THE PHYSIOLOGY OF MARRIAGE BY HONORE DE BALZAC DEDICATION Notice the words: The man of distinction to whom this book is dedicated. Need I say: “You are that man.”—The author. The woman who may be induced by the title of this book to open it, can save herself the trouble; she has already read the work without knowing it. A man, however malicious he may possibly be, can never say about a woman as much good or as much evil as they themselves think. If, in spite of this notice, a woman will persist in reading the volume, she ought to be prevented by delicacy from despising the author, from the very moment that he, forfeiting the praise which most artists welcome, has in a certain way engraved on the title page of his book the prudent inscription written on the portal of certain establishments: Ladies must not enter. The physiology of marriage; or, the MUSINGS of an eclectic philosopher on the happiness and unhappiness of married life INTRODUCTION “Marriage is not an institution of nature. The family in the east is entirely different from the family in the west. Man is the servant of nature, and the institutions of society are grafts, not spontaneous growths of nature. Laws are made to suit manners, and manners vary. “Marriage must therefore undergo the gradual development towards perfection to which all human affairs submit.” These words, pronounced in the presence of the Conseil d’Etat by Napoleon during the discussion of the civil code, produced a profound impression upon the author of this book; and perhaps unconsciously he received the suggestion of this work, which he now presents to the public. And indeed at the period during which, while still in his youth, he studied French law, the word adultery made a singular impression upon him. Taking, as it did, a prominent place in the code, this word never occurred to his mind without conjuring up its mournful train of consequences. Tears, shame, hatred, terror, secret crime, bloody wars, families without a head, and social misery rose like a sudden line of phantoms before him when he read the solemn word adultery! Later on, when he became acquainted with the most cultivated circles of society, the author perceived that the rigor of marriage laws was very generally modified by adultery. He found that the number of unhappy homes was larger than that of happy marriages.

In fact, he was the first to notice that of all human sciences that which relates to marriage was the least progressive. But this was the observation of a young man; and with him, as with so many others, this thought, like a pebble flung into the bosom of a lake, was lost in the abyss of his tumultuous thoughts. Nevertheless, in spite of himself the author was compelled to investigate, and eventually there was gathered within his mind, little by little, a swarm of conclusions, more or less just, on the subject of married life. Works like the present one are formed in the mind of the author with as much mystery as that with which truffles grow on the scented plains of Perigord. Out of the primitive and holy horror which adultery caused him and the investigation which he had thoughtlessly made, there was born one morning a trifling thought in which his ideas were formulated. This thought was really a satire upon marriage. It was as follows: A husband and wife found themselves in love with each other for the first time after twenty-seven years of marriage. He amused himself with this little axiom and passed a whole week in delight, grouping around this harmless epigram the crowd of ideas which came to him unconsciously and which he was astonished to find that he possessed. His humorous mood yielded at last to the claims of serious investigation. Willing as he was to take a hint, the author returned to his habitual idleness. Nevertheless, this slight germ of science and of joke grew to perfection, unfostered, in the fields of thought. Each phase of the work which had been condemned by others took root and gathered strength, surviving like the slight branch of a tree which, flung upon the sand by a winter’s storm, finds itself covered at morning with white and fantastic icicles, produced by the caprices of nightly frosts. So the sketch lived on and became the starting point of myriad branching moralizations. It was like a polypus which multiplies itself by generation. The feelings of youth, the observations which a favorable opportunity led him to make, were verified in the most trifling events of his after life. Soon this mass of ideas became harmonized, took life, seemed, as it were, to become a living individual and moved in the midst of those domains of fancy, where the soul loves to give full rein to its wild creations. Amid all the distractions of the world and of life, the author always heard a voice ringing in his ears and mockingly revealing the secrets of things at the very moment he was watching a woman as she danced, smiled, or talked. Just as Mephistopheles pointed out to Faust in that terrific assemblage at the Brocken, faces full of frightful augury, so the author was conscious in the midst of the ball of a demon who would strike him on the shoulder with a familiar air and say to him: “Do you notice that enchanting smile? It is a grin of hatred.” And then the demon would strut about like one of the captains in the old comedies of Hardy. He would twitch the folds of a lace mantle and endeavor to make new the fretted tinsel and spangles of its former glory. And then like Rabelais he would burst into loud and unrestrainable laughter, and would trace on the street-wall a word which might serve as a pendant to the “Drink!” which was the only oracle obtainable from the heavenly bottle. This literary Trilby would often appear seated on piles of books, and with hooked fingers would point out with a grin of malice two yellow volumes whose title dazzled the eyes. Then when he saw he had attracted the author’s attention he spelt out, in a voice alluring as the tones of an

harmonica, Physiology of Marriage! But, almost always he appeared at night during my dreams, gentle as some fairy guardian; he tried by words of sweetness to subdue the soul which he would appropriate to himself. While he attracted, he also scoffed at me; supple as a woman’s mind, cruel as a tiger, his friendliness was more formidable than his hatred, for he never yielded a caress without also inflicting a wound. One night in particular he exhausted the resources of his sorceries, and crowned all by a last effort. He came, he sat on the edge of the bed like a young maiden full of love, who at first keeps silence but whose eyes sparkle, until at last her secret escapes her. “This,” said he, “is a prospectus of a new life-buoy, by means of which one can pass over the Seine dry-footed. This other pamphlet is the report of the Institute on a garment by wearing which we can pass through flames without being burnt. Have you no scheme which can preserve marriage from the miseries of excessive cold and excessive heat? Listen to me! Here we have a book on the Art of preserving foods; on the Art of curing smoky chimneys; on the Art of making good mortar; on the Art of tying a cravat; on the Art of carving meat.” In a moment he had named such a prodigious number of books that the author felt his head go round. “These myriads of books,” says he, “have been devoured by readers; and while everybody does not build a house, and some grow hungry, and others have no cravat, or no fire to warm themselves at, yet everybody to some degree is married. But come look yonder.” He waved his hand, and appeared to bring before me a distant ocean where all the books of the world were tossing up and down like agitated waves. The octodecimos bounded over the surface of the water. The octavos as they were flung on their way uttered a solemn sound, sank to the bottom, and only rose up again with great difficulty, hindered as they were by duodecimos and works of smaller bulk which floated on the top and melted into light foam. The furious billows were crowded with journalists, proof-readers, paper-makers, apprentices, printers’ agents, whose hands alone were seen mingled in the confusion among the books. Millions of voices rang in the air, like those of schoolboys bathing. Certain men were seen moving hither and thither in canoes, engaged in fishing out the books, and landing them on the shore in the presence of a tall man, of a disdainful air, dressed in black, and of a cold, unsympathetic expression. The whole scene represented the libraries and the public. The demon pointed out with his finger a skiff freshly decked out with all sails set and instead of a flag bearing a placard. Then with a peal of sardonic laughter, he read with a thundering voice: Physiology of Marriage. The author fell in love, the devil left him in peace, for he would have undertaken more than he could handle if he had entered an apartment occupied by a woman. Several years passed without bringing other torments than those of love, and the author was inclined to believe that he had been healed of one infirmity by means of

another which took its place. But one evening he found himself in a Parisian drawing-room where one of the men among the circle who stood round the fireplace began the conversation by relating in a sepulchral voice the following anecdote: A peculiar thing took place at Ghent while I was staying there. A lady ten years a widow lay on her bed attacked by mortal sickness. The three heirs of collateral lineage were waiting for her last sigh. They did not leave her side for fear that she would make a will in favor of the convent of Beguins belonging to the town. The sick woman kept silent, she seemed dozing and death appeared to overspread very gradually her mute and livid face. Can’t you imagine those three relations seated in silence through that winter midnight beside her bed? An old nurse is with them and she shakes her head, and the doctor sees with anxiety that the sickness has reached its last stage, and holds his hat in one hand and with the other makes a sign to the relations, as if to say to them: “I have no more visits to make here.” Amid the solemn silence of the room is heard the dull rustling of a snow-storm which beats upon the shutters. For fear that the eyes of the dying woman might be dazzled by the light, the youngest of the heirs had fitted a shade to the candle which stood near that bed so that the circle of light scarcely reached the pillow of the deathbed, from which the sallow countenance of the sick woman stood out like a figure of Christ imperfectly gilded and fixed upon a cross of tarnished silver. The flickering rays shed by the blue flames of a crackling fire were therefore the sole light of this sombre chamber, where the denouement of a drama was just ending. A log suddenly rolled from the fire onto the floor, as if presaging some catastrophe. At the sound of it the sick woman quickly rose to a sitting posture. She opened two eyes, clear as those of a cat, and all present eyed her in astonishment. She saw the log advance, and before any one could check an unexpected movement which seemed prompted by a kind of delirium, she bounded from her bed, seized the tongs and threw the coal back into the fireplace. The nurse, the doctor, the relations rushed to her assistance; they took the dying woman in their arms. They put her back in bed; she laid her head upon her pillow and after a few minutes died, keeping her eyes fixed even after her death upon that plank in the floor which the burning brand had touched. Scarcely had the Countess Van Ostroem expired when the three co-heirs exchanged looks of suspicion, and thinking no more about their aunt, began to examine the mysterious floor. As they were Belgians their calculations were as rapid as their glances. An agreement was made by three words uttered in a low voice that none of them should leave the chamber. A servant was sent to fetch a carpenter. Their collateral hearts beat excitedly as they gathered round the treasured flooring, and watched their young apprentice giving the first blow with his chisel. The plank was cut through. “My aunt made a sign,” said the youngest of the heirs. “No; it was merely the quivering light that made it appear so,” replied the eldest, who kept one eye on the treasure and the other on the corpse.

The afflicted relations discovered exactly on the spot where the brand had fallen a certain object artistically enveloped in a mass of plaster. “Proceed,” said the eldest of the heirs. The chisel of the apprentice then brought to light a human head and some odds and ends of clothing, from which they recognized the count whom all the town believed to have died at Java, and whose loss had been bitterly deplored by his wife. The narrator of this old story was a tall spare man, with light eyes and brown hair, and the author thought he saw in him a vague resemblance to the demon who had before this tormented him; but the stranger did not show the cloven foot. Suddenly the word adultery sounded in the ears of the author; and this word woke up in his imagination the most mournful countenances of that procession which before this had streamed by on the utterance of the magic syllables. From that evening he was haunted and persecuted by dreams of a work which did not yet exist; and at no period of his life was the author assailed with such delusive notions about the fatal subject of this book. But he bravely resisted the fiend, although the latter referred the most unimportant incidents of life to this unknown work, and like a customhouse officer set his stamp of mockery upon every occurrence. Some days afterwards the author found himself in the company of two ladies. The first of them had been one of the most refined and the most intellectual women of Napoleon’s court. In his day she occupied a lofty position, but the sudden appearance of the Restoration caused her downfall; she became a recluse. The second, who was young and beautiful, was at that time living at Paris the life of a fashionable woman. They were friends, because, the one being forty and the other twenty-two years old, they were seldom rivals on the same field. The author was considered quite insignificant by the first of the two ladies, and since the other soon discovered this, they carried on in his presence the conversation which they had begun in a frank discussion of a woman’s lot. “Have you noticed, dear, that women in general bestow their love only upon a fool?” “What do you mean by that, duchess? And how can you make your remark fit in with the fact that they have an aversion for their husbands?” “These women are absolute tyrants!” said the author to himself. “Has the devil again turned up in a mob cap?” “No, dear, I am not joking,” replied the duchess, “and I shudder with fear for myself when I coolly consider people whom I have known in other times. Wit always has a sparkle which wounds us, and the man who has much of it makes us fear him perhaps, and if he is a proud man he will be capable of jealousy, and is not therefore to our taste. In fact, we prefer to raise a man to our own height rather than to have to

climb up to his. Talent has great successes for us to share in, but the fool affords enjoyment to us; and we would sooner hear said ’that is a very handsome man’ than to see our lover elected to the Institute.” “That’s enough, duchess! You have absolutely startled me.” And the young coquette began to describe the lovers about whom all the women of her acquaintance raved; there was not a single man of intellect among them. “But I swear by my virtue,” she said, “their husbands are worth more.” “But these are the sort of people they choose for husbands,” the duchess answered gravely. “Tell me,” asked the author, “is the disaster which threatens the husband in France quite inevitable?” “It is,” replied the duchess, with a smile; “and the rage which certain women breathe out against those of their sex, whose unfortunate happiness it is to entertain a passion, proves what a burden to them is their chastity. If it were not for fear of the devil, one would be Lais; another owes her virtue to the dryness of her selfish heart; a third to the silly behaviour of her first lover; another still—” The author checked this outpour of revelation by confiding to the two ladies his design for the work with which he had been haunted; they smiled and promised him their assistance. The youngest, with an air of gaiety suggested one of the first chapters of the undertaking, by saying that she would take upon herself to prove mathematically that women who are entirely virtuous were creatures of reason. When the author got home he said at once to his demon: “Come! I am ready; let us sign the compact.” But the demon never returned. If the author has written here the biography of his book he has not acted on the prompting of fatuity. He relates facts which may furnish material for the history of human thought, and will without doubt explain the work itself. It may perhaps be important to certain anatomists of thought to be told that the soul is feminine. Thus although the author made a resolution not to think about the book which he was forced to write, the book, nevertheless, was completed. One page of it was found on the bed of a sick man, another on the sofa of a boudoir. The glances of women when they turned in the mazes of a waltz flung to him some thoughts; a gesture or a word filled his disdainful brain with others. On the day when he said to himself, “This work, which haunts me, shall be achieved,” everything vanished; and like the three

Belgians, he drew forth a skeleton from the place over which he had bent to seize a treasure. A mild, pale countenance took the place of the demon who had tempted me; it wore an engaging expression of kindliness; there were no sharp pointed arrows of criticism in its lineaments. It seemed to deal more with words than with ideas, and shrank from noise and clamor. It was perhaps the household genius of the honorable deputies who sit in the centre of the Chamber. “Wouldn’t it be better,” it said, “to let things be as they are? Are things so bad? We ought to believe in marriage as we believe in the immortality of the soul; and you are certainly not making a book to advertise the happiness of marriage. You will surely conclude that among a million of Parisian homes happiness is the exception. You will find perhaps that there are many husbands disposed to abandon their wives to you; but there is not a single son who will abandon his mother. Certain people who are hit by the views which you put forth will suspect your morals and will misrepresent your intentions. In a word, in order to handle social sores, one ought to be a king, or a first consul at least.” Reason, although it appeared under a form most pleasing to the author, was not listened to; for in the distance Folly tossed the coxcomb of Panurge, and the author wished to seize it; but, when he tried to catch it, he found that it was as heavy as the club of Hercules. Moreover, the cure of Meudon adorned it in such fashion that a young man who was less pleased with producing a good work than with wearing fine gloves could not even touch it. “Is our work completed?” asked the younger of the two feminine assistants of the author. “Alas! madame,” I said, “will you ever requite me for all the hatreds which that work will array against me?” She waved her hand, and then the author replied to her doubt by a look of indifference. “What do you mean? Would you hesitate? You must publish it without fear. In the present day we accept a book more because it is in fashion than because it has anything in it.” Although the author does not here represent himself as anything more than the secretary of two ladies, he has in compiling their observations accomplished a double task. With regard to marriage he has here arranged matters which represent what everybody thinks but no one dares to say; but has he not also exposed himself to public displeasure by expressing the mind of the public? Perhaps, however, the eclecticism of the present essay will save it from condemnation. All the while that he

indulges in banter the author has attempted to popularize certain ideas which are particularly consoling. He has almost always endeavored to lay bare the hidden springs which move the human soul. While undertaking to defend the most material interests of man, judging them or condemning them, he will perhaps bring to light many sources of intellectual delight. But the author does not foolishly claim always to put forth his pleasantries in the best of taste; he has merely counted upon the diversity of intellectual pursuits in expectation of receiving as much blame as approbation. The subject of his work was so serious that he is constantly launched into anecdote; because at the present day anecdotes are the vehicle of all moral teaching, and the anti-narcotic of every work of literature. In literature, analysis and investigation prevail, and the wearying of the reader increases in proportion with the egotism of the writer. This is one of the greatest misfortunes that can befall a book, and the present author has been quite aware of it. He has therefore so arranged the topics of this long essay as to afford resting places for the reader. This method has been successfully adopted by a writer, who produced on the subject of Taste a work somewhat parallel to that which is here put forth on the subject of Marriage. From the former the present writer may be permitted to borrow a few words in order to express a thought which he shares with the author of them. This quotation will serve as an expression of homage to his predecessor, whose success has been so swiftly followed by his death: “When I write and speak of myself in the singular, this implies a confidential talk with the reader; he can examine the statement, discuss it, doubt and even ridicule it; but when I arm myself with the formidable we, I become the professor and demand submission.”—Brillat-Savarin, Preface to the Physiology of Taste. December 5, 1829. FIRST PART. A general consideration. We will declaim against stupid laws until they are changed, and in the meantime blindly submit to them.—Diderot, Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville. MEDITATION I. THE SUBJECT. Physiology, what must I consider your meaning? Is not your object to prove that marriage unites for life two beings who do not know each other? That life consists in passion, and that no passion survives marriage?

That marriage is an institution necessary for the preservation of society, but that it is contrary to the laws of nature? That divorce, this admirable release from the misfortunes of marriage, should with one voice be reinstated? That, in spite of all its inconveniences, marriage is the foundation on which property is based? That it furnishes invaluable pledges for the security of government? That there is something touching in the association of two human beings for the purpose of supporting the pains of life? That there is something ridiculous in the wish that one and the same thoughts should control two wills? That the wife is treated as a slave? That there has never been a marriage entirely happy? That marriage is filled with crimes and that the known murders are not the worst? That fidelity is impossible, at least to the man? That an investigation if it could be undertaken would prove that in the transmission of patrimonial property there was more risk than security? That adultery does more harm than marriage does good? That infidelity in a woman may be traced back to the earliest ages of society, and that marriage still survives this perpetuation of treachery? That the laws of love so strongly link together two human beings that no human law can put them asunder? That while there are marriages recorded on the public registers, there are others over which nature herself has presided, and they have been dictated either by the mutual memory of thought, or by an utter difference of mental disposition, or by corporeal affinity in the parties named; that it is thus that heaven and earth are constantly at variance? That there are many husbands fine in figure and of superior intellect whose wives have lovers exceedingly ugly, insignificant in appearance or stupid in mind?

All these questions furnish material for books; but the books have been written and the questions are constantly reappearing. Physiology, what must I take you to mean? Do you reveal new principles? Would you pretend that it is the right thing that woman should be made common? Lycurgus and certain Greek peoples as well as Tartars and savages have tried this. Can it possibly be right to confine women? nowadays they give them their liberty. The Ottomans once did so, and

Would it be right to marry young women without providing a dowry and yet exclude them from the right of succeeding to property? Some English authors and some moralists have proved that this with the admission of divorce is the surest method of rendering marriage happy. Should there be a little Hagar in each marriage establishment? There is no need to pass a law for that. The provision of the code which makes an unfaithful wife liable to a penalty in whatever place the crime be committed, and that other article which does not punish the erring husband unless his concubine dwells beneath the conjugal roof, implicitly admits the existence of mistresses in the city. Sanchez has written a dissertation on the penal cases incident to marriage; he has even argued on the illegitimacy and the opportuneness of each form of indulgence; he has outlined all the duties, moral, religious and corporeal, of the married couple; in short his work would form twelve volumes in octavo if the huge folio entitled De Matrimonio were thus represented. Clouds of lawyers have flung clouds of treatises over the legal difficulties which are born of marriage. There exist several works on the judicial investigation of impotency. Legions of doctors have marshaled their legions of books on the subject of marriage in its relation to medicine and surgery. In the nineteenth century the Physiology of Marriage is either an insignificant compilation or the work of a fool written for other fools; old priests have taken their balances of gold and have weighed the most trifling scruples of the marriage consciences; old lawyers have put on their spectacles and have distinguished between every kind of married transgression; old doctors have seized the scalpel and drawn it over all the wounds of the subject; old judges have mounted to the bench and have decided all the cases of marriage dissolution; whole generations have passed unuttered cries of joy or of grief on the subject, each age has cast its vote into the urn;

the Holy Spirit, poets and writers have recounted everything from the days of Eve to the Trojan war, from Helen to Madame de Maintenon, from the mistress of Louis XIV to the woman of their own day. Physiology, what must I consider your meaning? Shall I say that you intend to publish pictures more or less skillfully drawn, for the purpose of convincing us that a man marries: From ambition—that is well known; From kindness, in order to deliver a girl from the tyranny of her mother; From rage, in order to disinherit his relations; From scorn of a faithless mistress; From weariness of a pleasant bachelor life; From folly, for each man always commits one; In consequence of a wager, which was the case with Lord Byron; From interest, which is almost always the case; From youthfulness on leaving college, like a blockhead; From ugliness,—fear of some day failing to secure a wife; Through Machiavelism, in order to be the heir of some old woman at an early date; From necessity, in order to secure the standing to our son; From obligation, the damsel having shown herself weak; From passion, in order to become more surely cured of it; On account of a quarrel, in order to put an end to a lawsuit; From gratitude, by which he gives more than he has received; From goodness, which is the fate of doctrinaires; From the condition of a will when a dead uncle attaches his legacy to some girl, marriage with whom is the condition of succession;

From custom, in imitation of his ancestors; From old age, in order to make an end of life; From yatidi, that is the hour of going to bed and signifies amongst the Turks all bodily needs; From religious zeal, like the Duke of Saint-Aignan, who did not wish to commit sin?[*] [*] The foregoing queries came in (untranslatable) alphabetic order in the original.—Editor But these incidents of marriage have furnished matter for thirty thousand comedies and a hundred thousand romances. Physiology, for the third and last time I ask you—What is your meaning? So far everything is commonplace as the pavement of the street, familiar as a crossway. Marriage is better known than the Barabbas of the Passion. All the ancient ideas which it calls to light permeate literature since the world is the world, and there is not a single opinion which might serve to the advantage of the world, nor a ridiculous project which could not find an author to write it up, a printer to print it, a bookseller to sell it and a reader to read it. Allow me to say to you like Rabelais, who is in every sense our master: “Gentlemen, God save and guard you! Where are you? I cannot see you; wait until I put on my spectacles. Ah! I see you now; you, your wives, your children. Are you in good health? I am glad to hear it.” But it is not for you that I am writing. Since you have grown-up children that ends the matter. Ah! it is you, illustrious tipplers, pampered and gouty, and you, tireless pie-cutters, favorites who come dear; day-long pantagruellists who keep your private birds, gay and gallant, and who go to tierce, to sexts, to nones, and also to vespers and compline and never tire of going. It is not for you that the Physiology of Marriage is addressed, for you are not married and may you never be married. You herd of bigots, snails, hypocrites, dotards, lechers, booted for pilgrimage to Rome, disguised and marked, as it were, to deceive the world. Go back, you scoundrels, out of my sight! Gallows birds are ye all—now in the devil’s name will you not begone? There are none left now but the good souls

who love to laugh; not the snivelers who burst into tears in prose or verse, whatever their subject be, who make people sick with their odes, their sonnets, their meditation; none of these dreamers, but certain old-fashioned pantagruellists who don’t think twice about it when they are invited to join a banquet or provoked to make a repartee, who can take pleasure in a book like Pease and the Lard with commentary of Rabelais, or in the one entitled The Dignity of Breeches, and who esteem highly the fair books of high degree, a quarry hard to run down and redoubtable to wrestle with. It no longer does to laugh at a government, my friend, since it has invented means to raise fifteen hundred millions by taxation. High ecclesiastics, monks and nuns are no longer so rich that we can drink with them; but let St. Michael come, he who chased the devil from heaven, and we shall perhaps see the good time come back again! There is only one thing in France at the present moment which remains a laughing matter, and that is marriage. Disciples of Panurge, ye are the only readers I desire. You know how seasonably to take up and lay down a book, how to get the most pleasure out of it, to understand the hint in a half word—how to suck nourishment from a marrow-bone. The men of the microscope who see nothing but a speck, the census-mongers—have they reviewed the whole matter? Have they pronounced without appeal that it is as impossible to write a book on marriage as to make new again a broken pot? Yes, master fool. If you begin to squeeze the marriage question you squirt out nothing but fun for the bachelors and weariness for the married men. It is everlasting morality. A million printed pages would have no other matter in them. In spite of this, here is my first proposition: marriage is a fight to the death, before which the wedded couple ask a blessing from heaven, because it is the rashest of all undertakings to swear eternal love; the fight at once commences and victory, that is to say liberty, remains in the hands of the cleverer of the two. Undoubtedly. But do you see in this a fresh idea? Well, I address myself to the married men of yesterday and of to-day; to those who on leaving the Church or the registration office indulge the hope of keeping their wives for themselves alone; to those whom some form or other of egotism or some indefinable sentiment induces to say when they see the marital troubles of another, “This will never happen to me.” I address myself to those sailors who after witnessing the foundering of other ships still put to sea; to those bachelors who after witnessing the shipwreck of virtue in a marriage of another venture upon wedlock. And this is my subject, eternally now, yet eternally old!

A young man, or it may be an old one, in love or not in love, has obtained possession by a contract duly recorded at the registration office in heaven and on the rolls of the nation, of a young girl with long hair, with black liquid eyes, with small feet, with dainty tapering fingers, with red lips, with teeth of ivory, finely formed, trembling with life, tempting and plump, white as a lily, loaded with the most charming wealth of beauty. Her drooping eyelashes seem like the points of the iron crown; her skin, which is as fresh as the calyx of a white camelia, is streaked with the purple of the red camelia; over her virginal complexion one seems to see the bloom of young fruit and the delicate down of a young peach; the azure veins spread a kindling warmth over this transparent surface; she asks for life and she gives it; she is all joy and love, all tenderness and candor; she loves her husband, or at least believes she loves him. The husband who is in love says in the bottom of his heart: “Those eyes will see no one but me, that mouth will tremble with love for me alone, that gentle hand will lavish the caressing treasures of delight on me alone, that bosom will heave at no voice but mine, that slumbering soul will awake at my will alone; I only will entangle my fingers in those shining tresses; I alone will indulge myself in dreamily caressing that sensitive head. I will make death the guardian of my pillow if only I may ward off from the nuptial couch the stranger who would violate it; that throne of love shall swim in the blood of the rash or of my own. Tranquillity, honor, happiness, the ties of home, the fortune of my children, all are at stake there; I would defend them as a lioness defends her cubs. Woe unto him who shall set foot in my lair!” Well now, courageous athlete, we applaud your intention. Up to the present moment no geographer has ventured to trace the lines of longitude and latitude in the ocean of marriage. Old husbands have been ashamed to point out the sand banks, the reefs, the shallows, the breakers, the monsoons, the coasts and currents which have wrecked their ships, for their shipwrecks brought them shame. There was no pilot, no compass for those pilgrims of marriage. This work is intended to supply the desideratum. Without mentioning grocers and drapers, there are so many people occupied in discovering the secret motives of women, that it is really a work of charity to classify for them, by chapter and verse, all the secret situations of marriage; a good table of contents will enable them to put their finger on each movement of their wives’ heart, as a table of logarithms tells them the product of a given multiplication. And now what do you think about that? Is not this a novel undertaking, and one which no philosopher has as yet approached, I mean this attempt to show how a woman may be prevented from deceiving her husband? Is not this the comedy of comedies? Is it not a second speculum vitae humanae. We are not now dealing with the abstract questions which we have done justice to already in this Meditation. At the present day in ethics as in exact science, the world asks for facts for the results of observation. These we shall furnish.

Let us begin then by examining the true condition of things, by analyzing the forces which exist on either side. Before arming our imaginary champion let us reckon up the number of his enemies. Let us count the Cossacks who intend to invade his little domain. All who wish may embark with us on this voyage, all who can may laugh. Weigh anchor; hoist sail! You know exactly the point from which you start. You have this advantage over a great many books that are written. As for our fancy of laughing while we weep, and of weeping while we laugh, as the divine Rabelais drank while he ate and ate while he drank; as for our humor, to put Heraclitus and Democritus on the same page and to discard style or premeditated phrase—if any of the crew mutiny, overboard with the doting cranks, the infamous classicists, the dead and buried romanticists, and steer for the blue water! Everybody perhaps will jeeringly remark that we are like those who say with smiling faces, “I am going to tell you a story that will make you laugh!” But it is the proper thing to joke when speaking of marriage! In short, can you not understand that we consider marriage as a trifling ailment to which all of us are subject and upon which this volume is a monograph? “But you, your bark or your work starts off like those postilions who crack their whips because their passengers are English. You will not have galloped at full speed for half a league before you dismount to mend a trace or to breathe your horses. What is the good of blowing the trumpet before victory?” Ah! my dear pantagruellists, nowadays to claim success is to obtain it, and since, after all, great works are only due to the expansion of little ideas, I do not see why I should not pluck the laurels, if only for the purpose of crowning those dirty bacon faces who join us in swallowing a dram. One moment, pilot, let us not start without making one little definition. Reader, if from time to time you meet in this work the terms virtue or virtuous, let us understand that virtue means a certain labored facility by which a wife keeps her heart for her husband; at any rate, that the word is not used in a general sense, and I leave this distinction to the natural sagacity of all. MEDITATION II. MARRIAGE STATISTICS. The administration has been occupied for nearly twenty years in reckoning how many acres of woodland, meadow, vineyard and fallow are comprised in the area of France. It has not stopped there, but has also tried to learn the number and species of the animals to be found there. Scientific men have gone still further; they have reckoned

up the cords of wood, the pounds of beef, the apples and eggs consumed in Paris. But no one has yet undertaken either in the name of marital honor or in the interest of marriageable people, or for the advantage of morality and the progress of human institutions, to investigate the number of honest wives. What! the French government, if inquiry is made of it, is able to say how many men it has under arms, how many spies, how many employees, how many scholars; but, when it is asked how many virtuous women, it can answer nothing! If the King of France took into his head to choose his august partner from among his subjects, the administration could not even tell him the number of white lambs from whom he could make his choice. It would be obliged to resort to some competition which awards the rose of good conduct, and that would be a laughable event. Were the ancients then our masters in political institutions as in morality? History teaches us that Ahasuerus, when he wished to take a wife from among the damsels of Persia, chose Esther, the most virtuous and the most beautiful. His ministers therefore must necessarily have discovered some method of obtaining the cream of the population. Unfortunately the Bible, which is so clear on all matrimonial questions, has omitted to give us a rule for matrimonial choice. Let us try to supply this gap in the work of the administration by calculating the sum of the female sex in France. Here we call the attention of all friends to public morality, and we appoint them judges of our method of procedure. We shall attempt to be particularly liberal in our estimations, particularly exact in our reasoning, in order that every one may accept the result of this analysis. The inhabitants of France are generally reckoned at thirty millions. Certain naturalists think that the number of women exceeds that of men; but as many statisticians are of the opposite opinion, we will make the most probable calculation by allowing fifteen millions for the women. We will begin by cutting down this sum by nine millions, which stands for those who seem to have some resemblance to women, but whom we are compelled to reject upon serious considerations. Let us explain: Naturalists consider man to be no more than a unique species of the order bimana, established by Dumeril in his Analytic Zoology, page 16; and Bory de Saint Vincent thinks that the ourang-outang ought to be included in the same order if we would make the species complete. If these zoologists see in us nothing more than a mammal with thirty-two vertebrae possessing the hyoid bone and more folds in the hemispheres of the brain than any other animal; if in their opinion no other differences exist in this order than those

produced by the influence of climate, on which are founded the nomenclature of fifteen species whose scientific names it is needless to cite, the physiologists ought also to have the right of making species and sub-species in accordance with definite degrees of intelligence and definite conditions of existence, oral and pecuniary. Now the nine millions of human creatures which we here refer to present at first sight all the attributes of the human race; they have the hyoid bone, the coracoid process, the acromion, the zygomatic arch. It is therefore permitted for the gentlemen of the Jardin des Plantes to classify them with the bimana; but our Physiology will never admit that women are to be found among them. In our view, and in the view of those for whom this book is intended, a woman is a rare variety of the human race, and her principal characteristics are due to the special care men have bestowed upon its cultivation,—thanks to the power of money and the moral fervor of civilization! She is generally recognized by the whiteness, the fineness and softness of her skin. Her taste inclines to the most spotless cleanliness. Her fingers shrink from encountering anything but objects which are soft, yielding and scented. Like the ermine she sometimes dies for grief on seeing her white tunic soiled. She loves to twine her tresses and to make them exhale the most attractive scents; to brush her rosy nails, to trim them to an almond shape, and frequently to bathe her delicate limbs. She is not satisfied to spend the night excepting on the softest down, and excepting on haircushioned lounges, she loves best to take a horizontal position. Her voice is of penetrating sweetness; her movements are full of grace. She speaks with marvelous fluency. She does not apply herself to any hard work; and, nevertheless, in spite of her apparent weakness, there are burdens which she can bear and move with miraculous ease. She avoids the open sunlight and wards it off by ingenious appliances. For her to walk is exhausting. Does she eat? This is a mystery. Has she the needs of other species? It is a problem. Although she is curious to excess she allows herself easily to be caught by any one who can conceal from her the slightest thing, and her intellect leads her to seek incessantly after the unknown. Love is her religion; she thinks how to please the one she loves. To be beloved is the end of all her actions; to excite desire is the motive of every gesture. She dreams of nothing excepting how she may shine, and moves only in a circle filled with grace and elegance. It is for her the Indian girl has spun the soft fleece of Thibet goats, Tarare weaves its airy veils, Brussels sets in motion those shuttles which speed the flaxen thread that is purest and most fine, Bidjapour wrenches from the bowels of the earth its sparkling pebbles, and the Sevres gilds its snow-white clay. Night and day she reflects upon new costumes and spends her life in considering dress and in plaiting her apparel. She moves about exhibiting her brightness and freshness to people she does not know, but whose homage flatters her, while the desire she excites charms her, though she is indifferent to those who feel it. During the hours which she spends in private, in pleasure, and in the care of her person, she amuses herself by caroling the sweetest strains. For her France and Italy ordain delightful concerts and Naples imparts to the strings of the violin an harmonious soul. This species is in fine at once the queen of the world and the slave of passion. She dreads marriage because it ends by spoiling her figure, but she surrenders herself to it because it promises happiness.

If she bears children it is by pure chance, and when they are grown up she tries to conceal them. These characteristics taken at random from among a thousand others are not found amongst those beings whose hands are as black as those of apes and their skin tanned like the ancient parchments of an olim; whose complexion is burnt brown by the sun and whose neck is wrinkled like that of a turkey; who are covered with rags; whose voice is hoarse; whose intelligence is nil; who think of nothing but the bread box, and who are incessantly bowed in toil towards the ground; who dig; who harrow; who make hay, glean, gather in the harvest, knead the bread and strip hemp; who, huddled among domestic beasts, infants and men, dwell in holes and dens scarcely covered with thatch; to whom it is of little importance from what source children rain down into their homes. Their work it is to produce many and to deliver them to misery and toil, and if their love is not like their labor in the fields it is at least as much a work of chance. Alas! if there are throughout the world multitudes of trades-women who sit all day long between the cradle and the sugar-cask, farmers’ wives and daughters who milk the cows, unfortunate women who are employed like beasts of burden in the manufactories, who all day long carry the loaded basket, the hoe and the fish-crate, if unfortunately there exist these common human beings to whom the life of the soul, the benefits of education, the delicious tempests of the heart are an unattainable heaven; and if Nature has decreed that they should have coracoid processes and hyoid bones and thirty-two vertebrae, let them remain for the physiologist classed with the ourang-outang. And here we make no stipulations for the leisure class; for those who have the time and the sense to fall in love; for the rich who have purchased the right of indulging their passions; for the intellectual who have conquered a monopoly of fads. Anathema on all those who do not live by thought. We say Raca and fool to all those who are not ardent, young, beautiful and passionate. This is the public expression of that secret sentiment entertained by philanthropists who have learned to read and can keep their own carriage. Among the nine millions of the proscribed, the tax-gatherer, the magistrate, the law-maker and the priest doubtless see living souls who are to be ruled and made subject to the administration of justice. But the man of sentiment, the philosopher of the boudoir, while he eats his fine bread, made of corn, sown and harvested by these creatures, will reject them and relegate them, as we do, to a place outside the genus Woman. For them, there are no women excepting those who can inspire love; and there is no living being but the creature invested with the priesthood of thought by means of a privileged education, and with whom leisure has developed the power of imagination; in other words that only is a human being whose soul dreams, in love, either of intellectual enjoyments or of physical delights. We would, however, make the remark that these nine million female pariahs produce here and there a thousand peasant girls who from peculiar circumstances are as fair as Cupids; they come to Paris or to the great cities and end up by attaining the rank of femmes comme il faut; but to set off against these two or three thousand favored

creatures, there are one hundred thousand others who remain servants or abandon themselves to frightful irregularities. Nevertheless, we are obliged to count these Pompadours of the village among the feminine population. Our first calculation is based upon the statistical discovery that in France there are eighteen millions of the poor, ten millions of people in easy circumstances and two millions of the rich. There exist, therefore, in France only six millions of women in whom men of sentiment are now interested, have been interested, or will be interested. Let us subject this social elite to a philosophic examination. We think, without fear of being deceived, that married people who have lived twenty years together may sleep in peace without fear of having their love trespassed upon or of incurring the scandal of a lawsuit for criminal conversation. From these six millions of individuals we must subtract about two millions of women who are extremely attractive, because for the last forty years they have seen the world; but since they have not the power to make any one fall in love with them, they are on the outside of the discussion now before us. If they are unhappy enough to receive no attention for the sake of amiability, they are soon seized with ennui; they fall back upon religion, upon the cultivation of pets, cats, lap-dogs, and other fancies which are no more offensive than their devoutness. The calculations made at the Bureau of Longitudes concerning population authorize us again to subtract from the total mentioned two millions of young girls, pretty enough to kill; they are at present in the A B C of life and innocently play with other children, without dreading that these little hobbledehoys, who now make them laugh, will one day make them weep. Again, of the two millions of the remaining women, what reasonable man would not throw out a hundred thousand poor girls, humpbacked, plain, cross-grained, rickety, sickly, blind, crippled in some way, well educated but penniless, all bound to be spinsters, and by no means tempted to violate the sacred laws of marriage? Nor must we retain the one hundred thousand other girls who become sisters of St. Camille, Sisters of Charity, monastics, teachers, ladies’ companions, etc. And we must put into this blessed company a number of young people difficult to estimate, who are too grown up to play with little boys and yet too young to sport their wreath of orange blossoms. Finally, of the fifteen million subjects which remain at the bottom of our crucible we must eliminate five hundred thousand other individuals, to be reckoned as daughters of Baal, who subserve the appetites of the base. We must even comprise among

those, without fear that they will be corrupted by their company, the kept women, the milliners, the shop girls, saleswomen, actresses, singers, the girls of the opera, the ballet-dancers, upper servants, chambermaids, etc. Most of these creatures excite the passions of many people, but they would consider it immodest to inform a lawyer, a mayor, an ecclesiastic or a laughing world of the day and hour when they surrendered to a lover. Their system, justly blamed by an inquisitive world, has the advantage of laying upon them no obligations towards men in general, towards the mayor or the magistracy. As these women do not violate any oath made in public, they have no connection whatever with a work which treats exclusively of lawful marriage. Some one will say that the claims made by this essay are very slight, but its limitations make just compensation for those which amateurs consider excessively padded. If any one, through love for a wealthy dowager, wishes to obtain admittance for her into the remaining million, he must classify her under the head of Sisters of Charity, ballet-dancers, or hunchbacks; in fact we have not taken more than five hundred thousand individuals in forming this last class, because it often happens, as we have seen above, that the nine millions of peasant girls make a large accession to it. We have for the same reason omitted the working-girl class and the hucksters; the women of these two sections are the product of efforts made by nine millions of female bimana to rise to the higher civilization. But for its scrupulous exactitude many persons might regard this statistical meditation as a mere joke. We have felt very much inclined to form a small class of a hundred thousand individuals as a crowning cabinet of the species, to serve as a place of shelter for women who have fallen into a middle estate, like widows, for instance; but we have preferred to estimate in round figures. It would be easy to prove the fairness of our analysis: let one reflection be sufficient. The life of a woman is divided into three periods, very distinct from each other: the first begins in the cradle and ends on the attainment of a marriageable age; the second embraces the time during which a woman belongs to marriage; the third opens with the critical period, the ending with which nature closes the passions of life. These three spheres of existence, being almost equal in duration, might be employed for the classification into equal groups of a given number of women. Thus in a mass of six millions, omitting fractions, there are about two million girls between one and eighteen, two millions women between eighteen and forty and two millions of old women. The caprices of society have divided the two millions of marriageable women into three main classes, namely: those who remain spinsters for reasons which we have defined; those whose virtue does not reckon in the obtaining of husbands, and the million of women lawfully married, with whom we have to deal. You see then, by the exact sifting out of the feminine population, that there exists in France a little flock of barely a million white lambs, a privileged fold into which every wolf is anxious to enter.

Let us put this million of women, already winnowed by our fan, through another examination. To arrive at the true idea of the degree of confidence which a man ought to have in his wife, let us suppose for a moment that all wives will deceive their husbands. On this hypothesis, it will be proper to cut out about one-twentieth, viz., young people who are newly married and who will be faithful to their vows for a certain time. Another twentieth will be in ill-health. This will be to make a very modest allowance for human infirmities. Certain passions, which we are told destroy the dominion of the man over the heart of his wife, namely, aversion, grief, the bearing of children, will account for another twentieth. Adultery does not establish itself in the heart of a married woman with the promptness of a pistol-shot. Even when sympathy with another rouses feelings on first sight, a struggle always takes place, whose duration discounts the total sum of conjugal infidelities. It would be an insult to French modesty not to admit the duration of this struggle in a country so naturally combative, without referring to at least a twentieth in the total of married women; but then we will suppose that there are certain sickly women who preserve their lovers while they are using soothing draughts, and that there are certain wives whose confinement makes sarcastic celibates smile. In this way we shall vindicate the modesty of those who enter upon the struggle from motives of virtue. For the same reason we should not venture to believe that a woman forsaken by her lover will find a new one on the spot; but this discount being much more uncertain than the preceding one, we will estimate it at one-fortieth. These several rebates will reduce our sum total to eight hundred thousand women, when we come to calculate the number of those who are likely to violate married faith. Who would not at the present moment wish to retain the persuasion that wives are virtuous? Are they not the supreme flower of the country? Are they not all blooming creatures, fascinating the world by their beauty, their youth, their life and their love? To believe in their virtue is a sort of social religion, for they are the ornament of the world, and form the chief glory of France. It is in the midst of this million we are bound to investigate: The number of honest women; The number of virtuous women.

The work of investigating this and of arranging the results under two categories requires whole meditations, which may serve as an appendix to the present one. MEDITATION III. OF THE HONEST WOMAN. The preceding meditation has proved that we possess in France a floating population of one million women reveling in the privilege of inspiring those passions which a gallant man avows without shame, or dissembles with delight. It is then among this million of women that we must carry our lantern of Diogenes in order to discover the honest women of the land. This inquiry suggests certain digressions. Two young people, well dressed, whose slender figures and rounded arms suggest a paver’s tool, and whose boots are elegantly made, meet one morning on the boulevard, at the end of the Passage des Panoramas. “What, is this you?” “Yes, dear boy; it looks like me, doesn’t it?” Then they laugh, with more or less intelligence, according to the nature of the joke which opens the conversation. When they have examined each other with the sly curiosity of a police officer on the lookout for a clew, when they are quite convinced of the newness of each other’s gloves, of each other’s waistcoat and of the taste with which their cravats are tied; when they are pretty certain that neither of them is down in the world, they link arms and if they start from the Theater des Varietes, they have not reached Frascati’s before they have asked each other a roundabout question whose free translation may be this: “Whom are you living with now?” As a general rule she is a charming woman. Who is the infantryman of Paris into whose ear there have not dropped, like bullets in the day of battle, thousands of words uttered by the passer-by, and who has not caught one of those numberless sayings which, according to Rabelais, hang frozen in the air? But the majority of men take their way through Paris in the same manner as they live and eat, that is, without thinking about it. There are very few skillful musicians, very few practiced physiognomists who can recognize the key in which

these vagrant notes are set, the passion that prompts these floating words. Ah! to wander over Paris! What an adorable and delightful existence is that! To saunter is a science; it is the gastronomy of the eye. To take a walk is to vegetate; to saunter is to live. The young and pretty women, long contemplated with ardent eyes, would be much more admissible in claiming a salary than the cook who asks for twenty sous from the Limousin whose nose with inflated nostrils took in the perfumes of beauty. To saunter is to enjoy life; it is to indulge the flight of fancy; it is to enjoy the sublime pictures of misery, of love, of joy, of gracious or grotesque physiognomies; it is to pierce with a glance the abysses of a thousand existences; for the young it is to desire all, and to possess all; for the old it is to live the life of the youthful, and to share their passions. Now how many answers have not the sauntering artists heard to the categorical question which is always with us? “She is thirty-five years old, but you would not think she was more than twenty!” said an enthusiastic youth with sparkling eyes, who, freshly liberated from college, would, like Cherubin, embrace all. “Zounds! Mine has dressing-gowns of batiste and diamond rings for the evening!” said a lawyer’s clerk. “But she has a box at the Francais!” said an army officer. “At any rate,” cried another one, an elderly man who spoke as if he were standing on the defence, “she does not cost me a sou! In our case —wouldn’t you like to have the same chance, my respected friend?” And he patted his companion lightly on the shoulder. “Oh! she loves me!” said another. “It seems too good to be true; but she has the most stupid of husbands! Ah!—Buffon has admirably described the animals, but the biped called husband—-” What a pleasant thing for a married man to hear! “Oh! what an angel you are, my dear!” is the answer to a request discreetly whispered into the ear. “Can you tell me her name or point her out to me?” “Oh! no; she is an honest woman.” When a student is loved by a waitress, he mentions her name with pride and takes his friends to lunch at her house. If a young man loves a woman whose husband is engaged in some trade dealing with articles of necessity, he will answer, blushingly,

“She is the wife of a haberdasher, of a stationer, of a hatter, of a linen-draper, of a clerk, etc.” But this confession of love for an inferior which buds and blows in the midst of packages, loaves of sugar, or flannel waistcoats is always accompanied with an exaggerated praise of the lady’s fortune. The husband alone is engaged in the business; he is rich; he has fine furniture. The loved one comes to her lover’s house; she wears a cashmere shawl; she owns a country house, etc. In short, a young man is never wanting in excellent arguments to prove that his mistress is very nearly, if not quite, an honest woman. This distinction originates in the refinement of our manners and has become as indefinite as the line which separates bon ton from vulgarity. What then is meant by an honest woman? On this point the vanity of women, of their lovers, and even that of their husbands, is so sensitive that we had better here settle upon some general rules, which are the result of long observation. Our one million of privileged women represent a multitude who are eligible for the glorious title of honest women, but by no means all are elected to it. The principles on which these elections are based may be found in the following axioms: APHORISMS. I. An honest woman is necessarily a married woman. II. An honest woman is under forty years old. III. A married woman whose favors are to be paid for is not an honest woman. IV. A married woman who keeps a private carriage is an honest woman. V. A woman who does her own cooking is not an honest woman. VI. When a man has made enough to yield an income of twenty thousand francs, his wife is an honest woman, whatever the business in which his fortune was made. VII.

A woman who says “letter of change” for letter of exchange, who says of a man, “He is an elegant gentleman,” can never be an honest woman, whatever fortune she possesses. VIII. An honest woman ought to be in a financial condition such as forbids her lover to think she will ever cost him anything. IX. A woman who lives on the third story of any street excepting the Rue de Rivoli and the Rue de Castiglione is not an honest woman. X. The wife of a banker is always an honest woman, but the woman who sits at the cashier’s desk cannot be one, unless her husband has a very large business and she does not live over his shop. XI. The unmarried niece of a bishop when she lives with him can pass for an honest woman, because if she has an intrigue she has to deceive her uncle. XII. An honest woman is one whom her lover fears to compromise. XIII. The wife of an artist is always an honest woman. By the application of these principles even a man from Ardeche can resolve all the difficulties which our subject presents. In order that a woman may be able to keep a cook, may be finely educated, may possess the sentiment of coquetry, may have the right to pass whole hours in her boudoir lying on a sofa, and may live a life of soul, she must have at least six thousand francs a year if she lives in the country, and twenty thousand if she lives at Paris. These two financial limits will suggest to you how many honest women are to be reckoned on in the million, for they are really a mere product of our statistical calculations. Now three hundred thousand independent people, with an income of fifteen thousand francs, represent the sum total of those who live on pensions, on annuities and the interest of treasury bonds and mortgages. Three hundred thousand landed proprietors enjoy an income of three thousand five hundred francs and represent all territorial wealth. Two hundred thousand payees, at the rate of fifteen hundred francs each, represent the distribution of public funds by the state budget, by the budgets of the cities and

departments, less the national debt, church funds and soldier’s pay, (i.e. five sous a day with allowances for washing, weapons, victuals, clothes, etc.). Two hundred thousand fortunes amassed in commerce, reckoning the capital at twenty thousand francs in each case, represent all the commercial establishments possible in France. Here we have a million husbands represented. But at what figure shall we count those who have an income of fifty, of a hundred, of two, three, four, five, and six hundred francs only, from consols or some other investment? How many landed proprietors are there who pay taxes amounting to no more than a hundred sous, twenty francs, one hundred francs, two hundred, or two hundred and eighty? At what number shall we reckon those of the governmental leeches, who are merely quill-drivers with a salary of six hundred francs a year? How many merchants who have nothing but a fictitious capital shall we admit? These men are rich in credit and have not a single actual sou, and resemble the sieves through which Pactolus flows. And how many brokers whose real capital does not amount to more than a thousand, two thousand, four thousand, five thousand francs? Business!—my respects to you! Let us suppose more people to be fortunate than actually are so. Let us divide this million into parts; five hundred thousand domestic establishments will have an income ranging from a hundred to three thousand francs, and five thousand women will fulfill the conditions which entitle them to be called honest women. After these observations, which close our meditation on statistics, we are entitled to cut out of this number one hundred thousand individuals; consequently we can consider it to be proven mathematically that there exist in France no more than four hundred thousand women who can furnish to men of refinement the exquisite and exalted enjoyments which they look for in love. And here it is fitting to make a remark to the adepts for whom we write, that love does not consist in a series of eager conversations, of nights of pleasure, of an occasional caress more or less well-timed and a spark of amour-propre baptized by the name of jealousy. Our four hundred thousand women are not of those concerning whom it may be said, “The most beautiful girl in the world can give only what she has.” No, they are richly endowed with treasures which appeal to our ardent imaginations, they know how to sell dear that which they do not possess, in order to compensate for the vulgarity of that which they give.

Do we feel more pleasure in kissing the glove of a grisette than in draining the five minutes of pleasure which all women offer to us? Is it the conversation of a shop-girl which makes you expect boundless delights? In your intercourse with a woman who is beneath you, the delight of flattered amourpropre is on her side. You are not in the secret of the happiness which you give. In a case of a woman above you, either in fortune or social position, the ticklings of vanity are not only intense, but are equally shared. A man can never raise his mistress to his own level; but a woman always puts her lover in the position that she herself occupies. “I can make princes and you can make nothing but bastards,” is an answer sparkling with truth. If love is the first of passions, it is because it flatters all the rest of them at the same time. We love with more or less intensity in proportion to the number of chords which are touched by the fingers of a beautiful mistress. Biren, the jeweler’s son, climbing into the bed of the Duchesse de Courlande and helping her to sign an agreement that he should be proclaimed sovereign of the country, as he was already of the young and beautiful queen, is an example of the happiness which ought to be given to their lovers by our four hundred thousand women. If a man would have the right to make stepping-stones of all the heads which crowd a drawing-room, he must be the lover of some artistic woman of fashion. Now we all love more or less to be at the top. It is on this brilliant section of the nation that the attack is made by men whose education, talent or wit gives them the right to be considered persons of importance with regard to that success of which people of every country are so proud; and only among this class of women is the wife to be found whose heart has to be defended at all hazard by our husband. What does it matter whether the considerations which arise from the existence of a feminine aristocracy are or are not equally applicable to other social classes? That which is true of all women exquisite in manners, language and thought, in whom exceptional educational facilities have developed a taste for art and a capacity for feeling, comparing and thinking, who have a high sense of propriety and politeness and who actually set the fashion in French manners, ought to be true also in the case of women whatever their nation and whatever their condition. The man of distinction to whom this book is dedicated must of necessity possess a certain mental vision, which makes him perceive the various degrees of light that fill each class and

comprehend the exact point in the scale of civilization to which each of our remarks is severally applicable. Would it not be then in the highest interests of morality, that we should in the meantime try to find out the number of virtuous women who are to be found among these adorable creatures? Is not this a question of marito-national importance? MEDITATION IV. OF THE VIRTUOUS WOMAN. The question, perhaps, is not so much how many virtuous women there are, as what possibility there is of an honest woman remaining virtuous. In order to throw light upon a point so important, let us cast a rapid glance over the male population. From among our fifteen millions of men we must cut off, in the first place, the nine millions of bimana of thirty-two vertebrae and exclude from our physiological analysis all but six millions of people. The Marceaus, the Massenas, the Rousseaus, the Diderots and the Rollins often sprout forth suddenly from the social swamp, when it is in a condition of fermentation; but, here we plead guilty of deliberate inaccuracy. These errors in calculation are likely, however, to give all their weight to our conclusion and to corroborate what we are forced to deduce in unveiling the mechanism of passion. From the six millions of privileged men, we must exclude three millions of old men and children. It will be affirmed by some one that this subtraction leaves a remainder of four millions in the case of women. This difference at first sight seems singular, but is easily accounted for. The average age at which women are married is twenty years and at forty they cease to belong to the world of love. Now a young bachelor of seventeen is apt to make deep cuts with his penknife in the parchment of contracts, as the chronicles of scandal will tell you. On the other hand, a man at fifty-two is more formidable than at any other age. It is at this fair epoch of life that he enjoys an experience dearly bought, and probably all the fortune that he will ever require. The passions by which his course is directed being the last under whose scourge he will move, he is unpitying and determined, like

the man carried away by a current who snatches at a green and pliant branch of willow, the young nursling of the year. XIV. Physically a man is a man much longer than a woman is a woman. With regard to marriage, the difference in duration of the life of love with a man and with a woman is fifteen years. This period is equal to three-fourths of the time during which the infidelities of the woman can bring unhappiness to her husband. Nevertheless, the remainder in our subtraction from the sum of men only differs by a sixth or so from that which results in our subtraction from the sum of women. Great is the modest caution of our estimates. As to our arguments, they are founded on evidence so widely known, that we have only expounded them for the sake of being exact and in order to anticipate all criticism. It has, therefore, been proved to the mind of every philosopher, however little disposed he may be to forming numerical estimates, that there exists in France a floating mass of three million men between seventeen and fifty-two, all perfectly alive, well provided with teeth, quite resolved on biting, in fact, biting and asking nothing better than the opportunity of walking strong and upright along the way to Paradise. The above observations entitle us to separate from this mass of men a million husbands. Suppose for an instant that these, being satisfied and always happy, like our model husband, confine themselves to conjugal love. Our remainder of two millions do not require five sous to make love. It is quite sufficient for a man to have a fine foot and a clear eye in order to dismantle the portrait of a husband. It is not necessary that he should have a handsome face nor even a good figure; Provided that a man appears to be intellectual and has a distinguished expression of face, women never look where he comes from but where he is going to; The charms of youth are the unique equipage of love; A coat made by Brisson, a pair of gloves bought from Boivin, elegant shoes, for whose payment the dealer trembles, a well-tied cravat are sufficient to make a man king of the drawing-room; And soldiers—although the passion for gold lace and aiguillettes has died away—do not soldiers form of themselves a redoubtable legion of celibates? Not to mention

Eginhard—for he was a private secretary—has not a newspaper recently recorded how a German princess bequeathed her fortune to a simple lieutenant of cuirassiers in the imperial guard? But the notary of the village, who in the wilds of Gascony does not draw more than thirty-six deeds a year, sends his son to study law at Paris; the hatter wishes his son to be a notary, the lawyer destines his to be a judge, the judge wishes to become a minister in order that his sons may be peers. At no epoch in the world’s history has there been so eager a thirst for education. To-day it is not intellect but cleverness that promenades the streets. From every crevice in the rocky surface of society brilliant flowers burst forth as the spring brings them on the walls of a ruin; even in the caverns there droop from the vaulted roof faintly colored tufts of green vegetation. The sun of education permeates all. Since this vast development of thought, this even and fruitful diffusion of light, we have scarcely any men of superiority, because every single man represents the whole education of his age. We are surrounded by living encyclopaedias who walk about, think, act and wish to be immortalized. Hence the frightful catastrophes of climbing ambitions and insensate passions. We feel the want of other worlds; there are more hives needed to receive the swarms, and especially are we in need of more pretty women. But the maladies by which a man is afflicted do not nullify the sum total of human passion. To our shame be it spoken, a woman is never so much attached to us as when we are sick. With this thought, all the epigrams written against the little sex—for it is antiquated nowadays to say the fair sex—ought to be disarmed of their point and changed into madrigals of eulogy! All men ought to consider that the sole virtue of a woman is to love and that all women are prodigiously virtuous, and at that point to close the book and end their meditation. Ah! do you not remember that black and gloomy hour when lonely and suffering, making accusations against men and especially against your friends, weak, discouraged, and filled with thoughts of death, your head supported by a fevered pillow and stretched upon a sheet whose white trellis-work of linen was stamped upon your skin, you traced with your eyes the green paper which covered the walls of your silent chamber? Do you recollect, I say, seeing some one noiselessly open your door, exhibiting her fair young face, framed with rolls of gold, and a bonnet which you had never seen before? She seemed like a star in a stormy night, smiling and stealing towards you with an expression in which distress and happiness were blended, and flinging herself into your arms! “How did you manage it? What did you tell your husband?” you ask. “Your husband!”—Ah! this brings us back again into the depths of our subject.

XV. Morally the man is more often and longer a man than the woman is a women. On the other hand we ought to consider that among these two millions of celibates there are many unhappy men, in whom a profound sense of their misery and persistent toil have quenched the instinct of love; That they have not all passed through college, that there are many artisans among them, many footmen—the Duke of Gevres, an extremely plain and short man, as he walked through the park of Versailles saw several lackeys of fine appearance and said to his friends, “Look how these fellows are made by us, and how they imitate us”— that there are many contractors, many trades people who think of nothing but money; many drudges of the shop; That there are men more stupid and actually more ugly than God would have made them; That there are those whose character is like a chestnut without a kernel; That the clergy are generally chaste; That there are men so situated in life that they can never enter the brilliant sphere in which honest women move, whether for want of a coat, or from their bashfulness, or from the failure of a mahout to introduce them. But let us leave to each one the task of adding to the number of these exceptions in accordance with his personal experience—for the object of a book is above all things to make people think—and let us instantly suppress one-half of the sum total and admit only that there are one million of hearts worthy of paying homage to honest women. This number approximately includes those who are superior in all departments. Women love only the intellectual, but justice must be done to virtue. As for these amiable celibates, each of them relates a string of adventures, all of which seriously compromise honest women. It would be a very moderate and reserved computation to attribute no more than three adventures to each celibate; but if some of them count their adventures by the dozen, there are many more who confine themselves to two or three incidents of passion and some to a single one in their whole life, so that we have in accordance with the statistical method taken the average. Now if the number of celibates be multiplied by the number of their excesses in love the result will be three millions of adventures; to set against this we have only four hundred thousand honest women!

If the God of goodness and indulgence who hovers over the worlds does not make a second washing of the human race, it is doubtless because so little success attended the first. Here then we have a people, a society which has been sifted, and you see the result! XVI. Manners are the hypocrisy of nations, and hypocrisy is more or less perfect. XVII. Virtue, perhaps, is nothing more than politeness of soul. Physical love is a craving like hunger, excepting that man eats all the time, and in love his appetite is neither so persistent nor so regular as at the table. A piece of bread and a carafe of water will satisfy the hunger of any man; but our civilization has brought to light the science of gastronomy. Love has its piece of bread, but it has also its science of loving, that science which we call coquetry, a delightful word which the French alone possess, for that science originated in this country. Well, after all, isn’t it enough to enrage all husbands when they think that man is so endowed with an innate desire to change from one food to another, that in some savage countries, where travelers have landed, they have found alcoholic drinks and ragouts? Hunger is not so violent as love; but the caprices of the soul are more numerous, more bewitching, more exquisite in their intensity than the caprices of gastronomy; but all that the poets and the experiences of our own life have revealed to us on the subject of love, arms us celibates with a terrible power: we are the lion of the Gospel seeking whom we may devour. Then, let every one question his conscience on this point, and search his memory if he has ever met a man who confined himself to the love of one woman only! How, alas! are we to explain, while respecting the honor of all the peoples, the problem which results from the fact that three millions of burning hearts can find no more than four hundred thousand women on which they can feed? Should we apportion four celibates for each woman and remember that the honest women would have already established, instinctively and unconsciously, a sort of understanding between themselves and the celibates, like that which the presidents of royal courts have initiated, in order to make their partisans in each chamber enter successively after a certain number of years?

