Home » Companions Without Vows: Relationships Among Eighteenth-Century British Women by Betty Rizzo
Companions Without Vows: Relationships Among Eighteenth-Century British Women Betty Rizzo

Companions Without Vows: Relationships Among Eighteenth-Century British Women

Betty Rizzo

Published January 15th 2000
ISBN : 9780820315416
Hardcover
439 pages
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 About the Book 

Companions Without Vows is the first detailed study of the companionate relationship among women in eighteenth-century England - a type of relationship so prevalent that it was nearly institutionalized. Drawing extensively upon primary documents andMoreCompanions Without Vows is the first detailed study of the companionate relationship among women in eighteenth-century England - a type of relationship so prevalent that it was nearly institutionalized. Drawing extensively upon primary documents and fictional narratives, Betty Rizzo describes the socioeconomic conditions that forced women to take on or to become companions and examines a number of actual companionate relationships. As Rizzo points out, several factors fostered such relationships. Husbands and wives of the period lived largely separate social lives, yet decorum prohibited genteel women from attending engagements unaccompanied. Also, women of position needed - or insisted on having - social consultants and confidantes. Filling this need were many well-born young women without sufficient funds to live independently. Because family money and property were concentrated in the hands of eldest sons, few unattached daughters could afford to live in comfort on their own. As a result, they frequently had to seek the protection of female benefactors for whom they performed unpaid, nonmenial tasks, such as providing a hand at cards or simply offering pleasant company. The companionate relationship between women could assume many forms, Rizzo notes. it was often analogous to marriage, with one partner in command and the other in subservient attendance. Some women - particularly in the second half of the century - experimented with more altruistic models, establishing partnerships that were truly egalitarian. Rizzo explores these various types of relationships both in real life and in fiction, noting that much of the periods discourse about womens relationships can be seen as a tacit commentary on marriage. Many women writers, she contends, consistently portrayed the moral corruption that tainted companions as well as their superiors. Although few of these writers called openly for an end to gender inequality, Frances Burney, Sarah Fielding, Sarah Scott, C