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To 'marry out of hand'

SylviaN 26 Oct 10 - 07:13 AM
Vic Smith 26 Oct 10 - 07:28 AM
MGM·Lion 26 Oct 10 - 07:28 AM
GUEST,Lighter 26 Oct 10 - 07:31 AM
John MacKenzie 26 Oct 10 - 07:32 AM
Arthur_itus 26 Oct 10 - 07:45 AM
GUEST,Liz Davenport 26 Oct 10 - 07:53 AM
GUEST,Lighter 26 Oct 10 - 08:32 AM
GUEST,Uncle Rumpo 26 Oct 10 - 09:09 AM
Desert Dancer 26 Oct 10 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,mg 26 Oct 10 - 12:44 PM
Emma B 26 Oct 10 - 12:51 PM
Rumncoke 26 Oct 10 - 03:36 PM
Jim Dixon 27 Oct 10 - 12:58 AM
GUEST,^&* 27 Oct 10 - 04:18 AM
Gibb Sahib 27 Oct 10 - 05:41 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Oct 10 - 08:09 AM
GUEST,Lighter 27 Oct 10 - 08:40 AM
Jim Dixon 27 Oct 10 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,Lighter 27 Oct 10 - 10:07 AM
SylviaN 29 Oct 10 - 12:40 PM
MGM·Lion 29 Oct 10 - 01:12 PM
The Sandman 29 Oct 10 - 01:25 PM
MGM·Lion 29 Oct 10 - 02:27 PM
The Sandman 29 Oct 10 - 03:17 PM
Arthur_itus 29 Oct 10 - 03:37 PM
Lighter 29 Oct 10 - 03:45 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Oct 10 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,^&* 29 Oct 10 - 08:35 PM
Gibb Sahib 29 Oct 10 - 08:47 PM
Tootler 01 Nov 10 - 06:59 PM
bubblyrat 01 Nov 10 - 07:26 PM
Deda 01 Nov 10 - 07:38 PM
MGM·Lion 02 Nov 10 - 04:50 AM
Tootler 02 Nov 10 - 01:49 PM
MGM·Lion 02 Nov 10 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,Seonaid 02 Nov 10 - 03:17 PM
Thompson 02 Nov 10 - 06:03 PM
Tootler 04 Nov 10 - 09:05 PM
MGM·Lion 05 Nov 10 - 04:45 AM
Lighter 05 Nov 10 - 08:07 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Nov 10 - 09:25 AM
Lighter 06 Nov 10 - 04:25 PM
MGM·Lion 06 Nov 10 - 04:44 PM
Tootler 07 Nov 10 - 04:42 PM
Tootler 07 Nov 10 - 05:23 PM
Lighter 07 Nov 10 - 06:07 PM
Tootler 07 Nov 10 - 06:17 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Nov 10 - 07:40 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Nov 10 - 07:43 PM
SylviaN 07 Nov 10 - 10:43 PM
MGM·Lion 07 Nov 10 - 11:39 PM
Fidjit 08 Nov 10 - 04:00 AM
The Sandman 08 Nov 10 - 08:42 AM
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Subject: To 'marry out of hand'
From: SylviaN
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 07:13 AM

Hi - With all the experts on Mudcat, someone will know what the meaning of to "marry" or to "be married out of hand" - please.

Thanks

Sylvia


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Vic Smith
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 07:28 AM

Could it be that is was just convenient to get the rhyme with Van Dieman's Land?


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 07:28 AM

OUT OF HAND -- "If you reject an offer or idea 'out of hand,' you do so without hesitation. However, this phrase has several different meanings, the oldest of them being 'out of control,' from the days when failure to keep a firm grip on the reins would result in a team of horses being 'out of hand.'" From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988). Page 433.<<<

I found above on google; which suggests that to marry someone 'out of hand' means to do so without hesitation; presumably being free of lets or hindrances &c. Probably used as an emphatic intensive for the lack of delay or hesitation. I don't think the phrase as used in songs &c has any further legal or other connotation; but perhaps one of the Mudcat lawyers could confirm this?

