The Physiology of Marriage, Part II.
by Honore de Balzac
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Or according as he has come on foot or in a carriage, he rubs off or he does not rub off the slight patches of mud which soil his shoes.

Or perhaps he remains as motionless as a Dutchman smoking his pipe.

Or perhaps he fixes his eyes on the door and looks like a soul escaped from Purgatory and waiting for Saint Peter with the keys.

Perhaps he hesitates to pull the bell; perhaps he seizes it negligently, precipitately, familiarly, or like a man who is quite sure of himself.

Perhaps he pulls it timidly, producing a faint tinkle which is lost in the silence of the apartments, as the first bell of matins in winter-time, in a convent of Minims; or perhaps after having rung with energy, he rings again impatient that the footman has not heard him.

Perhaps he exhales a delicate scent, as he chews a pastille.

Perhaps with a solemn air he takes a pinch of snuff, brushing off with care the grains that might mar the whiteness of his linen.

Perhaps he looks around like a man estimating the value of the staircase lamp, the balustrade, the carpet, as if he were a furniture dealer or a contractor.

Perhaps this celibate seems a young or an old man, is cold or hot, arrives slowly, with an expression of sadness or merriment, etc.

You see that here, at the very foot of your staircase, you are met by an astonishing mass of things to observe.

The light pencil-strokes, with which we have tried to outline this figure, will suggest to you what is in reality a moral kaleidoscope with millions of variations. And yet we have not even attempted to bring any woman on to the threshold which reveals so much; for in that case our remarks, already considerable in number, would have been countless and light as the grains of sand on the seashore.

For as a matter of fact, when he stands before the shut door, a man believes that he is quite alone; and he would have no hesitation in beginning a silent monologue, a dreamy soliloquy, in which he revealed his desires, his intentions, his personal qualities, his faults, his virtues, etc.; for undoubtedly a man on a stoop is exactly like a young girl of fifteen at confession, the evening before her first communion.

Do you want any proof of this? Notice the sudden change of face and manner in this celibate from the very moment he steps within the house. No machinist in the Opera, no change in the temperature in the clouds or in the sun can more suddenly transform the appearance of a theatre, the effect of the atmosphere, or the scenery of the heavens.

On reaching the first plank of your antechamber, instead of betraying with so much innocence the myriad thoughts which were suggested to you on the steps, the celibate has not a single glance to which you could attach any significance. The mask of social convention wraps with its thick veil his whole bearing; but a clever husband must already have divined at a single look the object of his visit, and he reads the soul of the new arrival as if it were a printed book.

The manner in which he approaches your wife, in which he addresses her, looks at her, greets her and retires—there are volumes of observations, more or less trifling, to be made on these subjects.

The tone of his voice, his bearing, his awkwardness, it may be his smile, even his gloom, his avoidance of your eye,—all are significant, all ought to be studied, but without apparent attention. You ought to conceal the most disagreeable discovery you may make by an easy manner and remarks such as are ready at hand to a man of society. As we are unable to detail the minutiae of this subject we leave them entirely to the sagacity of the reader, who must by this time have perceived the drift of our investigation, as well as the extent of this science which begins at the analysis of glances and ends in the direction of such movements as contempt may inspire in a great toe hidden under the satin of a lady's slipper or the leather of a man's boot.

But the exit!—for we must allow for occasions where you have omitted your rigid scrutiny at the threshold of the doorway, and in that case the exit becomes of vital importance, and all the more so because this fresh study of the celibate ought to be made on the same lines, but from an opposite point of view, from that which we have already outlined.

In the exit the situation assumes a special gravity; for then is the moment in which the enemy has crossed all the intrenchments within which he was subject to our examination and has escaped into the street! At this point a man of understanding when he sees a visitor passing under the porte-cochere should be able to divine the import of the whole visit. The indications are indeed fewer in number, but how distinct is their character! The denouement has arrived and the man instantly betrays the importance of it by the frankest expression of happiness, pain or joy.

These revelations are therefore easy to apprehend; they appear in the glance cast either at the building or at the windows of the apartment; in a slow or loitering gait, in the rubbing of hands, on the part of a fool, in the bounding gait of a coxcomb, or the involuntary arrest of his footsteps, which marks the man who is deeply moved; in a word, you see upon the stoop certain questions as clearly proposed to you as if a provincial academy had offered a hundred crowns for an essay; but in the exit you behold the solution of these questions clearly and precisely given to you. Our task would be far above the power of human intelligence if it consisted in enumerating the different ways by which men betray their feelings, the discernment of such things is purely a matter of tact and sentiment.

If strangers are the subject of these principles of observation, you have a still stronger reason for submitting your wife to the formal safeguards which we have outlined.

A married man should make a profound study of his wife's countenance. Such a study is easy, it is even involuntary and continuous. For him the pretty face of his wife must needs contain no mysteries, he knows how her feelings are depicted there and with what expression she shuns the fire of his glance.

The slightest movement of the lips, the faintest contraction of the nostrils, scarcely perceptible changes in the expression of the eye, an altered voice, and those indescribable shades of feeling which pass over her features, or the light which sometimes bursts forth from them, are intelligible language to you.

The whole woman nature stands before you; all look at her, but none can interpret her thoughts. But for you, the eye is more or less dimmed, wide-opened or closed; the lid twitches, the eyebrow moves; a wrinkle, which vanishes as quickly as a ripple on the ocean, furrows her brow for one moment; the lip tightens, it is slightly curved or it is wreathed with animation—for you the woman has spoken.

If in those puzzling moments in which a woman tries dissimulation in presence of her husband, you have the spirit of a sphinx in seeing through her, you will plainly observe that your custom-house restrictions are mere child's play to her.

When she comes home or goes out, when in a word she believes she is alone, your wife will exhibit all the imprudence of a jackdaw and will tell her secret aloud to herself; moreover, by her sudden change of expression the moment she notices you (and despite the rapidity of this change, you will not fail to have observed the expression she wore behind your back) you may read her soul as if you were reading a book of Plain Song. Moreover, your wife will often find herself just on the point of indulging in soliloquies, and on such occasions her husband may recognize the secret feelings of his wife.

Is there a man as heedless of love's mysteries as not to have admired, over and over again, the light, mincing, even bewitching gait of a woman who flies on her way to keep an assignation? She glides through the crowd, like a snake through the grass. The costumes and stuffs of the latest fashion spread out their dazzling attractions in the shop windows without claiming her attention; on, on she goes like the faithful animal who follows the invisible tracks of his master; she is deaf to all compliments, blind to all glances, insensible even to the light touch of the crowd, which is inevitable amid the circulation of Parisian humanity. Oh, how deeply she feels the value of a minute! Her gait, her toilet, the expression of her face, involve her in a thousand indiscretions, but oh, what a ravishing picture she presents to the idler, and what an ominous page for the eye of a husband to read, is the face of this woman when she returns from the secret place of rendezvous in which her heart ever dwells! Her happiness is impressed even on the unmistakable disarray of her hair, the mass of whose wavy tresses has not received from the broken comb of the celibate that radiant lustre, that elegant and well-proportioned adjustment which only the practiced hand of her maid can give. And what charming ease appears in her gait! How is it possible to describe the emotion which adds such rich tints to her complexion!—which robs her eyes of all their assurance and gives to them an expression of mingled melancholy and delight, of shame which is yet blended with pride!

These observations, stolen from our Meditation, Of the Last Symptoms, and which are really suggested by the situation of a woman who tries to conceal everything, may enable you to divine by analogy the rich crop of observation which is left for you to harvest when your wife arrives home, or when, without having committed the great crime she innocently lets out the secrets of her thoughts. For our own part we never see a landing without wishing to set up there a mariner's card and a weather-cock.

As the means to be employed for constructing a sort of domestic observatory depend altogether on places and circumstances, we must leave to the address of a jealous husband the execution of the methods suggested in this Meditation.



I acknowledge that I really know of but one house in Paris which is managed in accordance with the system unfolded in the two preceding Meditations. But I ought to add, also, that I have built up my system on the example of that house. The admirable fortress I allude to belonged to a young councillor of state, who was mad with love and jealousy.

As soon as he learned that there existed a man who was exclusively occupied in bringing to perfection the institution of marriage in France, he had the generosity to open the doors of his mansion to me and to show me his gyneceum. I admired the profound genius which so cleverly disguised the precautions of almost oriental jealousy under the elegance of furniture, beauty of carpets and brightness of painted decorations. I agreed with him that it was impossible for his wife to render his home a scene of treachery.

