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PAGE 2

Conjugal Precepts
by [?]

Sec. VIII. Men who through weakness or effeminacy cannot vault upon their horses’ backs, teach them to kneel and so receive their riders. Similarly, some men that marry noble or rich wives, instead of making themselves better humble their wives, thinking to rule them easier by lowering them. But one ought to govern with an eye to the merit of a woman, as much as to the size of a horse.

Sec. IX. We see that the moon when it is far from the sun is bright and glorious, but pales and hides its light when it is near. A modest wife on the contrary ought to be seen chiefly with her husband, and to stay at home and in retirement in his absence.

Sec. X. It is not a true observation of Herodotus, that a woman puts off her modesty with her shift.[158] On the contrary, the modest woman puts on her modesty instead, and great modesty is a sign of great conjugal love.

Sec. XI. As where two voices are in unison the loudest prevails; so in a well-managed household everything is done by mutual consent, but the husband’s supremacy is exhibited, and his wishes are consulted.

Sec. XII. The Sun beat the North Wind.[159] For when it blew a strong and terrible blast, and tried to make the man remove his cloak, he only drew it round him more closely, but when the Sun came out with its warm rays, at first warmed and afterwards scorched, he stripped himself of coat as well as cloak. Most woman act similarly: if their husbands try to curtail by force their luxury and extravagance, they are vexed and fight for their rights, but if they are convinced by reason, they quietly drop their expensive habits, and keep within bounds.

Sec. XIII. Cato turned out of the Senate a man who kissed his own wife in the presence of his daughter. This was perhaps too strong a step, but if it is unseemly, as indeed it is, for husband and wife in the presence of others to fondle and kiss and embrace one another, is it not far more unseemly in the presence of others to quarrel and jangle? Just as conjugal caresses and endearments ought to be private, so ought admonition and scolding and plain speaking.

Sec. XIV. Just as there is little use in a mirror adorned with gold or precious stones, unless it conveys a true likeness, so there is no advantage in a rich wife, unless she conforms her life and habits to her husband’s position. For if when a man is joyful the mirror makes him look sad, and when he is put out and sad it makes him look gay and smiling from ear to ear, the mirror is plainly faulty. So the wife is faulty and devoid of tact, who frowns when her husband is in the vein for mirth and jollity, and who jokes and laughs when he is serious: the former conduct is disagreeable, the latter contemptuous.[160] And, just as geometricians say lines and surfaces do not move of themselves, but only in connection with bodies, so the wife ought to have no private emotions of her own, but share in her husband’s gravity or mirth, anxiety or gaiety.

Sec. XV. As those husbands who do not like to see their wives eating and drinking in their company only teach them to take their food on the sly, so those husbands who are not gay and jolly with their wives, and never joke or smile with them, only teach them to seek their pleasures out of their company.

Sec. XVI. The kings of Persia have their wedded wives at their side at banquets and entertainments; but when they have a mind for a drunken debauch they send them away,[161] and call for singing-girls and concubines, rightly so doing, for so they do not mix up their wives with licentiousness and drunkenness. Similarly, if a private individual, lustful and dissolute, goes astray with a courtesan or maid-servant, the wife should not be vexed or impatient, but consider that it is out of respect to her that he bestows upon another all his wanton depravity.