Mourning and the Divorcee: 1904


Peter Robinson family and complimentary mourning

A woman who has divorced her husband would be guided by circumstances as to wearing mourning for him. Should he have married again and left a widow, it would be too absurd for two women to be wearing weeds for him; but if it should be thought advisable, in the interests of children, or for any other reason, for the woman who divorced him to wear mourning, she should do so, though without any exaggerated advertisement of regret. The children would wear mourning for their father, and it would be in singularly bad taste if their mother were not to don black and avoid colours until their period of mourning had expired. But a woman who has been divorced has no right to wear mourning for her former husband.

Women who are separated from their husbands have, in the same way, to be guided by a number of considerations as to whether they shall wear weeds or merely what is called “complimentary mourning” on the death of the man. An incident that occurred to a lady may be related as showing how difficulties may arise when a couple are separated. She had been living abroad with one of her sons for some years, and meanwhile her husband had formed a temporary union in England with some one else. This latter lady died, and a notice of her death, as wife of Mr. So-and-so, appeared in a great daily paper.

The real wife returned to England, knowing nothing of this, and was met in the street one morning by an old friend who, on seeing her, threw up his hands in amazement, as well he might. “Why!” he said, “I read of your death in the paper, and sent a wreath to your funeral!” When the recreant husband died, the real wife had to wear mourning for him in order to vindicate her position in the eyes of her world. Otherwise, her acquaintance might have believed her to be merely one of the transient ladies who, after the separation, had shared her husband’s home.

Etiquette for Every Day, Mrs Humphry, 1904: pp. 416-418


Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead and on Twitter @hauntedohiobook. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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