That would be a mournful way of solving the difficulty! Should we make the conjecture that certain honest women act in dividing up the celibates, as the lion in the fable did? What! Surely, in that case, half at least of our altars would become whited sepulchres! Ought one to suggest for the honor of French ladies that in the time of peace all other countries should import into France a certain number of their honest women, and that these countries should mainly consist of England, Germany and Russia? But the European nations would in that case attempt to balance matters by demanding that France should export a certain number of her pretty women. Morality and religion suffer so much from such calculations as this, that an honest man, in an attempt to prove the innocence of married women, finds some reason to believe that dowagers and young people are half of them involved in this general corruption, and are liars even more truly than are the celibates. But to what conclusion does our calculation lead us? Think of our husbands, who to the disgrace of morals behave almost all of them like celibates and glory in petto over their secret adventures. Why, then we believe that every married man, who is at all attached to his wife from honorable motives, can, in the words of the elder Corneille, seek a rope and a nail; foenum habet in cornu. It is, however, in the bosom of these four hundred thousand honest women that we must, lantern in hand, seek for the number of the virtuous women in France! As a matter of fact, we have by our statistics of marriage so far only set down the number of those creatures with which society has really nothing to do. Is it not true that in France the honest people, the people comme il faut, form a total of scarcely three million individuals, namely, our one million of celibates, five hundred thousand honest women, five hundred thousand husbands, and a million of dowagers, of infants and of young girls? Are you then astonished at the famous verse of Boileau? This verse proves that the poet had cleverly fathomed the discovery mathematically propounded to you in these tiresome meditations and that his language is by no means hyperbolical. Nevertheless, virtuous women there certainly are: Yes, those who have never been tempted and those who die at their first child-birth, assuming that their husbands had married them virgins; Yes, those who are ugly as the Kaifakatadary of the Arabian Nights;

Yes, those whom Mirabeau calls “fairy cucumbers” and who are composed of atoms exactly like those of strawberry and water-lily roots. Nevertheless, we need not believe that! Further, we acknowledge that, to the credit of our age, we meet, ever since the revival of morality and religion and during our own times, some women, here and there, so moral, so religious, so devoted to their duties, so upright, so precise, so stiff, so virtuous, so—that the devil himself dare not even look at them; they are guarded on all sides by rosaries, hours of prayer and directors. Pshaw! We will not attempt to enumerate the women who are virtuous from stupidity, for it is acknowledged that in love all women have intellect. In conclusion, we may remark that it is not impossible that there exist in some corner of the earth women, young, pretty and virtuous, whom the world does not suspect. But you must not give the name of virtuous woman to her who, in her struggle against an involuntary passion, has yielded nothing to her lover whom she idolizes. She does injury in the most cruel way in which it can possibly be done to a loving husband. For what remains to him of his wife? A thing without name, a living corpse. In the very midst of delight his wife remains like the guest who has been warned by Borgia that certain meats were poisoned; he felt no hunger, he ate sparingly or pretended to eat. He longed for the meat which he had abandoned for that provided by the terrible cardinal, and sighed for the moment when the feast was over and he could leave the table. What is the result which these reflections on the feminine virtue lead to? Here they are; but the last two maxims have been given us by an eclectic philosopher of the eighteenth century. XVIII. A virtuous woman has in her heart one fibre less or one fibre more than other women; she is either stupid or sublime. XIX. The virtue of women is perhaps a question of temperament. XX. The most virtuous women have in them something which is never chaste. XXI. “That a man of intellect has doubts about his mistress is conceivable, but about his wife!—that would be too stupid.”

XXII. “Men would be insufferably unhappy if in the presence of women they thought the least bit in the world of that which they know by heart.” The number of those rare women who, like the Virgins of the Parable, have kept their lamps lighted, will always appear very small in the eyes of the defenders of virtue and fine feeling; but we must needs exclude it from the total sum of honest women, and this subtraction, consoling as it is, will increase the danger which threatens husbands, will intensify the scandal of their married life, and involve, more or less, the reputation of all other lawful spouses. What husband will be able to sleep peacefully beside his young and beautiful wife while he knows that three celibates, at least, are on the watch; that if they have not already encroached upon his little property, they regard the bride as their destined prey, for sooner or later she will fall into their hands, either by stratagem, compulsive conquest or free choice? And it is impossible that they should fail some day or other to obtain victory! What a startling conclusion! On this point the purist in morality, the collets montes will accuse us perhaps of presenting here conclusions which are excessively despairing; they will be desirous of putting up a defence, either for the virtuous women or the celibates; but we have in reserve for them a final remark. Increase the number of honest women and diminish the number of celibates, as much as you choose, you will always find that the result will be a larger number of gallant adventurers than of honest women; you will always find a vast multitude driven through social custom to commit three sorts of crime. If they remain chaste, their health is injured, while they are the slaves of the most painful torture; they disappoint the sublime ends of nature, and finally die of consumption, drinking milk on the mountains of Switzerland! If they yield to legitimate temptations, they either compromise the honest women, and on this point we re-enter on the subject of this book, or else they debase themselves by a horrible intercourse with the five hundred thousand women of whom we spoke in the third category of the first Meditation, and in this case, have still considerable chance of visiting Switzerland, drinking milk and dying there! Have you never been struck, as we have been, by a certain error of organization in our social order, the evidence of which gives a moral certainty to our last calculations?

The average age at which a man marries is thirty years; the average age at which his passions, his most violent desires for genesial delight are developed, is twenty years. Now during the ten fairest years of his life, during the green season in which his beauty, his youth and his wit make him more dangerous to husbands than at any other epoch of his life, his finds himself without any means of satisfying legitimately that irresistible craving for love which burns in his whole nature. During this time, representing the sixth part of human life, we are obliged to admit that the sixth part or less of our total male population and the sixth part which is the most vigorous is placed in a position which is perpetually exhausting for them, and dangerous for society. “Why don’t they get married?” cries a religious woman. But what father of good sense would wish his son to be married at twenty years of age? Is not the danger of these precocious unions apparent at all? It would seem as if marriage was a state very much at variance with natural habitude, seeing that it requires a special ripeness of judgment in those who conform to it. All the world knows what Rousseau said: “There must always be a period of libertinage in life either in one state or another. It is an evil leaven which sooner or later ferments.” Now what mother of a family is there who would expose her daughter to the risk of this fermentation when it has not yet taken place? On the other hand, what need is there to justify a fact under whose domination all societies exist? Are there not in every country, as we have demonstrated, a vast number of men who live as honestly as possible, without being either celibates or married men? Cannot these men, the religious women will always ask, abide in continence like the priests? Certainly, madame. Nevertheless, we venture to observe that the vow of chastity is the most startling exception to the natural condition of man which society makes necessary; but continence is the great point in the priest’s profession; he must be chaste, as the doctor must be insensible to physical sufferings, as the notary and the advocate insensible to the misery whose wounds are laid bare to their eyes, as the soldier to the sight of death which he meets on the field of battle. From the fact that the requirements of civilization ossify certain fibres of the heart and render callous certain membranes, we must not necessarily conclude that all men are bound to undergo this partial and exceptional death of the soul. This would be to reduce the human race to a condition of atrocious moral suicide.

But let it be granted that, in the atmosphere of a drawing-room the most Jansenistic in the world, appears a young man of twenty-eight who has scrupulously guarded his robe of innocence and is as truly virginal as the heath-cock which gourmands enjoy. Do you not see that the most austere of virtuous women would merely pay him a sarcastic compliment on his courage; the magistrate, the strictest that ever mounted a bench, would shake his head and smile, and all the ladies would hide themselves, so that he might not hear their laughter? When the heroic and exceptional young victim leaves the drawing-room, what a deluge of jokes bursts upon his innocent head? What a shower of insults! What is held to be more shameful in France than impotence, than coldness, than the absence of all passion, than simplicity? The only king of France who would not have laughed was perhaps Louis XIII; but as for his roue of a father, he would perhaps have banished the young man, either under the accusation that he was no Frenchman or from a conviction that he was setting a dangerous example. Strange contradiction! A young man is equally blamed if he passes life in Holy Land, to use an expression of bachelor life. Could it possibly be for the benefit of the honest women that the prefects of police, and mayors of all time have ordained that the passions of the public shall not manifest themselves until nightfall, and shall cease at eleven o’clock in the evening? Where do you wish that our mass of celibates should sow their wild oats? And who is deceived on this point? as Figaro asks. Is it the governments or the governed? The social order is like the small boys who stop their ears at the theatre, so as not to hear the report of the firearms. Is society afraid to probe its wound or has it recognized the fact that evil is irremediable and things must be allowed to run their course? But there crops up here a question of legislation, for it is impossible to escape the material and social dilemma created by this balance of public virtue in the matter of marriage. It is not our business to solve this difficulty; but suppose for a moment that society in order to save a multitude of families, women and honest girls, found itself compelled to grant to certain licensed hearts the right of satisfying the desire of the celibates; ought not our laws then to raise up a professional body consisting of female Decii who devote themselves for the republic, and make a rampart of their bodies round the honest families? The legislators have been very wrong hitherto in disdaining to regulate the lot of courtesans. XXIII. The courtesan is an institution if she is a necessity. This question bristles with so many ifs and buts that we will bequeath it for solution to our descendants; it is right that we shall leave them something to do. Moreover, its discussion is not germane to this work; for in this, more than in any other age, there is a great outburst of sensibility; at no other epoch have there been so many rules of

conduct, because never before has it been so completely accepted that pleasure comes from the heart. Now, what man of sentiment is there, what celibate is there, who, in the presence of four hundred thousand young and pretty women arrayed in the splendors of fortune and the graces of wit, rich in treasures of coquetry, and lavish in the dispensing of happiness, would wish to go—? For shame! Let us put forth for the benefit of our future legislature in clear and brief axioms the result arrived at during the last few years. XXIV. In the social order, inevitable abuses are laws of nature, in accordance with which mankind should frame their civil and political institutes. XXV. “Adultery is like a commercial failure, with this difference,” says Chamfort, “that it is the innocent party who has been ruined and who bears the disgrace.” In France the laws that relate to adultery and those that relate to bankruptcy require great modifications. Are they too indulgent? Do they sin on the score of bad principles? Caveant consules! Come now, courageous athlete, who have taken as your task that which is expressed in the little apostrophe which our first Meditation addresses to people who have the charge of a wife, what are you going to say about it? We hope that this rapid review of the question does not make you tremble, that you are not one of those men whose nervous fluid congeals at the sight of a precipice or a boa constrictor! Well! my friend, he who owns soil has war and toil. The men who want your gold are more numerous than those who want your wife. After all, husbands are free to take these trifles for arithmetical estimates, or arithmetical estimates for trifles. The illusions of life are the best things in life; that which is most respectable in life is our futile credulity. Do there not exist many people whose principles are merely prejudices, and who not having the force of character to form their own ideas of happiness and virtue accept what is ready made for them by the hand of legislators? Nor do we address those Manfreds who having taken off too many garments wish to raise all the curtains, that is, in moments when they are tortured by a sort of moral spleen. By them, however, the question is boldly stated and we know the extent of the evil. It remains that we should examine the chances and changes which each man is likely to meet in marriage, and which may weaken him in that struggle from which our champion should issue victorious.

MEDITATION V. OF THE PREDESTINED. Predestined means destined in advance for happiness or unhappiness. Theology has seized upon this word and employs it in relation to the happy; we give to the term a meaning which is unfortunate to our elect of which one can say in opposition to the Gospel, “Many are called, many are chosen.” Experience has demonstrated that there are certain classes of men more subject than others to certain infirmities; the Gascons are given to exaggeration and Parisians to vanity. As we see that apoplexy attacks people with short necks, or butchers are liable to carbuncle, as gout attacks the rich, health the poor, deafness kings, paralysis administrators, so it has been remarked that certain classes of husbands and their wives are more given to illegitimate passions. Thus they forestall the celibates, they form another sort of aristocracy. If any reader should be enrolled in one of these aristocratic classes he will, we hope, have sufficient presence of mind, he or at least his wife, instantly to call to mind the favorite axiom of Lhomond’s Latin Grammar: “No rule without exception.” A friend of the house may even recite the verse— “Present company always excepted.” And then every one will have the right to believe, in petto, that he forms the exception. But our duty, the interest which we take in husbands and the keen desire which we have to preserve young and pretty women from the caprices and catastrophes which a lover brings in his train, force us to give notice to husbands that they ought to be especially on their guard. In this recapitulation first are to be reckoned the husbands whom business, position or public office calls from their houses and detains for a definite time. It is these who are the standard-bearers of the brotherhood. Among them, we would reckon magistrates, holding office during pleasure or for life, and obliged to remain at the Palace for the greater portion of the day; other functionaries sometimes find means to leave their office at business hours; but a judge or a public prosecutor, seated on his cushion of lilies, is bound even to die during the progress of the hearing. There is his field of battle. It is the same with the deputies and peers who discuss the laws, of ministers who share the toils of the king, of secretaries who work with the ministers, of soldiers on campaign, and indeed with the corporal of the police patrol, as the letter of Lafleur, in the Sentimental Journey, plainly shows.

Next to the men who are obliged to be absent from home at certain fixed hours, come the men whom vast and serious undertakings leave not one minute for love-making; their foreheads are always wrinkled with anxiety, their conversation is generally void of merriment. At the head of these unfortunates we must place the bankers, who toil in the acquisition of millions, whose heads are so full of calculations that the figures burst through their skulls and range themselves in columns of addition on their foreheads. These millionaires, forgetting most of the time the sacred laws of marriage and the attention due to the tender flower which they have undertaken to cultivate, never think of watering it or of defending it from the heat and cold. They scarcely recognize the fact that the happiness of their spouses is in their keeping; if they ever do remember this, it is at table, when they see seated before them a woman in rich array, or when a coquette, fearing their brutal repulse, comes, gracious as Venus, to ask them for cash—Oh! it is then, that they recall, sometimes very vividly, the rights specified in the two hundred and thirteenth article of the civil code, and their wives are grateful to them; but like the heavy tariff which the law lays upon foreign merchandise, their wives suffer and pay the tribute, in virtue of the axiom which says: “There is no pleasure without pain.” The men of science who spend whole months in gnawing at the bone of an antediluvian monster, in calculating the laws of nature, when there is an opportunity to peer into her secrets, the Grecians and Latinists who dine on a thought of Tacitus, sup on a phrase of Thucydides, spend their life in brushing the dust from library shelves, in keeping guard over a commonplace book, or a papyrus, are all predestined. So great is their abstraction or their ecstasy, that nothing that goes on around them strikes their attention. Their unhappiness is consummated; in full light of noon they scarcely even perceive it. Oh happy men! a thousand times happy! Example: Beauzee, returning home after session at the Academy, surprises his wife with a German. “Did not I tell you, madame, that it was necessary that I shall go,” cried the stranger. “My dear sir,” interrupted the academician, “you ought to say that I should go!” Then there come, lyre in hand, certain poets whose whole animal strength has left the ground floor and mounted to the upper story. They know better how to mount Pegasus than the beast of old Peter, they rarely marry, although they are accustomed to lavish the fury of their passions on some wandering or imaginary Chloris. But the men whose noses are stained with snuff; But those who, to their misfortune, have a perpetual cold in their head; But the sailors who smoke or chew;

But those men whose dry and bilious temperament makes them always look as if they had eaten a sour apple; But the men who in private life have certain cynical habits, ridiculous fads, and who always, in spite of everything, look unwashed; But the husbands who have obtained the degrading name of “hen-pecked”; Finally the old men who marry young girls. All these people are par excellence among the predestined. There is a final class of the predestined whose ill-fortune is almost certain, we mean restless and irritable men, who are inclined to meddle and tyrannize, who have a great idea of domestic domination, who openly express their low ideas of women and who know no more about life than herrings about natural history. When these men marry, their homes have the appearance of a wasp whose head a schoolboy has cut off, and who dances here and there on a window pane. For this sort of predestined the present work is a sealed book. We do not write any more for those imbeciles, walking effigies, who are like the statues of a cathedral, than for those old machines of Marly which are too weak to fling water over the hedges of Versailles without being in danger of sudden collapse. I rarely make my observations on the conjugal oddities with which the drawing-room is usually full, without recalling vividly a sight which I once enjoyed in early youth: In 1819 I was living in a thatched cottage situated in the bosom of the delightful valley l’Isle-Adam. My hermitage neighbored on the park of Cassan, the sweetest of retreats, the most fascinating in aspect, the most attractive as a place to ramble in, the most cool and refreshing in summer, of all places created by luxury and art. This verdant country-seat owes its origin to a farmer-general of the good old times, a certain Bergeret, celebrated for his originality; who among other fantastic dandyisms adopted the habit of going to the opera, with his hair powdered in gold; he used to light up his park for his own solitary delectation and on one occasion ordered a sumptuous entertainment there, in which he alone took part. This rustic Sardanapalus returned from Italy so passionately charmed with the scenery of that beautiful country that, by a sudden freak of enthusiasm, he spent four or five millions in order to represent in his park the scenes of which he had pictures in his portfolio. The most charming contrasts of foliage, the rarest trees, long valleys, and prospects the most picturesque that could be brought from abroad, Borromean islands floating on clear eddying streams like so many rays, which concentrate their various lustres on a single point, on an Isola Bella, from which the enchanted eye takes in each detail at its leisure, or on an island in the bosom of which is a little house concealed under the drooping foliage of a century-old ash, an island fringed with irises, rose-bushes, and flowers which appears like an emerald richly set. Ah! one might rove a thousand

leagues for such a place! The most sickly, the most soured, the most disgusted of our men of genius in ill health would die of satiety at the end of fifteen days, overwhelmed with the luscious sweetness of fresh life in such a spot. The man who was quite regardless of the Eden which he thus possessed had neither wife nor children, but was attached to a large ape which he kept. A graceful turret of wood, supported by a sculptured column, served as a dwelling place for this vicious animal, who being kept chained and rarely petted by his eccentric master, oftener at Paris than in his country home, had gained a very bad reputation. I recollect seeing him once in the presence of certain ladies show almost as much insolence as if he had been a man. His master was obliged to kill him, so mischievous did he gradually become. One morning while I was sitting under a beautiful tulip tree in flower, occupied in doing nothing but inhaling the lovely perfumes which the tall poplars kept confined within the brilliant enclosure, enjoying the silence of the groves, listening to the murmuring waters and the rustling leaves, admiring the blue gaps outlined above my head by clouds of pearly sheen and gold, wandering fancy free in dreams of my future, I heard some lout or other, who had arrived the day before from Paris, playing on a violin with the violence of a man who has nothing else to do. I would not wish for my worst enemy to hear anything so utterly in discord with the sublime harmony of nature. If the distant notes of Roland’s Horn had only filled the air with life, perhaps—-but a noisy fiddler like this, who undertakes to bring to you the expression of human ideas and the phraseology of music! This Amphion, who was walking up and down the dining-room, finished by taking a seat on the window-sill, exactly in front of the monkey. Perhaps he was looking for an audience. Suddenly I saw the animal quietly descend from his little dungeon, stand upon his hind feet, bow his head forward like a swimmer and fold his arms over his bosom like Spartacus in chains, or Catiline listening to Cicero. The banker, summoned by a sweet voice whose silvery tone recalled a boudoir not unknown to me, laid his violin on the window-sill and made off like a swallow who rejoins his companion by a rapid level swoop. The great monkey, whose chain was sufficiently long, approached the window and gravely took in hand the violin. I don’t know whether you have ever had as I have the pleasure of seeing a monkey try to learn music, but at the present moment, when I laugh much less than I did in those careless days, I never think of that monkey without a smile; the semi-man began by grasping the instrument with his fist and by sniffing at it as if he were tasting the flavor of an apple. The snort from his nostrils probably produced a dull harmonious sound in the sonorous wood and then the orang-outang shook his head, turned over the violin, turned it back again, raised it up in the air, lowered it, held it straight out, shook it, put it to his ear, set it down, and picked it up again with a rapidity of movement peculiar to these agile creatures. He seemed to question the dumb wood with faltering sagacity and in his gestures there was something marvelous as well as infantile. At last he undertook with grotesque gestures to place the violin under his chin, while in one hand he held the neck; but like a spoiled child he soon wearied of a study which required skill not

to be obtained in a moment and he twitched the strings without being able to draw forth anything but discordant sounds. He seemed annoyed, laid the violin on the window-sill and snatching up the bow he began to push it to and fro with violence, like a mason sawing a block of stone. This effort only succeeded in wearying his fastidious ears, and he took the bow with both hands and snapped it in two on the innocent instrument, source of harmony and delight. It seemed as if I saw before me a schoolboy holding under him a companion lying face downwards, while he pommeled him with a shower of blows from his fist, as if to punish him for some delinquency. The violin being now tried and condemned, the monkey sat down upon the fragments of it and amused himself with stupid joy in mixing up the yellow strings of the broken bow. Never since that day have I been able to look upon the home of the predestined without comparing the majority of husbands to this orang-outang trying to play the violin Love is the most melodious of all harmonies and the sentiment of love is innate. Woman is a delightful instrument of pleasure, but it is necessary to know its trembling strings, to study the position of them, the timid keyboard, the fingering so changeful and capricious which befits it. How many monkeys—men, I mean—marry without knowing what a woman is! How many of the predestined proceed with their wives as the ape of Cassan did with his violin! They have broken the heart which they did not understand, as they might dim and disdain the amulet whose secret was unknown to them. They are children their whole life through, who leave life with empty hands after having talked about love, about pleasure, about licentiousness and virtue as slaves talk about liberty. Almost all of them married with the most profound ignorance of women and of love. They commenced by breaking in the door of a strange house and expected to be welcomed in this drawing-room. But the rudest artist knows that between him and his instrument, of wood, or of ivory, there exists a mysterious sort of friendship. He knows by experience that it takes years to establish this understanding between an inert matter and himself. He did not discover, at the first touch, the resources, the caprices, the deficiencies, the excellencies of his instrument. It did not become a living soul for him, a source of incomparable melody until he had studied for a long time; man and instrument did not come to understand each other like two friends, until both of them had been skillfully questioned and tested by frequent intercourse. Can a man ever learn woman and know how to decipher this wondrous strain of music, by remaining through life like a seminarian in his cell? Is it possible that a man who makes it his business to think for others, to judge others, to rule others, to steal money from others, to feed, to heal, to wound others—that, in fact, any of our predestined, can spare time to study a woman? They sell their time for money, how can they give it away for happiness? Money is their god. No one can serve two masters at the same time. Is not the world, moreover, full of young women who drag along pale and weak, sickly and suffering? Some of them are the prey of feverish

inflammations more or less serious, others lie under the cruel tyranny of nervous attacks more or less violent. All the husbands of these women belong to the class of the ignorant and the predestined. They have caused their own misfortune and expended as much pains in producing it as the husband artist would have bestowed in bringing to flower the late and delightful blooms of pleasure. The time which an ignorant man passes to consummate his own ruin is precisely that which a man of knowledge employs in the education of his happiness. XXVI. Do not begin marriage by a violation of law. In the preceding meditations we have indicated the extent of the evil with the reckless audacity of those surgeons, who boldly induce the formation of false tissues under which a shameful wound is concealed. Public virtue, transferred to the table of our amphitheatre, has lost even its carcass under the strokes of the scalpel. Lover or husband, have you smiled, or have you trembled at this evil? Well, it is with malicious delight that we lay this huge social burden on the conscience of the predestined. Harlequin, when he tried to find out whether his horse could be accustomed to go without food, was not more ridiculous than the men who wish to find happiness in their home and yet refuse to cultivate it with all the pains which it demands. The errors of women are so many indictments of egotism, neglect and worthlessness in husbands. Yet it is yours, reader, it pertains to you, who have often condemned in another the crime which you yourself commit, it is yours to hold the balance. One of the scales is quite loaded, take care what you are going to put in the other. Reckon up the number of predestined ones who may be found among the total number of married people, weigh them, and you will then know where the evil is seated. Let us try to penetrate more deeply into the causes of this conjugal sickliness. The word love, when applied to the reproduction of the species, is the most hateful blasphemy which modern manners have taught us to utter. Nature, in raising us above the beasts by the divine gift of thought, had rendered us very sensitive to bodily sensations, emotional sentiment, cravings of appetite and passions. This double nature of ours makes of man both an animal and a lover. This distinction gives the key to the social problem which we are considering. Marriage may be considered in three ways, politically, as well as from a civil and moral point of view: as a law, as a contract and as an institution. As a law, its object is a reproduction of the species; as a contract, it relates to the transmission of property; as an institution, it is a guarantee which all men give and by which all are bound: they have father and mother, and they will have children. Marriage, therefore, ought to be the object of universal respect. Society can only take into

consideration those cardinal points, which, from a social point of view, dominate the conjugal question. Most men have no other views in marrying, than reproduction, property or children; but neither reproduction nor property nor children constitutes happiness. The command, “Increase and multiply,” does not imply love. To ask of a young girl whom we have seen fourteen times in fifteen days, to give you love in the name of law, the king and justice, is an absurdity worthy of the majority of the predestined. Love is the union between natural craving and sentiment; happiness in marriage results in perfect union of soul between a married pair. Hence it follows that in order to be happy a man must feel himself bound by certain rules of honor and delicacy. After having enjoyed the benefit of the social law which consecrates the natural craving, he must obey also the secret laws of nature by which sentiments unfold themselves. If he stakes his happiness on being himself loved, he must himself love sincerely: nothing can resist a genuine passion. But to feel this passion is always to feel desire. Can a man always desire his wife? Yes. It is as absurd to deny that it is possible for a man always to love the same woman, as it would be to affirm that some famous musician needed several violins in order to execute a piece of music or compose a charming melody. Love is the poetry of the senses. It has the destiny of all that which is great in man and of all that which proceeds from his thought. Either it is sublime, or it is not. When once it exists, it exists forever and goes on always increasing. This is the love which the ancients made the child of heaven and earth. Literature revolves round seven situations; music expresses everything with seven notes; painting employs but seven colors; like these three arts, love perhaps founds itself on seven principles, but we leave this investigation for the next century to carry out. If poetry, music and painting have found infinite forms of expression, pleasure should be even more diversified. For in the three arts which aid us in seeking, often with little success, truth by means of analogy, the man stands alone with his imagination, while love is the union of two bodies and of two souls. If the three principal methods upon which we rely for the expression of thought require preliminary study in those whom nature has made poets, musicians or painters, is it not obvious that, in order, to be happy, it is necessary to be initiated into the secrets of pleasure? All men experience the craving for reproduction, as all feel hunger and thirst; but all are not called to be lovers and gastronomists. Our present civilization has proved that taste is a science, and it is only certain privileged beings who have learned how to eat and

drink. Pleasure considered as an art is still waiting for its physiologists. As for ourselves, we are contented with pointing out that ignorance of the principles upon which happiness is founded, is the sole cause of that misfortune which is the lot of all the predestined. It is with the greatest timidity that we venture upon the publication of a few aphorisms which may give birth to this new art, as casts have created the science of geology; and we offer them for the meditation of philosophers, of young marrying people and of the predestined. CATECHISM OF MARRIAGE. XXVII. Marriage is a science. XXVIII. A man ought not to marry without having studied anatomy, and dissected at least one woman. XXIX. The fate of the home depends on the first night. XXX. A woman deprived of her free will can never have the credit of making a sacrifice. XXXI. In love, putting aside all consideration of the soul, the heart of a woman is like a lyre which does not reveal its secret, excepting to him who is a skillful player. XXXII. Independently of any gesture of repulsion, there exists in the soul of all women a sentiment which tends, sooner or later, to proscribe all pleasure devoid of passionate feeling. XXXIII. The interest of a husband as much as his honor forbids him to indulge a pleasure which he has not had the skill to make his wife desire. XXXIV. Pleasure being caused by the union of sensation and sentiment, we can say without fear of contradiction that pleasures are a sort of material ideas.

XXXV. As ideas are capable of infinite combination, it ought to be the same with pleasures. XXXVI. In the life of man there are no two moments of pleasure exactly alike, any more than there are two leaves of identical shape upon the same tree. XXXVII. If there are differences between one moment of pleasure and another, a man can always be happy with the same woman. XXXVIII. To seize adroitly upon the varieties of pleasure, to develop them, to impart to them a new style, an original expression, constitutes the genius of a husband. XXXIX. Between two beings who do not love each other this genius is licentiousness; but the caresses over which love presides are always pure. XL. The married woman who is the most chaste may be also the most voluptuous. XLI. The most virtuous woman can be forward without knowing it. XLII. When two human beings are united by pleasure, all social conventionalities are put aside. This situation conceals a reef on which many vessels are wrecked. A husband is lost, if he once forgets there is a modesty which is quite independent of coverings. Conjugal love ought never either to put on or to take away the bandage of its eyes, excepting at the due season. XLIII. Power does not consist in striking with force or with frequency, but in striking true. XLIV. To call a desire into being, to nourish it, to develop it, to bring it

to full growth, to excite it, to satisfy it, is a complete poem of itself. XLV. The progression of pleasures is from the distich to the quatrain, from the quatrain to the sonnet, from the sonnet to the ballad, from the ballad to the ode, from the ode to the cantata, from the cantata to the dithyramb. The husband who commences with dithyramb is a fool. XLVI. Each night ought to have its menu. XLVII. Marriage must incessantly contend with a monster which devours everything, that is, familiarity. XLVIII. If a man cannot distinguish the difference between the pleasures of two consecutive nights, he has married too early. XLIX. It is easier to be a lover than a husband, for the same reason that it is more difficult to be witty every day, than to say bright things from time to time. L. A husband ought never to be the first to go to sleep and the last to awaken. LI. The man who enters his wife’s dressing-room is either a philosopher or an imbecile. LII. The husband who leaves nothing to desire is a lost man. LIII. The married woman is a slave whom one must know how to set upon a throne. LIV. A man must not flatter himself that he knows his wife, and is making her happy unless he sees her often at his knees.

It is to the whole ignorant troop of our predestined, of our legions of snivelers, of smokers, of snuff-takers, of old and captious men that Sterne addressed, in Tristram Shandy, the letter written by Walter Shandy to his brother Toby, when this last proposed to marry the widow Wadman. These celebrated instructions which the most original of English writers has comprised in this letter, suffice with some few exceptions to complete our observations on the manner in which husbands should behave to their wives; and we offer it in its original form to the reflections of the predestined, begging that they will meditate upon it as one of the most solid masterpieces of human wit. “MY DEAR BROTHER TOBY, “What I am going to say to thee is upon the nature of women, and of love-making to them; and perhaps it is as well for thee—tho’ not so well for me—that thou hast occasion for a letter of instructions upon that head, and that I am able to write it to thee. “Had it been the good pleasure of Him who disposes of our lots, and thou no sufferer by the knowledge, I had been well content that thou should’st have dipped the pen this moment into the ink instead of myself; but that not being the case—Mrs. Shandy being now close beside me, preparing for bed—I have thrown together without order, and just as they have come into my mind, such hints and documents as I deem may be of use to thee; intending, in this, to give thee a token of my love; not doubting, my dear Toby, of the manner in which it will be accepted. “In the first place, with regard to all which concerns religion in the affair—though I perceive from a glow in my cheek, that I blush as I begin to speak to thee upon the subject, as well knowing, notwithstanding thy unaffected secrecy, how few of its offices thou neglectest—yet I would remind thee of one (during the continuance of thy courtship) in a particular manner, which I would not have omitted; and that is, never to go forth upon the enterprise, whether it be in the morning or in the afternoon, without first recommending thyself to the protection of Almighty God, that He may defend thee from the evil one. “Shave the whole top of thy crown clean once at least every four or five days, but oftener if convenient; lest in taking off thy wig before her, thro’ absence of mind, she should be able to discover how much has been cut away by Time—how much by Trim. “’Twere better to keep ideas of baldness out of her fancy. “Always carry it in thy mind, and act upon it as a sure maxim, Toby— “’That women are timid.’ And ’tis well they are—else there would be no dealing with them. “Let not thy breeches be too tight, or hang too loose about thy

thighs, like the trunk-hose of our ancestors. “A just medium prevents all conclusions. “Whatever thou hast to say, be it more or less, forget not to utter it in a low soft tone of voice. Silence, and whatever approaches it, weaves dreams of midnight secrecy into the brain: For this cause, if thou canst help it, never throw down the tongs and poker. “Avoid all kinds of pleasantry and facetiousness in thy discourse with her, and do whatever lies in thy power at the same time, to keep from her all books and writings which tend there to: there are some devotional tracts, which if thou canst entice her to read over, it will be well: but suffer her not to look into Rabelais, or Scarron, or Don Quixote. “They are all books which excite laughter; and thou knowest, dear Toby, that there is no passion so serious as lust. “Stick a pin in the bosom of thy shirt, before thou enterest her parlor. “And if thou art permitted to sit upon the same sofa with her, and she gives thee occasion to lay thy hand upon hers—beware of taking it—thou canst not lay thy hand upon hers, but she will feel the temper of thine. Leave that and as many other things as thou canst, quite undetermined; by so doing, thou wilt have her curiosity on thy side; and if she is not conquered by that, and thy Asse continues still kicking, which there is great reason to suppose—thou must begin, with first losing a few ounces of blood below the ears, according to the practice of the ancient Scythians, who cured the most intemperate fits of the appetite by that means. “Avicenna, after this, is for having the part anointed with the syrup of hellebore, using proper evacuations and purges—and I believe rightly. But thou must eat little or no goat’s flesh, nor red deer—nor even foal’s flesh by any means; and carefully abstain—that is, as much as thou canst,—from peacocks, cranes, coots, didappers and water-hens. “As for thy drink—I need not tell thee, it must be the infusion of Vervain and the herb Hanea, of which Aelian relates such effects; but if thy stomach palls with it— discontinue it from time to time, taking cucumbers, melons, purslane, water-lilies, woodbine, and lettuce, in the stead of them. “There is nothing further for thee, which occurs to me at present— “Unless the breaking out of a fresh war.—So wishing everything, dear Toby, for the best, “I rest thy affectionate brother, “WALTER SHANDY.”

Under the present circumstances Sterne himself would doubtless have omitted from his letter the passage about the ass; and, far from advising the predestined to be bled he would have changed the regimen of cucumbers and lettuces for one eminently substantial. He recommended the exercise of economy, in order to attain to the power of magic liberality in the moment of war, thus imitating the admirable example of the English government, which in time of peace has two hundred ships in commission, but whose shipwrights can, in time of need, furnish double that quantity when it is desirable to scour the sea and carry off a whole foreign navy. When a man belongs to the small class of those who by a liberal education have been made masters of the domain of thought, he ought always, before marrying, to examine his physical and moral resources. To contend advantageously with the tempest which so many attractions tend to raise in the heart of his wife, a husband ought to possess, besides the science of pleasure and a fortune which saves him from sinking into any class of the predestined, robust health, exquisite tact, considerable intellect, too much good sense to make his superiority felt, excepting on fit occasions, and finally great acuteness of hearing and sight. If he has a handsome face, a good figure, a manly air, and yet falls short of all these promises, he will sink into the class of the predestined. On the other hand, a husband who is plain in features but has a face full of expression, will find himself, if his wife once forgets his plainness, in a situation most favorable for his struggle against the genius of evil. He will study (and this is a detail omitted from the letter of Sterne) to give no occasion for his wife’s disgust. Also, he will resort moderately to the use of perfumes, which, however, always expose beauty to injurious suspicions. He ought as carefully to study how to behave and how to pick out subjects of conversation, as if he were courting the most inconstant of women. It is for him that a philosopher has made the following reflection: “More than one woman has been rendered unhappy for the rest of her life, has been lost and dishonored by a man whom she has ceased to love, because he took off his coat awkwardly, trimmed one of his nails crookedly, put on a stocking wrong side out, and was clumsy with a button.” One of the most important of his duties will be to conceal from his wife the real state of his fortune, so that he may satisfy her fancies and caprices as generous celibates are wont to do. Then the most difficult thing of all, a thing to accomplish which superhuman courage is required, is to exercise the most complete control over the ass of which Sterne speaks. This ass ought to be as submissive as a serf of the thirteenth century was to his lord; to obey and be silent, advance and stop, at the slightest word.

Even when equipped with these advantages, a husband enters the lists with scarcely any hope of success. Like all the rest, he still runs the risk of becoming, for his wife, a sort of responsible editor. “And why!” will exclaim certain good but small-minded people, whose horizon is limited to the tip of their nose, “why is it necessary to take so much pains in order to love, and why is it necessary to go to school beforehand, in order to be happy in your own home? Does the government intend to institute a professional chair of love, just as it has instituted a chair of law?” This is our answer: These multiplied rules, so difficult to deduce, these minute observations, these ideas which vary so as to suit different temperaments, are innate, so to speak, in the heart of those who are born for love; just as his feeling of taste and his indescribable felicity in combining ideas are natural to the soul of the poet, the painter or the musician. The men who would experience any fatigue in putting into practice the instructions given in this Meditation are naturally predestined, just as he who cannot perceive the connection which exists between two different ideas is an imbecile. As a matter of fact, love has its great men although they be unrecognized, as war has its Napoleons, poetry its Andre Cheniers and philosophy its Descartes. This last observation contains the germ of a true answer to the question which men from time immemorial have been asking: Why are happy marriages so very rare? This phenomenon of the moral world is rarely met with for the reason that people of genius are rarely met with. A passion which lasts is a sublime drama acted by two performers of equal talent, a drama in which sentiments form the catastrophe, where desires are incidents and the lightest thought brings a change of scene. Now how is it possible, in this herd of bimana which we call a nation, to meet, on any but rare occasions, a man and a woman who possess in the same degree the genius of love, when men of talent are so thinly sown and so rare in all other sciences, in the pursuit of which the artist needs only to understand himself, in order to attain success? Up to the present moment, we have been confronted with making a forecast of the difficulties, to some degree physical, which two married people have to overcome, in order to be happy; but what a task would be ours if it were necessary to unfold the startling array of moral obligations which spring from their differences in character? Let us cry halt! The man who is skillful enough to guide the temperament will certainly show himself master of the soul of another. We will suppose that our model husband fulfills the primary conditions necessary, in order that he may dispute or maintain possession of his wife, in spite of all assailants. We will admit that he is not to be reckoned in any of the numerous classes of the

predestined which we have passed in review. Let us admit that he has become imbued with the spirit of all our maxims; that he has mastered the admirable science, some of whose precepts we have made known; that he has married wisely, that he knows his wife, that he is loved by her; and let us continue the enumeration of all those general causes which might aggravate the critical situation which we shall represent him as occupying for the instruction of the human race. MEDITATION VI. OF BOARDING SCHOOLS. If you have married a young lady whose education has been carried on at a boarding school, there are thirty more obstacles to your happiness, added to all those which we have already enumerated, and you are exactly like a man who thrusts his hands into a wasp’s nest. Immediately, therefore, after the nuptial blessing has been pronounced, without allowing yourself to be imposed upon by the innocent ignorance, the frank graces and the modest countenance of your wife, you ought to ponder well and faithfully follow out the axioms and precepts which we shall develop in the second part of this book. You should even put into practice the rigors prescribed in the third part, by maintaining an active surveillance, a paternal solicitude at all hours, for the very day after your marriage, perhaps on the evening of your wedding day, there is danger in the house. I mean to say that you should call to mind the secret and profound instruction which the pupils have acquired de natura rerum,—of the nature of things. Did Lapeyrouse, Cook or Captain Peary ever show so much ardor in navigating the ocean towards the Poles as the scholars of the Lycee do in approaching forbidden tracts in the ocean of pleasure? Since girls are more cunning, cleverer and more curious than boys, their secret meetings and their conversations, which all the art of their teachers cannot check, are necessarily presided over by a genius a thousand times more informal than that of college boys. What man has ever heard the moral reflections and the corrupting confidences of these young girls? They alone know the sports at which honor is lost in advance, those essays in pleasure, those promptings in voluptuousness, those imitations of bliss, which may be compared to the thefts made by greedy children from a dessert which is locked up. A girl may come forth from her boarding school a virgin, but never chaste. She will have discussed, time and time again at secret meetings, the important question of lovers, and corruption will necessarily have overcome her heart or her spirit. Nevertheless, we will admit that your wife has not participated in these virginal delights, in these premature deviltries. Is she any better because she has never had any voice in the secret councils of grown-up girls? No! She will, in any case, have contracted a friendship with other young ladies, and our computation will be modest,

if we attribute to her no more than two or three intimate friends. Are you certain that after your wife has left boarding school, her young friends have not there been admitted to those confidences, in which an attempt is made to learn in advance, at least by analogy, the pastimes of doves? And then her friends will marry; you will have four women to watch instead of one, four characters to divine, and you will be at the mercy of four husbands and a dozen celibates, of whose life, principles and habits you are quite ignorant, at a time when our meditations have revealed to you certain coming of a day when you will have your hands full with the people whom you married with your wife. Satan alone could have thought of placing a girl’s boarding school in the middle of a large town! Madame Campan had at least the wisdom to set up her famous institution at Ecouen. This sensible precaution proved that she was no ordinary woman. There, her young ladies did not gaze upon the picture gallery of the streets, the huge and grotesque figures and the obscene words drawn by some evil-spirited pencil. They had not perpetually before their eyes the spectacle of human infirmities exhibited at every barrier in France, and treacherous book-stalls did not vomit out upon them in secret the poison of books which taught evil and set passion on fire. This wise school-mistress, moreover, could only at Ecouen preserve a young lady for you spotless and pure, if, even there, that were possible. Perhaps you hope to find no difficulty in preventing your wife from seeing her school friends? What folly! She will meet them at the ball, at the theatre, out walking and in the world at large; and how many services two friends can render each other! But we will meditate upon this new subject of alarm in its proper place and order. Nor is this all; if your mother-in-law sent her daughter to a boarding school, do you believe that this was out of solicitude for her daughter? A girl of twelve or fifteen is a terrible Argus; and if your mother-in-law did not wish to have an Argus in her house I should be inclined to suspect that your mother-in-law belonged undoubtedly to the most shady section of our honest women. She will, therefore, prove for her daughter on every occasion either a deadly example or a dangerous adviser. Let us stop here!—The mother-in-law requires a whole Meditation for herself. So that, whichever way you turn, the bed of marriage, in this connection, is equally full of thorns. Before the Revolution, several aristocratic families used to send their daughters to the convent. This example was followed by a number of people who imagined that in sending their daughters to a school where the daughters of some great noblemen were sent, they would assume the tone and manners of aristocrats. This delusion of pride was, from the first, fatal to domestic happiness; for the convents had all the disadvantages of other boarding schools. The idleness that prevailed there was more terrible. The cloister bars inflame the imagination. Solitude is a condition very favorable to the devil; and one can scarcely imagine what ravages the most ordinary

phenomena of life are able to leave in the soul of these young girls, dreamy, ignorant and unoccupied. Some of them, by reason of their having indulged idle fancies, are led into curious blunders. Others, having indulged in exaggerated ideas of married life, say to themselves, as soon as they have taken a husband, “What! Is this all?” In every way, the imperfect instruction, which is given to girls educated in common, has in it all the danger of ignorance and all the unhappiness of science. A young girl brought up at home by her mother or by her virtuous, bigoted, amiable or cross-grained old aunt; a young girl, whose steps have never crossed the home threshold without being surrounded by chaperons, whose laborious childhood has been wearied by tasks, albeit they were profitless, to whom in short everything is a mystery, even the Seraphin puppet show, is one of those treasures which are met with, here and there in the world, like woodland flowers surrounded by brambles so thick that mortal eye cannot discern them. The man who owns a flower so sweet and pure as this, and leaves it to be cultivated by others, deserves his unhappiness a thousand times over. He is either a monster or a fool. And if in the preceding Meditation we have succeeded in proving to you that by far the greater number of men live in the most absolute indifference to their personal honor, in the matter of marriage, is it reasonable to believe that any considerable number of them are sufficiently rich, sufficiently intellectual, sufficiently penetrating to waste, like Burchell in the Vicar of Wakefield, one or two years in studying and watching the girls whom they mean to make their wives, when they pay so little attention to them after conjugal possession during that period of time which the English call the honeymoon, and whose influence we shall shortly discuss? Since, however, we have spent some time in reflecting upon this important matter, we would observe that there are many methods of choosing more or less successfully, even though the choice be promptly made. It is, for example, beyond doubt that the probabilities will be in your favor: I. If you have chosen a young lady whose temperament resembles that of the women of Louisiana or the Carolinas. To obtain reliable information concerning the temperament of a young person, it is necessary to put into vigorous operation the system which Gil Blas prescribes, in dealing with chambermaids, a system employed by statesmen to discover conspiracies and to learn how the ministers have passed the night. II. If you choose a young lady who, without being plain, does not belong to the class of pretty women.

We regard it as an infallible principle that great sweetness of disposition united in a woman with plainness that is not repulsive, form two indubitable elements of success in securing the greatest possible happiness to the home. But would you learn the truth? Open your Rousseau; for there is not a single question of public morals whose trend he has not pointed out in advance. Read: “Among people of fixed principles the girls are careless, the women severe; the contrary is the case among people of no principle.” To admit the truth enshrined in this profound and truthful remark is to conclude, that there would be fewer unhappy marriages if men wedded their mistresses. The education of girls requires, therefore, important modifications in France. Up to this time French laws and French manners instituted to distinguish between a misdemeanor and a crime, have encouraged crime. In reality the fault committed by a young girl is scarcely ever a misdemeanor, if you compare it with that committed by the married woman. Is there any comparison between the danger of giving liberty to girls and that of allowing it to wives? The idea of taking a young girl on trial makes more serious men think than fools laugh. The manners of Germany, of Switzerland, of England and of the United States give to young ladies such rights as in France would be considered the subversion of all morality; and yet it is certain that in these countries there are fewer unhappy marriages than in France. LV. “Before a woman gives herself entirely up to her lover, she ought to consider well what his love has to offer her. The gift of her esteem and confidence should necessarily precede that of her heart.” Sparkling with truth as they are, these lines probably filled with light the dungeon, in the depths of which Mirabeau wrote them; and the keen observation which they bear witness to, although prompted by the most stormy of his passions, has none the less influence even now in solving the social problem on which we are engaged. In fact, a marriage sealed under the auspices of the religious scrutiny which assumes the existence of love, and subjected to the atmosphere of that disenchantment which follows on possession, ought naturally to be the most firmly-welded of all human unions. A woman then ought never to reproach her husband for the legal right, in virtue of which she belongs to him. She ought not to find in this compulsory submission any excuse for yielding to a lover, because some time after her marriage she has discovered in her own heart a traitor whose sophisms seduce her by asking twenty times an hour, “Wherefore, since she has been given against her will to a man whom she does not love, should she not give herself, of her own free-will, to a man whom she does love.” A woman is not to be tolerated in her complaints concerning faults

inseparable from human nature. She has, in advance, made trial of the tyranny which they exercise, and taken sides with the caprices which they exhibit. A great many young girls are likely to be disappointed in their hopes of love!—But will it not be an immense advantage to them to have escaped being made the companions of men whom they would have had the right to despise? Certain alarmists will exclaim that such an alteration in our manners would bring about a public dissoluteness which would be frightful; that the laws, and the customs which prompt the laws, could not after all authorize scandal and immorality; and if certain unavoidable abuses do exist, at least society ought not to sanction them. It is easy to say, in reply, first of all, that the proposed system tends to prevent those abuses which have been hitherto regarded as incapable of prevention; but, the calculations of our statistics, inexact as they are, have invariably pointed out a widely prevailing social sore, and our moralists may, therefore, be accused of preferring the greater to the lesser evil, the violation of the principle on which society is constituted, to the granting of a certain liberty to girls; and dissoluteness in mothers of families, such as poisons the springs of public education and brings unhappiness upon at least four persons, to dissoluteness in a young girl, which only affects herself or at the most a child besides. Let the virtue of ten virgins be lost rather than forfeit this sanctity of morals, that crown of honor with which the mother of a family should be invested! In the picture presented by a young girl abandoned by her betrayer, there is something imposing, something indescribably sacred; here we see oaths violated, holy confidences betrayed, and on the ruins of a too facile virtue innocence sits in tears, doubting everything, because compelled to doubt the love of a father for his child. The unfortunate girl is still innocent; she may yet become a faithful wife, a tender mother, and, if the past is mantled in clouds, the future is blue as the clear sky. Shall we not find these tender tints in the gloomy pictures of loves which violate the marriage law? In the one, the woman is the victim, in the other, she is a criminal. What hope is there for the unfaithful wife? If God pardons the fault, the most exemplary life cannot efface, here below, its living consequences. If James I was the son of Rizzio, the crime of Mary lasted as long as did her mournful though royal house, and the fall of the Stuarts was the justice of God. But in good faith, would the emancipation of girls set free such a host of dangers? It is very easy to accuse a young person for suffering herself to be deceived, in the desire to escape, at any price, from the condition of girlhood; but such an accusation is only just in the present condition of our manners. At the present day, a young person knows nothing about seduction and its snares, she relies altogether upon her weakness, and mingling with this reliance the convenient maxims of the fashionable world, she takes as her guide while under the control of those desires which everything conspires to excite, her own deluding fancies, which prove a guide all the

more treacherous, because a young girl rarely ever confides to another the secret thoughts of her first love. If she were free, an education free from prejudices would arm her against the love of the first comer. She would, like any one else, be very much better able to meet dangers of which she knew, than perils whose extent had been concealed from her. And, moreover, is it necessary for a girl to be any the less under the watchful eye of her mother, because she is mistress of her own actions? Are we to count as nothing the modesty and the fears which nature has made so powerful in the soul of a young girl, for the very purpose of preserving her from the misfortune of submitting to a man who does not love her? Again, what girl is there so thoughtless as not to discern, that the most immoral man wishes his wife to be a woman of principle, as masters desire their servants to be perfect; and that, therefore, her virtue is the richest and the most advantageous of all possessions? After all, what is the question before us? For what do you think we are stipulating? We are making a claim for five or six hundred thousand maidens, protected by their instinctive timidity, and by the high price at which they rate themselves; they understand how to defend themselves, just as well as they know how to sell themselves. The eighteen millions of human beings, whom we have excepted from this consideration, almost invariably contract marriages in accordance with the system which we are trying to make paramount in our system of manners; and as to the intermediary classes by which we poor bimana are separated from the men of privilege who march at the head of a nation, the number of castaway children which these classes, although in tolerably easy circumstances, consign to misery, goes on increasing since the peace, if we may believe M. Benoiston de Chateauneuf, one of the most courageous of those savants who have devoted themselves to the arid yet useful study of statistics. We may guess how deep-seated is the social hurt, for which we propound a remedy, if we reckon the number of natural children which statistics reveal, and the number of illicit adventures whose evidence in high society we are forced to suspect. But it is difficult here to make quite plain all the advantages which would result from the emancipation of young girls. When we come to observe the circumstances which attend a marriage, such as our present manners approve of, judicious minds must appreciate the value of that system of education and liberty, which we demand for young girls, in the name of reason and nature. The prejudice which we in France entertain in favor of the virginity of brides is the most silly of all those which still survive among us. The Orientals take their brides without distressing themselves about the past and lock them up in order to be more certain about the future; the French put their daughters into a sort of seraglio defended by their mothers, by prejudice, and by religious ideas, and give the most complete liberty to their wives, thus showing themselves much more solicitous about a woman’s past than about her future. The point we are aiming at is to bring about a reversal of our system of manners. If we did so we should end, perhaps, by giving to faithful married life all the flavor and the piquancy which women of to-day find in acts of infidelity.

But this discussion would take us far from our subject, if it led us to examine, in all its details, the vast improvement in morals which doubtless will distinguish twentieth century France; for morals are reformed only very gradually! Is it not necessary, in order to produce the slightest change, that the most daring dreams of the past century become the most trite ideas of the present one? We have touched upon this question merely in a trifling mood, for the purposes of showing that we are not blind to its importance, and of bequeathing also to posterity the outline of a work, which they may complete. To speak more accurately there is a third work to be composed; the first concerns courtesans, while the second is the physiology of pleasure! “When there are ten of us, we cross ourselves.” In the present state of our morals and of our imperfect civilization, a problem crops up which for the moment is insoluble, and which renders superfluous all discussion on the art of choosing a wife; we commend it, as we have done all the others, to the meditation of philosophers. PROBLEM. It has not yet been decided whether a wife is forced into infidelity by the impossibility of obtaining any change, or by the liberty which is allowed her in this connection. Moreover, as in this work we pitch upon a man at the moment that he is newly married, we declare that if he has found a wife of sanguine temperament, of vivid imagination, of a nervous constitution or of an indolent character, his situation cannot fail to be extremely serious. A man would find himself in a position of danger even more critical if his wife drank nothing but water [see the Meditation entitled Conjugal Hygiene]; but if she had some talent for singing, or if she were disposed to take cold easily, he should tremble all the time; for it must be remembered that women who sing are at least as passionate as women whose mucous membrane shows extreme delicacy. Again, this danger would be aggravated still more if your wife were less than seventeen; or if, on the other hand, her general complexion were pale and dull, for this sort of woman is almost always artificial. But we do not wish to anticipate here any description of the terrors which threaten husbands from the symptoms of unhappiness which they read in the character of their wives. This digression has already taken us too far from the subject of boarding schools, in which so many catastrophes are hatched, and from which issue so many young girls incapable of appreciating the painful sacrifices by which the honest man who does them the honor of marrying them, has obtained opulence; young girls eager

for the enjoyments of luxury, ignorant of our laws, ignorant of our manners, claim with avidity the empire which their beauty yields them, and show themselves quite ready to turn away from the genuine utterances of the heart, while they readily listen to the buzzing of flattery. This Meditation should plant in the memory of all who read it, even those who merely open the book for the sake of glancing at it or distracting their mind, an intense repugnance for young women educated in a boarding school, and if it succeeds in doing so, its services to the public will have already proved considerable. MEDITATION VII. OF THE HONEYMOON. If our meditations prove that it is almost impossible for a married woman to remain virtuous in France, our enumeration of the celibates and the predestined, our remarks upon the education of girls, and our rapid survey of the difficulties which attend the choice of a wife will explain up to a certain point this national frailty. Thus, after indicating frankly the aching malady under which the social slate is laboring, we have sought for the causes in the imperfection of the laws, in the irrational condition of our manners, in the incapacity of our minds, and in the contradictions which characterize our habits. A single point still claims our observation, and that is the first onslaught of the evil we are confronting. We reach this first question on approaching the high problems suggested by the honeymoon; and although we find here the starting point of all the phenomena of married life, it appears to us to be the brilliant link round which are clustered all our observations, our axioms, our problems, which have been scattered deliberately among the wise quips which our loquacious meditations retail. The honeymoon would seem to be, if we may use the expression, the apogee of that analysis to which we must apply ourselves, before engaging in battle our two imaginary champions. The expression honeymoon is an Anglicism, which has become an idiom in all languages, so gracefully does it depict the nuptial season which is so fugitive, and during which life is nothing but sweetness and rapture; the expression survives as illusions and errors survive, for it contains the most odious of falsehoods. If this season is presented to us as a nymph crowned with fresh flowers, caressing as a siren, it is because in it is unhappiness personified and unhappiness generally comes during the indulgence of folly. The married couple who intend to love each other during their whole life have no notion of a honeymoon; for them it has no existence, or rather its existence is perennial; they are like the immortals who do not understand death. But the consideration of this happiness is not germane to our book; and for our readers marriage is under the influence of two moons, the honeymoon and the Red-moon.

This last terminates its course by a revolution, which changes it to a crescent; and when once it rises upon a home its light there is eternal. How can the honeymoon rise upon two beings who cannot possibly love each other? How can it set, when once it has risen? Have all marriages their honeymoon? Let us proceed to answer these questions in order. It is in this connection that the admirable education which we give to girls, and the wise provisions made by the law under which men marry, bear all their fruit. Let us examine the circumstances which precede and attend those marriages which are least disastrous. The tone of our morals develops in the young girl whom you make your wife a curiosity which is naturally excessive; but as mothers in France pique themselves on exposing their girls every day to the fire which they do not allow to scorch them, this curiosity has no limit. Her profound ignorance of the mysteries of marriage conceals from this creature, who is as innocent as she is crafty, a clear view of the dangers by which marriage is followed; and as marriage is incessantly described to her as an epoch in which tyranny and liberty equally prevail, and in which enjoyment and supremacy are to be indulged in, her desires are intensified by all her interest in an existence as yet unfulfilled; for her to marry is to be called up from nothingness into life! If she has a disposition for happiness, for religion, for morality, the voices of the law and of her mother have repeated to her that this happiness can only come to her from you. Obedience if it is not virtue, is at least a necessary thing with her; for she expects everything from you. In the first place, society sanctions the slavery of a wife, but she does not conceive even the wish to be free, for she feels herself weak, timid and ignorant. Of course she tries to please you, unless a chance error is committed, or she is seized by a repugnance which it would be unpardonable in you not to divine. She tries to please because she does not know you. In a word, in order to complete your triumph, you take her at a moment when nature demands, often with some violence, the pleasure of which you are the dispenser. Like St. Peter you hold the keys of Paradise.

I would ask of any reasonable creature, would a demon marshal round the angel whose ruin he had vowed all the elements of disaster with more solicitude than that with which good morals conspire against the happiness of a husband? Are you not a king surrounded by flatterers? This young girl, with all her ignorance and all her desires, committed to the mercy of a man who, even though he be in love, cannot know her shrinking and secret emotions, will submit to him with a certain sense of shame, and will be obedient and complaisant so long as her young imagination persuades her to expect the pleasure or the happiness of that morrow which never dawns. In this unnatural situation social laws and the laws of nature are in conflict, but the young girl obediently abandons herself to it, and, from motives of self-interest, suffers in silence. Her obedience is a speculation; her complaisance is a hope; her devotion to you is a sort of vocation, of which you reap the advantage; and her silence is generosity. She will remain the victim of your caprices so long as she does not understand them; she will suffer from the limitations of your character until she has studied it; she will sacrifice herself without love, because she believed in the show of passion you made at the first moment of possession; she will no longer be silent when once she has learned the uselessness of her sacrifices. And then the morning arrives when the inconsistencies which have prevailed in this union rise up like branches of a tree bent down for a moment under a weight which has been gradually lightened. You have mistaken for love the negative attitude of a young girl who was waiting for happiness, who flew in advance of your desires, in the hope that you would go forward in anticipation of hers, and who did not dare to complain of the secret unhappiness, for which she at first accused herself. What man could fail to be the dupe of a delusion prepared at such long range, and in which a young innocent woman is at once the accomplice and the victim? Unless you were a divine being it would be impossible for you to escape the fascination with which nature and society have surrounded you. Is not a snare set in everything which surrounds you on the outside and influences you within? For in order to be happy, is it not necessary to control the impetuous desires of your senses? Where is the powerful barrier to restrain her, raised by the light hand of a woman whom you wish to please, because you do not possess? Moreover, you have caused your troops to parade and march by, when there was no one at the window; you have discharged your fireworks whose framework alone was left, when your guest arrived to see them. Your wife, before the pledges of marriage, was like a Mohican at the Opera: the teacher becomes listless, when the savage begins to understand. LVI. In married life, the moment when two hearts come to understand each other is sudden as a flash of lightning, and never returns, when once it is passed.

This first entrance into life of two persons, during which a woman is encouraged by the hope of happiness, by the still fresh sentiment of her married duty, by the wish to please, by the sense of virtue which begins to be so attractive as soon as it shows love to be in harmony with duty, is called the honeymoon. How can it last long between two beings who are united for their whole life, unless they know each other perfectly? If there is one thing which ought to cause astonishment it is this, that the deplorable absurdities which our manners heap up around the nuptial couch give birth to so few hatreds! But that the life of the wise man is a calm current, and that of the prodigal a cataract; that the child, whose thoughtless hands have stripped the leaves from every rose upon his pathway, finds nothing but thorns on his return, that the man who in his wild youth has squandered a million, will never enjoy, during his life, the income of forty thousand francs, which this million would have provided—are trite commonplaces, if one thinks of the moral theory of life; but new discoveries, if we consider the conduct of most men. You may see here a true image of all honeymoons; this is their history, this is the plain fact and not the cause that underlies it. But that men endowed with a certain power of thought by a privileged education, and accustomed to think deliberately, in order to shine in politics, literature, art, commerce or private life—-that these men should all marry with the intention of being happy, of governing a wife, either by love or by force, and should all tumble into the same pitfall and should become foolish, after having enjoyed a certain happiness for a certain time,—this is certainly a problem whose solution is to be found rather in the unknown depths of the human soul, than in the quasi physical truths, on the basis of which we have hitherto attempted to explain some of these phenomena. The risky search for the secret laws, which almost all men are bound to violate without knowing it, under these circumstances, promises abundant glory for any one even though he make shipwreck in the enterprise upon which we now venture to set forth. Let us then make the attempt. In spite of all that fools have to say about the difficulty they have had in explaining love, there are certain principles relating to it as infallible as those of geometry; but in each character these are modified according to its tendency; hence the caprices of love, which are due to the infinite number of varying temperaments. If we were permitted never to see the various effects of light without also perceiving on what they were based, many minds would refuse to believe in the movement of the sun and in its oneness. Let the blind men cry out as they like; I boast with Socrates, although I am not as wise as he was, that I know of naught save love; and I intend to attempt the formulation of some of its precepts, in order to spare married people the trouble of cudgeling their brains; they would soon reach the limit of their wit. Now all the preceding observations may be resolved into a single proposition, which may be considered either the first or last term in this secret theory of love, whose statement would end by wearying us, if we did not bring it to a prompt conclusion. This principle is contained in the following formula:

LVII. Between two beings susceptible of love, the duration of passion is in proportion to the original resistance of the woman, or to the obstacles which the accidents of social life put in the way of your happiness. If you have desired your object only for one day, your love perhaps will not last more than three nights. Where must we seek for the causes of this law? I do not know. If you cast your eyes around you, you will find abundant proof of this rule; in the vegetable world the plants which take the longest time to grow are those which promise to have the longest life; in the moral order of things the works produced yesterday die to-morrow; in the physical world the womb which infringes the laws of gestation bears dead fruit. In everything, a work which is permanent has been brooded over by time for a long period. A long future requires a long past. If love is a child, passion is a man. This general law, which all men obey, to which all beings and all sentiments must submit, is precisely that which every marriage infringes, as we have plainly shown. This principle has given rise to the love tales of the Middle Ages; the Amadises, the Lancelots, the Tristans of ballad literature, whose constancy may justly be called fabulous, are allegories of the national mythology which our imitation of Greek literature nipped in the bud. These fascinating characters, outlined by the imagination of the troubadours, set their seal and sanction upon this truth. LVIII. We do not attach ourselves permanently to any possessions, excepting in proportion to the trouble, toil and longing which they have cost us. All our meditations have revealed to us about the basis of the primordial law of love is comprised in the following axiom, which is at the same time the principle and the result of the law. LIX. In every case we receive only in proportion to what we give. This last principle is so self-evident that we will not attempt to demonstrate it. We merely add a single observation which appears to us of some importance. The writer who said: “Everything is true, and everything is false,” announced a fact which the human intellect, naturally prone to sophism, interprets as it chooses, but it really seems as though human affairs have as many facets as there are minds that contemplate them. This fact may be detailed as follows: There cannot be found, in all creation, a single law which is not counterbalanced by a law exactly contrary to it; life in everything is maintained by the equilibrium of two

opposing forces. So in the present subject, as regards love, if you give too much, you will not receive enough. The mother who shows her children her whole tenderness calls forth their ingratitude, and ingratitude is occasioned, perhaps, by the impossibility of reciprocation. The wife who loves more than she is loved must necessarily be the object of tyranny. Durable love is that which always keeps the forces of two human beings in equilibrium. Now this equilibrium may be maintained permanently; the one who loves the more ought to stop at the point of the one who loves the less. And is it not, after all the sweetest sacrifice that a loving heart can make, that love should so accommodate itself as to adjust the inequality? What sentiment of admiration must rise in the soul of a philosopher on discovering that there is, perhaps, but one single principle in the world, as there is but one God; and that our ideas and our affections are subject to the same laws which cause the sun to rise, the flowers to bloom, the universe to teem with life! Perhaps, we ought to seek in the metaphysics of love the reasons for the following proposition, which throws the most vivid light on the question of honeymoons and of Red-moons: THEOREM. Man goes from aversion to love; but if he has begun by loving, and afterwards comes to feel aversion, he never returns to love. In certain human organisms the feelings are dwarfed, as the thought may be in certain sterile imaginations. Thus, just as some minds have the faculty of comprehending the connections existing between different things without formal deduction; and as they have the faculty of seizing upon each formula separately, without combining them, or without the power of insight, comparison and expression; so in the same way, different souls may have more or less imperfect ideas of the various sentiments. Talent in love, as in every other art, consists in the power of forming a conception combined with the power of carrying it out. The world is full of people who sing airs, but who omit the ritornello, who have quarters of an idea, as they have quarters of sentiment, but who can no more co-ordinate the movements of their affections than of their thoughts. In a word, they are incomplete. Unite a fine intelligence with a dwarfed intelligence and you precipitate a disaster; for it is necessary that equilibrium be preserved in everything. We leave to the philosophers of the boudoir or to the sages of the back parlor to investigate the thousand ways in which men of different temperaments, intellects, social positions and fortunes disturb this equilibrium. Meanwhile we will proceed to examine the last cause for the setting of the honeymoon and the rising of the Redmoon.

