Was it actually acceptable for a 15 year old girl to marry a, say, 25 year old? Or was it frowned upon?
They could, and they did, and as long as it was a Good Match by whatever metric the people surrounding it wanted to measure it, it wasn’t frowned upon, no. If a girl was a particular beauty or very rich, it was beyond accepted–it was entirely understood.
Though traditional debuts were made when a girl of a certain class reached the age of 16 or 17 and had finished their feminine education, as we see with the Bennets, girls of fifteen were often brought out into company (perhaps on a smaller scale, or in more relaxed local assemblies,) to begin polishing their social skills and potentially attracting a suitable match. As Mrs. Bennet fondly recalls a gentleman at the Gardiner’s in London being In Love with Jane when Jane was fifteen, it’s hinted that Jane was at least visiting socially in London at that age, whether she participated fully in the Season or not, and an offer was hoped for (and even perhaps expected) by Jane’s mother, at least. Given Jane’s beauty and Mrs. Bennet’s desire to see her daughters well-settled as soon as possible, Jane starting to have serious chances at matrimony at age fifteen is not at all astonishing.
While it isn’t made explicit, it’s also implied that Colonel Forster’s wife is likely very near to Lydia’s age, and as a man could hardly expect to be made a Colonel before he is in his thirties at the very least (and in many adaptational castings, he appears even older–in his 50s or 60s,) it’s entirely possible that the Colonel could be at least twice his wife’s age.
Of course today we hold very different ideas about personal maturity and social/intellectual development, which make it highly imprudent to consider teen girls (or boys for that matter) ready for such a commitment, but back then there would not have been any eyebrows raised at a 15 year old girl marrying a 25 year old man–a 10 year gap in their ages is hardly a consideration, given the examples of much older men with girls of near the same age, and the passage of time will bring them nearer to one another in maturity, too.
A girl with a very flighty, immature nature or what we might now call a late-bloomer in terms of physical maturity would likely be discouraged from marrying too young, though if her husband was considerate and sensible it might not be such a bad thing.
Others have written extensively on the notion we have that back in the day, girls always married extremely young, and were forced to bear heirs to the detriment of their own health. Particularly in medieval-style settings, though more commonly we can guess that women tended to be in their late teens or early twenties when they married, throughout history, and even among great political alliances between families where child-marriages were contracted, often the consummation of these unions was delayed until both parties were of a more suitable age. Think about it–if Prince Ancient Family must marry the sole daughter of the Duke of Moneybags and thus unite the families by producing an heir which will be the head of a new great political dynasty, why risk the life of his new wife Princess Moneybags by forcing her to bear a child too young? Of course childbirth was always going to be dangerous before modern understandings of anatomy and infection (and even today, pregnancy is one of the most dangerous things anybody can physically do,) but people were generally wise enough to allow a girl to grow up to her full capability of health and strength so that she could bear as many healthy children as possible (to allow for crap infant mortality rates, too.) Margaret Beaufort is rather a famous example of a girl forced to carry and bear a child at the age of 12-13, and after a difficult labour, she managed to survive, but could bear no more children. If her sole child had been a daughter, or not survived due to any reason, the Tudor dynasty would never have existed, and British history (and the world) would no doubt look very different.
These are extreme examples, however, and people in the past would have been well-aware of the risks posed by childbearing in girls who were still not fully grown. This IS at odds with the sexualization of very young girls which was common to the urban sex-work scene of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Georgian and Regency-eras commonly had girls as young as 11 or 12 trafficked for male customers who, to modern understanding, would certainly be considered abusive pedophiles. Given the horror of venereal disease and lack of treatment for it, the notions of extreme youth and ‘innocence’ were, for some, a means of blinding themselves to the risks they took, though it had horrific consequences for the young girls persuaded, tricked, or forced into such encounters. (And the sad truth being that girls of that age were in such high demand that bawds and pimps would often resort to theatrical tricks to convince a client that They Were There First, and sell a girl’s maidenhead several times to many different buyers, in rapid succession, for a higher price.)
Essentially, there would have been little said about it in Austen’s time, unless the girl looked or acted very young for her age, and even then, people made allowances if they seemed to be a good match.
Historical accuracy aside, however, modern readers will have modern responses to reading about such things, and while 15 and 25 might feel a bit awkward but perhaps be given a pass if the parties involved are sensible and mature, an age gap any wider and people will probably definitely start to feel uncomfortable about the possible exploitation of a girl too young to be anything other than somewhat sheltered and naive.
Ginerva Weasley x Blaise Zabini
— Good Girls Loving Bad Boys
“Ginevra,” Blaise whispered through his teeth, his eyes full of molten lust as he felt her fingers slide up his shirt. “I’m not a good person.”
Ginny licked her lips, matching the look in his eye. “Have you not heard, good girls always love the handsome, rugged, in trouble with the law, bad boys.” Her smirk riding up her lips and he wasn’t sure he could resist them any longer.
She tried her best
Raising such hell raisers
took such a toll
No time to ever rest
A laugh like thunder
full of power and life
Been pushed down
never stayed under
Mother, sister and wife
Gave everything she had
to those she called her own
Lived for the good
always handled the bad
None could match
the love she’d shown
I never got to say goodbye
even though she tried
I wouldn’t hear of it
then it was too late
I’ll finally say it now
to see you again
My heart seems lost
without you, somehow
Though I know you
feel no pain
It’s mine to bear, now
‘til we meet again
Full confession: “I hate it when some say that Lita only had chemistry
with Trish Stratus; that she was the only woman Lita had good matches with and
the only woman she had a good feud with. Keep in mind that her feud with Trish
was her most remembered one not only because it was one of the best feuds, but
her other high profile feuds were cancelled (mostly not her fault). Her high
profile title feud with Chyna never happened because Chyna was released (Lita
was supposed to defeat her for the Women’s Title), and Lita and Chyna looked
great working together. Her other scheduled feuds in 02’-early 03’ never
happened because of an injury that didn’t even happen in the ring and wasn’t
her fault at all. As far as her high profile feud that she was supposed to have
had with Mickie James instead of Trish, it was unfortunate that she got injured
again and her personal life was leaked, but they still had a few good matches
(not counting the handicap matches). Although she had smaller feuds with
Stephanie, Ivory, and Molly Holly, they all made perfect hated heels to Lita’s
beloved babyface. Lita vs Steph with the Rock as the referee, Lita vs Ivory
Survivor Series ‘00, Lita vs Molly Holly Survivor Series ‘03, Lita vs Jackie
(Hardcore Title match), and Lita vs Victoria (Steel Cage match) all showed
that. They’re my fave underrated matches that don’t involve Trish.”
Throwback to that time when I felt loved by my team…and got 20 kill streak for the first time ever….and then died in an angry ult by some grandpa, almost got the point taken over while respawning, got no commends afterwards, but still