Hope this helps, Sylvia.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 07:31 AM

It's an established expression meaning "without delay," even, perhaps, "without thought."


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 07:32 AM

My own pet theory is this. In days gone by, people became betrothed, and it was the done thing to offer your hand in marriage. Therefore if you decide to marry someone else instead, it could be said to be 'married out of hand' i.e, not marrying the person that offered their hand, but someone else.

Just my own thoughts on the matter, for what it's worth.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Arthur_itus
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 07:45 AM

Does this help. An extract from this link http://neoenglishsystem.blogspot.com/2010/09/women-in-prologue-to-canterbury-tales.html

In actual life, nuns were nearly always of gentle birth for a reason that was largely economic. Nearly every woman of the Middle Ages had her social "place", fixed from birth. If she belonged to the peasant or artisan class, she had little chance to remain single : her labour was her valuable dowry, and neither father nor guardian of any sort would be likely to withstand the pressure of a suitor. Indeed, a healthy girl of that social standing was a commodity, and although she might have some choice which man she wedded, the choice ended there, for her destiny was to be a married woman, not a nun. Upper-class women were in a different situation ; they could not 'labour', so their dowries could be only in money, or in the power of family connection. .If a girl were the daughter of a rich or influential house, she would be married out of hand at an early age, sometimes even by proxy in her cradle. Marriage was a business through which a man furthered his finances or his opportunities or advancement. If she came from an impoverished family...and many knights were from wealthy...the lady, if she wished to survive at all, became a nun. Today we are accustomed to think that the religious life is only for those who have a vocation, and we may wonder/about those medieval ladies who entered convents simply because there was literally nothing else for them to do in the hard, non-fairytale world of practical matters. Were they "good" nuns? Were they happy? For the overwhelming majority, the answer must be "yes" to both questions. As a young girl, the lady herself had probably been schooled by gentle nuns who had taught her all the polite accomplishments, as well as the practical arts belonging to her station. In fact, the life of the school girl in the convent was often more exciting and could be far more opulent than in her own home. Further, the nuns being medieval women, regard in the tradition of the medieval Church, would inculcate the Church's tenet that the virginal life was the ''best," the one most surely to be rewarded everlastingly in the life to come. Existence, then, within the convent's walls was busy, and it was peaceful, pleasant and dignified. One did not starve there or lack shelter, one was surrounded by one's social peers, and spiritually one was upheld by the supreme knowledge that one was a bride of Christ.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,Liz Davenport
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 07:53 AM

Our 1901 Nuttall's Dictionary gives the definition of Out Of Hand simply as "immediately'


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 08:32 AM

"Immediately" works too.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,Uncle Rumpo
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 09:09 AM

in contrast to 'marry out of genitals'
which became more socially prevalent
as time went by.;
and probably accounted for more interesting folk songs...?


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 12:32 PM

Arthur_itus's item is interesting. What's the context in your case, SylviaN?

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 12:44 PM

I would have guessed it meant without a dowry. mg


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Emma B
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 12:51 PM

mg, if you read Arthur_itus's post 26 Oct 10 - 07:45 AM it appears that it doesn't mean that

I tend to believe that it refers to marriage contracted 'without asking' that is to say the reading of banns.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Rumncoke
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 03:36 PM

the dictionary definition of out of hand is either out of control or without preparation - extempore.

I supose that there could be aspects of both in the meaning of to marry out of hand - either the marriage was something decided by people other than those being married, or that the marriage was decided upon and achieved hurridly.

Anne


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 12:58 AM

Report of the Queen's Speedy Marriage.
There was spread now a Report, and that even in the Court, That the Queen would marry out of Hand: and the Honourable Person she would match herself with, was Charles Brother to the Emperor Maximilian.
--from "Annals of the Reformation and Establishment of Religion" by John Strype, 1725.


