The art of taking a wife
Reason on it if you will, attemptto destroy the new passion in the[Pg 99]crucible of analysis. You belong toanother; that other belongs to you,if, as often happens, the lightningflash has been reciprocal.
The galvanization of love also occursin another way, not, that is tosay, by fulmination, but by small andslow currents which emit no sparks,but have continuous emanation.
First, a slight sympathy whichtouches the skin; then a deeper irritationlike a tremor invades the muscles,nerves, and viscera through theepidermis, and descends until it findssomething living; stopping at themarrow of the bones, since there isnothing left to electrify.
Theoretically, this second mode ofbecoming enamoured ought to bemore tenacious and more durablethan the first, from the axiom thatintensity is equal to extension; butpractically we see a man and womanreach the same state either by fulminationor by a continuous current.It is only a question of time, whetherwe travel by express or slow trains;we reach the same station in safetyat last! Love is so skilful andpowerful a magician that he makesus his prisoners more than once intwo different ways. First he strikesus, then he electrifies us slowly, andthere is no human or divine powerwhich can cure us of our passion.We are no longer individuals, we arethings; we are the perinde accadaver[Pg 101]of the Jesuits, a member of whichhas conquered us.
The admirable laws of chemicalaffinity are well known to us, andwe can follow the kindred and repellentatoms which group themselvesunder the exact law of numbers.But those other laws whichrepel and attract human hearts andbodies are, on the contrary, scarcelydivined by one who has eyes to readthe great book of psychology, wherethe letters are so minute, the writingmysterious, and even the numberingof the pages incorrect.
Sympathy should be first physical,then moral, and lastly intellectual,[Pg 102]following the highroad which leadsfrom the less to the greater, from thatwhich is external to that which isinternal.
Everyone knows—even the boccaliof Montelupoknow—that oppositetypes seek and love each other.The blond attracts the brown, andvice versa; slight, small women pleasegiants and athletes; delicate naturesattract bears, and so on. But thereare other occult and mysterious sympathies,where it is not a case of a[Pg 103]combination of opposites, and whereyet the attraction is exceedinglygreat and irresistible. How oftenhas it been a wonder to us to seean ugly woman adored by a veryhandsome man, and an ugly manardently sought after by women, andhaving witnessed this strange antithesiswe begin at once to speculatewhat impure explanation, what vileor illicit trading with money or lasciviousnesscan account for it, whilereally it is a simple fact of electiveaffinity, the reasons for which escapeus from our ignorance and short-sightedness.
Montelupo, a village on the Arno, is still renownedfor its crockery and terracotta. It is highly probablethat in the feudal times the mugs and drinking cups,which are called “boccali” even to the present time,were made there; they were exported in large quantitiesand became so plentiful throughout Tuscany thatwhen any news was widespread, it was said to beknown even by the Boccali of Montelupo. Hence theproverb.
Look around you, and in the smallcircle of your own acquaintance youwill find several such singular andextraordinary facts. For my part I[Pg 104]have under my eyes a young man,the perfection of a man, aristocraticas regards birth, mind, and income,who, indifferent to the sympathiesawakened in women at his everystep, is completely absorbed in awoman who is hardly feminine, neitherhandsome nor young, and to thousandsof others indifferent or contemptible.
I see another young man desperatelyin love with the ruins of awoman, where not even the compassionateivy of coquetry covers thedecay and deficiencies, and in whomthere is a complete wreck of alldelicacy of outline. He loved herso much that after many years hemade her his wife, without any considerationsof money.
It matters very little to your happinessor marriage whether lightningor inducted current has electrifiedyou, but sympathy ought to existbetween the man and the woman.For charity’s sake, for the love ofGod, do not forget this; do not believein the common proverb, whichhas made so many victims: Marryif all considerations of income andof age agree. Love will come after.No! love will not come after, exceptby chance, and in exceedinglyrare cases. There will come to you,on the contrary, reciprocal antipathy,adultery, a lie in the very surnameof your children; there will come allthose lively intrigues through whichour fine and virtuous modern societymoves. If, in the first choice of love,[Pg 106]the man and woman do not approacheach other with a tremor of holyfear; if their hands do not meet eachother intoxicated with the touch; ifthe first kiss be not a passion, thefirst embrace a delirium, renounceforever the sweet and fond blessednessof the dual life.
The physical sympathy between aman and woman is a road which maylead to paradise, but how often mayone lose one’s self on the road beforeentering the field of affection andthought.
The only logical people in theworld are those savages who, beforegiving themselves forever, make atrial on both sides, and separate or[Pg 107]marry, according to the result of theexperience. But such moral andmodest people as we are, must contentourselves with guessing; andwoe to us if we make a mistake.
Fortunately, the sympathy whichis awakened by a mere study ofthe woman’s outward form nearlyalways agrees with that deeper onewhich arises from the agreement ofthe temperaments, by reason of thesolidity which unites the differentoffices of an organism.
But it happens only too oftenthat the interior is different from theexterior, and a man of ice has takenfor his own a woman of fire, orvice versa.
In many codes of law incompatibilityof temper is a sufficient cause[Pg 108]for divorce, but is not incompatibilityof temperament a more prolific causefor domestic discord? Legislatorsand theologians have for some timeraised this last veil which hides theshrine of love, but in their verdict orthe clauses of their laws, have theycontributed or not to the happinessof matrimony?
