Some 19th-Century Lingo Related to Marriage and Singleness

This brief post is a tour of three odd Victorian words and phrases that pertain to marriage and singleness and that were employed in early Vancouver newspapers.

CVA 2018-020.3612 – A pioneer bachelor’s hall, Vancouver, 1890.

Bachelor’s Hall

The photo above shows a bachelor’s hall in Vancouver in 1890. This seems to have been, in the earliest years of the city, a type of doss house. The early bachelor’s halls were frequented by seasonal workers, of which Vancouver had its fair share (forestry workers, especially).

 CVA 371-739 – [Exterior of F.W. Hewton’s residence at 544 Burrard Street] ca1903.

I’ve found evidence of bachelor’s halls at:
– 935 Hornby St. — Province 19 Nov 1898.
– 1041 Robson (corner of Thurlow) — Province 11 Aug 1904.
– 544 Burrard (also the Hewton School of Music) — Province. 17 Dec 1906.
– East side of 5th (today’s Selkirk) Street, north of Moosomin (today’s W. 73rd) Ave (in Eburne/Marpole) — 1916 Henderson Directory.
– 2118 W. 41st Ave (updstairs) — 1920 Henderson Directory.

Most of the above locations were not, I suspect, halls in the sense of the initial photo (with two or more men to a bed). I got the impression that most of these had one bachelor per room.

”Keeping Bachelor’s Hall”

This was a phrase used in Vancouver, which could be a longer way of saying that so-and-so is a bachelor; could also be a way of saying, in today’s colloquial, “I’m batching it for awhile.” For example: “My family are away on a visit at present, and I am keeping bachelor’s hall out at the house” (Province, 24 Feb 1900).

A “Benedict”

A benedict is “a newly married man, especially one who was previously a confirmed bachelor.” An example of this: “Surely Cupid himself . . . [w]ill be present to wish every maid a matron and every bachelor a benedict . . .” (World, 8 Feb 1907).

“Goin’ to the Hymeneal Altar, and We’re . . .”

A hymeneal altar pertains to a wedding or marriage (since this is a family blog, I won’t get into other etymological sources of this phrase). A usage example from the Vancouver Daily World: “Speaking of a doctor getting married, calls to mind the fact that a certain well-known Granville Street disciple of Aesculapius [Greco-Roman god of medicine], who has dabbled considerably in provincial politics, is soon to lead his betrothed to the hymeneal altar” (World. 3 Aug 1893).

Why the author didn’t simply say “A Granville Street physician is getting married soon,” I don’t know. He/she must have been paid by the word!

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