Sganarel. What d'ye say to't?
Geronimo. A good Match! marry out of Hand.*
Sganarel. Am I not right, in having made this Choice?
Geronimo. Certainly. Ah! how happily you'll be marry'd! Make haste to be so.
--from "The Forc'd Marriage" by Moliere, 1748.

* The original French was "Mariez-vous promtement."


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,^&*
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 04:18 AM

Mmmm...

Control of horses by reins held in hands? Hence by extension, uncontrolled or out of hand?


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 05:41 AM

Based on only my English brain's experience with the phrase... "without thought" (as Lighter said) is the meaning it conveys to me. Without much thought, surprisingly casually, without due consideration. The action being done should be something that normally requires (expects) careful decision...like executing someone for example. You wouldnt say you ate supper "out of hand" because you were hungry, but you might marry or enlist in the military or give a criminal sentence that way...which would be atypical... get it?


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 08:09 AM

Probably nothing to do with the term, but interesting just the same.
Don't you just love questions about things you take for granted, but turn out to be more comlicated when you look into them - thanks Sylvia.
Jim Carroll

From;
The Knot Tied, Marriage ceremonies of all nations, collected and arranged by William Tegg 1877

"HAND-FASTING" IN SCOTLAND.
Hand-fasting, or hand-fisting, was a form of marriage for a limited period, which prevailed in some parts of Scotland up to the early part of the last century. It was most common in Eskdale, at the confluence of the Black and White Esks. One of the contributors to Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, writing in 1794, says:—At an annual fair, held time out of mind, but now entirely laid aside, it was the custom for the unmarried persons of both sexes to choose a companion according to their liking, with whom they are to live till that time next year. This was called hand-fasting, or hand in fist.    If they were pleased with each other at that time, they then continued together for life; if not, they separated, and were free to make another choice as at the first. The fruits of the connexion, if there were any, was always attached to the disaffected person.
In later times, when this part of the country belonged to the Abbacy of Melrose, a priest, to whom they gave the name of "Book i' Bosom"— either because he carried in his bosom a bible, or perhaps a register of the marriages—came from time to time to confirm the marriages.    Eskdale is only a short distance from the Roman encampment of Castle-o'er.   May not the fair have been first instituted when the Romans resided there ? and may not the "hand-fasting" have taken its rise from their manner of celebrating marriage, ex usu, by which, if a woman, with the consent of her parents or guardians, lived for a year with a man, without being absent three   nights, she became his wife? Perhaps, when Christianity was introduced, this form of marriage may have been looked upon as imperfect without confirmation by a priest, and therefore one may have been sent from time to time for this purpose.
Instances of Hand-fasting as far north as the Hebrides have been narrated by travellers in that then remote part of Scotland.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 08:40 AM

Gibb, the examples in the OED - beginning in the 14th century - all pretty clearly suggest "right away." I think the interpretation of "hastily; without thought" (which I share) may be a 19th or 20th Century development. The OED doesn't mention it.

In the song, it probably just means immediately. That is, right there on shipboard as soon as he thought of it.

There's no way to be absolutely certain because there's not enough context. We don't know what he thought about the marriage later, but if he regretted it the song doesn't say.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 10:01 AM

And now no more ado, brave Burgundy,
But gather we our forces out of hand
And set upon our boasting enemy.
--Shakespeare, "Henry the Sixth, Part I", Act 3, Scene 2.

And fearless minds climb soonest unto crowns.
Brother, we will proclaim you out of hand;
The bruit thereof will bring you many friends.
--"Henry the Sixth, Part 3", Act 4, Scene 8.

I'll find some cunning practice out of hand,
To scatter and disperse the giddy Goths.
--"Titus Andronicus," Act 5, Scene 2.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 10:07 AM

Jim, those clearly support the OED. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: SylviaN
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 12:40 PM

Thanks for all this. I agree Jim, a question on Mudcat nearly always gets you the answer you want, but also lots and lots of very interesting information.

In both the songs I am thinking of, immediately does fit.

