Hi! Whenever I read Jane Austen I'm always struck by the fact that husbands and wives often refer to each other as 'Mr/Mrs Surname'. Do you know if this form of address was universal at that time/place and if couples used it in private as well as public? Thank you!
John Mullan touches on this in his wonderful book ‘What Matters in Jane Austen?’ and I believe the general etiquette of the time was to refer to one’s spouse by the Mr./Mrs. Surname thing as a general form of respect. Where we see this alter is in more affectionate marriages, where the husband will sometimes refer to his wife by her Christian name–however this is rarely reversed. Admiral Croft refers to his wife as Sophy, but in return she only ever calls him Admiral–but there can be little doubt of their mutual affection! Mary Musgrove calls her husband Charles, but then as a couple their levels of respect for one another are quite weak, and there is another Mr. Musgrove in her father-in-law up at the Great House, so just about everybody refers to Mr. Musgrove the younger as Charles Musgrove, to save confusion. In Mary’s case, calling her husband Charles is probably meant as a sign that she doesn’t much respect her husband.
As there aren’t any extremely private/intimate scenes between married couples in her books, we cannot know, of course, exactly what terms of address are used. It would really be determined by their own comfort levels and regard, of course. In public, however, is a different matter entirely. To even ‘nick-name’ a man by dropping the ‘Mr.’ is extremely cheeky and, as we see with Mrs. Elton and ‘Knightley’, informality bordering on the disrespectful which people in Highbury probably only put up with because Mrs. Elton is new and the vicar’s wife and they’re all going to have to get along for many years to come so best to let the little lapses slide…but it is a lapse, particuarly as Mrs. Elton has only just made everyone’s acquaintance. She’s moving too fast and being far too famliar.
Darcy and Bingley are Darcy and Bingley after a certain length of acquaintance when they are the subjects of discussion among the Bennets (particularly Jane and Elizabeth, and Mr. Bennet,) but to their faces, of course, they are always Mr. and Mr. (Of course the given name of Fitzwilliam is kind of a mouthful so fanfic tends to prefer to have Elizabeth refer to her husband as Darcy at all times. But in company she’d certainly call him Mr. Darcy.)