Category Archives: 18th c. Daily Life

Reading Coffee Grounds: A Lady’s Hobby

Divination by coffee grounds was an art practiced by ladies and ridiculed by men.

TellingFortuneinCoffeeGrounds

An edition of the Plain Dealer from 1724 claims that tasseography was one of “a thousand shining proofs of the capacity of woman’s wit.”  The writer even went so far as to exhort gentlemen to beware the danger: “Our women are become a nation of sages!  And men must be shortly dependent on them, not for DELIGHT only, but for INSTRUCTION.”

In keeping with the theme of the print shown above, the Gentleman’s Magazine relates a story of a gentleman coming upon two ladies having their fortunes read in coffee grounds:

“He surprised her and her company in close cabal over their coffee; the rest very intent upon one; who by her dress and intelligence he guess’d was a tire woman [ladies’ maid]; to which she added the secret of divining by coffee grounds… On one hand sat a widow, on the other a maiden lady, both attentive to the predictions to be given of their future fate… They assured him that every cast of the cup is a picture of all one’s life to come, and every transaction and circumstance is delineated with the exactest certainty.  If this be so, reply’d he, such an Art would be of service to a statesman, for instead of going to council he need only examine the coffee grounds and all the affairs of the whole nation would appear before him at once and he would know all the plots cabals and intrigues of his adversaries… In case he should see mischief and misfortune coming upon him, [he asked] whether it would be in his power to prevent ’em, they reply’d no.  From which he takes occasion to dissuade them from such unwarrantable inquiries to be content with what they enjoy and be prepared to endure evil when it comes and to depend on providence for the rest .”

ProfessorTrelawneyDivinationEven 21st century wizards think divination is worthless.

Ladies didn’t much care for this no-nonsense approach to fate.  Instead, they consumed books like Every Lady’s Own Fortune-Tellerwhich I’m delighted to say tells us how to read our very own coffee grounds.

The 18th century method says to use the last coffee pour before you reach the dregs.   Pour it into your cup, let settle, and drink everything but the dregs.  Then turn the cup around, making sure the dregs stick to the sides.  Next, lay your cup upside down and let the moisture drain out.  Pick up your cup and start reading counterclockwise to your thumb placement on the cup until you complete the circle back to your thumb (Hmm, does it matter if you’re using a dish of tea or a teacup with handles?  One would think this omitted detail is important.)

Your Divination Results

A Visit From Your Beloved or a Journey: “If you see a clear narrow part between two lines, it signifies a public road.  Observe the little atoms in this passage, and their distance from your thumb, as also their direction, whether to the thick part of them are inclined towards you, or from you.  If the former, your best beloved is coming to see you.  If the latter, he is going away from you;  the farther this road is from your thumb, the greater distance he is from you.

If it is mostly on the left side, he is only leaving the place he was to come.  If mostly on the right side, he is on his arrival.  If this clear or white part is long and broad, he is coming by sea.  If you see the resemblance of several houses, on or near a road of white space, it signifies a great city or seaport.  If there is no large atom in the road or space, you will yourself soon perform a journey or voyage.

Marriage, Death, and Popularity:  If you see the likeness [of houses], but of one large house with few people or atoms about it, you will be married a short time, that being the emblem of a church.  If there is a great crowd, you will attend the funeral of some dear friend.

If you perceive the semblance of a coach, which is easily distinguished, you will be speedily raised to honour and dignity.   If the likeness should be a horse, you will be married to a person much above your own condition.  If you observe the similitude of a gallows, which may happen, we recommend to you to mend your own morals, or caution any of your acquaintance, whom you know to be vicious, of the threatened danger.

Wealth:  If there appears a great many round small white spots on any part of the cup, it denotes that you will shortly receive a large sum of money.  The nearer to your thumb on the right hand side, the sooner you will get it.

Susan Ardelie is the author of Shadow Fire Lady, the first book in the Incorporeal Lords series, a historical paranormal romance.  

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Fire, meet Night Robe

Fires have always been a hazard, especially when flames are situated alarmingly close to one’s bed (not to mention the poor cat who really ought to know better).  I’ve come across a number of these prints, and the theme of foolish ladies seems to be a favorite–I’ve yet to see a gentleman scorched, but here’s to hoping.

