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

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Aug 30 14:49:52 UTC 2009

At 8/29/2009 10:16 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:
>I thought the question was, "Does this use of 'Mis' constitute an antedate
>to Pepys's 1667 use of 'Mis(s)' as a title for an unmarried woman?"
>the additional information you've presented here about the specifications of
>law in that time and place, it seems not to. But that was not clear to me
>from your previous post.

Looking back at my first post, it now seems a bit confusing; and I
did not look deeply enough.  Perhaps this will help.  The three below
are the senses of "miss, n.2.", draft revision June 2009, which I
wondered about.  Is my 1652 quotation an instance of:

1.b. "= MISTRESS n. 2b. Obs."?  That is "A woman who employs others
in her service; a woman who has authority over servants, attendants,
or slaves."  Presumably not; the context is not about her authority over others

2.a. "Preceding the name of an unmarried woman or girl without a
higher or honorific professional title."  Presumably not, since she
was married at the time.

2.b  "regional (chiefly U.S.). = MRS n. 1a. Obs."  That is "1. a. A
title of courtesy prefixed to the surname of a married woman having
no higher or professional title, ,,,"  Seems possible.  If yes, it
would antedate the OED's 1770.

(There is, of course, still the issue of confirming that the
manuscript instance is not "mis.", that is, is not an
abbreviation.  I have no opinion as to where that would place it.)

>(Is this, in fact, "the well-known case (in 1651)
>in which the married Mary Batcheller was presented for adultery", or the
>same person? And is it relevant?0

She is presumed to be the same person.  But the "well-known case" is
1651, and my "mis" comes from a "presentation" (indictment) in
1652.  (Since the sentence quoted says she is to be whipped, I think
we can infer that she was convicted.)  The only relevance is that,
being the same person, we know she was still married in 1652.

By the way, someone asked about why the man was not mentioned.  As I
wrote, there could have been any of several reasons.  But in this
particular instance, the rest of the sentence is "& Mr. Norton is to
be sent for."  (My recollection -- not perhaps to be relied upon --
is that he wasn't found -- or at least that I couldn't find him in
the indexes to the Province and Court Records of Maine.)


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