"Sir," said I, to this Othello of the council of state who did not seem to me peculiarly strong in the haute politique of marriage, "I have no doubt that the viscountess is delighted to live in this little Paradise; she ought indeed to take prodigious pleasure in it, especially if you are here often. But the time will come when she will have had enough of it; for, my dear sir, we grow tired of everything, even of the sublime. What will you do then, when madame, failing to find in all your inventions their primitive charm, shall open her mouth in a yawn, and perhaps make a request with a view to the exercise of two rights, both of which are indispensable to her happiness: individual liberty, that is, the privilege of going and coming according to the caprice of her will; and the liberty of the press, that is, the privilege of writing and receiving letters without fear of your censure?"

Scarcely had I said these words when the Vicomte de V——- grasped my arm tightly and cried:

"Yes, such is the ingratitude of woman! If there is any thing more ungrateful than a king, it is a nation; but, sir, woman is more ungrateful than either of them. A married woman treats us as the citizens of a constitutional monarchy treat their king; every measure has been taken to give these citizens a life of prosperity in a prosperous country; the government has taken all the pains in the world with its gendarmes, its churches, its ministry and all the paraphernalia of its military forces, to prevent the people from dying of hunger, to light the cities by gas at the expense of the citizens, to give warmth to every one by means of the sun which shines at the forty-fifth degree of latitude, and to forbid every one, excepting the tax-gatherers, to ask for money; it has labored hard to give to all the main roads a more or less substantial pavement—but none of these advantages of our fair Utopia is appreciated! The citizens want something else. They are not ashamed to demand the right of traveling over the roads at their own will, and of being informed where that money given to the tax-gatherers goes. And, finally, the monarch will soon be obliged, if we pay any attention to the chatter of certain scribblers, to give to every individual a share in the throne or to adopt certain revolutionary ideas, which are mere Punch and Judy shows for the public, manipulated by a band of self-styled patriots, riff-raff, always ready to sell their conscience for a million francs, for an honest woman, or for a ducal coronet."

"But, monsieur," I said, interrupting him, "while I perfectly agree with you on this last point, the question remains, how will you escape giving an answer to the just demands of your wife?"

"Sir" he replied, "I shall do—I shall answer as the government answers, that is, those governments which are not so stupid as the opposition would make out to their constituents. I shall begin by solemnly interdicting any arrangement, by virtue of which my wife will be declared entirely free. I fully recognize her right to go wherever it seems good to her, to write to whom she chooses, and to receive letters, the contents of which I do not know. My wife shall have all the rights that belong to an English Parliament; I shall let her talk as much as she likes, discuss and propose strong and energetic measures, but without the power to put them into execution, and then after that—well, we shall see!"

"By St. Joseph!" said I to myself, "Here is a man who understands the science of marriage as well as I myself do. And then, you will see, sir," I answered aloud, in order to obtain from him the fullest revelation of his experience; "you will see, some fine morning, that you are as big a fool as the next man."

"Sir," he gravely replied, "allow me to finish what I was saying. Here is what the great politicians call a theory, but in practice they can make that theory vanish in smoke; and ministers possess in a greater degree than even the lawyers of Normandy, the art of making fact yield to fancy. M. de Metternich and M. de Pilat, men of the highest authority, have been for a long time asking each other whether Europe is in its right senses, whether it is dreaming, whether it knows whither it is going, whether it has ever exercised its reason, a thing impossible on the part of the masses, of nations and of women. M. de Metternich and M. de Pilat are terrified to see this age carried away by a passion for constitutions, as the preceding age was by the passion for philosophy, as that of Luther was for a reform of abuses in the Roman religion; for it truly seems as if different generations of men were like those conspirators whose actions are directed to the same end, as soon as the watchword has been given them. But their alarm is a mistake, and it is on this point alone that I condemn them, for they are right in their wish to enjoy power without permitting the middle class to come on a fixed day from the depth of each of their six kingdoms, to torment them. How could men of such remarkable talent fail to divine that the constitutional comedy has in it a moral of profound meaning, and to see that it is the very best policy to give the age a bone to exercise its teeth upon! I think exactly as they do on the subject of sovereignty. A power is a moral being as much interested as a man is in self-preservation. This sentiment of self-preservation is under the control of an essential principle which may be expressed in three words—to lose nothing. But in order to lose nothing, a power must grow or remain indefinite, for a power which remains stationary is nullified. If it retrogrades, it is under the control of something else, and loses its independent existence. I am quite as well aware, as are those gentlemen, in what a false position an unlimited power puts itself by making concessions; it allows to another power whose essence is to expand a place within its own sphere of activity. One of them will necessarily nullify the other, for every existing thing aims at the greatest possible development of its own forces. A power, therefore, never makes concessions which it does not afterwards seek to retract. This struggle between two powers is the basis on which stands the balance of government, whose elasticity so mistakenly alarmed the patriarch of Austrian diplomacy, for comparing comedy with comedy the least perilous and the most advantageous administration is found in the seesaw system of the English and of the French politics. These two countries have said to the people, 'You are free;' and the people have been satisfied; they enter the government like the zeros which give value to the unit. But if the people wish to take an active part in the government, immediately they are treated, like Sancho Panza, on that occasion when the squire, having become sovereign over an island on terra firma, made an attempt at dinner to eat the viands set before him.

"Now we ought to parody this admirable scene in the management of our homes. Thus, my wife has a perfect right to go out, provided she tell me where she is going, how she is going, what is the business she is engaged in when she is out and at what hour she will return. Instead of demanding this information with the brutality of the police, who will doubtless some day become perfect, I take pains to speak to her in the most gracious terms. On my lips, in my eyes, in my whole countenance, an expression plays, which indicates both curiosity and indifference, seriousness and pleasantry, harshness and tenderness. These little conjugal scenes are so full of vivacity, of tact and address that it is a pleasure to take part in them. The very day on which I took from the head of my wife the wreath of orange blossoms which she wore, I understood that we were playing at a royal coronation—the first scene in a comic pantomime!—I have my gendarmes!—I have my guard royal!—I have my attorney general—that I do!" he continued enthusiastically. "Do you think that I would allow madame to go anywhere on foot unaccompanied by a lackey in livery? Is not that the best style? Not to count the pleasure she takes in saying to everybody, 'I have my people here.' It has always been a conservative principle of mine that my times of exercise should coincide with those of my wife, and for two years I have proved to her that I take an ever fresh pleasure in giving her my arm. If the weather is not suitable for walking, I try to teach her how to drive with success a frisky horse; but I swear to you that I undertake this in such a manner that she does not learn very quickly!—If either by chance, or prompted by a deliberate wish, she takes measures to escape without a passport, that is to say, alone in the carriage, have I not a driver, a footman, a groom? My wife, therefore, go where she will, takes with her a complete Santa Hermandad, and I am perfectly easy in mind—But, my dear sir, there is abundance of means by which to annul the charter of marriage by our manner of fulfilling it! I have remarked that the manners of high society induce a habit of idleness which absorbs half of the life of a woman without permitting her to feel that she is alive. For my part, I have formed the project of dexterously leading my wife along, up to her fortieth year, without letting her think of adultery, just as poor Musson used to amuse himself in leading some simple fellow from the Rue Saint-Denis to Pierrefitte without letting him think that he had left the shadows of St. Lew's tower."

"How is it," I said, interrupting him, "that you have hit upon those admirable methods of deception which I was intending to describe in a Meditation entitled The Act of Putting Death into Life! Alas! I thought I was the first man to discover that science. The epigrammatic title was suggested to me by an account which a young doctor gave me of an excellent composition of Crabbe, as yet unpublished. In this work, the English poet has introduced a fantastic being called Life in Death. This personage crosses the oceans of the world in pursuit of a living skeleton called Death in Life—I recollect at the time very few people, among the guests of a certain elegant translator of English poetry, understood the mystic meaning of a fable as true as it was fanciful. Myself alone, perhaps, as I sat buried in silence, thought of the whole generations which as they were hurried along by life, passed on their way without living. Before my eyes rose faces of women by the million, by the myriad, all dead, all disappointed and shedding tears of despair, as they looked back upon the lost moments of their ignorant youth. In the distance I saw a playful Meditation rise to birth, I heard the satanic laughter which ran through it, and now you doubtless are about to kill it.—But come, tell me in confidence what means you have discovered by which to assist a woman to squander the swift moments during which her beauty is at its full flower and her desires at their full strength.—Perhaps you have some stratagems, some clever devices, to describe to me—"

The viscount began to laugh at this literary disappointment of mine, and he said to me, with a self-satisfied air:

"My wife, like all the young people of our happy century, has been accustomed, for three or four consecutive years, to press her fingers on the keys of a piano, a long-suffering instrument. She has hammered out Beethoven, warbled the airs of Rossini and run through the exercises of Crammer. I had already taken pains to convince her of the excellence of music; to attain this end, I have applauded her, I have listened without yawning to the most tiresome sonatas in the world, and I have at last consented to give her a box at the Bouffons. I have thus gained three quiet evenings out of the seven which God has created in the week. I am the mainstay of the music shops. At Paris there are drawing-rooms which exactly resemble the musical snuff-boxes of Germany. They are a sort of continuous orchestra to which I regularly go in search of that surfeit of harmony which my wife calls a concert. But most part of the time my wife keeps herself buried in her music-books—"

"But, my dear sir, do you not recognize the danger that lies in cultivating in a woman a taste for singing, and allowing her to yield to all the excitements of a sedentary life? It is only less dangerous to make her feed on mutton and drink cold water."