In this 1789 print, Fragonard’s unfortunate miss has found her bottom smoking in the middle of the night and her lady friends don’t seem much help.  Apart from the bosomy lady in bed, the ladies appear amused.  Rather than pouring a pitcher of water on the lady, it’s gone splashing on the floor.  Oh, dear. That might leave a mark.

20131107-174042.jpg

Ma Chemise Brûlée by Auguste-Claude-Simon Legrand, after Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1789)

The Life of a Chimney Sweeper

Prior to the middle of the 19th century chimney sweepers were boys small enough to climb up flues. Life was predictably harsh for these young workers: lungs clogged with soot, eyes burning, and fires lit beneath them to encourage efficient cleaning.

Say what? The expression “Light a fire under you” apparently hails from this experience of kids scuttling up chimneys in fear of being roasted alive.

Because children were frightened of climbing into cramped, dirty spaces, their soot bags and brushes dangling from their wrists, their masters would light a fire beneath them. When a chimney sweeper’s head popped out the chimney top, the fireplace was considered cleaned.

Even after the job was done, chimney sweepers lived in cruel quarters. After being sold as indentured servants, their masters were responsible for housing and food but as was often the case, chimney sweepers begged for rations. Their soot bag performed double duty as a nighttime blanket, and the children suffered from severe neglect until their health gave out and a new chimney sweep replaced them.

The famous mystic and 19th century poet William Blake wrote a touching poem entitled The Chimney Sweeper several years after the 18th century invention of extendable brushes. Use of children wasn’t outlawed until the 1864 Act of Regulation for Chimney Sweepers, but this didn’t prevent artists from portraying children as tragically romantic figures. A1930s new year’s postcard shows the most historically ludicrous scene with children tumbling over the top of a chimney, smiling and laughing as if they are busy at play–a luxury chimney sweepers never had.

20130712-101817.jpg

Whig or Tory? The Politics of Beauty Patches

Joseph Addison founded The Spectator with his chum Richard Steele in 1711 for the promotion of wit and Enlightenment morality,  as well as to amuse with anecdotes of fashionable London society.   Purposed as a light education over tea or chocolate, it was read by over 60,000 as private subscribers or patrons of coffee houses, and was marketed to members of the rising middle class.  The fictional Mr. Spectator, a perspicacious observer and upright gossip, if you will, swore it his duty to relate weekly modes of society and celebrity.  555 papers were eventually printed and collected into seven volumes, and though The Spectator was defunct by the end of 1712, it experienced a revival in 1714 when a number of print runs were collected for an eighth volume.

The Spectator from a 1788 Edition

From a 1788 edition, a testament to its longevity which would last in reprints throughout the 19th century.  The eight volumes can easily found online on gutenberg and google books.

Our passage of interest relates to No. 81 on Saturday, June 2 and records Addison’s experience seeing an  opera at Haymarket Theatre, where he makes a political discovery regarding patches.  Now, if you are unfamiliar with the 18th century’s answer to the beauty mark, you’ll want to read To Patch or Not to Patch to learn their common use as a flirtation device.  Apart from Addison’s reference, I’ve never known them associated with political affiliation, but I rather like women bringing brains to their beauty, even if it did result in the petty partisan squabbling we still see today:

Une Dame à sa Toilette by Francois BoucherUne Dame à sa toilette by Francois Boucher

‘ . . . I could not but take notice of two parties of very fine women, that had placed themselves in the opposite side boxes, and seemed drawn up in a kind of battle array one against another!  After a short survey of them, I found they were patched differently; the faces, on one had, being spotted on the right side of the forehead, and those upon the other on the left: I quickly perceived that they cast hostile glances upon one another, and that their patches were placed in these different situations, as party signals to disguise friends from foes.  In the middle boxes, between these two opposite bodies, were several ladies who patched indifferently on both sides of their faces, and seemed to sit there with no other intention but to see the opera.  Upon inquiry, I found that the body of Amazons on my right hand were Whigs and those on my left Tories, and that those who had  placed themselves in the middle boxes were  a neutral party, whose faces had not yet declared themselves.  These last, however, as I afterwards found, diminished daily, and took their party with one side or the other; insomuch that I observed in several of them, the patches, which were before dispersed equally, are now all gone to the Whig or Tory side of the face. The censorious say, that the men whose hearts are aimed at, are very often the occasion that one part of the face is thus dishonoured, and lies under a kind of disgrace, while the other is so much set off and adorned by the owner; and that the patches turn to the right or to the left, according to the principles of the man who is most in favour.

