Earlier centuries saw a great many practices that were commonplace then but which would be considered inappropriate in our more enlightened age. Nowhere was this truer than in (merry old) England — purchasing a plump Irish child for special dinner occasions in the 18th century, for instance, or in the 19th century, selling a spouse one had grown weary of. One such sale took place on April 8, 1832, an account of which was recorded for the amusement of generations that followed. Joseph Thompson, a farmer, had been married for three unhappy years when he and his wife decided to call it quits. As was customary, Thompson took his wife to town and set her up for public auction. At noon, the sale commenced with Thompson delivering a short speech:
“Gentlemen, I have to offer to your notice my wife, Mary Ann Thomson . . . whom I mean to sell to the highest and fairest bidder. Gentlemen, it is her wish as well as mine to part for ever. She has been to me only a born serpent. I took her for my comfort, and the good of my home; but she became my tormentor, a domestic curse, a night invasion, and a daily devil. Gentlemen, I speak truth from my heart when I say — may God deliver us from troublesome wives and frolicsome women! Avoid them as you would a mad dog, a roaring lion, a loaded pistol, cholera morbus, Mount Etna, or any other pestilential thing in nature.”
What a sales pitch! This guy could sell anything. The asking price for Mary Ann was 50 shillings. Eventually, the price was knocked down and a deal was made — 20 shillings and a Newfoundland dog.
Everyone satisfied, they parted company, Mary Ann and a gentleman named Henry Mears in one direction, Joseph and the dog in the other.
Here’s a story about another business transaction for a wife. Read it.