"My wife never eats anything but the white meat of poultry, and I always take care that a ball shall come after a concert and a reception after an Opera! I have also succeeded in making her lie down between one and two in the day. Ah! my dear sir, the benefits of this nap are incalculable! In the first place each necessary pleasure is accorded as a favor, and I am considered to be constantly carrying out my wife's wishes. And then I lead her to imagine, without saying a single word, that she is being constantly amused every day from six o'clock in the evening, the time of our dinner and of her toilet, until eleven o'clock in the morning, the time when we get up."

"Ah! sir, how grateful you ought to be for a life which is so completely filled up!"

"I have scarcely more than three dangerous hours a day to pass; but she has, of course, sonatas to practice and airs to go over, and there are always rides in the Bois de Boulogne, carriages to try, visits to pay, etc. But this is not all. The fairest ornament of a woman is the most exquisite cleanliness. A woman cannot be too particular in this respect, and no pains she takes can be laughed at. Now her toilet has also suggested to me a method of thus consuming the best hours of the day in bathing."

"How lucky I am in finding a listener like you!" I cried; "truly, sir, you could waste for her four hours a day, if only you were willing to teach her an art quite unknown to the most fastidious of our modern fine ladies. Why don't you enumerate to the viscountess the astonishing precautions manifest in the Oriental luxury of the Roman dames? Give her the names of the slaves merely employed for the bath in Poppea's palace: the unctores, the fricatores, the alipilarili, the dropacistae, the paratiltriae, the picatrices, the tracatrices, the swan whiteners, and all the rest. —Talk to her about this multitude of slaves whose names are given by Mirabeau in his Erotika Biblion. If she tries to secure the services of all these people you will have the fine times of quietness, not to speak of the personal satisfaction which will redound to you yourself from the introduction into your house of the system invented by these illustrious Romans, whose hair, artistically arranged, was deluged with perfumes, whose smallest vein seemed to have acquired fresh blood from the myrrh, the lint, the perfume, the douches, the flowers of the bath, all of which were enjoyed to the strains of voluptuous music."

"Ah! sir," continued the husband, who was warming to his subject, "can I not find also admirable pretexts in my solicitude for her heath? Her health, so dear and precious to me, forces me to forbid her going out in bad weather, and thus I gain a quarter of the year. And I have also introduced the charming custom of kissing when either of us goes out, this parting kiss being accompanied with the words, 'My sweet angel, I am going out.' Finally, I have taken measures for the future to make my wife as truly a prisoner in the house as the conscript in his sentry box! For I have inspired her with an incredible enthusiasm for the sacred duties of maternity."

"You do it by opposing her?" I asked.

"You have guessed it," he answered, laughing. "I have maintained to her that it is impossible for a woman of the world to discharge her duties towards society, to manage her household, to devote herself to fashion, as well as to the wishes of her husband, whom she loves, and, at the same time, to rear children. She then avers that, after the example of Cato, who wished to see how the nurse changed the swaddling bands of the infant Pompey, she would never leave to others the least of the services required in shaping the susceptible minds and tender bodies of these little creatures whose education begins in the cradle. You understand, sir, that my conjugal diplomacy would not be of much service to me unless, after having put my wife in solitary confinement, I did not also employ a certain harmless machiavelism, which consists in begging her to do whatever she likes, and asking her advice in every circumstance and on every contingency. As this delusive liberty has entirely deceived a creature so high-minded as she is, I have taken pains to stop at no sacrifice which would convince Madame de V——- that she is the freest woman in Paris; and, in order to attain this end, I take care not to commit those gross political blunders into which our ministers so often fall."

"I can see you," said I, "when you wish to cheat your wife out of some right granted her by the charter, I can see you putting on a mild and deliberate air, hiding your dagger under a bouquet of roses, and as you plunge it cautiously into her heart, saying to her with a friendly voice, 'My darling, does it hurt?' and she, like those on whose toes you tread in a crowd, will probably reply, 'Not in the least.'"

He could not restrain a laugh and said:

"Won't my wife be astonished at the Last Judgment?"

"I scarcely know," I replied, "whether you or she will be most astonished."

The jealous man frowned, but his face resumed its calmness as I added:

"I am truly grateful, sir, to the chance which has given me the pleasure of your acquaintance. Without the assistance of your remarks I should have been less successful than you have been in developing certain ideas which we possess in common. I beg of you that you will give me leave to publish this conversation. Statements which you and I find pregnant with high political conceptions, others perhaps will think characterized by more or less cutting irony, and I shall pass for a clever fellow in the eyes of both parties."

While I thus tried to express my thanks to the viscount (the first husband after my heart that I had met with), he took me once more through his apartments, where everything seemed to be beyond criticism.

I was about to take leave of him, when opening the door of a little boudoir he showed me a room with an air which seemed to say, "Is there any way by which the least irregularity should occur without my seeing it?"

I replied to this silent interrogation by an inclination of the head, such as guests make to their Amphytrion when they taste some exceptionally choice dish.

"My whole system," he said to me in a whisper, "was suggested to me by three words which my father heard Napoleon pronounce at a crowded council of state, when divorce was the subject of conversation. 'Adultery,' he exclaimed, 'is merely a matter of opportunity!' See, then, I have changed these accessories of crime, so that they become spies," added the councillor, pointing out to me a divan covered with tea-colored cashmere, the cushions of which were slightly pressed. "Notice that impression,—I learn from it that my wife has had a headache, and has been reclining there."

We stepped toward the divan, and saw the word FOOL lightly traced upon the fatal cushion, by four

Things that I know not, plucked by lover's hand From Cypris' orchard, where the fairy band Are dancing, once by nobles thought to be Worthy an order of new chivalry, A brotherhood, wherein, with script of gold, More mortal men than gods should be enrolled.

"Nobody in my house has black hair!" said the husband, growing pale.

I hurried away, for I was seized with an irresistible fit of laughter, which I could not easily overcome.

"That man has met his judgment day!" I said to myself; "all the barriers by which he has surrounded her have only been instrumental in adding to the intensity of her pleasures!"

This idea saddened me. The adventure destroyed from summit to foundation three of my most important Meditations, and the catholic infallibility of my book was assailed in its most essential point. I would gladly have paid to establish the fidelity of the Viscountess V——- a sum as great as very many people would have offered to secure her surrender. But alas! my money will now be kept by me.

Three days afterwards I met the councillor in the foyer of the Italiens. As soon as he saw me he rushed up. Impelled by a sort of modesty I tried to avoid him, but grasping my arm: "Ah! I have just passed three cruel days," he whispered in my ear. "Fortunately my wife is as innocent as perhaps a new-born babe—"

"You have already told me that the viscountess was extremely ingenious," I said, with unfeeling gaiety.

"Oh!" he said, "I gladly take a joke this evening; for this morning I had irrefragable proofs of my wife's fidelity. I had risen very early to finish a piece of work for which I had been rushed, and in looking absently in my garden, I suddenly saw the valet de chambre of a general, whose house is next to mine, climbing over the wall. My wife's maid, poking her head from the vestibule, was stroking my dog and covering the retreat of the gallant. I took my opera glass and examined the intruder—his hair was jet black!—Ah! never have I seen a Christian face that gave me more delight! And you may well believe that during the day all my perplexities vanished. So, my dear sir," he continued, "if you marry, let your dog loose and put broken bottles over the top of your walls."

"And did the viscountess perceive your distress during these three days?

"Do you take me for a child?" he said, shrugging his shoulders. "I have never been so merry in all my life as I have been since we met."

"You are a great man unrecognized," I cried, "and you are not—"

He did not permit me to conclude; for he had disappeared on seeing one of his friends who approached as if to greet the viscountess.

Now what can we add that would not be a tedious paraphrase of the lessons suggested by this conversation? All is included in it, either as seed or fruit. Nevertheless, you see, O husband! that your happiness hangs on a hair.



It was about seven o'clock in the evening. They were seated upon the academic armchairs, which made a semi-circle round a huge hearth, on which a coal fire was burning fitfully—symbol of the burning subject of their important deliberations. It was easy to guess, on seeing the grave but earnest faces of all the members of this assembly, that they were called upon to pronounce sentence upon the life, the fortunes and the happiness of people like themselves. They had no commission excepting that of their conscience, and they gathered there as the assessors of an ancient and mysterious tribunal; but they represented interests much more important than those of kings or of peoples; they spoke in the name of the passions and on behalf of the happiness of the numberless generations which should succeed them.