‘But whatever may be the motives of a few fantastical coquettes, who do not patch for the public good so much as for their own private advantage, it is certain, that there are several women of honour who patch out of principle, and with an eye to the interest of their country.  Nay, I am informed that some of them adhere so steadfastly to their party, and are so far from sacrificing their zeal for the public to their passions for any particular person, that in a late draught of marriage articles a lady has stipulated with her husband, that whatever his opinions are, she shall be at liberty to patch on which side she pleases.’

Gotta love that.

You can read more of Addison’s reflections on patches in No. 81 where he goes on to discuss a famously beautiful Whig partisan who had the misfortune of a prominent mole on the Tory side of her face, an unexpected matronly zeal for patches, and patch wars.

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How to Swindle a Young Gentleman of Fortune

A Kick Up at a Hazard Table by Thomas Rowlandson

A Kick Up at a Hazard Table – Thomas Rowlandson

“The number of new gaming houses established at the West End of the town is indeed a matter of very serious evil, but they are not likely to decrease while examples of the same nature are held forth in the higher circles of life.  It is needless to point out any one of these houses in particular; it is sufficient for us to expose the tricks that are practised at many of them to swindle the unsuspecting young men of fortune who are entrapped into these whirlpools of destruction The first thing necessary is to give the guests a good dinner and plenty of wine, which many of these houses do gratis.  When they are sufficiently intoxicated and having lost all the money about them, their acceptance is obtained to Bills of Exchange to a considerable amount, which frequently are paid to avoid the disagreeable circumstance of a public exposition in a Court of Justice, which is always threatened though the gamesters well know that no such measure durst be adopted by them.

Should any reluctance or hesitation be shewn by the injured party to accept these bills, he is shewn into a long room with a target at the end of it and several pistols lying about where he is given to understand these sharpers practice a considerable time of the day in shooting at a mark and have arrived to such perfection in this exercise that either of them can shoot a pistol ball within an inch of the mark from the common distance taken by duellists.  A hint is then dropped that further hesitation will render the use of the pistols necessary and which will again be the case should he ever divulge what he has seen and heard.  If further particulars or proofs are wanting, they may be known on application to certain Military characters who have already made some noise in the world.” Times Feb 14 1793

A Beauty in Search of Knowledge

As I read Wendy Moore’s How to Create the Perfect Wife in anticipation of review, I’ve been reflecting on how damned lucky I and all fellow females are these days.  Not so lucky as to forget the existence of feminism or the necessity for it, but lucky in that no man may lord over us unless we allow them dominance.  We are not eternally bound by “I do”.  Nor are we raised to be Emile’s adoring, spineless Sophie.  We are beauties in possession of knowledge, not forever and vainly searching for it, but behold the danger in the 18th century.  A young woman is about to ruin her mind at circulating library by renting . . . fiction.  Earlier posts on the subject can be found here and here, and if you’ve read them, you know the absurdity.  If not, reading romances or anything popular in fiction was thought to be a corrupting force in a young lady’s education (does this sound familiar today? A teensy bit).  Only history–but never in Latin–would improve a lady’s faculties and only so far as nature would allow.

18th century mezzotint

Circulating libraries like the one above popped up around London with increasing frequency in the late 18th century.  They served the middle class populace and supplemented booksellers’ incomes by charging a small fee to patrons for access to the entire library. Unlike members-only subscription libraries that offered classical literature, nonfiction, and access to the latest scholarly texts, circulating libraries stocked popular novels and were always eager to accommodate readers with the latest craze, such as the late 18th century’s gothic romances by Ann Radcliffe and others.  Anyone who could read and pay the fee could rent fiction along with travel memoirs, biographies, plays, poetry, and periodicals.

For those who enjoy dates, the first circulating library on the British Isles and the continent opened its doors in Edinburgh around 1725.  By 1750 London and other cities of sizable populations had libraries of their own, a trend that trundled along without competition until the Public Libraries Act of 1850.  The commercial establishments gasped its last breath in the 20th century when they died in favor of free public libraries.

