wife-selling in market

In 1832, a wife sale was held in Carlisle, Scotland. The prevailing notion at the time was that a man, by putting his wife up for public auction, could legally dissolve the marriage, a ‘legitimate’ out.  Obligations, sir? Not anymore.


From the archives:  

Rodney Hall, a labouring man of idle and dissolute habits…led his wife into the town with a halter round her body…he led her twice round the market, where he was met by a man named Barlow, of the same class of life, who purchased her for eighteenpence and a quart of ale.


Selling a wife

The story of Joseph Thompson goes like this ~ Thompson comes into Carlisle with his wife, a ropey kind of halter made from straw around her neck.  He’s asking fifty shillings but by day’s end, he settles for twenty and a Newfoundland dog. It’s said that Thompson and his wife parted in perfect good temper. How wonderfully droll.

From the archives:

Mr. Brooks said that he had advertised it publicly three successive market-days…They had not lived together for a long time; she had had children by other men…and a man was willing to give him twenty pounds for her – three pounds down, and the other seventeen at Christmas.


Occasionally husbands regretted a sale.  Mr. Higginson sold his wife and then a few days later demanded her back. However, Mrs. Higginson refused to return. “A sale was a sale,” she said, “and not a joke.”  I say, that woman’s all pluck. As far as I can tell, the wife-selling gambit wasn’t ever legalized, but it was a quick way to ‘divorce’, often done with the wife’s consent.


Times have changed. Divorce happens. It’s easy, cheap, and legal. At times, craftily manipulated and cunningly engineered.  And for some, frequent.  Consider the late great Mickey Rooney. He’s kind of the eighth wonder of the (marriage) world. Octogamy could be his middle name ~ eight times married. Great word, isn’t it? Octogamy, from the Latin octo (eight) and Old French gamie (marriage).


A timeless original, Rooney holds the record for being in the movie business longer than any other actor, beginning with silent films and performing into the 21st century. The guy is flat-out dynamite. I love his fresh-faced innocence and manic energy. He’s cocky and brash and bursts with stadium-sized talent.



You just can’t take your eyes off him.


Rooney got his divorces the old-fashioned way.  I wonder what he thought about Paul Osborn.


Wife-for-Sale-on-Ebay-3188521Mr. Osborn, thinking himself devilishly ingenious, tried to sell his wife, a blond mum of two, on eBay as revenge after she allegedly cheated on him. Buyers in 2008 were way more generous than men of yore.  Just before Osborn (and the police) removed the post, the final bid was £750,000. Real life is stack blowing. That’s why I like a nifty frolic at the movies.


In spite of the serial divorces and assorted implosions,

we got the best of this entertainment bargain.

What’s your favorite Mickey Rooney flick?

Toni 4/9/14





  1. Back to divorce for a minute, I’m reading Wolf Hall, the Henry sage starring Thomas Cromwell. Behead them. Declare it never happened. Say it was a mistake and she’s you’re sister. Henry had a roster of wives and reasons. Mickey, too manic for me, but I admire his diligence and optimism, as in mayhap this wife will be better?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Manic Mickey ( think about the second grader that has yet to embrace stillness) – but at least all his wives kept their heads. 🙂
    Are you reading Hilary Mantel? She wrote a memoir that I have yet to read but I do recall her comment: Memoir’s not an easy form. It’s not for beginners, which is unfortunate, as it is where many people do begin. Hmmm, best stick to wars and beheadings.


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