The grandson of the celebrated Boulle was seated before a round table on which were placed the criminal exhibits which had been collected with remarkable intelligence. I, the insignificant secretary of the meeting, occupied a place at this desk, where it was my office to take down a report of the meeting.

"Gentlemen," said an old man, "the first question upon which we have to deliberate is found clearly stated in the following passage of a letter. The letter was written to the Princess of Wales, Caroline of Anspach, by the widow of the Duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIV, mother of the Regent: 'The Queen of Spain has a method of making her husband say exactly what she wishes. The king is a religious man; he believes that he will be damned if he touched any woman but his wife, and still this excellent prince is of a very amorous temperament. Thus the queen obtains her every wish. She has placed castors on her husband's bed. If he refuses her anything, she pushes the bed away. If he grants her request, the beds stand side by side, and she admits him into hers. And so the king is highly delighted, since he likes ——-' I will not go any further, gentlemen, for the virtuous frankness of the German princess might in this assembly be charged with immorality."

Should wise husbands adopt these beds on castors? This is the problem which we have to solve.

The unanimity of the vote left no doubt about the opinion of the assembly. I was ordered to inscribe in the records, that if two married people slept on two separate beds in the same room the beds ought not to be set on castors.

"With this proviso," put in one of the members, "that the present decision should have no bearing on any subsequent ruling upon the best arrangement of the beds of married people."

The president passed to me a choicely bound volume, in which was contained the original edition, published in 1788, of the letters of Charlotte Elizabeth de Baviere, widow of the Duke of Orleans, the only brother of Louis XIV, and, while I was transcribing the passage already quoted, he said:

"But, gentlemen, you must all have received at your houses the notification in which the second question is stated."

"I rise to make an observation," exclaimed the youngest of the jealous husbands there assembled.

The president took his seat with a gesture of assent.

"Gentlemen," said the young husband, "are we quite prepared to deliberate upon so grave a question as that which is presented by the universally bad arrangement of the beds? Is there not here a much wider question than that of mere cabinet-making to decide? For my own part I see in it a question which concerns that of universal human intellect. The mysteries of conception, gentlemen, are still enveloped in a darkness which modern science has but partially dissipated. We do not know how far external circumstances influence the microscopic beings whose discovery is due to the unwearied patience of Hill, Baker, Joblot, Eichorn, Gleichen, Spallanzani, and especially of Muller, and last of all of M. Bory de Saint Vincent. The imperfections of the bed opens up a musical question of the highest importance, and for my part I declare I shall write to Italy to obtain clear information as to the manner in which beds are generally arranged. We do not know whether there are in the Italian bed numerous curtain rods, screws and castors, or whether the construction of beds is in this country more faulty than everywhere else, or whether the dryness of timber in Italy, due to the influence of the sun, does not ab ovo produce the harmony, the sense of which is to so large an extent innate in Italians. For these reasons I move that we adjourn."

"What!" cried a gentleman from the West, impatiently rising to his feet, "are we here to dilate upon the advancement of music? What we have to consider first of all is manners, and the moral question is paramount in this discussion."

"Nevertheless," remarked one of the most influential members of the council, "the suggestion of the former speaker is not in my opinion to be passed by. In the last century, gentlemen, Sterne, one of the writers most philosophically delightful and most delightfully philosophic, complained of the carelessness with which human beings were procreated; 'Shame!' he cried 'that he who copies the divine physiognomy of man receives crowns and applause, but he who achieves the masterpiece, the prototype of mimic art, feels that like virtue he must be his own reward.'

"Ought we not to feel more interest in the improvement of the human race than in that of horses? Gentlemen, I passed through a little town of Orleanais where the whole population consisted of hunchbacks, of glum and gloomy people, veritable children of sorrow, and the remark of the former speaker caused me to recollect that all the beds were in a very bad condition and the bedchambers presented nothing to the eyes of the married couple but what was hideous and revolting. Ah! gentlemen, how is it possible that our minds should be in an ideal state, when instead of the music of angels flying here and there in the bosom of that heaven to which we have attained, our ears are assailed by the most detestable, the most angry, the most piercing of human cries and lamentations? We are perhaps indebted for the fine geniuses who have honored humanity to beds which are solidly constructed; and the turbulent population which caused the French Revolution were conceived perhaps upon a multitude of tottering couches, with twisted and unstable legs; while the Orientals, who are such a beautiful race, have a unique method of making their beds. I vote for the adjournment."

And the gentleman sat down.

A man belonging to the sect of Methodists arose. "Why should we change the subject of debate? We are not dealing here with the improvement of the race nor with the perfecting of the work. We must not lose sight of the interests of the jealous husband and the principles on which moral soundness is based. Don't you know that the noise of which you complain seems more terrible to the wife uncertain of her crime, than the trumpet of the Last Judgment? Can you forget that a suit for infidelity could never be won by a husband excepting through this conjugal noise? I will undertake, gentlemen, to refer to the divorces of Lord Abergavenny, of Viscount Bolingbroke, of the late Queen Caroline, of Eliza Draper, of Madame Harris, in fact, of all those who are mentioned in the twenty volumes published by—." (The secretary did not distinctly hear the name of the English publisher.)

The motion to adjourn was carried. The youngest member proposed to make up a purse for the author producing the best dissertation addressed to the society upon a subject which Sterne considered of such importance; but at the end of the seance eighteen shillings was the total sum found in the hat of the president.

The above debate of the society, which had recently been formed in London for the improvement of manners and of marriage and which Lord Byron scoffed at, was transmitted to us by the kindness of W. Hawkins, Esq., cousin-german of the famous Captain Clutterbuck. The extract may serve to solve any difficulties which may occur in the theory of bed construction.

But the author of the book considers that the English society has given too much importance to this preliminary question. There exists in fact quite as many reasons for being a Rossinist as for being a Solidist in the matter of beds, and the author acknowledges that it is either beneath or above him to solve this difficulty. He thinks with Laurence Sterne that it is a disgrace to European civilization that there exist so few physiological observations on callipedy, and he refuses to state the results of his Meditations on this subject, because it would be difficult to formulate them in terms of prudery, and they would be but little understood, and misinterpreted. Such reserve produces an hiatus in this part of the book; but the author has the pleasant satisfaction of leaving a fourth work to be accomplished by the next century, to which he bequeaths the legacy of all that he has not accomplished, a negative munificence which may well be followed by all those who may be troubled by an overplus of ideas.

The theory of the bed presents questions much more important than those put forth by our neighbors with regard to castors and the murmurs of criminal conversation.

We know only three ways in which a bed (in the general sense of this term) may be arranged among civilized nations, and particularly among the privileged classes to whom this book is addressed. These three ways are as follows:


Before applying ourselves to the examination of these three methods of living together, which must necessarily have different influences upon the happiness of husbands and wives, we must take a rapid survey of the practical object served by the bed and the part it plays in the political economy of human existence.

The most incontrovertible principle which can be laid down in this matter is, that the bed was made to sleep upon.

It would be easy to prove that the practice of sleeping together was established between married people but recently, in comparison with the antiquity of marriage.

By what reasonings has man arrived at that point in which he brought in vogue a practice so fatal to happiness, to health, even to amour-propre? Here we have a subject which it would be curious to investigate.

If you knew one of your rivals who had discovered a method of placing you in a position of extreme absurdity before the eyes of those who were dearest to you—for instance, while you had your mouth crooked like that of a theatrical mask, or while your eloquent lips, like the copper faucet of a scanty fountain, dripped pure water—you would probably stab him. This rival is sleep. Is there a man in the world who knows how he appears to others, and what he does when he is asleep?

In sleep we are living corpses, we are the prey of an unknown power which seizes us in spite of ourselves, and shows itself in the oddest shapes; some have a sleep which is intellectual, while the sleep of others is mere stupor.

There are some people who slumber with their mouths open in the silliest fashion.

There are others who snore loud enough to make the timbers shake.

Most people look like the impish devils that Michael Angelo sculptured, putting out their tongues in silent mockery of the passers-by.

The only person I know of in the world who sleeps with a noble air is Agamemnon, whom Guerin has represented lying on his bed at the moment when Clytemnestra, urged by Egisthus, advances to slay him. Moreover, I have always had an ambition to hold myself on my pillow as the king of kings Agamemnon holds himself, from the day that I was seized with dread of being seen during sleep by any other eyes than those of Providence. In the same way, too, from the day I heard my old nurse snorting in her sleep "like a whale," to use a slang expression, I have added a petition to the special litany which I address to Saint-Honore, my patron saint, to the effect that he would save me from indulging in this sort of eloquence.