 

The Rise and Fall of May Fair

“May Fair, upon the authority of a tract that will be named presently ‘was granted by King James II under the great seal, in the fourth year of his reign, to Sir John Coell and his heirs for ever, in trust for the Right Honourable Henry Lord Dover and his heirs for ever; to be held in the field called Brookfield, in the parish of St. Martin’s, Westminster, to commence on the first day of May, and continue fifteen  days after it yearly for ever, for the sale of all manner of goods and merchandise.” Gentleman’s Magazine, 1816.

‘May Fair’ may have started out as a venue for cattle and other live trade in 1688, but soon enough the market diverged into an all out celebration of amusement and vice.  By the dawn of the 18th century, pickpockets and rogues were heading to the fair in droves.  The year 1700 brought such a disorderly crowd that the magistrates present were forced to send for the constables.  Their mission was to subdue the charlatans and thieves who went to prey on the merry and the drunk, but chaos erupted instead.  John Cooper, a peace officer, was accidentally killed when soldiers joined in the throng, and as a result May Fair’s reputation stumbled.

Victoria & Albert Museum 

The people, however, loved their yearly May outing.  By 1707, after attracting the nobility and gentry (including the Lady Mary Finley as the must-see rope dancer) the fair was all the rage.   Everywhere one looked May Fair was bursting with revelry.   Here and there were Indian rope dancers and buffoons, puppet shows and music shows, stage plays and tricksters.  For those loose with their pockets, gaming, raffling, and lotteries served up yet another diversion.

In 1708 the right to hold the fair was openly attacked.  The throng and ongoing unsavory behavior were declared a public nuisance.  Come April of 1709, Queen Anne issued a Royal Proclamation prohibiting the erecting or making of stalls or booths for stage and music plays, along with any activity deemed disorderly.

Still May Fair refused to die and when the beast started breathing again, the atmosphere became more depraved.  Prize fighting, boxing, and bull-baiting flourished.  Its natural sibling–prostitution–arose with it. But alas, the people’s choice outing was not to last.  After almost a hundred years, the fifteen day fair was shut down in 1764.  The wealthy residents who had lamented at the ruckus had finally got their wish as the riffraff, so disdained for their lowbrow antics, were thrown from the property gobbled meadow and Mayfair as a district ascended to its height as N.P. Willis describes in his 19th century Prose Works:

May Fair!  What a name for the core of dissipated and exclusive London!  A name that brings with it only the scent of crushed flowers in a green field, of a pole wreathed in roses, booths crowded with dancing peasant girls, and nature in its holyday.  This—to express the costly, the court-like, the so called ‘heartless’ precinct of fashion and art in their most authentic and envied perfect.  Mais les extremes se touchent; and perhaps there is more nature in May Fair than in Rose Cottage or Honeysuckle lodge.

A Day in the Life: A Lady’s Maid

The Chamber Maid Brings Tea, Pehr Hillestrom, 1775

A lady’s maid’s day, unlike that of her peers, starts as soon as her mistress wakes.  The hour is variable, depending on the individual mistress and whether the household resides in the city or the country, but generally, a lady’s maid begins her official work later than the rest of the servants.

Attending to her mistress’s person comprises the first task of the morning.  After ablutions are taken care of and her mistress’s hair and body are dressed, a lady’s maid is responsible for tidying her mistress’s rooms.  This may not be the case with experienced ladies’ maids, but in households where there are few servants or a lady’s maid is relatively new, learning the finer details of upkeep are an important part of her position.  Even after a lady’s maid has graduated from general housemaid duty, washing hair combs, removing stains from soiled garments, and starching muslins number among the many exigencies of personal attendance that must be addressed on a regular basis.

Lady Fastening Her Garter (otherwise known as La Toilette), François Boucher, 1742

In households where maids are numerous, it may seem weird for a lady’s maid to act the part of a housemaid.  It’s really not.  The primary reason is to ensure her mistress’s privacy in both everyday situations and in rarer occasions when the mistress falls ill.  Although chambermaids and maids of all work will by necessity enter the mistress’s rooms, it is best to keep these visits limited.  All work in the rooms must be done out of the mistress’s sight.  Timing, therefore, is absolutely essential.

As soon as the mistress departs her rooms in the morning, a lady’s maid tidies and refreshes all belongings and articles under her care.  In a time before central air, a shut-up room would go stale throughout the night.  A good airing, therefore, is the first order of duty.  Windows are thrown open, bed curtains drawn apart.  Any clothes that remain out of closet are put away in the dressing room.  The accessories associated with ablutions must also be put to rights.

