An Intriguing Variant on Wife Selling

Wife SellingThomas Rowlandson

Wife Selling
Thomas Rowlandson

The following item was printed in the Ipswich Journal. It could be a variant form of the well-attested practice of wife-selling, or it could have been a ploy all along to get hold of a fine animal to sell, since the wife returned to her husband so quickly. I wonder what the buyer thought of the outcome?

September 29th 1764

Last week a man and his wife falling into discourse with a grazier at Parham Fair, the husband offered his wife in exchange for an ox provided he would let him choose one out of his drove, the grazier accepted the proposal and the wife readily agreed, accordingly they met the next day and she was delivered with a new halter round her neck and the husband received the bullock which he sold for 6 guineas, it is said the wife has since returned to her husband, they had been married about 10 years.

Putting a halter around the woman’s neck was a common part of such a ritual and seems to have been thought to make it more ‘legal’ in some way!

About William Savage

Author of mystery stories set in Georgian Norfolk.
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