When a man wakes up in the morning, his drowsy face grotesquely surmounted by the folds of a silk handkerchief which falls over his left temple like a police cap, he is certainly a laughable object, and it is difficult to recognize in him the glorious spouse, celebrated in the strophes of Rousseau; but, nevertheless, there is a certain gleam of life to illume the stupidity of a countenance half dead—and if you artists wish to make fine sketches, you should travel on the stage-coach and, when the postilion wakes up the postmaster, just examine the physiognomies of the departmental clerks! But, were you a hundred times as pleasant to look upon as are these bureaucratic physiognomies, at least, while you have your mouth shut, your eyes are open, and you have some expression in your countenance. Do you know how you looked an hour before you awoke, or during the first hour of your sleep, when you were neither a man nor an animal, but merely a thing, subject to the dominion of those dreams which issue from the gate of horn? But this is a secret between your wife and God.

Is it for the purpose of insinuating the imbecility of slumber that the Romans decorated the heads of their beds with the head of an ass? We leave to the gentlemen who form the academy of inscriptions the elucidation of this point.

Assuredly, the first man who took it into his head, at the inspiration of the devil, not to leave his wife, even while she was asleep, should know how to sleep in the very best style; but do not forget to reckon among the sciences necessary to a man on setting up an establishment, the art of sleeping with elegance. Moreover, we will place here as a corollary to Axiom XXV of our Marriage Catechism the two following aphorisms:

A husband should sleep as lightly as a watch-dog, so as never to be caught with his eyes shut.

A man should accustom himself from childhood to go to bed bareheaded.

Certain poets discern in modesty, in the alleged mysteries of love, some reason why the married couple should share the same bed; but the fact must be recognized that if primitive men sought the shade of caverns, the mossy couch of deep ravines, the flinty roof of grottoes to protect his pleasure, it was because the delight of love left him without defence against his enemies. No, it is not more natural to lay two heads upon the same pillow, than it is reasonable to tie a strip of muslin round the neck. Civilization is come. It has shut up a million of men within an area of four square leagues; it has stalled them in streets, houses, apartments, rooms, and chambers eight feet square; after a time it will make them shut up one upon another like the tubes of a telescope.

From this cause and from many others, such as thrift, fear, and ill-concealed jealousy, has sprung the custom of the sleeping together of the married couple; and this custom has given rise to punctuality and simultaneity in rising and retiring.

And here you find the most capricious thing in the world, the feeling most pre-eminently fickle, the thing which is worthless without its own spontaneous inspiration, which takes all its charm from the suddenness of its desires, which owes its attractions to the genuineness of its outbursts—this thing we call love, subjugated to a monastic rule, to that law of geometry which belongs to the Board of Longitude!

If I were a father I should hate the child, who, punctual as the clock, had every morning and evening an explosion of tenderness and wished me good-day and good-evening, because he was ordered to do so. It is in this way that all that is generous and spontaneous in human sentiment becomes strangled at its birth. You may judge from this what love means when it is bound to a fixed hour!

Only the Author of everything can make the sun rise and set, morn and eve, with a pomp invariably brilliant and always new, and no one here below, if we may be permitted to use the hyperbole of Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, can play the role of the sun.

From these preliminary observations, we conclude that it is not natural for two to lie under the canopy in the same bed;

That a man is almost always ridiculous when he is asleep;

And that this constant living together threatens the husband with inevitable dangers.

We are going to try, therefore, to find out a method which will bring our customs in harmony with the laws of nature, and to combine custom and nature in a way that will enable a husband to find in the mahogany of his bed a useful ally, and an aid in defending himself.


If the most brilliant, the best-looking, the cleverest of husbands wishes to find himself minotaurized just as the first year of his married life ends, he will infallibly attain that end if he is unwise enough to place two beds side by side, under the voluptuous dome of the same alcove.

The argument in support of this may be briefly stated. The following are its main lines:

The first husband who invented the twin beds was doubtless an obstetrician, who feared that in the involuntary struggles of some dream he might kick the child borne by his wife.

But no, he was rather some predestined one who distrusted his power of checking a snore.

Perhaps it was some young man who, fearing the excess of his own tenderness, found himself always lying at the edge of the bed and in danger of tumbling off, or so near to a charming wife that he disturbed her slumber.

But may it not have been some Maintenon who received the suggestion from her confessor, or, more probably, some ambitious woman who wished to rule her husband? Or, more undoubtedly, some pretty little Pompadour overcome by that Parisian infirmity so pleasantly described by M. de Maurepas in that quatrain which cost him his protracted disgrace and certainly contributed to the disasters of Louis XVI's reign:

"Iris, we love those features sweet, Your graces all are fresh and free; And flowerets spring beneath your feet, Where naught, alas! but flowers are seen."

But why should it not have been a philosopher who dreaded the disenchantment which a woman would experience at the sight of a man asleep? And such a one would always roll himself up in a coverlet and keep his head bare.

Unknown author of this Jesuitical method, whoever thou art, in the devil's name, we hail thee as a brother! Thou hast been the cause of many disasters. Thy work has the character of all half measures; it is satisfactory in no respect, and shares the bad points of the two other methods without yielding the advantages of either. How can the man of the nineteenth century, how can this creature so supremely intelligent, who has displayed a power well-nigh supernatural, who has employed the resources of his genius in concealing the machinery of his life, in deifying his necessary cravings in order that he might not despise them, going so far as to wrest from Chinese leaves, from Egyptian beans, from seeds of Mexico, their perfume, their treasure, their soul; going so far as to chisel the diamond, chase the silver, melt the gold ore, paint the clay and woo every art that may serve to decorate and to dignify the bowl from which he feeds!—how can this king, after having hidden under folds of muslin covered with diamonds, studded with rubies, and buried under linen, under folds of cotton, under the rich hues of silk, under the fairy patterns of lace, the partner of his wretchedness, how can he induce her to make shipwreck in the midst of all this luxury on the decks of two beds. What advantage is it that we have made the whole universe subserve our existence, our delusions, the poesy of our life? What good is it to have instituted law, morals and religion, if the invention of an upholsterer [for probably it was an upholsterer who invented the twin beds] robs our love of all its illusions, strips it bare of the majestic company of its delights and gives it in their stead nothing but what is ugliest and most odious? For this is the whole history of the two bed system.

LXIII. That it shall appear either sublime or grotesque are the alternatives to which we have reduced a desire.

If it be shared, our love is sublime; but should you sleep in twin beds, your love will always be grotesque. The absurdities which this half separation occasions may be comprised in either one of two situations, which will give us occasion to reveal the causes of very many marital misfortunes.

Midnight is approaching as a young woman is putting on her curl papers and yawning as she did so. I do not know whether her melancholy proceeded from a headache, seated in the right or left lobe of her brain, or whether she was passing through one of those seasons of weariness during which all things appear black to us; but to see her negligently putting up her hair for the night, to see her languidly raising her leg to take off her garter, it seemed to me that she would prefer to be drowned rather than to be denied the relief of plunging her draggled life into the slumber that might restore it. At this instant, I know not to what degree from the North Pole she stands, whether at Spitzberg or in Greenland. Cold and indifferent she goes to bed thinking, as Mistress Walter Shandy might have thought, that the morrow would be a day of sickness, that her husband is coming home very late, that the beaten eggs which she has just eaten were not sufficiently sweetened, that she owes more than five hundred francs to her dressmaker; in fine, thinking about everything which you may suppose would occupy the mind of a tired woman. In the meanwhile arrives her great lout of a husband, who, after some business meeting, has drunk punch, with a consequent elation. He takes off his boots, leaves his stockings on a lounge, his bootjack lies before the fireplace; and wrapping his head up in a red silk handkerchief, without giving himself the trouble to tuck in the corners, he fires off at his wife certain interjectory phrases, those little marital endearments, which form almost the whole conversation at those twilight hours, where drowsy reason is no longer shining in this mechanism of ours. "What, in bed already! It was devilish cold this evening! Why don't you speak, my pet? You've already rolled yourself up in bed, then! Ah! you are in the dumps and pretend to be asleep!" These exclamations are mingled with yawns; and after numberless little incidents which according to the usage of each home vary this preface of the night, our friend flings himself into his own bed with a heavy thud.

Alas! before a woman who is cold, how mad a man must appear when desire renders him alternately angry and tender, insolent and abject, biting as an epigram and soothing as a madrigal; when he enacts with more or less sprightliness the scene where, in Venice Preserved, the genius of Orway has represented the senator Antonio, repeating a hundred times over at the feet of Aquilina: "Aquilina, Quilina, Lina, Aqui, Nacki!" without winning from her aught save the stroke of her whip, inasmuch as he has undertaken to fawn upon her like a dog. In the eyes of every woman, even of a lawful wife, the more a man shows eager passion under these circumstances, the more silly he appears. He is odious when he commands, he is minotaurized if he abuses his power. On this point I would remind you of certain aphorisms in the marriage catechism from which you will see that you are violating its most sacred precepts. Whether a woman yields, or does not yield, this institution of twin beds gives to marriage such an element of roughness and nakedness that the most chaste wife and the most intelligent husband are led to immodesty.