I believe not, for in modern codesthe duties and genital rights of twomarried people are only confined tothe preservation of the race. Beyondthat they say nothing, and they dowell. But of that other unwrittencode which guides our individual conduct,do they say nothing, do theyteach us nothing? They do not evengive us a guide-book, or even onlytime-tables of fifteen centuries, like[Pg 109]those of the railway. After havingstudied man and woman for nearlyhalf a century, after having dared toraise every veil, to sound every cavity,to feel every pulse that beats, everynerve that vibrates, as physician, anthropologist,and psychologist, thisis all I have learnt.
The ideal of physical harmony betweentwo married people is, thateach one should feel the same hunger,and feel it for the same thing.
But as this occurs tolerably seldom,it is better that the man, who isalways the leader of the orchestra oftwo, should give the la; that is, raiseor lower the tone so that there shallbe perfect harmony. The thing is[Pg 110]not so difficult; for if the greatmasters succeed in making thehundred instruments of an orchestrakeep time and tune, should it not beeasier to tune two instruments only?
Above all, remember that the musichas to last many long years, and it isbetter to accustom your companionfrom the very beginning, so to proceedthat she may not tire, but may reachthe end unscathed. If you begin withquavers and semi-quavers, poor you!Your companion of the orchestra willaccustom herself to that tempo, whichwill become a necessity for her—foryou it may be a catastrophe.
Even without supposing an excessivelust in the woman; even if youhave been so fortunate as to havefound one with more heart than feelings;[Pg 111]she will believe she is no longerloved, and in the secret silence of thenight-watches will shed tears, measuringyour love by the early change inthe broken music. Notwithstandingwhat I have written of genital hygiene;notwithstanding that others have followedme in the same road, throwingdown the walls which supported theignorance of the things of love;women are still too often mostignorant, and measure love by thenotes of music. Think then on thefuture, which comes quickly, and like[Pg 112]a hungry dog devours the miserablepresent, and from the very first daysbegin with an andante moderato, andif your means permit, go even to theallegretto; but for charity’s sake do notproceed to quavers and semi-quavers.
Whilst writing this, a courageous book on thissubject has appeared in Germany: “Der Kampf derGeschlechter, eine Studie aus dem Leben, und für dasLeben.” (The Struggle of the Sexes. A Study fromLife and for Life).—Leipzig, 1892. A volume of 173 pp.It is written by a woman already noted in the literaryworld in Germany, who has published several novelsunder the fictitious name of Franz von Wemmorsdorf.
I find I am treading on the field ofthe hygiene of matrimony, whilst Iought only to speak of what precedesit. Without making the experimentof the savages, you would like to knowto a nicety the strength of the appetitefor love which your future companionfeels? Well, then, begin to study herfamily and, above all, her mother,who bequeaths her nervous systemto her children, with all its accompanimentsand connections, with sensibility,[Pg 113]chastity, or debauchery.Nothing is more hereditary than thecapacity for love, and I have undermy eyes terrible examples of calamities,which occurred from a studyof the fiancée alone, without anythought of her father and mother.
I myself advised a dear friend ofmine to marry a young girl whoappeared to be, and had been up tothat time, the goddess of modesty,the angel of chastity; I wrote mymilla osta on the passport of myfriend, and he, who was good enoughto believe me a great specialist inthis abstruse matter, embarked trustfullyand happily on the tempestuoussea of matrimony. Alas! after afew months the goddess of modestyhad become a Mepalura!—I had[Pg 114]forgotten to inquire after the temperamentof her father and mother.
Having made the hereditary inquiry,and found the young lady witha clean bill of health, you must studyher.
On an equality with other conditions,if you desire a tranquil andnot exacting wife, seek these elementsin her:
Light hair, blue eyes, fairly stout,a calm expression, natural movements,little or no nervousness, lipsrather thin, no protuberance of theupper lip. Great love of children, asure sign of a great development ofthe sentiment of maternity, which isthe most powerful restraint on exaggerateddesires of the flesh.
If, on the contrary, you desire an[Pg 115]ardent woman, you will more easilyfind her with black eyes and hair,dark skin, tumid and thickish lips, athin frame. She will be nervous, verysensitive, of a capricious character,she will have glances of fire andsnakelike movements.
All these physical and moral lineamentsare very gross, and onlyhave value as general observations,such as one reads on passports,equally suited to a hundred differentpeople. I myself must makea criticism on these two examples ofmine although they are taken fromlife, and are the result of many repeatedobservations. As regards theblonde and brunette I ought, forexample, to make you at once awarethat I mean to speak of those nations[Pg 116]in which there is a greatmixture of ethnic types, which givesus in the same city, in the same village,women with light, chestnut-colouredor black hair. Where allare light, or all are dark, we still findwomen of ice and of fire, withoutany change in the colour of theirskin or hair.
The fullness of body is of greaterimportance, for it has a more intimateand varied connection with thegeneral nutrition of the whole organism.It is very rare to find anexacting woman amongst the corpulent,unless they are hysterical, and,from the protuberant lip and bosom,are condemned to sterility. It isequally rare to find a cold womanamongst thin ones.
The fleshiness of the lip is agood index by which to measurethe sensuality of a woman, and it isso sure a one that I have given itan ethnic character, having found it inthe most different races of Asia andAfrica, where polygamy is usual, andphysical love is the first pleasureand first occupation of man andwoman.
I do not suppose it likely thatany of my