The art of taking a wife
THE ART OF
TAKING A WIFE
THE ART OF
TAKING A WIFE
BY PAOLO MANTEGAZZA
GAY AND BIRD
All rights reserved
TO THE IMPATIENT,
WHO WISH TO MARRY TOO SOON;
TO THE LIBERTINES,
WHO TAKE A WIFE TOO LATE;
TO THE TIMID
WHO, WAVERING BETWEEN YES AND NO,
END BY NOT TAKING ONE AT ALL,
This Book is Dedicated
BY A MAN
WHO HAS ALWAYS BLESSED HIS FIRST MARRIAGE,
AND HOPES TO BLESS THE SECOND;
BELIEVING THIS SEXUAL CONTRACT TO BE
THE LEAST EVIL ONE
OF THE TIES WHICH BIND THE
MAN TO THE WOMAN,
OF ITS MANY DEFECTS AND DANGERS.
|Prologue: Between Scylla and Charybdis—To Take or Not to Take a Wife?||vii|
|I.||Marriage in Modern Society,||1|
|II.||Sexual Choice in Marriage—The Art of Choosing Well,||36|
|III.||Age and Health,||55|
|IV.||Physical Sympathy—Race and Nationality,||95|
|V.||The Harmony of Feelings,||125|
|VI.||Harmony of Thoughts,||154|
|VII.||The Financial Question in Marriage,||171|
|VIII.||The Incidents and Accidents of Marriage,||192|
BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS.—TOTAKE, OR NOT TO TAKE A WIFE?
For the majority of men, and forat least thirty years of their lives, loveis the strongest necessity, and governsthem like a tyrant with no other curbthan the wretched brake of writtencodes, which they do not read, andof social conventionalities, which theycan easily silence by employing hypocrisy’smask; an hypocrisy, let it bewell understood, well dressed, wellcurled, and well educated.
How can one satisfy this greatestof all human needs?
By buying love, at so much an hour,so much a month, or so much a year.
By gaining it by seduction or violence.
By taking a wife.
It would seem as if these three waysof loving were totally distinct, onefrom the other; in fact, that any onewould exclude the others, and thatthey would stand in direct oppositionto each other. But when hypocrisy isat the helm of the vessel which bearsus over the great sea of life, it contrivesso ably and so cleverly, as toenable us to enjoy all three methodsat one moment, and, while we aresailing between rocks free of dangeror shipwreck, it affords us, as it were,all the delights of a voyage in a beautifularchipelago, where islands and[Pg ix]islets seem to meet and touch eachother; and where land, mountains,and scenery all form a bright, picturesque,and beautiful picture.
We row upon the tranquil waters ofmatrimony, and yet glide so near tothe shores of venal love that we cangrasp the flowers and gather the shellsand precious pearls which lie there.We sail with the wind over the moretempestuous sea of seduction, butall the while we coast the island ofpoetic, faithful, and constant love;thus, vice, adultery, and domesticpeace, debauchery and eternal vows,angels and beasts, find themselvesguests at the same table, withoutfalse modesty, and without remorse.
Civilisation has opened three waysof loving to men of the present day,[Pg x]and one would have thought thatsince they are free to choose one,they would have been satisfied withthat. Not at all. Civilised man isby nature insatiable, for the hammerof the excelsior beats ever athis heart, the thirst for somethingbetter wears him away, and thehunger for something more consumeshim; hence he has set himself todestroy the boundaries and wallswhich separate the three roads, sothat he can easily take short cutsfrom one to the other without risk;and so matrimony, prostitution, andadultery walk hand in hand; and ifin public they appear very cool toeach other, that is only a blind, forin the secrecy of their houses theywink at each other, sup and sleep[Pg xi]together. If all this is indeed so,a Turk would say it is so becauseit must be. If all this can indeedbe, an epicurean optimist would say,let us, too, try and sail in this sea,now so calm, and now so tempestuous,and let us set that sanctifiedhypocrisy at the helm.
However, I am neither Turk norcynic, and I still believe in moralprogress, and in the efficacy of booksand the spoken word; and eventhough I be left alone in the beliefthat there is no happiness save inthe good, nor cheerfulness save insincerity, and in being the sameinwardly as outwardly, I would stilldie in this conviction.