This scene, which is enacted in a thousand ways and which may originate in a thousand different incidents, has a sequel in that other situation which, while it is less pleasant, is far more terrible.

One evening when I was talking about these serious matters with the late Comte de Noce, of whom I have already had occasion to speak, a tall white-haired old man, his intimate friend, whose name I will not give, because he is still alive, looked at us with a somewhat melancholy air. We guessed that he was about to relate some tale of scandal, and we accordingly watched him, somewhat as the stenographer of the Moniteur might watch, as he mounted the tribune, a minister whose speech had already been written out for the reporter. The story-teller on this occasion was an old marquis, whose fortune, together with his wife and children, had perished in the disasters of the Revolution. The marchioness had been one of the most inconsistent women of the past generation; the marquis accordingly was not wanting in observations on feminine human nature. Having reached an age in which he saw nothing before him but the gulf of the grave, he spoke about himself as if the subject of his talk were Mark Antony or Cleopatra.

"My young friend"—he did me the honor to address me, for it was I who made the last remark in this discussion—"your reflections make me think of a certain evening, in the course of which one of my friends conducted himself in such a manner as to lose forever the respect of his wife. Now, in those days a woman could take vengeance with marvelous facility—for it was always a word and a blow. The married couple I speak of were particular in sleeping on separate beds, with their head under the arch of the same alcove. They came home one night from a brilliant ball given by the Comte de Mercy, ambassador of the emperor. The husband had lost a considerable sum at play, so he was completely absorbed in thought. He had to pay a debt, the next day, of six thousand crowns!—and you will recollect, Noce, that a hundred crowns couldn't be made up from scraping together the resources of ten such musketeers. The young woman, as generally happens under such circumstances, was in a gale of high spirits. 'Give to the marquis,' she said to a valet de chambre, 'all that he requires for his toilet.' In those days people dressed for the night. These extraordinary words did not rouse the husband from his mood of abstraction, and then madame, assisted by her maid, began to indulge in a thousand coquetries. 'Was my appearance to your taste this evening?' 'You are always to my taste,' answered the marquis, continuing to stride up and down the room. 'You are very gloomy! Come and talk to me, you frowning lover,' said she, placing herself before him in the most seductive negligee. But you can have no idea of the enchantments of the marchioness unless you had known her. Ah! you have seen her, Noce!" he said with a mocking smile. "Finally, in spite of all her allurements and beauty, the marchioness was lost sight of amid thoughts of the six thousand crowns which this fool of a husband could not get out of his head, and she went to bed all alone. But women always have one resource left; so that the moment that the good husband made as though he would get into his bed, the marchioness cried, 'Oh, how cold I am!' 'So am I,' he replied. 'How is it that the servants have not warmed our beds?'—And then I rang."

The Comte de Noce could not help laughing, and the old marquis, quite put out of countenance, stopped short.

Not to divine the desire of a wife, to snore while she lies awake, to be in Siberia when she is in the tropics, these are the slighter disadvantages of twin beds. What risks will not a passionate woman run when she becomes aware that her husband is a heavy sleeper?

I am indebted to Beyle for an Italian anecdote, to which his dry and sarcastic manner lent an infinite charm, as he told me this tale of feminine hardihood.

Ludovico had his palace at one end of the town of Milan; at the other was that of the Countess of Pernetti. At midnight, on a certain occasion, Ludovico resolved, at the peril of his life, to make a rash expedition for the sake of gazing for one second on the face he adored, and accordingly appeared as if by magic in the palace of his well-beloved. He reached the nuptial chamber. Elisa Pernetti, whose heart most probably shared the desire of her lover, heard the sound of his footsteps and divined his intention. She saw through the walls of her chamber a countenance glowing with love. She rose from her marriage bed, light as a shadow she glided to the threshold of her door, with a look she embraced him, she seized his hand, she made a sign to him, she drew him in.

"But he will kill you!" said he.

"Perhaps so."

But all this amounts to nothing. Let us grant that most husbands sleep lightly. Let us grant that they sleep without snoring, and that they always discern the degree of latitude at which their wives are to be found. Moreover, all the reasons which we have given why twin beds should be condemned, let us consider but dust in the balance. But, after all, a final consideration would make us also proscribe the use of beds ranged within the limits of the same alcove.

To a man placed in the position of a husband, there are circumstances which have led us to consider the nuptial couch as an actual means of defence. For it is only in bed that a man can tell whether his wife's love is increasing or decreasing. It is the conjugal barometer. Now to sleep in twin beds is to wish for ignorance. You will understand, when we come to treat of civil war (See Part Third) of what extreme usefulness a bed is and how many secrets a wife reveals in bed, without knowing it.

Do not therefore allow yourself to be led astray by the specious good nature of such an institution as that of twin beds.

It is the silliest, the most treacherous, the most dangerous in the world. Shame and anathema to him who conceived it!

But in proportion as this method is pernicious in the case of young married people, it is salutary and advantageous for those who have reached the twentieth year of married life. Husband and wife can then most conveniently indulge their duets of snoring. It will, moreover, be more convenient for their various maladies, whether rheumatism, obstinate gout, or even the taking of a pinch of snuff; and the cough or the snore will not in any respect prove a greater hindrance than it is found to be in any other arrangement.

We have not thought it necessary to mention the exceptional cases which authorize a husband to resort to twin beds. However, the opinion of Bonaparte was that when once there had taken place an interchange of life and breath (such are his words), nothing, not even sickness, should separate married people. This point is so delicate that it is not possible here to treat it methodically.

Certain narrow minds will object that there are certain patriarchal families whose legislation of love is inflexible in the matter of two beds and an alcove, and that, by this arrangement, they have been happy from generation to generation. But, the only answer that the author vouchsafes to this is that he knows a great many respectable people who pass their lives in watching games of billiards.


There cannot be found in Europe a hundred husbands of each nation sufficiently versed in the science of marriage, or if you like, of life, to be able to dwell in an apartment separate from that of their wives.

The power of putting this system into practice shows the highest degree of intellectual and masculine force.

The married couple who dwell in separate apartments have become either divorced, or have attained to the discovery of happiness. They either abominate or adore each other. We will not undertake to detail here the admirable precepts which may be deduced from this theory whose end is to make constancy and fidelity easy and delightful. It may be sufficient to declare that by this system alone two married people can realize the dream of many noble souls. This will be understood by all the faithful.

As for the profane, their curious questionings will be sufficiently answered by the remark that the object of this institution is to give happiness to one woman. Which among them will be willing to deprive general society of any share in the talents with which they think themselves endowed, to the advantage of one woman? Nevertheless, the rendering of his mistress happy gives any one the fairest title to glory which can be earned in this valley of Jehosaphat, since, according to Genesis, Eve was not satisfied even with a terrestrial Paradise. She desired to taste the forbidden fruit, the eternal emblem of adultery.

But there is an insurmountable reason why we should refrain from developing this brilliant theory. It would cause a digression from the main theme of our work. In the situation which we have supposed to be that of a married establishment, a man who is sufficiently unwise to sleep apart from his wife deserves no pity for the disaster which he himself invites.

Let us then resume our subject. Every man is not strong enough to undertake to occupy an apartment separate from that of his wife; although any man might derive as much good as evil from the difficulties which exist in using but one bed.

We now proceed to solve the difficulties which superficial minds may detect in this method, for which our predilection is manifest.

But this paragraph, which is in some sort a silent one, inasmuch as we leave it to the commentaries which will be made in more than one home, may serve as a pedestal for the imposing figure of Lycurgus, that ancient legislator, to whom the Greeks are indebted for their profoundest thoughts on the subject of marriage. May his system be understood by future generations! And if modern manners are too much given to softness to adopt his system in its entirety, they may at least be imbued with the robust spirit of this admirable code.


On a night in December, Frederick the Great looked up at the sky, whose stars were twinkling with that clear and living light which presages heavy frost, and he exclaimed, "This weather will result in a great many soldiers to Prussia."

The king expressed here, by a single phrase, the principal disadvantage which results from the constant living together of married people. Although it may be permitted to Napoleon and to Frederick to estimate the value of a woman more or less according to the number of her children, yet a husband of talent ought, according to the maxims of the thirteenth Meditation, to consider child-begetting merely as a means of defence, and it is for him to know to what extent it may take place.