There is in life one principle more potent than life itself. It is a movement whose celerity springs from an unknown motive power. Man is no more acquainted with the secret of this revolution than the earth is aware of that which causes her rotation. A certain something, which I gladly call the current of life, bears along our choicest thoughts, makes use of most people’s will and carries us on in spite of ourselves. Thus, a man of common-sense, who never fails to pay his bills, if he is a merchant, a man who has been able to escape death, or what perhaps is more trying, sickness, by the observation of a certain easy but daily regimen, is completely and duly nailed up between the four planks of his coffin, after having said every evening: “Dear me! tomorrow I will not forget my pills!” How are we to explain this magic spell which rules all the affairs of life? Do men submit to it from a want of energy? Men who have the strongest wills are subject to it. Is it default of memory? People who possess this faculty in the highest degree yield to its fascination. Every one can recognize the operation of this influence in the case of his neighbor, and it is one of the things which exclude the majority of husbands from the honeymoon. It is thus that the wise man, survivor of all reefs and shoals, such as we have pointed out, sometimes falls into the snares which he himself has set. I have myself noticed that man deals with marriage and its dangers in very much the same way that he deals with wigs; and perhaps the following phases of thought concerning wigs may furnish a formula for human life in general. FIRST EPOCH.—Is it possible that I shall ever have white hair? SECOND EPOCH.—In any case, if I have white hair, I shall never wear a wig. Good Lord! what is more ugly than a wig? One morning you hear a young voice, which love much oftener makes to vibrate than lulls to silence, exclaiming: “Well, I declare! You have a white hair!” THIRD EPOCH.—Why not wear a well-made wig which people would not notice? There is a certain merit in deceiving everybody; besides, a wig keeps you warm, prevents taking cold, etc. FOURTH EPOCH.—The wig is so skillfully put on that you deceive every one who does not know you. The wig takes up all your attention, and amour-propre makes you every morning as busy as the most skillful hairdresser. FIFTH EPOCH.—The neglected wig. “Good heavens! How tedious it is, to have to go with bare head every evening, and to curl one’s wig every morning!”

SIXTH EPOCH.—The wig allows certain white hairs to escape; it is put on awry and the observer perceives on the back of your neck a white line, which contrasts with the deep tints pushed back by the collar of your coat. SEVENTH EPOCH.—Your wig is as scraggy as dog’s tooth grass; and—excuse the expression—you are making fun of your wig. “Sir,” said one of the most powerful feminine intelligences which have condescended to enlighten me on some of the most obscure passages in my book, “what do you mean by this wig?” “Madame,” I answered, “when a man falls into a mood of indifference with regard to his wig, he is,—he is—what your husband probably is not.” “But my husband is not—” (she paused and thought for a moment). “He is not amiable; he is not—well, he is not—of an even temper; he is not—” “Then, madame, he would doubtless be indifferent to his wig!” We looked at each other, she with a well-assumed air of dignity, I with a suppressed smile. “I see,” said I, “that we must pay special respect to the ears of the little sex, for they are the only chaste things about them.” I assumed the attitude of a man who has something of importance to disclose, and the fair dame lowered her eyes, as if she had some reason to blush. “Madame, in these days a minister is not hanged, as once upon a time, for saying yes or no; a Chateaubriand would scarcely torture Francoise de Foix, and we wear no longer at our side a long sword ready to avenge an insult. Now in a century when civilization has made such rapid progress, when we can learn a science in twenty-four lessons, everything must follow this race after perfection. We can no longer speak the manly, rude, coarse language of our ancestors. The age in which are fabricated such fine, such brilliant stuffs, such elegant furniture, and when are made such rich porcelains, must needs be the age of periphrase and circumlocution. We must try, therefore, to coin a new word in place of the comic expression which Moliere used; since the language of this great man, as a contemporary author has said, is too free for ladies who find gauze too thick for their garments. But people of the world know, as well as the learned, how the Greeks had an innate taste for mysteries. That poetic nation knew well how to invest with the tints of fable the antique traditions of their history. At the voice of their rhapsodists together with their poets and romancers, kings became gods and their adventures of gallantry were transformed into immortal allegories. According to M. Chompre, licentiate in law, the classic author of the

Dictionary of Mythology, the labyrinth was ’an enclosure planted with trees and adorned with buildings arranged in such a way that when a young man once entered, he could no more find his way out.’ Here and there flowery thickets were presented to his view, but in the midst of a multitude of alleys, which crossed and recrossed his path and bore the appearance of a uniform passage, among the briars, rocks and thorns, the patient found himself in combat with an animal called the Minotaur. “Now, madame, if you will allow me the honor of calling to your mind the fact that the Minotaur was of all known beasts that which Mythology distinguishes as the most dangerous; that in order to save themselves from his ravages, the Athenians were bound to deliver to him, every single year, fifty virgins; you will perhaps escape the error of good M. Chompre, who saw in the labyrinth nothing but an English garden; and you will recognize in this ingenious fable a refined allegory, or we may better say a faithful and fearful image of the dangers of marriage. The paintings recently discovered at Herculaneum have served to confirm this opinion. And, as a matter of fact, learned men have for a long time believed, in accordance with the writings of certain authors, that the Minotaur was an animal half-man, half-bull; but the fifth panel of ancient paintings at Herculaneum represents to us this allegorical monster with a body entirely human; and, to take away all vestige of doubt, he lies crushed at the feet of Theseus. Now, my dear madame, why should we not ask Mythology to come and rescue us from that hypocrisy which is gaining ground with us and hinders us from laughing as our fathers laughed? And thus, since in the world a young lady does not very well know how to spread the veil under which an honest woman hides her behavior, in a contingency which our grandfathers would have roughly explained by a single word, you, like a crowd of beautiful but prevaricating ladies, you content yourselves with saying, ’Ah! yes, she is very amiable, but,’—but what?—’but she is often very inconsistent—.’ I have for a long time tried to find out the meaning of this last word, and, above all, the figure of rhetoric by which you make it express the opposite of that which it signifies; but all my researches have been in vain. Vert-Vert used the word last, and was unfortunately addressed to the innocent nuns whose infidelities did not in any way infringe the honor of the men. When a woman is inconsistent the husband must be, according to me, minotaurized. If the minotaurized man is a fine fellow, if he enjoys a certain esteem,—and many husbands really deserve to be pitied,—then in speaking of him, you say in a pathetic voice, ’M. A—– is a very estimable man, his wife is exceedingly pretty, but they say he is not happy in his domestic relations.’ Thus, madame, the estimable man who is unhappy in his domestic relations, the man who has an inconsistent wife, or the husband who is minotaurized are simply husbands as they appear in Moliere. Well, then, O goddess of modern taste, do not these expressions seem to you characterized by a transparency chaste enough for anybody?” “Ah! mon Dieu!” she answered, laughing, “if the thing is the same, what does it matter whether it be expressed in two syllables or in a hundred?”

She bade me good-bye, with an ironical nod and disappeared, doubtless to join the countesses of my preface and all the metaphorical creatures, so often employed by romance-writers as agents for the recovery or composition of ancient manuscripts. As for you, the more numerous and the more real creatures who read my book, if there are any among you who make common cause with my conjugal champion, I give you notice that you will not at once become unhappy in your domestic relations. A man arrives at this conjugal condition not suddenly, but insensibly and by degrees. Many husbands have even remained unfortunate in their domestic relations during their whole life and have never known it. This domestic revolution develops itself in accordance with fixed rules; for the revolutions of the honeymoon are as regular as the phases of the moon in heaven, and are the same in every married house. Have we not proved that moral nature, like physical nature, has its laws? Your young wife will never take a lover, as we have elsewhere said, without making serious reflections. As soon as the honeymoon wanes, you will find that you have aroused in her a sentiment of pleasure which you have not satisfied; you have opened to her the book of life; and she has derived an excellent idea from the prosaic dullness which distinguishes your complacent love, of the poetry which is the natural result when souls and pleasures are in accord. Like a timid bird, just startled by the report of a gun which has ceased, she puts her head out of her nest, looks round her, and sees the world; and knowing the word of a charade which you have played, she feels instinctively the void which exists in your languishing passion. She divines that it is only with a lover that she can regain the delightful exercise of her free will in love. You have dried the green wood in preparation for a fire. In the situation in which both of you find yourselves, there is no woman, even the most virtuous, who would not be found worthy of a grande passion, who has not dreamed of it, and who does not believe that it is easily kindled, for there is always found a certain amour-propre ready to reinforce that conquered enemy—a jaded wife. “If the role of an honest woman were nothing more than perilous,” said an old lady to me, “I would admit that it would serve. But it is tiresome; and I have never met a virtuous woman who did not think about deceiving somebody.” And then, before any lover presents himself, a wife discusses with herself the legality of the act; she enters into a conflict with her duties, with the law, with religion and with the secret desires of a nature which knows no check-rein excepting that which she places upon herself. And then commences for you a condition of affairs totally new; then you receive the first intimation which nature, that good and indulgent mother, always gives to the creatures who are exposed to any danger. Nature has put a bell on the neck of the Minotaur, as on the tail of that frightful snake which is the terror of travelers. And then appear in your wife what we will call the first symptoms, and woe to him who does not know how to contend with them. Those

who in reading our book will remember that they saw those symptoms in their own domestic life can pass to the conclusion of this work, where they will find how they may gain consolation. The situation referred to, in which a married couple bind themselves for a longer or a shorter time, is the point from which our work starts, as it is the end at which our observations stop. A man of intelligence should know how to recognize the mysterious indications, the obscure signs and the involuntary revelation which a wife unwittingly exhibits; for the next Meditation will doubtless indicate the more evident of the manifestations to neophytes in the sublime science of marriage. MEDITATION VIII. OF THE FIRST SYMPTOMS. When your wife reaches that crisis in which we have left her, you yourself are wrapped in a pleasant and unsuspicious security. You have so often seen the sun that you begin to think it is shining over everybody. You therefore give no longer that attention to the least action of your wife, which was impelled by your first outburst of passion. This indolence prevents many husbands from perceiving the symptoms which, in their wives, herald the first storm; and this disposition of mind has resulted in the minotaurization of more husbands than have either opportunity, carriages, sofas and apartments in town. The feeling of indifference in the presence of danger is to some degree justified by the apparent tranquillity which surrounds you. The conspiracy which is formed against you by our million of hungry celibates seems to be unanimous in its advance. Although all are enemies of each other and know each other well, a sort of instinct forces them into co-operation. Two persons are married. The myrmidons of the Minotaur, young and old, have usually the politeness to leave the bride and bridegroom entirely to themselves at first. They look upon the husband as an artisan, whose business it is to trim, polish, cut into facets and mount the diamond, which is to pass from hand to hand in order to be admired all around. Moreover, the aspect of a young married couple much taken with each other always rejoices the heart of those among the celibates who are known as roues; they take good care not to disturb the excitement by which society is to be profited; they also know that heavy showers to not last long. They therefore keep quiet; they watch, and wait, with incredible vigilance, for the moment when bride and groom begin to weary of the seventh heaven. The tact with which celibates discover the moment when the breeze begins to rise in a new home can only be compared to the indifference of those husbands for whom the

Red-moon rises. There is, even in intrigue, a moment of ripeness which must be waited for. The great man is he who anticipates the outcome of certain circumstances. Men of fifty-two, whom we have represented as being so dangerous, know very well, for example, that any man who offers himself as lover to a woman and is haughtily rejected, will be received with open arms three months afterwards. But it may be truly said that in general married people in betraying their indifference towards each other show the same naivete with which they first betrayed their love. At the time when you are traversing with madame the ravishing fields of the seventh heaven—where according to their temperament, newly married people remain encamped for a longer or shorter time, as the preceding Meditation has proved—you go little or not at all into society. Happy as you are in your home, if you do go abroad, it will be for the purpose of making up a choice party and visiting the theatre, the country, etc. From the moment you the newly wedded make your appearance in the world again, you and your bride together, or separately, and are seen to be attentive to each other at balls, at parties, at all the empty amusements created to escape the void of an unsatisfied heart, the celibates discern that your wife comes there in search of distraction; her home, her husband are therefore wearisome to her. At this point the celibate knows that half of the journey is accomplished. At this point you are on the eve of being minotaurized, and your wife is likely to become inconsistent; which means that she is on the contrary likely to prove very consistent in her conduct, that she has reasoned it out with astonishing sagacity and that you are likely very soon to smell fire. From that moment she will not in appearance fail in any of her duties, and will put on the colors of that virtue in which she is most lacking. Said Crebillon: “Alas! Is it right to be heir of the man who we slay?” Never has she seemed more anxious to please you. She will seek, as much as possible, to allay the secret wounds which she thinks about inflicting upon your married bliss, she will do so by those little attentions which induce you to believe in the eternity of her love; hence the proverb, “Happy as a fool.” But in accordance with the character of women, they either despise their own husbands from the very fact that they find no difficulty in deceiving them; or they hate them when they find themselves circumvented by them; or they fall into a condition of indifference towards them, which is a thousand times worse than hatred. In this emergency, the first thing which may be diagnosed in a woman is a decided oddness of behavior. A woman loves to be saved from herself, to escape her conscience, but without the eagerness shown in this connection by wives who are thoroughly unhappy. She dresses herself with especial care, in order, she will tell you, to flatter your amourpropre by drawing all eyes upon her in the midst of parties and public entertainments. When she returns to the bosom of her stupid home you will see that, at times, she is gloomy and thoughtful, then suddenly laughing and gay as if beside herself; or

assuming the serious expression of a German when he advances to the fight. Such varying moods always indicate the terrible doubt and hesitation to which we have already referred. There are women who read romances in order to feast upon the images of love cleverly depicted and always varied, of love crowned yet triumphant; or in order to familiarize themselves in thought with the perils of an intrigue. She will profess the highest esteem for you, she will tell you that she loves you as a sister; and that such reasonable friendship is the only true, the only durable friendship, the only tie which it is the aim of marriage to establish between man and wife. She will adroitly distinguish between the duties which are all she has to perform and the rights which she can demand to exercise. She views with indifference, appreciated by you alone, all the details of married happiness. This sort of happiness, perhaps, has never been very agreeable to her and moreover it is always with her. She knows it well, she has analyzed it; and what slight but terrible evidence comes from these circumstances to prove to an intelligent husband that this frail creature argues and reasons, instead of being carried away on the tempest of passion. LX. The more a man judges the less he loves. And now will burst forth from her those pleasantries at which you will be the first to laugh and those reflections which will startle you by their profundity; now you will see sudden changes of mood and the caprices of a mind which hesitates. At times she will exhibit extreme tenderness, as if she repented of her thoughts and her projects; sometimes she will be sullen and at cross-purposes with you; in a word, she will fulfill the varium et mutabile femina which we hitherto have had the folly to attribute to the feminine temperament. Diderot, in his desire to explain the mutations almost atmospheric in the behavior of women, has even gone so far as to make them the offspring of what he calls la bete feroce; but we never see these whims in a woman who is happy. These symptoms, light as gossamer, resemble the clouds which scarcely break the azure surface of the sky and which they call flowers of the storm. But soon their colors take a deeper intensity. In the midst of this solemn premeditation, which tends, as Madame de Stael says, to bring more poetry into life, some women, in whom virtuous mothers either from considerations of worldly advantage of duty or sentiment, or through sheer hypocrisy, have inculcated steadfast principles, take the overwhelming fancies by which they are assailed for suggestions of the devil; and you will see them therefore trotting regularly to mass, to midday offices, even to vespers. This false devotion exhibits

itself, first of all in the shape of pretty books of devotion in a costly binding, by the aid of which these dear sinners attempt in vain to fulfill the duties imposed by religion, and long neglected for the pleasures of marriage. Now here we will lay down a principle, and you must engrave it on your memory in letters of fire. When a young woman suddenly takes up religious practices which she has before abandoned, this new order of life always conceals a motive highly significant, in view of her husband’s happiness. In the case of at least seventy-nine women out of a hundred this return to God proves that they have been inconsistent, or that they intend to become so. But a symptom more significant still and more decisive, and one that every husband should recognize under pain of being considered a fool, is this: At the time when both of you are immersed in the illusive delights of the honeymoon, your wife, as one devoted to you, would constantly carry out your will. She was happy in the power of showing the ready will, which both of you mistook for love, and she would have liked for you to have asked her to walk on the edge of the roof, and immediately, nimble as a squirrel, she would have run over the tiles. In a word, she found an ineffable delight in sacrificing to you that ego which made her a being distinct from yours. She had identified herself with your nature and was obedient to that vow of the heart, Una caro. All this delightful promptness of an earlier day gradually faded away. Wounded to find her will counted as nothing, your wife will attempt, nevertheless, to reassert it by means of a system developed gradually, and from day to day, with increased energy.

This system is founded upon what we may call the dignity of the married woman. The first effect of this system is to mingle with your pleasures a certain reserve and a certain lukewarmness, of which you are the sole judge. According to the greater or lesser violence of your sensual passion, you have perhaps discerned some of those twenty-two pleasures which in other times created in Greece twenty-two kinds of courtesans, devoted especially to these delicate branches of the same art. Ignorant and simple, curious and full of hope, your young wife may have taken some degrees in this science as rare as it is unknown, and which we especially commend to the attention of the future author of Physiology of Pleasure. Lacking all these different kinds of pleasure, all these caprices of soul, all these arrows of love, you are reduced to the most common of love fashions, of that primitive and innocent wedding gait, the calm homage which the innocent Adam rendered to our common Mother and which doubtless suggested to the Serpent the

idea of taking them in. But a symptom so complete is not frequent. Most married couples are too good Christians to follow the usages of pagan Greece, so we have ranged, among the last symptoms, the appearance in the calm nuptial couch of those shameless pleasures which spring generally from lawless passion. In their proper time and place we will treat more fully of this fascinating diagnostic; at this point, things are reduced to a listlessness and conjugal repugnance which you alone are in a condition to appreciate. At the same time that she is ennobling by her dignity the objects of marriage, your wife will pretend that she ought to have her opinion and you yours. “In marrying,” she will say, “a woman does not vow that she will abdicate the throne of reason. Are women then really slaves? Human laws can fetter the body; but the mind!—ah! God has placed it so near Himself that no human hand can touch it.” These ideas necessarily proceed either from the too liberal teachings which you have allowed her to receive, or from some reflections which you have permitted her to make. A whole Meditation has been devoted to Home Instruction. Then your wife begins to say, “My chamber, my bed, my apartment.” To many of your questions she will reply, “But, my dear, this is no business of yours!” Or: “Men have their part in the direction of the house, and women have theirs.” Or, laughing at men who meddle in household affairs, she will affirm that “men do not understand some things.” The number of things which you do not understand increases day by day. One fine morning, you will see in your little church two altars, where before you never worshiped but at one. The altar of your wife and your own altar have become distinct, and this distinction will go on increasing, always in accordance with the system founded upon the dignity of woman. Then the following ideas will appear, and they will be inculcated in you whether you like it or not, by means of a living force very ancient in origin and little known. Steam-power, horse-power, man-power, and water-power are good inventions, but nature has provided women with a moral power, in comparison with which all other powers are nothing; we may call it rattle-power. This force consists in a continuance of the same sound, in an exact repetition of the same words, in a reversion, over and over again, to the same ideas, and this so unvaried, that from hearing them over and over again you will admit them, in order to be delivered from the discussion. Thus the power of the rattle will prove to you: That you are very fortunate to have such an excellent wife; That she has done you too much honor in marrying you;

That women often see clearer than men; That you ought to take the advice of your wife in everything, and almost always ought to follow it; That you ought to respect the mother of your children, to honor her and have confidence in her; That the best way to escape being deceived, is to rely upon a wife’s refinement, for according to certain old ideas which we have had the weakness to give credit, it is impossible for a man to prevent his wife from minotaurizing him; That a lawful wife is a man’s best friend; That a woman is mistress in her own house and queen in her drawing-room, etc. Those who wish to oppose a firm resistance to a woman’s conquest, effected by means of her dignity over man’s power, fall into the category of the predestined. At first, quarrels arise which in the eye of wives give an air of tyranny to husbands. The tyranny of a husband is always a terrible excuse for inconsistency in a wife. Then, in their frivolous discussions they are enabled to prove to their families and to ours, to everybody and to ourselves, that we are in the wrong. If, for the sake of peace, or from love, you acknowledge the pretended rights of women, you yield an advantage to your wife by which she will profit eternally. A husband, like a government, ought never to acknowledge a mistake. In case you do so, your power will be outflanked by the subtle artifices of feminine dignity; then all will be lost; from that moment she will advance from concession to concession until she has driven you from her bed. The woman being shrewd, intelligent, sarcastic and having leisure to meditate over an ironical phrase, can easily turn you into ridicule during a momentary clash of opinions. The day on which she turns you into ridicule, sees the end of your happiness. Your power has expired. A woman who has laughed at her husband cannot henceforth love him. A man should be, to the woman who is in love with him, a being full of power, of greatness, and always imposing. A family cannot exist without despotism. Think of that, ye nations! Now the difficult course which a man has to steer in presence of such serious incidents as these, is what we may call the haute politique of marriage, and is the subject of the second and third parts of our book. That breviary of marital Machiavelism will teach you the manner in which you may grow to greatness within that frivolous mind, within that soul of lacework, to use Napoleon’s phrase. You may learn how a man may exhibit a soul of steel, may enter upon this little domestic war without ever yielding the empire of his will, and may do so without compromising his

happiness. For if you exhibit any tendency to abdication, your wife will despise you, for the sole reason that she has discovered you to be destitute of mental vigor; you are no longer a man to her. But we have not yet reached the point at which are to be developed those theories and principles, by means of which a man may unite elegance of manners with severity of measures; let it suffice us, for the moment, to point out the importance of impending events and let us pursue our theme. At this fatal epoch, you will see that she is adroitly setting up a right to go out alone. You were at one time her god, her idol. She has now reached that height of devotion at which it is permitted to see holes in the garments of the saints. “Oh, mon Dieu! My dear,” said Madame de la Valliere to her husband, “how badly you wear your sword! M. de Richelieu has a way of making it hang straight at his side, which you ought to try to imitate; it is in much better taste.” “My dear, you could not tell me in a more tactful manner that we have been married five months!” replied the Duke, whose repartee made his fortune in the reign of Louis XV. She will study your character in order to find weapons against you. Such a study, which love would hold in horror, reveals itself in the thousand little traps which she lays purposely to make you scold her; when a woman has no excuse for minotaurizing her husband she sets to work to make one. She will perhaps begin dinner without waiting for you. If you drive through the middle of the town, she will point out certain objects which escaped your notice; she will sing before you without feeling afraid; she will interrupt you, sometimes vouchsafe no reply to you, and will prove to you, in a thousand different ways, that she is enjoying at your side the use of all her faculties and exercising her private judgment. She will try to abolish entirely your influence in the management of the house and to become sole mistress of your fortune. At first this struggle will serve as a distraction for her soul, whether it be empty or in too violent commotion; next, she will find in your opposition a new motive for ridicule. Slang expressions will not fail her, and in France we are so quickly vanquished by the ironical smile of another! At other times headaches and nervous attacks make their appearance; but these symptoms furnish matter for a whole future Meditation. In the world she will speak of you without blushing, and will gaze at you with assurance. She will begin to blame your least actions because they are at variance with her ideas, or her secret

intentions. She will take no care of what pertains to you, she will not even know whether you have all you need. You are no longer her paragon. In imitation of Louis XIV, who carried to his mistresses the bouquets of orange blossoms which the head gardener of Versailles put on his table every morning, M. de Vivonne used almost every day to give his wife choice flowers during the early period of his marriage. One morning he found the bouquet lying on the side table without having been placed, as usual, in a vase of water. “Oh! Oh!” said he, “if I am not a cuckold, I shall very soon be one.” You go on a journey for eight days and you receive no letters, or you receive one, three pages of which are blank.—Symptom. You come home mounted on a valuable horse which you like very much, and between her kisses your wife shows her uneasiness about the horse and his fodder.— Symptom. To these features of the case, you will be able to add others. We shall endeavor in the present volume always to paint things in bold fresco style and leave the miniatures to you. According to the characters concerned, the indications which we are describing, veiled under the incidents of ordinary life, are of infinite variety. One man may discover a symptom in the way a shawl is put on, while another needs to receive a fillip to his intellect, in order to notice the indifference of his mate. Some fine spring morning, the day after a ball, or the eve of a country party, this situation reaches its last phase; your wife is listless and the happiness within her reach has no more attractions for her. Her mind, her imagination, perhaps her natural caprices call for a lover. Nevertheless, she dare not yet embark upon an intrigue whose consequences and details fill her with dread. You are still there for some purpose or other; you are a weight in the balance, although a very light one. On the other hand, the lover presents himself arrayed in all the graces of novelty and all the charms of mystery. The conflict which has arisen in the heart of your wife becomes, in presence of the enemy, more real and more full of peril than before. Very soon the more dangers and risks there are to be run, the more she burns to plunge into that delicious gulf of fear, enjoyment, anguish and delight. Her imagination kindles and sparkles, her future life rises before her eyes, colored with romantic and mysterious hues. Her soul discovers that existence has already taken its tone from this struggle which to a woman has so much solemnity in it. All is agitation, all is fire, all is commotion within her. She lives with three times as much intensity as before, and judges the future by the present. The little pleasure which you have lavished upon her bears witness against you; for she is not excited as much by the pleasures which she has received, as by those which she is yet to enjoy; does not imagination show her that her happiness will be keener with this lover, whom the laws deny her, than with you? And then, she finds enjoyment even in her terror and terror in her

enjoyment. Then she falls in love with this imminent danger, this sword of Damocles hung over her head by you yourself, thus preferring the delirious agonies of such a passion, to that conjugal inanity which is worse to her than death, to that indifference which is less a sentiment than the absence of all sentiment. You, who must go to pay your respects to the Minister of Finance, to write memorandums at the bank, to make your reports at the Bourse, or to speak in the Chamber; you, young men, who have repeated with many others in our first Meditation the oath that you will defend your happiness in defending your wife, what can you oppose to these desires of hers which are so natural? For, with these creatures of fire, to live is to feel; the moment they cease to experience emotion they are dead. The law in virtue of which you take your position produces in her this involuntary act of minotaurism. “There is one sequel,” said D’Alembert, “to the laws of movement.” Well, then, where are your means of defence?—Where, indeed? Alas! if your wife has not yet kissed the apple of the Serpent, the Serpent stands before her; you sleep, we are awake, and our book begins. Without inquiring how many husbands, among the five hundred thousand which this book concerns, will be left with the predestined; how many have contracted unfortunate marriages; how many have made a bad beginning with their wives; and without wishing to ask if there be many or few of this numerous band who can satisfy the conditions required for struggling against the danger which is impending, we intend to expound in the second and third part of this work the methods of fighting the Minotaur and keeping intact the virtue of wives. But if fate, the devil, the celibate, opportunity, desire your ruin, in recognizing the progress of all intrigues, in joining in the battles which are fought by every home, you will possibly be able to find some consolation. Many people have such a happy disposition, that on showing to them the condition of things and explaining to them the why and the wherefore, they scratch their foreheads, rub their hands, stamp on the ground, and are satisfied. MEDITATION IX. EPILOGUE. Faithful to our promise, this first part has indicated the general causes which bring all marriages to the crises which we are about to describe; and, in tracing the steps of this conjugal preamble, we have also pointed out the way in which the catastrophe is to be avoided, for we have pointed out the errors by which it is brought about. But these first considerations would be incomplete if, after endeavoring to throw some light upon the inconsistency of our ideas, of our manners and of our laws, with regard to a question which concerns the life of almost all living beings, we did not endeavor to make plain, in a short peroration, the political causes of the infirmity which pervades all modern society. After having exposed the secret vices of

marriage, would it not be an inquiry worthy of philosophers to search out the causes which have rendered it so vicious? The system of law and of manners which so far directs women and controls marriage in France, is the outcome of ancient beliefs and traditions which are no longer in accordance with the eternal principles of reason and of justice, brought to light by the great Revolution of 1789. Three great disturbances have agitated France; the conquest of the country by the Romans, the establishment of Christianity and the invasion of the Franks. Each of these events has left a deep impress upon the soil, upon the laws, upon the manners and upon the intellect of the nation. Greece having one foot on Europe and the other on Asia, was influenced by her voluptuous climate in the choice of her marriage institutions; she received them from the East, where her philosophers, her legislators and her poets went to study the abstruse antiquities of Egypt and Chaldea. The absolute seclusion of women which was necessitated under the burning sun of Asia prevailed under the laws of Greece and Ionia. The women remained in confinement within the marbles of the gyneceum. The country was reduced to the condition of a city, to a narrow territory, and the courtesans who were connected with art and religion by so many ties, were sufficient to satisfy the first passions of the young men, who were few in number, since their strength was elsewhere taken up in the violent exercises of that training which was demanded of them by the military system of those heroic times. At the beginning of her royal career Rome, having sent to Greece to seek such principles of legislation as might suit the sky of Italy, stamped upon the forehead of the married woman the brand of complete servitude. The senate understood the importance of virtue in a republic, hence the severity of manners in the excessive development of the marital and paternal power. The dependence of the woman on her husband is found inscribed on every code. The seclusion prescribed by the East becomes a duty, a moral obligation, a virtue. On these principles were raised temples to modesty and temples consecrated to the sanctity of marriage; hence, sprang the institution of censors, the law of dowries, the sumptuary laws, the respect for matrons and all the characteristics of the Roman law. Moreover, three acts of feminine violation either accomplished or attempted, produced three revolutions! And was it not a grand event, sanctioned by the decrees of the country, that these illustrious women should make their appearances on the political arena! Those noble Roman women, who were obliged to be either brides or mothers, passed their life in retirement engaged in educating the masters of the world. Rome had no courtesans because the youth of the city were engaged in eternal war. If, later on, dissoluteness appeared, it merely resulted from the despotism of emperors; and still the prejudices founded upon ancient manners were so influential that Rome never saw a woman on a stage. These facts are not put forth idly in scanning the history of marriage in France.

After the conquest of Gaul, the Romans imposed their laws upon the conquered; but they were incapable of destroying both the profound respect which our ancestors entertained for women and the ancient superstitions which made women the immediate oracles of God. The Roman laws ended by prevailing, to the exclusion of all others, in this country once known as the “land of written law,” or Gallia togata, and their ideas of marriage penetrated more or less into the “land of customs.” But, during the conflict of laws with manners, the Franks invaded the Gauls and gave to the country the dear name of France. These warriors came from the North and brought the system of gallantry which had originated in their western regions, where the mingling of the sexes did not require in those icy climates the jealous precautions of the East. The women of that time elevated the privations of that kind of life by the exaltation of their sentiments. The drowsy minds of the day made necessary those varied forms of delicate solicitation, that versatility of address, the fancied repulse of coquetry, which belong to the system whose principles have been unfolded in our First Part, as admirably suited to the temperate clime of France. To the East, then, belong the passion and the delirium of passion, the long brown hair, the harem, the amorous divinities, the splendor, the poetry of love and the monuments of love.—To the West, the liberty of wives, the sovereignty of their blond locks, gallantry, the fairy life of love, the secrecy of passion, the profound ecstasy of the soul, the sweet feelings of melancholy and the constancy of love. These two systems, starting from opposite points of the globe, have come into collision in France; in France, where one part of the country, Languedoc, was attracted by Oriental traditions, while the other, Languedoil, was the native land of a creed which attributes to woman a magical power. In the Languedoil, love necessitates mystery, in the Languedoc, to see is to love. At the height of this struggle came the triumphant entry of Christianity into France, and there it was preached by women, and there it consecrated the divinity of a woman who in the forests of Brittany, of Vendee and of Ardennes took, under the name of Notre-Dame, the place of more than one idol in the hollow of old Druidic oaks. If the religion of Christ, which is above all things a code of morality and politics, gave a soul to all living beings, proclaimed that equality of all in the sight of God, and by such principles as these fortified the chivalric sentiments of the North, this advantage was counterbalanced by the fact, that the sovereign pontiff resided at Rome, of which seat he considered himself the lawful heir, through the universality of the Latin tongue, which became that of Europe during the Middle Ages, and through the keen interest taken by monks, writers and lawyers in establishing the ascendency of certain codes, discovered by a soldier in the sack of Amalfi.

These two principles of the servitude and the sovereignty of women retain possession of the ground, each of them defended by fresh arguments. The Salic law, which was a legal error, was a triumph for the principle of political and civil servitude for women, but it did not diminish the power which French manners accorded them, for the enthusiasm of chivalry which prevailed in Europe supplanted the party of manners against the party of law. And in this way was created that strange phenomenon which since that time has characterized both our national despotism and our legislation; for ever since those epochs which seemed to presage the Revolution, when the spirit of philosophy rose and reflected upon the history of the past, France has been the prey of many convulsions. Feudalism, the Crusades, the Reformation, the struggle between the monarchy and the aristocracy. Despotism and Priestcraft have so closely held the country within their clutches, that woman still remains the subject of strange counteropinions, each springing from one of the three great movements to which we have referred. Was it possible that the woman question should be discussed and woman’s political education and marriage should be ventilated when feudalism threatened the throne, when reform menaced both king and barons, and the people, between the hierarchy and the empire, were forgotten? According to a saying of Madame Necker, women, amid these great movements, were like the cotton wool put into a case of porcelain. They were counted for nothing, but without them everything would have been broken. A married woman, then, in France presents the spectacle of a queen out at service, of a slave, at once free and a prisoner; a collision between these two principles which frequently occurred, produced odd situations by the thousand. And then, woman was physically little understood, and what was actually sickness in her, was considered a prodigy, witchcraft or monstrous turpitude. In those days these creatures, treated by the law as reckless children, and put under guardianship, were by the manners of the time deified and adored. Like the freedmen of emperors, they disposed of crowns, they decided battles, they awarded fortunes, they inspired crimes and revolutions, wonderful acts of virtue, by the mere flash of their glances, and yet they possessed nothing and were not even possessors of themselves. They were equally fortunate and unfortunate. Armed with their weakness and strong in instinct, they launched out far beyond the sphere which the law allotted them, showing themselves omnipotent for evil, but impotent for good; without merit in the virtues that were imposed upon them, without excuse in their vices; accused of ignorance and yet denied an education; neither altogether mothers nor altogether wives. Having all the time to conceal their passions, while they fostered them, they submitted to the coquetry of the Franks, while they were obliged like Roman women, to stay within the ramparts of their castles and bring up those who were to be warriors. While no system was definitely decided upon by legislation as to the position of women, their minds were left to follow their inclinations, and there are found among them as many who resemble Marion Delorme as those who resemble Cornelia; there are vices among

them, but there are as many virtues. These were creatures as incomplete as the laws which governed them; they were considered by some as a being midway between man and the lower animals, as a malignant beast which the laws could not too closely fetter, and which nature had destined, with so many other things, to serve the pleasure of men; while others held woman to be an angel in exile, a source of happiness and love, the only creature who responded to the highest feelings of man, while her miseries were to be recompensed by the idolatry of every heart. How could the consistency, which was wanting in a political system, be expected in the general manners of the nation? And so woman became what circumstances and men made her, instead of being what the climate and native institutions should have made her; sold, married against her taste, in accordance with the Patria potestas of the Romans, at the same time that she fell under the marital despotism which desired her seclusion, she found herself tempted to take the only reprisals which were within her power. Then she became a dissolute creature, as soon as men ceased to be intently occupied in intestine war, for the same reason that she was a virtuous woman in the midst of civil disturbances. Every educated man can fill in this outline, for we seek from movements like these the lessons and not the poetic suggestion which they yield. The Revolution was too entirely occupied in breaking down and building up, had too many enemies, or followed perhaps too closely on the deplorable times witnessed under the regency and under Louis XV, to pay any attention to the position which women should occupy in the social order. The remarkable men who raised the immortal monument which our codes present were almost all old-fashioned students of law deeply imbued with a spirit of Roman jurisprudence; and moreover they were not the founders of any political institutions. Sons of the Revolution, they believed, in accordance with that movement, that the law of divorce wisely restricted and the bond of dutiful submission were sufficient ameliorations of the previous marriage law. When that former order of things was remembered, the change made by the new legislation seemed immense. At the present day the question as to which of these two principles shall triumph rests entirely in the hands of our wise legislators. The past has teaching which should bear fruit in the future. Have we lost all sense of the eloquence of fact? The principles of the East resulted in the existence of eunuchs and seraglios; the spurious social standing of France has brought in the plague of courtesans and the more deadly plague of our marriage system; and thus, to use the language of a contemporary, the East sacrifices to paternity men and the principle of justice; France, women and modesty. Neither the East nor France has attained the goal which their institutions point to; for that is happiness. The man is not more loved by the women of a harem than the husband is sure of being in France, as the father of his children; and marrying is not worth what it costs. It is time to offer no more sacrifice

to this institution, and to amass a larger sum of happiness in the social state by making our manners and our institution conformable to our climate. Constitutional government, a happy mixture of two extreme political systems, despotism and democracy, suggests by the necessity of blending also the two principles of marriage, which so far clash together in France. The liberty which we boldly claim for young people is the only remedy for the host of evils whose source we have pointed out, by exposing the inconsistencies resulting from the bondage in which girls are kept. Let us give back to youth the indulgence of those passions, those coquetries, love and its terrors, love and its delights, and that fascinating company which followed the coming of the Franks. At this vernal season of life no fault is irreparable, and Hymen will come forth from the bosom of experiences, armed with confidence, stripped of hatred, and love in marriage will be justified, because it will have had the privilege of comparison. In this change of manners the disgraceful plague of public prostitution will perish of itself. It is especially at the time when the man possesses the frankness and timidity of adolescence, that in his pursuit of happiness he is competent to meet and struggle with great and genuine passions of the heart. The soul is happy in making great efforts of whatever kind; provided that it can act, that it can stir and move, it makes little difference, even though it exercise its power against itself. In this observation, the truth of which everybody can see, there may be found one secret of successful legislation, of tranquillity and happiness. And then, the pursuit of learning has now become so highly developed that the most tempestuous of our coming Mirabeaus can consume his energy either in the indulgence of a passion or the study of a science. How many young people have been saved from debauchery by self-chosen labors or the persistent obstacles put in the way of a first love, a love that was pure! And what young girl does not desire to prolong the delightful childhood of sentiment, is not proud to have her nature known, and has not felt the secret tremblings of timidity, the modesty of her secret communings with herself, and wished to oppose them to the young desires of a lover inexperienced as herself! The gallantry of the Franks and the pleasures which attend it should then be the portion of youth, and then would naturally result a union of soul, of mind, of character, of habits, of temperament and of fortune, such as would produce the happy equilibrium necessary for the felicity of the married couple. This system would rest upon foundations wider and freer, if girls were subjected to a carefully calculated system of disinheritance; or if, in order to force men to choose only those who promised happiness by their virtues, their character or their talents, they married as in the United States without dowry. In that case, the system adopted by the Romans could advantageously be applied to the married women who when they were girls used their liberty. Being exclusively engaged in the early education of their children, which is the most important of all maternal obligations, occupied in creating and maintaining the happiness of the household, so admirably described in the fourth book of Julie, they would be in their houses like the women of ancient Rome, living images of Providence, which reigns

over all, and yet is nowhere visible. In this case, the laws covering the infidelity of the wife should be extremely severe. They should make the penalty disgrace, rather than inflict painful or coercive sentences. France has witnessed the spectacle of women riding asses for the pretended crime of magic, and many an innocent woman has died of shame. In this may be found the secret of future marriage legislation. The young girls of Miletus delivered themselves from marriage by voluntary death; the senate condemned the suicides to be dragged naked on a hurdle, and the other virgins condemned themselves for life. Women and marriage will never be respected until we have that radical change in manners which we are now begging for. This profound thought is the ruling principle in the two finest productions of an immortal genius. Emile and La Nouvelle Heloise are nothing more than two eloquent pleas for the system. The voice there raised will resound through the ages, because it points to the real motives of true legislation, and the manners which will prevail in the future. By placing children at the breast of their mothers, Jean-Jacques rendered an immense service to the cause of virtue; but his age was too deeply gangrened with abuses to understand the lofty lessons unfolded in those two poems; it is right to add also that the philosopher was in these works overmastered by the poet, and in leaving in the heart of Julie after her marriage some vestiges of her first love, he was led astray by the attractiveness of a poetic situation, more touching indeed, but less useful than the truth which he wished to display. Nevertheless, if marriage in France is an unlimited contract to which men agree with a silent understanding that they may thus give more relish to passion, more curiosity, more mystery to love, more fascination to women; if a woman is rather an ornament to the drawing-room, a fashion-plate, a portmanteau, than a being whose functions in the order politic are an essential part of the country’s prosperity and the nation’s glory, a creature whose endeavors in life vie in utility with those of men—I admit that all the above theory, all these long considerations sink into nothingness at the prospect of such an important destiny!—— But after having squeezed a pound of actualities in order to obtain one drop of philosophy, having paid sufficient homage to that passion for the historic, which is so dominant in our time, let us turn our glance upon the manners of the present period. Let us take the cap and bells and the coxcomb of which Rabelais once made a sceptre, and let us pursue the course of this inquiry without giving to one joke more seriousness than comports with it, and without giving to serious things the jesting tone which ill befits them. -------------------------------------------------------------------SECOND PART MEANS OF DEFENCE, INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR.

“To be or not to be, That is the question.” —Shakspeare, Hamlet. MEDITATION X. A TREATISE ON MARITAL POLICY. When a man reaches the position in which the first part of this book sets him, we suppose that the idea of his wife being possessed by another makes his heart beat, and rekindles his passion, either by an appeal to his amour propre, his egotism, or his selfinterest, for unless he is still on his wife’s side, he must be one of the lowest of men and deserves his fate. In this trying moment it is very difficult for a husband to avoid making mistakes; for, with regard to most men, the art of ruling a wife is even less known than that of judiciously choosing one. However, marital policy consists chiefly in the practical application of three principles which should be the soul of your conduct. The first is never to believe what a woman says; the second, always to look for the spirit without dwelling too much upon the letter of her actions; and the third, not to forget that a woman is never so garrulous as when she holds her tongue, and is never working with more energy than when she keeps quiet. From the moment that your suspicions are aroused, you ought to be like a man mounted on a tricky horse, who always watches the ears of the beast, in fear of being thrown from the saddle. But art consists not so much in the knowledge of principles, as in the manner of applying them; to reveal them to ignorant people is to put a razor in the hand of a monkey. Moreover, the first and most vital of your duties consists in perpetual dissimulation, an accomplishment in which most husbands are sadly lacking. In detecting the symptoms of minotaurism a little too plainly marked in the conduct of their wives, most men at once indulge in the most insulting suspicions. Their minds contract a tinge of bitterness which manifests itself in their conversation, and in their manners; and the alarm which fills their heart, like the gas flame in a glass globe, lights up their countenances so plainly, that it accounts for their conduct. Now a woman, who has twelve hours more than you have each day to reflect and to study you, reads the suspicion written upon your face at the very moment that it arises. She will never forget this gratuitous insult. Nothing can ever remedy that. All is now said and done, and the very next day, if she has opportunity, she will join the ranks of inconsistent women. You ought then to begin under these circumstances to affect towards your wife the same boundless confidence that you have hitherto had in her. If you begin to lull her

anxieties by honeyed words, you are lost, she will not believe you; for she has her policy as you have yours. Now there is as much need for tact as for kindliness in your behavior, in order to inculcate in her, without her knowing it, a feeling of security, which will lead her to lay back her ears, and prevent you from using rein or spur at the wrong moment. But how can we compare a horse, the frankest of all animals, to a being, the flashes of whose thought, and the movements of whose impulses render her at moments more prudent than the Servite Fra-Paolo, the most terrible adviser that the Ten at Venice ever had; more deceitful than a king; more adroit than Louis XI; more profound than Machiavelli; as sophistical as Hobbes; as acute as Voltaire; as pliant as the fiancee of Mamolin; and distrustful of no one in the whole wide world but you? Moreover, to this dissimulation, by means of which the springs that move your conduct ought to be made as invisible as those that move the world, must be added absolute self-control. That diplomatic imperturbability, so boasted of by Talleyrand, must be the least of your qualities; his exquisite politeness and the grace of his manners must distinguish your conversation. The professor here expressly forbids you to use your whip, if you would obtain complete control over your gentle Andalusian steed. LXI. If a man strike his mistress it is a self-inflicted wound; but if he strike his wife it is suicide! How can we think of a government without police, an action without force, a power without weapons?—Now this is exactly the problem which we shall try to solve in our future meditations. But first we must submit two preliminary observations. They will furnish us with two other theories concerning the application of all the mechanical means which we propose you should employ. An instance from life will refresh these arid and dry dissertations: the hearing of such a story will be like laying down a book, to work in the field. In the year 1822, on a fine morning in the month of February, I was traversing the boulevards of Paris, from the quiet circles of the Marais to the fashionable quarters of the Chaussee-d’Antin, and I observed for the first time, not without a certain philosophic joy, the diversity of physiognomy and the varieties of costume which, from the Rue du Pas-de-la-Mule even to the Madeleine, made each portion of the boulevard a world of itself, and this whole zone of Paris, a grand panorama of manners. Having at that time no idea of what the world was, and little thinking that one day I should have the audacity to set myself up as a legislator on marriage, I was going to take lunch at the house of a college friend, who was perhaps too early in life afflicted with a wife and two children. My former professor of mathematics lived at a short distance from the house of my college friend, and I promised myself the pleasure of a visit to this worthy mathematician before indulging my appetite for the

dainties of friendship. I accordingly made my way to the heart of a study, where everything was covered with a dust which bore witness to the lofty abstraction of the scholar. But a surprise was in store for me there. I perceived a pretty woman seated on the arm of an easy chair, as if mounted on an English horse; her face took on the look of conventional surprise worn by mistresses of the house towards those they do not know, but she did not disguise the expression of annoyance which, at my appearance, clouded her countenance with the thought that I was aware how ill-timed was my presence. My master, doubtless absorbed in an equation, had not yet raised his head; I therefore waved my right hand towards the young lady, like a fish moving his fin, and on tiptoe I retired with a mysterious smile which might be translated “I will not be the one to prevent him committing an act of infidelity to Urania.” She nodded her head with one of those sudden gestures whose graceful vivacity is not to be translated into words. “My good friend, don’t go away,” cried the geometrician. “This is my wife!” I bowed for the second time!—Oh, Coulon! Why wert thou not present to applaud the only one of thy pupils who understood from that moment the expression, “anacreontic,” as applied to a bow?—The effect must have been very overwhelming; for Madame the Professoress, as the Germans say, rose hurriedly as if to go, making me a slight bow which seemed to say: “Adorable!——” Her husband stopped her, saying: “Don’t go, my child, this is one of my pupils.” The young woman bent her head towards the scholar as a bird perched on a bough stretches its neck to pick up a seed. “It is not possible,” said the husband, heaving a sigh, “and I am going to prove it to you by A plus B.” “Let us drop that, sir, I beg you,” she answered, pointing with a wink to me. If it had been a problem in algebra, my master would have understood this look, but it was Chinese to him, and so he went on. “Look here, child, I constitute you judge in the matter; our income is ten thousand francs.” At these words I retired to the door, as if I were seized with a wild desire to examine the framed drawings which had attracted my attention. My discretion was rewarded by an eloquent glance. Alas! she did not know that in Fortunio I could have played the part of Sharp-Ears, who heard the truffles growing.

“In accordance with the principles of general economy,” said my master, “no one ought to spend in rent and servant’s wages more than two-tenths of his income; now our apartment and our attendance cost altogether a hundred louis. I give you twelve hundred francs to dress with” [in saying this he emphasized every syllable]. “Your food,” he went on, takes up four thousand francs, our children demand at lest twentyfive louis; I take for myself only eight hundred francs; washing, fuel and light mount up to about a thousand francs; so that there does not remain, as you see, more than six hundred francs for unforeseen expenses. In order to buy the cross of diamonds, we must draw a thousand crowns from our capital, and if once we take that course, my little darling, there is no reason why we should not leave Paris which you love so much, and at once take up our residence in the country, in order to retrench. Children and household expenses will increase fast enough! Come, try to be reasonable!” “I suppose I must,” she said, “but you will be the only husband in Paris who has not given a New Year’s gift to his wife.” And she stole away like a school-boy who goes to finish an imposed duty. My master made a gesture of relief. When he saw the door close he rubbed his hands, he talked of the war in Spain; and I went my way to the Rue de Provence, little knowing that I had received the first installment of a great lesson in marriage, any more than I dreamt of the conquest of Constantinople by General Diebitsch. I arrived at my host’s house at the very moment they were sitting down to luncheon, after having waited for me the half hour demanded by usage. It was, I believe, as she opened a pate de foie gras that my pretty hostess said to her husband, with a determined air: “Alexander, if you were really nice you would give me that pair of ear-rings that we saw at Fossin’s.” “You shall have them,” cheerfully replied my friend, drawing from his pocketbook three notes of a thousand francs, the sight of which made his wife’s eyes sparkle. “I can no more resist the pleasure of offering them to you,” he added, “than you can that of accepting them. This is the anniversary of the day I first saw you, and the diamonds will perhaps make you remember it!——” “You bad man!” said she, with a winning smile. She poked two fingers into her bodice, and pulling out a bouquet of violets she threw them with childlike contempt into the face of my friend. Alexander gave her the price of the jewels, crying out: “I had seen the flowers!” I shall never forget the lively gesture and the eager joy with which, like a cat which lays its spotted paw upon a mouse, the little woman seized the three bank notes; she rolled them up blushing with pleasure, and put them in the place of the violets which

before had perfumed her bosom. I could not help thinking about my old mathematical master. I did not then see any difference between him and his pupil, than that which exists between a frugal man and a prodigal, little thinking that he of the two who seemed to calculate the better, actually calculated the worse. The luncheon went off merrily. Very soon, seated in a little drawing-room newly decorated, before a cheerful fire which gave warmth and made our hearts expand as in spring time, I felt compelled to make this loving couple a guest’s compliments on the furnishing of their little bower. “It is a pity that all this costs so dear,” said my friend, “but it is right that the nest be worthy of the bird; but why the devil do you compliment me upon curtains which are not paid for?—You make me remember, just at the time I am digesting lunch, that I still owe two thousand francs to a Turk of an upholsterer.” At these words the mistress of the house made a mental inventory of the pretty room with her eyes, and the radiancy of her face changed to thoughtfulness. Alexander took me by the hand and led me to the recess of a bay window. “Do you happen,” he said in a low voice, “to have a thousand crowns to lend me? I have only twelve thousand francs income, and this year—” “Alexander,” cried the dear creature, interrupting her husband, while, rushing up, she offered him the three banknotes, “I see now that it is a piece of folly—” “What do you mean?” answered he, “keep your money.” “But, my love, I am ruining you! I ought to know that you love me so much, that I ought not to tell you all that I wish for.” “Keep it, my darling, it is your lawful property—nonsense, I shall gamble this winter and get all that back again!” “Gamble!” cried she, with an expression of horror. “Alexander, take back these notes! Come, sir, I wish you to do so.” “No, no,” replied my friend, repulsing the white and delicious little hand. “Are you not going on Thursday to a ball of Madame de B-----?” “I will think about what you asked of me,” said I to my comrade. I went away bowing to his wife, but I saw plainly after that scene that my anacreontic salutation did not produce much effect upon her. “He must be mad,” thought I as I went away, “to talk of a thousand crowns to a law student.”

