Germany countryside, rural marriage, XIX century engraving

Newlywed Advice: A Whisper to the Husband on Expenditure

This advice to newly married men on the management of household expenses appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book in the December 1860 issue.

In pecuniary matters, do not be penurious, or too particular. Your wife has an equal right with yourself to all your worldly possessions. “With all my worldly goods I thee endow,” was one of the most solemn vows that ever escaped your lips; and if she be a woman of prudence, she will in all her expenses be reasonable and economical; what more can you desire? Besides, really, a woman has innumerable trifling demands on her purse, innumerable little wants, which it is not necessary for a man to be informed of, and which, if he even went to the trouble of investigating, he would hardly understand.

You give your wife a certain sum of money. If she be a woman of prudence, if your table be comfortably kept, and your household managed with economy and regularity, I really cannot see the necessity of obliging her to account to you for the exact manner in which she has laid it out. Pray, do allow her the power of buying a yard of muslin, or a few pennyworth of pins, without consulting the august tribunal of your judgment whether they shall be quaker-pins or minikins.

I have often with wonder remarked the indifference with which some men regard the amiable and superior qualities of their wives! I by no means intend to say that every wife possesses those qualities; I only speak of a description of females who are, in truth, an ornament to their sex— women who would go the world over with the husband they love, and endure, without shrinking, every hardship that world could inflict.

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.

Is his income stinted? With what cleverness will a wife of this description act, and economize, and endeavor to abridge her expenses; sitting down with such cheerfulness to her scanty meal, suffering privations that probably she never was accustomed to, concealing their poverty from the world, and endeavoring to gild it over with a genteel and respectable appearance; nursing and educating her children, and assuming, perhaps in the same day, the varied character of gentlewoman, preceptress, and housewife; and yet insensibility to her merit, ofttimes unkind language, is perhaps the return she receives from her unworthy husband.

How often is a woman grieved by the foolish extravagance of her husband! Among other absurdities, will he not sometimes give for a horse, or a dog, or spend at a tavern or a club, a sum of money absolutely wanted for the necessary comforts of his family; thus squandering, in a moment of simple folly, what perhaps has cost his wife many a hard effort to save.

When once a man has entered the marriage state, he should look on his property as belonging to his family, and act and economize accordingly. I remember being acquainted with a gentleman who was constantly saying, “It is true, my property is large, but then it belongs not to myself alone, but also to my children: and I must act as a frugal agent for them. To my wife, as well as these children, I feel accountable either for economy or extravagance.” Another gentleman of my acquaintance, who was in stinted circumstances, was constantly debarring himself of a thousand little comforts, even a glass of wine after dinner, sooner than infringe on what he used to call his children’s birthright.

The following remarks, from the pen of the excellent Mrs. Taylor, are well worth attention:

To what sufferings are those wives exposed, who are not allowed a sufficiency to defray the expenses of their establishment, and who never obtain even their scanty allowance, but at the price of peace!

Men who act in this way often defeat their own intentions; and by constant opposition render their wives lavish and improvident, who would be quite the reverse were they treated in a more liberal manner. Wherever it is adopted, it is utterly destructive of connubial confidence, and often compels women to shelter themselves under mean contrivances and low arts.

You complain that your wife uses manoeuvres and efforts to get money from you: be generous to her, treat her as a wife ought to be treated, and I venture to affirm you shall have no further cause of complaint.

A man who supplies unavoidable and necessary expenses with a parsimonious hand, will rarely be attentive to the extra calls of sickness, or endeavor to alleviate, by his kindness, the sufferings of a constitution perhaps wearing out in his service. It was observed, upon the subject of cruelty to animals, that many, because they would not drown, burn, or scourge a poor animal to death, think themselves sufficiently humane, though they suffer them to famish with hunger; and does not the conduct of many husbands suggest a similar idea?

They imagine that if they provide carefully for the maintenance of their families; if their conduct is moral; if they neither beat, starve, nor imprison their families; they are all that is requisite to constitute good husbands, and they pass for such among the crowd: but as their domestic virtues are chiefly of the negative kind, the happiness of her whose lot it is to be united to such an one for life, must be of the same description.

Even the large allowance, ‘Have what you like,’ is insufficient to satisfy the feelings of many a woman, who would be more gratified by the presentation of a flower, accompanied with expressions of tenderness, than by the most costly indulgence they could procure for themselves.


And now, proud lord, farewell! my whisper is nearly ended, and I am very certain my silence will not grieve you. But ere we finally part, allow me to call to your recollection that most important period of your life, when, at the altar of your God, and in the presence of your fellow-creatures, you solemnly vowed to love your wife, to comfort her, to honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, for better for worse, in poverty and in riches, and, forsaking all others, to keep thee only unto her, as long as you both should live!

Let me ask, have you kept this solemn vow? Commune with your own heart, ask your conscience and your feelings; and tremble before an offended God if you have dared to break it.

Source: Godey’s Lady’s Book, December, 1860

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

Related Posts

Tags: ,

Stay Connected

Connect with Accessible Archives on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin to stay up to date on news and blog posts or get our latest blog posts by email.

Positive SSL