Monday, July 26, 2010

Benjamin and Ann

(Spoiler Alert! for my novel in progress)

I feel sorry for Benjamin Parvin and Ann English, who had a long and rocky courtship.

In my historical novel-in-progress, the courtship was especially long because of a big argument and an estrangement that went on for several years. I made all of that up, to add conflict and make for an interesting plot. But something happened in real life, and I have no idea what it was.

Quaker engagements had to be long, because the couple went through an approval process that involved their local, "monthly" meeting and the regional, or "province" meeting that only met every three months. No matter what their age, they had to have permission from parents (or relations, if the parents weren't living) and everybody in their meeting (church congregation). Benjamin and Ann were in their late twenties, which was fairly common for 17th-century marriages in that community.

Benjamin, who had grown up as a second-generation Quaker in Ireland, did something wrong in those procedures and the meeting gave him a "paper of Condemnation," which means he was on the verge of being disowned for whatever it was he did. They said he had "proceeded in relation to marriage with Ann English Contrary to the order of truth" — the word "truth" being used at that time for both belief in Christ and for all of the Quaker rules and culture.

No, I don't think they were pregnant. The meeting had no qualms about writing that in their records, and Ann's first child was born in 1698. Since Ann was an orphan and Benjamin's father had died, I suspect they broke some rule about getting permission, or perhaps they set a date or started making plans before they had the meeting's approval.

In the 12th month 1696 (February 1697), Benjamin wrote an apology, which was accepted, and he and Ann started making the required rounds of meetings to get their approval to marry. They presented themselves to the men's meeting, then the women's meeting, that month, then went to the province meeting in 1st month (March), back to the monthly meeting in Moate in 2nd month (April), which sent a certificate to the next province meeting. They finally married in 3rd month (May) 1697.

It took a lot of persistence for a couple to get married back then, but Ann and Benjamin had it.

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