Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rules for Husbands and Wives

Rules for Husbands and Wives published in the Grahamstown Journal of 1837.


1) Always regard your wife as an equal: treat her with kindness, respect and attention, and never address her with the appearance of an air of authority, as if she were, as some misguided husbands appear to regard their wives, a mere housekeeper.

2) Never interfere in her domestic concerns, hiring servants &c, except she consults you.

3) Always keep her properly supplied with money for furnishing your table in a style proportioned to your means, and for the purchase of dress, and whatever articles she may require, suitable for her station in life.

4) Cheerfully and promptly comply with all her reasonable requests; and as far as practicable, anticipate them. Whatever you accord to her wishes let it be done cheerfully and promptly, so as to enhance the merit of the matter by the manner.

5) Never be so unjust as to lose your temper towards her, in consequence of indifferent cookery, or irregularity in the hours of meals, or any other mismanagement of her domestics; knowing the difficulty of making many of them do their duty.

6) If she have prudence and good sense, consult her on all operations involving the risk of serious injury in case of failure. Many a man has been rescued from ruin by the wise counsels of his wife; and many a foolish husband has most seriously injured himself and family by the rejection of the advice of his wife, stupidly fearing, if he followed it, he would be regarded as henpecked.  A husband can never consult a counsellor more deeply interested in his welfare than his wife.

7) If distressed or embarrassed in your circumstances, communicate your situation to her with candour, that she may bear your difficulties in mind in her expenditures.  Wives, sometimes believing their husbands' circumstances better than they really are, disburse money which cannot be well afforded, and which if they knew the real circumstances of their husbands' affairs they would shrink from expending.

8) Never on any account chide or rebuke your wife in company, should she make any mistake in history, geography, grammar, or indeed on any other subject. There are, I am persuaded, many wives of such keen feelings and high spirit (and such wives deserve to be treated with the utmost delicacy) that they would rather receive a severe and bitter scolding in private than a comparatively mild rebuke in company, calculated to display their ignorance or folly, or to impair them in their own opinion or in that of others.


1) Always receive your husband with smiles - leaving nothing undone to render home disagreeable - endeavouring to win, and gradually reciprocating, his kindness and attention.

2) Study to gratify his inclination in regard to food and cookery; in the management of the family; in your dress, manners and deportment.

3) Never attempt to rule, or appear to rule, your husband.  Such conduct degrades husbands - and wives always partake largely in the degradation of their husbands.

4) In everything reasonable comply with his wishes with cheerfulness - and even, as far as possible, anticipate them.

5) Avoid all altercations or arguments leading to ill humour, and more especially before company. Few things are more disgusting than the altercations of the married, when in the company of friends or strangers.  There is one kind of conduct which is almost as revolting as this - but not of frequent occurrence - that is, a display of fondness before company.  There is time and place for all things.

6) Never attempt to interfere in his business unless he ask your advice and counsel; and never attempt to control him in the management of it.

7) Never confide to gossips any of the failings or imperfections of your husband - nor any of those little differences which occasionally arise in the married state. If you do, you may rest assured that, however strong the injunctions of secrecy on the one hand, or the pledge on the other, they will in a day or two become the common talk of the neighbourhood.

8) Avail yourself of every opportunity to cultivate your mind, so as, should your husband be intelligent and well-informed, you may join in rational conversation with him and his friends.

9) Think nothing beneath your attention that may produce even a momentary breach of harmony, or the slightest uneasy sensation.
Think naught a trifle, though it small appear;
Small sands the mountain, moments make the year,
And trifles life. Your care to trifles give,
Else you may die ere you have learned to live.  

10) If your husband be in business, always, in your expenditures, bear in mind the various vicissitudes to which trade and commerce are subject; and do not expose yourself to the painful self reproach, should he experience one of them of having unnecessarily expended money of which you and your offspring may afterwards be in the extreme want.

11) While you carefully shun, in providing for your family, the Scylla of meanness and parsimony, avoid equally the Charybdis of extravagance, an error too common in the United States, as remarked by most of the travellers who visit this country.

12) If you be disposed to economise, I beseech you not to extend your economy to the wages you pay to seamstresses or washerwomen, who are too frequently ground to the earth by the inadequacy of the wages they receive.  Economise, if you will, in shawls, bonnets and handkerchiefs; but, never, by exacting labour from the poor without adequate compensation, incur the dire anathemas pronounced in the Scriptures against the oppressor of the poor.

[Transcribed by Sue Mackay]

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