observer you know King Willy

  3. Jason King! When we were kids my sister adored him!

  4. Alan Bates and Peter Wyngarde! Who would have thunk it! I wonder if Oliver Reed knew Alan Bates fancied men when he wrestled with in the nude in Women in Love.

  5. Does seem to be better than a messy divorce.

  6. The “maid scolder” sounds like a cross between a hutterite and a Dr. Phil guest….

    • I had to google Hutterite, I don’t think we have any in Sydney

  7. “3 Shillings and a pint of ale”

    Why isn’t beer used as a form of currency more often these days?

  8. these days the man loses his wife and HIS money.

  9. Wives don’t sell husbands …….. do they? …… *feeling a tad of paranoia*

    • Oh I hope not – I’m right in line to be sold of at the moment!

  10. They used rum as a currency back in the early days of Sydney. We should go back to that habit – it could cut down on drink driving at Christmas!

  11. “…3 shillings and a pint of ale

    so who got the pint? the husband or the wife? i might have been willing to be sold, but a fifth of good scotch would have been in it for me…

  12. That’s a side of Alan Bates I wasn’t aware of.. I’ll have to do a little research and browsing.

    • click the link at the bottom of the post DF, it’s really interesting stuff

  13. Thanks for the wholly gratuitous Sweet Gwendoline pic.

    • Gratuitous? How else would my readers be able to envision a woman in chains inky?


  14. Now does this wife come with a warranty? And how many miles does she have on her? Don’t want to plunk down some shillings and a pint if she’s going to break down the first few times the chains get put on her.

  15. I could sell my wife?

  16. I’m pretty sure my girlfriend would sell me for fifty bucks and Johnny Depp’s autograph.

  17. Alan Bates was gay!??! I had no idea. I never pay any attention to that stuff. Peter Wyngarde looks a bit like Peter O’Toole.

    • He was bisexual. I hadn’t noticed the resemblance before but you’re right. Peter Wyngarde had a very strong overbite though

  18. When we come into a relationship the last thing we think of is getting a divorce and what we do down the road if things do not’t work out. We love and feel that this is the best since sliced bread. When we get married and go through the honeymoon phase. Unfortunately, things calm down and people are relaxed. That is when our guard is let down and we’ll see the person for who they really are.

  19. Have to wonder what a man might be into if he’s willing to trade his wife for 20 shillings and a Newfoundland dog.

  20. Rather than sell the spouse how about just renting them out..oh hang on thats…ah never mind.

  21. I’ve paid more for dinner and gotten nothing out of the deal.

  22. NURSE!!! That guy in the last picture looks like my neighbor!!! WOW!!

    The wife thing reminds me of the bidding that took place over women in the Film “Taken” with Liam Neeson.

    • Your crazy neighbour? Oh… no wonder you want to avoid him

  23. Jason King was gay? NO WAY!

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