Married to a Victorian man: Part I

Originally posted on August 28, 2009.

I keep getting asked what it was like to be married in the 1800s to a man like Lawrence, so I’m writing this blog quite candidly to give you guys an accurate picture of it. Some of it is historical documentation but most of it is me talking as the wife in the relationship. It was me married to him. My soul was just in the body below rather than the body I use now. The truths about my past life have come through ten years of reflection, research, meditation, guidance from other intuitives, etc. Part II will come soon.

The first time I saw Lawrence, we were toddlers who’s mothers once visited each other by coincidence. We didn’t see each other again until we were adults, which proves that nothing is by accident. He wasn’t my first spouse by far, nor will he be my last. I have known several of my past spouses in my 27 years but there is always “the one” for every person. He’s above the rest. He’s my twin flame, my literal other half, a huge part of my heart and soul, despite not being alive with this generation. We have been together five times that I am aware of but the most recent time is the most documented, the most debated and the clearest picture of what a twin flame relationship is like.

For NKOTB fans, I’ll do this to hold your attention: I had a lot of commonality with them today when I was her back then. I was born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, in 1825, which is where Joe McIntyre was raised. I spent parts of my childhood at the time in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where Jon and Jordan Knight, Danny Wood and Donnie Wahlberg went to school and where their early performances were in the group. Lawrence invested quite a lot of money during the late 1800s in the real estate development of Ocala, Florida, where Jon Knight boarded several of his horses and spent a lot of time in the 1990s. Without Lawrence and his partners, Ocala would not have existed for Jon to enter Shakespeare into competitions and train his horses. In fact, we lost most of our emassed fortune developing that place from nothing but fields and a few buildings. Those are just some bizarre commonalities. So do I have your attention, NKOTB fans? Good. Keep reading. Learn a few new things 🙂

A major reason why I have had spontaneous flashbacks since I was a toddler about being Fanny is because of Lawrence. When you are born into a life with your twin flame, it leaves such an impact that it transcends time and if you’re at all spiritually sensitive, being without your twin flame leaves a gaping hole in you. No amount of achievement or material gain, no “stuff,” nothing fills the void. I’m not saying it leaves you a depressed shell of a human being to be without your other half, but the sense of something missing always nags at you in the back of your mind. You live your life and you have great successes, even great loves, but you also learn to co-exist with a hole in your soul from a very young age. Being with your twin flame is hard, it’s intense, it’s always for the better good of humanity or a cause bigger than yourselves, and it’s extremely fulfilling. It’s hard because you’re basically trying to live with a copy yourself in some ways and most people laugh and say, “I’d kill me if I had to live with myself.” It’s true in a lot of ways.

Lawrence and I were unique for our time. We’re old souls, so the restraints of society wear thin on us pretty quick when those restraints try to force us to go against what’s in our hearts. I speak in present tense about things like this because he may not be around with this generation but it doesn’t mean we won’t be together again in the future and I’m sure we’ll be breaking rules of society then too. It’s just part of our dynamics with each other and using our time as Fanny and Lawrence is the best way to illustrate it. Let’s face it — he wrote a lot and he was a famous figure so the state of Maine has a lot of his stuff archived.

This is a photograph of Lawrence as a general late in the Civil War that my friend colorized based on my descriptions. He was five-foot-ten and a half (he never forgot to include the half), which was pretty tall for the time when the average height was five-foot-eight. He was athletically built but not “ripped” like men strive to be today. There was no such thing as working out at the gym, so his strength and natural body shape came from years and years of manual labor on the family farm in Brewer, Maine. He had thick brownish hair (not yellow blonde like Jeff Daniels who played him) and he started going gray in his mid-to-late twenties, at the temples first and so on. His eyes were technically blue but they could change from gray to intense blue depending on the intensity of his moods, fatigue, illness or other circumstances. His eyes really lack verbal description. People throughout his life up until the present have remarked about how intense they were, how he could look right through a person and show his own internal passions, anger, happiness and love.

When people think of Victorian couples, romance and marriage, there is a very definite stereotype of no physical affection, not really knowing each other before marrying or even after marrying, and that marriages were arranged. Love rarely fits in with the idea of Victorian marriage and even today, suggesting that Victorians were sexual beings is enough to make people gasp and say it couldn’t have been true. The truth of the matter is that there was an idealized version of Victorian life that many strove to achieve but then there was a whole other reality too. The stereotypes of uptight Victorians vastly come from the upper 2% of the super rich population, which was its own world compared to normal society.