As neatness is a lady’s maid’s prerogative, dust and grime are directly under her purview.  Not even a loose thread on the carpet is tolerated by a meticulous lady’s maid.  The general notion here is to return the room to its original state—as if nobody had touched anything.  Wash basins, glasses, and water jugs must be cleaned of soap scum and fingerprints.  To keep up with the steady decline of cleanliness in the room, a strict schedule of supplying fresh water and changing towels is encouraged.

 

By James Gillray, 1810

After the mistress’s rooms are picked up and dusted, the thread and needle work begins.  Plain work (darning stockings, mending linens) occupies a large deal of this time.  Exactly how much is determined by the amount and state of garments in the laundry.

Before the laundry goes out to the washerwoman, it’s the lady’s maid’s job to sort through the dirty pile to determine what needs mending or what items are beyond repair.  As a sartorial accountant of sorts, it’s important for a lady’s maid to maintain an inventory of her mistress’s wardrobe from the start of her employment.  Any time a garment leaves the room for the purposes of laundering, she is expected to write up a bill of any costs associated with the garment’s upkeep.

Considering the number of times a mistress changes her outfit in a single day, preventing theft and accounting for misplaced or missing items in the wardrobe is necessary if a lady’s maid is inclined to keep her post.  Since she stands to benefit from her mistress’s cast-offs (as she will likely receive them), a wise lady’s maid serves as steward of her mistress’s belongings and keeps a hawk’s eye on anything that leaves the room.

The Jealous Maids

This does not mean a lady’s maid is encouraged to wear anything spangled or luxurious that is handed down to her.  To put on the airs of a mistress by wearing her tarnished finery, even under the mistress’s allowance, is a common offense.  According to anonymous Lady, “A neat and modest girl will wear nothing dirty and nothing fine.”

With these parameters set, a lady’s maid has the discretion to do with her mistress’s unwanted garments as she sees fit.  Charity is always encouraged.  In those days, linen was the only suitable fabric for dressing wounds.  As such, old scraps were in high demand in hospitals.  The poor were also endlessly in need of clothing and a lady’s maid could do much good by donating items to the impoverished.

I touched on this in the last post, but it’s worth noting that a lady’s maid enjoys more freedom than the average domestic.  Once her day’s work is complete, she has leave to improve her mind by reading.  Along with other activities such as sewing, her evening hours are largely devoted to leisure.  This is both a blessing and a curse.   Because ladies’ maids experience privileges denied other domestics and they appear to have the ear of their mistress, they were often subject to jealousy from their peers.

Another downside of the position is that ladies’ maids seem to have more down time than the rest of the household.  In reality, they are at the beck and call of mistresses who keep late hours.  Suffice it to say, a lady’s maid does not sleep until her mistress does.  The life of a lady’s maid, then, revolves around the schedule, temperament, and demands of her mistress.  Her happiness, too, but judging by the quantity of complaints surrounding the position, that would require an altogether separate post by yours truly.

The Last Shift, Carrington Bowles

Additional posts about a lady’s maid and domestic servants:

Wanted for Hire: Lady’s Maid

La Distraite, 1778, Gallerie des Mode

A while back I wrote a series of blog posts about the lives of female and male  domestic servants.  I think being American, and, well, not being an aristocrat in a former century, makes them a point of fascination for me.  They’re highly hierarchical, for one.  As we’ve seen with Daisy, the scullery maid in Downton Abbey, the lowest servant is ordered around by everybody else–seemingly all at once.  Also, this may seem obvious, but servants are  an entire class of people whose primary purpose is to nod and comply.  They live and breath usefulness, and although they are hardly born of a higher class, they are to comport in a manner befitting the dignity of their “family.”

We know this was not always the case—it never is where discretion is required—but given the high turnover rate of domestics, we can imagine that staying mum was not always top priority.  The memoir The Lady’s Maid: My Life in Service by Rosina Harrison, Lady Astor’s lady’s maid, is not a tell-all, but neither is it a wholly flattering account of the position.  The memoir tells it like it is: being a servant is a whole lot more complex than one might presume.

Lady Preparing for Masquerade, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

As the most senior female domestic, a lady’s maid is below only that of nursemaids, and this, I gather, is debatable.  Compared with the household maids who serve the family at large, she is paid well, performs the lightest work, and is usually allowed access to the library.   In addition, she is the primary witness to her lady’s daily well-being, maintaining a uniquely confidential position similar to a gentleman’s valet.

