What kind of contract is a marriage contract? Under nineteenth-century common law and the principle of "coverture," a woman would, upon marriage, lose her rights to property ownership, to write a will of her own, or to sign contracts. Husband and wife were one under the law, and represented in the male person. Meanwhile, the marriage contract, as a "contract" whose terms could not be stipulated by the contracting parties, and one whose female signatory would consequently lose legal recognition of her signature, was a curious legal document. Charles Dickens`s 1865 novel, Our Mutual Friend, published amidst a public debate over women`s suffrage and married women`s property rights, is a particularly sober meditation on the institution of marriage and its imbrications within the legal and textual spheres. While the plot of the novel is structured around the controlling hand of a dead man`s will, Dickens ultimately deconstructs and delegitimizes "text" by depicting signatures as misleading, education as stifling, and by having the living legatees disregard the "will." The novel`s central romantic pairings, too, are oddly de-textualized, so much so that Bella Wilfer`s and Lizzie Hexam`s marriage contracts are legally problematic.