Average everyday people had a similar moral code to uphold but there was a lot more freedom in the lower classes, as long as it wasn’t out there in the open. More people worked so it was harder to constantly chaperone unmarried people. Statistical estimates show that about 20% of brides were pregnant on their wedding days and there are even some who suggest that Mary Todd Lincoln was one of them. Birth control and pornography were illegal but were produced at rates not much different from modern times. Common types of birth control were sheepskin condoms, “puddings” which were designed to be like sperm blockers or spermicide, lemon juice or whiskey douches, herbal teas, the ever classic “pulling out” method, and so on. It was acceptable for men of the upper class to have women of the lower classes to learn about sex before they took a respectable wife of their own class. On the other hand, women of all classes were expected to remain pure and innocent outwardly, but with a marriage day pregnancy rate of about 20%, clearly it was a fanciful dream and not quite a measure of reality. The biggest stereotype of Victorian love is that men thought women never enjoyed sex or romance. Again, it’s a result of the idealized Victorian woman as opposed to a real Victorian woman.

In my case specifically, Lawrence and I were part of the working class for most of our lives. Had we been part of the upper stratosphere of society, I really doubt so many of our letters would have survived because families had a habit of burning embarrassing documents after death. We are not unique in that we talked so frankly about our love and our relationship. We are unique in that so much of it survived into this century for people to study. I understand the fascination from the outside as scholars and regular people interested in reading about a real Victorian romance. From the inside though, I do squirm sometimes about certain passages of what I felt at the time were private letters being published for mass consumption. Lawrence, on the other hand, would just smile and tease me about blushing and being embarrassed about people knowing I actually might have loved him.

That was the thing about Lawrence as a person. Military and political figures like him are remembered by history as two-dimensional, cold, serious, boring men and there is no humanity to who they were. Lawrence was a jokester and a prankster. He was witty, clever and he had a sharp tongue to match a sharp mind. He felt emotions so deeply that sometimes all he could do was either mask it with silence or a perfectly timed dry joke to get the room rolling with laughter. His keen mind easily pounced on things about people that were normally serious but he made people find a way to see humor in their weaknesses. In my case, I was a very emotionally closed person. I had a terrible time bearing my soul, especially about things such as love and affection, that flew in the face of the idealized Victorian woman that I thought I was supposed to be. He knew better and he knew *me* better. His way of expressing those desires in the years before we were married often took the shape of humor, like this:

I guess you will be very angry if I confess to you what I have done. Can you believe it? I slept with a girl the other night. It came about queerly — I could not help it — such a sweet delicious maiden & then the opportunity — … It was rather too much for human flesh & blood. And then her head laid on my shoulder so cunning & coy — can you blame me for kissing her so passionately when she was so soft & warm? It wasn’t a dream…. You do not care, do you? You know you are above all such things — they are ‘cruel’ & ‘unnatural’! If I am never to touch my wife, nobody can blame me for this. If you want to know who it was, why it was my own Fannie in the nice goldplate case I keep her in, so that nobody can see her except me.

In that letter, he made teasing references to very serious matters that worried me at the time. I had told him after we were engaged that maybe it was a better idea for us to have a platonic marriage because I felt that the entire concepts of marriage and motherhood were cruel ways to imprison women. I disagreed with biblical passages that said motherhood was the “natural” order of things for a wife and my liberal ideas baffled him. Eventually he dug deeper, as he was always prone to doing, until he hit the root cause of my problem. It wasn’t that I truly wanted a sexless marriage — I had written to him that such a life would require as much self-denial on my part as his — but motherhood was something I never wanted. I was unique by Victorian standards because I had lived in the city on my own terms, I made money, I was a stage singer and musician, I taught music a thousand miles away from home, etc. Going from total freedom to being chained down in service to a husband and a litter of children was deeply upsetting to me, as was the very real possibility that I would die in childbirth.

“I am in earnest darling about the matter in the note — We can have mischief enough, without any trouble. I guess you will be as ready for it as I–“ he had written during the long distance part of our engagement. He suggested that I begin learning about “puddings and things” (birth control) before the wedding so that we could have our “mischief” without having children immediately. He also made very frank statements about knowing that women wanted affection with their husbands as much as their husbands. He told me not to pretend that I didn’t have any passionate feelings because he didn’t like to think of me as a fossil. Several other teasing instances followed in letters, such as:

I want to kiss her. I want her to put up her lips and tempt me, so that I shall fall into her arms, as I used to try not to do … Now, now I’m going to kiss her — there; only see her blush now — quite a sparkle in her eye — I guess she is a rogue; that is what I guess.