Five days later I found myself at the house of Madame de B-----, whose balls were becoming fashionable. In the midst of the quadrilles I saw the wife of my friend and that of the mathematician. Madame Alexander wore a charming dress; some flowers and white muslin were all that composed it. She wore a little cross a la Jeannette, hanging by a black velvet ribbon which set off the whiteness of her scented skin; long pears of gold decorated her ears. On the neck of Madame the Professoress sparkled a superb cross of diamonds. “How funny that is,” said I to a personage who had not yet studied the world’s ledger, nor deciphered the heart of a single woman. That personage was myself. If I had then the desire to dance with those fair women, it was simply because I knew a secret which emboldened my timidity. “So after all, madame, you have your cross?” I said to her first. “Well, I fairly won it!” she replied, with a smile hard to describe. “How is this! no ear-rings?” I remarked to the wife of my friend. “Ah!” she replied, “I have enjoyed possession of them during a whole luncheon time, but you see that I have ended by converting Alexander.” “He allowed himself to be easily convinced?” She answered with a look of triumph. Eight years afterwards, this scene suddenly rose to my memory, though I had long since forgotten it, and in the light of the candles I distinctly discerned the moral of it. Yes, a woman has a horror of being convinced of anything; when you try to persuade her she immediately submits to being led astray and continues to play the role which nature gave her. In her view, to allow herself to be won over is to grant a favor, but exact arguments irritate and confound her; in order to guide her you must employ the power which she herself so frequently employs and which lies in an appeal to sensibility. It is therefore in his wife, and not in himself, that a husband can find the instruments of his despotism; as diamond cuts diamond so must the woman be made to tyrannize over herself. To know how to offer the ear-rings in such a way that they will be returned, is a secret whose application embraces the slightest details of life. And now let us pass to the second observation. “He who can manage property of one toman, can manage one of an hundred thousand,” says an Indian proverb; and I, for my part, will enlarge upon this Asiatic adage and declare, that he who can govern one woman can govern a nation, and indeed there is very much similarity between these two governments. Must not the

policy of husbands be very nearly the same as the policy of kings? Do not we see kings trying to amuse the people in order to deprive them of their liberty; throwing food at their heads for one day, in order to make them forget the misery of a whole year; preaching to them not to steal and at the same time stripping them of everything; and saying to them: “It seems to me that if I were the people I should be virtuous”? It is from England that we obtain the precedent which husbands should adopt in their houses. Those who have eyes ought to see that when the government is running smoothly the Whigs are rarely in power. A long Tory ministry has always succeeded an ephemeral Liberal cabinet. The orators of a national party resemble the rats which wear their teeth away in gnawing the rotten panel; they close up the hole as soon as they smell the nuts and the lard locked up in the royal cupboard. The woman is the Whig of our government. Occupying the situation in which we have left her she might naturally aspire to the conquest of more than one privilege. Shut your eyes to the intrigues, allow her to waste her strength in mounting half the steps of your throne; and when she is on the point of touching your sceptre, fling her back to the ground, quite gently and with infinite grace, saying to her: “Bravo!” and leaving her to expect success in the hereafter. The craftiness of this manoeuvre will prove a fine support to you in the employment of any means which it may please you to choose from your arsenal, for the object of subduing your wife. Such are the general principles which a husband should put into practice, if he wishes to escape mistakes in ruling his little kingdom. Nevertheless, in spite of what was decided by the minority at the council of Macon (Montesquieu, who had perhaps foreseen the coming of constitutional government has remarked, I forget in what part of his writings, that good sense in public assemblies is always found on the side of the minority), we discern in a woman a soul and a body, and we commence by investigating the means to gain control of her moral nature. The exercise of thought, whatever people may say, is more noble than the exercise of bodily organs, and we give precedence to science over cookery and to intellectual training over hygiene. MEDITATION XI. INSTRUCTION IN THE HOME. Whether wives should or should not be put under instruction—such is the question before us. Of all those which we have discussed this is the only one which has two extremes and admits of no compromise. Knowledge and ignorance, such are the two irreconcilable terms of this problem. Between these two abysses we seem to see Louis XVIII reckoning up the felicities of the eighteenth century, and the unhappiness of the nineteenth. Seated in the centre of the seesaw, which he knew so well how to balance by his own weight, he contemplates at one end of it the fanatic ignorance of a lay brother, the apathy of a serf, the shining armor on the horses of a banneret; he thinks he hears the cry, “France and Montjoie-Saint-Denis!” But he turns round, he smiles as he sees the haughty look of a manufacturer, who is captain in the national guard; the elegant carriage of a stock broker; the simple costume of a peer of

France turned journalist and sending his son to the Polytechnique; then he notices the costly stuffs, the newspapers, the steam engines; and he drinks his coffee from a cup of Sevres, at the bottom of which still glitters the “N” surmounted by a crown. “Away with civilization! Away with thought!”—That is your cry. You ought to hold in horror the education of women for the reason so well realized in Spain, that it is easier to govern a nation of idiots than a nation of scholars. A nation degraded is happy: if she has not the sentiment of liberty, neither has she the storms and disturbances which it begets; she lives as polyps live; she can be cut up into two or three pieces and each piece is still a nation, complete and living, and ready to be governed by the first blind man who arms himself with the pastoral staff. What is it that produces this wonderful characteristic of humanity? Ignorance; ignorance is the sole support of despotism, which lives on darkness and silence. Now happiness in the domestic establishment as in a political state is a negative happiness. The affection of a people for a king, in an absolute monarchy, is perhaps less contrary to nature than the fidelity of a wife towards her husband, when love between them no longer exists. Now we know that, in your house, love at this moment has one foot on the window-sill. It is necessary for you, therefore, to put into practice that salutary rigor by which M. de Metternich prolongs his statu quo; but we would advise you to do so with more tact and with still more tenderness; for your wife is more crafty than all the Germans put together, and as voluptuous as the Italians. You should, therefore, try to put off as long as possible the fatal moment when your wife asks you for a book. This will be easy. You will first of all pronounce in a tone of disdain the phrase “Blue stocking;” and, on her request being repeated, you will tell her what ridicule attaches, among the neighbors, to pedantic women. You will then repeat to her, very frequently, that the most lovable and the wittiest women in the world are found at Paris, where women never read; That women are like people of quality who, according to Mascarillo, know everything without having learned anything; that a woman while she is dancing, or while she is playing cards, without even having the appearance of listening, ought to know how to pick up from the conversation of talented men the ready-made phrases out of which fools manufacture their wit at Paris; That in this country decisive judgments on men and affairs are passed round from hand to hand; and that the little cutting phrase with which a woman criticises an author, demolishes a work, or heaps contempt on a picture, has more power in the world than a court decision; That women are beautiful mirrors, which naturally reflect the most brilliant ideas;

That natural wit is everything, and the best education is gained rather from what we learn in the world than by what we read in books; That, above all, reading ends in making the eyes dull, etc. To think of leaving a woman at liberty to read the books which her character of mind may prompt her to choose! This is to drop a spark in a powder magazine; it is worse than that, it is to teach your wife to separate herself from you; to live in an imaginary world, in a Paradise. For what do women read? Works of passion, the Confessions of Rousseau, romances, and all those compositions which work most powerfully on their sensibility. They like neither argument nor the ripe fruits of knowledge. Now have you ever considered the results which follow these poetical readings? Romances, and indeed all works of imagination, paint sentiments and events with colors of a very different brilliancy from those presented by nature. The fascination of such works springs less from the desire which each author feels to show his skill in putting forth choice and delicate ideas than from the mysterious working of the human intellect. It is characteristic of man to purify and refine everything that he lays up in the treasury of his thoughts. What human faces, what monuments of the dead are not made more beautiful than actual nature in the artistic representation? The soul of the reader assists in this conspiracy against the truth, either by means of the profound silence which it enjoys in reading or by the fire of mental conception with which it is agitated or by the clearness with which imagery is reflected in the mirror of the understanding. Who has not seen on reading the Confessions of JeanJacques, that Madame de Warens is described as much prettier than she ever was in actual life? It might almost be said that our souls dwell with delight upon the figures which they had met in a former existence, under fairer skies; that they accept the creations of another soul only as wings on which they may soar into space; features the most delicate they bring to perfection by making them their own; and the most poetic expression which appears in the imagery of an author brings forth still more ethereal imagery in the mind of a reader. To read is to join with the writer in a creative act. The mystery of the transubstantiation of ideas, originates perhaps in the instinctive consciousness that we have of a vocation loftier than our present destiny. Or, is it based on the lost tradition of a former life? What must that life have been, if this slight residuum of memory offers us such volumes of delight? Moreover, in reading plays and romances, woman, a creature much more susceptible than we are to excitement, experiences the most violent transport. She creates for herself an ideal existence beside which all reality grows pale; she at once attempts to realize this voluptuous life, to take to herself the magic which she sees in it. And, without knowing it, she passes from spirit to letter and from soul to sense. And would you be simple enough to believe that the manners, the sentiments of a man like you, who usually dress and undress before your wife, can counterbalance the influence of these books and outshine the glory of their fictitious lovers, in whose

garments the fair reader sees neither hole nor stain?—Poor fool! too late, alas! for her happiness and for yours, your wife will find out that the heroes of poetry are as rare in real life as the Apollos of sculpture! Very many husbands will find themselves embarrassed in trying to prevent their wives from reading, yet there are certain people who allege that reading has this advantage, that men know what their wives are about when they have a book in hand. In the first place you will see, in the next Meditation, what a tendency the sedentary life has to make a woman quarrelsome; but have you never met those beings without poetry, who succeed in petrifying their unhappy companions by reducing life to its most mechanical elements? Study great men in their conversation and learn by heart the admirable arguments by which they condemn poetry and the pleasures of imagination. But if, after all your efforts, your wife persists in wishing to read, put at her disposal at once all possible books from the A B C of her little boy to Rene, a book more dangerous to you when in her hands than Therese Philosophe. You might create in her an utter disgust for reading by giving her tedious books; and plunge her into utter idiocy with Marie Alacoque, The Brosse de Penitence, or with the chansons which were so fashionable in the time of Louis XV; but later on you will find, in the present volume, the means of so thoroughly employing your wife’s time, that any kind of reading will be quite out of the question. And first of all, consider the immense resources which the education of women has prepared for you in your efforts to turn your wife from her fleeting taste for science. Just see with what admirable stupidity girls lend themselves to reap the benefit of the education which is imposed upon them in France; we give them in charge to nursery maids, to companions, to governesses who teach them twenty tricks of coquetry and false modesty, for every single noble and true idea which they impart to them. Girls are brought up as slaves, and are accustomed to the idea that they are sent into the world to imitate their grandmothers, to breed canary birds, to make herbals, to water little Bengal rose-bushes, to fill in worsted work, or to put on collars. Moreover, if a little girl in her tenth year has more refinement than a boy of twenty, she is timid and awkward. She is frightened at a spider, chatters nonsense, thinks of dress, talks about the fashions and has not the courage to be either a watchful mother or a chaste wife. Notice what progress she had made; she has been shown how to paint roses, and to embroider ties in such a way as to earn eight sous a day. She has learned the history of France in Ragois and chronology in the Tables du Citoyen Chantreau, and her young imagination has been set free in the realm of geography; all without any aim, excepting that of keeping away all that might be dangerous to her heart; but at the same time her mother and her teachers repeat with unwearied voice the lesson, that the whole science of a woman lies in knowing how to arrange the fig leaf which our Mother Eve wore. “She does not hear for fifteen years,” says Diderot, “anything else

but ’my daughter, your fig leaf is on badly; my daughter, your fig leaf is on well; my daughter, would it not look better so?’” Keep your wife then within this fine and noble circle of knowledge. If by chance your wife wishes to have a library, buy for her Florian, Malte-Brun, The Cabinet des Fees, The Arabian Nights, Redoute’s Roses, The Customs of China, The Pigeons, by Madame Knip, the great work on Egypt, etc. Carry out, in short, the clever suggestion of that princess who, when she was told of a riot occasioned by the dearness of bread, said, “Why don’t they eat cake?” Perhaps, one evening, your wife will reproach you for being sullen and not speaking to her; perhaps she will say that you are ridiculous, when you have just made a pun; but this is one of the slight annoyances incident to our system; and, moreover, what does it matter to you that the education of women in France is the most pleasant of absurdities, and that your marital obscurantism has brought a doll to your arms? As you have not sufficient courage to undertake a fairer task, would it not be better to lead your wife along the beaten track of married life in safety, than to run the risk of making her scale the steep precipices of love? She is likely to be a mother: you must not exactly expect to have Gracchi for sons, but to be really pater quem nuptiae demonstrant; now, in order to aid you in reaching this consummation, we must make this book an arsenal from which each one, in accordance with his wife’s character and his own, may choose weapons fit to employ against the terrible genius of evil, which is always ready to rise up in the soul of a wife; and since it may fairly be considered that the ignorant are the most cruel opponents of feminine education, this Meditation will serve as a breviary for the majority of husbands. If a woman has received a man’s education, she possesses in very truth the most brilliant and most fertile sources of happiness both to herself and to her husband; but this kind of woman is as rare as happiness itself; and if you do not possess her for your wife, your best course is to confine the one you do possess, for the sake of your common felicity, to the region of ideas she was born in, for you must not forget that one moment of pride in her might destroy you, by setting on the throne a slave who would immediately be tempted to abuse her power. After all, by following the system prescribed in this Meditation, a man of superiority will be relieved from the necessity of putting his thoughts into small change, when he wishes to be understood by his wife, if indeed this man of superiority has been guilty of the folly of marrying one of those poor creatures who cannot understand him, instead of choosing for his wife a young girl whose mind and heart he has tested and studied for a considerable time. Our aim in this last matrimonial observation has not been to advise all men of superiority to seek for women of superiority and we do not wish each one to expound our principles after the manner of Madame de Stael, who attempted in the most indelicate manner to effect a union between herself and Napoleon. These two beings

would have been very unhappy in their domestic life; and Josephine was a wife accomplished in a very different sense from this virago of the nineteenth century. And, indeed, when we praise those undiscoverable girls so happily educated by chance, so well endowed by nature, whose delicate souls endure so well the rude contact of the great soul of him we call a man, we mean to speak of those rare and noble creatures of whom Goethe has given us a model in his Claire of Egmont; we are thinking of those women who seek no other glory than that of playing their part well; who adapt themselves with amazing pliancy to the will and pleasure of those whom nature has given them for masters; soaring at one time into the boundless sphere of their thought and in turn stooping to the simple task of amusing them as if they were children; understanding well the inconsistencies of masculine and violent souls, understanding also their slightest word, their most puzzling looks; happy in silence, happy also in the midst of loquacity; and well aware that the pleasures, the ideas and the moral instincts of a Lord Byron cannot be those of a bonnet-maker. But we must stop; this fair picture has led us too far from our subject; we are treating of marriage and not of love. MEDITATION XII. THE HYGIENE OF MARRIAGE. The aim of this Meditation is to call to your attention a new method of defence, by which you may reduce the will of your new wife to a condition of utter and abject submission. This is brought about by the reaction upon her moral nature of physical changes, and the wise lowering of her physical condition by a diet skillfully controlled. This great and philosophical question of conjugal medicine will doubtless be regarded favorably by all who are gouty, are impotent, or suffer from catarrh; and by that legion of old men whose dullness we have quickened by our article on the predestined. But it principally concerns those husbands who have courage enough to enter into those paths of machiavelism, such as would not have been unworthy of that great king of France who endeavored to secure the happiness of the nation at the expense of certain noble heads. Here, the subject is the same. The amputation or the weakening of certain members is always to the advantage of the whole body. Do you think seriously that a celibate who has been subject to a diet consisting of the herb hanea, of cucumbers, of purslane and the applications of leeches to his ears, as recommended by Sterne, would be able to carry by storm the honor of your wife? Suppose that a diplomat had been clever enough to affix a permanent linen plaster to the head of Napoleon, or to purge him every morning: Do you think that Napoleon, Napoleon the Great, would ever have conquered Italy? Was Napoleon, during his campaign in Russia, a prey to the most horrible pangs of dysuria, or was he not? That is one of the questions which has weighed upon the minds of the whole world. Is it

not certain that cooling applications, douches, baths, etc., produce great changes in more or less acute affections of the brain? In the middle of the heat of July when each one of your pores slowly filters out and returns to the devouring atmosphere the glasses of iced lemonade which you have drunk at a single draught, have you ever felt the flame of courage, the vigor of thought, the complete energy which rendered existence light and sweet to you some months before? No, no; the iron most closely cemented into the hardest stone will raise and throw apart the most durable monument, by reason of the secret influence exercised by the slow and invisible variations of heat and cold, which vex the atmosphere. In the first place, let us be sure that if atmospheric mediums have an influence over man, there is still a stronger reason for believing that man, in turn, influences the imagination of his kind, by the more or less vigor with which he projects his will and thus produces a veritable atmosphere around him. It is in this fact that the power of the actor’s talent lies, as well as that of poetry and of fanaticism; for the former is the eloquence of words, as the latter is the eloquence of actions; and in this lies the foundation of a science, so far in its infancy. This will, so potent in one man against another, this nervous and fluid force, eminently mobile and transmittable, is itself subject to the changing condition of our organization, and there are many circumstances which make this frail organism of ours to vary. At this point, our metaphysical observation shall stop and we will enter into an analysis of the circumstances which develop the will of man and impart to it a grater degree of strength or weakness. Do not believe, however, that it is our aim to induce you to put cataplasms on the honor of your wife, to lock her up in a sweating house, or to seal her up like a letter; no. We will not even attempt to teach you the magnetic theory which would give you the power to make your will triumph in the soul of your wife; there is not a single husband who would accept the happiness of an eternal love at the price of this perpetual strain laid upon his animal forces. But we shall attempt to expound a powerful system of hygiene, which will enable you to put out the flame when your chimney takes fire. The elegant women of Paris and the provinces (and these elegant women form a very distinguished class among the honest women) have plenty of means of attaining the object which we propose, without rummaging in the arsenal of medicine for the four cold specifics, the water-lily and the thousand inventions worthy only of witches. We will leave to Aelian his herb hanea and to Sterne the purslane and cucumber which indicate too plainly his antiphlogistic purpose. You should let your wife recline all day long on soft armchairs, in which she sinks into a veritable bath of eiderdown or feathers; you should encourage in every way that does no violence to your conscience, the inclination which women have to breathe no other air but the scented atmosphere of a chamber seldom opened, where daylight can scarcely enter through the soft, transparent curtains.

You will obtain marvelous results from this system, after having previously experienced the shock of her excitement; but if you are strong enough to support this momentary transport of your wife you will soon see her artificial energy die away. In general, women love to live fast, but, after their tempest of passion, return to that condition of tranquillity which insures the happiness of a husband. Jean-Jacques, through the instrumentality of his enchanting Julie, must have proved to your wife that it was infinitely becoming to refrain from affronting her delicate stomach and her refined palate by making chyle out of coarse lumps of beef, and enormous collops of mutton. Is there anything purer in the world than those interesting vegetables, always fresh and scentless, those tinted fruits, that coffee, that fragrant chocolate, those oranges, the golden apples of Atalanta, the dates of Arabia and the biscuits of Brussels, a wholesome and elegant food which produces satisfactory results, at the same time that it imparts to a woman an air of mysterious originality? By the regimen which she chooses she becomes quite celebrated in her immediate circle, just as she would be by a singular toilet, a benevolent action or a bon mot. Pythagoras must needs have cast his spell over her, and become as much petted by her as a poodle or an ape. Never commit the imprudence of certain men who, for the sake of putting on the appearance of wit, controvert the feminine dictum, that the figure is preserved by meagre diet. Women on such a diet never grow fat, that is clear and positive; do you stick to that. Praise the skill with which some women, renowned for their beauty, have been able to preserve it by bathing themselves in milk, several times a day, or in water compounded of substances likely to render the skin softer and to lower the nervous tension. Advise her above all things to refrain from washing herself in cold water; because water warm or tepid is the proper thing for all kinds of ablutions. Let Broussais be your idol. At the least indisposition of your wife, and on the slightest pretext, order the application of leeches; do not even shrink from applying from time to time a few dozen on yourself, in order to establish the system of that celebrated doctor in your household. You will constantly be called upon from your position as husband to discover that your wife is too ruddy; try even sometimes to bring the blood to her head, in order to have the right to introduce into the house at certain intervals a squad of leeches. Your wife ought to drink water, lightly tinged with a Burgundy wine agreeable to her taste, but destitute of any tonic properties; every other kind of wine would be bad for her. Never allow her to drink water alone; if you do, you are lost.

“Impetuous fluid! As soon as you press against the floodgates of the brain, how quickly do they yield to your power! Then Curiosity comes swimming by, making signs to her companions to follow; they plunge into the current. Imagination sits dreaming on the bank. She follows the torrent with her eyes and transforms the fragments of straw and reed into masts and bowsprit. And scarcely has the transformation taken place, before Desire, holding in one hand her skirt drawn up even to her knees, appears, sees the vessel and takes possession of it. O ye drinkers of water, it is by means of that magic spring that you have so often turned and turned again the world at your will, throwing beneath your feet the weak, trampling on his neck, and sometimes changing even the form and aspect of nature!” If by this system of inaction, in combination with our system of diet, you fail to obtain satisfactory results, throw yourself with might and main into another system, which we will explain to you. Man has a certain degree of energy given to him. Such and such a man or woman stands to another as ten is to thirty, as one to five; and there is a certain degree of energy which no one of us ever exceeds. The quantity of energy, or willpower, which each of us possesses diffuses itself like sound; it is sometimes weak, sometimes strong; it modifies itself according to the octaves to which it mounts. This force is unique, and although it may be dissipated in desire, in passion, in toils of intellect or in bodily exertion, it turns towards the object to which man directs it. A boxer expends it in blows of the fist, the baker in kneading his bread, the poet in the enthusiasm which consumes and demands an enormous quantity of it; it passes to the feet of the dancer; in fact, every one diffuses it at will, and may I see the Minotaur tranquilly seated this very evening upon my bed, if you do not know as well as I do how he expends it. Almost all men spend in necessary toils, or in the anguish of direful passions, this fine sum of energy and of will, with which nature has endowed them; but our honest women are all the prey to the caprices and the struggles of this power which knows not what to do with itself. If, in the case of your wife, this energy has not been subdued by the prescribed dietary regimen, subject her to some form of activity which will constantly increase in violence. Find some means by which her sum of force which inconveniences you may be carried off, by some occupation which shall entirely absorb her strength. Without setting your wife to work the crank of a machine, there are a thousand ways of tiring her out under the load of constant work. In leaving it to you to find means for carrying out our design—and these means vary with circumstances—we would point out that dancing is one of the very best abysses in which love may bury itself. This point having been very well treated by a contemporary, we will give him here an opportunity of speaking his mind: “The poor victim who is the admiration of an enchanted audience pays dear for her success. What result can possibly follow on exertions so ill-proportioned to the resources of the delicate sex? The muscles of the body, disproportionately wearied, are forced to their full power of exertion. The nervous forces, intended to feed the

fire of passions, and the labor of the brain, are diverted from their course. The failure of desire, the wish for rest, the exclusive craving for substantial food, all point to a nature impoverished, more anxious to recruit than to enjoy. Moreover, a denizen of the side scenes said to me one day, ’Whoever has lived with dancers has lived with sheep; for in their exhaustion they can think of nothing but strong food.’ Believe me, then, the love which a ballet girl inspires is very delusive; in her we find, under an appearance of an artificial springtime, a soil which is cold as well as greedy, and senses which are utterly dulled. The Calabrian doctors prescribed the dance as a remedy for the hysteric affections which are common among the women of their country; and the Arabs use a somewhat similar recipe for the highbred mares, whose too lively temperament hinders their fecundity. ‘Dull as a dancer’ is a familiar proverb at the theatre. In fact, the best brains of Europe are convinced that dancing brings with it a result eminently cooling. “In support of this it may be necessary to add other observations. The life of shepherds gives birth to irregular loves. The morals of weavers were horribly decried in Greece. The Italians have given birth to a proverb concerning the lubricity of lame women. The Spanish, in whose veins are found many mixtures of African incontinence, have expressed their sentiments in a maxim which is familiar with them: Muger y gallina pierna quebrantada [it is good that a woman and a hen have one broken leg]. The profound sagacity of the Orientals in the art of pleasure is altogether expressed by this ordinance of the caliph Hakim, founder of the Druses, who forbade, under pain of death, the making in his kingdom of any shoes for women. It seems that over the whole globe the tempests of the heart wait only to break out after the limbs are at rest!” What an admirable manoeuvre it would be to make a wife dance, and to feed her on vegetables! Do not believe that these observations, which are as true as they are wittily stated, contradict in any way the system which we have previously prescribed; by the latter, as by the former, we succeed in producing in a woman that needed listlessness, which is the pledge of repose and tranquility. By the latter you leave a door open, that the enemy may flee; by the former, you slay him. Now at this point it seems to us that we hear timorous people and those of narrow views rising up against our idea of hygiene in the name of morality and sentiment. “Is not woman endowed with a soul? Has she not feelings as we have? What right has any one, without regard to her pain, her ideas, or her requirements, to hammer her out, as a cheap metal, out of which a workman fashions a candlestick or an extinguisher? Is it because the poor creatures are already so feeble and miserable that a brute claims the power to torture them, merely at the dictate of his own fancies, which may be more or less just? And, if by this weakening or heating system of yours, which draws out, softens, hardens the fibres, you cause frightful and cruel sickness, if you bring to the tomb a woman who is dear to you; if, if,—”

This is our answer: Have you never noticed into how many different shapes harlequin and columbine change their little white hats? They turn and twist them so well that they become, one after another, a spinning-top, a boat, a wine-glass, a half-moon, a cap, a basket, a fish, a whip, a dagger, a baby, and a man’s head. This is an exact image of the despotism with which you ought to shape and reshape your wife. The wife is a piece of property, acquired by contract; she is part of your furniture, for possession is nine-tenths of the law; in fact, the woman is not, to speak correctly, anything but an adjunct to the man; therefore abridge, cut, file this article as you choose; she is in every sense yours. Take no notice at all of her murmurs, of her cries, of her sufferings; nature has ordained her for your use, that she may bear everything—children, griefs, blows and pains from man. Don’t accuse yourself of harshness. In the codes of all the nations which are called civilized, man has written the laws which govern the destiny of women in these cruel terms: Vae victis! Woe to the conquered! Finally, think upon this last observation, the most weighty, perhaps, of all that we have made up to this time: if you, her husband, do not break under the scourge of your will this weak and charming reed, there will be a celibate, capricious and despotic, ready to bring her under a yoke more cruel still; and she will have to endure two tyrannies instead of one. Under all considerations, therefore, humanity demands that you should follow the system of our hygiene. MEDITATION XIII. OF PERSONAL MEASURES. Perhaps the preceding Meditations will prove more likely to develop general principles of conduct, than to repel force by force. They furnish, however, the pharmacopoeia of medicine and not the practice of medicine. Now consider the personal means which nature has put into your hands for self-defence; for Providence has forgotten no one; if to the sepia (that fish of the Adriatic) has been given the black dye by which he produces a cloud in which he disappears from his enemy, you should believe that a husband has not been left without a weapon; and now the time has come for you to draw yours. You ought to have stipulated before you married that your wife should nurse her own children; in this case, as long as she is occupied in bearing children or in nursing them you will avoid the danger from one or two quarters. The wife who is engaged

in bringing into the world and nursing a baby has not really the time to bother with a lover, not to speak of the fact that before and after her confinement she cannot show herself in the world. In short, how can the most bold of the distinguished women who are the subject of this work show herself under these circumstances in public? O Lord Byron, thou didst not wish to see women even eat! Six months after her confinement, and when the child is on the eve of being weaned, a woman just begins to feel that she can enjoy her restoration and her liberty. If your wife has not nursed her first child, you have too much sense not to notice this circumstance, and not to make her desire to nurse her next one. You will read to her the Emile of Jean-Jacques; you will fill her imagination with a sense of motherly duties; you will excite her moral feelings, etc.: in a word, you are either a fool or a man of sense; and in the first case, even after reading this book, you will always be minotaurized; while in the second, you will understand how to take a hint. This first expedient is in reality your own personal business. It will give you a great advantage in carrying out all the other methods. Since Alcibiades cut the ears and the tail of his dog, in order to do a service to Pericles, who had on his hands a sort of Spanish war, as well as an Ouvrard contract affair, such as was then attracting the notice of the Athenians, there is not a single minister who has not endeavored to cut the ears of some dog or other. So in medicine, when inflammation takes place at some vital point of the system, counter-irritation is brought about at some other point, by means of blisters, scarifications and cupping. Another method consists in blistering your wife, or giving her, with a mental needle, a prod whose violence is such as to make a diversion in your favor. A man of considerable mental resources had made his honeymoon last for about four years; the moon began to wane, and he saw appearing the fatal hollow in its circle. His wife was exactly in that state of mind which we attributed at the close of our first part to every honest woman; she had taken a fancy to a worthless fellow who was both insignificant in appearance and ugly; the only thing in his favor was, he was not her own husband. At this juncture, her husband meditated the cutting of some dog’s tail, in order to renew, if possible, his lease of happiness. His wife had conducted herself with such tact, that it would have been very embarrassing to forbid her lover the house, for she had discovered some slight tie of relationship between them. The danger became, day by day, more imminent. The scent of the Minotaur was all around. One evening the husband felt himself plunged into a mood of deep vexation so acute as to be apparent to his wife. His wife had begun to show him more kindness than she had ever exhibited, even during the honeymoon; and hence question after question racked his mind. On her part a dead silence reigned. The

anxious questionings of his mind were redoubled; his suspicions burst forth, and he was seized with forebodings of future calamity! Now, on this occasion, he deftly applied a Japanese blister, which burned as fiercely as an auto-da-fe of the year 1600. At first his wife employed a thousand stratagems to discover whether the annoyance of her husband was caused by the presence of her lover; it was her first intrigue and she displayed a thousand artifices in it. Her imagination was aroused; it was no longer taken up with her lover; had she not better, first of all, probe her husband’s secret? One evening the husband, moved by the desire to confide in his loving helpmeet all his troubles, informed her that their whole fortune was lost. They would have to give up their carriage, their box at the theatre, balls, parties, even Paris itself; perhaps, by living on their estate in the country a year or two, they might retrieve all! Appealing to the imagination of his wife, he told her how he pitied her for her attachment to a man who was indeed deeply in love with her, but was now without fortune; he tore his hair, and his wife was compelled in honor to be deeply moved; then in this first excitement of their conjugal disturbance he took her off to his estate. Then followed scarifications, mustard plaster upon mustard plaster, and the tails of fresh dogs were cut: he caused a Gothic wing to be built to the chateau; madame altered the park ten time over in order to have fountains and lakes and variations in the grounds; finally, the husband in the midst of her labors did not forget his own, which consisted in providing her with interesting reading, and launching upon her delicate attentions, etc. Notice, he never informed his wife of the trick he had played on her; and if his fortune was recuperated, it was directly after the building of the wing, and the expenditure of enormous sums in making water-courses; but he assured her that the lake provided a water-power by which mills might be run, etc. Now, there was a conjugal blister well conceived, for this husband neither neglected to rear his family nor to invite to his house neighbors who were tiresome, stupid or old; and if he spent the winter in Paris, he flung his wife into the vortex of balls and races, so that she had not a minute to give to lovers, who are usually the fruit of a vacant life. Journeys to Italy, Switzerland or Greece, sudden complaints which require a visit to the waters, and the most distant waters, are pretty good blisters. In fact, a man of sense should know how to manufacture a thousand of them. Let us continue our examination of such personal methods. And here we would have you observe that we are reasoning upon a hypothesis, without which this book will be unintelligible to you; namely, we suppose that your honeymoon has lasted for a respectable time and that the lady that you married was not a widow, but a maid; on the opposite supposition, it is at least in accordance with French manners to think that your wife married you merely for the purpose of becoming inconsistent.

From the moment when the struggle between virtue and inconsistency begins in your home, the whole question rests upon the constant and involuntary comparison which your wife is instituting between you and her lover. And here you may find still another mode of defence, entirely personal, seldom employed by husbands, but the men of superiority will not fear to attempt it. It is to belittle the lover without letting your wife suspect your intention. You ought to be able to bring it about so that she will say to herself some evening while she is putting her hair in curl-papers, “My husband is superior to him.” In order to succeed, and you ought to be able to succeed, since you have the immense advantage over the lover in knowing the character of your wife, and how she is most easily wounded, you should, with all the tact of a diplomat, lead this lover to do silly things and cause him to annoy her, without his being aware of it. In the first place, this lover, as usual, will seek your friendship, or you will have friends in common; then, either through the instrumentality of these friends or by insinuations adroitly but treacherously made, you will lead him astray on essential points; and, with a little cleverness, you will succeed in finding your wife ready to deny herself to her lover when he calls, without either she or he being able to tell the reason. Thus you will have created in the bosom of your home a comedy in five acts, in which you play, to your profit, the brilliant role of Figaro or Almaviva; and for some months you will amuse yourself so much the more, because your amour-propre, your vanity, your all, were at stake. I had the good fortune in my youth to win the confidence of an old emigre who gave me those rudiments of education which are generally obtained by young people from women. This friend, whose memory will always be dear to me, taught me by his example to put into practice those diplomatic stratagems which require tact as well as grace. The Comte de Noce had returned from Coblenz at a time when it was dangerous for the nobility to be found in France. No one had such courage and such kindness, such craft and such recklessness as this aristocrat. Although he was sixty years old he had married a woman of twenty-five, being compelled to this act of folly by softheartedness; for he thus delivered this poor child from the despotism of a capricious mother. “Would you like to be my widow?” this amiable old gentleman had said to Mademoiselle de Pontivy, but his heart was too affectionate not to become more attached to his wife than a sensible man ought to be. As in his youth he had been under the influence of several among the cleverest women in the court of Louis XV, he thought he would have no difficulty in keeping his wife from any entanglement. What man excepting him have I ever seen, who could put into successful practice the teachings which I am endeavoring to give to husbands! What charm could he impart to life by his delightful manners and fascinating conversation!—His wife never knew

until after his death what she then learned from me, namely, that he had the gout. He had wisely retired to a home in the hollow of a valley, close to a forest. God only knows what rambles he used to take with his wife!—His good star decreed that Mademoiselle de Pontivy should possess an excellent heart and should manifest in a high degree that exquisite refinement, that sensitive modesty which renders beautiful the plainest girl in the world. All of a sudden, one of his nephews, a good-looking military man, who had escaped from the disasters of Moscow, returned to his uncle’s house, as much for the sake of learning how far he had to fear his cousins, as heirs, as in the hope of laying siege to his aunt. His black hair, his moustache, the easy smalltalk of the staff officer, a certain freedom which was elegant as well as trifling, his bright eyes, contrasted favorably with the faded graces of his uncle. I arrived at the precise moment when the young countess was teaching her newly found relation to play backgammon. The proverb says that “women never learn this game excepting from their lovers, and vice versa.” Now, during a certain game, M. de Noce had surprised his wife and the viscount in the act of exchanging one of those looks which are full of mingled innocence, fear, and desire. In the evening he proposed to us a hunting-party, and we agreed. I never saw him so gay and so eager as he appeared on the following morning, in spite of the twinges of gout which heralded an approaching attack. The devil himself could not have been better able to keep up a conversation on trifling subjects than he was. He had formerly been a musketeer in the Grays and had known Sophie Arnoud. This explains all. The conversation after a time became so exceedingly free among us three, that I hope God may forgive me for it! “I would never have believed that my uncle was such a dashing blade?” said the nephew. We made a halt, and while we were sitting on the edge of a green forest clearing, the count led us on to discourse about women just as Brantome and Aloysia might have done. “You fellows are very happy under the present government!—the women of the time are well mannered” (in order to appreciate the exclamation of the old gentleman, the reader should have heard the atrocious stories which the captain had been relating). “And this,” he went on, “is one of the advantages resulting from the Revolution. The present system gives very much more charm and mystery to passion. In former times women were easy; ah! indeed, you would not believe what skill it required, what daring, to wake up those worn-out hearts; we were always on the qui vive. But yet in those days a man became celebrated for a broad joke, well put, or for a lucky piece of insolence. That is what women love, and it will always be the best method of succeeding with them!” These last words were uttered in a tone of profound contempt; he stopped, and began to play with the hammer of his gun as if to disguise his deep feeling.

“But nonsense,” he went on, “my day is over! A man ought to have the body as well as the imagination young. Why did I marry? What is most treacherous in girls educated by mothers who lived in that brilliant era of gallantry, is that they put on an air of frankness, of reserve; they look as if butter would not melt in their mouths, and those who know them well feel that they would swallow anything!” He rose, lifted his gun with a gesture of rage, and dashing it to the ground thrust it far up the butt in the moist sod. “It would seem as if my dear aunt were fond of a little fun,” said the officer to me in a low voice. “Or of denouements that do not come off!” I added. The nephew tightened his cravat, adjusted his collar and gave a jump like a Calabrian goat. We returned to the chateau at about two in the afternoon. The count kept me with him until dinner-time, under the pretext of looking for some medals, of which he had spoken during our return home. The dinner was dull. The countess treated her nephew with stiff and cold politeness. When we entered the drawing-room the count said to his wife: “Are you going to play backgammon?—We will leave you.” The young countess made no reply. She gazed at the fire, as if she had not heard. Her husband took some steps towards the door, inviting me by the wave of his hand to follow him. At the sound of his footsteps, his wife quickly turned her head. “Why do you leave us?” said she, “you will have all tomorrow to show your friend the reverse of the medals.” The count remained. Without paying any attention to the awkwardness which had succeeded the former military aplomb of his nephew, the count exercised during the whole evening his full powers as a charming conversationalist. I had never before seen him so brilliant or so gracious. We spoke a great deal about women. The witticisms of our host were marked by the most exquisite refinement. He made me forget that his hair was white, for he showed the brilliancy which belonged to a youthful heart, a gaiety which effaces the wrinkles from the cheek and melts the snow of wintry age. The next day the nephew went away. Even after the death of M. de Noce, I tried to profit by the intimacy of those familiar conversations in which women are sometimes caught off their guard to sound her, but I could never learn what impertinence the viscount had exhibited towards his aunt. His insolence must have been excessive, for since that time Madame de Noce has refused to see her nephew, and up to the present moment never hears him named without a slight movement of her eyebrows. I did

not at once guess the end at which the Comte de Noce aimed, in inviting us to go shooting; but I discovered later that he had played a pretty bold game. Nevertheless, if you happen at last, like M. de Noce, to carry off a decisive victory, do not forget to put into practice at once the system of blisters; and do not for a moment imagine that such tours de force are to be repeated with safety. If that is the way you use your talents, you will end by losing caste in your wife’s estimation; for she will demand of you, reasonably enough, double what you would give her, and the time will come when you declare bankruptcy. The human soul in its desires follows a sort of arithmetical progression, the end and origin of which are equally unknown. Just as the opium-eater must constantly increase his doses in order to obtain the same result, so our mind, imperious as it is weak, desires that feeling, ideas and objects should go on ever increasing in size and in intensity. Hence the necessity of cleverly distributing the interest in a dramatic work, and of graduating doses in medicine. Thus you see, if you always resort to the employment of means like these, that you must accommodate such daring measures to many circumstances, and success will always depend upon the motives to which you appeal. And finally, have you influence, powerful friends, an important post? The last means I shall suggest cuts to the root of the evil. Would you have the power to send your wife’s lover off by securing his promotion, or his change of residence by an exchange, if he is a military man? You cut off by this means all communication between them; later on we will show you how to do it; for sublata causa tollitur effectus,—Latin words which may be freely translated “there is no effect without a cause.” Nevertheless, you feel that your wife may easily choose another lover; but in addition to these preliminary expedients, you will always have a blister ready, in order to gain time, and calculate how you may bring the affair to an end by fresh devices. Study how to combine the system of blisters with the mimic wiles of Carlin, the immortal Carlin of the Comedie-Italienne who always held and amused an audience for whole hours, by uttering the same words, varied only by the art of pantomime and pronounced with a thousand inflections of different tone,—“The queen said to the king!” Imitate Carlin, discover some method of always keeping your wife in check, so as not to be checkmated yourself. Take a degree among constitutional ministers, a degree in the art of making promises. Habituate yourself to show at seasonable times the punchinello which makes children run after you without knowing the distance they run. We are all children, and women are all inclined through their curiosity to spend their time in pursuit of a will-o’-the-wisp. The flame is brilliant and quickly vanishes, but is not the imagination at hand to act as your ally? Finally, study the happy art of being near her and yet not being near her; of seizing the opportunity which will yield you pre-eminence in her mind without ever crushing her with a sense of your superiority, or even of her own happiness. If the ignorance in which

you have kept her does not altogether destroy her intellect, you must remain in such relations with her that each of you will still desire the company of the other. MEDITATION XIV. OF APARTMENTS. The preceding methods and systems are in a way purely moral; they share the nobility of the soul, there is nothing repulsive in them; but now we must proceed to consider precautions a la Bartholo. Do not give way to timidity. There is a marital courage, as there is a civil and military courage, as there is the courage of the National Guard. What is the first course of a young girl after having purchased a parrot? Is it not to fasten it up in a pretty cage, from which it cannot get out without permission? You may learn your duty from this child. Everything that pertains to the arrangement of your house and of your apartments should be planned so as not to give your wife any advantage, in case she has decided to deliver you to the Minotaur; half of all actual mischances are brought about by the deplorable facilities which the apartments furnish. Before everything else determine to have for your porter a single man entirely devoted to your person. This is a treasure easily to be found. What husband is there throughout the world who has not either a foster-father or some old servant, upon whose knees he has been dandled! There ought to exist by means of your management, a hatred like that of Artreus and Thyestes between your wife and this Nestor—guardian of your gate. This gate is the Alpha and Omega of an intrigue. May not all intrigues in love be confined in these words—entering and leaving? Your house will be of no use to you if it does not stand between a court and a garden, and so constructed as to be detached from all other buildings. You must abolish all recesses in your apartments. A cupboard, if it contain but six pots of preserves, should be walled in. You are preparing yourself for war, and the first thought of a general is to cut his enemy off from supplies. Moreover, all the walls must be smooth, in order to present to the eye lines which may be taken in at a glance, and permit the immediate recognition of the least strange object. If you consult the remains of antique monuments you will see that the beauty of Greek and Roman apartments sprang principally from the purity of their lines, the clear sweep of their walls and scantiness of furniture. The Greeks would have smiled in pity, if they had seen the gaps which our closets make in our drawing-rooms. This magnificent system of defence should above all be put in active operation in the apartment of your wife; never let her curtain her bed in such a way that one can walk

round it amid a maze of hangings; be inexorable in the matter of connecting passages, and let her chamber be at the bottom of your reception-rooms, so as to show at a glance those who come and go. The Marriage of Figaro will no doubt have taught you to put your wife’s chamber at a great height from the ground. All celibates are Cherubins. Your means, doubtless, will permit your wife to have a dressing-room, a bath-room, and a room for her chambermaid. Think then on Susanne, and never commit the fault of arranging this little room below that of madame’s, but place it always above, and do not shrink from disfiguring your mansion by hideous divisions in the windows. If, by ill luck, you see that this dangerous apartment communicates with that of your wife by a back staircase, earnestly consult your architect; let his genius exhaust itself in rendering this dangerous staircase as innocent as the primitive garret ladder; we conjure you let not this staircase have appended to it any treacherous lurking-place; its stiff and angular steps must not be arranged with that tempting curve which Faublas and Justine found so useful when they waited for the exit of the Marquis de B-----. Architects nowadays make such staircases as are absolutely preferable to ottomans. Restore rather the virtuous garret steps of our ancestors. Concerning the chimneys in the apartment of madame, you must take care to place in the flue, five feet from the ground, an iron grill, even though it be necessary to put up a fresh one every time the chimney is swept. If your wife laughs at this precaution, suggest to her the number of murders that have been committed by means of chimneys. Almost all women are afraid of robbers. The bed is one of those important pieces of furniture whose structure will demand long consideration. Everything concerning it is of vital importance. The following is the result of long experience in the construction of beds. Give to this piece of furniture a form so original that it may be looked upon without disgust, in the midst of changes of fashion which succeed so rapidly in rendering antiquated the creations of former decorators, for it is essential that your wife be unable to change, at pleasure, this theatre of married happiness. The base should be plain and massive and admit of no treacherous interval between it and the floor; and bear in mind always that the Donna Julia of Byron hid Don Juan under her pillow. But it would be ridiculous to treat lightly so delicate a subject. LXII. The bed is the whole of marriage. Moreover, we must not delay to direct your attention to this wonderful creation of human genius, an invention which claims our recognition much more than ships, firearms, matches, wheeled carriages, steam engines of all kinds, more than even barrels and bottles. In the first place, a little thought will convince us that this is all true of the bed; but when we begin to think that it is our second father, that the most

tranquil and most agitated half of our existence is spent under its protecting canopy, words fail in eulogizing it. (See Meditation XVII, entitled “Theory of the Bed.”) When the war, of which we shall speak in our third part, breaks out between you and madame, you will always have plenty of ingenious excuses for rummaging in the drawers and escritoires; for if your wife is trying to hide from you some statue of her adoration, it is your interest to know where she has hidden it. A gyneceum, constructed on the method described, will enable you to calculate at a glance, whether there is present in it two pounds of silk more than usual. Should a single closet be constructed there, you are a lost man! Above all, accustom your wife, during the honeymoon, to bestow especial pains in the neatness of her apartment; let nothing put off that. If you do not habituate her to be minutely particular in this respect, if the same objects are not always found in the same places, she will allow things to become so untidy, that you will not be able to see that there are two pounds of silk more or less in her room. The curtains of your apartments ought to be of a stuff which is quite transparent, and you ought to contract the habit in the evenings of walking outside so that madame may see you come right up to the window just out of absent-mindedness. In a word, with regard to windows, let the sills be so narrow that even a sack of flour cannot be set up on them. If the apartment of your wife can be arranged on these principles, you will be in perfect safety, even if there are niches enough there to contain all the saints of Paradise. You will be able, every evening, with the assistance of your porter, to strike the balance between the entrances and exits of visitors; and, in order to obtain accurate results, there is nothing to prevent your teaching him to keep a book of visitors, in double entry. If you have a garden, cultivate a taste for dogs, and always keep at large one of these incorruptible guardians under your windows; you will thus gain the respect of the Minotaur, especially if you accustom your four-footed friend to take nothing substantial excepting from the hand of your porter, so that hard-hearted celibates may not succeed in poisoning him. But all these precautions must be taken as a natural thing so that they may not arouse suspicions. If husbands are so imprudent as to neglect precautions from the moment they are married, they ought at once to sell their house and buy another one, or, under the pretext of repairs, alter their present house in the way prescribed. You will without scruple banish from your apartment all sofas, ottomans, lounges, sedan chairs and the like. In the first place, this is the kind of furniture that adorns the homes of grocers, where they are universally found, as they are in those of barbers; but they are essentially the furniture of perdition; I can never see them

without alarm. It has always seemed to me that there the devil himself is lurking with his horns and cloven foot. After all, nothing is so dangerous as a chair, and it is extremely unfortunate that women cannot be shut up within the four walls of a bare room! What husband is there, who on sitting down on a rickety chair is not always forced to believe that this chair has received some of the lessons taught by the Sofa of Crebillion junior? But happily we have arranged your apartment on such a system of prevention that nothing so fatal can happen, or, at any rate, not without your contributory negligence. One fault which you must contract, and which you must never correct, will consist in a sort of heedless curiosity, which will make you examine unceasingly all the boxes, and turn upside down the contents of all dressing-cases and work-baskets. You must proceed to this domiciliary visit in a humorous mood, and gracefully, so that each time you will obtain pardon by exciting the amusement of your wife. You must always manifest a most profound astonishment on noticing any piece of furniture freshly upholstered in her well-appointed apartment. You must immediately make her explain to you the advantages of the change; and then you must ransack your mind to discover whether there be not some underhand motive in the transaction. This is by no means all. You have too much sense to forget that your pretty parrot will remain in her cage only so long as that cage is beautiful. The least accessory of her apartment ought, therefore, to breathe elegance and taste. The general appearance should always present a simple, at the same time a charming picture. You must constantly renew the hangings and muslin curtains. The freshness of the decorations is too essential to permit of economy on this point. It is the fresh chickweed each morning carefully put into the cage of their birds, that makes their pets believe it is the verdure of the meadows. An apartment of this character is then the ultima ratio of husbands; a wife has nothing to say when everything is lavished on her. Husbands who are condemned to live in rented apartments find themselves in the most terrible situation possible. What happy or what fatal influence cannot the porter exercise upon their lot? Is not their home flanked on either side by other houses? It is true that by placing the apartment of their wives on one side of the house the danger is lessened by one-half; but are they not obliged to learn by heart and to ponder the age, the condition, the fortune, the character, the habits of the tenants of the next house and even to know their friends and relations? A husband will never take lodgings on the ground floor.

Every man, however, can apply in his apartments the precautionary methods which we have suggested to the owner of a house, and thus the tenant will have this advantage over the owner, that the apartment, which is less spacious than the house, is more easily guarded. MEDITATION XV. OF THE CUSTOM HOUSE. “But no, madame, no—” “Yes, for there is such inconvenience in the arrangement.” “Do you think, madame, that we wish, as at the frontier, to watch the visits of persons who cross the threshold of your apartments, or furtively leave them, in order to see whether they bring to you articles of contraband? That would not be proper; and there is nothing odious in our proceeding, any more than there is anything of a fiscal character; do not be alarmed.” The Custom House of the marriage state is, of all the expedients prescribed in this second part, that which perhaps demands the most tact and the most skill as well as the most knowledge acquired a priori, that is to say before marriage. In order to carry it out, a husband ought to have made a profound study of Lavater’s book, and to be imbued with all his principles; to have accustomed his eye to judge and to apprehend with the most astonishing promptitude, the slightest physical expressions by which a man reveals his thoughts. Lavater’s Physiognomy originated a veritable science, which has won a place in human investigation. If at first some doubts, some jokes greeted the appearance of this book, since then the celebrated Doctor Gall is come with his noble theory of the skull and has completed the system of the Swiss savant, and given stability to his fine and luminous observations. People of talent, diplomats, women, all those who are numbered among the choice and fervent disciples of these two celebrated men, have often had occasion to recognize many other evident signs, by which the course of human thought is indicated. The habits of the body, the handwriting, the sound of the voice, have often betrayed the woman who is in love, the diplomat who is attempting to deceive, the clever administrator, or the sovereign who is compelled to distinguish at a glance love, treason or merit hitherto unknown. The man whose soul operates with energy is like a poor glowworm, which without knowing it irradiates light from every pore. He moves in a brilliant sphere where each effort makes a burning light and outlines his actions with long streamers of fire. These, then, are all the elements of knowledge which you should possess, for the conjugal custom house insists simply in being able by a rapid but searching examination to know the moral and physical condition of all who enter or leave your

house—all, that is, who have seen or intend to see your wife. A husband is, like a spider, set at the centre of an invisible net, and receives a shock from the least fool of a fly who touches it, and from a distance, hears, judges and sees what is either his prey or his enemy. Thus you must obtain means to examine the celibate who rings at your door under two circumstances which are quite distinct, namely, when he is about to enter and when he is inside. At the moment of entering how many things does he utter without even opening his mouth! It may be by a slight wave of his hand, or by his plunging his fingers many times into his hair, he sticks up or smoothes down his characteristic bang. Or he hums a French or an Italian air, merry or sad, in a voice which may be either tenor, contralto, soprano or baritone. Perhaps he takes care to see that the ends of his necktie are properly adjusted. Or he smoothes down the ruffles or front of his shirt or evening-dress. Or he tries to find out by a questioning and furtive glance whether his wig, blonde or brown, curled or plain, is in its natural position. Perhaps he looks at his nails to see whether they are clean and duly cut. Perhaps with a hand which is either white or untidy, well-gloved or otherwise, he twirls his moustache, or his whiskers, or picks his teeth with a little tortoise-shell toothpick. Or by slow and repeated movements he tries to place his chin exactly over the centre of his necktie. Or perhaps he crosses one foot over the other, putting his hands in his pockets. Or perhaps he gives a twist to his shoe, and looks at it as if he thought, “Now, there’s a foot that is not badly formed.” 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. MEDITATION XVI. THE CHARTER OF MARRIAGE. 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 SaintDenis 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 longsuffering 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 snuffboxes 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. MEDITATION XVII. THE THEORY OF THE BED. 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 séance 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: 1. TWIN BEDS. 2. SEPARATE ROOMS. 3. ONE BED FOR BOTH. 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 preeminently 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 goodevening, 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. 1. TWIN BEDS. 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 wellbeloved. 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. 2. SEPARATE ROOMS. 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. 3. ONE BED FOR BOTH. 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. MEDITATION XVIII. OF MARITAL REVOLUTIONS. 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!” MEDITATION XIX. OF THE LOVER. 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. LXIX. All the affected airs of sensibility which a woman puts on invariably deceive a lover; and on occasions when a husband shrugs his shoulders, a lover is in ecstasies. LXX. A lover betrays by his manner alone the degree of intimacy in which he stands to a married woman. LXXI. A woman does not always know why she is in love. It is rarely that a man falls in love without some selfish purpose. A husband should discover this secret motive of egotism, for it will be to him the lever of Archimedes. LXXII. A clever husband never betrays his supposition that his wife has a lover. LXXIII. The lover submits to all the caprices of a woman; and as a man is never vile while he lies in the arms of his mistress, he will take the means to please her that a husband would recoil from. LXXIV. A lover teaches a wife all that her husband has concealed from her. LXXV. All the sensations which a woman yields to her lover, she gives in

exchange; they return to her always intensified; they are as rich in what they give as in what they receive. This is the kind of commerce in which almost all husbands end by being bankrupt. LXXVI. A lover speaks of nothing to a woman but that which exalts her; while a husband, although he may be a loving one, can never refrain from giving advice which always has the appearance of reprimand. LXXVII. A lover always starts from his mistress to himself; with a husband the contrary is the case. LXXVIII. A lover always has a desire to appear amiable. There is in this sentiment an element of exaggeration which leads to ridicule; study how to take advantage of this. LXXIX. When a crime has been committed the magistrate who investigates the case knows [excepting in the case of a released convict who commits murder in jail] that there are not more than five persons to whom he can attribute the act. He starts from this premise a series of conjectures. The husband should reason like the judge; there are only three people in society whom he can suspect when seeking the lover of his wife. LXXX. A lover is never in the wrong. LXXXI. The lover of a married woman says to her: “Madame, you have need of rest. You have to give an example of virtue to your children. You have sworn to make your husband happy, and although he has some faults—he has fewer than I have—he is worthy of your esteem. Nevertheless you have sacrificed everything for me. Do not let a single murmur escape you; for regret is an offence which I think worthy of a severer penalty than the law decrees against infidelity. As a reward for these sacrifices, I will bring you as much pleasure as pain.” And the incredible part about it is, that the lover triumphs. The form which his speech takes carries it. He says but one phrase: “I love you.” A lover is a herald who proclaims either the merit, the beauty, or the wit of a woman. What does a husband proclaim?

To sum up all, the love which a married woman inspires, or that which she gives back, is the least creditable sentiment in the world; in her it is boundless vanity; in her lover it is selfish egotism. The lover of a married woman contracts so many obligations, that scarcely three men in a century are met with who are capable of discharging them. He ought to dedicate his whole life to his mistress, but he always ends by deserting her; both parties are aware of this, and, from the beginning of social life, the one has always been sublime in self-sacrifice, the other an ingrate. The infatuation of love always rouses the pity of the judges who pass sentence on it. But where do you find such love genuine and constant? What power must a husband possess to struggle successfully against a man who casts over a woman a spell strong enough to make her submit to such misfortunes! We think, then, as a general rule, a husband, if he knows how to use the means of defence which we have outlined, can lead his wife up to her twenty-seventh year, not without her having chosen a lover, but without her having committed the great crime. Here and there we meet with men endowed with deep marital genius, who can keep their wives, body and soul to themselves alone up to their thirtieth or thirty-fifth year; but these exceptions cause a sort of scandal and alarm. The phenomenon scarcely ever is met with excepting in the country, where life is transparent and people live in glass houses and the husband wields immense power. The miraculous assistance which men and things thus give to a husband always vanishes in the midst of a city whose population reaches to two hundred and fifty thousand. It would therefore almost appear to be demonstrated that thirty is the age of virtue. At that critical period, a woman becomes so difficult to guard, that in order successfully to enchain her within the conjugal Paradise, resort must be had to those last means of defence which remain to be described, and which we will reveal in the Essay on Police, the Art of Returning Home, and Catastrophes. MEDITATION XX. ESSAY ON POLICE. The police of marriage consist of all those means which are given you by law, manners, force, and stratagem for preventing your wife in her attempt to accomplish those three acts which in some sort make up the life of love: writing, seeing and speaking. The police combine in greater or less proportion the means of defence put forth in the preceding Meditations. Instinct alone can teach in what proportions and on what occasions these compounded elements are to be employed. The whole system is elastic; a clever husband will easily discern how it must be bent, stretched or retrenched. By the aid of the police a man can guide his wife to her fortieth year pure from any fault.

We will divide this treatise on Police into five captions: 1. OF MOUSE-TRAPS. 2. OF CORRESPONDENCE. 3. OF SPIES. 4. THE INDEX. 5. OF THE BUDGET. 1. OF MOUSE-TRAPS. In spite of the grave crisis which the husband has reached, we do not suppose that the lover has completely acquired the freedom of the city in the marital establishment. Many husbands often suspect that their wives have a lover, and yet they do not know upon which of the five or six chosen ones of whom we have spoken their suspicions ought to fall. This hesitation doubtless springs from some moral infirmity, to whose assistance the professor must come. Fouche had in Paris three or four houses resorted to by people of the highest distinction; the mistresses of these dwellings were devoted to him. This devotion cost a great deal of money to the state. The minister used to call these gatherings, of which nobody at the time had any suspicion, his mouse-traps. More than one arrest was made at the end of the ball at which the most brilliant people of Paris had been made accomplices of this oratorian. The act of offering some fragments of roasted nuts, in order to see your wife put her white hand in the trap, is certainly exceedingly delicate, for a woman is certain to be on her guard; nevertheless, we reckon upon at least three kinds of mouse-traps: The Irresistible, The Fallacious, and that which is Touch and Go. The Irresistible. Suppose two husbands, we will call them A and B, wish to discover who are the lovers of their wives. We will put the husband A at the centre of a table loaded with the finest pyramids of fruit, of crystals, of candies and of liqueurs, and the husband B shall be at whatever point of this brilliant circle you may please to suppose. The champagne has gone round, every eye is sparkling and every tongue is wagging. HUSBAND A. (peeling a chestnut)—Well, as for me, I admire literary people, but from a distance. I find them intolerable; in conversation they are despotic; I do not know what displeases me more, their faults or their good qualities. In short (he swallows his chestnut), people of genius are like tonics—you like, but you must use them temperately. WIFE B. (who has listened attentively)—But, M. A., you are very exacting (with an arch smile); it seems to me that dull people have as many faults as people of talent, with this difference perhaps, that the former have nothing to atone for them! HUSBAND A. (irritably)—You will agree at least, madame, that they are not very amiable to you.

WIFE B. (with vivacity)—Who told you so? HUSBAND A. (smiling)—Don’t they overwhelm you all the time with their superiority? Vanity so dominates their souls that between you and them the effort is reciprocal— THE MISTRESS OF THE HOUSE. (aside to Wife A)—You well deserved it, my dear. (Wife A shrugs her shoulders.) HUSBAND A. (still continuing)—Then the habit they have of combining ideas which reveal to them the mechanism of feeling! For them love is purely physical and every one knows that they do not shine. WIFE B. (biting her lips, interrupting him)—It seems to me, sir, that we are the sole judges in this matter. I can well understand why men of the world do not like men of letters! But it is easier to criticise than to imitate them. HUSBAND A. (disdainfully)—Oh, madame, men of the world can assail the authors of the present time without being accused of envy. There is many a gentleman of the drawing-room, who if he undertook to write— WIFE B. (with warmth)—Unfortunately for you, sir, certain friends of yours in the Chamber have written romances; have you been able to read them?—But really, in these days, in order to attain the least originality, you must undertake historic research, you must— HUSBAND B. (making no answer to the lady next him and speaking aside) --Oh! Oh! Can it be that it is M. de L-----, author of the Dreams of a Young Girl, whom my wife is in love with?—That is singular; I thought that it was Doctor M-----. But stay! (Aloud.) Do you know, my dear, that you are right in what you say? (All laugh.) Really, I should prefer to have always artists and men of letters in my drawingroom—(aside) when we begin to receive!—rather than to see there other professional men. In any case artists speak of things about which every one is enthusiastic, for who is there who does not believe in good taste? But judges, lawyers, and, above all, doctors—Heavens! I confess that to hear them constantly speaking about lawsuits and diseases, those two human ills— WIFE A. (sitting next to Husband B, speaking at the same time)—What is that you are saying, my friend? You are quite mistaken. In these days nobody wishes to wear a professional manner; doctors, since you have mentioned doctors, try to avoid speaking of professional matters. They talk politics, discuss the fashions and the theatres, they tell anecdotes, they write books better than professional authors do; there is a vast difference between the doctors of to-day and those of Moliere—

HUSBAND A. (aside)—Whew! Is it possible my wife is in love with Dr. M-----? That would be odd. (Aloud.) That is quite possible, my dear, but I would not give a sick dog in charge of a physician who writes. WIFE A. (interrupting her husband)—I know people who have five or six offices, yet the government has the greatest confidence in them; anyway, it is odd that you should speak in this way, you who were one of Dr. M-----’s great cases-HUSBAND A. (aside)—There can be no doubt of it! The Fallacious. A HUSBAND. (as he reaches home)—My dear, we are invited by Madame de Fischtaminel to a concert which she is giving next Tuesday. I reckoned on going there, as I wanted to speak with a young cousin of the minister who was among the singers; but he is gone to Frouville to see his aunt. What do you propose doing? HIS WIFE.—These concerts tire me to death!—You have to sit nailed to your chair whole hours without saying a word.—Besides, you know quite well that we dine with my mother on that day, and it is impossible to miss paying her a visit. HER HUSBAND. (carelessly)—Ah! that is true. (Three days afterwards.) THE HUSBAND. (as he goes to bed)—What do you think, my darling? To-morrow I will leave you at your mother’s, for the count has returned from Frouville and will be at Madame de Fischtaminel’s concert. HIS WIFE. (vivaciously)—But why should you go alone? You know how I adore music! The Touch and Go Mouse-Trap. THE WIFE.—Why did you go away so early this evening? THE HUSBAND. (mysteriously)—Ah! It is a sad business, and all the more so because I don’t know how I can settle it. THE WIFE.—What is it all about, Adolph? You are a wretch if you do not tell me what you are going to do! THE HUSBAND.—My dear, that ass of a Prosper Magnan is fighting a duel with M. de Fontanges, on account of an Opera singer.—But what is the matter with you?

THE WIFE.—Nothing.—It is very warm in this room and I don’t know what ails me, for the whole day I have been suffering from sudden flushing of the face. THE HUSBAND. (aside)—She is in love with M. de Fontanges. (Aloud.) Celestine! (He shouts out still louder.) Celestine! Come quick, madame is ill! You will understand that a clever husband will discover a thousand ways of setting these three kinds of traps. 2. OF CORRESPONDENCE. To write a letter, and to have it posted; to get an answer, to read it and burn it; there we have correspondence stated in the simplest terms. Yet consider what immense resources are given by civilization, by our manners and by our love to the women who wish to conceal these material actions from the scrutiny of a husband. The inexorable box which keeps its mouth open to all comers receives its epistolary provender from all hands. There is also the fatal invention of the General Delivery. A lover finds in the world a hundred charitable persons, male and female, who, for a slight consideration, will slip the billets-doux into the amorous and intelligent hand of his fair mistress. A correspondence is a variable as Proteus. There are sympathetic inks. A young celibate has told us in confidence that he has written a letter on the fly-leaf of a new book, which, when the husband asked for it of the bookseller, reached the hands of his mistress, who had been prepared the evening before for this charming article. A woman in love, who fears her husband’s jealousy, will write and read billets-doux during the time consecrated to those mysterious occupations during which the most tyrannical husband must leave her alone. Moreover, all lovers have the art of arranging a special code of signals, whose arbitrary import it is difficult to understand. At a ball, a flower placed in some odd way in the hair; at the theatre, a pocket handkerchief unfolded on the front of the box; rubbing the nose, wearing a belt of a particular color, putting the hat on one side, wearing one dress oftener than another, singing a certain song in a concert or touching certain notes on the piano; fixing the eyes on a point agreed; everything, in fact, from the hurdy-gurdy which passes your windows and goes away if you open the shutter, to the newspaper announcement of a horse for sale—all may be reckoned as correspondence.

How many times, in short, will a wife craftily ask her husband to do such and such commission for her, to go to such and such a shop or house, having previously informed her lover that your presence at such or such a place means yes or no? On this point the professor acknowledges with shame that there is no possible means of preventing correspondence between lovers. But a little machiavelism on the part of the husband will be much more likely to remedy the difficulty than any coercive measures. An agreement, which should be kept sacred between married people, is their solemn oath that they will respect each other’s sealed letters. Clever is the husband who makes this pledge on his wedding-day and is able to keep it conscientiously. In giving your wife unrestrained liberty to write and to receive letters, you will be enabled to discern the moment she begins to correspond with a lover. But suppose your wife distrusts you and covers with impenetrable clouds the means she takes to conceal from you her correspondence. Is it not then time to display that intellectual power with which we armed you in our Meditation entitled Of the Custom House? The man who does not see when his wife writes to her lover, and when she receives an answer, is a failure as a husband. The proposed study which you ought to bestow upon the movements, the actions, the gestures, the looks of your wife, will be perhaps troublesome and wearying, but it will not last long; the only point is to discover when your wife and her lover correspond and in what way. We cannot believe that a husband, even of moderate intelligence, will fail to see through this feminine manoeuvre, when once he suspects its existence. Meanwhile, you can judge from a single incident what means of police and of restraint remain to you in the event of such a correspondence. A young lawyer, whose ardent passion exemplified certain of the principles dwelt upon in this important part of our work, had married a young person whose love for him was but slight; yet this circumstance he looked upon as an exceedingly happy one; but at the end of his first year of marriage he perceived that his dear Anna [for Anna was her name] had fallen in love with the head clerk of a stock-broker. Adolph was a young man of about twenty-five, handsome in face and as fond of amusement as any other celibate. He was frugal, discreet, possessed of an excellent heart, rode well, talked well, had fine black hair always curled, and dressed with taste. In short, he would have done honor and credit to a duchess. The advocate was ugly, short, stumpy, square-shouldered, mean-looking, and, moreover, a husband. Anna, tall and pretty, had almond eyes, white skin and refined features. She was all

love; and passion lighted up her glance with a bewitching expression. While her family was poor, Maitre Lebrun had an income of twelve thousand francs. That explains all. One evening Lebrun got home looking extremely chop-fallen. He went into his study to work; but he soon came back shivering to his wife, for he had caught a fever and hurriedly went to bed. There he lay groaning and lamenting for his clients and especially for a poor widow whose fortune he was to save the very next day by effecting a compromise. An appointment had been made with certain business men and he was quite incapable of keeping it. After having slept for a quarter of an hour, he begged his wife in a feeble voice to write to one of his intimate friends, asking him to take his (Lebrun’s) place next day at the conference. He dictated a long letter and followed with his eye the space taken up on the paper by his phrases. When he came to begin the second page of the last sheet, the advocate set out to describe to his confrere the joy which his client would feel on the signing of the compromise, and the fatal page began with these words: “My good friend, go for Heaven’s sake to Madame Vernon’s at once; you are expected with impatience there; she lives at No. 7 Rue de Sentier. Pardon my brevity; but I count on your admirable good sense to guess what I am unable to explain. “Tout a vous,” “Give me the letter,” said the lawyer, “that I may see whether it is correct before signing it.” The unfortunate wife, who had been taken off her guard by this letter, which bristled with the most barbarous terms of legal science, gave up the letter. As soon as Lebrun got possession of the wily script he began to complain, to twist himself about, as if in pain, and to demand one little attention after another of his wife. Madame left the room for two minutes during which the advocate leaped from his bed, folded a piece of paper in the form of a letter and hid the missive written by his wife. When Anna returned, the clever husband seized the blank paper, made her address it to the friend of his, to whom the letter which he had taken out was written, and the poor creature handed the blank letter to his servant. Lebrun seemed to grow gradually calmer; he slept or pretended to do so, and the next morning he still affected to feel strange pains. Two days afterwards he tore off the first leaf of the letter and put an “e” to the word tout in the phrase “tout a vous."[*] He folded mysteriously the paper which contained the innocent forgery, sealed it, left his bedroom and called the maid, saying to her: [*] Thus giving a feminine ending to the signature, and lending the impression that the note emanated from the wife personally—J.W.M.