I like a mixture of things at table,but I have no heart for it in the[Pg xii]field of morality. I wish to see thefamily on one side, and the brothelon the other; and when two naturesliving together have become anintolerable torment to each other, Ishould wish the law to apply theinstrument of divorce to their chainsand to set them free.
The three ways of loving shouldbe separate one from the other, andshould never be united. So far frombreaking down the walls that dividethem, I wish to have them so highas to become impregnable fortresses.
Only one of these three ways,however, is that which the honestand happy ought to take. That ofseduction and violence, only thieves,[Pg xiii]assassins, and villains can enter.The third, unfortunately, the way ofvenal love, nearly all enter, thoughstill desiring and invoking some distantideal, where this way shall beclosed, and no path left free savethat of matrimony, though its dignitymust be always guaranteed bythe law of divorce.
But is marriage always possibleand always easy?
No; it is often impossible, andalways difficult.
And the honest man stops andmeditates upon it as upon thegravest, the most intricate, and mostobscure problem of life. The misfortuneis this, that just these timidand thoughtful men are the best,and the fear is sometimes so great,[Pg xiv]and the meditation lasts so long,that old age comes upon thembefore they have resolved the problemor made themselves a familynest. Instead of this, the improvident,the thoughtless, and villainsprecipitate themselves headforemostalong the road of matrimony; and iffor a few moments they struggle inthe tortures of doubt, they quicklysilence apprehension and remorse bysaying to themselves:
“If it should turn out badly, if Ifind nettles and thorns on this road,I will clear another cross-road withone good stroke of my spade, andwill buy love like so many others,and will, like them, seek it eitherin the house of my friend or neighbor.Immorality on this point is[Pg xv]so lax, the indulgence of the publicis so merciful, that I may enjoythis violation of home without fallingunder the penalty of the law. Mahometalso, generally so severe onall transgressions of the written law,when he speaks of the sins of love,even of the greatest, always adds:‘But God is good and merciful.’ Andall think with Mahomet, though theyhave not written the Koran, that to thesins of love ‘God is good and merciful.’”
I, however, the warmest advocateof marriage for myself andothers, desire with all my soul thatthe honest and wise man shouldmarry, to increase the capital ofhonesty and wisdom in future generations.And so I preach and shallpreach to my last breath:
Marry! Marriage is still and alwayswill be the most honest, healthy,and ideal mode of loving.
But I add immediately:
Marry well; combine all the powersof your thought and feeling to solvethis most important problem of yourlife; add to them all that is best inyourself; all that you find of the bestamong your counsellors who are yourfriends.
And then follow the advice givenus by that embodiment of good sense,Benjamin Franklin: Take a sheetof paper, and after having folded itin two, so as to have two distinctcolumns, write on one side all theadvantages the proposed marriagewould bring you, and on the otherall the evils and dangers into which[Pg xvii]it might lead you. When you havefinished this piece of analysis work,try to measure the opposing elements,cancelling alternately those that seemto balance each other, as in algebra+ 3 and - 3 is equal to zero, andyou will see what is left upon thepage—that is, whether the good predominates,or whether the evil hasthe upper hand.
I know well all the mistakes youmay make. I know, too, that if youlove you will write in rose-colouredink in the column of good, and inthat of evil you will use the blackest.But in any case this work of analysis,this labour of detailed examinationwill, without your being aware ofit, oblige you to consider many elementswhich otherwise you would[Pg xviii]have passed over, just as if you hadhad recourse to a microscope of greatpower instead of to your eyes.
Matrimony must be studied withthe eyes first; with the microscopeafter; yes, even with the telescope.The eyes will enable us to see theprincipal part of the problem; themicroscope will show all the ins andouts of our love; it will revealall its cells and all its fibres; andlastly, the telescope will give us thepower of seeing, prophetically, as itwere, what will befall our passionand desire in the evolution of time.
Then, if, after using eyes, microscope,and telescope, you also readmy book, you will find there the sincereand dispassionate words of aman who became a physician that[Pg xix]he might study mankind better; whobegan by studying himself, as beingthe subject ever at hand; who tothis daily incessant study has devotedforty-six large volumes not yetprinted.
Listen to the voice of a man whohas made woman his principal study,judging