The first song is "Van Dieman's Land" - where the man holding the "contract" for a girl that has been transported marries her "out of hand". In this one, I was wondering whether, as the status of the girl would be almost that of a slave, and certainly as a convict, how much choice would she have in the matter. Might there be something that allowed him to take one of the female convicts whose contract he held as a "wife" during the time of her transportation? Did he have to buy her freedom in order to marry her? Would it be a normal marriage contract, i.e. one that did not allow him to end the marriage easily?

The second one is "Cathy Shaw", words by Roger Watson. Here is a girl with no fortune and he is a mine owner's son. Immediately certainly fits and so does him marrying her with no regard to a dowry.

Again, thank you. It's been fascinating reading all your contributions.

Cheers

Sylvia


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 01:12 PM

I feel bound to point out some ambivalence in the first example: that the captain who fell in love with the transported prostitute in Van Dieman's Land, "& married her out of hand" got a dodgy bargain thru such "marrying in haste"; surely he would have "repented at leisure" when, as the verse goes on to state, she continued to "give us all [i.e. all her fellow-transports] good usage" for the remainder of the voyage. I have always felt that stanza to contain something of a warning against 'marrying out of hand'.

Who agrees?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 01:25 PM

no, I dont agree, if she was fond of sex, that would be good enough for me.
if I was in the Captains position I would have done the same thing,IMO there is nothing better than a woman who wakes you up in the middle of the night wanting sex, god bless all those women ,and may there be many more of them.
Jesus was right


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 02:27 PM

I would think the captain might have been a bit worried about the state of sexual health of the convicts he was carrying tho, Dick ~~ but I suppose that would have applied to his 'out of hand' bride in the first place; but however 'out of hand', I should have thought he might have got the ship's surgeon to give her an FFI* once-over, eh?

~M~

* Any of you old enough to be ex-NatService will know what that is!


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 03:17 PM

yes.I volunteer to be ships surgeon.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Arthur_itus
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 03:37 PM

Now I thought you would like being in the Barrel Dick!!!!!


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Lighter
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 03:45 PM

What makes you all so certain that "good usage" does not mean "good treatment generally because she was now the captain's wife"? (No, not *that* "captain's wife.")

Of course, it can mean whatever you hope it means....


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 06:05 PM

Oxford English Reference Dictionary:
Out of hand = peretemptorily = admitting no denial or refusal; absolute fixed; essential.
Simple as that really.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,^&*
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 08:35 PM

The range of meanings for the expression is clear enough at this stage. The real question is - how the F*** did it come to mean that?!


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 08:47 PM

They sold their gear "out of hand" in Banks of Newfoundland, right?
I seem to remember another sea song where some men were executed out of hand (?)


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Tootler
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 06:59 PM

There seems to be an underlying assumption that the "Captain" who married the convict out of hand was the captain of the transport ship taking them to Van Dieman's land.

I have always assumed that the "captain" was the overseer of the convicts work gang. To me that makes more sense. If he was a ships captain, one effect of buying her freedom would be to enable him to take her home with him whereas "giving us good usage" implies, to me at least, that she remains on Van Dieman's land.

I read somewhere recently that it was not unknown for male convicts who were transported to be accompanied by their wives if they were married. In such cases once the convict had arrived at the other end his wife was put in charge of him - effectively he was in a form of slavery and she was his owner/overseer and was responsible for his behaviour during the time of his sentence.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: bubblyrat
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 07:26 PM

If you read the book "The Floating Brothel",you will see that the ship(s) carrying female transportees to Australia were veritable hotbeds of lust & licentiousness, and that many if not all of these ladies were "partnered" with various members of the ships crew,although not,it seems ,with the Captain ( just not done,don't you know chaps ?)--- in fact,many of these relationships resulted in close bonds being formed by the participants ; however, there were few if any happy endings,as the women,on arrival in Australia,were carted off to the penal colonies and forced to marry convicts,and thus produce the first Australians. One crewman,the ship's carpenter I believe, a Scotsman,was heartbroken ,and spent YEARS trying to be re-united with his shipboard "wife",who was obliged to marry a convict "out of hand", but with no success,sadly.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Deda
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 07:38 PM

