From the Cork Examiner, 1 December 1856 (courtesy of Ireland Old News):-
“An elderly man named Sullivan, grocer and spirit dealer, preferred a charge against his ‘better half,’ of having committed a series of grievous assaults on him. Mrs. Sullivan, a pale-faced, delicate looking woman, commonly known by the sobriquet of “Featherlegs,” appeared to answer the complaints. Mr. Julian conducted the prosecution.
Sullivan having been sworn said, that Mrs. S. “did not leave him a leg to stand on”—he was “wasting away inch by inch,” and all in consequence of her outrageous conduct. It was not once she had assaulted him, but a thousand times. However, he would do her credit of saying, that she never beat him until she had taken a drop too much, which, however, was, unfortunately, too frequently the case with her.
On last Thursday morning she went out to buy a steak. Being absent longer than it was necessary to purchase the steak, complainant suspected she had paid a visit to some other shop than the butcher’s, but on her return he allowed her to put the steak down, without telling her his suspicion, because he was afraid to do so. When the steak, however, had been fried, she, without the least provocation, snatched it off the pan and flung it at him, hitting him with it over the left eye. Before he could recover from the effects of the blow, she seized the frying pan and belaboured him with it on the back, telling him to “take that you little divil.”
Her usual weapons, however, were the poker, and the plates, the latter of which she was in the habit of breaking on him. To all this the poor man only replied by saying “Well, Mary, may the Lord convert you,” though he was “worn off his legs with the dint of fretting.”
Mr. Morrogh—Well, we will send her to gaol for two months.
Complainant (greatly alarmed)—Oh, oh, your worship, I beg your pardon. I don’t want to have her sent to gaol, but to have you advise her. After all she has done to me, sir, I don’t hate her, but I love her still as much as always (laughter). [Here the complainant appeared greatly moved.]
Mr. Julian—I would call on the bench to enforce the sentence—there is no other way of preventing this woman from annoying him.
Mr. Morrogh—Yes, we must send her to gaol.
Complainant—Oh, no, your worship ; if she promises to be good in future and not disgrace me, I will take her home and bring the clergyman to the house and have him celebrate mass there (laughter).
Mr. Julian—I call on the bench to send her to gaol.
Mr. Morrogh—Yes, we will give her two months.
Complainant—Oh, wisha, your worship, don’t. She’ll be good and I love her still (renewed laughter).
Mr. Julian—If you won’t protect yourself, the magistrates must protect you.
Mr. Morrogh—We must send her to gaol.
Complainant—I won’t leave this unless you allow her to go home with me.
Mr. Sullivan, however, was gently removed, and Mrs. S., who seemed not to reciprocate the tender affection evinced by her husband, was committed to gaol.”
Poor Mr S. Still, at least she only assaulted him when she was drunk. Was this a Venus in Furs situation (very sophisticated, for Ireland c. 1856, but not, I’m sure, unknown) or simply a case of it being more comfortable to believe one’s spouse misguided rather than bad? Or maybe poor elderly Mr Sullivan just didn’t have the energy to hate being beaten up. Who knows?
Check out the original English text of Venus in Furs here. Photo above of the author Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch (great great granduncle of Marianne Faithfull, whose grandfather on the other side invented a cure for frigidity) and his mistress (literally; he signed a contract to be her slave for a year) Fanny Pistor. Read more about him here.