“Madame begs that you will take this to the house of M. Adolph; now, be quick about it.” He saw the chambermaid leave the house and soon afterwards he, on a plea of business, went out, hurried to Rue de Sentier, to the address indicated, and awaited the arrival of his rival at the house of a friend who was in the secret of his stratagem. The lover, intoxicated with happiness, rushed to the place and inquired for Madame de Vernon; he was admitted and found himself face to face with Maitre Lebrun, who showed a countenance pale but chill, and gazed at him with tranquil but implacable glance. “Sir,” he said in a tone of emotion to the young clerk, whose heart palpitated with terror, “you are in love with my wife, and you are trying to please her; I scarcely know how to treat you in return for this, because in your place and at your age I should have done exactly the same. But Anna is in despair; you have disturbed her happiness, and her heart is filled with the torments of hell. Moreover, she has told me all, a quarrel soon followed by a reconciliation forced her to write the letter which you have received, and she has sent me here in her place. I will not tell you, sir, that by persisting in your plan of seduction you will cause the misery of her you love, that you will forfeit her my esteem, and eventually your own; that your crime will be stamped on the future by causing perhaps sorrow to my children. I will not even speak to you of the bitterness you will infuse into my life;—unfortunately these are commonplaces! But I declare to you, sir, that the first step you take in this direction will be the signal for a crime; for I will not trust the risk of a duel in order to stab you to the heart!” And the eyes of the lawyer flashed ominously. “Now, sir,” he went on in a gentler voice, “you are young, you have a generous heart. Make a sacrifice for the future happiness of her you love; leave her and never see her again. And if you must needs be a member of my family, I have a young aunt who is yet unsettled in life; she is charming, clever and rich. Make her acquaintance, and leave a virtuous woman undisturbed.” This mixture of raillery and intimidation, together with the unwavering glance and deep voice of the husband, produced a remarkable impression on the lover. He remained for a moment utterly confused, like people overcome with passion and deprived of all presence of mind by a sudden shock. If Anna has since then had any lovers [which is a pure hypothesis] Adolph certainly is not one of them. This occurrence may help you to understand that correspondence is a double-edged weapon which is of as much advantage for the defence of the husband as for the inconsistency of the wife. You should therefore encourage correspondence for the same reason that the prefect of police takes special care that the street lamps of Paris are kept lighted.

3. OF SPIES. To come so low as to beg servants to reveal secrets to you, and to fall lower still by paying for a revelation, is not a crime; it is perhaps not even a dastardly act, but it is certainly a piece of folly; for nothing will ever guarantee to you the honesty of a servant who betrays her mistress, and you can never feel certain whether she is operating in your interest or in that of your wife. This point therefore may be looked upon as beyond controversy. Nature, that good and tender parent, has set round about the mother of a family the most reliable and the most sagacious of spies, the most truthful and at the same time the most discreet in the world. They are silent and yet they speak, they see everything and appear to see nothing. One day I met a friend of mine on the boulevard. He invited me to dinner, and we went to his house. Dinner had been already served, and the mistress of the house was helping her two daughters to plates of soup. “I see here my first symptoms,” I said to myself. We sat down. The first word of the husband, who spoke without thinking, and for the sake of talking, was the question: “Has any one been here to-day?” “Not a soul,” replied his wife, without lifting her eyes. I shall never forget the quickness with which the two daughters looked up to their mother. The elder girl, aged eight, had something especially peculiar in her glance. There was at the same time revelation and mystery, curiosity and silence, astonishment and apathy in that look. If there was anything that could be compared to the speed with which the light of candor flashed from their eyes, it was the prudent reserve with which both of them closed down, like shutters, the folds of their white eyelids. Ye sweet and charming creatures, who from the age of nine even to the age of marriage too often are the torment of a mother even when she is not a coquette, is it by the privilege of your years or the instinct of your nature that your young ears catch the faint sound of a man’s voice through walls and doors, that your eyes are awake to everything, and that your young spirit busies itself in divining all, even the meaning of a word spoken in the air, even the meaning of your mother’s slightest gesture? There is something of gratitude, something in fact instinctive, in the predilection of fathers for their daughters and mothers for their sons.

But the act of setting spies which are in some way inanimate is mere dotage, and nothing is easier than to find a better plan than that of the beadle, who took it into his head to put egg-shells in his bed, and who obtained no other sympathy from his confederate than the words, “You are not very successful in breaking them.” The Marshal de Saxe did not give much consolation to his Popeliniere when they discovered in company that famous revolving chimney, invented by the Duc de Richelieu. “That is the finest piece of horn work that I have ever seen!” cried the victor of Fontenoy. Let us hope that your espionage will not give you so troublesome a lesson. Such misfortunes are the fruits of the civil war and we do not live in that age. 4. THE INDEX. The Pope puts books only on the Index; you will mark with a stigma of reprobation men and things. It is forbidden to madame to go into a bath except in her own house. It is forbidden to madame to receive into her house him whom you suspect of being her lover, and all those who are the accomplices of their love. It is forbidden to madame to take a walk without you. But the peculiarities which in each household originate from the diversity of characters, the numberless incidents of passion, and the habits of the married people give to this black book so many variations, the lines in it are multiplied or erased with such rapidity that a friend of the author has called this Index The History of Changes in the Marital Church. There are only two things which can be controlled or prescribed in accordance with definite rules; the first is the country, the second is the promenade. A husband ought never to take his wife to the country nor permit her to go there. Have a country home if you like, live there, entertain there nobody excepting ladies or old men, but never leave your wife alone there. But to take her, for even half a day, to the house of another man is to show yourself as stupid as an ostrich. To keep guard over a wife in the country is a task most difficult of accomplishment. Do you think that you will be able to be in the thickets, to climb the trees, to follow the tracks of a lover over the grass trodden down at night, but straightened by the dew

in the morning and refreshed by the rays of the sun? Can you keep your eye on every opening in the fence of the park? Oh! the country and the Spring! These are the two right arms of the celibate. When a woman reaches the crisis at which we suppose her to be, a husband ought to remain in town till the declaration of war, or to resolve on devoting himself to all the delights of a cruel espionage. With regard to the promenade: Does madame wish to go to parties, to the theatre, to the Bois de Boulogne, to purchase her dresses, to find out what is the fashion? Madame shall go, shall see everything in the respectable company of her lord and master. If she take advantage of the moment when a business appointment, which you cannot fail to keep, detains you, in order to obtain your tacit permission to some meditated expedition; if in order to obtain that permission she displays all the witcheries of those cajoleries in which women excel and whose powerful influence you ought already to have known, well, well, the professor implores you to allow her to win you over, while at the same time you sell dear the boon she asks; and above all convince this creature, whose soul is at once as changeable as water and as firm as steel, that it is impossible for you from the importance of your work to leave your study. But as soon as your wife has set foot upon the street, if she goes on foot, don’t give her time to make fifty steps; follow and track her in such a way that you will not be noticed. It is possible that there exist certain Werthers whose refined and delicate souls recoil from this inquisition. But this is not more blamable than that of a landed proprietor who rises at night and looks through the windows for the purpose of keeping watch over the peaches on his espaliers. You will probably by this course of action obtain, before the crime is committed, exact information with regard to the apartments which so many lovers rent in the city under fictitious names. If it happens [which God forbid!] that your wife enters a house suspected by you, try to find out if the place has several exits. Should your wife take a hack, what have you to fear? Is there not a prefect of police, to whom all husbands ought to decree a crown of solid gold, and has he not set up a little shed or bench where there is a register, an incorruptible guardian of public morality? And does he not know all the comings and goings of these Parisian gondolas? One of the vital principles of our police will consist in always following your wife to the furnishers of your house, if she is accustomed to visit them. You will carefully find out whether there is any intimacy between her and her draper, her dressmaker or

her milliner, etc. In this case you will apply the rules of the conjugal Custom House, and draw your own conclusions. If in your absence your wife, having gone out against your will, tells you that she had been to such a place, to such a shop, go there yourself the next day and try to find out whether she has spoken the truth. But passion will dictate to you, even better than the Meditation, the various resources of conjugal tyranny, and we will here cut short these tiresome instructions. 5. OF THE BUDGET. In outlining the portrait of a sane and sound husband (See Meditation on the Predestined), we urgently advise that he should conceal from his wife the real amount of his income. In relying upon this as the foundation stone of our financial system we hope to do something towards discounting the opinion, so very generally held, that a man ought not to give the handling of his income to his wife. This principle is one of the many popular errors and is one of the chief causes of misunderstanding in the domestic establishment. But let us, in the first place, deal with the question of heart, before we proceed to that of money. To draw up a little civil list for your wife and for the requirements of the house and to pay her money as if it were a contribution, in twelve equal portions month by month, has something in it that is a little mean and close, and cannot be agreeable to any but sordid and mistrustful souls. By acting in this way you prepare for yourself innumerable annoyances. I could wish that during the first year of your mellifluous union, scenes more or less delightful, pleasantries uttered in good taste, pretty purses and caresses might accompany and might decorate the handing over of this monthly gift; but the time will come when the self-will of your wife or some unforeseen expenditure will compel her to ask a loan of the Chamber; I presume that you will always grant her the bill of indemnity, as our unfaithful deputies never fail to do. They pay, but they grumble; you must pay and at the same time compliment her. I hope it will be so. But in the crisis which we have reached, the provisions of the annual budget can never prove sufficient. There must be an increase of fichus, of bonnets, of frocks; there is an expense which cannot be calculated beforehand demanded by the meetings, by the diplomatic messengers, by the ways and means of love, even while the receipts remain the same as usual. Then must commence in your establishment a course of education the most odious, and the most dreadful which a woman can

undergo. I know but few noble and generous souls who value, more than millions, purity of heart, frankness of soul, and who would a thousand times more readily pardon a passion than a lie, whose instinctive delicacy has divined the existence of this plague of the soul, the lowest step in human degradation. Under these circumstances there occur in the domestic establishment the most delightful scenes of love. It is then that a woman becomes utterly pliant and like to the most brilliant of all the strings of a harp, when thrown before the fire; she rolls round you, she clasps you, she holds you tight; she defers to all your caprices; never was her conversation so full of tenderness; she lavishes her endearments upon you, or rather she sells them to you; she at last becomes lower than a chorus girl, for she prostitutes herself to her husband. In her sweetest kisses there is money; in all her words there is money. In playing this part her heart becomes like lead towards you. The most polished, the most treacherous usurer never weighs so completely with a single glance the future value in bullion of a son of a family who may sign a note to him, than your wife appraises one of your desires as she leaps from branch to branch like an escaping squirrel, in order to increase the sum of money she may demand by increasing the appetite which she rouses in you. You must not expect to get scot-free from such seductions. Nature has given boundless gifts of coquetry to a woman, the usages of society have increased them tenfold by its fashions, its dresses, its embroideries and its tippets. “If I ever marry,” one of the most honorable generals of our ancient army used to say, “I won’t put a sou among the wedding presents—” “What will you put there then, general?” asked a young girl. “The key of my safe.” The young girl made a curtsey of approbation. She moved her little head with a quiver like that of the magnetic needle; raised her chin slightly as if she would have said: “I would gladly marry the general in spite of his forty-five years.” But with regard to money, what interest can you expect your wife to take in a machine in which she is looked upon as a mere bookkeeper? Now look at the other system. In surrendering to your wife, with an avowal of absolute confidence in her, two-thirds of your fortune and letting her as mistress control the conjugal administration, you win from her an esteem which nothing can destroy, for confidence and highmindedness find powerful echoes in the heart of a woman. Madame will be loaded with a responsibility which will often raise a barrier against extravagances, all the

stronger because it is she herself who has created it in her heart. You yourself have made a portion of the work, and you may be sure that from henceforth your wife will never perhaps dishonor herself. Moreover, by seeking in this way a method of defence, consider what admirable aids are offered to you by this plan of finances. You will have in your house an exact estimate of the morality of your wife, just as the quotations of the Bourse give you a just estimate of the degree of confidence possessed by the government. And doubtless, during the first years of your married life, your wife will take pride in giving you every luxury and satisfaction which your money can afford. She will keep a good table, she will renew the furniture, and the carriages; she will always keep in her drawer a sum of money sacred to her well-beloved and ready for his needs. But of course, in the actual circumstances of life, the drawer will be very often empty and monsieur will spend a great deal too much. The economies ordered by the Chamber never weigh heavily upon the clerks whose income is twelve hundred francs; and you will be the clerk at twelve hundred francs in your own house. You will laugh in your sleeve, because you will have saved, capitalized, invested one-third of your income during a long time, like Louis XV, who kept for himself a little separate treasury, “against a rainy day,” he used to say. Thus, if your wife speaks of economy, her discourse will be equal to the varying quotations of the money-market. You will be able to divine the whole progress of the lover by these financial fluctuations, and you will have avoided all difficulties. E sempre bene. If your wife fails to appreciate the excessive confidence, and dissipates in one day a large proportion of your fortune, in the first place it is not probable that this prodigality will amount to one-third of the revenue which you have been saving for ten years; moreover you will learn, from the Meditation on Catastrophes, that in the very crisis produced by the follies of your wife, you will have brilliant opportunities of slaying the Minotaur. But the secret of the treasure which has been amassed by your thoughtfulness need never be known till after your death; and if you have found it necessary to draw upon it, in order to assist your wife, you must always let it be thought that you have won at play, or made a loan from a friend. These are the true principles which should govern the conjugal budget.

The police of marriage has its martyrology. We will cite but one instance which will make plain how necessary it is for husbands who resort to severe measures to keep watch over themselves as well as over their wives. An old miser who lived at T-----, a pleasure resort if there ever was one, had married a young and pretty woman, and he was so wrapped up in her and so jealous that love triumphed over avarice; he actually gave up trade in order to guard his wife more closely, but his only real change was that his covetousness took another form. I acknowledge that I owe the greater portion of the observations contained in this essay, which still is doubtless incomplete, to the person who made a study of this remarkable marital phenomenon, to portray which, one single detail will be amply sufficient. When he used to go to the country, this husband never went to bed without secretly raking over the pathways of his park, and he had a special rake for the sand of his terraces. He had made a close study of the footprints made by the different members of his household; and early in the morning he used to go and identify the tracks that had been made there. “All this is old forest land,” he used to say to the person I have referred to, as he showed him over the park; “for nothing can be seen through the brushwood.” His wife fell in love with one of the most charming young men of the town. This passion had continued for nine years bright and fresh in the hearts of the two lovers, whose sole avowal had been a look exchanged in a crowded ball-room; and while they danced together their trembling hands revealed through the scented gloves the depth of their love. From that day they had both of them taken great delight on those trifles which happy lovers never disdain. One day the young man led his only confidant, with a mysterious air, into a chamber where he kept under glass globes upon his table, with more care than he would have bestowed upon the finest jewels in the world, the flowers that, in the excitement of the dance, had fallen from the hair of his mistress, and the finery which had been caught in the trees which she had brushed through in the park. He also preserved there the narrow footprint left upon the clay soil by the lady’s step. “I could hear,” said this confidant to me afterwards, “the violent and repressed palpitations of his heart sounding in the silence which we preserved before the treasures of this museum of love. I raised my eyes to the ceiling, as if to breathe to heaven the sentiment which I dared not utter. ‘Poor humanity!’ I thought. ’Madame de ----- told me that one evening at a ball you had been found nearly fainting in her card-room?’ I remarked to him. “‘I can well believe it,’ said he casting down his flashing glance, ’I had kissed her arm!—But,’ he added as he pressed my hand and shot at me a glance that pierced my heart, ’her husband at that time had the gout which threatened to attack his stomach.’”

Some time afterwards, the old man recovered and seemed to take a new lease of life; but in the midst of his convalescence he took to his bed one morning and died suddenly. There were such evident symptoms of poisoning in the condition of the dead man that the officers of justice were appealed to, and the two lovers were arrested. Then was enacted at the court of assizes the most heartrending scene that ever stirred the emotions of the jury. At the preliminary examination, each of the two lovers without hesitation confessed to the crime, and with one thought each of them was solely bent on saving, the one her lover, the other his mistress. There were two found guilty, where justice was looking for but a single culprit. The trial was entirely taken up with the flat contradictions which each of them, carried away by the fury of devoted love, gave to the admissions of the other. There they were united for the first time, but on the criminals’ bench with a gendarme seated between them. They were found guilty by the unanimous verdict of a weeping jury. No one among those who had the barbarous courage to witness their conveyance to the scaffold can mention them to-day without a shudder. Religion had won for them a repentance for their crime, but could not induce them to abjure their love. The scaffold was their nuptial bed, and there they slept together in the long night of death. MEDITATION XXI. THE ART OF RETURNING HOME. Finding himself incapable of controlling the boiling transports of his anxiety, many a husband makes the mistake of coming home and rushing into the presence of his wife, with the object of triumphing over her weakness, like those bulls of Spain, which, stung by the red banderillo, disembowel with furious horns horses, matadors, picadors, toreadors and their attendants. But oh! to enter with a tender gentle mien, like Mascarillo, who expects a beating and becomes merry as a lark when he finds his master in a good humor! Well—that is the mark of a wise man!— “Yes, my darling, I know that in my absence you could have behaved badly! Another in your place would have turned the house topsy-turvy, but you have only broken a pane of glass! God bless you for your considerateness. Go on in the same way and you will earn my eternal gratitude.” Such are the ideas which ought to be expressed by your face and bearing, but perhaps all the while you say to yourself: “Probably he has been here!” Always to bring home a pleasant face, is a rule which admits of no exception.

But the art of never leaving your house without returning when the police have revealed to you a conspiracy—to know how to return at the right time—this is the lesson which is hard to learn. In this matter everything depends upon tact and penetration. The actual events of life always transcend anything that is imaginable. The manner of coming home is to be regulated in accordance with a number of circumstances. For example: Lord Catesby was a man of remarkable strength. It happened one day that he was returning from a fox hunt, to which he had doubtless promised to go, with some ulterior view, for he rode towards the fence of his park at a point where, he said, he saw an extremely fine horse. As he had a passion for horses, he drew near to examine this one close at hand, There he caught sight of Lady Catesby, to whose rescue it was certainly time to go, if he were in the slightest degree jealous for his own honor. He rushed upon the gentleman he saw there, and seizing him by the belt he hurled him over the fence on to the road side. “Remember, sir,” he said calmly, “it rests with me to decide whether it well be necessary to address you hereafter and ask for satisfaction on this spot.” “Very well, my lord; but would you have the goodness to throw over my horse also?” But the phlegmatic nobleman had already taken the arm of his wife as he gravely said: “I blame you very much, my dear creature, for not having told me that I was to love you for two. Hereafter every other day I shall love you for the gentleman yonder, and all other days for myself.” This adventure is regarded in England as one of the best returns home that were ever known. It is true it consisted in uniting, with singular felicity, eloquence of deed to that of word. But the art of re-entering your home, principles of which are nothing else but natural deductions from the system of politeness and dissimulation which have been commended in preceding Meditations, is after all merely to be studied in preparation for the conjugal catastrophes which we will now consider. MEDITATION XXII. OF CATASTROPHES. The word Catastrophe is a term of literature which signifies the final climax of a play.

To bring about a catastrophe in the drama which you are playing is a method of defence which is as easy to undertake as it is certain to succeed. In advising to employ it, we would not conceal from you its perils. The conjugal catastrophe may be compared to one of those high fevers which either carry off a predisposed subject or completely restore his health. Thus, when the catastrophe succeeds, it keeps a woman for years in the prudent realms of virtue. Moreover, this method is the last of all those which science has been able to discover up to this present moment. The massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Sicilian Vespers, the death of Lucretia, the two embarkations of Napoleon at Frejus are examples of political catastrophe. It will not be in your power to act on such a large scale; nevertheless, within their own area, your dramatic climaxes in conjugal life will not be less effective than these. But since the art of creating a situation and of transforming it, by the introduction of natural incidents, constitutes genius; since the return to virtue of a woman, whose foot has already left some tracks upon the sweet and gilded sand which mark the pathway of vice, is the most difficult to bring about of all denouements, and since genius neither knows it nor teaches it, the practitioner in conjugal laws feels compelled to confess at the outset that he is incapable of reducing to definite principles a science which is as changeable as circumstances, as delusive as opportunity, and as indefinable as instinct. If we may use an expression which neither Diderot, d’Alembert nor Voltaire, in spite of every effort, have been able to engraft on our language, a conjugal catastrophe se subodore is scented from afar; so that our only course will be to sketch out imperfectly certain conjugal situations of an analogous kind, thus imitating the philosopher of ancient time who, seeking in vain to explain motion, walked forward in his attempt to comprehend laws which were incomprehensible. A husband, in accordance with the principles comprised in our Meditation on Police, will expressly forbid his wife to receive the visits of a celibate whom he suspects of being her lover, and whom she has promised never again to see. Some minor scenes of the domestic interior we leave for matrimonial imaginations to conjure up; a husband can delineate them much better than we can; he will betake himself in thought back to those days when delightful longings invited sincere confidences and when the workings of his policy put into motion certain adroitly handled machinery. Let us suppose, in order to make more interesting the natural scene to which I refer, that you who read are a husband, whose carefully organized police has made the discovery that your wife, profiting by the hours devoted by you to a ministerial banquet, to which she probably procured you an invitation, received at your house M. A——z.

Here we find all the conditions necessary to bring about the finest possible of conjugal catastrophes. You return home just in time to find your arrival has coincided with that of M. A—— z, for we would not advise you to have the interval between acts too long. But in what mood should you enter? Certainly not in accordance with the rules of the previous Meditation. In a rage then? Still less should you do that. You should come in with good-natured carelessness, like an absent-minded man who has forgotten his purse, the statement which he has drawn up for the minister, his pocket-handkerchief or his snuff-box. In that case you will either catch two lovers together, or your wife, forewarned by the maid, will have hidden the celibate. Now let us consider these two unique situations. But first of all we will observe that husbands ought always to be in a position to strike terror in their homes and ought long before to make preparations for the matrimonial second of September. Thus a husband, from the moment that his wife has caused him to perceive certain first symptoms, should never fail to give, time after time, his personal opinion on the course of conduct to be pursued by a husband in a great matrimonial crisis. “As for me,” you should say, “I should have no hesitation in killing the man I caught at my wife’s feet.” With regard to the discussion that you will thus give rise to, you will be led on to aver that the law ought to have given to the husband, as it did in ancient Rome, the right of life and death over his children, so that he could slay those who were spurious. These ferocious opinions, which really do not bind you to anything, will impress your wife with salutary terror; you will enumerate them lightly, even laughingly—and say to her, “Certainly, my dear, I would kill you right gladly. Would you like to be murdered by me?” A woman cannot help fearing that this pleasantry may some day become a very serious matter, for in these crimes of impulse there is a certain proof of love; and then women who know better than any one else how to say true things laughingly at times suspect their husbands of this feminine trick. When a husband surprises his wife engaged in even innocent conversation with her lover, his face still calm, should produce the effect mythologically attributed to the celebrated Gorgon.

In order to produce a favorable catastrophe at this juncture, you must act in accordance with the character of your wife, either play a pathetic scene a la Diderot, or resort to irony like Cicero, or rush to your pistols loaded with a blank charge, or even fire them off, if you think that a serious row is indispensable. A skillful husband may often gain a great advantage from a scene of unexaggerated sentimentality. He enters, he sees the lover and transfixes him with a glance. As soon as the celibate retires, he falls at the feet of his wife, he declaims a long speech, in which among other phrases there occurs this: “Why, my dear Caroline, I have never been able to love you as I should!” He weeps, and she weeps, and this tearful catastrophe leaves nothing to be desired. We would explain, apropos of the second method by which the catastrophe may be brought about, what should be the motives which lead a husband to vary this scene, in accordance with the greater or less degree of strength which his wife’s character possesses. Let us pursue this subject. If by good luck it happens that your wife has put her lover in a place of concealment, the catastrophe will be very much more successful. Even if the apartment is not arranged according to the principles prescribed in the Meditation, you will easily discern the place into which the celibate has vanished, although he be not, like Lord Byron’s Don Juan, bundled up under the cushion of a divan. If by chance your apartment is in disorder, you ought to have sufficient discernment to know that there is only one place in which a man could bestow himself. Finally, if by some devilish inspiration he has made himself so small that he has squeezed into some unimaginable lurking-place (for we may expect anything from a celibate), well, either your wife cannot help casting a glance towards this mysterious spot, or she will pretend to look in an exactly opposite direction, and then nothing is easier for a husband than to set a mouse-trap for his wife. The hiding-place being discovered, you must walk straight up to the lover. You must meet him face to face! And now you must endeavor to produce a fine effect. With your face turned threequarters towards him, you must raise your head with an air of superiority. This attitude will enhance immensely the effect which you aim at producing. The most essential thing to do at this moment, is to overwhelm the celibate by some crushing phrase which you have been manufacturing all the time; when you have thus

floored him, you will coldly show him the door. You will be very polite, but as relentless as the executioner’s axe, and as impassive as the law. This freezing contempt will already probably have produced a revolution in the mind of your wife. There must be no shouts, no gesticulations, no excitement. “Men of high social rank,” says a young English author, “never behave like their inferiors, who cannot lose a fork without sounding the alarm throughout the whole neighborhood.” When the celibate has gone, you will find yourself alone with your wife, and then is the time when you must subjugate her forever. You should therefore stand before her, putting on an air whose affected calmness betrays the profoundest emotion; then you must choose from among the following topics, which we have rhetorically amplified, and which are most congenial to your feelings: “Madame,” you must say, “I will speak to you neither of your vows, nor of my love; for you have too much sense and I have too much pride to make it possible that I should overwhelm you with those execrations, which all husbands have a right to utter under these circumstances; for the least of the mistakes that I should make, if I did so, is that I would be fully justified. I will not now, even if I could, indulge either in wrath or resentment. It is not I who have been outraged; for I have too much heart to be frightened by that public opinion which almost always treats with ridicule and condemnation a husband whose wife has misbehaved. When I examine my life, I see nothing there that makes this treachery deserved by me, as it is deserved by many others. I still love you. I have never been false, I will not say to my duty, for I have found nothing onerous in adoring you, but not even to those welcome obligations which sincere feeling imposes upon us both. You have had all my confidence and you have also had the administration of my fortune. I have refused you nothing. And now this is the first time that I have turned to you a face, I will not say stern, but which is yet reproachful. But let us drop this subject, for it is of no use for me to defend myself at a moment when you have proved to me with such energy that there is something lacking in me, and that I am not intended by nature to accomplish the difficult task of rendering you happy. But I would ask you, as a friend speaking to a friend, how could you have the heart to imperil at the same time the lives of three human creatures: that of the mother of my children, who will always be sacred to me; that of the head of the family; and finally of him—who loves—[she perhaps at these words will throw herself at your feet; you must not permit her to do so; she is unworthy of kneeling there]. For you no longer love me, Eliza. Well, my poor child [you must not call her my poor child excepting when the crime has not been committed]—why deceive ourselves? Why do you not answer me? If love is extinguished between a married couple, cannot friendship and confidence still survive? Are we not two companions united in making the same journey? Can it be said that during the journey the one must never hold out his hand to the other to raise up a comrade or to prevent a comrade’s fall? But I have perhaps said too much and I am wounding your pride—Eliza! Eliza!”

Now what the deuce would you expect a woman to answer? Why a catastrophe naturally follows, without a single word. In a hundred women there may be found at least a good half dozen of feeble creatures who under this violent shock return to their husbands never perhaps again to leave them, like scorched cats that dread the fire. But this scene is a veritable alexipharmaca, the doses of which should be measured out by prudent hands. For certain women of delicate nerves, whose souls are soft and timid, it would be sufficient to point out the lurking-place where the lover lies, and say: “M. A——z is there!” [at this point shrug your shoulders]. “How can you thus run the risk of causing the death of two worthy people? I am going out; let him escape and do not let this happen again.” But there are women whose hearts, too violently strained in these terrible catastrophes, fail them and they die; others whose blood undergoes a change, and they fall a prey to serious maladies; others actually go out of their minds. These are examples of women who take poison or die suddenly—and we do not suppose that you wish the death of the sinner. Nevertheless, the most beautiful and impressionable of all the queens of France, the charming and unfortunate Mary Stuart, after having seen Rizzio murdered almost in her arms, fell in love, nevertheless, with the Earl of Bothwell; but she was a queen and queens are abnormal in disposition. We will suppose, then, that the woman whose portrait adorns our first Meditation is a little Mary Stuart, and we will hasten to raise the curtain for the fifth act in this grand drama entitled Marriage. A conjugal catastrophe may burst out anywhere, and a thousand incidents which we cannot describe may give it birth. Sometimes it is a handkerchief, as in Othello; or a pair of slippers, as in Don Juan; sometimes it is the mistake of your wife, who cries out—“Dear Alphonse!” instead of “Dear Adolph!” Sometimes a husband, finding out that his wife is in debt, will go and call on her chief creditor, and will take her some morning to his house, as if by chance, in order to bring about a catastrophe. “Monsieur Josse, you are a jeweler and you sell your jewels with a readiness which is not equaled by the readiness of your debtors to pay for them. The countess owes you thirty thousand francs. If you wish to be paid to-morrow [tradesmen should always be visited at the end of the month] come to her at noon; her husband will be in the chamber. Do not attend to any sign which she may make to impose silence upon you—speak out boldly. I will pay all.” So that the catastrophe in the science of marriage is what figures are in arithmetic.

All the principles of higher conjugal philosophy, on which are based the means of defence outlined in this second part of our book, are derived from the nature of human sentiments, and we have found them in different places in the great book of the world. Just as persons of intellect instinctively apply the laws of taste whose principles they would find difficulty in formulating, so we have seen numberless people of deep feeling employing with singular felicity the precepts which we are about to unfold, yet none of them consciously acted on a definite system. The sentiments which this situation inspired only revealed to them incomplete fragments of a vast system; just as the scientific men of the sixteenth century found that their imperfect microscopes did not enable them to see all the living organisms, whose existence had yet been proved to them by the logic of their patient genius. We hope that the observations already made in this book, and in those which follow, will be of a nature to destroy the opinion which frivolous men maintain, namely that marriage is a sinecure. According to our view, a husband who gives way to ennui is a heretic, and more than that, he is a man who lives quite out of sympathy with the marriage state, of whose importance he has no conception. In this connection, these Meditations perhaps will reveal to very many ignorant men the mysteries of a world before which they stand with open eyes, yet without seeing it. We hope, moreover, that these principles when well applied will produce many conversions, and that among the pages that separate this second part from that entitled Civil War many tears will be shed and many vows of repentance breathed. Yes, among the four hundred thousand honest women whom we have so carefully sifted out from all the European nations, we indulge the belief that there are a certain number, say three hundred thousand, who will be sufficiently self-willed, charming, adorable, and bellicose to raise the standard of Civil War. To arms then, to arms! -------------------------------------------------------------------THIRD PART RELATING TO CIVIL WAR. “Lovely as the seraphs of Klopstock, Terrible as the devils of Milton.” —DIDEROT. MEDITATION XXIII. OF MANIFESTOES.

The Preliminary precepts, by which science has been enabled at this point to put weapons into the hand of a husband, are few in number; it is not of so much importance to know whether he will be vanquished, as to examine whether he can offer any resistance in the conflict. Meanwhile, we will set up here certain beacons to light up the arena where a husband is soon to find himself, in alliance with religion and law, engaged single-handed in a contest with his wife, who is supported by her native craft and the whole usages of society as her allies. LXXXII. Anything may be expected and anything may be supposed of a woman who is in love. LXXXIII. The actions of a woman who intends to deceive her husband are almost always the result of study, but never dictated by reason. LXXXIV. The greater number of women advance like the fleas, by erratic leaps and bounds, They owe their escape to the height or depth of their first ideas, and any interruption of their plans rather favors their execution. But they operate only within a narrow area which it is easy for the husband to make still narrower; and if he keeps cool he will end by extinguishing this piece of living saltpetre. LXXXV. A husband should never allow himself to address a single disparaging remark to his wife, in presence of a third party. LXXXVI. The moment a wife decides to break her marriage vow she reckons her husband as everything or nothing. All defensive operations must start from this proposition. LXXXVII. The life of a woman is either of the head, of the heart, or of passion. When a woman reaches the age to form an estimate of life, her husband ought to find out whether the primary cause of her intended infidelity proceeds from vanity, from sentiment or from temperament. Temperament may be remedied like disease; sentiment is something in which the husband may find great opportunities of success; but vanity is incurable. A woman whose life is of the head may be a terrible scourge. She combines the faults of a passionate woman with those of the tender-hearted woman, without having their palliations. She is

destitute alike of pity, love, virtue or sex. LXXXVIII. A woman whose life is of the head will strive to inspire her husband with indifference; the woman whose life is of the heart, with hatred; the passionate woman, with disgust. LXXXIX. A husband never loses anything by appearing to believe in the fidelity of his wife, by preserving an air of patience and by keeping silence. Silence especially troubles a woman amazingly. XC. To show himself aware of the passion of his wife is the mark of a fool; but to affect ignorance of all proves that a man has sense, and this is in fact the only attitude to take. We are taught, moreover, that everybody in France is sensible. XCI. The rock most to be avoided is ridicule.—“At least, let us be affectionate in public,” ought to be the maxim of a married establishment. For both the married couple to lose honor, esteem, consideration, respect and all that is worth living for in society, is to become a nonentity. These axioms relate to the contest alone. As for the catastrophe, others will be needed for that. We have called this crisis Civil War for two reasons; never was a war more really intestine and at the same time so polite as this war. But in what point and in what manner does this fatal war break out? You do not believe that your wife will call out regiments and sound the trumpet, do you? She will, perhaps, have a commanding officer, but that is all. And this feeble army corps will be sufficient to destroy the peace of your establishment. “You forbid me to see the people that I like!” is an exordium which has served for a manifesto in most homes. This phrase, with all the ideas that are concomitant, is oftenest employed by vain and artificial women. The most usual manifesto is that which is proclaimed in the conjugal bed, the principal theatre of war. This subject will be treated in detail in the Meditation entitled: Of Various Weapons, in the paragraph, Of Modesty in its Connection with Marriage.

Certain women of a lymphatic temperament will pretend to have the spleen and will even feign death, if they can only gain thereby the benefit of a secret divorce. But most of them owe their independence to the execution of a plan, whose effect upon the majority of husbands is unfailing and whose perfidies we will now reveal. One of the greatest of human errors springs from the belief that our honor and our reputation are founded upon our actions, or result from the approbation which the general conscience bestows upon on conduct. A man who lives in the world is born to be a slave to public opinion. Now a private man in France has less opportunity of influencing the world than his wife, although he has ample occasion for ridiculing it. Women possess to a marvelous degree the art of giving color by specious arguments to the recriminations in which they indulge. They never set up any defence, excepting when they are in the wrong, and in this proceeding they are pre-eminent, knowing how to oppose arguments by precedents, proofs by assertions, and thus they very often obtain victory in minor matters of detail. They see and know with admirable penetration, when one of them presents to another a weapon which she herself is forbidden to whet. It is thus that they sometimes lose a husband without intending it. They apply the match and long afterwards are terror-stricken at the conflagration. As a general thing, all women league themselves against a married man who is accused of tyranny; for a secret tie unites them all, as it unites all priests of the same religion. They hate each other, yet shield each other. You can never gain over more than one of them; and yet this act of seduction would be a triumph for your wife. You are, therefore, outlawed from the feminine kingdom. You see ironical smiles on every lip, you meet an epigram in every answer. These clever creatures force their daggers and amuse themselves by sculpturing the handle before dealing you a graceful blow. The treacherous art of reservation, the tricks of silence, the malice of suppositions, the pretended good nature of an inquiry, all these arts are employed against you. A man who undertakes to subjugate his wife is an example too dangerous to escape destruction from them, for will not his conduct call up against them the satire of every husband? Moreover, all of them will attack you, either by bitter witticisms, or by serious arguments, or by the hackneyed maxims of gallantry. A swarm of celibates will support all their sallies and you will be assailed and persecuted as an original, a tyrant, a bad bed-fellow, an eccentric man, a man not to be trusted. Your wife will defend you like the bear in the fable of La Fontaine; she will throw paving stones at your head to drive away the flies that alight on it. She will tell you in the evening all the things that have been said about you, and will ask an explanation of acts which you never committed, and of words which you never said. She professes to have justified you for faults of which you are innocent; she has

boasted of a liberty which she does not possess, in order to clear you of the wrong which you have done in denying that liberty. The deafening rattle which your wife shakes will follow you everywhere with its obtrusive din. Your darling will stun you, will torture you, meanwhile arming herself by making you feel only the thorns of married life. She will greet you with a radiant smile in public, and will be sullen at home. She will be dull when you are merry, and will make you detest her merriment when you are moody. Your two faces will present a perpetual contrast. Very few men have sufficient force of mind not to succumb to this preliminary comedy, which is always cleverly played, and resembles the hourra raised by the Cossacks, as they advance to battle. Many husbands become irritated and fall into irreparable mistakes. Others abandon their wives. And, indeed, even those of superior intelligence do not know how to get hold of the enchanted ring, by which to dispel this feminine phantasmagoria. Two-thirds of such women are enabled to win their independence by this single manoeuvre, which is no more than a review of their forces. In this case the war is soon ended. But a strong man who courageously keeps cool throughout this first assault will find much amusement in laying bare to his wife, in a light and bantering way, the secret feelings which make her thus behave, in following her step by step through the labyrinth which she treads, and telling her in answer to her every remark, that she is false to herself, while he preserves throughout a tone of pleasantry and never becomes excited. Meanwhile war is declared, and if her husband has not been dazzled by these first fireworks, a woman has yet many other resources for securing her triumph; and these it is the purpose of the following Meditations to discover. MEDITATION XXIV. PRINCIPLES OF STRATEGY. The Archduke Charles published a very fine treatise on military under the title Principles of Strategy in Relation to the Campaigns of 1796. These principles seem somewhat to resemble poetic canons prepared for poems already published. In these days we are become very much more energetic, we invent rules to suit works and works to suit rules. But of what use were ancient principles of military art in presence of the impetuous genius of Napoleon? If, to-day, however, we reduce to a system the lessons taught by this great captain whose new tactics have destroyed the ancient ones, what future guarantee do we possess that another Napoleon will not yet be born? Books on military art meet, with few exceptions, the fate of ancient works on Chemistry and Physics. Everything is subject to change, either constant or periodic.

This, in a few words, is the history of our work. So long as we have been dealing with a woman who is inert or lapped in slumber, nothing has been easier than to weave the meshes with which we have bound her; but the moment she wakes up and begins to struggle, all is confusion and complication. If a husband would make an effort to recall the principles of the system which we have just described in order to involve his wife in the nets which our second part has set for her, he would resemble Wurmser, Mack and Beaulieu arranging their halts and their marches while Napoleon nimbly turns their flank, and makes use of their own tactics to destroy them. This is just what your wife will do. How is it possible to get at the truth when each of you conceals it under the same lie, each setting the same trap for the other? And whose will be the victory when each of you is caught in a similar snare? “My dear, I have to go out; I have to pay a visit to Madame So and So. I have ordered the carriage. Would you like to come with me? Come, be good, and go with your wife.” You say to yourself: “She would be nicely caught if I consented! She asks me only to be refused.” Then you reply to her: “Just at the moment I have some business with Monsieur Blank, for he has to give a report in a business matter which deeply concerns us both, and I must absolutely see him. Then I must go to the Minister of Finance. So your arrangement will suit us both.” “Very well, dearest, go and dress yourself, while Celine finishes dressing me; but don’t keep me waiting.” “I am ready now, love,” you cry out, at the end of ten minutes, as you stand shaved and dressed. But all is changed. A letter has arrived; madame is not well; her dress fits badly; the dressmaker has come; if it is not the dressmaker it is your mother. Ninety-nine out of a hundred husbands will leave the house satisfied, believing that their wives are well guarded, when, as a matter of fact, the wives have gotten rid of them.

A lawful wife who from her husband cannot escape, who is not distressed by pecuniary anxiety, and who in order to give employment to a vacant mind, examines night and day the changing tableaux of each day’s experience, soon discovers the mistake she has made in falling into a trap or allowing herself to be surprised by a catastrophe; she will then endeavor to turn all these weapons against you. There is a man in society, the sight of whom is strangely annoying to your wife; she can tolerate neither his tone, his manners nor his way of regarding things. Everything connected with him is revolting to her; she is persecuted by him, he is odious to her; she hopes that no one will tell him this. It seems almost as if she were attempting to oppose you; for this man is one for whom you have the highest esteem. You like his disposition because he flatters you; and thus your wife presumes that your esteem for him results from flattered vanity. When you give a ball, an evening party or a concert, there is almost a discussion on this subject, and madame picks a quarrel with you, because you are compelling her to see people who are not agreeable to her. “At least, sir, I shall never have to reproach myself with omitting to warn you. That man will yet cause you trouble. You should put some confidence in women when they pass sentence on the character of a man. And permit me to tell you that this baron, for whom you have such a predilection, is a very dangerous person, and you are doing very wrong to bring him to your house. And this is the way you behave; you absolutely force me to see one whom I cannot tolerate, and if I ask you to invite Monsieur A-----, you refuse to do so, because you think that I like to have him with me! I admit that he talks well, that he is kind and amiable; but you are more to me than he can ever be.” These rude outlines of feminine tactics, which are emphasized by insincere gestures, by looks of feigned ingenuousness, by artful intonations of the voice and even by the snare of cunning silence, are characteristic to some degree of their whole conduct. There are few husbands who in such circumstances as these do not form the idea of setting a mouse-trap; they welcome as their guests both Monsieur A----- and the imaginary baron who represents the person whom their wives abhor, and they do so in the hope of discovering a lover in the celibate who is apparently beloved. Oh yes, I have often met in the world young men who were absolutely starlings in love and complete dupes of a friendship which women pretended to show them, women who felt themselves obliged to make a diversion and to apply a blister to their husbands as their husbands had previously done to them! These poor innocents pass their time in running errands, in engaging boxes at the theatre, in riding in the Bois de Boulogne by the carriages of their pretended mistresses; they are publicly credited with possessing women whose hands they have not even kissed. Vanity prevents them from contradicting these flattering rumors, and like the young priests who celebrate masses without a Host, they enjoy a mere show passion, and are veritable supernumeraries of love.

Under these circumstances sometimes a husband on returning home asks the porter: “Has no one been here?”—“M. le Baron came past at two o’clock to see monsieur; but as he found no one was in but madame he went away; but Monsieur A----- is with her now.” You reach the drawing-room, you see there a young celibate, sprightly, scented, wearing a fine necktie, in short a perfect dandy. He is a man who holds you in high esteem; when he comes to your house your wife listens furtively for his footsteps; at a ball she always dances with him. If you forbid her to see him, she makes a great outcry and it is not till many years afterwards [see Meditation on Las Symptoms] that you see the innocence of Monsieur A----- and the culpability of the baron. We have observed and noted as one of the cleverest manoeuvres, that of a young woman who, carried away by an irresistible passion, exhibited a bitter hatred to the man she did not love, but lavished upon her lover secret intimations of her love. The moment that her husband was persuaded that she loved the Cicisbeo and hated the Patito, she arranged that she and the Patito should be found in a situation whose compromising character she had calculated in advance, and her husband and the execrated celibate were thus induced to believe that her love and her aversion were equally insincere. When she had brought her husband into the condition of perplexity, she managed that a passionate letter should fall into his hands. One evening in the midst of the admirable catastrophe which she had thus brought to a climax, madame threw herself at her husband’s feet, wet them with her tears, and thus concluded the climax to her own satisfaction. “I esteem and honor you profoundly,” she cried, “for keeping your own counsel as you have done. I am in love! Is this a sentiment which is easy for me to repress? But what I can do is to confess the fact to you; to implore you to protect me from myself, to save me from my own folly. Be my master and be a stern master to me; take me away from this place, remove me from what has caused all this trouble, console me; I will forget him, I desire to do so. I do not wish to betray you. I humbly ask your pardon for the treachery love has suggested to me. Yes, I confess to you that the love which I pretended to have for my cousin was a snare set to deceive you. I love him with the love of friendship and no more.—Oh! forgive me! I can love no one but”—her voice was choked in passionate sobs—“Oh! let us go away, let us leave Paris!” She began to weep; her hair was disheveled, her dress in disarray; it was midnight, and her husband forgave her. From henceforth, the cousin made his appearance without risk, and the Minotaur devoured one victim more. What instructions can we give for contending with such adversaries as these? Their heads contain all the diplomacy of the congress of Vienna; they have as much power

when they are caught as when they escape. What man has a mind supple enough to lay aside brute force and strength and follow his wife through such mazes as these? To make a false plea every moment, in order to elicit the truth, a true plea in order to unmask falsehood; to charge the battery when least expected, and to spike your gun at the very moment of firing it; to scale the mountain with the enemy, in order to descend to the plain again five minutes later; to accompany the foe in windings as rapid, as obscure as those of a plover on the breezes; to obey when obedience is necessary, and to oppose when resistance is inertial; to traverse the whole scale of hypotheses as a young artist with one stroke runs from the lowest to the highest note of his piano; to divine at last the secret purpose on which a woman is bent; to fear her caresses and to seek rather to find out what are the thoughts that suggested them and the pleasure which she derived from them—this is mere child’s pay for the man of intellect and for those lucid and searching imaginations which possess the gift of doing and thinking at the same time. But there are a vast number of husbands who are terrified at the mere idea of putting in practice these principles in their dealings with a woman. Such men as these prefer passing their lives in making huge efforts to become second-class chess-players, or to pocket adroitly a ball in billiards. Some of them will tell you that they are incapable of keeping their minds on such a constant strain and breaking up the habits of their life. In that case the woman triumphs. She recognizes that in mind and energy she is her husband’s superior, although the superiority may be but temporary; and yet there rises in her a feeling of contempt for the head of the house. If many man fail to be masters in their own house this is not from lack of willingness, but of talent. As for those who are ready to undergo the toils of this terrible duel, it is quite true that they must needs possess great moral force. And really, as soon as it is necessary to display all the resources of this secret strategy, it is often useless to attempt setting any traps for these satanic creatures. Once women arrive at a point when they willfully deceive, their countenances become as inscrutable as vacancy. Here is an example which came within my own experience. A very young, very pretty, and very clever coquette of Paris had not yet risen. Seated by her bed was one of her dearest friends. A letter arrived from another, a very impetuous fellow, to whom she had allowed the right of speaking to her like a master. The letter was in pencil and ran as follows: “I understand that Monsieur C----- is with you at this moment. I am waiting for him to blow his brains out.”

Madame D----- calmly continued the conversation with Monsieur C-----. She asked him to hand her a little writing desk of red leather which stood on the table, and he brought it to her. “Thanks, my dear,” she said to him; “go on talking, I am listening to you.” C----- talked away and she replied, all the while writing the following note: “As soon as you become jealous of C----- you two can blow out each other’s brains at your pleasure. As for you, you may die; but brains—you haven’t any brains to blow out.” “My dear friend,” she said to C-----, “I beg you will light this candle. Good, you are charming. And now be kind enough to leave me and let me get up, and give this letter to Monsieur d’H-----, who is waiting at the door.” All this was said with admirable coolness. The tones and intonations of her voice, the expression of her face showed no emotion. Her audacity was crowned with complete success. On receiving the answer from the hand of Monsieur C-----, Monsieur d’H---- felt his wrath subside. He was troubled with only one thing and that was how to disguise his inclination to laugh. The more torch-light one flings into the immense cavern which we are now trying to illuminate, the more profound it appears. It is a bottomless abyss. It appears to us that our task will be accomplished more agreeably and more instructively if we show the principles of strategy put into practice in the case of a woman, when she has reached a high degree of vicious accomplishment. An example suggests more maxims and reveals the existence of more methods than all possible theories. One day at the end of a dinner given to certain intimate friends by Prince Lebrun, the guests, heated by champagne, were discussing the inexhaustible subject of feminine artifice. The recent adventure which was credited to the Countess R. D. S. J. D. A----, apropos of a necklace, was the subject first broached. A highly esteemed artist, a gifted friend of the emperor, was vigorously maintaining the opinion, which seemed somewhat unmanly, that it was forbidden to a man to resist successfully the webs woven by a woman. “It is my happy experience,” he said, “that to them nothing is sacred.” The ladies protested. “But I can cite an instance in point.” “It is an exception!”

“Let us hear the story,” said a young lady. “Yes, tell it to us,” cried all the guests. The prudent old gentleman cast his eyes around, and, after having formed his conclusions as to the age of the ladies, smiled and said: “Since we are all experienced in life, I consent to relate the adventure.” Dead silence followed, and the narrator read the following from a little book which he had taken from his pocket: x I was head over ears in love with the Comtesse de -----. I was twenty and I was ingenuous. She deceived me. I was angry; she threw me over. I was ingenuous, I repeat, and I was grieved to lose her. I was twenty; she forgave me. And as I was twenty, as I was always ingenuous, always deceived, but never again thrown over by her, I believed myself to have been the best beloved of lovers, consequently the happiest of men. The countess had a friend, Madame de T-----, who seemed to have some designs on me, but without compromising her dignity; for she was scrupulous and respected the proprieties. One day while I was waiting for the countess in her Opera box, I heard my name called from a contiguous box. It was Madame de T-----. “What,” she said, “already here? Is this fidelity or merely a want of something to do? Won’t you come to me?” Her voice and her manner had a meaning in them, but I was far from inclined at that moment to indulge in a romance. “Have you any plans for this evening?” she said to me. “Don’t make any! If I cheer your tedious solitude you ought to be devoted to me. Don’t ask any questions, but obey. Call my servants.” I answered with a bow and on being requested to leave the Opera box, I obeyed. “Go to this gentleman’s house,” she said to the lackey. “Say he will not be home till to-morrow.” She made a sign to him, he went to her, she whispered in his ear, and he left us. The Opera began. I tried to venture on a few words, but she silenced me; some one might be listening. The first act ended, the lackey brought back a note, and told her that everything was ready. Then she smiled, asked for my hand, took me off, put me in her carriage, and I started on my journey quite ignorant of my destination. Every inquiry I made was answered by a peal of laughter. If I had not been aware that this was a woman of great passion, that she had long loved the Marquis de V-----, that she must have known I was aware of it, I should have believed myself in good luck; but

she knew the condition of my heart, and the Comtesse de -----. I therefore rejected all presumptuous ideas and bided my time. At the first stop, a change of horses was supplied with the swiftness of lightning and we started afresh. The matter was becoming serious. I asked with some insistency, where this joke was to end. “Where?” she said, laughing. “In the pleasantest place in the world, but can’t you guess? I’ll give you a thousand chances. Give it up, for you will never guess. We are going to my husband’s house. Do you know him?” “Not in the least.” “So much the better, I thought you didn’t. But I hope you will like him. We have lately become reconciled. Negotiations went on for six months; and we have been writing to one another for a month. I think it is very kind of me to go and look him up.” “It certainly is, but what am I going to do there? What good will I be in this reconciliation?” “Ah, that is my business. You are young, amiable, unconventional; you suit me and will save me from the tediousness of a tete-a-tete.” “But it seems odd to me, to choose the day or the night of a reconciliation to make us acquainted; the awkwardness of the first interview, the figure all three of us will cut,—I don’t see anything particularly pleasant in that.” “I have taken possession of you for my own amusement!” she said with an imperious air, “so please don’t preach.” I saw she was decided, so surrendered myself to circumstances. I began to laugh at my predicament and we became exceedingly merry. We again changed horses. The mysterious torch of night lit up a sky of extreme clearness and shed around a delightful twilight. We were approaching the spot where our tete-a-tete must end. She pointed out to me at intervals the beauty of the landscape, the tranquillity of the night, the all-pervading silence of nature. In order to admire these things in company as it was natural we should, we turned to the same window and our faces touched for a moment. In a sudden shock she seized my hand, and by a chance which seemed to me extraordinary, for the stone over which our carriage had bounded could not have been very large, I found Madame de T----- in my arms. I do not know what we were trying to see; what I am sure of is that the objects before our eyes began in spite of the full moon to grow misty, when suddenly I was released from her weight, and she sank into the back cushions of the carriage. “Your object,” she said, rousing herself from a deep reverie, “is possibly to convince me of the imprudence of this proceeding. Judge, therefore, of my embarrassment!”

“My object!” I replied, “what object can I have with regard to you? What a delusion! You look very far ahead; but of course the sudden surprise or turn of chance may excuse anything.” “You have counted, then, upon that chance, it seems to me?” We had reached our destination, and before we were aware of it, we had entered the court of the chateau. The whole place was brightly lit up. Everything wore a festal air, excepting the face of its master, who at the sight of me seemed anything but delighted. He came forward and expressed in somewhat hesitating terms the tenderness proper to the occasion of a reconciliation. I understood later on that this reconciliation was absolutely necessary from family reasons. I was presented to him and was coldly greeted. He extended his hand to his wife, and I followed the two, thinking of my part in the past, in the present and in the future. I passed through apartments decorated with exquisite taste. The master in this respect had gone beyond all the ordinary refinement of luxury, in the hope of reanimating, by the influence of voluptuous imagery, a physical nature that was dead. Not knowing what to say, I took refuge in expressions of admiration. The goddess of the temple, who was quite ready to do the honors, accepted my compliments. “You have not seen anything,” she said. “I must take you to the apartments of my husband.” “Madame, five years ago I caused them to be pulled down.” “Oh! Indeed!” said she. At the dinner, what must she do but offer the master some fish, on which he said to her: “Madame, I have been living on milk for the last three years.” “Oh! Indeed!” she said again. Can any one imagine three human beings as astonished as we were to find ourselves gathered together? The husband looked at me with a supercilious air, and I paid him back with a look of audacity. Madame de T----- smiled at me and was charming to me; Monsieur de T----accepted me as a necessary evil. Never in all my life have I taken part in a dinner which was so odd as that. The dinner ended, I thought that we would go to bed early—that is, I thought that Monsieur de T----- would. As we entered the drawingroom:

“I appreciate, madame,” said he, “your precaution in bringing this gentleman with you. You judged rightly that I should be but poor company for the evening, and you have done well, for I am going to retire.” Then turning to me, he added in a tone of profound sarcasm: “You will please to pardon me, and obtain also pardon from madame.” He left us. My reflections? Well, the reflections of a twelvemonth were then comprised in those of a minute. When we were left alone, Madame de T----- and I, we looked at each other so curiously that, in order to break through the awkwardness, she proposed that we should take a turn on the terrace while we waited, as she said, until the servants had supped. It was a superb night. It was scarcely possible to discern surrounding objects, they seemed to be covered with a veil, that imagination might be permitted to take a loftier flight. The gardens, terraced on the side of a mountain, sloped down, platform after platform, to the banks of the Seine, and the eye took in the many windings of the stream covered with islets green and picturesque. These variations in the landscape made up a thousand pictures which gave to the spot, naturally charming, a thousand novel features. We walked along the most extensive of these terraces, which was covered with a thick umbrage of trees. She had recovered from the effects of her husband’s persiflage, and as we walked along she gave me her confidence. Confidence begets confidence, and as I told her mine, all she said to me became more intimate and more interesting. Madame de T----- at first gave me her arm; but soon this arm became interlaced in mine, I know not how, but in some way almost lifted her up and prevented her from touching the ground. The position was agreeable, but became at last fatiguing. We had been walking for a long time and we still had much to say to each other. A bank of turf appeared and she sat down without withdrawing her arm. And in this position we began to sound the praises of mutual confidence, its charms and its delights. “Ah!” she said to me, “who can enjoy it more than we and with less cause of fear? I know well the tie that binds you to another, and therefore have nothing to fear.” Perhaps she wished to be contradicted. But I answered not a word. We were then mutually persuaded that it was possible for us to be friends without fear of going further. “But I was afraid, however,” I said, “that that sudden jolt in the carriage and the surprising consequences may have frightened you.” “Oh, I am not so easily alarmed!” “I fear it has left a little cloud on your mind?”

“What must I do to reassure you?” “Give me the kiss here which chance—” “I will gladly do so; for if I do not, your vanity will lead you to think that I fear you.” I took the kiss. It is with kisses as with confidences, the first leads to another. They are multiplied, they interrupt conversation, they take its place; they scarce leave time for a sigh to escape. Silence followed. We could hear it, for silence may be heard. We rose without a word and began to walk again. “We must go in,” said she, “for the air of the river is icy, and it is not worth while—” “I think to go in would be more dangerous,” I answered. “Perhaps so! Never mind, we will go in.” “Why, is this out of consideration for me? You wish doubtless to save me from the impressions which I may receive from such a walk as this—the consequences which may result. Is it for me—for me only—?” “You are modest,” she said smiling, “and you credit me with singular consideration.” “Do you think so? Well, since you take it in this way, we will go in; I demand it.” A stupid proposition, when made by two people who are forcing themselves to say something utterly different from what they think. Then she compelled me to take the path that led back to the chateau. I do not know, at least I did not then know, whether this course was one which she forced upon herself, whether it was the result of a vigorous resolution, or whether she shared my disappointment in seeing an incident which had begun so well thus suddenly brought to a close but by a mutual instinct our steps slackened and we pursued our way gloomily dissatisfied the one with the other and with ourselves. We knew not the why and the wherefore of what we were doing. Neither of us had the right to demand or even to ask anything. We had neither of us any ground for uttering a reproach. O that we had got up a quarrel! But how could I pick one with her? Meanwhile we drew nearer and nearer, thinking how we might evade the duty which we had so awkwardly imposed upon ourselves. We reached the door, when Madame de T----said to me:

“I am angry with you! After the confidences I have given you, not to give me a single one! You have not said a word about the countess. And yet it is so delightful to speak of the one we love! I should have listened with such interest! It was the very best I could do after I had taken you away from her!” “Cannot I reproach you with the same thing?” I said, interrupting her, “and if instead of making me a witness to this singular reconciliation in which I play so odd a part, you had spoken to me of the marquis—” “Stop,” she said, “little as you know of women, you are aware that their confidences must be waited for, not asked. But to return to yourself. Are you very happy with my friend? Ah! I fear the contrary—” “Why, madame, should everything that the public amuses itself by saying claim our belief?” “You need not dissemble. The countess makes less a mystery of things than you do. Women of her stamp do not keep the secrets of their loves and of their lovers, especially when you are prompted by discretion to conceal her triumph. I am far from accusing her of coquetry; but a prude has as much vanity as a coquette.—Come, tell me frankly, have you not cause of complaint against her?” “But, madame, the air is really too icy for us to stay here. Would you like to go in?” said I with a smile. “Do you find it so?—That is singular. The air is quite warm.” She had taken my arm again, and we continued to walk, although I did not know the direction which we took. All that she had hinted at concerning the lover of the countess, concerning my mistress, together with this journey, the incident which took place in the carriage, our conversation on the grassy bank, the time of night, the moonlight—all made me feel anxious. I was at the same time carried along by vanity, by desire, and so distracted by thought, that I was too excited perhaps to take notice of all that I was experiencing. And, while I was overwhelmed with these mingled feelings, she continued talking to me of the countess, and my silence confirmed the truth of all that she chose to say about her. Nevertheless, certain passages in her talk recalled me to myself. “What an exquisite creature she is!” she was saying. “How graceful! On her lips the utterances of treachery sound like witticism; an act of infidelity seems the prompting of reason, a sacrifice to propriety; while she is never reckless, she is always lovable; she is seldom tender and never sincere; amorous by nature, prudish on principle; sprightly, prudent, dexterous though utterly thoughtless, varied as Proteus in her moods, but charming as the Graces in her manner; she attracts but she eludes. What a number of parts I have seen her play! Entre nous, what a number of dupes hang round

her! What fun she has made of the baron, what a life she has led the marquis! When she took you, it was merely for the purpose of throwing the two rivals off the scent; they were on the point of a rupture; for she had played with them too long, and they had had time to see through her. But she brought you on the scene. Their attention was called to you, she led them to redouble their pursuit, she was in despair over you, she pitied you, she consoled you—Ah! how happy is a clever woman when in such a game as this she professes to stake nothing of her own! But yet, is this true happiness?” This last phrase, accompanied by a significant sigh, was a master-stroke. I felt as if a bandage had fallen from my eyes, without seeing who had put it there. My mistress appeared to me the falsest of women, and I believed that I held now the only sensible creature in the world. Then I sighed without knowing why. She seemed grieved at having given me pain and at having in her excitement drawn a picture, the truth of which might be open to suspicion, since it was the work of a woman. I do not know how I answered; for without realizing the drift of all I heard, I set out with her on the high road of sentiment, and we mounted to such lofty heights of feeling that it was impossible to guess what would be the end of our journey. It was fortunate that we also took the path towards a pavilion which she pointed out to me at the end of the terrace, a pavilion, the witness of many sweet moments. She described to me the furnishing of it. What a pity that she had not the key! As she spoke we reached the pavilion and found that it was open. The clearness of the moonlight outside did not penetrate, but darkness has many charms. We trembled as we went in. It was a sanctuary. Might it not be the sanctuary of love? We drew near a sofa and sat down, and there we remained a moment listening to our heart-beats. The last ray of the moon carried away the last scruple. The hand which repelled me felt my heart beat. She struggled to get away, but fell back overcome with tenderness. We talked together through that silence in the language of thought. Nothing is more rapturous than these mute conversations. Madame de T----- took refuge in my arms, hid her head in my bosom, sighed and then grew calm under my caresses. She grew melancholy, she was consoled, and she asked of love all that love had robbed her of. The sound of the river broke the silence of night with a gentle murmur, which seemed in harmony with the beating of our hearts. Such was the darkness of the place it was scarcely possible to discern objects; but through the transparent crepe of a fair summer’s night, the queen of that lovely place seemed to me adorable. “Oh!” she said to me with an angelic voice, “let us leave this dangerous spot. Resistance here is beyond our strength.” She drew me away and we left the pavilion with regret. “Ah! how happy is she!” cried Madame de T-----. “Whom do you mean?” I asked.

