Early "mis[s]"(1652) as title?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Aug 28 23:59:19 UTC 2009

At 8/28/2009 04:55 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:

>On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 12:58 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> >
> >  From the "Province and Court Records of Maine", Vol. 1 (1928), page
> > 176, dated 1652 [NS] March 8:
> >
> > "We present Mis Batcheller for Adultery."
> >
> > [No period in this.  It is of course a transcription, so would need
> > confirmation from the manuscript.]
> >
> > For "miss, n2", the OED's draft revision June 2009 has
> > ...
> >      2.  "In form Miss, as a title."  Earliest quotation "1667 S.
> > PEPYS Diary 7 Mar. (1974) VIII. 101 Little Mis Davis did dance a Jigg
> > after the end of the play."
> >
> > So does the Maine 1652 quotation antedate sense 2?  It must be
> > admitted, of course, that since she is presented for adultery "Mis
> > Batcheller" was married at the time.
>Was she? Adultery takes two.
>Violation of the marriage bed; the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married
>person with one of the opposite sex, whether unmarried, or married to
>another (the former case being technically designated single, the latter
>double adultery).

In the above the OED does not recognize the different definition in
colonial Massachusetts law, and in the Bible.  See below.

>Where was the man? Charged separately? Not charged or otherwise not
>mentioned, for whatever reason?

In this case the man does not appear. Often the man could not be
found; in some cases the man could not be identified.  (A married
woman would, reasonably, be presumed to have committed adultery if
she was found with child.)

In the well-known case (in 1651) in which the married Mary Batcheller
was presented for adultery, the man was also.  She was with
child.  Both were found guilty.

>If he was married, it was adultery even if she was unmarried.

No.  In colonial Massachusetts (that is, under the first charter),
the act was only adultery if the woman was married (or
espoused).  See, for example, _The Laws and Liberties of
Massachusetts, 1641--1691_, ed. John Cushing, page 12 (1648 code; but
the law was the same throughout the colonial period).  And see the
Bible, as cited in that law:  Lev. 20. 19. and 18. 20. Deu. 22. 23.
27.  [The citations here are a little mysterious, or perhaps even
incorrect.  I would point to Deuteronomy 22, verses 22-24 (King James

>Which of the three possible combinations -- married but
>not to each other, he married and she single, she married and he single --
>could result in a "presentation" of "Mis Batcheller for Adultery" would
>depend on the law at the time.

Yes.  I wrote that the time was 1652.

But this all has nothing to do with whether the "Mis" means "Miss"
and antedates one or the other of two senses in the OED.


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