The author explores five Victorian marriages to show the many ways a man and a woman can chose to be "married."
The first couple discussed was Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle which was probably the most equal marriage according to the author. The tale was title "The Carlyles' Courtship" and I skipped ahead to read his final words about the couple. Interestingly, the marriage seemed to be based on intellectual stimulation. Letters between the two discussed writing. I found the discussion of movies about couple relationship inappropriate for the topic. Kept wondering why she did that.
The second couple is Effie Gray and John Ruskin whose marriage is strange indeed. On their wedding night Ruskin is unable to consummate the marriage. He keeps postponing it. Tied to his parent who want to rule every aspect of their lives, she eventually gets out of the marriage when she proves that she is still a virgin. The author further states that the Carlyle marriage was likely never consummated either because it was a marriage for companionship rather than love.
The third marriage was that of Harriet Tayler and John Stuart Mill, two highly intelligent individuals whose intellectual interests draw them together. Even though Harriet is married to someone else who largely tolerates her friendship with Mill, the marriage eventually breaks up. And, of course, they marry. Much of the writing Mills does is stimulated and edited by Harriet.
The next couple is Charles Dickens and Catherine Hogarth. Early in the marriage they are very happy and enjoy each other and their children. Many years later, he goes through a mid-life crisis and finds that Catherine and he have little in common. Not many women would have been able to keep up with the brilliant Dickens but he blames his unhappiness on his wife. Eventually they separate and maintain separate houses while he engages in a relationship with a much younger woman. His fame is widespread but the public does not approve of his new life.
The final pair is George Eliot (pen name for Marian Evans) and George Henry Lewis, whose happiness lasted throughout their lives. Never married officially, they made a private home removed from the hustle and bustle of society. Their regard for each other led them to encourage and stimulate one another in their writings and became successful. This is probably the most romantic of the pairings that the author discussed in this little book.
EXAMINES THE MARRIAGES OF FIVE FAMOUS VICTORIAN COUPLES: JANE WELSH AND THOMAS CARYLYLE, EFFIE GRAY AND JOHN RUSKIN, HARRIET TAYLOR & JOHN STUART MILL, CATHERINE HOGARTH AND CHARLES DICKENS, GEORGE ELIOT & GEORGE HENRY LEWES.