“Did I speak?” said she with a look of alarm. And then we reached the grassy bank, and stopped there involuntarily. “What a distance there is,” she said to me, “between this place and the pavilion!” “Yes indeed,” said I. “But must this bank be always ominous? Is there a regret? Is there—?” I do not know by what magic it took place; but at this point the conversation changed and became less serious. She ventured even to speak playfully of the pleasures of love, to eliminate from them all moral considerations, to reduce them to their simplest elements, and to prove that the favors of lovers were mere pleasure, that there were no pledges—philosophically speaking—excepting those which were given to the world, when we allowed it to penetrate our secrets and joined it in the acts of indiscretion.

“How mild is the night,” she said, “which we have by chance picked out! Well, if there are reasons, as I suppose there are, which compel us to part to-morrow, our happiness, ignored as it is by all nature, will not leave us any ties to dissolve. There will, perhaps, be some regrets, the pleasant memory of which will give us reparation; and then there will be a mutual understanding, without all the delays, the fuss and the tyranny of legal proceedings. We are such machines—and I blush to avow it—that in place of all the shrinkings that tormented me before this scene took place, I was half inclined to embrace the boldness of these principles, and I felt already disposed to indulge in the love of liberty. “This beautiful night,” she continued, “this lovely scenery at this moment have taken on fresh charms. O let us never forget this pavilion! The chateau,” she added smilingly, “contains a still more charming place, but I dare not show you anything; you are like a child, who wishes to touch everything and breaks everything that he touches.” Moved by a sentiment of curiosity I protested that I was a very good child. She changed the subject. “This night,” she said, “would be for me without a regret if I were not vexed with myself for what I said to you about the countess. Not that I wish to find fault with you. Novelty attracts me. You have found me amiable, I should like to believe in your good faith. But the dominion of habit takes a long time to break through and I have not learned the secret of doing this—By the bye, what do you think of my husband?” “Well, he is rather cross, but I suppose he could not be otherwise to me.”

“Oh, that is true, but his way of life isn’t pleasant, and he could not see you here with indifference. He might be suspicious even of our friendship.” “Oh! he is so already.” “Confess that he has cause. Therefore you must not prolong this visit; he might take it amiss. As soon as any one arrives—” and she added with a smile, “some one is going to arrive—you must go. You have to keep up appearance, you know. Remember his manner when he left us to-night.” I was tempted to interpret this adventure as a trap, but as she noticed the impression made by her words, she added: “Oh, he was very much gayer when he was superintending the arrangement of the cabinet I told you about. That was before my marriage. This passage leads to my apartment. Alas! it testifies to the cunning artifices to which Monsieur de T----- has resorted in protecting his love for me.” “How pleasant it would be,” I said to her, keenly excited by the curiosity she had roused in me, “to take vengeance in this spot for the insults which your charms have suffered, and to seek to make restitution for the pleasures of which you have been robbed.” She doubtless thought this remark in good taste, but she said: “You promised to be good!” ***** I threw a veil over the follies which every age will pardon to youth, on the ground of so many balked desires and bitter memories. In the morning, scarcely raising her liquid eyes, Madame de T-----, fairer than ever, said to me: “Now will you ever love the countess as much as you do me?” I was about to answer when her maid, her confidante, appeared saying: “You must go. It is broad daylight, eleven o’clock, and the chateau is already awake.” All had vanished like a dream! I found myself wandering through the corridors before I had recovered my senses. How could I regain my apartment, not knowing where it was? Any mistake might bring about an exposure. I resolved on a morning walk. The coolness of the fresh air gradually tranquilized my imagination and brought me back to the world of reality; and now instead of a world of enchantment I saw myself in my soul, and my thoughts were no longer disturbed but followed each

other in connected order; in fact, I breathed once more. I was, above all things, anxious to learn what I was to her so lately left—I who knew that she had been desperately in love with the Marquis de V-----. Could she have broken with him? Had she taken me to be his successor, or only to punish him? What a night! What an adventure! Yes, and what a delightful woman! While I floated on the waves of these thoughts, I heard a sound near at hand. I raised my eyes, I rubbed them, I could not believe my senses. Can you guess who it was? The Marquis de V-----! “You did not expect to see me so early, did you?” he said. “How has it all gone off?” “Did you know that I was here?” I asked in utter amazement. “Oh, yes, I received word just as you left Paris. Have you played your part well? Did not the husband think your visit ridiculous? Was he put out? When are you going to take leave? You had better go, I have made every provision for you. I have brought you a good carriage. It is at your service. This is the way I requite you, my dear friend. You may rely on me in the future, for a man is grateful for such services as yours.” These last words gave me the key to the whole mystery, and I saw how I stood. “But why should you have come so soon?” I asked him; “it would have been more prudent to have waited a few days.” “I foresaw that; and it is only chance that has brought me here. I am supposed to be on my way back from a neighboring country house. But has not Madame de T----taken you into her secret? I am surprised at her want of confidence, after all you have done for us.” “My dear friend,” I replied, “she doubtless had her reasons. Perhaps I did not play my part very well.” “Has everything been very pleasant? Tell me the particulars; come, tell me.” “Now wait a moment. I did not know that this was to be a comedy; and although Madame de T----- gave me a part in the play--” “It wasn’t a very nice one.” “Do not worry yourself; there are no bad parts for good actors.” “I understand, you acquitted yourself well.” “Admirably.”

“And Madame de T-----?” “Is adorable.” “To think of being able to win such a woman!” said he, stopping short in our walk, and looking triumphantly at me. “Oh, what pains I have taken with her! And I have at last brought her to a point where she is perhaps the only woman in Paris on whose fidelity a man may infallibly count!” “You have succeeded—?” “Yes; in that lies my special talent. Her inconstancy was mere frivolity, unrestrained imagination. It was necessary to change that disposition of hers, but you have no idea of her attachment to me. But really, is she not charming?” “I quite agree with you.” “And yet entre nous I recognize one fault in her. Nature in giving her everything, has denied her that flame divine which puts the crown on all other endowments; while she rouses in others the ardor of passion, she feels none herself, she is a thing of marble.” “I am compelled to believe you, for I have had no opportunity of judging, but do you think that you know that woman as well as if you were her husband? It is possible to be deceived. If I had not dined yesterday with the veritable—I should take you—” “By the way, has he been good?” “Oh, I was received like a dog!” “I understand. Let us go in, let us look for Madame de T-----. She must be up by this time.” “But should we not out of decency begin with the husband?” I said to him. “You are right. Let us go to your room, I wish to put on a little powder. But tell me, did he really take you for her lover?” “You may judge by the way he receives me; but let us go at once to his apartment.” I wished to avoid having to lead him to an apartment whose whereabouts I did not know; but by chance we found it. The door was open and there I saw my valet de chambre asleep on an armchair. A candle was going out on a table beside him. He drowsily offered a night robe to the marquis. I was on pins and needles; but the marquis was in a mood to be easily deceived, took the man for a mere sleepy-head,

and made a joke of the matter. We passed on to the apartment of Monsieur de T-----. There was no misunderstanding the reception which he accorded me, and the welcome, the compliments which he addressed to the marquis, whom he almost forced to stay. He wished to take him to madame in order that she might insist on his staying. As for me, I received no such invitation. I was reminded that my health was delicate, the country was damp, fever was in the air, and I seemed so depressed that the chateau would prove too gloomy for me. The marquis offered me his chaise and I accepted it. The husband seemed delighted and we were all satisfied. But I could not refuse myself the pleasure of seeing Madame de T----- once more. My impatience was wonderful. My friend conceived no suspicions from the late sleep of his mistress. “Isn’t this fine?” he said to me as we followed Monsieur de T-----. “He couldn’t have spoken more kindly if she had dictated his words. He is a fine fellow. I am not in the least annoyed by this reconciliation; they will make a good home together, and you will agree with me, that he could not have chosen a wife better able to do the honors.” “Certainly,” I replied. “However pleasant the adventure has been,” he went on with an air of mystery, “you must be off! I will let Madame de T----- understand that her secret will be well kept.” “On that point, my friend, she perhaps counts more on me than on you; for you see her sleep is not disturbed by the matter.” “Oh! I quite agree that there is no one like you for putting a woman to sleep.” “Yes, and a husband too, and if necessary a lover, my dear friend.” At last Monsieur de T----- was admitted to his wife’s apartment, and there we were all summoned. “I trembled,” said Madame de T----- to me, “for fear you would go before I awoke, and I thank you for saving me the annoyance which that would have caused me.” “Madame,” I said, and she must have perceived the feeling that was in my tones—“I come to say good-bye.” She looked at me and at the marquis with an air of disquietude; but the self-satisfied, knowing look of her lover reassured her. She laughed in her sleeve with me as if she would console me as well as she could, without lowering herself in my eyes. “He has played his part well,” the marquis said to her in a low voice, pointing to me, “and my gratitude—”

“Let us drop the subject,” interrupted Madame de T-----; “you may be sure that I am well aware of all I owe him.” At last Monsieur de T-----, with a sarcastic remark, dismissed me; my friend threw the dust in his eyes by making fun of me; and I paid back both of them by expressing my admiration for Madame de T-----, who made fools of us all without forfeiting her dignity. I took myself off; but Madame de T----- followed me, pretending to have a commission to give me. “Adieu, monsieur!” she said, “I am indebted to you for the very great pleasure you have given me; but I have paid you back with a beautiful dream,” and she looked at me with an expression of subtle meaning. “But adieu, and forever! You have plucked a solitary flower, blossoming in its loveliness, which no man—” She stopped and her thought evaporated in a sigh; but she checked the rising flood of sensibility and smiled significantly. “The countess loves you,” she said. “If I have robbed her of some transports, I give you back to her less ignorant than before. Adieu! Do not make mischief between my friend and me.” She wrung my hand and left me. More than once the ladies who had mislaid their fans blushed as they listened to the old gentleman, whose brilliant elocution won their indulgence for certain details which we have suppressed, as too erotic for the present age; nevertheless, we may believe that each lady complimented him in private; for some time afterwards he gave to each of them, as also to the masculine guests, a copy of this charming story, twenty-five copies of which were printed by Pierre Didot. It is from copy No. 24 that the author has transcribed this tale, hitherto unpublished, and, strange to say, attributed to Dorat. It has the merit of yielding important lessons for husbands, while at the same time it gives the celibates a delightful picture of morals in the last century. MEDITATION XXV. OF ALLIES. Of all the miseries that civil war can bring upon a country the greatest lies in the appeal which one of the contestants always ends by making to some foreign government. Unhappily we are compelled to confess that all women make this great mistake, for the lover is only the first of their soldiers. It may be a member of their family or at least a distant cousin. This Meditation, then, is intended to answer the inquiry, what

assistance can each of the different powers which influence human life give to your wife? or better than that, what artifices will she resort to to arm them against you? Two beings united by marriage are subject to the laws of religion and society; to those of private life, and, from considerations of health, to those of medicine. We will therefore divide this important Meditation into six paragraphs: 1. OF RELIGIONS AND OF CONFESSION; CONSIDERED IN THEIR CONNECTION WITH MARRIAGE. 2. OF THE MOTHER-IN-LAW. 3. OF BOARDING SCHOOL FRIENDS AND INTIMATE FRIENDS. 4. OF THE LOVER’S ALLIES. 5. OF THE MAID. 6. OF THE DOCTOR. 1. OF RELIGIONS AND OF CONFESSION; CONSIDERED IN THEIR CONNECTION WITH MARRIAGE. La Bruyere has very wittily said, “It is too much for a husband to have ranged against him both devotion and gallantry; a woman ought to choose but one of them for her ally.” The author thinks that La Bruyere is mistaken. 2. OF THE MOTHER-IN-LAW. Up to the age of thirty the face of a woman is a book written in a foreign tongue, which one may still translate in spite of all the feminisms of the idiom; but on passing her fortieth year a woman becomes an insoluble riddle; and if any one can see through an old woman, it is another old woman. Some diplomats have attempted on more than one occasion the diabolical task of gaining over the dowagers who opposed their machinations; but if they have ever succeeded it was only after making enormous concessions to them; for diplomats are practiced people and we do not think that you can employ their recipe in dealing with your mother-in-law. She will be the first aid-de-camp of her daughter, for if the mother did not take her daughter’s side, it would be one of those monstrous and unnatural exceptions, which unhappily for husbands are extremely rare. When a man is so happy as to possess a mother-in-law who is well-preserved, he may easily keep her in check for a certain time, although he may not know any young celibate brave enough to assail her. But generally husbands who have the slightest conjugal genius will find a way of pitting their own mother against that of their wife, and in that case they will naturally neutralize each other’s power.

To be able to keep a mother-in-law in the country while he lives in Paris, and vice versa, is a piece of good fortune which a husband too rarely meets with. What of making mischief between the mother and the daughter?—That may be possible; but in order to accomplish such an enterprise he must have the metallic heart of Richelieu, who made a son and a mother deadly enemies to each other. However, the jealousy of a husband who forbids his wife to pray to male saints and wishes her to address only female saints, would allow her liberty to see her mother. Many sons-in-law take an extreme course which settles everything, which consists in living on bad terms with their mothers-in-law. This unfriendliness would be very adroit policy, if it did not inevitably result in drawing tighter the ties that unite mother and daughter. These are about all the means which you have for resisting maternal influence in your home. As for the services which your wife can claim from her mother, they are immense; and the assistance which she may derive from the neutrality of her mother is not less powerful. But on this point everything passes out of the domain of science, for all is veiled in secrecy. The reinforcements which a mother brings up in support of a daughter are so varied in nature, they depend so much on circumstances, that it would be folly to attempt even a nomenclature for them. Yet you may write out among the most valuable precepts of this conjugal gospel, the following maxims. A husband should never let his wife visit her mother unattended. A husband ought to study all the reasons why all the celibates under forty who form her habitual society are so closely united by ties of friendship to his mother-in-law; for, if a daughter rarely falls in love with the lover of her mother, her mother has always a weak spot for her daughter’s lover. 3. OF BOARDING SCHOOL FRIENDS AND INTIMATE FRIENDS. Louise de L-----, daughter of an officer killed at Wagram, had been the object of Napoleon’s special protection. She left Ecouen to marry a commissary general, the Baron de V-----, who is very rich. Louise was eighteen and the baron forty. She was ordinary in face and her complexion could not be called white, but she had a charming figure, good eyes, a small foot, a pretty hand, good taste and abundant intelligence. The baron, worn out by the fatigues of war and still more by the excesses of a stormy youth, had one of those faces upon which the Republic, the Directory, the Consulate and the Empire seemed to have set their impress. He became so deeply in love with his wife, that he asked and obtained from the Emperor a post at Paris, in order that he might be enabled to watch over his treasure.

He was as jealous as Count Almaviva, still more from vanity than from love. The young orphan had married her husband from necessity, and, flattered by the ascendancy she wielded over a man much older than herself, waited upon his wishes and his needs; but her delicacy was offended from the first days of their marriage by the habits and ideas of a man whose manners were tinged with republican license. He was a predestined. I do not know exactly how long the baron made his honeymoon last, nor when war was declared in his household; but I believe it happened in 1816, at a very brilliant ball given by Monsieur D-----, a commissariat officer, that the commissary general, who had been promoted head of the department, admired the beautiful Madame B----, the wife of a banker, and looked at her much more amorously than a married man should have allowed himself to do. At two o’clock in the morning it happened that the banker, tired of waiting any longer, went home leaving his wife at the ball. “We are going to take you home to your house,” said the baroness to Madame B-----. “Monsieur de V-----, offer your arm to Emilie!” And now the baron is seated in his carriage next to a woman who, during the whole evening, had been offered and had refused a thousand attentions, and from whom he had hoped in vain to win a single look. There she was, in all the lustre of her youth and beauty, displaying the whitest shoulders and the most ravishing lines of beauty. Her face, which still reflected the pleasures of the evening, seemed to vie with the brilliancy of her satin gown; her eyes to rival the blaze of her diamonds; and her skin to cope with the soft whiteness of the marabouts which tied in her hair, set off the ebon tresses and the ringlets dangling from her headdress. Her tender voice would stir the chords of the most insensible hearts; in a word, so powerfully did she wake up love in the human breast that Robert d’Abrissel himself would perhaps have yielded to her. The baron glanced at his wife, who, overcome with fatigue, had sunk to sleep in a corner of the carriage. He compared, in spite of himself, the toilette of Louise and that of Emilie. Now on occasions of this kind the presence of a wife is singularly calculated to sharpen the unquenchable desires of a forbidden love. Moreover, the glances of the baron, directed alternately to his wife and to her friend, were easy to interpret, and Madame B----- interpreted them. “Poor Louise,” she said, “she is overtired. Going out does not suit her, her tastes are so simple. At Ecouen she was always reading—” “And you, what used you to do?” “I, sir? Oh, I thought about nothing but acting comely. It was my passion!”

“But why do you so rarely visit Madame de V-----? We have a country house at Saint-Prix, where we could have a comedy acted, in a little theatre which I have built there.” “If I have not visited Madame de V-----, whose fault is it?” she replied. “You are so jealous that you will not allow her either to visit her friends or to receive them.” “I jealous!” cried Monsieur de V-----, “after four years of marriage, and after having had three children!” “Hush,” said Emilie, striking the fingers of the baron with her fan, “Louise is not asleep!” The carriage stopped, and the baron offered his hand to his wife’s fair friend and helped her to get out. “I hope,” said Madame B-----, “that you will not prevent Louise from coming to the ball which I am giving this week.” The baron made her a respectful bow. This ball was a triumph of Madame B-----’s and the ruin of the husband of Louise; for he became desperately enamored of Emilie, to whom he would have sacrificed a hundred lawful wives. Some months after that evening on which the baron gained some hopes of succeeding with his wife’s friend, he found himself one morning at the house of Madame B-----, when the maid came to announce the Baroness de V-----. “Ah!” cried Emilie, “if Louise were to see you with me at such an hour as this, she would be capable of compromising me. Go into that closet and don’t make the least noise.” The husband, caught like a mouse in a trap, concealed himself in the closet. “Good-day, my dear!” said the two women, kissing each other. “Why are you come so early?” asked Emilie. “Oh! my dear, cannot you guess? I came to have an understanding with you!” “What, a duel?”

“Precisely, my dear. I am not like you, not I! I love my husband and am jealous of him. You! you are beautiful, charming, you have the right to be a coquette, you can very well make fun of B-----, to whom your virtue seems to be of little importance. But as you have plenty of lovers in society, I beg you that you will leave me my husband. He is always at your house, and he certainly would not come unless you were the attraction.” “What a very pretty jacket you have on.” “Do you think so? My maid made it.” “Then I shall get Anastasia to take a lesson from Flore—” “So, then, my dear, I count on your friendship to refrain from bringing trouble in my house.” “But, my child, I do not know how you can conceive that I should fall in love with your husband; he is coarse and fat as a deputy of the centre. He is short and ugly— Ah! I will allow that he is generous, but that is all you can say for him, and this is a quality which is all in all only to opera girls; so that you can understand, my dear, that if I were choosing a lover, as you seem to suppose I am, I wouldn’t choose an old man like your baron. If I have given him any hopes, if I have received him, it was certainly for the purpose of amusing myself, and of giving you liberty; for I believed you had a weakness for young Rostanges.” “I?” exclaimed Louise, “God preserve me from it, my dear; he is the most intolerable coxcomb in the world. No, I assure you, I love my husband! You may laugh as you choose; it is true. I know it may seem ridiculous, but consider, he has made my fortune, he is no miser, and he is everything to me, for it has been my unhappy lot to be left an orphan. Now even if I did not love him, I ought to try to preserve his esteem. Have I a family who will some day give me shelter?” “Come, my darling, let us speak no more about it,” said Emilie, interrupting her friend, “for it tires me to death.” After a few trifling remarks the baroness left. “How is this, monsieur?” cried Madame B-----, opening the door of the closet where the baron was frozen with cold, for this incident took place in winter; “how is this? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for not adoring a little wife who is so interesting? Don’t speak to me of love; you may idolize me, as you say you do, for a certain time, but you will never love me as you love Louise. I can see that in your heart I shall never outweigh the interest inspired by a virtuous wife, children, and a family circle. I should one day be deserted and become the object of your bitter reflections. You would coldly say of me ’I have had that woman!’ That phrase I have heard

pronounced by men with the most insulting indifference. You see, monsieur, that I reason in cold blood, and that I do not love you, because you never would be able to love me.” “What must I do then to convince you of my love?” cried the baron, fixing his gaze on the young woman. She had never appeared to him so ravishingly beautiful as at that moment, when her soft voice poured forth a torrent of words whose sternness was belied by the grace of her gestures, by the pose of her head and by her coquettish attitude. “Oh, when I see Louise in possession of a lover,” she replied, “when I know that I am taking nothing away from her, and that she has nothing to regret in losing your affection; when I am quite sure that you love her no longer, and have obtained certain proof of your indifference towards her—Oh, then I may listen to you!—These words must seem odious to you,” she continued in an earnest voice; “and so indeed they are, but do not think that they have been pronounced by me. I am the rigorous mathematician who makes his deductions from a preliminary proposition. You are married, and do you deliberately set about making love to some one else? I should be mad to give any encouragement to a man who cannot be mine eternally.” “Demon!” exclaimed the husband. “Yes, you are a demon, and not a woman!” “Come now, you are really amusing!” said the young woman as she seized the bellrope. “Oh! no, Emilie,” continued the lover of forty, in a calmer voice. “Do not ring; stop, forgive me! I will sacrifice everything for you.” “But I do not promise you anything!” she answered quickly with a laugh. “My God! How you make me suffer!” he exclaimed. “Well, and have not you in your life caused the unhappiness of more than one person?” she asked. “Remember all the tears which have been shed through you and for you! Oh, your passion does not inspire me with the least pity. If you do not wish to make me laugh, make me share your feelings.” “Adieu, madame, there is a certain clemency in your sternness. I appreciate the lesson you have taught me. Yes, I have many faults to expiate.” “Well then, go and repent of them,” she said with a mocking smile; “in making Louise happy you will perform the rudest penance in your power.”

They parted. But the love of the baron was too violent to allow of Madame B-----’s harshness failing to accomplish her end, namely, the separation of the married couple. At the end of some months the Baron de V----- and his wife lived apart, though they lived in the same mansion. The baroness was the object of universal pity, for in public she always did justice to her husband and her resignation seemed wonderful. The most prudish women of society found nothing to blame in the friendship which united Louise to the young Rostanges. And all was laid to the charge of Monsieur de V-----’s folly. When this last had made all the sacrifices that a man could make for Madame B-----, his perfidious mistress started for the waters of Mount Dore, for Switzerland and for Italy, on the pretext of seeking the restoration of her health. The baron died of inflammation of the liver, being attended during his sickness by the most touching ministrations which his wife could lavish upon him; and judging from the grief which he manifested at having deserted her, he seemed never to have suspected her participation in the plan which had been his ruin. This anecdote, which we have chosen from a thousand others, exemplifies the services which two women can render each other. From the words—“Let me have the pleasure of bringing my husband” up to the conception of the drama, whose denouement was inflammation of the liver, every female perfidy was assembled to work out the end. Certain incidents will, of course, be met with which diversify more or less the typical example which we have given, but the march of the drama is almost always the same. Moreover a husband ought always to distrust the woman friends of his wife. The subtle artifices of these lying creatures rarely fail of their effect, for they are seconded by two enemies, who always keep close to a man—and these are vanity and desire. 4. OF THE LOVER’S ALLIES. The man who hastens to tell another man that he has dropped a thousand franc bill from his pocket-book, or even that the handkerchief is coming out of his pocket, would think it a mean thing to warn him that some one was carrying off his wife. There is certainly something extremely odd in this moral inconsistency, but after all it admits of explanation. Since the law cannot exercise any interference with matrimonial rights, the citizens have even less right to constitute themselves a conjugal police; and when one restores a thousand franc bill to him who has lost it, he acts under a certain kind of obligation, founded on the principle which says, “Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you!” But by what reasoning can justification be found for the help which one celibate never asks in vain, but always receives from another celibate in deceiving a husband,

and how shall we qualify the rendering of such help? A man who is incapable of assisting a gendarme in discovering an assassin, has no scruple in taking a husband to a theatre, to a concert or even to a questionable house, in order to help a comrade, whom he would not hesitate to kill in a duel to-morrow, in keeping an assignation, the result of which is to introduce into a family a spurious child, and to rob two brothers of a portion of their fortune by giving them a co-heir whom they never perhaps would otherwise have had; or to effect the misery of three human beings. We must confess that integrity is a very rare virtue, and, very often, the man that thinks he has most actually has least. Families have been divided by feuds, and brothers have been murdered, which events would never have taken place if some friend had refused to perform what passes to the world as a harmless trick. It is impossible for a man to be without some hobby or other, and all of us are devoted either to hunting, fishing, gambling, music, money, or good eating. Well, your ruling passion will always be an accomplice in the snare which a lover sets for you, the invisible hand of this passion will direct your friends, or his, whether they consent or not, to play a part in the little drama when they want to take you away from home, or to induce you to leave your wife to the mercy of another. A lover will spend two whole months, if necessary, in planning the construction of the mousetrap. I have seen the most cunning men on earth thus taken in. There was a certain retired lawyer of Normandy. He lived in the little town of B-----, where a regiment of the chasseurs of Cantal were garrisoned. A fascinating officer of this regiment had fallen in love with the wife of this pettifogger, and the regiment was leaving before the two lovers had been able to enjoy the least privacy. It was the fourth military man over whom the lawyer had triumphed. As he left the dinner-table one evening, about six o’clock, the husband took a walk on the terrace of his garden from which he could see the whole country side. The officers arrived at this moment to take leave of him. Suddenly the flame of a conflagration burst forth on the horizon. “Heavens! La Daudiniere is on fire!” exclaimed the major. He was an old simple-minded soldier, who had dined at home. Every one mounted horse. The young wife smiled as she found herself alone, for her lover, hidden in the coppice, had said to her, “It is a straw stack on fire!” The flank of the husband was turned with all the more facility in that a fine courser was provided for him by the captain, and with a delicacy very rare in the cavalry, the lover actually sacrificed a few moments of his happiness in order to catch up with the cavalcade, and return in company with the husband. Marriage is a veritable duel, in which persistent watchfulness is required in order to triumph over an adversary; for, if you are unlucky enough to turn your head, the sword of the celibate will pierce you through and through. 5. OF THE MAID.

The prettiest waiting-maid I have ever seen is that of Madame V——y, a lady who to-day plays at Paris a brilliant part among the most fashionable women, and passes for a wife who keeps on excellent terms with her husband. Mademoiselle Celestine is a person whose points of beauty are so numerous that, in order to describe her, it would be necessary to translate the thirty verses which we are told form an inscription in the seraglio of the Grand Turk and contain each of them an excellent description of one of the thirty beauties of women. “You show a great deal of vanity in keeping near you such an accomplished creature,” said a lady to the mistress of the house. “Ah! my dear, some day perhaps you will find yourself jealous of me in possessing Celestine.” “She must be endowed with very rare qualities, I suppose? She perhaps dresses you well?” “Oh, no, very badly!” “She sews well?” “She never touches her needle.” “She is faithful?” “She is one of those whose fidelity costs more than the most cunning dishonesty.” “You astonish me, my dear; she is then your foster-sister?” “Not at all; she is positively good for nothing, but she is more useful to me than any other member of my household. If she remains with me ten years, I have promised her twenty thousand francs. It will be money well earned, and I shall not forget to give it!” said the young woman, nodding her head with a meaning gesture. At last the questioner of Madame V——y understood. When a woman has no friend of her own sex intimate enough to assist her in proving false to marital love, her maid is a last resource which seldom fails in bringing about the desired result. Oh! after ten years of marriage to find under his roof, and to see all the time, a young girl of from sixteen to eighteen, fresh, dressed with taste, the treasures of whose beauty seem to breathe defiance, whose frank bearing is irresistibly attractive, whose downcast eyes seem to fear you, whose timid glance tempts you, and for whom the

conjugal bed has no secrets, for she is at once a virgin and an experienced woman! How can a man remain cold, like St. Anthony, before such powerful sorcery, and have the courage to remain faithful to the good principles represented by a scornful wife, whose face is always stern, whose manners are always snappish, and who frequently refuses to be caressed? What husband is stoical enough to resist such fires, such frosts? There, where you see a new harvest of pleasure, the young innocent sees an income, and your wife her liberty. It is a little family compact, which is signed in the interest of good will. In this case, your wife acts with regard to marriage as young fashionables do with regard to their country. If they are drawn for the army, they buy a man to carry the musket, to die in their place and to spare them the hardships of military life. In compromises of this sort there is not a single woman who does not know how to put her husband in the wrong. I have noticed that, by a supreme stroke of diplomacy, the majority of wives do not admit their maids into the secret of the part which they give them to play. They trust to nature, and assume an affected superiority over the lover and his mistress. These secret perfidies of women explain to a great degree the odd features of married life which are to be observed in the world; and I have heard women discuss, with profound sagacity, the dangers which are inherent in this terrible method of attack, and it is necessary to know thoroughly both the husband and the creature to whom he is to be abandoned, in order to make successful use of her. Many a woman, in this connection, has been the victim of her own calculations. Moreover, the more impetuous and passionate a husband shows himself, the less will a woman dare to employ this expedient; but a husband caught in this snare will never have anything to say to his stern better-half, when the maid, giving evidence of the fault she has committed, is sent into the country with an infant and a dowry. 6. OF THE DOCTOR. The doctor is one of the most potent auxiliaries of an honest woman, when she wishes to acquire a friendly divorce from her husband. The services that the doctor renders, most of the time without knowing it, to a woman, are of such importance that there does not exist a single house in France where the doctor is chosen by any one but the wife. All doctors know what great influence women have on their reputation; thus we meet with few doctors who do not study to please the ladies. When a man of talent has become celebrated it is true that he does not lend himself to the crafty conspiracies which women hatch; but without knowing it he becomes involved in them.

I suppose that a husband taught by the adventures of his own youth makes up his mind to pick out a doctor for his wife, from the first days of his marriage. So long as his feminine adversary fails to conceive the assistance that she may derive from this ally, she will submit in silence; but later on, if all her allurements fail to win over the man chosen by her husband, she will take a more favorable opportunity to give her husband her confidence, in the following remarkable manner. “I don’t like the way in which the doctor feels my pulse!” And of course the doctor is dropped. Thus it happens that either a woman chooses her doctor, wins over the man who has been imposed upon her, or procures his dismissal. But this contest is very rare; the majority of young men who marry are acquainted with none but beardless doctors whom they have no anxiety to procure for their wives, and almost always the Esculapius of the household is chosen by the feminine power. Thus it happens that some fine morning the doctor, when he leaves the chamber of madame, who has been in bed for a fortnight, is induced by her to say to you: “I do not say that the condition of madame presents any serious symptoms; but this constant drowsiness, this general listlessness, and her natural tendency to a spinal affection demand great care. Her lymph is inspissated. She wants a change of air. She ought to be sent either to the waters of Bareges or to the waters of Plombieres.” “All right, doctor.” You allow your wife to go to Plombieres; but she goes there because Captain Charles is quartered in the Vosges. She returns in capital health and the waters of Plombieres have done wonders for her. She has written to you every day, she has lavished upon you from a distance every possible caress. The danger of a spinal affection has utterly disappeared. There is extant a little pamphlet, whose publication was prompted doubtless by hate. It was published in Holland, and it contains some very curious details of the manner in which Madame de Maintenon entered into an understanding with Fagon, for the purposes of controlling Louis XIV. Well, some morning your doctor will threaten you, as Fagon threatened his master, with a fit of apoplexy, if you do not diet yourself. This witty work of satire, doubtless the production of some courtier, entitled “Madame de Saint Tron,” has been interpreted by the modern author who has become proverbial as “the young doctor.” But his delightful sketch is very much superior to the work whose title I cite for the benefit of the book-lovers, and we have great pleasure in acknowledging that the work of our clever contemporary has prevented us, out of regard for the glory of the seventeenth century, from publishing the fragment of the old pamphlet.

Very frequently a doctor becomes duped by the judicious manoeuvres of a young and delicate wife, and comes to you with the announcement: “Sir, I would not wish to alarm madame with regard to her condition; but I will advise you, if you value her health, to keep her in perfect tranquillity. The irritation at this moment seems to threaten the chest, and we must gain control of it; there is need of rest for her, perfect rest; the least agitation might change the seat of the malady. At this crisis, the prospect of bearing a child would be fatal to her.” “But, doctor—” “Ah, yes! I know that!” He laughs and leaves the house. Like the rod of Moses, the doctor’s mandate makes and unmakes generations. The doctor will restore you to your marriage bed with the same arguments that he used in debarring you. He treats your wife for complaints which she has not, in order to cure her of those which she has, and all the while you have no idea of it; for the scientific jargon of doctors can only be compared to the layers in which they envelop their pills. An honest woman in her chamber with the doctor is like a minister sure of a majority; she has it in her power to make a horse, or a carriage, according to her good pleasure and her taste; she will send you away or receive you, as she likes. Sometimes she will pretend to be ill in order to have a chamber separate from yours; sometimes she will surround herself with all the paraphernalia of an invalid; she will have an old woman for a nurse, regiments of vials and of bottles, and, environed by these ramparts, will defy you by her invalid airs. She will talk to you in such a depressing way of the electuaries and of the soothing draughts which she has taken, of the agues which she has had, of her plasters and cataplasms, that she will fill you with disgust at these sickly details, if all the time these sham sufferings are not intended to serve as engines by means of which, eventually, a successful attack may be made on that singular abstraction known as your honor. In this way your wife will be able to fortify herself at every point of contact which you possess with the world, with society and with life. Thus everything will take arms against you, and you will be alone among all these enemies. But suppose that it is your unprecedented privilege to possess a wife who is without religious connections, without parents or intimate friends; that you have penetration enough to see through all the tricks by which your wife’s lover tries to entrap you; that you still have sufficient love for your fair enemy to resist all the Martons of the earth; that, in fact, you have for your doctor a man who is so celebrated that he has no time to listen to the maunderings of your wife; or that if your Esculapius is madame’s vassal, you demand a consultation, and an incorruptible doctor intervenes every time the favorite

doctor prescribes a remedy that disquiets you; even in that case, your prospects will scarcely be more brilliant. In fact, even if you do not succumb to this invasion of allies, you must not forget that, so far, your adversary has not, so to speak, struck the decisive blow. If you hold out still longer, your wife, having flung round you thread upon thread, as a spider spins his web, an invisible net, will resort to the arms which nature has given her, which civilization has perfected, and which will be treated of in the next Meditation. MEDITATION XXVI. OF DIFFERENT WEAPONS. A weapon is anything which is used for the purpose of wounding. From this point of view, some sentiments prove to be the most cruel weapons which man can employ against his fellow man. The genius of Schiller, lucid as it was comprehensive, seems to have revealed all the phenomena which certain ideas bring to light in the human organization by their keen and penetrating action. A man may be put to death by a thought. Such is the moral of those heartrending scenes, when in The Brigands the poet shows a young man, with the aid of certain ideas, making such powerful assaults on the heart of an old man, that he ends by causing the latter’s death. The time is not far distant when science will be able to observe the complicated mechanism of our thoughts and to apprehend the transmission of our feelings. Some developer of the occult sciences will prove that our intellectual organization constitutes nothing more than a kind of interior man, who projects himself with less violence than the exterior man, and that the struggle which may take place between two such powers as these, although invisible to our feeble eyes, is not a less mortal struggle than that in which our external man compels us to engage. But these considerations belong to a different department of study from that in which we are now engaged; these subjects we intend to deal with in a future publication; some of our friends are already acquainted with one of the most important,—that, namely, entitled “THE PATHOLOGY OF SOCIAL LIFE, or Meditations mathematical, physical, chemical and transcendental on the manifestations of thought, taken under all the forms which are produced by the state of society, whether by living, marriage, conduct, veterinary medicine, or by speech and action, etc.,” in which all these great questions are fully discussed. The aim of this brief metaphysical observation is only to remind you that the higher classes of society reason too well to admit of their being attacked by any other than intellectual arms. Although it is true that tender and delicate souls are found enveloped in a body of metallic hardness, at the same time there are souls of bronze enveloped in bodies so supple and capricious that their grace attracts the friendship of others, and their beauty calls for a caress. But if you flatter the exterior man with your hand, the Homo duplex, the interior man, to use an expression of Buffon, immediately rouses himself and rends you with his keen points of contact.

This description of a special class of human creatures, which we hope you will not run up against during your earthly journey, presents a picture of what your wife may be to you. Every one of the sentiments which nature has endowed your heart with, in their gentlest form, will become a dagger in the hand of your wife. You will be stabbed every moment, and you will necessarily succumb; for your love will flow like blood from every wound. This is the last struggle, but for her it also means victory. In order to carry out the distinction which we think we have established among three sorts of feminine temperament, we will divide this Meditation into three parts, under the following titles: 1. OF HEADACHES. 2. OF NERVOUS AFFECTATIONS. 3. OF MODESTY, IN ITS CONNECTION WITH MARRIAGE. 1. OF HEADACHES. Women are constantly the dupes or the victims of excessive sensibility; but we have already demonstrated that with the greater number of them this delicacy of soul must needs, almost without their knowing it, receive many rude blows, from the very fact of their marriage. (See Meditations entitled The Predestined and Of the Honeymoon.) Most of the means of defence instinctively employed by husbands are nothing but traps set for the liveliness of feminine affections. Now the moment comes when the wife, during the Civil War, traces by a single act of thought the history of her moral life, and is irritated on perceiving the prodigious way in which you have taken advantage of her sensibility. It is very rarely that women, moved either by an innate feeling for revenge, which they themselves can never explain, or by their instinct of domination, fail to discover that this quality in their natural machinery, when brought into play against the man, is inferior to no other instrument for obtaining ascendancy over him. With admirable cleverness, they proceed to find out what chords in the hearts of their husbands are most easily touched; and when once they discover this secret, they eagerly proceed to put it into practice; then, like a child with a mechanical toy, whose spring excites their curiosity, they go on employing it, carelessly calling into play the movements of the instrument, and satisfied simply with their success in doing so. If they kill you, they will mourn over you with the best grace in the world, as the most virtuous, the most excellent, the most sensible of men. In this way your wife will first arm herself with that generous sentiment which leads us to respect those who are in pain. The man most disposed to quarrel with a woman

full of life and health becomes helpless before a woman who is weak and feeble. If your wife has not attained the end of her secret designs, by means of those various methods already described, she will quickly seize this all-powerful weapon. In virtue of this new strategic method, you will see the young girl, so strong in life and beauty, whom you had wedded in her flower, metamorphosing herself into a pale and sickly woman. Now headache is an affection which affords infinite resources to a woman. This malady, which is the easiest of all to feign, for it is destitute of any apparent symptom, merely obliges her to say: “I have a headache.” A woman trifles with you and there is no one in the world who can contradict her skull, whose impenetrable bones defy touch or ocular test. Moreover, headache is, in our opinion, the queen of maladies, the pleasantest and the most terrible weapon employed by wives against their husbands. There are some coarse and violent men who have been taught the tricks of women by their mistresses, in the happy hours of their celibacy, and so flatter themselves that they are never to be caught by this vulgar trap. But all their efforts, all their arguments end by being vanquished before the magic of these words: “I have a headache.” If a husband complains, or ventures on a reproach, if he tries to resist the power of this Il buondo cani of marriage, he is lost. Imagine a young woman, voluptuously lying on a divan, her head softly supported by a cushion, one hand hanging down; on a small table close at hand is her glass of limewater. Now place by her side a burly husband. He has made five or six turns round the room; but each time he has turned on his heels to begin his walk all over again, the little invalid has made a slight movement of her eyebrows in a vain attempt to remind him that the slightest noise fatigues her. At last he musters all his courage and utters a protest against her pretended malady, in the bold phrase: “And have you really a headache?” At these words the young woman slightly raises her languid head, lifts an arm, which feebly falls back again upon her divan, raises her eyes to the ceiling, raises all that she has power to raise; then darting at you a leaden glance, she says in a voice of remarkable feebleness: “Oh! What can be the matter with me? I suffer the agonies of death! And this is all the comfort you give me! Ah! you men, it is plainly seen that nature has not given you the task of bringing children into the world. What egoists and tyrants you are! You take us in all the beauty of our youth, fresh, rosy, with tapering waist, and then all is well! When your pleasures have ruined the blooming gifts which we received from nature, you never forgive us for having forfeited them to you! That was all understood. You will allow us to have neither the virtues nor the sufferings of our condition. You must needs have children, and we pass many nights in taking care of them. But child-bearing has ruined our health, and left behind the germs of serious maladies.—Oh, what pain I suffer! There are few women who are not subject to

headaches; but your wife must be an exception. You even laugh at our sufferings; that is generosity!—-please don’t walk about —I should not have expected this of you!—Stop the clock; the click of the pendulum rings in my head. Thanks! Oh, what an unfortunate creature I am! Have you a scent-bottle with you? Yes, oh! for pity’s sake, allow me to suffer in peace, and go away; for this scent splits my head!” What can you say in reply? Do you not hear within you a voice which cries, “And what if she is actually suffering?” Moreover, almost all husbands evacuate the field of battle very quietly, while their wives watch them from the corner of their eyes, marching off on tip-toe and closing the door quietly on the chamber henceforth to be considered sacred by them. Such is the headache, true or false, which is patronized at your home. Then the headache begins to play a regular role in the bosom of your family. It is a theme on which a woman can play many admirable variations. She sets it forth in every key. With the aid of the headache alone a wife can make a husband desperate. A headache seizes madame when she chooses, where she chooses, and as much as she chooses. There are headaches of five days, of ten minutes, periodic or intermittent headaches. You sometimes find your wife in bed, in pain, helpless, and the blinds of her room are closed. The headache has imposed silence on every one, from the regions of the porter’s lodge, where he is cutting wood, even to the garret of your groom, from which he is throwing down innocent bundles of straw. Believing in this headache, you leave the house, but on your return you find that madame has decamped! Soon madame returns, fresh and ruddy: “The doctor came,” she says, “and advised me to take exercise, and I find myself much better!” Another day you wish to enter madame’s room. “Oh, sir,” says the maid, showing the most profound astonishment, “madame has her usual headache, and I have never seen her in such pain! The doctor has been sent for.” “You are a happy man,” said Marshal Augereau to General R-----, “to have such a pretty wife!” “To have!” replied the other. “If I have my wife ten days in the year, that is about all. These confounded women have always either the headache or some other thing!” The headache in France takes the place of the sandals, which, in Spain, the Confessor leaves at the door of the chamber in which he is with his penitent.

If your wife, foreseeing some hostile intentions on your part, wishes to make herself as inviolable as the charter, she immediately gets up a little headache performance. She goes to bed in a most deliberate fashion, she utters shrieks which rend the heart of the hearer. She goes gracefully through a series of gesticulations so cleverly executed that you might think her a professional contortionist. Now what man is there so inconsiderate as to dare to speak to a suffering woman about desires which, in him, prove the most perfect health? Politeness alone demands of him perfect silence. A woman knows under these circumstances that by means of this allpowerful headache, she can at her will paste on her bed the placard which sends back home the amateurs who have been allured by the announcement of the Comedie Francaise, when they read the words: “Closed through the sudden indisposition of Mademoiselle Mars.” O headache, protectress of love, tariff of married life, buckler against which all married desires expire! O mighty headache! Can it be possible that lovers have never sung thy praises, personified thee, or raised thee to the skies? O magic headache, O delusive headache, blest be the brain that first invented thee! Shame on the doctor who shall find out thy preventive! Yes, thou art the only ill that women bless, doubtless through gratitude for the good things thou dispensest to them, O deceitful headache! O magic headache! 2. OF NERVOUS AFFECTATIONS. There is, however, a power which is superior even to that of the headache; and we must avow to the glory of France, that this power is one of the most recent which has been won by Parisian genius. As in the case with all the most useful discoveries of art and science, no one knows to whose intellect it is due. Only, it is certain that it was towards the middle of the last century that “Vapors” made their first appearance in France. Thus while Papin was applying the force of vaporized water in mechanical problems, a French woman, whose name unhappily is unknown, had the glory of endowing her sex with the faculty of vaporizing their fluids. Very soon the prodigious influence obtained by vapors was extended to the nerves; it was thus in passing from fibre to fibre that the science of neurology was born. This admirable science has since then led such men as Philips and other clever physiologists to the discovery of the nervous fluid in its circulation; they are now perhaps on the eve of identifying its organs, and the secret of its origin and of its evaporation. And thus, thanks to certain quackeries of this kind, we may be enabled some day to penetrate the mysteries of that unknown power which we have already called more than once in the present book, the Will. But do not let us trespass on the territory of medical philosophy. Let us consider the nerves and the vapors solely in their connection with marriage. Victims of Neurosis (a pathological term under which are comprised all affections of the nervous system) suffer in two ways, as far as married women are concerned; for

our physiology has the loftiest disdain for medical classifications. Thus we recognize only: 1. CLASSIC NEUROSIS. 2. ROMANTIC NEUROSIS. The classic affection has something bellicose and excitable on it. Those who thus suffer are as violent in their antics as pythonesses, as frantic as monads, as excited as bacchantes; it is a revival of antiquity, pure and simple. The romantic sufferers are mild and plaintive as the ballads sung amid the mists of Scotland. They are pallid as young girls carried to their bier by the dance or by love; they are eminently elegiac and they breathe all the melancholy of the North. That woman with black hair, with piercing eye, with high color, with dry lips and a powerful hand, will become excited and convulsive; she represents the genius of classic neurosis; while a young blonde woman, with white skin, is the genius of romantic neurosis; to one belongs the empire gained by nerves, to the other the empire gained by vapors. Very frequently a husband, when he comes home, finds his wife in tears. “What is the matter, my darling?” “It is nothing.” “But you are in tears!” “I weep without knowing why. I am quite sad! I saw faces in the clouds, and those faces never appear to me except on the eve of some disaster—I think I must be going to die.” Then she talks to you in a low voice of her dead father, of her dead uncle, of her dead grandfather, of her dead cousin. She invokes all these mournful shades, she feels as if she had all their sicknesses, she is attacked with all the pains they felt, she feels her heart palpitate with excessive violence, she feels her spleen swelling. You say to yourself, with a self-satisfied air: “I know exactly what this is all about!” And then you try to soothe her; but you find her a woman who yawns like an open box, who complains of her chest, who begins to weep anew, who implores you to leave her to her melancholy and her mournful memories. She talks to you about her last wishes, follows her own funeral, is buried, plants over her tomb the green canopy of a weeping willow, and at the very time when you would like to raise a joyful

epithalamium, you find an epitaph to greet you all in black. Your wish to console her melts away in the cloud of Ixion. There are women of undoubted fidelity who in this way extort from their feeling husbands cashmere shawls, diamonds, the payment of their debts, or the rent of a box at the theatre; but almost always vapors are employed as decisive weapons in Civil War. On the plea of her spinal affection or of her weak chest, a woman takes pains to seek out some distraction or other; you see her dressing herself in soft fabrics like an invalid with all the symptoms of spleen; she never goes out because an intimate friend, her mother or her sister, has tried to tear her away from that divan which monopolizes her and on which she spends her life in improvising elegies. Madame is going to spend a fortnight in the country because the doctor orders it. In short, she goes where she likes and does what she likes. Is it possible that there can be a husband so brutal as to oppose such desires, by hindering a wife from going to seek a cure for her cruel sufferings? For it has been established after many long discussions that in the nerves originate the most fearful torture. But it is especially in bed that vapors play their part. There when a woman has not a headache she has her vapors; and when she has neither vapors nor headache, she is under the protection of the girdle of Venus, which, as you know, is a myth. Among the women who fight with you the battle of vapors, are some more blonde, more delicate, more full of feeling than others, and who possess the gift of tears. How admirably do they know how to weep! They weep when they like, as they like and as much as they like. They organize a system of offensive warfare which consists of manifesting sublime resignation, and they gain victories which are all the more brilliant, inasmuch as they remain all the time in excellent health. Does a husband, irritated beyond all measure, at last express his wishes to them? They regard him with an air of submission, bow their heads and keep silence. This pantomime almost always puts a husband to rout. In conjugal struggles of this kind, a man prefers a woman should speak and defend herself, for then he may show elation or annoyance; but as for these women, not a word. Their silence distresses you and you experience a sort of remorse, like the murderer who, when he finds his victim offers no resistance, trembles with redoubled fear. He would prefer to slay him in self-defence. You return to the subject. As you draw near, your wife wipes away her tears and hides her handkerchief, so as to let you see that she has been weeping. You are melted, you implore your little Caroline to speak, your sensibility has been touched and you forget everything; then she sobs while she speaks, and speaks while she sobs. This is a sort of machine eloquence; she deafens you with her tears, with her words which come jerked out in confusion; it is the clapper and torrent of a mill.

French women and especially Parisians possess in a marvelous degree the secret by which such scenes are enacted, and to these scenes their voices, their sex, their toilet, their manner give a wonderful charm. How often do the tears upon the cheeks of these adorable actresses give way to a piquant smile, when they see their husbands hasten to break the silk lace, the weak fastening of their corsets, or to restore the comb which holds together the tresses of their hair and the bunch of golden ringlets always on the point of falling down? But how all these tricks of modernity pale before the genius of antiquity, before nervous attacks which are violent, before the Pyrrhic dance of married life! Oh! how many hopes for a lover are there in the vivacity of those convulsive movements, in the fire of those glances, in the strength of those limbs, beautiful even in contortion! It is then that a woman is carried away like an impetuous wind, darts forth like the flames of a conflagration, exhibits a movement like a billow which glides over the white pebbles. She is overcome with excess of love, she sees the future, she is the seer who prophesies, but above all, she sees the present moment and tramples on her husband, and impresses him with a sort of terror. The sight of his wife flinging off vigorous men as if they were so many feathers, is often enough to deter a man from ever striving to wrong her. He will be like the child who, having pulled the trigger of some terrific engine, has ever afterwards an incredible respect for the smallest spring. I have known a man, gentle and amiable in his ways, whose eyes were fixed upon those of his wife, exactly as if he had been put into a lion’s cage, and some one had said to him that he must not irritate the beast, if he would escape with his life. Nervous attacks of this kind are very fatiguing and become every day more rare. Romanticism, however, has maintained its ground. Sometimes, we meet with phlegmatic husbands, those men whose love is long enduring, because they store up their emotions, whose genius gets the upper hand of these headaches and nervous attacks; but these sublime creatures are rare. Faithful disciples of the blessed St. Thomas, who wished to put his finger into the wound, they are endowed with an incredulity worthy of an atheist. Imperturbable in the midst of all these fraudulent headaches and all these traps set by neurosis, they concentrate their attention on the comedy which is being played before them, they examine the actress, they search for one of the springs that sets her going; and when they have discovered the mechanism of this display, they arm themselves by giving a slight impulse to the puppet-valve, and thus easily assure themselves either of the reality of the disease or the artifices of these conjugal mummeries. But if by study which is almost superhuman in its intensity a husband escapes all the artifices which lawless and untamable love suggests to women, he will beyond doubt be overcome by the employment of a terrible weapon, the last which a woman would resort to, for she never destroys with her own hands her empire over her husband

without some sort of repugnance. But this is a poisoned weapon as powerful as the fatal knife of the executioner. This reflection brings us to the last paragraph of the present Meditation. 3. OF MODESTY, IN ITS CONNECTION WITH MARRIAGE. Before taking up the subject of modesty, it may perhaps be necessary to inquire whether there is such a thing. Is it anything in a woman but well understood coquetry? Is it anything but a sentiment that claims the right, on a woman’s part, to dispose of her own body as she chooses, as one may well believe, when we consider that half the women in the world go almost naked? Is it anything but a social chimera, as Diderot supposed, reminding us that this sentiment always gives way before sickness and before misery? Justice may be done to all these questions. An ingenious author has recently put forth the view that men are much more modest than women. He supports this contention by a great mass of surgical experiences; but, in order that his conclusions merit our attention, it would be necessary that for a certain time men were subjected to treatment by women surgeons. The opinion of Diderot is of still less weight. To deny the existence of modesty, because it disappears during those crises in which almost all human sentiments are annihilated, is as unreasonable as to deny that life exists because death sooner or later comes. Let us grant, then, that one sex has as much modesty as the other, and let us inquire in what modesty consists. Rousseau makes modesty the outcome of all those coquetries which females display before males. This opinion appears to us equally mistaken. The writers of the eighteenth century have doubtless rendered immense services to society; but their philosophy, based as it is upon sensualism, has never penetrated any deeper than the human epidermis. They have only considered the exterior universe; and so they have retarded, for some time, the moral development of man and the progress of science which will always draw its first principles from the Gospel, principles hereafter to be best understood by the fervent disciples of the Son of Man. The study of thought’s mysteries, the discovery of those organs which belong to the human soul, the geometry of its forces, the phenomena of its active power, the appreciation of the faculty by which we seem to have an independent power of bodily movement, so as to transport ourselves whither we will and to see without the aid of bodily organs, —in a word the laws of thought’s dynamic and those of its physical

influence,—these things will fall to the lot of the next century, as their portion in the treasury of human sciences. And perhaps we, of the present time, are merely occupied in quarrying the enormous blocks which later on some mighty genius will employ in the building of a glorious edifice. Thus the error of Rousseau is simply the error of his age. He explains modesty by the relations of different human beings to each other instead of explaining it by the moral relations of each one with himself. Modesty is no more susceptible of analysis than conscience; and this perhaps is another way of saying that modesty is the conscience of the body; for while conscience directs our sentiments and the least movement of our thoughts towards the good, modesty presides over external movements. The actions which clash with our interests and thus disobey the laws of conscience wound us more than any other; and if they are repeated call forth our hatred. It is the same with acts which violate modesty in their relations to love, which is nothing but the expression of our whole sensibility. If extreme modesty is one of the conditions on which the reality of marriage is based, as we have tried to prove [See Conjugal Catechism, Meditation IV.], it is evident that immodesty will destroy it. But this position, which would require long deductions for the acceptance of the physiologist, women generally apply, as it were, mechanically; for society, which exaggerates everything for the benefit of the exterior man, develops this sentiment of women from childhood, and around it are grouped almost every other sentiment. Moreover, the moment that this boundless veil, which takes away the natural brutality from the least gesture, is dragged down, woman disappears. Heart, mind, love, grace, all are in ruins. In a situation where the virginal innocence of a daughter of Tahiti is most brilliant, the European becomes detestable. In this lies the last weapon which a wife seizes, in order to escape from the sentiment which her husband still fosters towards her. She is powerful because she had made herself loathsome; and this woman, who would count it as the greatest misfortune that her lover should be permitted to see the slightest mystery of her toilette, is delighted to exhibit herself to her husband in the most disadvantageous situation that can possibly be imagined. It is by means of this rigorous system that she will try to banish you from the conjugal bed. Mrs. Shandy may be taken to mean us harm in bidding the father of Tristram wind up the clock; so long as your wife is not blamed for the pleasure she takes in interrupting you by the most imperative questions. Where there formerly was movement and life is now lethargy and death. An act of love becomes a transaction long discussed and almost, as it were, settled by notarial seal. But we have in another place shown that we never refuse to seize upon the comic element in a matrimonial crisis, although here we may be permitted to disdain the diversion which the muse of Verville and of Marshall have found in the treachery of feminine manoeuvres, the insulting audacity of their talk, amid the cold-blooded cynicism which they exhibit in certain situations. It is too sad to laugh at, and too funny to mourn over. When a woman resorts to such extreme measures, worlds at once separate her from her husband. Nevertheless, there are some women to whom Heaven has given the gift of being charming under all circumstances, who know how

to put a certain witty and comic grace into these performances, and who have such smooth tongues, to use the expression of Sully, that they obtain forgiveness for their caprices and their mockeries, and never estrange the hearts of their husbands. What soul is so robust, what man so violently in love as to persist in his passion, after ten years of marriage, in presence of a wife who loves him no longer, who gives him proofs of this every moment, who repulses him, who deliberately shows herself bitter, caustic, sickly and capricious, and who will abjure her vows of elegance and cleanliness, rather than not see her husband turn away from her; in presence of a wife who will stake the success of her schemes upon the horror caused by her indecency? All this, my dear sir, is so much more horrible because— XCII. LOVERS IGNORE MODESTY. We have now arrived at the last infernal circle in the Divine Comedy of Marriage. We are at the very bottom of Hell. There is something inexpressibly terrible in the situation of a married woman at the moment when unlawful love turns her away from her duties as mother and wife. As Diderot has very well put it, “infidelity in a woman is like unbelief in a priest, the last extreme of human failure; for her it is the greatest of social crimes, since it implies in her every other crime besides, and indeed either a wife profanes her lawless love by continuing to belong to her husband, or she breaks all the ties which attach her to her family, by giving herself over altogether to her lover. She ought to choose between the two courses, for her sole possible excuse lies in the intensity of her love.” She lives then between the claims of two obligations. It is a dilemma; she will work either the unhappiness of her lover, if he is sincere in his passion, or that of her husband, if she is still beloved by him. It is to this frightful dilemma of feminine life that all the strange inconsistencies of women’s conduct is to be attributed. In this lies the origin of all their lies, all their perfidies; here is the secret of all their mysteries. It is something to make one shudder. Moreover, even as simply based upon cold-blooded calculations, the conduct of a woman who accepts the unhappiness which attends virtue and scorns the bliss which is bought by crime, is a hundred times more reasonable. Nevertheless, almost all women will risk suffering in the future and ages of anguish for the ecstasy of one half hour. If the human feeling of self-preservation, if the fear of death does not check them, how fruitless must be the laws which send them for two years to the Madelonnettes? O sublime infamy! And when one comes to think that he for whom these sacrifices are to be made is one of our brethren, a gentleman to whom we would not trust our fortune, if we had one, a man who buttons his coat just as all of us do, it is enough to make one burst into a roar of laughter so loud, that starting from the

Luxembourg it would pass over the whole of Paris and startle an ass browsing in the pasture at Montmartre. It will perhaps appear extraordinary that in speaking of marriage we have touched upon so many subjects; but marriage is not only the whole of human life, it is the whole of two human lives. Now just as the addition of a figure to the drawing of a lottery multiplies the chances a hundredfold, so one single life united to another life multiplies by a startling progression the risks of human life, which are in any case so manifold. MEDITATION XXVII. OF THE LAST SYMPTOMS. The author of this book has met in the world so many people possessed by a fanatic passion for a knowledge of the mean time, for watches with a second hand, and for exactness in the details of their existence, that he has considered this Meditation too necessary for the tranquillity of a great number of husbands, to be omitted. It would have been cruel to leave men, who are possessed with the passion for learning the hour of the day, without a compass whereby to estimate the last variations in the matrimonial zodiac, and to calculate the precise moment when the sign of the Minotaur appears on the horizon. The knowledge of conjugal time would require a whole book for its exposition, so fine and delicate are the observations required by the task. The master admits that his extreme youth has not permitted him as yet to note and verify more than a few symptoms; but he feels a just pride, on his arrival at the end of his difficult enterprise, from the consciousness that he is leaving to his successors a new field of research; and that in a matter apparently so trite, not only was there much to be said, but also very many points are found remaining which may yet be brought into the clear light of observation. He therefore presents here without order or connection the rough outlines which he has so far been able to execute, in the hope that later he may have leisure to co-ordinate them and to arrange them in a complete system. If he has been so far kept back in the accomplishment of a task of supreme national importance, he believes, he may say, without incurring the charge of vanity, that he has here indicated the natural division of those symptoms. They are necessarily of two kinds: the unicorns and the bicorns. The unicorn Minotaur is the least mischievous. The two culprits confine themselves to a platonic love, in which their passion, at least, leaves no visible traces among posterity; while the bicorn Minotaur is unhappiness with all its fruits. We have marked with an asterisk the symptoms which seem to concern the latter kind. MINOTAURIC OBSERVATIONS. I.

When, after remaining a long time aloof from her husband, a woman makes overtures of a very marked character in order to attract his love, she acts in accordance with the axiom of maritime law, which says: /The flag protects the cargo/. II. A woman is at a ball, one of her friends comes up to her and says: “Your husband has much wit.” “You find it so?” III. Your wife discovers that it is time to send your boy to a boarding school, with whom, a little time ago, she was never going to part. IV. In Lord Abergavenny’s suit for divorce, the /valet de chambre/ deposed that “the countess had such a detestation of all that belonged to my lord that he had very often seen her burning the scraps of paper which he had touched in her room.” V. If an indolent woman becomes energetic, if a woman who formerly hated study learns a foreign language; in short, every appearance of a complete change in character is a decisive symptom. VI. The woman who is happy in her affections does not go much into the world. VII. The woman who has a lover becomes very indulgent in judging others. VIII. A husband gives to his wife a hundred crowns a month for dress; and, taking everything into account, she spends at least five hundred francs without being a sou in debt; the husband is robbed every night with a high hand by escalade, but without burglarious breaking in.

IX. A married couple slept in the same bed; madame was always sick. Now they sleep apart, she has no more headache, and her health becomes more brilliant than ever; an alarming symptom! X. A woman who was a sloven suddenly develops extreme nicety in her attire. There is a Minotaur at hand! XI. “Ah! my dear, I know no greater torment than not to be understood.” “Yes, my dear, but when one is—” “Oh, that scarcely ever happens.” “I agree with you that it very seldom does. Ah! it is great happiness, but there are not two people in the world who are able to understand you.” XII. The day when a wife behaves nicely to her husband—all is over. XIII. I asked her: “Where have you been, Jeanne?” “I have been to your friend’s to get your plate that you left there.” “Ah, indeed! everything is still mine,” I said. The following year I repeated the question under similar circumstances. “I have been to bring back our plate.” “Well, well, part of the things are still mine,” I said. But after that, when I questioned her, she spoke very differently. “You wish to know everything, like great people, and you have only three shirts. I went to get my plate from my friend’s house, where I had stopped.” “I see,” I said, “nothing is left me.”