In ancient Rome, the word hand ("manus") referred to legal control / authority. So if a woman married into the "hand" of her husband, she was under his legal control. If she remained under her father's legal control, it was a different kind of manus, and she had the right to divorce her husband and return to her father's household, with her dowry intact (owed to her father). If her father died he could leave her to herself in his will, and she would then be "out of hand" -- i.e., under her own hand, or her own legal control. It was called suae iuris, to her own law or to her own right. This came into common practice around the turn of the first century (from BC to AD). I don't think the term "out of hand" goes back that far, though.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 04:50 AM

Tootler ~~ disagree: 'our captain fell in love with her [i.e with the 'lady fair we had on board'] & he married her out of hand' PRECEDES 'the moment that we landed upon that fatal shore'; she then went on to 'give us all good usage GOING TO Van Dieman's Land', which means, surely, for the remainder of the voyage?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Tootler
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 01:49 PM

Michael,

It obviously depends on the version of the song.

The first one I came across is a Scots one in "101 Scottish Songs" and the "marry out of hand" verse comes after the "landed on that fatal shore" verse.

In Roy Palmer's "English Country Song Book" the verse in question again comes after the "landed on that fatal shore" verse and actually says

"Our planter bought her freedom, he married her out of hand".

(my emphasis)

So given the two versions with which I am familiar, my assumption is reasonable.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 01:57 PM

When it is the planter, then indeed the sequence of events is reversed, and presumably she then gives the good usage UPON V.DiemansLand ~~ is that what it says in the version you adduce? But when the captain is specified, and she then gives the good usage GOING TO... then I think my scenario is implied. I think it a bit over-ingenious to alter the captain's function to that of some sort of employer: esp when he marries " a lady fair" whom "we had ON BOARD". Can you actually indicate a version which gives 'captain', rather than 'planter', AFTER the landing on the fatal shore?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: GUEST,Seonaid
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 03:17 PM

I'm surprised no one has brought up the similar concept behind "offhand."
The logic of "offhand" and "out of hand" both seem to spring from the premise that if you have something "in hand," or "at hand" (as contrasted to in your house, or even in your saddlebag), it can be instantly dealt with. That goes for an opinion or an espousal.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Thompson
Date: 02 Nov 10 - 06:03 PM

Must also remember that 'prostitute' may not necessarily imply any will on the part of the woman - women and girls, and indeed children, would be prostituted for the profit of those in charge.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Tootler
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 09:05 PM

Can you actually indicate a version which gives 'captain', rather than 'planter', AFTER the landing on the fatal shore?

I did above. "101 Scottish Songs" selected by Norman Buchan.

The source of the particular version in the book is given as Ord's Bothy Ballads.

The verses are, in order:

V1: Come all ye gallant poachers....

V2: 'Twas poor Tom Brown from Glasgow ....

V3: The first day that we landed upon that fatal shore...

V4: The houses that we dwell in here are built of clod and clay...

V5: (quoted in full)
There cam' a lass from sweet Dundee, Jean Stewart it was her name
For fourteen years transported, as you may know the same.
Our captain bought her freedom, and married her off-hand
And she gives us a' good usage here, upon Van Dieman's land.

The version in Roy Palmer's "Country Song Book" is virtually identical up to this point with the verses in the same order except

Tom Brown & Co. came from Nottingham rather than Glasgow
The lass's name and origin were different
and, of course in V5 it was the "planter" rather than captain that married her out of hand.

It's also worth bearing in mind that Captain is an army rank as well as a mariner's one (naval or civilian) and it is perfectly possible that the officer in charge of the prisoners' guards was a captain.

Of course if, in the versions you know, the verse about the lass being married out of hand comes before the prisoner's landing "on that fatal shore" then your assumption is reasonable, but I suggest that given the sequence of the verses in the version I am familiar with, my interpretation is equally reasonable.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Nov 10 - 04:45 AM

Indeed, Tootler; & thank you. You have clarified the matter admirably, and we are obviously dealing with two different sequences of events in different versions of the song.

