Courtship in New England, 1760
In 1759 Reverend Andrew Burnaby left his post as Vicar of Greenwich, England and embarked on a four-month voyage to America. He spent the following year traveling about the colonies, keeping a journal of what he experienced. One custom prevalent in Massachusetts Bay Colony caught his eye - the practice of "Bundling" or "Tarrying" in which young couples thinking of marriage would share a night in the same bed fully clothed or "bundled." Sometimes a board would be placed between the couple. Although more common in New England, bundling was practiced in many of the other colonies.
"A very extraordinary method of courtship, which is sometimes practised amongst the lower people of this province, and is called Tarrying, has given occasion to this reflection. When a man is enamoured of a young woman, and wishes to marry her, he proposes the affair to her parents, (without whose consent no marriage in this colony can take place); if they have no objection, they allow him to tarry with her one night, in order to make his court to her.
At their usual time the old couple retire to bed, leaving the young ones to settle matters as they can; who, after having sate up as long as they think proper, get into bed together also, but without pulling off their undergarments, in order to prevent scandal. If the parties agree, it is all very well; the banns are published, and they are married without delay. If not, they part, and possibly never see each other again; unless, which is an accident that seldom happens, the forsaken fair-one prove pregnant, and then the man is obliged to marry her, under pain of excommunication."
This account appears in Burnaby, Andrew, Travels through the Middle Settlements in North America in the Years 1759 and 1760 (originally published 1775, republished 1960).
How To Cite This Article:
"Courtship in New England, 1760," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2006).