XIV. Do not trust a woman who talks of her virtue. XV. Some one said to the Duchess of Chaulnes, whose life was despaired of: “The Duke of Chaulnes would like to see you once more.” “Is he there?” “Yes.” “Let him wait; he shall come in with the sacraments.” This minotauric anecdote has been published by Chamfort, but we quote it here as typical. XVI. Some women try to persuade their husbands that they have duties to perform towards certain persons. “I am sure that you ought to pay a visit to such and such a man. . . . We cannot avoid asking such and such a man to dinner.” XVII. “Come, my son, hold yourself straight: try to acquire good manners! Watch such and such a man! See how he walks! Notice the way in which he dresses.” XVIII. When a woman utters the name of a man but twice a day, there is perhaps some uncertainty about her feelings toward him—but if thrice? —Oh! oh! XIX. When a woman goes home with a man who is neither a lawyer nor a minister, to the door of his apartment, she is very imprudent. XX. It is a terrible day when a husband fails to explain to himself the motive of some action of his wife.

XXI. The woman who allows herself to be found out deserves her fate. What should be the conduct of a husband, when he recognizes a last symptom which leaves no doubt as to the infidelity of his wife? There are only two courses open; that of resignation or that of vengeance; there is no third course. If vengeance is decided upon, it should be complete. The husband who does not separate himself forever from his wife is a veritable simpleton. If a wife and husband think themselves fit for that union of friendship which exists between men, it is odious in the husband to make his wife feel his superiority over her. Here are some anecdotes, most of them as yet unpublished, which indicate pretty plainly, in my opinion, the different shades of conduct to be observed by a husband in like case. M. de Roquemont slept once a month in the chamber of his wife, and he used to say, as he went away: “I wash my hands of anything that may happen.” There is something disgusting in that remark, and perhaps something profound in its suggestion of conjugal policy. A diplomat, when he saw his wife’s lover enter, left his study and, going to his wife’s chamber, said to the two: “I hope you will at least refrain from fighting.” This was good humor. M. de Boufflers was asked what he would do if on returning after a long absence he found his wife with child? “I would order my night dress and slippers to be taken to her room.” This was magnanimity. “Madame, if this man ill treats you when you are alone, it is your own fault; but I will not permit him to behave ill towards you in my presence, for this is to fail in politeness in me.” This was nobility.

The sublime is reached in this connection when the square cap of the judge is placed by the magistrate at the foot of the bed wherein the two culprits are asleep. There are some fine ways of taking vengeance. Mirabeau has admirably described in one of the books he wrote to make a living the mournful resignation of that Italian lady who was condemned by her husband to perish with him in the Maremma. LAST AXIOMS. XCIII. It is no act of vengeance to surprise a wife and her lover and to kill them locked in each other’s arms; it is a great favor to them both. XCIV. A husband will be best avenged by his wife’s lover. MEDITATION XXVIII. OF COMPENSATIONS. The marital catastrophe which a certain number of husbands cannot avoid, almost always forms the closing scene of the drama. At that point all around you is tranquil. Your resignation, if you are resigned, has the power of awakening keen remorse in the soul of your wife and of her lover; for their happiness teaches them the depth of the wound they have inflicted upon you. You are, you may be sure, a third element in all their pleasures. The principle of kindliness and goodness which lies at the foundation of the human soul, is not so easily repressed as people think; moreover the two people who are causing you tortures are precisely those for whom you wish the most good. In the conversations so sweetly familiar which link together the pleasures of love, and form in some way to lovers the caresses of thought, your wife often says to your rival: “Well, I assure you, Auguste, that in any case I should like to see my poor husband happy; for at bottom he is good; if he were not my husband, but were only my brother, there are so many things I would do to please him! He loves me, and—his friendship is irksome to me.” “Yes, he is a fine fellow!” Then you become an object of respect to the celibate, who would yield to you all the indemnity possible for the wrong he has done you; but he is repelled by the disdainful

pride which gives a tone to your whole conversation, and is stamped upon your face.

So that actually, during the first moments of the Minotaur’s arrival, a man is like an actor who feels awkward in a theatre where he is not accustomed to appear. It is very difficult to bear the affront with dignity; but though generosity is rare, a model husband is sometimes found to possess it. Eventually you are little by little won over by the charming way in which your wife makes herself agreeable to you. Madame assumes a tone of friendship which she never henceforth abandons. The pleasant atmosphere of your home is one of the chief compensations which renders the Minotaur less odious to a husband. But as it is natural to man to habituate himself to the hardest conditions, in spite of the sentiment of outraged nobility which nothing can change, you are gradually induced by a fascination whose power is constantly around you, to accept the little amenities of your position. Suppose that conjugal misfortune has fallen upon an epicure. He naturally demands the consolations which suit his taste. His sense of pleasure takes refuge in other gratifications, and forms other habits. You shape your life in accordance with the enjoyment of other sensations. One day, returning from your government office, after lingering for a long time before the rich and tasteful book shop of Chevet, hovering in suspense between the hundred francs of expense, and the joys of a Strasbourg pate de fois gras, you are struck dumb on finding this pate proudly installed on the sideboard of your diningroom. Is this the vision offered by some gastronomic mirage? In this doubting mood you approach with firm step, for a pate is a living creature, and seem to neigh as you scent afar off the truffles whose perfumes escape through the gilded enclosure. You stoop over it two distinct times; all the nerve centres of your palate have a soul; you taste the delights of a genuine feast, etc.; and during this ecstasy a feeling of remorse seizes upon you, and you go to your wife’s room. “Really, my dear girl, we have not means which warrant our buying pates.” “But it costs us nothing!” “Oh! ho!” “Yes, it is M. Achille’s brother who sent it to him.” You catch sight of M. Achille in a corner. The celibate greets you, he is radiant on seeing that you have accepted the pate. You look at your wife, who blushes; you stroke your beard a few times; and, as you express no thanks, the two lovers divine your acceptance of the compensation.

A sudden change in the ministry takes place. A husband, who is Councillor of State, trembles for fear of being wiped from the roll, when the night before he had been made director-general; all the ministers are opposed to him and he has turned Constitutionalist. Foreseeing his disgrace he has betaken himself to Auteuil, in search of consolation from an old friend who quotes Horace and Tibullus to him. On returning home he sees the table laid as if to receive the most influential men of the assembly. “In truth, madame,” he says with acrimony as he enters his wife’s room, where she is finishing her toilette, “you seem to have lost your habitual tact. This is a nice time to be giving dinner parties! Twenty persons will soon learn—” “That you are director-general!” she cries, showing him a royal despatch. He is thunderstruck. He takes the letter, he turns it now one way, now another; he opens it. He sits down and spreads it out. “I well know,” he says, “that justice would be rendered me under whatever ministers I served.” “Yes, my dear! But M. Villeplaine has answered for you with his life, and his eminence the Cardinal de ----- of whom he is the--” “M. de Villeplaine?” This is such a munificent recompense, that the husband adds with the smile of a director-general: “Why, deuce take it, my dear, this is your doing!” “Ah! don’t thank me for it; Adolphe did it from personal attachment to you.” On a certain evening a poor husband was kept at home by a pouring rain, or tired, perhaps, of going to spend his evening in play, at the cafe, or in the world, and sick of all this he felt himself carried away by an impulse to follow his wife to the conjugal chamber. There he sank into an arm-chair and like any sultan awaited his coffee, as if he would say: “Well, after all, she is my wife!” The fair siren herself prepares the favorite draught; she strains it with special care, sweetens it, tastes it, and hands it to him; then, with a smile, she ventures like a submissive odalisque to make a joke, with a view to smoothing the wrinkles on the brow of her lord and master. Up to that moment he had thought his wife stupid; but

on hearing a sally as witty as that which even you would cajole with, madame, he raises his head in the way peculiar to dogs who are hunting the hare. “Where the devil did she get that—but it’s a random shot!” he says to himself. From the pinnacle of his own greatness he makes a piquant repartee. Madame retorts, the conversation becomes as lively as it is interesting, and this husband, a very superior man, is quite astonished to discover the wit of his wife, in other respects, an accomplished woman; the right word occurs to her with wonderful readiness; her tact and keenness enable her to meet an innuendo with charming originality. She is no longer the same woman. She notices the effect she produces upon her husband, and both to avenge herself for his neglect and to win his admiration for the lover from whom she has received, so to speak, the treasures of her intellect, she exerts herself, and becomes actually dazzling. The husband, better able than any one else to appreciate a species of compensation which may have some influence on his future, is led to think that the passions of women are really necessary to their mental culture. But how shall we treat those compensations which are most pleasing to husbands? Between the moment when the last symptoms appear, and the epoch of conjugal peace, which we will not stop to discuss, almost a dozen years have elapsed. During this interval and before the married couple sign the treaty which, by means of a sincere reconciliation of the feminine subject with her lawful lord, consecrates their little matrimonial restoration, in order to close in, as Louis XVIII said, the gulf of revolutions, it is seldom that the honest woman has but one lover. Anarchy has its inevitable phases. The stormy domination of tribunes is supplanted by that of the sword and the pen, for few loves are met with whose constancy outlives ten years. Therefore, since our calculations prove that an honest woman has merely paid strictly her physiological or diabolical dues by rendering but three men happy, it is probable that she has set foot in more than one region of love. Sometimes it may happen that in an interregnum of love too long protracted, the wife, whether from whim, temptation or the desire of novelty, undertakes to seduce her own husband. Imagine charming Mme. de T-----, the heroine of our Meditation of Strategy, saying with a fascinating smile: “I never before found you so agreeable!” By flattery after flattery, she tempts, she rouses curiosity, she soothes, she rouses in you the faintest spark of desire, she carries you away with her, and makes you proud of yourself. Then the right of indemnifications for her husband comes. On this occasion the wife confounds the imagination of her husband. Like cosmopolitan travelers she tells tales of all the countries which she had traversed. She intersperses her conversation with words borrowed from several languages. The passionate

imagery of the Orient, the unique emphasis of Spanish phraseology, all meet and jostle one another. She opens out the treasures of her notebook with all the mysteries of coquetry, she is delightful, you never saw her thus before! With that remarkable art which women alone possess of making their own everything that has been told them, she blends all shades and variations of character so as to create a manner peculiarly her own. You received from the hands of Hymen only one woman, awkward and innocent; the celibate returns you a dozen of them. A joyful and rapturous husband sees his bed invaded by the giddy and wanton courtesans, of whom we spoke in the Meditation on The First Symptoms. These goddesses come in groups, they smile and sport under the graceful muslin curtains of the nuptial bed. The Phoenician girl flings to you her garlands, gently sways herself to and fro; the Chalcidian woman overcomes you by the witchery of her fine and snowy feet; the Unelmane comes and speaking the dialect of fair Ionia reveals the treasures of happiness unknown before, and in the study of which she makes you experience but a single sensation. Filled with regret at having disdained so many charms, and frequently tired of finding too often as much perfidiousness in priestesses of Venus as in honest women, the husband sometimes hurries on by his gallantry the hour of reconciliation desired of worthy people. The aftermath of bliss is gathered even with greater pleasure, perhaps, than the first crop. The Minotaur took your gold, he makes restoration in diamonds. And really now seems the time to state a fact of the utmost importance. A man may have a wife without possessing her. Like most husbands you had hitherto received nothing from yours, and the powerful intervention of the celibate was needed to make your union complete. How shall we give a name to this miracle, perhaps the only one wrought upon a patient during his absence? Alas, my brothers, we did not make Nature! But how many other compensations, not less precious, are there, by which the noble and generous soul of the young celibate may many a time purchase his pardon! I recollect witnessing one of the most magnificent acts of reparation which a lover should perform toward the husband he is minotaurizing. One warm evening in the summer of 1817, I saw entering one of the rooms of Tortoni one of the two hundred young men whom we confidently style our friends; he was in the full bloom of his modesty. A lovely woman, dressed in perfect taste, and who had consented to enter one of the cool parlors devoted to people of fashion, had stepped from an elegant carriage which had stopped on the boulevard, and was approaching on foot along the sidewalk. My young friend, the celibate, then appeared and offered his arm to his queen, while the husband followed holding by the hand two little boys, beautiful as cupids. The two lovers, more nimble than the father of the family, reached in advance of him one of the small rooms pointed out by the attendant. In crossing the vestibule the husband knocked up against some dandy, who claimed that he had been jostled. Then arose a quarrel, whose seriousness was betrayed by the sharp tones of the altercation. The moment the dandy was about to

make a gesture unworthy of a self-respecting man, the celibate intervened, seized the dandy by the arm, caught him off his guard, overcame and threw him to the ground; it was magnificent. He had done the very thing the aggressor was meditating, as he exclaimed: “Monsieur!” This “Monsieur” was one of the finest things I have ever heard. It was as if the young celibate had said: “This father of a family belongs to me; as I have carried off his honor, it is mine to defend him. I know my duty, I am his substitute and will fight for him.” The young woman behaved superbly! Pale, and bewildered, she took the arm of her husband, who continued his objurgations; without a word she led him away to the carriage, together with her children. She was one of those women of the aristocracy, who also know how to retain their dignity and self-control in the midst of violent emotions. “O Monsieur Adolphe!” cried the young lady as she saw her friend with an air of gayety take his seat in the carriage. “It is nothing, madame, he is one of my friends; we have shaken hands.” Nevertheless, the next morning, the courageous celibate received a sword thrust which nearly proved fatal, and confined him six months to his bed. The attentions of the married couple were lavished upon him. What numerous compensations do we see here! Some years afterwards, an old uncle of the husband, whose opinions did not fit in with those of the young friend of the house, and who nursed a grudge against him on account of some political discussion, undertook to have him driven from the house. The old fellow went so far as to tell his nephew to choose between being his heir and sending away the presumptuous celibate. It was then that the worthy stockbroker said to his uncle: “Ah, you must never think, uncle, that you will succeed in making me ungrateful! But if I tell him to do so this young man will let himself be killed for you. He has saved my credit, he would go through fire and water for me, he has relieved me of my wife, he has brought me clients, he has procured for me almost all the business in the Villele loans—I owe my life to him, he is the father of my children; I can never forget all this.” In this case the compensations may be looked upon as complete; but unfortunately there are compensations of all kinds. There are those which must be considered negative, deluding, and those which are both in one. I knew a husband of advanced years who was possessed by the demon of gambling. Almost every evening his wife’s lover came and played with him. The celibate gave him a liberal share of the pleasures which come from games of hazard, and knew how

to lose to him a certain number of francs every month; but madame used to give them to him, and the compensation was a deluding one. You are a peer of France, and you have no offspring but daughters. Your wife is brought to bed of a boy! The compensation is negative. The child who is to save your name from oblivion is like his mother. The duchess persuades you that the child is yours. The negative compensation becomes deluding. Here is one of the most charming compensations known. One morning the Prince de Ligne meets his wife’s lover and rushes up to him, laughing wildly: “My friend,” he says to him, “I cuckolded you, last night!” If some husbands attain to conjugal peace by quiet methods, and carry so gracefully the imaginary ensigns of matrimonial pre-eminence, their philosophy is doubtless based on the comfortabilisme of accepting certain compensations, a comfortabilisme which indifferent men cannot imagine. As years roll by the married couple reach the last stage in that artificial existence to which their union has condemned them. MEDITATION XXIX. OF CONJUGAL PEACE. My imagination has followed marriage through all the phases of its fantastic life in so fraternal a spirit, that I seem to have grown old with the house I made my home so early in life at the commencement of this work. After experiencing in thought the ardor of man’s first passion; and outlining, in however imperfect a way, the principal incidents of married life; after struggling against so many wives that did not belong to me, exhausting myself in conflict with so many personages called up from nothingness, and joining so many battles, I feel an intellectual lassitude, which makes me see everything in life hang, as it were, in mournful crape. I seem to have a catarrh, to look at everything through green spectacles, I feel as if my hands trembled, as if I must needs employ the second half of my existence and of my book in apologizing for the follies of the first half. I see myself surrounded by tall children of whom I am not the father, and seated beside a wife I never married. I think I can feel wrinkles furrowing my brow. The fire before which I am placed crackles, as if in derision, the room is ancient in its furniture; I shudder with sudden fright as I lay my hand upon my heart, and ask myself: “Is that, too, withered?” I am like an old attorney, unswayed by any sentiment whatever. I never accept any statement unless it be confirmed, according to the poetic maxim of Lord Byron, by

the testimony of at least two false witnesses. No face can delude me. I am melancholy and overcast with gloom. I know the world and it has no more illusions for me. My closest friends have proved traitors. My wife and myself exchange glances of profound meaning and the slightest word either of us utters is a dagger which pierces the heart of the other through and through. I stagnate in a dreary calm. This then is the tranquillity of old age! The old man possesses in himself the cemetery which shall soon possess him. He is growing accustomed to the chill of the tomb. Man, according to philosophers, dies in detail; at the same time he may be said even to cheat death; for that which his withered hand has laid hold upon, can it be called life? Oh, to die young and throbbing with life! ’Tis a destiny enviable indeed! For is not this, as a delightful poet has said, “to take away with one all one’s illusions, to be buried like an Eastern king, with all one’s jewels and treasures, with all that makes the fortune of humanity!” How many thank-offerings ought we to make to the kind and beneficent spirit that breathes in all things here below! Indeed, the care which nature takes to strip us piece by piece of our raiment, to unclothe the soul by enfeebling gradually our hearing, sight, and sense of touch, in making slower the circulation of our blood, and congealing our humors so as to make us as insensible to the approach of death as we were to the beginnings of life, this maternal care which she lavishes on our frail tabernacle of clay, she also exhibits in regard to the emotions of man, and to the double existence which is created by conjugal love. She first sends us Confidence, which with extended hand and open heart says to us: “Behold, I am thine forever!” Lukewarmness follows, walking with languid tread, turning aside her blonde face with a yawn, like a young widow obliged to listen to the minister of state who is ready to sign for her a pension warrant. Then Indifference comes; she stretches herself on the divan, taking no care to draw down the skirts of her robe which Desire but now lifted so chastely and so eagerly. She casts a glance upon the nuptial bed, with modesty and without shamelessness; and, if she longs for anything, it is for the green fruit that calls up again to life the dulled papillae with which her blase palate is bestrewn. Finally the philosophical Experience of Life presents herself, with careworn and disdainful brow, pointing with her finger to the results, and not the causes of life’s incidents; to the tranquil victory, not to the tempestuous combat. She reckons up the arrearages, with farmers, and calculates the dowry of a child. She materializes everything. By a touch of her wand, life becomes solid and springless; of yore, all was fluid, now it is crystallized into rock. Delight no longer exists for our hearts, it has received its sentence, ’twas but mere sensation, a passing paroxysm. What the soul desires to-day is a condition of fixity; and happiness alone is permanent, and consists in absolute tranquillity, in the regularity with which eating and sleeping succeed each other, and the sluggish organs perform their functions. “This is horrible!” I cried; “I am young and full of life! Perish all the books in the world rather than my illusions should perish!”

I left my laboratory and plunged into the whirl of Paris. As I saw the fairest faces glide by before me, I felt that I was not old. The first young woman who appeared before me, lovely in face and form and dressed to perfection, with one glance of fire made all the sorcery whose spells I had voluntarily submitted to vanish into thin air. Scarcely had I walked three steps in the Tuileries gardens, the place which I had chosen as my destination, before I saw the prototype of the matrimonial situation which has last been described in this book. Had I desired to characterize, to idealize, to personify marriage, as I conceived it to be, it would have been impossible for the Creator himself to have produced so complete a symbol of it as I then saw before me. Imagine a woman of fifty, dressed in a jacket of reddish brown merino, holding in her left hand a green cord, which was tied to the collar of an English terrier, and with her right arm linked with that of a man in knee-breeches and silk stockings, whose hat had its brim whimsically turned up, while snow-white tufts of hair like pigeon plumes rose at its sides. A slender queue, thin as a quill, tossed about on the back of his sallow neck, which was thick, as far as it could be seen above the turned down collar of a threadbare coat. This couple assumed the stately tread of an ambassador; and the husband, who was at least seventy, stopped complaisantly every time the terrier began to gambol. I hastened to pass this living impersonation of my Meditation, and was surprised to the last degree to recognize the Marquis de T-----, friend of the Comte de Noce, who had owed me for a long time the end of the interrupted story which I related in the Theory of the Bed. [See Meditation XVII.] “I have the honor to present to you the Marquise de T-----,” he said to me. I made a low bow to a lady whose face was pale and wrinkled; her forehead was surmounted by a toupee, whose flattened ringlets, ranged around it, deceived no one, but only emphasized, instead of concealing, the wrinkles by which it was deeply furrowed. The lady was slightly roughed, and had the appearance of an old country actress. “I do not see, sir, what you can say against a marriage such as ours,” said the old man to me. “The laws of Rome forefend!” I cried, laughing. The marchioness gave me a look filled with inquietude as well as disapprobation, which seemed to say, “Is it possible that at my age I have become but a concubine?” We sat down upon a bench, in the gloomy clump of trees planted at the corner of the high terrace which commands La Place Louis XV, on the side of the Garde-Meuble. Autumn had already begun to strip the trees of their foliage, and was scattering before our eyes the yellow leaves of his garland; but the sun nevertheless filled the air with grateful warmth.

“Well, is your work finished?” asked the old man, in the unctuous tones peculiar to men of the ancient aristocracy. And with these words he gave a sardonic smile, as if for commentary. “Very nearly, sir,” I replied. “I have come to the philosophic situation, which you appear to have reached, but I confess that I—” “You are searching for ideas?” he added—finishing for me a sentence, which I confess I did not know how to end. “Well,” he continued, “you may boldly assume, that on arriving at the winter of his life, a man—a man who thinks, I mean—ends by denying that love has any existence, in the wild form with which our illusions invested it!” “What! would you deny the existence of love on the day after that of marriage?” “In the first place, the day after would be the very reason; but my marriage was a commercial speculation,” replied he, stooping to speak into my ear. “I have thereby purchased the care, the attention, the services which I need; and I am certain to obtain all the consideration my age demands; for I have willed all my property to my nephew, and as my wife will be rich only during my life, you can imagine how—” I turned on the old marquis a look so piercing that he wrung my hand and said: “You seem to have a good heart, for nothing is certain in this life—” “Well, you may be sure that I have arranged a pleasant surprise for her in my will,” he replied, gayly. “Come here, Joseph,” cried the marchioness, approaching a servant who carried an overcoat lined with silk. “The marquis is probably feeling the cold.” The old marquis put on his overcoat, buttoned it up, and taking my arm, led me to the sunny side of the terrace. “In your work,” he continued, “you have doubtless spoken of the love of a young man. Well, if you wish to act up to the scope which you give to your work—in the word ec—elec—” “Eclectic,” I said, smiling, seeing he could not remember this philosophic term. “I know the word well!” he replied. “If then you wish to keep your vow of eclecticism, you should be willing to express certain virile ideas on the subject of love which I will communicate to you, and I will not grudge you the benefit of them,

if benefit there be; I wish to bequeath my property to you, but this will be all that you will get of it.” “There is no money fortune which is worth as much as a fortune of ideas if they be valuable ideas! I shall, therefore, listen to you with a grateful mind.” “There is no such thing as love,” pursued the old man, fixing his gaze upon me. “It is not even a sentiment, it is an unhappy necessity, which is midway between the needs of the body and those of the soul. But siding for a moment with your youthful thoughts, let us try to reason upon this social malady. I suppose that you can only conceive of love as either a need or a sentiment.” I made a sign of assent. “Considered as a need,” said the old man, “love makes itself felt last of all our needs, and is the first to cease. We are inclined to love in our twentieth year, to speak in round numbers, and we cease to do so at fifty. During these thirty years, how often would the need be felt, if it were not for the provocation of city manners, and the modern custom of living in the presence of not one woman, but of women in general? What is our debt to the perpetuation of the race? It probably consists in producing as many children as we have breasts—so that if one dies the other may live. If these two children were always faithfully produced, what would become of nations? Thirty millions of people would constitute a population too great for France, for the soil is not sufficient to guarantee more than ten millions against misery and hunger. Remember that China is reduced to the expedient of throwing its children into the water, according to the accounts of travelers. Now this production of two children is really the whole of marriage. The superfluous pleasures of marriage are not only profligate, but involve an immense loss to the man, as I will now demonstrate. Compare then with this poverty of result, and shortness of duration, the daily and perpetual urgency of other needs of our existence. Nature reminds us every hour of our real needs; and, on the other hand, refuses absolutely to grant the excess which our imagination sometimes craves in love. It is, therefore, the last of our needs, and the only one which may be forgotten without causing any disturbance in the economy of the body. Love is a social luxury like lace and diamonds. But if we analyze it as a sentiment, we find two distinct elements in it; namely, pleasure and passion. Now analyze pleasure. Human affections rest upon two foundations, attraction and repulsion. Attraction is a universal feeling for those things which flatter our instinct of self-preservation; repulsion is the exercise of the same instinct when it tells us that something is near which threatens it with injury. Everything which profoundly moves our organization gives us a deeper sense of our existence; such a thing is pleasure. It is contracted of desire, of effort, and the joy of possessing something or other. Pleasure is a unique element in life, and our passions are nothing but modifications, more or less keen, of pleasure; moreover, familiarity with one pleasure almost always precludes the enjoyment of all others. Now, love is the least keen and the least durable of our pleasures. In what would you say the pleasure of love

consists? Does it lie in the beauty of the beloved? In one evening you may obtain for money the loveliest odalisques; but at the end of a month you will in this way have burnt out all your sentiment for all time. Would you love a women because she is well dressed, elegant, rich, keeps a carriage, has commercial credit? Do not call this love, for it is vanity, avarice, egotism. Do you love her because she is intellectual? You are in that case merely obeying the dictates of literary sentiment.” “But,” I said, “love only reveals its pleasures to those who mingle in one their thoughts, their fortunes, their sentiments, their souls, their lives—” “Oh dear, dear!” cried the old man, in a jeering tone. “Can you show me five men in any nation who have sacrificed anything for a woman? I do not say their life, for that is a slight thing,—-the price of a human life under Napoleon was never more than twenty thousand francs; and there are in France to-day two hundred and fifty thousand brave men who would give theirs for two inches of red ribbon; while seven men have sacrificed for a woman ten millions on which they might have slept in solitude for a whole night. Dubreuil and Phmeja are still rarer than is the love of Dupris and Bolingbroke. These sentiments proceed from an unknown cause. But you have brought me thus to consider love as a passion. Yes, indeed, it is the last of them all and the most contemptible. It promises everything, and fulfils nothing. It comes, like love, as a need, the last, and dies away the first. Ah, talk to me of revenge, hatred, avarice, of gaming, of ambition, of fanaticism. These passions have something virile in them; these sentiments are imperishable; they make sacrifices every day, such as love only makes by fits and starts. But,” he went on, “suppose you abjure love. At first there will be no disquietudes, no anxieties, no worry, none of those little vexations that waste human life. A man lives happy and tranquil; in his social relations he becomes infinitely more powerful and influential. This divorce from the thing called love is the primary secret of power in all men who control large bodies of men; but this is a mere trifle. Ah! if you knew with what magic influence a man is endowed, what wealth of intellectual force, what longevity in physical strength he enjoys, when detaching himself from every species of human passion he spends all his energy to the profit of his soul! If you could enjoy for two minutes the riches which God dispenses to the enlightened men who consider love as merely a passing need which it is sufficient to satisfy for six months in their twentieth year; to the men who, scorning the luxurious and surfeiting beefsteaks of Normandy, feed on the roots which God has given in abundance, and take their repose on a bed of withered leaves, like the recluses of the Thebaid!—ah! you would not keep on three seconds the wool of fifteen merinos which covers you; you would fling away your childish switch, and go to live in the heaven of heavens! There you would find the love you sought in vain amid the swine of earth; there you would hear a concert of somewhat different melody from that of M. Rossini, voices more faultless than that of Malibran. But I am speaking as a blind man might, and repeating hearsays. If I had not visited Germany about the year 1791, I should know nothing of all this. Yes!— man has a vocation for the infinite. There dwells within him an instinct that calls him

to God. God is all, gives all, brings oblivion on all, and thought is the thread which he has given us as a clue to communication with himself!” He suddenly stopped, and fixed his eyes upon the heavens. “The poor fellow has lost his wits!” I thought to myself. “Sir,” I said to him, “it would be pushing my devotion to eclectic philosophy too far to insert your ideas in my book; they would destroy it. Everything in it is based on love, platonic and sensual. God forbid that I should end my book by such social blasphemies! I would rather try to return by some pantagruelian subtlety to my herd of celibates and honest women, with many an attempt to discover some social utility in their passions and follies. Oh! if conjugal peace leads us to arguments so disillusionizing and so gloomy as these, I know a great many husbands who would prefer war to peace.” “At any rate, young man,” the old marquis cried, “I shall never have to reproach myself with refusing to give true directions to a traveler who had lost his way.” “Adieu, thou old carcase!” I said to myself; “adieu, thou walking marriage! Adieu, thou stick of a burnt-out fire-work! Adieu, thou machine! Although I have given thee from time to time some glimpses of people dear to me, old family portraits,— back with you to the picture dealer’s shop, to Madame de T-----, and all the rest of them; take your place round the bier with undertaker’s mutes, for all I care!” MEDITATION XXX. CONCLUSION. A recluse, who was credited with the gift of second sight, having commanded the children of Israel to follow him to a mountain top in order to hear the revelation of certain mysteries, saw that he was accompanied by a crowd which took up so much room on the road that, prophet as he was, his amour-propre was vastly tickled. But as the mountain was a considerable distance off, it happened that at the first halt, an artisan remembered that he had to deliver a new pair of slippers to a duke and peer, a publican fell to thinking how he had some specie to negotiate, and off they went. A little further on two lovers lingered under the olive trees and forgot the discourse of the prophet; for they thought that the promised land was the spot where they stood, and the divine word was heard when they talked to one another.

The fat people, loaded with punches a la Sancho, had been wiping their foreheads with their handkerchiefs, for the last quarter of an hour, and began to grow thirsty, and therefore halted beside a clear spring. Certain retired soldiers complained of the corns which tortured them, and spoke of Austerlitz, and of their tight boots. At the second halt, certain men of the world whispered together: “But this prophet is a fool.” “Have you ever heard him?” “I? I came from sheer curiosity.” “And I because I saw the fellow had a large following.” (The last man who spoke was a fashionable.) “He is a mere charlatan.” The prophet kept marching on. But when he reached the plateau, from which a wide horizon spread before him, he turned back, and saw no one but a poor Israelite, to whom he might have said as the Prince de Ligne to the wretched little bandy-legged drummer boy, whom he found on the spot where he expected to see a whole garrison awaiting him: “Well, my readers, it seems that you have dwindled down to one.” Thou man of God who has followed me so far—I hope that a short recapitulation will not terrify thee, and I have traveled on under the impression that thou, like me, hast kept saying to thyself, “Where the deuce are we going?” Well, well, this is the place and the time to ask you, respected reader, what your opinion is with regard to the renewal of the tobacco monopoly, and what you think of the exorbitant taxes on wines, on the right to carry firearms, on gaming, on lotteries, on playing cards, on brandy, on soap, cotton, silks, etc. “I think that since all these duties make up one-third of the public revenues, we should be seriously embarrassed if—” So that, my excellent model husband, if no one got drunk, or gambled, or smoked, or hunted, in a word if we had neither vices, passions, nor maladies in France, the State would be within an ace of bankruptcy; for it seems that the capital of our national income consists of popular corruptions, as our commerce is kept alive by national luxury. If you cared to look a little closer into the matter you would see that all taxes are based upon some moral malady. As a matter of fact, if we continue this philosophical scrutiny it will appear that the gendarmes would want horses and

leather breeches, if every one kept the peace, and if there were neither foes nor idle people in the world. Therefore impose virtue on mankind! Well, I consider that there are more parallels than people think between my honest woman and the budget, and I will undertake to prove this by a short essay on statistics, if you will permit me to finish my book on the same lines as those on which I have begun it. Will you grant that a lover must put on more clean shirts than are worn by either a husband, or a celibate unattached? This to me seems beyond doubt. The difference between a husband and a lover is seen even in the appearance of their toilette. The one is careless, he is unshaved, and the other never appears excepting in full dress. Sterne has pleasantly remarked that the account book of the laundress was the most authentic record he knew, as to the life of Tristram Shandy; and that it was easy to guess from the number of shirts he wore what passages of his book had cost him most. Well, with regard to lovers the account book of their laundresses is the most faithful historic record as well as the most impartial account of their various amours. And really a prodigious quantity of tippets, cravats, dresses, which are absolutely necessary to coquetry, is consumed in the course of an amour. A wonderful prestige is gained by white stockings, the lustre of a collar, or a shirt-waist, the artistically arranged folds of a man’s shirt, or the taste of his necktie or his collar. This will explain the passages in which I said of the honest woman [Meditation II], “She spends her life in having her dresses starched.” I have sought information on this point from a lady in order to learn accurately at what sum was to be estimated the tax thus imposed by love, and after fixing it at one hundred francs per annum for a woman, I recollect what she said with great good humor: “It depends on the character of the man, for some are so much more particular than others.” Nevertheless, after a very profound discussion, in which I settled upon the sum for the celibates, and she for her sex, it was agreed that, one thing with another, since the two lovers belong to the social sphere which this work concerns, they ought to spend between them, in the matter referred to, one hundred and fifty francs more than in time of peace. By a like treaty, friendly in character and long discussed, we arranged that there should be a collective difference of four hundred francs between the expenditure for all parts of the dress on a war footing, and for that on a peace footing. This provision was considered very paltry by all the powers, masculine or feminine, whom we consulted. The light thrown upon these delicate matters by the contributions of certain persons suggested to us the idea of gathering together certain savants at a dinner party, and taking their wise counsels for our guidance in these important investigations. The gathering took place. It was with glass in hand and after listening to many brilliant speeches that I received for the following chapters on the budget of love, a sort of legislative sanction. The sum of one hundred francs was allowed for porters and carriages. Fifty crowns seemed very reasonable for the little patties that people eat on a walk, for bouquets of violets and theatre tickets. The sum of two hundred francs was considered necessary for the extra expense of dainties and dinners at restaurants. It was during this discussion that a young cavalryman, who had been made almost tipsy by the champagne, was called to order for comparing

lovers to distilling machines. But the chapter that gave occasion for the most violent discussion, and the consideration of which was adjourned for several weeks, when a report was made, was that concerning presents. At the last session, the refined Madame de D----- was the first speaker; and in a graceful address, which testified to the nobility of her sentiments, she set out to demonstrate that most of the time the gifts of love had no intrinsic value. The author replied that all lovers had their portraits taken. A lady objected that a portrait was invested capital, and care should always be taken to recover it for a second investment. But suddenly a gentleman of Provence rose to deliver a philippic against women. He spoke of the greediness which most women in love exhibited for furs, satins, silks, jewels and furniture; but a lady interrupted him by asking if Madame d’O-----y, his intimate friend, had not already paid his debts twice over. “You are mistaken, madame,” said the Provencal, “it was her husband.” “The speaker is called to order,” cried the president, “and condemned to dine the whole party, for having used the word husband.” The Provencal was completely refuted by a lady who undertook to prove that women show much more self-sacrifice in love than men; that lovers cost very dear, and that the honest woman may consider herself very fortunate if she gets off with spending on them two thousand francs for a single year. The discussion was in danger of degenerating into an exchange of personalities, when a division was called for. The conclusions of the committee were adopted by vote. The conclusions were, in substance, that the amount for presents between lovers during the year should be reckoned at five hundred francs, but that in this computation should be included: (1) the expense of expeditions into the country; (2) the pharmaceutical expenses, occasioned by the colds caught from walking in the damp pathways of parks, and in leaving the theatre, which expenses are veritable presents; (3) the carrying of letters, and law expenses; (4) journeys, and expenses whose items are forgotten, without counting the follies committed by the spenders; inasmuch as, according to the investigations of the committee, it had been proved that most of a man’s extravagant expenditure profited the opera girls, rather than the married women. The conclusion arrived at from this pecuniary calculation was that, in one way or another, a passion costs nearly fifteen hundred francs a year, which were required to meet the expense borne more unequally by lovers, but which would not have occurred, but for their attachment. There was also a sort of unanimity in the opinion of the council that this was the lowest annual figure which would cover the cost of a passion. Now, my dear sir, since we have proved, by the statistics of our conjugal calculations [See Meditations I, II, and III.] and proved irrefragably, that there exists a floating total of at least fifteen hundred thousand unlawful passions, it follows: That the criminal conversations of a third among the French population contribute a sum of nearly three thousand millions to that vast circulation of money, the true blood of society, of which the budget is the heart;

That the honest woman not only gives life to the children of the peerage, but also to its financial funds; That manufacturers owe their prosperity to this systolic movement; That the honest woman is a being essentially budgetative, and active as a consumer; That the least decline in public love would involve incalculable miseries to the treasury, and to men of invested fortunes; That a husband has at least a third of his fortune invested in the inconstancy of his wife, etc. I am well aware that you are going to open your mouth and talk to me about manners, politics, good and evil. But, my dear victim of the Minotaur, is not happiness the object which all societies should set before them? Is it not this axiom that makes these wretched kings give themselves so much trouble about their people? Well, the honest woman has not, like them, thrones, gendarmes and tribunals; she has only a bed to offer; but if our four hundred thousand women can, by this ingenious machine, make a million celibates happy, do not they attain in a mysterious manner, and without making any fuss, the end aimed at by a government, namely, the end of giving the largest possible amount of happiness to the mass of mankind? “Yes, but the annoyances, the children, the troubles—” Ah, you must permit me to proffer the consolatory thought with which one of our wittiest caricaturists closes his satiric observations: “Man is not perfect!” It is sufficient, therefore, that our institutions have no more disadvantages than advantages in order to be reckoned excellent; for the human race is not placed, socially speaking, between the good and the bad, but between the bad and the worse. Now if the work, which we are at present on the point of concluding, has had for its object the diminution of the worse, as it is found in matrimonial institutions, in laying bare the errors and absurdities due to our manners and our prejudices, we shall certainly have won one of the fairest titles that can be put forth by a man to a place among the benefactors of humanity. Has not the author made it his aim, by advising husbands, to make women more self-restrained and consequently to impart more violence to passions, more money to the treasury, more life to commerce and agriculture? Thanks to this last Meditation he can flatter himself that he has strictly kept the vow of eclecticism, which he made in projecting the work, and he hopes he has marshaled all details of the case, and yet like an attorney-general refrained from expressing his personal opinion. And really what do you want with an axiom in the present matter? Do you wish that this book should be a mere development of the last opinion held by Tronchet, who in his closing days thought that the law of marriage had been drawn up less in the interest of husbands than of children? I also wish it very much. Would

you rather desire that this book should serve as proof to the peroration of the Capuchin, who preached before Anne of Austria, and when he saw the queen and her ladies overwhelmed by his triumphant arguments against their frailty, said as he came down from the pulpit of truth, “Now you are all honorable women, and it is we who unfortunately are sons of Samaritan women”? I have no objection to that either. You may draw what conclusion you please; for I think it is very difficult to put forth two contrary opinions, without both of them containing some grains of truth. But the book has not been written either for or against marriage; all I have thought you needed was an exact description of it. If an examination of the machine shall lead us to make one wheel of it more perfect; if by scouring away some rust we have given more elastic movement to its mechanism; then give his wage to the workman. If the author has had the impertinence to utter truths too harsh for you, if he has too often spoken of rare and exceptional facts as universal, if he has omitted the commonplaces which have been employed from time immemorial to offer women the incense of flattery, oh, let him be crucified! But do not impute to him any motive of hostility to the institution itself; he is concerned merely for men and women. He knows that from the moment marriage ceases to defeat the purpose of marriage, it is unassailable; and, after all, if there do arise serious complaints against this institution, it is perhaps because man has no memory excepting for his disasters, that he accuses his wife, as he accuses his life, for marriage is but a life within a life. Yet people whose habit it is to take their opinions from newspapers would perhaps despise a book in which they see the mania of eclecticism pushed too far; for then they absolutely demand something in the shape of a peroration, it is not hard to find one for them. And since the words of Napoleon served to start this book, why should it not end as it began? Before the whole Council of State the First Consul pronounced the following startling phrase, in which he at the same time eulogized and satirized marriage, and summed up the contents of this book: “If a man never grew old, I would never wish him to have a wife!” POSTSCRIPT. “And so you are going to be married?” asked the duchess of the author who had read his manuscript to her. She was one of those ladies to whom the author has already paid his respects in the introduction of this work. “Certainly, madame,” I replied. “To meet a woman who has courage enough to become mine, would satisfy the wildest of my hopes.” “Is this resignation or infatuation?” “That is my affair.”

“Well, sir, as you are doctor of conjugal arts and sciences, allow me to tell you a little Oriental fable, that I read in a certain sheet, which is published annually in the form of an almanac. At the beginning of the Empire ladies used to play at a game in which no one accepted a present from his or her partner in the game, without saying the word, Diadeste. A game lasted, as you may well suppose, during a week, and the point was to catch some one receiving some trifle or other without pronouncing the sacramental word.” “Even a kiss?” “Oh, I have won the Diadeste twenty times in that way,” she laughingly replied. “It was, I believe, from the playing of this game, whose origin is Arabian or Chinese, that my apologue takes its point. But if I tell you,” she went on, putting her finger to her nose, with a charming air of coquetry, “let me contribute it as a finale to your work.” “This would indeed enrich me. You have done me so many favors already, that I cannot repay—” She smiled slyly, and replied as follows: A philosopher had compiled a full account of all the tricks that women could possibly play, and in order to verify it, he always carried it about with him. One day he found himself in the course of his travels near an encampment of Arabs. A young woman, who had seated herself under the shade of a palm tree, rose on his approach. She kindly asked him to rest himself in her tent, and he could not refuse. Her husband was then absent. Scarcely had the traveler seated himself on a soft rug, when the graceful hostess offered him fresh dates, and a cup of milk; he could not help observing the rare beauty of her hands as she did so. But, in order to distract his mind from the sensations roused in him by the fair young Arabian girl, whose charms were most formidable, the sage took his book, and began to read. The seductive creature piqued by this slight said to him in a melodious voice: “That book must be very interesting since it seems to be the sole object worthy of your attention. Would it be taking a liberty to ask what science it treats of?” The philosopher kept his eyes lowered as he replied: “The subject of this book is beyond the comprehension of ladies.” This rebuff excited more than ever the curiosity of the young Arabian woman. She put out the prettiest little foot that had ever left its fleeting imprint on the shifting sands of the desert. The philosopher was perturbed, and his eyes were too powerfully

tempted to resist wandering from these feet, which betokened so much, up to the bosom, which was still more ravishingly fair; and soon the flame of his admiring glance was mingled with the fire that sparkled in the pupils of the young Asiatic. She asked again the name of the book in tones so sweet that the philosopher yielded to the fascination, and replied: “I am the author of the book; but the substance of it is not mine: it contains an account of all the ruses and stratagems of women.” “What! Absolutely all?” said the daughter of the desert. “Yes, all! And it has been only by a constant study of womankind that I have come to regard them without fear.” “Ah!” said the young Arabian girl, lowering the long lashes of her white eyelids. Then, suddenly darting the keenest of her glances at the pretended sage, she made him in one instant forget the book and all its contents. And now our philosopher was changed to the most passionate of men. Thinking he saw in the bearing of the young woman a faint trace of coquetry, the stranger was emboldened to make an avowal. How could he resist doing so? The sky was blue, the sand blazed in the distance like a scimitar of gold, the wind of the desert breathed love, and the woman of Arabia seemed to reflect all the fire with which she was surrounded; her piercing eyes were suffused with a mist; and by a slight nod of the head she seemed to make the luminous atmosphere undulate, as she consented to listen to the stranger’s words of love. The sage was intoxicated with delirious hopes, when the young woman, hearing in the distance the gallop of a horse which seemed to fly, exclaimed: “We are lost! My husband is sure to catch us. He is jealous as a tiger, and more pitiless than one. In the name of the prophet, if you love your life, conceal yourself in this chest!” The author, frightened out of his wits, seeing no other way of getting out of a terrible fix, jumped into the box, and crouched down there. The woman closed down the lid, locked it, and took the key. She ran to meet her husband, and after some caresses which put him into a good humor, she said: “I must relate to you a very singular adventure I have just had.” “I am listening, my gazelle,” replied the Arab, who sat down on a rug and crossed his feet after the Oriental manner. “There arrived here to-day a kind of philosopher,” she began, “he professes to have compiled a book which describes all the wiles of which my sex is capable; and then this sham sage made love to me.”

“Well, go on!” cried the Arab. “I listened to his avowal. He was young, ardent—and you came just in time to save my tottering virtue.” The Arab leaped to his feet like a lion, and drew his scimitar with a shout of fury. The philosopher heard all from the depths of the chest and consigned to Hades his book, and all the men and women of Arabia Petraea. “Fatima!” cried the husband, “if you would save your life, answer me—Where is the traitor?” Terrified at the tempest which she had roused, Fatima threw herself at her husband’s feet, and trembling beneath the point of his sword, she pointed out the chest with a prompt though timid glance of her eye. Then she rose to her feet, as if in shame, and taking the key from her girdle presented it to the jealous Arab; but, just as he was about to open the chest, the sly creature burst into a peal of laughter. Faroun stopped with a puzzled expression, and looked at his wife in amazement. “So I shall have my fine chain of gold, after all!” she cried, dancing for joy. “You have lost the Diadeste. Be more mindful next time.” The husband, thunderstruck, let fall the key, and offered her the longed-for chain on bended knee, and promised to bring to his darling Fatima all the jewels brought by the caravan in a year, if she would refrain from winning the Diadeste by such cruel stratagems. Then, as he was an Arab, and did not like forfeiting a chain of gold, although his wife had fairly won it, he mounted his horse again, and galloped off, to complain at his will, in the desert, for he loved Fatima too well to let her see his annoyance. The young woman then drew forth the philosopher from the chest, and gravely said to him, “Do not forget, Master Doctor, to put this feminine trick into your collection.” “Madame,” said I to the duchess, “I understand! If I marry, I am bound to be unexpectedly outwitted by some infernal trick or other; but I shall in that case, you may be quite sure, furnish a model household for the admiration of my contemporaries.” PARIS, 1824-29. ---------------------------------------------------------------------THE END

Faites attention à ces mots (page 367) : « L'homme supérieur à qui ce livre est dédié » n'est-ce pas vous dire : -- « C'est à vous ? » L'AUTEUR. La femme qui, sur le titre de ce livre, serait tentée de l'ouvrir, peut s'en dispenser, elle l'a déjà lu sans le savoir. Un homme, quelque malicieux qu'il puisse être, ne dira jamais des femmes autant de bien ni autant de mal qu'elles en pensent elles-mêmes. Si, malgré cet avis, une femme persistait à lire l'ouvrage, la délicatesse devra lui imposer la loi de ne pas médire de l'auteur, du moment où, se privant des approbations qui flattent le plus les artistes, il a en quelque sorte gravé sur le frontispice de son livre la prudente inscription mise sur la porte de quelques établissements : Les dames n'entrent pas ici.

« Le mariage ne dérive point de la nature. -- La famille orientale diffère entièrement de la famille occidentale. -- L'homme est le ministre de la nature, et la société vient s'enter sur elle. -- Les lois sont faites pour les moeurs, et les moeurs varient. » Le mariage peut donc subir le perfectionnement graduel auquel toutes les choses humaines paraissent soumises. -- 338 -Ces paroles, prononcées devant le Conseil-d'Etat par Napoléon lors de la discussion du Code civil, frappèrent vivement l'auteur de ce livre ; et, peut-être, à son insu, mirent-elles en lui le germe de l'ouvrage qu'il offre aujourd'hui au public. En effet, à l'époque où, beaucoup plus jeune, il étudia le Droit français, le mot ADULTERE lui causa de singulières impressions. Immense dans le code, jamais ce mot n'apparaissait à son imagination sans traîner à sa suite un lugubre cortége. Les Larmes, la Honte, la Haine, la Terreur, des Crimes secrets, de sanglantes Guerres, des Familles sans chef, le Malheur se personnifiaient devant lui et se dressaient soudain quand il lisait le mot sacramentel : ADULTERE ! Plus tard, en abordant les plages les mieux cultivées de la société, l'auteur s'aperçut que la sévérité des lois conjugales y était assez généralement tempérée par l'Adultère. Il trouva la somme des mauvais ménages supérieure de beaucoup à celle des mariages heureux. Enfin il crut remarquer, le premier, que, de toutes les connaissances humaines, celle du Mariage était la moins avancée. Mais ce fut une observation de jeune homme ; et, chez lui comme chez tant d'autres, semblable à une pierre jetée au sein d'un lac, elle se perdit dans le gouffre de ses pensées tumultueuses. Cependant l'auteur observa malgré lui ; puis il se forma lentement dans son imagination, comme un essaim d'idées plus ou moins justes sur la nature des choses conjugales. Les ouvrages se forment peut-être dans les âmes aussi mystérieusement que poussent les truffes au milieu des plaines parfumées du Périgord. De la primitive et sainte frayeur que lui causa l'Adultère et de l'observation qu'il avait étourdiment faite, naquit un matin une minime pensée où ses idées se formulèrent. C'était une raillerie sur le mariage : deux époux s'aimaient pour la première fois après vingt-sept ans de ménage. Il s'amusa de ce petit pamphlet conjugal et passa délicieusement une semaine entière à grouper autour de cette innocente épigramme la multitude d'idées qu'il avait acquises à son insu et qu'il s'étonna de trouver en lui. Ce badinage tomba devant une observation magistrale. Docile aux avis, l'auteur se rejeta dans l'insouciance de ses habitudes paresseuses. Néanmoins ce léger principe de science et de plaisanterie se perfectionna tout seul dans les champs de la pensée : chaque phrase de l'oeuvre condamnée y prit

racine, et s'y fortifia, restant comme une petite branche d'arbre qui, abandonnée sur le sable par une soirée d'hiver, se trouve couverte -- 339 -le lendemain de ces blanches et bizarres cristallisations que dessinent les gelées capricieuses de la nuit. Ainsi l'ébauche vécut et devint le point de départ d'une multitude de ramifications morales. Ce fut comme un polype qui s'engendra de lui-même. Les sensations de sa jeunesse, les observations qu'une puissance importune lui faisait faire, trouvèrent des points d'appui dans les moindres événements. Bien plus, cette masse d'idées s'harmonia, s'anima, se personnifia presque et marcha dans les pays fantastiques où l'âme aime à laisser vagabonder ses folles progénitures. A travers les préoccupations du monde et de la vie, il y avait toujours en l'auteur une voix qui lui faisait les révélations les plus moqueuses au moment même où il examinait avec le plus de plaisir une femme dansant, souriant ou causant. De même que Méphistophélès montre du doigt à Faust dans l'épouvantable assemblée du Broken de sinistres figures, de même l'auteur sentait un démon qui, au sein d'un bal, venait lui frapper familièrement sur l'épaule et lui dire : -- Vois-tu, ce sourire enchanteur ? c'est un sourire de haine. Tantôt le démon se pavanait comme un capitan des anciennes comédies de Hardy. Il secouait la pourpre d'un manteau brodé et s'efforçait de remettre à neuf les vieux clinquants et les oripeaux de la gloire. Tantôt il poussait, à la manière de Rabelais, un rire large et franc, et traçait sur la muraille d'une rue un mot qui pouvait servir de pendant à celui de : -Trinque ! seul oracle obtenu de la dive bouteille. Souvent ce Trilby littéraire se laissait voir assis sur des monceaux de livres ; et, de ses doigts crochus, il indiquait malicieusement deux volumes jaunes, dont le titre flamboyait aux regards. Puis, quand il voyait l'auteur attentif, il épelait d'une voix aussi agaçante que les sons d'un harmonica : - PHYSIOLOGIE DU MARIAGE ! Mais presque toujours, il apparaissait, le soir, au moment des songes. Caressant comme une fée, il essayait d'apprivoiser par de douces paroles l'âme qu'il s'était soumise. Aussi railleur que séduisant, aussi souple qu'une femme, aussi cruel qu'un tigre, son amitié était plus redoutable que sa haine ; car il ne savait pas faire une caresse sans égratigner. Une nuit entre autres, il essaya la puissance de tous ses sortiléges et les couronna par un dernier effort. Il vint, il s'assit sur le bord du lit, comme une jeune fille pleine d'amour, qui d'abord se tait, mais dont les yeux brillent, et à laquelle son secret finit par échapper. -- Ceci, dit-il, est le prospectus d'un scaphandre au moyen duquel on pourra se promener sur la Seine -- 340 -à pied sec. Cet autre volume est le rapport de l'Institut sur un vêtement propre à nous faire traverser les flammes sans nous brûler. Ne proposeras-tu donc rien qui puisse préserver le mariage des malheurs du froid et du chaud ? Mais, écoute ? Voici L'ART DE CONSERVER LES SUBSTANCES ALIMENTAIRES, L'ART D'EMPECHER LES CHEMINEES DE FUMER, L'ART DE FAIRE DE BONS MORTIERS, L'ART DE METTRE SA CRAVATE, L'ART DE DECOUPER LES VIANDES. Il nomma en une minute un nombre si prodigieux de livres, que l'auteur en eut comme un éblouissement. -- Ces myriades de livres ont été dévorés, disait-il, et cependant tout le monde ne bâtit pas et ne mange pas, tout le monde n'a pas de cravate et ne se chauffe pas, tandis que tout le monde se marie un peu !... Mais tiens, vois ?... Sa main fit alors un geste, et sembla découvrir dans le lointain un océan où tous les livres du siècle se remuaient comme par des mouvements de vagues. Les in-18 ricochaient ; les in-8° qu'on jetait rendaient un son grave, allaient au fond et ne remontaient que bien péniblement, empêchés par des in-12 et des in-32 qui foisonnaient et se résolvaient en mousse légère. Les lames furieuses étaient chargées de journalistes, de protes, de papetiers, d'apprentis, de commis d'imprimeurs, de qui l'on ne voyait que les têtes pêle-mêle avec les livres. Des milliers de voix criaient comme celles des écoliers au bain. Allaient et venaient dans leurs canots quelques hommes occupés à

pêcher les livres et à les apporter au rivage devant un grand homme dédaigneux, vêtu de noir, sec et froid : c'était les libraires et le public. Du doigt le Démon montra un esquif nouvellement pavoisé, cinglant à pleines voiles et portant une affiche en guise de pavillon ; puis, poussant un rire sardonique, il lut d'une voix perçante : -- PHYSIOLOGIE DU MARIAGE. L'auteur devint amoureux, le diable le laissa tranquille, car il aurait eu affaire à trop forte partie s'il était revenu dans un logis habité par une femme. Quelques années se passèrent sans autres tourments que ceux de l'amour, et l'auteur put se croire guéri d'une infirmité par une autre. Mais un soir il se trouva dans un salon de Paris, où l'un des hommes qui faisaient partie du cercle décrit devant la cheminée par quelques personnes prit la parole et raconta l'anecdote suivante d'une voix sépulcrale. -- Un fait eut lieu à Gand au moment où j'y étais. Attaquée d'une maladie mortelle, une dame, veuve depuis dix ans, gisait -- 341 -sur son lit. Son dernier soupir était attendu par trois héritiers collatéraux qui ne la quittaient pas, de peur qu'elle ne fît un testament au profit du Béguinage de la ville. La malade gardait le silence, paraissait assoupie, et la mort semblait s'emparer lentement de son visage muet et livide. Voyez-vous au milieu d'une nuit d'hiver les trois parents silencieusement assis devant le lit ? Une vieille garde-malade est là qui hoche la tête, et le médecin, voyant avec anxiété la maladie arrivée à son dernier période, tient son chapeau d'une main, et de l'autre fait un geste aux parents, comme pour leur dire : « Je n'ai plus de visites à vous faire. » Un silence solennel permettait d'entendre les sifflements sourds d'une pluie de neige qui fouettait sur les volets. De peur que les yeux de la mourante ne fussent blessés par la lumière, le plus jeune des héritiers avait adapté un garde-vue à la bougie placée près du lit, de sorte que le cercle lumineux du flambeau atteignait à peine à l'oreiller funèbre, sur lequel la figure jaunie de la malade se détachait comme un christ mal doré sur une croix d'argent terni. Les lueurs ondoyantes jetées par les flammes bleues d'un pétillant foyer éclairaient donc seules cette chambre sombre, où allait se dénouer un drame. En effet, un tison roula tout à coup du foyer sur le parquet comme pour présager un événement. A ce bruit, la malade se dresse brusquement sur son séant, elle ouvre deux yeux aussi clairs que ceux d'un chat, et tout le monde étonné la contemple. Elle regarde le tison marcher ; et, avant que personne n'eût songé à s'opposer au mouvement inattendu produit par une sorte de délire, elle saute hors de son lit, saisit les pincettes, et rejette le charbon dans la cheminée. La garde, le médecin, les parents, s'élancent, prennent la mourante dans leurs bras, elle est recouchée, elle pose la tête sur le chevet ; et quelques minutes sont à peine écoulées, qu'elle meurt, gardant encore, après sa mort, son regard attaché sur la feuille de parquet à laquelle avait touché le tison. A peine la comtesse Van-Ostroëm eut-elle expiré, que les trois cohéritiers se jetèrent un coup d'oeil de méfiance, et, ne pensant déjà plus à leur tante, se montrèrent le mystérieux parquet. Comme c'était des Belges, le calcul fut chez eux aussi prompt que leurs regards. Il fut convenu, par trois mots prononcés à voix basse, qu'aucun d'eux ne quitterait la chambre. Un laquais alla chercher un ouvrier. Ces âmes collatérales palpitèrent vivement quand, réunis autour de ce riche parquet, les trois Belges virent un petit apprenti -- 342 -donnant le premier coup de ciseau. Le bois est tranché. -- « Ma tante a fait un geste !... dit le plus jeune des héritiers. -- Non, c'est un effet des ondulations de la lumière !... » répondit le plus âgé qui avait à la fois l'oeil sur le trésor et sur la morte. Les parents affligés trouvèrent, précisément à l'endroit où le tison avait roulé, une masse artistement enveloppée d'une couche de plâtre. -- « Allez !.. » dit le vieux cohéritier. Le ciseau de l'apprenti fit alors sauter une tête humaine, et je ne sais quel vestige d'habillement leur fit reconnaître le comte que toute la ville croyait mort à Java et dont la perte avait été vivement pleurée par sa femme.