Some versions, esp I think the on-board ones in my consciousness, say that "from Liverpool she came. For 14 years transported for playing of the game"; which adds force, I think, to my point that the ship's captain was asking for trouble in marrying her quite so 'out of hand', & the 'good usage' she 'gave us all' for the remainder of the voyage was no more than he should have expected!

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Nov 10 - 08:07 AM

A problem with that interpretation is that it gratuitously changes the tone of the song from solemn and earnest to giggly and leering (a mood not supported by the melody). And then, of course, it changes back again. But to each his own.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Nov 10 - 09:25 AM

Lighter ~~ First off, which melody ~~ we have at least 3 or 4 adduced already, some more "solemn & earnest",e.g. MacColl's, than others. I don't anyhow think the tone of this bit 'giggly & leering' at all, but rather an indication of the triumph of the human spirit in adversity; even if rough luck on the captain, who in any event must surely have realised, & reconciled himself to, what he was taking on.

Anyone else find this interpretation of the activities of the young woman from Liverpool "leering & giggly"? Or the overall tone of the song "solemn & earnest" for that matter?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Nov 10 - 04:25 PM

I can't stand the silence!

As I see it:

Version I: Kind-hearted captain marries and implicitly reforms unfortunate fallen woman with heart of gold, who, when possible, intercedes with her husband for the wretched convicts. This interpretation is entirely consistent with 19th-Century sentimentalism and would represent a triumph of the human spirit.

Version II: Lecherous, besotted skipper weds insatiable, tireless whore for no good reason, who then cuckolds him with all the shackled lags (and presumably the crew as well), turning the vessel into a jolly party boat on its languorous voyage to Van Dieman's Land. Splice that main brace, baby, and don't tell the old man! This interpretation is entirely consistent with lurid, late 20th-Century cynicism and would represent a triumph of unlikely animality, improbably celebrated in the mouths of the good folk of Britain for a hundred years.

I prefer Door Number One.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Nov 10 - 04:44 PM

False dichotomy, I suspect, Lighter. Truth lies somewhere in between, I suspect. Shall withdraw & ponder.

But agree with Lighter ~~ too much silence on this matter, which I had never even regarded as in any way controversial before. No-one else any views on the question?

~M~


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Tootler
Date: 07 Nov 10 - 04:42 PM

This song seems to have originated in a broadside, though it has clearly travelled since.

I did a search of the Bodleian Library Broadside site and found 13 hits. Most of them, including the earliest contained the version where the planter married the girl and she gave the convicts good usage on Van Dieman's land but there were a couple that contained the other sequence with the girl being transported for prostitution and the ship's captain marrying her, so both versions are valid.

Clearly, one interpretation of "good usage" implies sexual favours. However it is also possible that it simply implies acting in a kindly manner towards the convicts; trying to ease the misery of their existence in some way. Which it is I don't know, but while Lighter is right about 19th century sentimentality - though I think this became more prevalent later in the century, there is enough sexual insinuation in folk song for that interpretation to be equally reasonable.

Whatever your interpretation, I don't see any of the versions of the song tending to the giggly and leery. Transportation was no joke and the reaction of the landowners to poaching has always struck me as disproportionate. Most poaching seems to have involved villagers trying to eke out a diet that was otherwise insufficient to feed a large family. If you are desperate and unable to put enough food on the table for your family, you will take risks you would otherwise not have considered. Rural poverty was a very real problem in the early 19th century and the methods used by the authorities to deal with it - The Workhouse, transportation or hanging for relatively trivial offenses etc. were brutal to say the least.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Tootler
Date: 07 Nov 10 - 05:23 PM

Checked back and there was just one that had the girl being married to the ship's captain. I have copied it to another thread on Van Dieman's land that has recently been reactivated.

Lyr Add: Van Diemen's Land


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Nov 10 - 06:07 PM

As I said, the song itself is not giggly and leering. A sexual interpretation makes that one stanza giggly and leering, however, and thus completely out of keeping with the rest of the song.