I dreamed last night that my F____ had a little ‘gold-____’ tossing him up in her arms & playing with him. I was very jealous, for she would not let me take him at all & I was so unreasonable as to imagine I had as much right to him as she. But there wasn’t any quarrel. I wish I could tell you my feelings when I looked upon those two. I wish I could. Only remember my starting when I thought that my F____ was not F____ *********** yet — After that I dreamed of something else, which if it had been carried much farther, I am afraid would have made the two dreams come in rather an inverted order, now isn’t that pretty well said. Dont scold me.

When he wanted to say something directly but knew that I wouldn’t like the frankness, he would tease me by putting fill-in-the-blanks, stars for letters or drawing cartoons. In the case above, “gold-____” meant gold-baby and “F____” meant Fanny/Fannie and *********** stood for Chamberlain, as it was bad luck and improper to write a woman’s married name before she was married.

The thing that bothers me the most about historians today is that it’s almost common knowledge, though completely false, that I never loved Lawrence. Historians can be a very cruel lot. Since there was very little left from my correspondence to him and a good deal of his correspondence sounded like a forlorn lover, they assume I was cold-hearted, flighty, uncaring, treated him like dirt, and some have even theorized that I was a lesbian. As my friend Jeffrey Keene says, “History is the greatest piece of fiction ever written.” To understand the way I dealt with Lawrence’s open affection, you have to understand that before him, I was sent away to be adopted without explanation at the age of four, I was raised by a minister, I had been through other relationships that went badly and I had been intensely independent. People had been gossiping about me for my entire life and I had built up a very thick wall around myself. Lawrence was almost three years younger, he was still in school, he had no prospects, etc. He pursued me from the minute he saw me and I fought my feelings for a while because nobody approved.

Love is love, though, and nothing can stop it no matter how you try, especially when you’re dealing with a twin flame situation. Without him, I was miserable. With him, I was afraid of the intense things I felt. It wasn’t in my personality to pour out every thought and desire into letters like he did. I was a person of act and deed rather than written contemplation. He had trouble understanding that and he was prone to depression when I didn’t answer his letters with equal intensity that he wrote to me. Being in love and exposing his heart was effortless for him. For me, it was a matter of losing control of something else and I had trouble handling that. I loved him as intensely as he loved me but I was much more comfortable showing him in person rather than writing it down. In person, it was just for us and nobody had to know about it. In letters, there was a risk that other people (like historians today!), would see it and gossip about me even more.

A woman who didn’t love a man wouldn’t write something like this:

You know dear Lawrence that I may breathe to you, even as to my own heart, in all innocence and perfect trustfulness, those things which would ever sink me in the estimation and respect of any third person; for no other being can know what we are to each other.

Or this:

I am sitting now at the same window where we sat together all that night. How could you think that I would shrink from you ever! You who seem so holy, so pure and noble to me! — how could I even if you did press my finger to your dear lips? O! there was nothing even then, that you could have done that would not have seemed beautiful and right to me. Ah! those nights! so full of terrible beauty; will they never come again?…O! dear Lawrence I would know you more, and I would have you know me as you never have known me. My soul longs to speak to yours as it never has spoken…I rest in you as I never have rested before; — you know it, do you not? and I would be everything to you; I would nestle closely in your arms forever, and love you and cling to you and be your ‘bird’: dear, precious heart!

Also, I wrote this note (below) to him during the early part of our relationship after we had committed to each other without being engaged yet. He proposed frequently and almost immediately after we began seeing each other but it took me about a year to finally come to terms with the fact that being his wife was my destiny. This note is not very different from women texting men today and saying, “Hey, come on over while we have some privacy.” There are several other instances of me arranging private time before we were married too, which, again, flies in the face of Victorian stereotypes.

I am disappointed at not seeing you last eve. Why not give Mary J. her lesson early and give rehearsal the skip for I will be home alone. Father is away and Addie will be out. Will you come, if that is agreeable to yourself? Your singing book is here and you will need it for the next day.

In another letter much later on from him, he made this reference:

…then too when she invited me one night to sl___ Wasn’t I good, not to? But I shall remember that invitation till two rooms come — then we shall see.

Here we have another fill-in-the-blank, let’s make Fanny blush and roll her eyes, passage from a letter. This was well before we were married and the blank suggests that I had invited him to sleep with me one night, although historians aren’t sure if he was serious or joking. The truth? I’m not sure either. I know our premarital physical relationship went beyond what was acceptable in polite society but I’m not completely sure that I would have extended such an invitation while living under my minister father’s roof. I find it very doubtful, in fact. Lawrence had a very dirty, dark sense of humor at times.

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