The observation leads into mysteries from which the physiological Muse recoils. She has been quite willing to enter the nuptial chambers while they are occupied, but she is a virgin and a prude, and there are occasions on which she retires. For, since it is at this passage in my book that the Muse is inclined to put her white hands before her eyes so as to see nothing, like the young girl looking through the interstices of her tapering fingers, she will take advantage of this attack of modesty, to administer a reprimand to our manners. In England the nuptial chamber is a sacred place. The married couple alone have the privilege of entering it, and more than one lady, we are told, makes her bed herself. Of all the crazes which reign beyond the sea, why should the only one which we despise be precisely that, whose grace and mystery ought undoubtedly to meet the approval of all tender souls on this continent? Refined women condemn the immodesty with which strangers are introduced into the sanctuary of marriage. As for us, who have energetically anathematized women who walk abroad at the time when they expect soon to be confined, our opinion cannot be doubted. If we wish the celibate to respect marriage, married people ought to have some regard for the inflammability of bachelors.

To sleep every night with one's wife may seem, we confess, an act of the most insolent folly.

Many husbands are inclined to ask how a man, who desires to bring marriage to perfection, dare prescribe to a husband a rule of conduct which would be fatal in a lover.

Nevertheless, such is the decision of a doctor of arts and sciences conjugal.

In the first place, without making a resolution never to sleep by himself, this is the only course left to a husband, since we have demonstrated the dangers of the preceding systems. We must now try to prove that this last method yields more advantage and less disadvantage than the two preceding methods, that is, so far as relates to the critical position in which a conjugal establishment stands.

Our observations on the twin beds ought to have taught husbands that they should always be strung into the same degree of fervor as that which prevails in the harmonious organization of their wives. Now it seems to us that this perfect equality in feelings would naturally be created under the white Aegis, which spreads over both of them its protecting sheet; this at the outset is an immense advantage, and really nothing is easier to verify at any moment than the degree of love and expansion which a woman reaches when the same pillow receives the heads of both spouses.

Man [we speak now of the species] walks about with a memorandum always totalized, which shows distinctly and without error the amount of passion which he carries within him. This mysterious gynometer is traced in the hollow of the hand, for the hand is really that one of our members which bears the impress most plainly of our characters. Chirology is a fifth work which I bequeath to my successors, for I am contented here to make known but the elements of this interesting science.

The hand is the essential organ of touch. Touch is the sense which very nearly takes the place of all the others, and which alone is indispensable. Since the hand alone can carry out all that a man desires, it is to an extent action itself. The sum total of our vitality passes through it; and men of powerful intellects are usually remarkable for their shapely hands, perfection in that respect being a distinguishing trait of their high calling.

Jesus Christ performed all His miracles by the imposition of hands. The hand is the channel through which life passes. It reveals to the physician all the mysteries of our organism. It exhales more than any other part of our bodies the nervous fluid, or that unknown substance, which for want of another term we style will. The eye can discover the mood of our soul but the hand betrays at the same time the secrets of the body and those of the soul. We can acquire the faculty of imposing silence on our eyes, on our lips, on our brows, and on our forehead; but the hand never dissembles and nothing in our features can be compared to the richness of its expression. The heat and cold which it feels in such delicate degrees often escape the notice of other senses in thoughtless people; but a man knows how to distinguish them, however little time he may have bestowed in studying the anatomy of sentiments and the affairs of human life. Thus the hand has a thousand ways of becoming dry, moist, hot, cold, soft, rough, unctuous. The hand palpitates, becomes supple, grows hard and again is softened. In fine it presents a phenomenon which is inexplicable so that one is tempted to call it the incarnation of thought. It causes the despair of the sculptor and the painter when they wish to express the changing labyrinth of its mysterious lineaments. To stretch out your hand to a man is to save him, it serves as a ratification of the sentiments we express. The sorcerers of every age have tried to read our future destines in those lines which have nothing fanciful in them, but absolutely correspond with the principles of each one's life and character. When she charges a man with want of tact, which is merely touch, a woman condemns him without hope. We use the expressions, the "Hand of Justice," the "Hand of God;" and a coup de main means a bold undertaking.

To understand and recognize the hidden feelings by the atmospheric variations of the hand, which a woman almost always yields without distrust, is a study less unfruitful and surer than that of physiognomy.

In this way you will be able, if you acquire this science, to wield vast power, and to find a clue which will guide you through the labyrinth of the most impenetrable heart. This will render your living together free from very many mistakes, and, at the same time, rich in the acquisition of many a treasure.

Buffon and certain physiologists affirm that our members are more completely exhausted by desire than by the most keen enjoyments. And really, does not desire constitute of itself a sort of intuitive possession? Does it not stand in the same relation to visible action, as those incidents in our mental life, in which we take part in a dream, stand to the incidents of our actual life? This energetic apprehension of things, does it not call into being an internal emotion more powerful than that of the external action? If our gestures are only the accomplishment of things already enacted by our thought, you may easily calculate how desire frequently entertained must necessarily consume the vital fluids. But the passions which are no more than the aggregation of desires, do they not furrow with the wrinkle of their lightning the faces of the ambitious, of gamblers, for instance, and do they not wear out their bodies with marvelous swiftness?

These observations, therefore, necessarily contain the germs of a mysterious system equally favored by Plato and by Epicurus; we will leave it for you to meditate upon, enveloped as it is in the veil which enshrouds Egyptian statues.

But the greatest mistake that a man commits is to believe that love can belong only to those fugitive moments which, according to the magnificent expression of Bossuet, are like to the nails scattered over a wall: to the eye they appear numerous; but when they are collected they make but a handful.

Love consists almost always in conversation. There are few things inexhaustible in a lover: goodness, gracefulness and delicacy. To feel everything, to divine everything, to anticipate everything; to reproach without bringing affliction upon a tender heart; to make a present without pride; to double the value of a certain action by the way in which it is done; to flatter rather by actions than by words; to make oneself understood rather than to produce a vivid impression; to touch without striking; to make a look and the sound of the voice produce the effect of a caress; never to produce embarrassment; to amuse without offending good taste; always to touch the heart; to speak to the soul—this is all that women ask. They will abandon all the delights of all the nights of Messalina, if only they may live with a being who will yield them those caresses of the soul, for which they are so eager, and which cost nothing to men if only they have a little consideration.

This outline comprises a great portion of such secrets as belong to the nuptial couch. There are perhaps some witty people who may take this long definition of politeness for a description of love, while in any case it is no more than a recommendation to treat your wife as you would treat the minister on whose good-will depends your promotion to the post you covet.

I hear numberless voices crying out that this book is a special advocate for women and neglects the cause of men;

That the majority of women are unworthy of these delicate attentions and would abuse them;

That there are women given to licentiousness who would not lend themselves to very much of what they would call mystification;

That women are nothing but vanity and think of nothing but dress;

That they have notions which are truly unreasonable;

That they are very often annoyed by an attention;

That they are fools, they understand nothing, are worth nothing, etc.

In answer to all these clamors we will write here the following phrases, which, placed between two spaces, will perhaps have the air of a thought, to quote an expression of Beaumarchais.

LXIV. A wife is to her husband just what her husband has made her.

The reasons why the single bed must triumph over the other two methods of organizing the nuptial couch are as follows: In the single couch we have a faithful interpreter to translate with profound truthfulness the sentiments of a woman, to render her a spy over herself, to keep her at the height of her amorous temperature, never to leave her, to have the power of hearing her breathe in slumber, and thus to avoid all the nonsense which is the ruin of so many marriages.

As it is impossible to receive benefits without paying for them, you are bound to learn how to sleep gracefully, to preserve your dignity under the silk handkerchief that wraps your head, to be polite, to see that your slumber is light, not to cough too much, and to imitate those modern authors who write more prefaces than books.



The time always comes in which nations and women even the most stupid perceive that their innocence is being abused. The cleverest policy may for a long time proceed in a course of deceit; but it would be very happy for men if they could carry on their deceit to an infinite period; a vast amount of bloodshed would then be avoided, both in nations and in families.

Nevertheless, we hope that the means of defence put forth in the preceding Meditations will be sufficient to deliver a certain number of husbands from the clutches of the Minotaur! You must agree with the doctor that many a love blindly entered upon perishes under the treatment of hygiene or dies away, thanks to marital policy. Yes [what a consoling mistake!] many a lover will be driven away by personal efforts, many a husband will learn how to conceal under an impenetrable veil the machinery of his machiavelism, and many a man will have better success than the old philosopher who cried: Nolo coronari!

But we are here compelled to acknowledge a mournful truth. Despotism has its moments of secure tranquillity. Her reign seems like the hour which precedes the tempest, and whose silence enables the traveler, stretched upon the faded grass, to hear at a mile's distance, the song of the cicada. Some fine morning an honest woman, who will be imitated by a great portion of our own women, discerns with an eagle eye the clever manoeuvres which have rendered her the victim of an infernal policy. She is at first quite furious at having for so long a time preserved her virtue. At what age, in what day, does this terrible revolution occur? This question of chronology depends entirely upon the genius of each husband; for it is not the vocation of all to put in practice with the same talent the precepts of our conjugal gospel.

