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The Worst Wife In The Colonies

July 2024
2min read

The article “Take My Wife—Prithee” by David Sherwood in your April/May issue suggests that a husband posted his wife mainly to cut off her credit.

I have a handbill that was printed by one of my ancestors and posted all over Chester County, Pennsylvania, and once you have worked your way through its catalog of Mrs. Taylor’s shortcomings, you will see from the last paragraph that her husband composed his bulletin to justify his separation from her.

I do not claim descent from this “dissolute Harlot.” She was John Taylor’s second wife, and she bore him no children:

“If Silence in Season be a laudable Virtue, it is also certain that there is a Time to speak: But the Case is sometimes dubious and difficult to determine which is most eligible, publick Declamation, or silent Disregard. To answer the Lies and Clamours of a dissolute Harlot, is doing her too much Honour, when her lewd Life and scandalous Practices have sunk her beneath all Notice. On the other Hand, entire Silence may strengthen the Beast in her Wickedness, and encourage those idle Rascals, her Councellors, who are fond of the Office, to assist her in the Invention of Lies, and then to be the Porters.

“Malicious Clamours, and spiteful Lies, this profligate Woman makes the Business of her Life; and in that Faculty she is the very Pattern of him by whose Instigation she spends her Days in that detestable Practice.

“In the Space of eleven Years, when I too tamely suffered the Proud insulting Strumpet to domineer in Pomp and Splender, she destroyed my Substance above Twelve Hundred Pounds , beyond what a good Wife would have us’d in honest and reasonable Expences, by the Havock she made in my House and Store, to cloath her Bullies, to feed and see her Favourites, Emissaries and Letter-Carriers with large Gifts, Beef, Bacon, Flour, Butter, Wool, Cloth and Money; of which she had too much by my too great Indulgence, and much more by the use of a false Key.

“In cloathing herself, her Pride drove her to Madness: A Dozen costly Suits, at the same Time in Store, the best Silks and Sattins, besides other Suits, Calicoes, &c. with a Redundance of fine Linnen, could never suffice her Ambition; and so shamefully was she given to Gluttony, that if she had not been frequently relieved by Physick, she had long since put a Period to her Life by incredible Quantities of rich and strong Victuals, fat Fowls, Butter, Cream, &c. But what was yet more Develish, (I being much from home, having the Surveys of two Counties on my Hands,) her common Practice was to keep my Motherless Children with very different Fare, sometimes little better than meer Garbage; not at all to save Charges, but to indulge her hellish Pride: For she would often give her Servant Wenches some of the Best, and when she road abroad, which was but almost every Day, she would leave them the Key of Her Closet with free Liberty to cram, but with a strict Charge to let my little Children have only the Honour of Spectators. She encouraged the saucy Sluts to abuse and beat my Children, and if they spoke of making their Moan to me, those impudent Wenches would insult them with these Interrogatives, D’ye think I care for your Father ye Bastard? D’ye think I care for your Father ye Toad? No Musick could be more charming to Madam, than to hear her Bull-bitches bark at my Children: The Devil dancing in her Eyes, spoke the Satisfaction of her Heart, while she sat in her Great Chair, as Proud and well pleas’d as Semiramis Queen of Babylon when she had wall’d the City round.

“To recount one half of this wicked Woman’s vile Practices, would tire the Patience of Socrates , and fatigue the Strength of Hurcules: She us’d her utmost Endeavours to excite my Workmen, as well as Servants, to disregard my Orders in every Respect: She attempted often to cheat Customers in Weight and Measure, on Purpose to drive them from my Shop, and ruin my Trade.

“Many Times I resolved (tho’ too faintly) on a Separation, and many reasons of my long Delay are both difficult and needless to account for; the Thing is now accomplish’d, to my great Satisfaction, and my Tranquility is much enlarged by the interiour Assurance I feel, that all the Clamours of that deceitful Harlot can never make me think that right is wrong; or repent of doing my self Justice: The united Voices of her Cullies can but add nothing to nothing, and the wrong Censures of better Men, through Ignorance, will find the same Effect.” John Taylor. August 20, 1745.

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