Beginning with The Mantua Maker:
dowry: that money that a wife brings to a marriage provided for by her parents. By the law during the period, that money becomes the property of the husband. Dowry is different from the dower
, which is a widow’s right to a share for life of her husband’s estate (typically a third of his property or holdings) and was protected by common law. Which is different from a jointure — a pre- or post-nuptial agreement that includes property and financial assets. A husband could leave his wife his entire estate under a jointure. Mrs. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility
“was a widow with an ample jointure,” and presumably Mrs. Ferrars was also left her husband’s entire estate under a jointure, which is why she has financial control over her sons Edward and Robert.
spinster: old maid, a woman who’d never married and is childless. A woman’s prospects on the marriage market began to dim at what to us would seem a very early age. By twenty-seven, Charlotte would run the risk of being a considered a spinster were she not so wealthy. Men had a longer shelf life, of course, for it was their job to acquire the wealth needed to secure a wife, and that took time. That’s why we see thirty-something men marrying teenage girl in Jane Austen novels.
Gentlemen fought duels with gentlemen; they did not fight duels with people of lower classes. One reason for this is that dueling required the use of and training with expensive weapons, not available to commoners.
return to London: the haut ton began return to London for the sitting of Parliament around Christmas, although this was usually delayed by various hunting seasons until about Easter
Often unmarried professional women would call themselves Mrs So-and-So to lend an air or respectability (cooks, housekeepers, etc.); younger women might also do this to lend some gravitas to their advice or services.