"A man must have very little love," the mystified wife will exclaim, "to enter upon such calculations as these! What! From the first day I have been to him perpetually an object of suspicion! It is monstrous, even a woman would be incapable of such artful and cruel treachery!"

This is the question. Each husband will be able to understand the variations of this complaint which will be made in accordance with the character of the young Fury, of whom he has made a companion.

A woman by no means loses her head under these circumstances; she holds her tongue and dissembles. Her vengeance will be concealed. Only you will have some symptoms of hesitation to contend with on the arrival of the crisis, which we presume you to have reached on the expiration of the honeymoon; but you will also have to contend against a resolution. She has determined to revenge herself. From that day, so far as regards you, her mask, like her heart, has turned to bronze. Formerly you were an object of indifference to her; you are becoming by degrees absolutely insupportable. The Civil War commences only at the moment in which, like the drop of water which makes the full glass overflow, some incident, whose more or less importance we find difficulty in determining, has rendered you odious. The lapse of time which intervenes between this last hour, the limit of your good understanding, and the day when your wife becomes cognizant of your artifices, is nevertheless quite sufficient to permit you to institute a series of defensive operations, which we will now explain.

Up to this time you have protected your honor solely by the exertion of a power entirely occult. Hereafter the wheels of your conjugal machinery must be set going in sight of every one. In this case, if you would prevent a crime you must strike a blow. You have begun by negotiating, you must end by mounting your horse, sabre in hand, like a Parisian gendarme. You must make your horse prance, you must brandish your sabre, you must shout strenuously, and you must endeavor to calm the revolt without wounding anybody.

Just as the author has found a means of passing from occult methods to methods that are patent, so it is necessary for the husband to justify the sudden change in his tactics; for in marriage, as in literature, art consists entirely in the gracefulness of the transitions. This is of the highest importance for you. What a frightful position you will occupy if your wife has reason to complain of your conduct at the moment, which is, perhaps, the most critical of your whole married life!

You must therefore find some means or other to justify the secret tyranny of your initial policy; some means which still prepare the mind of your wife for the severe measures which you are about to take; some means which so far from forfeiting her esteem will conciliate her; some means which will gain her pardon, which will restore some little of that charm of yours, by which you won her love before your marriage.

"But what policy is it that demands this course of action? Is there such a policy?"

Certainly there is.

But what address, what tact, what histrionic art must a husband possess in order to display the mimic wealth of that treasure which we are about to reveal to him! In order to counterfeit the passion whose fire is to make you a new man in the presence of your wife, you will require all the cunning of Talma.

This passion is JEALOUSY.

"My husband is jealous. He has been so from the beginning of our marriage. He has concealed this feeling from me by his usual refined delicacy. Does he love me still? I am going to do as I like with him!"

Such are the discoveries which a woman is bound to make, one after another, in accordance with the charming scenes of the comedy which you are enacting for your amusement; and a man of the world must be an actual fool, if he fails in making a woman believe that which flatters her.

With what perfection of hypocrisy must you arrange, step by step, your hypocritical behavior so as to rouse the curiosity of your wife, to engage her in a new study, and to lead her astray among the labyrinths of your thought!

Ye sublime actors! Do ye divine the diplomatic reticence, the gestures of artifice, the veiled words, the looks of doubtful meaning which some evening may induce your wife to attempt the capture of your secret thoughts?

Ah! to laugh in your sleeve while you are exhibiting the fierceness of a tiger; neither to lie nor to tell the truth; to comprehend the capricious mood of a woman, and yet to make her believe that she controls you, while you intend to bind her with a collar of iron! O comedy that has no audience, which yet is played by one heart before another heart and where both of you applaud because both of you think that you have obtained success!

She it is who will tell you that you are jealous, who will point out to you that she knows you better than you know yourself, who will prove to you the uselessness of your artifices and who perhaps will defy you. She triumphs in the excited consciousness of the superiority which she thinks she possesses over you; you of course are ennobled in her eyes; for she finds your conduct quite natural. The only thing she feels is that your want of confidence was useless; if she wished to betray, who could hinder her?

Then, some evening, you will burst into a passion, and, as some trifle affords you a pretext, you will make a scene, in the course of which your anger will make you divulge the secret of your distress. And here comes in the promulgation of our new code.

Have no fear that a woman is going to trouble herself about this. She needs your jealousy, she rather likes your severity. This comes from the fact that in the first place she finds there a justification for her own conduct; and then she finds immense satisfaction in playing before other people the part of a victim. What delightful expressions of sympathy will she receive! Afterwards she will use this as a weapon against you, in the expectation thereby of leading you into a pitfall.

She sees in your conduct the source of a thousand more pleasures in her future treachery, and her imagination smiles at all the barricades with which you surround her, for will she not have the delight of surmounting them all?

Women understand better than we do the art of analyzing the two human feelings, which alternately form their weapons of attack, or the weapons of which they are victims. They have the instinct of love, because it is their whole life, and of jealousy, because it is almost the only means by which they can control us. Within them jealousy is a genuine sentiment and springs from the instinct of self-preservation; it is vital to their life or death. But with men this feeling is absolutely absurd when it does not subserve some further end.

To entertain feelings of jealousy towards the woman you love, is to start from a position founded on vicious reasoning. We are loved, or we are not loved; if a man entertains jealousy under either of these circumstances, it is a feeling absolutely unprofitable to him; jealousy may be explained as fear, fear in love. But to doubt one's wife is to doubt one's self.

To be jealous is to exhibit, at once, the height of egotism, the error of amour-propre, the vexation of morbid vanity. Women rather encourage this ridiculous feeling, because by means of it they can obtain cashmere shawls, silver toilet sets, diamonds, which for them mark the high thermometer mark of their power. Moreover, unless you appear blinded by jealousy, your wife will not keep on her guard; for there is no pitfall which she does not distrust, excepting that which she makes for herself.

Thus the wife becomes the easy dupe of a husband who is clever enough to give to the inevitable revolution, which comes sooner or later, the advantageous results we have indicated.

You must import into your establishment that remarkable phenomenon whose existence is demonstrated in the asymptotes of geometry. Your wife will always try to minotaurize you without being successful. Like those knots which are never so tight as when one tries to loosen them, she will struggle to the advantage of your power over her, while she believes that she is struggling for her independence.

The highest degree of good play on the part of a prince lies in persuading his people that he goes to war for them, while all the time he is causing them to be killed for his throne.

But many husbands will find a preliminary difficulty in executing this plan of campaign. If your wife is a woman of profound dissimulation, the question is, what signs will indicate to her the motives of your long mystification?

It will be seen that our Meditation on the Custom House, as well as that on the Bed, has already revealed certain means of discerning the thought of a woman; but we make no pretence in this book of exhaustively stating the resources of human wit, which are immeasurable. Now here is a proof of this. On the day of the Saturnalia the Romans discovered more features in the character of their slaves, in ten minutes, than they would have found out during the rest of the year! You ought therefore to ordain Saturnalia in your establishment, and to imitate Gessler, who, when he saw William Tell shoot the apple off his son's head, was forced to remark, "Here is a man whom I must get rid of, for he could not miss his aim if he wished to kill me."

You understand, then, that if your wife wishes to drink Roussillon wine, to eat mutton chops, to go out at all hours and to read the encyclopaedia, you are bound to take her very seriously. In the first place, she will begin to distrust you against her own wish, on seeing that your behaviour towards her is quite contrary to your previous proceedings. She will suppose that you have some ulterior motive in this change of policy, and therefore all the liberty that you give her will make her so anxious that she cannot enjoy it. As regards the misfortunes that this change may bring, the future will provide for them. In a revolution the primary principle is to exercise a control over the evil which cannot be prevented and to attract the lightning by rods which shall lead it to the earth.

And now the last act of the comedy is in preparation.

The lover who, from the day when the feeblest of all first symptoms shows itself in your wife until the moment when the marital revolution takes place, has jumped upon the stage, either as a material creature or as a being of the imagination—the LOVER, summoned by a sign from her, now declares: "Here I am!"



We offer the following maxims for your consideration:

We should despair of the human race if these maxims had been made before 1830; but they set forth in so clear a manner the agreements and difficulties which distinguish you, your wife and a lover; they so brilliantly describe what your policy should be, and demonstrate to you so accurately the strength of the enemy, that the teacher has put his amour-propre aside, and if by chance you find here a single new thought, send it to the devil, who suggested this work.

LXV. To speak of love is to make love.

LXVI. In a lover the coarsest desire always shows itself as a burst of honest admiration.

LXVII. A lover has all the good points and all the bad points which are lacking in a husband.

LXVIII. A lover not only gives life to everything, he makes one forget life; the husband does not give life to anything.

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