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How to keep a man, Victorian style

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By SAM GREENHILL

London - Stop answering back, avoid making too much noise and don’t beg him to buy you dresses... as far as marital advice goes, it sounds rather old-fashioned.

Then again, the tips are from Victorian newspapers.

A series of such “helpful” suggestions have been collected by the British Newspaper Archive as it attempts to archive 40 million pages from historical local newspapers.

One article, from the Sunderland Daily Echo in 1893, is entitled: ‘How To Keep A Husband.’ It warns that “nothing annoys him more than to be urged to tell when he doesn’t want to,” adding: “Nothing disgusts a man sooner than to learn that the girl who charmed him by her daintiness and attractiveness has developed into a wife who affects wrappers and curl-papers.”

An edition of the Isle of Man Times from 1895 instructs its female readers: “Don’t argue with your husband; do whatever he tells you and obey all his orders. Don’t worry him for money and don’t expect a new dress oftener than he offers to buy you one. Don’t sit up till he comes home from the club; better be in bed and pretend to be asleep. If you must be awake, seem to be glad he came home early. He’ll probably think you an idiot; but that’s inevitable anyway.”

The same “advice to wives” column adds: “Don’t answer back; don’t spend money on yourself, don’t do anything he doesn’t want you to do. Then, if you are not a happy woman, your husband at least will be comfortable.”

In 1834, the Derby Evening Telegraph warned wives nursing their sick husbands not to make too much noise: “Don’t wear your newest and most rustling silk dress or, if you do, don’t fuss about the room more than you can help.”

Decades later, a 1930 edition of the Western Gazette advised: “If he is secretive – trust him. When he is talkative – listen to him. Let him think you understand him – but never let him think you manage him.”

In 1932, the Derby Daily Telegraph carried a front-page report headlined: “Vicar’s advice to wives.” Dr WM Irwin, of Duffield, Derbyshire, opined: “Long faces and nagging did not get you your husband, and long faces and nagging will not keep him.”

For husbands seeking help, the Bath Weekly Chronicle and Herald asked in 1940: “Do you still court your wife, bring her an occasional gift of flowers and remember her birthday and the wedding anniversary? Remember these and she will darn your socks.”

Debra Chatfield, of the British Newspaper Archives, said: “These advice columns seem funny to us now, but at the time such advice was taken quite seriously by those who read them.”

The organisation’s project will see millions of newspaper pages uploaded to www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk over the next eight years. - Daily Mail

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