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Friday, July 06, 2007

A Marriage Service for Dumb Lovers

John Cordy Jeaffreson's 1873 book Brides and Bridals tells of a chatty woman and the husband who would never interrupt her.

On the fifteenth day of February, in the eighteenth year of Queen Elizabeth's reign, a singular wedding took place at Leicester between Thomas Filsby, a deaf and dumb man, and Ursula Bridget, a hearing and talkative spinster. The Prayer-book requiring that the promises of marriage should be exchanged in spoken words, the clerical and civil authorities of Leicester were unable to say how the speechless person could be married to his spouse in a satisfactory manner. In their perplexity they applied for instructions to Thomas, Bishop of London, and Commissary John Chippendale, D.D., who disposed of the difficulty by devising a marriage-service for dumb lovers. By their directions the matrimonial rite was performed, and Ursula Bridget made the bride's promises in the usual manner; but the speechless groom declared his desire and purpose by the following signs. Having first embraced Ursula with his arms, he took her by the hand, and put the nuptial ring on her finger. He then laid his right hand significantly upon his heart, and afterwards, putting their palms together, extended both his hands to heaven. Having thus sued for the Divine blessing, he declared his purpose to dwell with Ursula till death should separate them, by closing his eyelids with his fingers, digging the earth with his feet, as though he wished to make a hole in the ground, and then moving his arms and body, as if he were tolling a funereal bell.
It was kind of touching until that last bit.

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