One might as well throw an orgy into the middle of "Sir Patrick Spens." You know, to spice it up.

Personally I think reading sex into the line "she gave us all good usage" is historically implausible and undermines the tone and seriousness of the whole song in a number of ways. If that's your cup of tea, however, I'm not trying to stop you.

The fact that only three of us seem to have any interest in what the song says seems significant. Maybe for most people the meaning doesn't matter. It's the feeling that counts.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Tootler
Date: 07 Nov 10 - 06:17 PM

Maybe for most people the meaning doesn't matter. It's the feeling that counts.

A pity. For me the meaning is important. Without getting under the skin of the song, how can you sing it effectively?

Also of interest is this verse I found in a version sung by Shirley Collins.

We had a female comrade, Sue Summers was her name,
And she was given sentence for a-selling of our game.
But the captain fell in love with her and he married her out of hand
And she proved true and kind to us going to Van Diemen's Land.


Here it is clear what the "game" is, namely what the poachers have caught. The girl has been convicted for acting as a fence (to use a modern term)


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Nov 10 - 07:40 PM

The fact that only three of us seem to have any interest in what the song says seems significant.

! Well, the ~three~ is pretty incidental! Mostly you've got people like me, on the sidelines, who assume they know what the song says, and they are content with it!

Back when the issue of "good usage" was raised, I started to post on that, but then deleted it. Basically, I wouldn't have been adding anything by way of evidence, just by way of personal feeling -- similar to the way my personal feeling (i.e. while singing/performing the song) is that "out of hand" connotes not only "immediately" but also "unusually casually". No need to muck up "good usage" with another one of my idiosyncratic and purely personal experienced-based interpretations :)

But as I see we are building an army and more soldiers are needed... then I will chime in and say that my original feeling about the line is exactly as Lighter says:

Personally I think reading sex into the line "she gave us all good usage" is historically implausible and undermines the tone and seriousness of the whole song in a number of ways.

I have no evidence for how the phrase "good usage" may have been used in 19th century texts. But as I sing the song, I understand it to mean "good treatment" -- and by that I understand it to be that she was kind to the men, by way of providing small comforts (not sexual) -- a cup of cool water, a blanket, even a kind smile.

It is out of character of the song to talk of sexual favours. Given the context, the convicts were suffering so badly aboard the ship, that their very basic comforts and immediate needs would have been the concern. While the make crew would have taken a generally cold attitude towards the convicts, the woman (who was not occupied with other duties) could have attended to small ways to alleviate their condition.

The song could just talk about pain and suffering, but by adding the female characters in, it gives more a feeling of not only the physical but also the sentimental hardships...the (female) warmth that would be missed.


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Nov 10 - 07:43 PM

*male crew


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: SylviaN
Date: 07 Nov 10 - 10:43 PM

Sorry I've been away from this thread, especially since I started it, but I really do enjoy reading (and learning from) what everyone has written.

Maybe I'm being sentimental, but in the song that got me asking the question, I hope the "good usage" is that the woman in question treated the convicts kindly.

Thanks again.

Sylvia


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Nov 10 - 11:39 PM

Well, perhaps it says something about me; but I have never before even considered or contemplated anything other than a sexual connotation for the 'good usage' here ~~ no giggles or leers, but perhaps a sort of self-cheering-up bit of tongue-in-cheek has ever been the tone I have heard in my skull-record-player, an overtone of 'poor old captain, he might have power of life'n'death over us all but look what he has got himself into now!'

Anyone else at all out there feel that, or am I alone?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: Fidjit
Date: 08 Nov 10 - 04:00 AM

The triumvirate needn't worry there are more just following the story on here than are going to join in and say what has already been said.

I'm learning all the time.
As the century's pass English expressions take on different meanings. These days the dirty minds are to the fore. Hence any assignation will be taken as such.

Keep them coming. (and don't dirty that remark up)

Chas


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Subject: RE: To 'marry out of hand'
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Nov 10 - 08:42 AM

it means without hesitation,.... deviation or repetition.


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