[Research] Widows, Weeds, & Victorian Jokes

I knew from the very early stages of my research that, for the Victorians, widows had a lot of tragic as well as comic potential. I don’t think, though, I was prepared to find quite so many widow-related jokes in the pages of periodicals, magazines, and newspapers. As their number increases by the day the more I browse and search, it only seems right to collate them here. So, ladies and gents, be prepared to cry with laughter, chuckle to your heart’s content, or shake your head in disbelief at these pitiful puns and witty lines on which you’re about to feast your eyes at your own peril.

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Half-mourning dress (1880s/ 1890s). Victoria & Albert Museum.

Why are widows like smokers? — Because they often find solace in their weedsLondon Journal (6 Aug 1864), p. 94

WEEDY. The pleasantest husbandry known to man is said to be the destroying of weeds – a widow’s weeds by marrying widow. London Journal (1 Feb 1868), p. 98

VERY MUCH ALIKE. There isn’t much difference between a grass-widow and a grasshopper, after all. Either will jump at the first chance. London Journal (28 Sep 1878), p. 206

Apropos of my recent remarks concerning the Lady Gardener, I cull the following advertisement from The Wolverhampton Express & Star. ‘Woman wanted to weed lawns. Apply to Gardener.’ It might have added, but did not, ‘Widows preferred’ as they are accustomed to weeds, and no doubt a grass widow would be selected for the post. Judy (28 Nov 1900), p. 566

A young widow in New Orleans, being asked after her husband’s health, answered, with a soft, quiet smile, “He is dead, I thank you!” London Journal (9 Oct 1852), p. 79

How long does a widow mourn? For a second. London Journal (8 April 1871), p. 222

Nadine Muller

Nadine Muller

Nadine is Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University and has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Hull. Her research covers Victorian literature and culture, contemporary women’s fiction, and cultural histories of women, gender, and feminism from the nineteenth century through to the present day. She is currently completing a monograph on the literary and cultural history of the widow in Britain (Liverpool University Press, 2017), and leading a participatory research and oral history project on war widows in Britain.

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