I pored over The Lady’s Maid; Her Duties, and How to Perform Them by Lady to get the definitive low down on the requirements of the position.  Distilled in a short recap, I imagine an advertisement for a lady’s maid might look something like this:

A Lady’s Maid Soaping Linen, Henry Robert Morland (between 1765 and 1782)

Although the position was coveted among the servant classes, a competent lady’s maid was hard to find.  They had the same reputations as governesses.  That is to say, terrible.  According to the anonymous Lady,

Sounds like a catch 22, doesn’t it?  As they say, however, silence is golden.  The best lady’s maid stuck to this maxim, avoided idle gossip, and used her relatively high positions in the household to reign over the lower servants with kindess and grace.  To what exten this paragon actually existed, only history can tell.

Coming up: A Day in the Life: A Lady’s Maid

Other posts about a lady’s maid:

Divorce and The French Revolution

Le Divorce by Le Sueur

 On September 20, 1792, the Legislative Assembly of the French Republic legalized divorce.  This was a first in the country’s history.  Under the Ancien Regime, the unshackling of partners was unthinkable–a move that would potentially crumble the foundation on which the First and Second Estates derived their power.

 In his Traité du contract de mariage of 1771, the French jurist Robert-Joseph Pothier wrote :

Gross adultery on the wife’s behalf and instances of extreme spousal abuse counted as rare exceptions for separation when annulment no longer remained a possibility.  In essence, marriages were immediately consummated for a reason and unless the petitioner produced testimony that might invalidate the original grounds for marriage, the couple was married until death do they part.

In cases where the law permited separation of any sort, two basic resolutions were recognized: séparation de corps et d’habitation, essentially of person/body and domicile, and less seldom, séparation de biens, or of financial accounts.  Consequently, an attitude of keeping families in their conjoined states prevailed.  As an additional argument against divorce, all children birthed during the marriage were rendered illegitimate upon the conclusion of formal legal proceedings.  Given the need for heirs, one can easily see how this could prove problematic.

Although the Enlightenment initially sparked the divorce debate, it was the French Revolution that succeeeded in secularizing family life.  Public institutions sought to invade the very private sentiments of individuals and turn them outward in service of the state.  In the first gasping breaths of the nineteenth century, a backlash developed against this transparency of state and individual, but for 24 years, marriage was viewed as a covenant which could be broken as all secular affairs could be torn down and if desired, rebuilt.  This resulted in 30,000 divorces between 1792 and 1803, the years when the divorce laws remained the most liberal.

The Morning after Marriage by James Gillray

In the centuries following the years wherein the divorce law of 1792 was active, married women and men were refused comparable rights to divorce until as late as 1975.  1884 saw the return of divorce in France, however limited.

Given its time, the law of 1792 was shockingly encompassing.  It allowed seven instances where legal proceedings were warranted:

  • “Insanity;
  • Conviction for crimes entailing corporal punishment or loss of civils rights;
  • Crimes, brutality, or grave injury inflicted by one partner on the other;
  • Notorious dissoluteness of morals;
  • Abandonment for at least two years;
  • Absence without news for at least five years; and,
  • Emigration (when taken as a sign of counterrevolutionary intentions.” 1

Note the oldest reason for marital dissolution–adultery–is nowhere to be found.

Increasingly, as the idealism of the French Revolution waned, restrictions were placed on the grounds warranting a divorce.  The Napoleonic Civil Code modified accessibilty to divorce, making it more difficult for a wife to leave her husband, as during the 1792 law, men and women enjoyed equal freedom to seek their happiness outside of marriage.  Instead of relying on grievances, Napoleon’s code initially proposed mutual incompatibility (later discarded) and/or mutual consent.  Smacks of his experience with Josephine, doesn’t it?  The formal reasons for divorce  written in the final code were: “adultery, infamous punishment of spouse, outrageous conduct, ill-usage, or grievous injury.”

If the history of divorce law during the French Revolution and/or the social circumstances warranting divorce interest you, there is a good wealth of literature out there, particularly in regard to a wife’s grievances.  Do see:

Works Cited for the Seven Grounds for Divorce

1  Aries, Philippe, and Georges Duby. “The Unstable Boundaries of the French Revolution.” A History of Private Life. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 1990. Print.