Le narrateur de cette vieille histoire était un grand homme sec, à l'oeil fauve, à cheveux bruns, et l'auteur crut apercevoir de vagues ressemblances entre lui et le démon qui, jadis, l'avait tant tourmenté ; mais l'étranger n'avait pas le pied fourchu. Tout à coup le mot adultère sonna aux oreilles de l'auteur ; et alors, cette espèce de cloche réveilla, dans son imagination, les figures les plus lugubres du cortége qui naguère défilait à la suite de ces prestigieuses syllabes. A compter de cette soirée, les persécutions fantasmagoriques d'un ouvrage qui n'existait pas recommencèrent ; et, à aucune époque de sa vie, l'auteur ne fut assailli d'autant d'idées fallacieuses sur le fatal sujet de ce livre. Mais il résista courageusement à l'esprit, bien que ce dernier rattachât les moindres événements de la vie à cette oeuvre inconnue, et que, semblable à un commis de la douane, il plombât tout de son chiffré railleur. Quelques jours après, l'auteur se trouva dans la compagnie de deux dames. La première avait été une des plus humaines et des plus spirituelles femmes de la cour de Napoléon. Arrivée jadis à une haute position sociale, la restauration l'y surprit, et l'en renversa ; elle s'était faite ermite. La seconde, jeune et belle, jouait en ce moment, à Paris, le rôle d'une femme à la mode. Elles étaient amies, parce que l'une ayant quarante ans et l'autre vingt-deux, leurs prétentions mettaient rarement en présence leur vanité sur le même terrain. L'auteur étant sans conséquence pour l'une des deux dames, et l'autre l'ayant deviné, elles continuèrent en sa présence une conversation assez franche qu'elles avaient commencée sur leur métier de femme. -- Avez-vous remarqué, ma chère, que les femmes n'aiment en général que des sots ? -Que dites-vous donc là, duchesse ? et -- 343 -comment accorderez-vous cette remarque avec l'aversion qu'elles ont pour leurs maris ? -- (Mais c'est une tyrannie ! se dit l'auteur. Voilà donc maintenant le diable en cornette ?...)-- Non, ma chère, je ne plaisante pas ! reprit la duchesse, et il y a de quoi faire frémir pour soi-même, depuis que j'ai contemplé froidement les personnes que j'ai connues autrefois. L'esprit a toujours un brillant qui nous blesse, l'homme qui en a beaucoup nous effraie peut-être, et s'il est fier, il ne sera pas jaloux, il ne saurait donc nous plaire. Enfin nous aimons peut-être mieux élever un homme jusqu'à nous que de monter jusqu'à lui... Le talent a bien des succès à nous faire partager, mais le sot donne des jouissances ; et nous préférons toujours entendre dire : « Voilà un bien bel homme ! » à voir notre amant choisi pour être de l'Institut. -- En voilà bien assez, duchesse ! vous m'avez épouvantée. Et la jeune coquette, se mettant à faire les portraits des amants dont raffolaient toutes les femmes de sa connaissance, n'y trouva pas un seul homme d'esprit. -- Mais, par ma vertu, dit-elle, leurs maris valent mieux.. -- Ces gens sont leurs maris ! répondit gravement la duchesse... -- Mais, demanda l'auteur, l'infortune dont est menacé le mari en France est-elle donc inévitable ? -- Oui ! répondit la duchesse en riant. Et l'acharnement de certaines femmes contre celles qui ont l'heureux malheur d'avoir une passion prouve combien la chasteté leur est à charge. Sans la peur du diable, l'une serait Laïs ; l'autre doit sa vertu à la sécheresse de son coeur ; celle-là à la manière sotte dont s'est comporté son premier amant ; cellelà... L'auteur arrêta le torrent de ces révélations en faisant part aux deux dames du projet d'ouvrage par lequel il était persécuté, elles y sourirent, et promirent beaucoup de conseils. La plus jeune fournit gaiement un des premiers capitaux de l'entreprise, en

disant qu'elle se chargeait de prouver mathématiquement que les femmes entièrement vertueuses étaient des êtres de raison. Rentré chez lui, l'auteur dit alors à son démon : -- Arrive ? Je suis prêt. Signons le pacte ! Le démon ne revint plus. Si l'auteur écrit ici la biographie de son livre, ce n'est par aucune inspiration de fatuité. Il raconte des faits qui pourront servir à l'histoire de la pensée humaine, et qui expliqueront sans doute l'ouvrage même. Il n'est peut-être pas indifférent à certains anato-- 344 -mistes de la pensée de savoir que l'âme est femme. Ainsi, tant que l'auteur s'interdisait de penser au livre qu'il devait faire, le livre se montrait écrit partout. Il en trouvait une page sur le lit d'un malade, une autre sur le canapé d'un boudoir. Les regards des femmes quand elles tournoyaient emportées par une valse, lui jetaient des pensées ; un geste, une parole, fécondaient son cerveau dédaigneux. Le jour où il se dit : -- Cet ouvrage, qui m'obsède, se fera !... tout a fui ; et, comme les trois Belges, il releva un squelette, là où il se baissait pour saisir un trésor. Une douce et pâle figure succéda au démon tentateur, elle avait des manières engageantes et de la bonhomie, ses représentations étaient désarmées des pointes aiguës de la critique. Elle prodiguait plus de mots que d'idées, et semblait avoir peur du bruit. C'était peut-être le génie familier des honorables députés qui siégent au centre de la Chambre. -- « Ne vaut-il pas mieux, disait-elle, laisser les choses comme elles sont ? Vont-elles donc si mal ? Il faut croire au mariage comme à l'immortalité de l'âme ; et vous ne faites certainement pas un livre pour vanter le bonheur conjugal. D'ailleurs vous conclurez sans doute d'après un millier de ménages parisiens qui ne sont que des exceptions. Vous trouverez peut-être des maris disposés à vous abandonner leurs femmes ; mais aucun fils ne vous abandonnera sa mère... Quelques personnes blessées par les opinions que vous professerez soupçonneront vos moeurs, calomnieront vos intentions. Enfin, pour toucher aux écrouelles sociales, il faut être roi, ou tout au moins premier consul. » Quoiqu'elle apparût sous la forme qui pouvait plaire le plus à l'auteur, la Raison ne fut point écoutée ; car dans le lointain la Folie agitait la marotte de Panurge, et il voulait s'en saisir ; mais, quand il essaya de la prendre, il se trouva qu'elle était aussi lourde que la massue d'Hercule, d'ailleurs, le curé de Meudon l'avait garnie de manière à ce qu'un jeune homme qui se pique moins de bien faire un livre que d'être bien ganté ne pouvait vraiment pas y toucher. -- Notre ouvrage est-il fini ? demanda la plus jeune des deux complices féminines de l'auteur. -- Hélas ! madame, me récompenserez-vous de toutes les haines qu'il pourra soulever contre moi ? Elle fit un geste, et alors l'auteur répondit à son indécision par une expression d'insouciance. -- Quoi ! vous hésiteriez ? publiez-le, -- 345 -n'ayez pas peur. Aujourd'hui nous prenons un livre bien plus pour la façon que pour l'étoffe. Quoique l'auteur ne se donne ici que pour l'humble secrétaire de deux dames, il a, tout en coordonnant leurs observations, accompli plus d'une tâche. Une seule peut-être était restée en fait de mariage, celle de recueillir les choses que tout le monde pense et que personne n'exprime ; mais aussi faire une pareille Etude avec l'esprit de tout le monde, n'est-ce pas s'exposer à ce qu'il ne plaise à personne ? Cependant l'éclectisme de cette Etude la sauvera peut-être. Tout en raillant, l'auteur a essayé de populariser quelques idées consolantes. Il a presque toujours tenté de réveiller des ressorts inconnus dans l'âme humaine. Tout en prenant la défense des intérêts les plus matériels, les jugeant ou les condamnant, il aura peut-être fait apercevoir plus d'une jouissance intellectuelle. Mais

l'auteur n'a pas la sotte prétention d'avoir toujours réussi à faire des plaisanteries de bon goût ; seulement il a compté sur la diversité des esprits, pour recevoir autant de blâme que d'approbation. La matière était si grave qu'il a constamment essayé de l'anecdoter, puisqu'aujourd'hui les anecdotes sont le passe-port de toute morale et l'anti-narcotique de tous les livres. Dans celui-ci, où tout est analyse et observation, la fatigue chez le lecteur et le MOI chez l'auteur étaient inévitables. C'est un des malheurs les plus grands qui puissent arriver à un ouvrage, et l'auteur ne se l'est pas dissimulé. Il a donc disposé les rudiments de cette longue ETUDE de manière à ménager des haltes au lecteur. Ce système a été consacré par un écrivain qui faisait sur le GOUT un travail assez semblable à celui dont il s'occupait sur le MARIAGE, et auquel il se permettra d'emprunter quelques paroles pour exprimer une pensée qui leur est commune. Ce sera une sorte d'hommage rendu à son devancier dont la mort a [Coquille du Furne : à.] suivi de si près le succès. « Quand j'écris et parle de moi au singulier, cela suppose une confabulation avec le lecteur ; il peut examiner, discuter, douter, et même rire ; mais, quand je m'arme du redoutable NOUS, je professe, il faut se soumettre. » (Brillat-Savarin, préface de la PHYSIOLOGIE DU GOUT.) 5 décembre 1829. -- 346 --

Nous parlerons contre les lois insensées jusqu'à ce qu'on les réforme, et en attendant nous nous y soumettrons aveuglément. (DIDEROT, Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville.)

Physiologie, que me veux-tu ? Ton but est-il de nous démontrer que le mariage unit, pour toute la vie, deux êtres qui ne se connaissent pas ? Que la vie est dans la passion, et qu'aucune passion ne résiste au mariage ? Que le mariage est une institution nécessaire au maintien des sociétés, mais qu'il est contraire aux lois de la nature ? Que le divorce, cet admirable palliatif aux maux du mariage, sera unanimement redemandé ? Que, malgré tous ses inconvénients, le mariage est la source première de la propriété ? Qu'il offre d'incalculables gages de sécurité aux gouvernements ? Qu'il y a quelque chose de touchant dans l'association de deux êtres pour supporter les peines de la vie ? Qu'il y a quelque chose de ridicule à vouloir qu'une même pensée dirige deux volontés ? Que la femme est traitée en esclave ? Qu'il n'y a pas de mariages entièrement heureux ?

Que le mariage est gros de crimes, et que les assassinats connus ne sont pas les pires ? Que la fidélité est impossible, au moins à l'homme ? Qu'une expertise, si elle pouvait s'établir, prouverait plus de troubles que de sécurité dans la transmission patrimoniale des propriétés ? -- 347 -Que l'adultère occasionne plus de maux que le mariage ne procure de biens ? Que l'infidélité de la femme remonte aux premiers temps des sociétés, et que le mariage résiste à cette perpétuité de fraudes ? Que les lois de l'amour attachent si fortement deux êtres, qu'aucune loi humaine ne saurait les séparer ? Que s'il y a des mariages écrits sur les registres de l'officialité, il y en a de formés par les veux de la nature, par une douce conformité ou par une entière dissemblance dans la pensée, et par des conformations corporelles ; qu'ainsi le ciel et la terre se contrarient sans cesse ? Qu'il y a des maris riches de taille et d'esprit supérieur, dont les femmes ont des amants fort laids, petits ou stupides ? Toutes ces questions fourniraient au besoin des livres ; mais ces livres sont faits, et les questions sont perpétuellement résolues. Physiologie, que me veux-tu ? Révèles-tu des principes nouveaux ? Viens-tu prétendre qu'il faut mettre les femmes en commun ? Lycurgue et quelques peuplades grecques, des Tartares et des Sauvages, l'ont essayé. Serait-ce qu'il faut renfermer les femmes ? les Ottomans l'ont fait et ils les remettent aujourd'hui en liberté. Serait-ce qu'il faut marier les filles sans dot et les exclure du droit de succéder ?... Des auteurs anglais et des moralistes ont prouvé que c'était, avec le divorce, le moyen le plus sûr de rendre les mariages heureux. Serait-ce qu'il faut une petite Agar dans chaque ménage ? Il n'est pas besoin de loi pour cela. L'article du Code qui prononce des peines contre la femme adultère, en quelque lieu que le crime se soit commis, et celui qui ne punit un mari qu'autant que sa concubine habite sous le toit conjugal, admettent implicitement des maîtresses en ville. Sanchez a disserté sur tous les cas pénitentiaires du mariage ; il a même argumenté sur la légitimité, sur l'opportunité de chaque plaisir ; il a tracé tous les devoirs moraux, religieux, corporels des époux ; bref, son ouvrage formerait douze volumes in-8° si l'on réimprimait ce gros in-folio intitulé de Matrimonio. Des nuées de jurisconsultes ont lancé des nuées de traités sur les difficultés légales qui naissent du mariage. Il existe même des ouvrages sur le congrès judiciaire. -- 348 -Des légions de médecins ont fait paraître des légions de livres sur le mariage dans ses rapports avec la chirurgie et la médecine. Au dix-neuvième siècle, la Physiologie du Mariage est donc une insignifiante compilation ou l'oeuvre d'un niais écrite pour d'autres niais : de vieux prêtres ont pris leurs balances

d'or et pesé les moindres scrupules ; de vieux jurisconsultes ont mis leurs lunettes et distingué toutes les espèces ; de vieux médecins ont pris le scalpel et l'ont promené sur toutes les plaies ; de vieux juges ont monté sur leur siége et jugé tous les cas rédhibitoires ; des générations entières ont passé en jetant leur cri de joie ou de douleur ; chaque siècle a lancé son vote dans l'urne ; le Saint-Esprit, les poètes, les écrivains, ont tout enregistré depuis Eve jusqu'à la guerre de Troie, depuis Hélène jusqu'à madame de Maintenon, depuis la femme de Louis XIV jusqu'à la Contemporaine. Physiologie, que me veux-tu donc ? Voudrais-tu par hasard nous présenter des tableaux plus ou moins bien dessinés pour nous convaincre qu'un homme se marie : Par Ambition... cela est bien connu ; Par Bonté, pour arracher une fille à la tyrannie de sa mère ; Par Colère, pour déshériter des collatéraux ; Par Dédain d'une maîtresse infidèle ; Par Ennui de la délicieuse vie de garçon ; Par Folie, c'en est toujours une ; Par Gageure, c'est le cas de lord Byron ; Par Honneur, comme Georges Dandin ? Par Intérêt, mais c'est presque toujours ainsi ; Par Jeunesse, au sortir du collége, en étourdi ; Par Laideur, en craignant de manquer de femme un jour ; Par Machiavélisme, pour hériter promptement d'une vieille ; Par Nécessité, pour donner un état à notre fils ; Par Obligation, la demoiselle ayant été faible ; Par Passion, pour s'en guérir plus sûrement ; Par Querelle, pour finir un procès ; Par Reconnaissance, c'est donner plus qu'on n'a reçu ; Par Sagesse, cela arrive encore aux doctrinaires ; Par Testament, quand un oncle mort vous grève son héritage d'une fille à épouser ; Par Vieillesse, pour faire une fin ; Par Usage, à l'imitation de ses aïeux. -- 349 -(Le X manque, et peut-être est-ce à cause de son peu d'emploi comme tête de mot qu'on l'a pris pour signe de l'inconnu.) Par Yatidi, qui est l'heure de se coucher et en signifie tous les besoins chez les Turcs ; Par Zèle, comme le duc de Saint-Aignan qui ne voulait pas commettre de péchés.

Mais ces accidents-là ont fourni les sujets de trente mille comédies et de cent mille romans. Physiologie, pour la troisième et dernière fois, que me veux-tu ? Ici tout est banal comme les pavés d'une rue, vulgaire comme un carrefour. Le mariage est plus connu que Barrabas de la Passion ; toutes les vieilles idées qu'il réveille roulent dans les littératures depuis que le monde est monde, et il n'y a pas d'opinion utile et de projet saugrenu qui ne soient allés trouver un auteur, un imprimeur, un libraire et un lecteur. Permettez-moi de vous dire comme Rabelais, notre maître à tous : -- « Gens de bien, Dieu vous sauve et vous garde ! Où êtes-vous ? je ne peux vous voir. Attendez que je chausse mes lunettes. Ah ! ah ! je vous vois. Vous, vos femmes, vos enfants, vous êtes en santé désirée ? Cela me plaît. » Mais ce n'est pas pour vous que j'écris. Puisque vous avez de grands enfants, tout est dit. « Ah ! c'est vous, buveurs très-illustres, vous, goutteux très-précieux, et vous, croûteslevés infatigables, mignons poivrés, qui pantagruelizez tout le jour, qui avez des pies privées bien guallantes, et allez à tierce, à sexte, à nones, et pareillement à vêpres, à complies, qui iriez voirement toujours. » Ce n'est pas à vous que s'adresse la Physiologie du Mariage, puisque vous n'êtes pas mariés. Ainsi soit-il toujours ! « Vous, tas de serrabaites, cagots, escargotz, hypocrites, caphartz, frapartz, botineurs, romipetes et autres telles gens qui se sont déguisés comme masques, pour tromper le monde !... arrière mastins, hors de la quarrière ! hors d'ici, cerveaux à bourrelet !... De par le diable, êtes-vous encore là ?... » Il ne me reste plus, peut-être, que de bonnes âmes aimant à rire. Non de ces pleurards qui veulent se noyer à tout propos en vers et en prose, qui font les malades en odes, en sonnets, en méditations ; non de ces songe-creux en toute sorte, mais quelques-uns de ces anciens pantagruélistes qui n'y regardent pas de si près -- 350 -quand il s'agit de banqueter et de goguenarder, qui trouvent du bon dans le livre des Pois au lard, cum commento, de Rabelais, dans celui de la dignité des Braguettes, et qui estiment ces beaux livres de haulte gresse, legiers au porchas, hardis à la rencontre. L'on ne peut guère plus rire du gouvernement, mes amis, depuis qu'il a trouvé le moyen de lever quinze cents millions d'impôts. Les papegaux, les évégaux, les moines et moinesses ne sont pas encore assez riches pour qu'on puisse boire chez eux ; mais arrive saint Michel, qui chassa le diable du ciel, et nous verrons peut-être le bon temps revenir ! Partant, il ne nous reste en ce moment que le mariage en France qui soit matière à rire. Disciples de Panurge, de vous seuls je veux pour lecteurs. Vous savez prendre et quitter un livre à propos, faire du plus aisé, comprendre à demi-mot et tirer nourriture d'un os médullaire. Ces gens à microscope, qui ne voient qu'un point, les censeurs enfin, ont-ils bien tout dit, tout passé en revue ? ont-ils prononcé en dernier ressort qu'un livre sur le mariage est aussi impossible à exécuter qu'une cruche cassée à rendre neuve ? -- Oui, maître-fou. Pressurez le mariage, il n'en sortira jamais rien que du plaisir pour les garçons et de l'ennui pour les maris. C'est la morale éternelle. Un million de pages imprimées n'auront pas d'autre substance.

Cependant voici ma première proposition : Le mariage est un combat à outrance avant lequel les deux époux demandent au ciel sa bénédiction, parce que s'aimer toujours est la plus téméraire des entreprises ; le combat ne tarde pas à commencer, et la victoire, c'est-à-dire la liberté, demeure au plus adroit. D'accord. Où voyez-vous là une conception neuve ? Eh ! bien, je m'adresse aux mariés d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, à ceux qui, en sortant de l'église ou de la municipalité, conçoivent l'espérance de garder leurs femmes pour eux seuls ; à ceux à qui je ne sais quel égoïsme ou quel sentiment indéfinissable fait dire à l'aspect des malheurs d'autrui : -- Cela ne m'arrivera pas, à moi ! Je m'adresse à ces marins qui, après avoir vu des vaisseaux sombrer, se mettent en mer ; à ces garçons qui, après avoir causé le naufrage de plus d'une vertu conjugale, osent se marier. Et voici le sujet, il est éternellement neuf, éternellement vieux ! -- 351 -Un jeune homme, un vieillard peut-être, amoureux ou non, vient d'acquérir par un contrat bien et dûment enregistré à la Mairie, dans le Ciel et sur les contrôles du Domaine, une jeune fille à longs cheveux, aux yeux noirs et humides, aux petits pieds, aux doigts mignons et effilés, à la bouche vermeille, aux dents d'ivoire, bien faite, frémissante, appétissante et pimpante, blanche comme un lys, comblée des trésors les plus désirables de la beauté : ses cils baissés ressemblent aux dards de la couronne de fer, sa peau, tissu aussi frais que la corolle d'un camélia blanc, est nuancée de la pourpre des camélias rouges ; sur son teint virginal l'oeil croit voir la fleur d'un jeune fruit et le duvet imperceptible d'une pêche diaprée ; l'azur des veines distille une riche chaleur à travers ce réseau clair ; elle demande et donne la vie ; elle est tout joie et tout amour, tout gentillesse et tout naïveté. Elle aime son époux, ou du moins elle croit l'aimer... L'amoureux mari a dit dans le fond de son coeur : « Ces yeux ne verront que moi, cette bouche ne frémira d'amour que pour moi, cette douce main ne versera les chatouilleux trésors de la volupté que sur moi, ce sein ne palpitera qu'à ma voix, cette âme endormie ne s'éveillera qu'à ma volonté ; moi seul je plongerai mes doigts dans ces tresses brillantes ; seul je promènerai de rêveuses caresses sur cette tête frissonnante. Je ferai veiller la Mort à mon chevet pour défendre l'accès du lit nuptial à l'étranger ravisseur ; ce trône de l'amour nagera dans le sang des imprudents ou dans le mien. Repos, honneur, félicité, liens paternels, fortune de mes enfants, tout est là ; je veux tout défendre comme une lionne ses petits. Malheur à qui mettra le pied dans mon antre ! » -- Eh ! bien, courageux athlète, nous applaudissons à ton dessein. Jusqu'ici nul géomètre n'a osé tracer des lignes de longitude et de latitude sur la mer conjugale. Les vieux maris ont eu vergogne d'indiquer les bancs de sable, les rescifs, les écueils, les brisants, les moussons, les côtes et les courants qui ont détruit leurs barques, tant ils avaient honte de leurs naufrages. Il manquait un guide, une boussole aux pèlerins mariés... cet ouvrage est destiné à leur en servir. Sans parler des épiciers et des drapiers, il existe tant de gens qui sont trop occupés pour perdre du temps à chercher les raisons secrètes qui font agir les femmes, que c'est une oeuvre charitable de leur classer par titres et par chapitres toutes les situations -- 352 -secrètes du mariage ; une bonne table des matières leur permettra de mettre le doigt sur les mouvements du coeur de leurs femmes, comme la table des logarithmes leur apprend le produit d'une multiplication. Eh ! bien, que vous en semble ? N'est-ce pas une entreprise neuve et à laquelle tout philosophe a renoncé que de montrer comment on peut empêcher une femme de tromper son mari ? N'est-ce pas la comédie des comédies ? N'est-ce pas un autre speculum vitae humanae ? Il ne s'agit plus de ces questions oiseuses dont nous avons

fait justice dans cette Méditation. Aujourd'hui, en morale, comme dans les sciences exactes, le siècle demande des faits, des observations. Nous en apportons. Commençons donc par examiner le véritable état des choses, par analyser les forces de chaque parti. Avant d'armer notre champion imaginaire, calculons le nombre de ses ennemis, comptons les Cosaques qui veulent envahir sa petite patrie. S'embarque avec nous qui voudra, rira qui pourra. Levez l'ancre, hissez les voiles ! Vous savez de quel petit point rond vous partez. C'est un grand avantage que nous avons sur bien des livres. Quant à notre fantaisie de rire en pleurant et de pleurer en riant, comme le divin Rabelais buvait en mangeant et mangeait en buvant ; quant à notre manie de mettre Héraclite et Démocrite dans la même page, de n'avoir ni style, ni préméditation de phrase... si quelqu'un de l'équipage en murmure !... Hors du tillac les vieux cerveaux à bourrelet, les classiques en maillot, les romantiques en linceul, et vogue la galère ! Tout ce monde-là nous reprochera peut-être de ressembler à ceux qui disent d'un air joyeux : « Je vais vous conter une histoire qui vous fera rire !... » Il s'agit bien de plaisanter quand on parle de mariage ! ne devinez-vous pas que nous le considérons comme une légère maladie à laquelle nous sommes tous sujets et que ce livre en est la monographie ? -- Mais vous, votre galère ou votre ouvrage, avez l'air de ces postillons qui, en partant d'un relais, font claquer leur fouet parce qu'ils mènent des Anglais. Vous n'aurez pas couru au grand galop pendant une demi-lieue que vous descendrez pour remettre un trait ou laisser souffler vos chevaux. Pourquoi sonner de la trompette avant la victoire ? -- 353 --- Hé ! chers pantagruélistes, il suffit aujourd'hui d'avoir des prétentions à un succès pour l'obtenir ; et comme, après tout, les grands ouvrages ne sont peut-être que de petites idées longuement développées, je ne vois pas pourquoi je ne chercherais pas à cueillir des lauriers, ne fût-ce que pour couronner ces tant salés jambons qui nous aideront à humer le piot. -- Un instant, pilote ? Ne partons pas sans faire une petite définition... Lecteurs, si vous rencontrez de loin en loin, comme dans le monde, les mots de vertu ou de femmes vertueuses en cet ouvrage, convenons que la vertu sera cette pénible facilité avec laquelle une épouse réserve son coeur à un mari ; à moins que le mot ne soit employé dans un sens général, distinction qui est abandonnée à la sagacité naturelle de chacun.

L'Administration s'est occupée depuis vingt ans environ à chercher combien le sol de la France contient d'hectares de bois, de prés, de vignes, de jachères. Elle ne s'en est pas tenue là, elle a voulu connaître le nombre et la nature des animaux. Les savants sont allés plus loin : ils ont compté les stères de bois, les kilogrammes de boeuf, les litres de vin, les pommes et les oeufs consommés à Paris. Mais personne ne s'est encore avisé, soit au nom de l'honneur marital, soit dans l'intérêt des gens à marier, soit au profit de la morale et de la perfectibilité des institutions humaines, d'examiner le nombre des femmes honnêtes. Quoi ! le ministère français interrogé pourra répondre qu'il a tant d'hommes sous les armes, tant d'espions, tant d'employés, tant d'écoliers ; et quant aux femmes vertueuses... néant ? S'il prenait à un roi de France la fantaisie de chercher son auguste compagne parmi ses sujettes, l'Administration ne pourrait même pas lui indiquer le gros de brebis blanches au sein duquel il aurait à choisir ; elle serait obligée d'en venir à quelque institution de rosière, ce qui apprêterait à rire.

Les anciens seraient-ils donc nos maîtres en institutions politiques comme en morale ? L'histoire nous apprend qu'Assuérus, -- 354 -voulant prendre femme parmi les filles de Perse, choisit Esther, la plus vertueuse et la plus belle. Ses ministres avaient donc nécessairement trouvé un mode quelconque d'écrémer la population. Malheureusement, la Bible, si claire sur toutes les questions matrimoniales, a omis de nous donner cette loi d'élection conjugale. Essayons de suppléer à ce silence de l'Administration en établissant le décompte du sexe féminin en France. Ici, nous réclamons l'attention de tous les amis de la morale publique, et nous les instituons juges de notre manière de procéder. Nous tâcherons d'être assez généreux dans nos évaluations, assez exact dans nos raisonnements, pour faire admettre par tout le monde le résultat de cette analyse. On compte généralement trente millions d'habitants en France. Quelques naturalistes pensent que le nombre des femmes surpasse celui des hommes ; mais comme beaucoup de statisticiens sont de l'opinion contraire, nous prendrons le calcul le plus vraisemblable en admettant quinze millions de femmes. Nous commencerons par retrancher de cette somme totale environ neuf millions de créatures qui, au premier abord, semblent avoir assez de ressemblance avec la femme, mais qu'un examen approfondi nous a contraint de rejeter. Expliquons-nous. Les naturalistes ne considèrent en l'homme qu'un genre unique de cet ordre de Bimanes, établi par Duméril, dans sa Zoologie analytique, page 16, et auquel Bory-Saint-Vincent a cru devoir ajouter le genre Orang, sous prétexte de le compléter. Si ces zoologistes ne voient en nous qu'un mammifère, à trente-deux vertèbres, ayant un os hyoïde, possédant plus de plis que tout autre animal dans les hémisphères du cerveau ; si pour eux, il n'existe d'autres différences dans cet ordre que celles qui sont introduites par l'influence des climats, lesquelles ont fourni la nomenclature de quinze espèces desquelles il est inutile de citer les noms scientifiques, le physiologiste doit avoir aussi le droit d'établir ses genres et ses sous-genres, d'après certains degrés d'intelligence et certaines conditions d'existence morale et pécuniaire. Or les neuf millions d'êtres dont il est ici question offrent bien au premier aspect tous les caractères attribués à l'espèce humaine : ils ont l'os hyoïde, le bec coracoïde, l'acromion et l'arcade zygomatique : permis donc à ces messieurs du Jardin des Plantes de les -- 355 -classer dans le genre Bimane ; mais que nous y voyions des femmes !... voilà ce que notre Physiologie n'admettra jamais. Pour nous et pour ceux auxquels ce livre est destiné, une femme est une variété rare dans le genre humain, et dont voici les principaux caractères physiologiques. Cette espèce est due aux soins particuliers que les hommes ont pu donner à sa culture, grâce à la puissance de l'or et à la chaleur morale de la civilisation. Elle se reconnaît généralement à la blancheur, à la finesse, à la douceur de la peau. Son penchant la porte à une exquise propreté. Ses doigts ont horreur de rencontrer autre chose que des objets doux, moelleux, parfumés. Comme l'hermine, elle meurt quelquefois de douleur de voir souiller sa blanche tunique. Elle aime à lisser ses cheveux, à leur faire exhaler des odeurs enivrantes, à brosser ses ongles roses, à les couper en amande, à baigner souvent ses membres délicats. Elle ne se plaît pendant la nuit que sur le duvet le plus doux ; pendant le jour, que sur des divans de crin ; aussi la position horizontale est-elle

celle qu'elle prend le plus volontiers. Sa voix est d'une douceur pénétrante, ses mouvements sont gracieux. Elle parle avec une merveilleuse facilité. Elle ne s'adonne à aucun travail pénible ; et cependant, malgré sa faiblesse apparente, il y a des fardeaux qu'elle sait porter et remuer avec une aisance miraculeuse. Elle fuit l'éclat du soleil et s'en préserve par d'ingénieux moyens. Pour elle, marcher est une fatigue ; mange-telle ? c'est un mystère ; partage-t-elle les besoins des autres espèces ? c'est un problème. Curieuse à l'excès, elle se laisse prendre facilement par celui qui sait lui cacher la plus petite chose, car son esprit la porte sans cesse à chercher l'inconnu. Aimer est sa religion : elle ne pense qu'à plaire à celui qu'elle aime. Etre aimée est le but de toutes ses actions, exciter des désirs celui de tous ses gestes. Aussi ne songe-t-elle qu'aux moyens de briller ; elle ne se meut qu'au sein d'une sphère de grâce et d'élégance ; c'est pour elle que la jeune Indienne a filé le poil souple des chèvres du Thibet, que Tarare tisse ses voiles d'air, que Bruxelles fait courir des navettes chargées du lin le plus pur et le plus délié, que Visapour dispute aux entrailles de la terre des cailloux étincelants, et que Sèvres dore sa blanche argile. Elle médite nuit et jour de nouvelles parures, emploie sa vie à faire empeser ses robes, à chiffonner des fichus. Elle va se montrant brillante et fraîche à des inconnus dont les hommages la flat-- 356 -tent, dont les désirs la charment, bien qu'ils lui soient indifférents. Les heures dérobées au soin d'elle-même et à la volupté, elle les emploie à chanter les airs les plus doux : c'est pour elle que la France et l'Italie inventent leurs délicieux concerts et que Naples donne aux cordes une âme harmonieuse. Cette espèce, enfin, est la reine du monde et l'esclave d'un désir. Elle redoute le mariage parce qu'il finit par gâter la taille, mais elle s'y livre parce qu'il promet le bonheur. Si elle fait des enfants, c'est par un pur hasard, et quand ils sont grands, elle les cache. Ces traits, pris à l'aventure entre mille, se retrouvent-ils en ces créatures dont les mains sont noires comme celles des singes, et la peau tannée comme les vieux parchemins d'un olim, dont le visage est brûlé par le soleil, et le cou ridé comme celui des dindons ; qui sont couvertes de haillons, dont la voix est rauque, l'intelligence nulle, l'odeur insupportable, qui ne songent qu'à la huche au pain, qui sont incessamment courbées vers la terre, qui piochent, qui hersent, qui fanent, glanent, moissonnent, pétrissent le pain, teillent du chanvre ; qui, pêle-mêle avec des bestiaux, des enfants et des hommes, habitent des trous à peine couverts de paille ; auxquelles enfin il importe peu d'où pleuvent les enfants ? en produire beaucoup pour en livrer beaucoup à la misère et au travail est toute leur tâche ; et si leur amour n'est pas un labeur comme celui des champs, il est au moins une spéculation. Hélas ! s'il y a par le monde des marchandes assises tout le jour entre de la chandelle et de la cassonade, des fermières qui traient les vaches, des infortunées dont on se sert comme de bêtes de somme dans les manufactures, ou qui portent la hotte, la houe et l'éventaire ; s'il existe malheureusement trop de créatures vulgaires pour lesquelles la vie de l'âme, les bienfaits de l'éducation, les délicieux orages du coeur sont un paradis inaccessible, et si la nature a voulu qu'elles eussent un bec coracoïde, un os hyoïde et trente-deux vertèbres, qu'elles restent pour le physiologiste dans le genre Orang ! Ici, nous ne stipulons que pour les oisifs, pour ceux qui ont le temps et l'esprit d'aimer, pour les riches qui ont acheté la propriété des passions, pour les intelligences qui ont conquis le monopole des chimères. Anathème sur tout ce qui ne vit pas de la pensée ! Disons raca et même racaille de qui n'est pas ardent, jeune, beau et passionné. C'est l'expression publique du sentiment secret des philanthropes qui savent lire ou qui peuvent monter en équipage. Dans -- 357 -nos neuf millions de proscrites, le percepteur, le magistrat, le législateur, le prêtre voient sans doute des âmes, des administrés, des justiciables, des contribuables ; mais l'homme à sentiment, le philosophe de boudoir, tout en mangeant le petit pain de griot semé et récolté par ces créatures-là, les rejetteront, comme nous le faisons, hors du

genre Femme. Pour eux, il n'y a de femme que celle qui peut inspirer de l'amour ; il n'y a d'existant que la créature investie du sacerdoce de la pensée par une éducation privilégiée, et chez qui l'oisiveté a développé la puissance de l'imagination ; enfin il n'y a d'être que celui dont l'âme rêve, en amour, autant de jouissances intellectuelles que de plaisirs physiques. Cependant nous ferons observer que ces neuf millions de parias femelles produisent çà et là des milliers de paysannes qui, par des circonstances bizarres, sont jolies comme des amours ; elles arrivent à Paris ou dans les grandes villes, et finissent par monter au rang des femmes comme il faut ; mais pour ces deux ou trois mille créatures privilégiées, il y en a cent mille autres qui restent servantes ou se jettent en d'effroyables désordres. Néanmoins nous tiendrons compte à la population féminine de ces Pompadours de village. Ce premier calcul est fondé sur cette découverte de la statistique, qu'en France il y a dixhuit millions de pauvres, dix millions de gens aisés, et deux millions de riches. Il n'existe donc en France que six millions de femmes dont les hommes à sentiment s'occupent, se sont occupés ou s'occuperont. Soumettons cette élite sociale à un examen philosophique. Nous pensons, sans crainte d'être démenti, que les époux qui ont vingt ans de ménage doivent dormir tranquillement sans avoir à redouter l'invasion de l'amour et le scandale d'un procès en criminelle conversation. De ces six millions d'individus il faut donc distraire environ deux millions de femmes extrêmement aimables, parce qu'à quarante ans passés elles ont vu le monde ; mais comme elles ne peuvent remuer le coeur de personne, elles sont en dehors de la question dont il s'agit. Si elles ont le malheur de ne pas être recherchées pour leur amabilité, l'ennui les gagne ; elles se jettent dans la dévotion, dans les chats, les petits chiens, et autres manies qui n'offensent plus que Dieu. Les calculs faits au Bureau des Longitudes sur la population nous autorisent à soustraire encore de la masse totale deux millions de -- 358 -petites filles, jolies à croquer ; elles en sont à l'A, B, C de la vie, et jouent innocemment avec d'autres enfants, sans se douter que ces petits malis, qui alors les font rire, les feront pleurer un jour. Maintenant, sur les deux millions de femmes restant, quel est l'homme raisonnable qui ne nous abandonnera pas cent mille pauvres filles bossues, laides, quinteuses, rachitiques, malades, aveugles, blessées, pauvres quoique bien élevées, mais demeurant toutes demoiselles et n'offensant aucunement, par ce moyen, les saintes lois du mariage ? Nous refusera-t-on cent mille autres filles qui se trouvent soeurs de Sainte-Camille, soeurs de charité, religieuses, institutrices, demoiselles de compagnie, etc. ? Mais nous mettrons dans ce saint voisinage le nombre assez difficile à évaluer des jeunes personnes trop grandes pour jouer avec les petits garçons, et trop jeunes encore pour éparpiller leurs couronnes de fleurs d'oranger. Enfin, sur les quinze cent mille sujets qui se trouvent au fond de notre creuset, nous diminuerons encore cinq cent mille autres unités que nous attribuerons aux filles de Baal, qui font plaisir aux gens peu délicats. Nous y comprendrons même, sans crainte qu'elles ne se gâtent ensemble, les femmes entretenues, les modistes, les filles de boutique, les mercières, les actrices, les cantatrices, les filles d'opéra, les figurantes, les servantesmaîtresses, les femmes de chambre, etc. La plupart de ces créatures excitent bien des passions, mais elles trouvent de l'indécence à faire prévenir un notaire, un maire, un

ecclésiastique et un monde de rieurs du jour et du moment où elles se donnent à leur amant. Leur système, justement blâmé par une société curieuse, a l'avantage de ne les obliger à rien envers les hommes, envers M. le maire, envers la justice. Or, ne portant atteinte à aucun serment public, ces femmes n'appartiennent en rien à un ouvrage exclusivement consacré aux mariages légitimes. C'est demander bien peu pour cet article, dira-t-on, mais il formera compensation à ceux que des amateurs pourraient trouver trop enflés. Si quelqu'un, par amour pour une riche douairière, veut la faire passer dans le million restant, il la prendra sur le chapitre des soeurs de charité, des filles d'opéra ou des bossues. Enfin, nous n'avons appelé que cinq cent mille têtes à former cette dernière catégorie, parce qu'il arrive souvent, comme on l'a vu ci-dessus, que les neuf millions de paysannes l'augmentent d'un grand -- 359 -nombre de sujets. Nous avons négligé la classe ouvrière et le petit commerce par la même raison : les femmes de ces deux sections sociales sont le produit des efforts que font les neuf millions de Bimanes femelles pour s'élever vers les hautes régions de la civilisation. Sans cette scrupuleuse exactitude, beaucoup de personnes regarderaient cette Méditation de Statistique conjugale comme une plaisanterie. Nous avions bien pensé à organiser une petite classe de cent mille individus, pour former une caisse d'amortissement de l'espèce, et servir d'asile aux femmes qui tombent dans un état mitoyen, comme les veuves, par exemple ; mais nous avons préféré compter largement. Il est facile de prouver la justesse de notre analyse : une seule réflexion suffit. La vie de la femme se partage en trois époques bien distinctes : la première commence au berceau et se termine à l'âge de nubilité ; la seconde embrasse le temps pendant lequel une femme appartient au mariage ; la troisième s'ouvre par l'âge critique, sommation assez brutale que la Nature fait aux passions d'avoir à cesser. Ces trois sphères d'existence étant, à peu de chose près, égales en durée, doivent diviser en nombres égaux une quantité donnée de femmes. Ainsi, dans une masse de six millions, l'on trouve, sauf les fractions qu'il est loisible aux savants de chercher, environ deux millions de filles entre un an et dix-huit, deux millions de femmes âgées de dix-huit ans au moins, de quarante au plus, et deux millions de vieilles. Les caprices de l'Etat social ont donc distribué les deux millions de femmes aptes à se marier en trois grandes catégories d'existence, savoir : celles qui restent filles par les raisons que nous avons déduites ; celles dont la vertu importe peu aux maris, et le million de femmes légitimes dont nous avons à nous occuper. Vous voyez, par ce dépouillement assez exact de la population femelle, qu'il existe à peine en France un petit troupeau d'un million de brebis blanches, bercail privilégié où tous les loups veulent entrer. Faisons passer par une autre étamine ce million de femmes déjà triées sur le volet. Pour parvenir à une appréciation plus vraie du degré de confiance qu'un homme doit avoir en sa femme, supposons pour un moment que toutes ces épouses tromperont leurs maris. Dans cette hypothèse, il conviendra de retrancher environ un -- 360 -vingtième de jeunes personnes qui, mariées de la veille, seront au moins fidèles à leurs serments pendant un certain temps. Un autre vingtième sera malade. C'est accorder une bien faible part aux douleurs humaines.

Certaines passions qui, dit-on, détruisent l'empire de l'homme sur le coeur de la femme, la laideur, les chagrins, les grossesses, réclament encore un vingtième. L'adultère ne s'établit pas dans le coeur d'une femme mariée comme on tire un coup de pistolet. Quand même la sympathie ferait naître des sentiments à la première vue, il y a toujours un combat dont la durée forme une certaine non-valeur dans la somme totale des infidélités conjugales. C'est presque insulter la pudeur en France que de ne représenter le temps de ces combats, dans un pays si naturellement guerrier, que par un vingtième du total des femmes ; mais alors nous supposerons que certaines femmes malades conservent leurs amants au milieu des potions calmantes, et qu'il y a des femmes dont la grossesse fait sourire quelque célibataire sournois. Nous sauverons ainsi la pudeur de celles qui combattent pour la vertu. Par la même raison, nous n'oserons pas croire qu'une femme abandonnée par son amant en trouve un autre hic et nunc ; mais cette non-valeur-là étant nécessairement plus faible que la précédente, nous l'estimerons à un quarantième. Ces retranchements réduiront notre masse à huit cent mille femmes, quand il s'agira de déterminer le nombre de celles qui offenseront la foi conjugale. En ce moment, qui ne voudrait pas rester persuadé que ces femmes sont vertueuses ? Ne sont-elles pas la fleur du pays ? Ne sont-elles pas toutes verdissantes, ravissantes, étourdissantes de beauté, de jeunesse, de vie et d'amour ? Croire à leur vertu est une espèce de religion sociale ; car elles sont l'ornement du monde et font la gloire de la France. C'est donc au sein de ce million que nous avons à chercher : Le nombre des femmes honnêtes ; Le nombre des femmes vertueuses. Cette investigation et ces deux catégories demandent des Méditations entières, qui serviront d'appendice à celle-ci. -- 361 --

La Méditation précédente a démontré que nous possédons en France une masse flottante d'un million de femmes, exploitant le privilége d'inspirer les passions qu'un galant homme avoue sans honte ou cache avec plaisir. C'est donc sur ce million de femmes qu'il faut promener notre lanterne diogénique, pour trouver les femmes honnêtes du pays. Cette recherche nous entraîne à quelques digressions. Deux jeunes gens bien mis, dont le corps svelte et les bras arrondis ressemblent à la demoiselle d'un paveur, et dont les bottes sont supérieurement faites, se rencontrent un matin sur le boulevard, à la sortie du passage des Panoramas. -- Tiens, c'est toi ! -- Oui, mon cher, je me ressemble, n'est-ce pas ? Et de rire plus ou moins spirituellement, suivant la nature de la plaisanterie qui ouvre la conversation. Quand ils se sont examinés avec la curiosité sournoise d'un gendarme qui cherche à reconnaître un signalement, qu'ils sont bien convaincus de la fraîcheur respective de leurs gants, de leurs gilets et de la grâce avec laquelle leurs cravates sont nouées ; qu'ils sont à peu près certains qu'aucun d'eux n'est tombé dans le malheur, ils se prennent le bras ; et s'ils partent du théâtre des Variétés, ils n'arriveront pas à la hauteur de Frascati

sans s'être adressé une question un peu drue, dont voici la traduction libre : -- Qui épousons-nous pour le moment ?... Règle générale, c'est toujours une femme charmante. Quel est le fantassin de Paris dans l'oreille duquel il n'est pas tombé, comme des balles en un jour de bataille, des milliers de mots prononcés par les passants, et qui n'ait pas saisi une de ces innombrables paroles gelées en l'air, dont parle Rabelais ? Mais la plupart des hommes se promènent à Paris comme ils mangent, comme ils vivent, sans y penser. Il existe peu de musiciens habiles, de physionomistes exercés qui sachent reconnaître de quelle clef ces notes éparses sont signées, de quelle passion elles procèdent. Oh ! errer dans Paris ! adorable et délicieuse existence ? Flaner est une science, c'est la gastronomie de l'oeil. Se promener, c'est végéter ; flaner [Dans ce petit traité de la flânerie, l'accent circonflexe est omis dans le Furne : « flaner » au lieu de « flâner ». Or, quelques pages plus loin, le participe présent porte l'accent (« flânant dans ma vie future »). Coquille ou incorrection grammaticale non corrigée, difficile de trancher ?], c'est vivre. La jeune et jolie femme, long-temps -- 362 -contemplée par des yeux ardents, serait encore bien plus recevable à prétendre un salaire que le rôtisseur qui demandait vingt sous au Limousin dont le nez, enflé à toutes voiles, aspirait de nourrissants parfums. Flaner, c'est jouir, c'est recueillir des traits d'esprit, c'est admirer de sublimes tableaux de malheur, d'amour, de joie, des portraits gracieux ou grotesques ; c'est plonger ses regards au fond de mille existences : jeune, c'est tout désirer, tout posséder ; vieillard, c'est vivre de la vie des jeunes gens, c'est épouser leurs passions. Or, combien de réponses un flaneur artiste n'a-t-il pas entendu faire à l'interrogation catégorique sur laquelle nous sommes restés ? -- Elle a trente-cinq ans, mais tu ne lui en donnerais pas vingt ! dit un bouillant jeune homme aux yeux pétillants, et qui, libéré du collége, voudrait, comme Chérubin, tout embrasser. -- Comment donc ! mais nous avons des peignoirs de batiste et des anneaux de nuit en diamants... dit un clerc de notaire -- Elle a voiture et une loge aux Français ! dit un militaire. -- Moi ! s'écrie un autre un peu âgé en ayant l'air de répondre à une attaque, cela ne me coûte pas un sou ! Quand on est tourné comme nous... Est-ce que tu en serais là, mon respectable ami ? Et le promeneur de frapper un léger coup de plat de la main sur l'abdomen de son camarade. -- Oh ! elle m'aime ! dit un autre, on ne peut pas s'en faire d'idée ; mais elle a le mari le plus bête ! Ah !... Buffon a supérieurement décrit les animaux, mais le bipède nommé mari... (Comme c'est agréable à entendre quand on est marié !)-- Oh ! mon ami, comme un ange !... est la réponse d'une demande discrètement faite à l'oreille. -- Peux-tu me dire son nom ou me la montrer ?... -- Oh ! non, c'est une femme honnête. Quand un étudiant est aimé d'une limonadière, il la nomme avec orgueil et mène ses amis déjeuner chez elle. Si un jeune homme aime une femme dont le mari s'adonne à un commerce qui embrasse des objets de première nécessité, il répondra en rougissant : -C'est une lingère, c'est la femme d'un papetier, d'un bonnetier, d'un marchand de draps, d'un commis, etc... Mais cet aveu d'un amour subalterne, éclos en grandissant au milieu des ballots, des pains de sucre ou des gilets de flanelle, est toujours accompagné d'un pompeux éloge de la fortune de la dame. Le mari seul se mêle du commerce, il est riche, il a de beaux meubles ; d'ailleurs la bien-aimée vient chez son amant ; elle a un cachemire, une maison de campagne, etc. -- 363 -Bref, un jeune homme ne manque jamais d'excellentes raisons pour prouver que sa maîtresse va devenir très-prochainement une femme honnête, si elle ne l'est pas déjà. Cette distinction, produite par l'élégance de nos moeurs, est devenue aussi

indéfinissable que la ligne à laquelle commence le bon ton. Qu'est-ce donc alors qu'une femme honnête ? Cette matière touche de trop près à la vanité des femmes, à celle de leurs amants, et même à celle d'un mari, pour que nous n'établissions pas ici des règles générales, résultat d'une longue observation. Notre million de têtes privilégiées représente une masse d'éligibles au titre glorieux de femme honnête, mais toutes ne sont pas élues. Les principes de cette élection se trouvent dans les axiomes suivants : APHORISMES I. Une femme honnête est essentiellement mariée. II. Une femme honnête a moins de quarante ans. III. Une femme mariée dont les faveurs sont payables n'est pas une femme honnête. IV. Une femme mariée qui a une voiture à elle est une femme honnête. V. Une femme qui fait la cuisine dans son ménage n'est pas une femme honnête. VI. Quand un homme a gagné vingt mille livres de rente, sa femme est une femme honnête, quel que soit le genre de commerce auquel il a dû sa fortune. VII. Une femme qui dit une lettre d'échange pour une lettre de change, souyer pour soulier, pierre de lierre pour pierre de -- 364 -liais, qui dit d'un homme : « Est-il farce monsieur un tel ! » ne peut jamais être une femme honnête, quelle que soit sa fortune. VIII. Une femme honnête doit avoir une existence pécuniaire qui permette à son amant de penser qu'elle ne lui sera jamais à charge d'aucune manière. IX. Une femme logée au troisième étage (les rues de Rivoli et Castiglione exceptées) n'est pas une femme honnête. X.

La femme d'un banquier est toujours une femme honnête ; mais une femme assise dans un comptoir ne peut l'être qu'autant que son mari fait un commerce très-étendu et qu'elle ne loge pas au-dessus de sa boutique. XI. La nièce, non mariée, d'un évêque, et quand elle demeure chez lui, peut passer pour une femme honnête, parce que si elle a une intrigue, elle est obligée de tromper son oncle. XII. Une femme honnête est celle que l'on craint de compromettre. XIII. La femme d'un artiste est toujours une femme honnête. En appliquant ces principes, un homme du département de l'Ardèche peut résoudre toutes les difficultés qui se présenteront dans cette matière. Pour qu'une femme ne fasse pas elle-même sa cuisine, ait reçu une brillante éducation, ait le sentiment de la coquetterie, ait le droit de passer des heures entières dans un boudoir, couchée sur un divan, et vive de la vie de l'âme, il lui faut au moins un revenu de six mille francs en province ou de vingt mille livres à Paris. Ces deux termes de fortune vont nous indiquer le nombre présumé des femmes honnêtes qui se trouvent dans le million, produit brut de notre statistique. -- 365 -Or, trois cent mille rentiers à quinze cents francs représentent la somme totale des pensions, des intérêts viagers et perpétuels, payés par le Trésor, et celle des rentes hypothécaires ; Trois cent mille propriétaires jouissant de trois mille cinq cents francs de revenu foncier représentent toute la fortune territoriale ; Deux cent mille parties prenantes, à raison de quinze cents francs, représentent le partage du budget de l'Etat et celui des budgets municipaux ou départementaux ; soustraction faite de la dette, des fonds du clergé, de la somme des héros à cinq sous par jour et des sommes allouées à leur linge, à l'armement, aux vivres, aux habillements, etc. ; Deux cent mille fortunes commerciales, à raison de vingt mille francs de capital, représentent tous les établissements industriels possibles de la France ; Voilà bien un million de maris. Mais combien compterons-nous de rentiers à dix, à cinquante, cent, deux, trois, quatre, cinq et six cents francs seulement de rente inscrits sur le Grand livre et ailleurs ? Combien y a-t-il de propriétaires qui ne paient pas plus de cent sous, vingts francs, cent, deux cents et deux cent quatre-vingts francs d'impôts ? Combien supposerons-nous, parmi les budgétophages, de pauvres plumitifs qui n'ont que six cents francs d'appointements ? Combien admettrons-nous de commerçants qui n'ont que des capitaux fictifs ; qui, riches de crédit, n'ont pas un sou vaillant et ressemblent à des cribles par où passe le Pactole ? et combien de négociants qui n'ont qu'un capital réel de mille, deux mille, quatre mille, cinq mille francs ? O Industrie !... salut.

Faisons plus d'heureux qu'il n'y en a peut-être, et partageons ce million en deux parties : cinq cent mille ménages auront de cent francs à trois mille francs de rente, et cinq cent mille femmes rempliront les conditions voulues pour être honnêtes. D'après les observations qui terminent notre Méditation de statistique, nous sommes autorisé à retrancher de ce nombre cent mille unités : en conséquence, on peut regarder comme une proposition mathématiquement prouvée qu'il n'existe en France que quatre cent mille femmes dont la possession puisse procurer aux hommes délicats les jouissances exquises et distinguées qu'ils recherchent en amour. -- 366 -En effet, c'est ici le lieu de faire observer aux adeptes pour lesquels nous écrivons que l'amour ne se compose pas de quelques causeries solliciteuses, de quelques nuits de volupté, d'une caresse plus ou moins intelligente et d'une étincelle d'amour-propre baptisée du nom de jalousie. Nos quatre cent mille femmes ne sont pas de celles dont on puisse dire : « La plus belle fille du monde ne donne que ce qu'elle a. » Non, elles sont richement dotées des trésors qu'elles empruntent à nos ardentes imaginations, elles savent vendre cher ce qu'elles n'ont pas, pour compenser la vulgarité de ce qu'elles donnent. Est-ce en baisant le gant d'une grisette que vous ressentirez plus de plaisir qu'à épuiser cette volupté de cinq minutes que vous offrent toutes les femmes ? Est-ce la conversation d'une marchande qui vous fera espérer des jouissances infinies ? Entre vous et une femme au-dessous de vous, les délices de l'amour-propre sont pour elle. Vous n'êtes pas dans le secret du bonheur que vous donnez. Entre vous et une femme au-dessus de vous par sa fortune ou sa position sociale, les chatouillements de vanité sont immenses et sont partagés. Un homme n'a jamais pu élever sa maîtresse jusqu'à lui, mais une femme place toujours son amant aussi haut qu'elle. -- « Je puis faire des princes, et vous ne ferez jamais que des bâtards ! » est une réponse étincelante de vérité. Si l'amour est la première des passions, c'est qu'elle les flatte toutes ensemble. On aime en raison du plus ou du moins de cordes que les doigts de notre belle maîtresse attaquent dans notre coeur. Biren, fils d'un orfévre, montant dans le lit de la duchesse de Courlande et l'aidant à lui signer la promesse d'être proclamé souverain du pays, comme il était celui de la jeune et jolie souveraine, est le type du bonheur que doivent donner nos quatre cent mille femmes à leurs amants. Pour avoir le droit de se faire un plancher de toutes les têtes qui se pressent dans un salon, il faut être l'amant d'une de ces femmes d'élite. Or nous aimons tous à trôner plus ou moins. Aussi est-ce sur cette brillante partie de la nation que sont dirigées toutes les attaques des hommes auxquels l'éducation, le talent ou l'esprit ont acquis le droit d'être comptés pour quelque chose -- 367 -dans cette fortune humaine dont s'enorgueillissent les peuples ; et c'est dans cette classe de femmes seulement que se trouve celle dont le coeur sera défendu à outrance par notre mari. Que les considérations auxquelles donne lieu notre aristocratie féminine s'appliquent ou non aux autres classes sociales, qu'importe ? Ce qui sera vrai de ces femmes si recherchées dans leurs manières, dans leur langage, dans leurs pensées ; chez

lesquelles une éducation privilégiée a développé le goût des arts, la faculté de sentir, de comparer, de réfléchir ; qui ont un sentiment si élevé des convenances et de la politesse, et qui commandent aux moeurs en France, doit être applicable aux femmes de toutes les nations et de toutes les espèces. L'homme supérieur à qui ce livre est dédié possède nécessairement une certaine optique de pensée qui lui permet de suivre les dégradations de la lumière dans chaque classe et de saisir le point de civilisation auquel telle observation est encore vraie. N'est-il donc pas d'un haut intérêt pour la morale de rechercher maintenant le nombre de femmes vertueuses qui peut se trouver parmi ces adorables créatures ? N'y a-t-il pas là une question marito-nationale ?

La question n'est peut-être pas tant de savoir combien il y a de femmes vertueuses que si une femme honnête peut rester vertueuse. Pour mieux éclairer un point aussi important, jetons un rapide coup d'oeil sur la population masculine ? De nos quinze millions d'hommes, retranchons d'abord les neuf millions de Bimanes à trente-deux vertèbres, et n'admettons à notre analyse physiologique que six millions de sujets. Les Marceau, les Masséna, les Rousseau, les Diderot et les Rollin germent souvent tout à coup du sein de ce marc social en fermentation ; mais ici, nous commettrons à dessein des inexactitudes. Ces erreurs de calcul retomberont de tout leur poids à la conclusion, et corroboreront les terribles résultats que va nous dévoiler le mécanisme des passions publiques. -- 368 -De six millions d'hommes privilégiés, nous ôterons trois millions de vieillards et d'enfants. Cette soustraction, dira-t-on, a produit quatre millions chez les femmes. Cette différence peut, au premier aspect, sembler singulière, mais elle est facile à justifier. L'âge moyen auquel les femmes sont mariées est vingt ans, et à quarante elles cessent d'appartenir à l'amour. Or un jeune garçon de dix-sept ans donne de fiers coups de canif dans les parchemins des contrats, et particulièrement dans les plus anciens, disent les chroniques scandaleuses. Or un homme de cinquante-deux ans est plus redoutable à cet âge qu'à tout autre. C'est à cette belle époque de la vie qu'il use, et d'une expérience chèrement acquise, et de toute la fortune qu'il doit avoir. Les passions sous le fléau desquelles il tourne étant les dernières, il est impitoyable et fort comme l'homme entraîné par le courant, qui saisit une verte et flexible branche de saule, jeune pousse de l'année. XIV. Physiquement, un homme est plus long-temps homme que la femme n'est femme. Relativement au mariage, la différence de durée qui existe entre la vie amoureuse de l'homme et celle de la femme est donc de quinze ans. Ce terme équivaut aux trois quarts du temps pendant lequel les infidélités d'une femme peuvent faire le malheur d'un mari. Cependant le reste de la soustraction faite sur notre masse d'hommes n'offre une différence que d'un sixième au plus, en le comparant à celui qui résulte de la soustraction exercée sur la masse féminine.

Grande est la modestie de nos calculs. Quant à nos raisons, elles sont d'une évidence si vulgaire que nous ne les avons exposées que par exactitude et pour prévenir toute critique. Il est donc prouvé à tout philosophe, tant soit peu calculateur, qu'il existe en France une masse flottante de trois millions d'hommes âgés de dix-sept ans au moins, de cinquantedeux ans au plus, tous bien vivants, bien endentés, bien décidés à mordre, -- 369 -mordant et ne demandant qu'à marcher fort et ferme dans le chemin du paradis. Les observations déjà faites nous autorisent à séparer de cette masse un million de maris. Supposons un moment que, satisfaits et toujours heureux comme notre marimodèle, ceux-là se contentent de l'amour conjugal. Mais notre masse de deux millions de célibataires n'a pas besoin de cinq sous de rente pour faire l'amour ; Mais il suffit à un homme d'avoir bon pied, bon oeil, pour décrocher le portrait d'un mari ; Mais il n'est pas nécessaire qu'il ait une jolie figure, ni même qu'il soit bien fait ; Mais pourvu qu'un homme ait de l'esprit, une figure distinguée et de l'entregent, les femmes ne lui demandent jamais d'où il sort, mais où il veut aller ; Mais les bagages de l'amour sont les charmes de la jeunesse ; Mais un habit dû à Buisson, une paire de gants prise chez Boivin, des bottes élégantes que l'industriel tremble d'avoir fournies, une cravate bien nouée, suffisent à un homme pour devenir le roi d'un salon ; Mais enfin les militaires, quoique l'engouement pour la graine d'épinards et l'aiguillette soit bien tombé, les militaires ne forment-ils pas déjà à eux seuls une redoutable légion de célibataires ?... Sans parler d'Eginhard, puisque c'était un secrétaire particulier, un journal n'a-t-il pas rapporté dernièrement qu'une princesse d'Allemagne avait légué sa fortune à un simple lieutenant des cuirassiers de la garde impériale ? Mais le notaire du village qui, au fond de la Gascogne, ne passe que trente-six actes par an, envoie son fils faire son Droit à Paris ; le bonnetier veut que son fils soit notaire ; l'avoué destine le sien à la magistrature ; le magistrat veut être ministre pour doter ses enfants de la pairie. A aucune époque du monde il n'y a eu si brûlante soif d'instruction. Aujourd'hui ce n'est plus l'esprit qui court les rues, c'est le talent. Par toutes les crevasses de notre état social sortent de brillantes fleurs, comme le printemps en fait éclore sur les murs en ruines ; dans les caveaux même, il s'échappe d'entre les voûtes des touffes à demi colorées qui verdiront, pour peu que le soleil de l'Instruction y pénètre. Depuis cet immense développement de la pensée, depuis cette égale et féconde dispersion de lu-- 370 -mière, nous n'avons presque plus de supériorités, parce que chaque homme représente la masse d'instruction de son siècle. Nous sommes entourés d'encyclopédies vivantes qui marchent, pensent, agissent et veulent s'éterniser. De là ces effrayantes secousses d'ambitions ascendantes et de passions délirantes : il nous faut d'autres mondes ; il nous faut des ruches prêtes à recevoir tous ces essaims, et surtout il faut beaucoup de jolies femmes.

Mais ensuite les maladies par lesquelles un homme est affligé ne produisent pas de nonvaleur dans la masse totale des passions de l'homme. A notre honte, une femme ne nous est jamais si attachée que quand nous souffrons !... A cette pensée, toutes les épigrammes dirigées contre le petit sexe (car c'est bien vieux de dire le beau sexe) devraient se désarmer de leurs pointes aiguës et se changer en madrigaux !... Tous les hommes devraient penser que la seule vertu de la femme est d'aimer, que toutes les femmes sont prodigieusement vertueuses, et fermer là le livre et la Méditation. Ah ! vous souvenez-vous de ce moment lugubre et noir où, seul et souffrant, accusant les hommes, surtout vos amis ; faible, découragé et pensant à la mort, la tête appuyée sur un oreiller fadement chaud, et couché sur un drap dont le blanc treillis de lin s'imprimait douloureusement sur votre peau, vous promeniez vos yeux agrandis sur le papier vert de votre chambre muette ? vous souvenez-vous, dis-je, de l'avoir vue entr'ouvrant votre porte sans bruit, montrant sa jeune, sa blonde tête encadrée de rouleaux d'or et d'un chapeau frais, apparaissant comme une étoile dans une nuit orageuse, souriant, accourant moitié chagrine, moitié heureuse, se précipitant vers vous ! -- Comment as-tu fait, qu'as-tu dit à ton mari ? demandez-vous. Un mari !... Ah ! nous voici ramenés en plein dans notre sujet. XV. Moralement, l'homme est plus souvent et plus long-temps homme que la femme n'est femme. Cependant nous devons considérer que parmi ces deux millions de célibataires, il y a bien des malheureux chez lesquels le sentiment profond de leur misère et des travaux obstinés éteignent l'amour ; -- 371 -Qu'ils n'ont pas tous passé par le collége, et qu'il y a bien des artisans, bien des laquais (le duc de Gèvres, très-laid et petit, en se promenant dans le parc de Versailles, aperçut des valets de riche taille, et dit à ses amis : -- Regardez comme nous faisons ces drôleslà, et comme ils nous font !...), bien des entrepreneurs en bâtiment, bien des industriels qui ne pensent qu'à l'argent ; bien des courtauds de boutique ; Qu'il y a des hommes plus bêtes et véritablement plus laids que Dieu ne les aurait faits ; Qu'il y en a dont le caractère est comme une châtaigne sans pulpe ; Que le clergé est généralement chaste ; Qu'il y a des hommes placés de manière à ne pouvoir jamais entrer dans la sphère brillante où se meuvent les femmes honnêtes, soit faute d'un habit, soit timidité, soit manque d'un cornac qui les y introduise. Mais laissons à chacun le soin d'augmenter le nombre des exceptions suivant sa propre expérience (car, avant tout, le but d'un livre est de faire penser) ; et supprimons tout d'un coup une moitié de la masse totale, n'admettons qu'un million de coeurs dignes d'offrir leurs hommages aux femmes honnêtes : c'est, à peu de chose près, le nombre de nos supériorités en tout genre. Les femmes n'aiment pas que les gens d'esprit ! mais, encore une fois, donnons beau jeu à la vertu. Maintenant, à entendre nos aimables célibataires, chacun d'eux raconte une multitude d'aventures qui, toutes, compromettent gravement les femmes honnêtes. Il y a beaucoup de modestie et de retenue à ne distribuer que trois aventures par célibataire ; mais si

quelques-uns comptent par dizaine, il en est tant qui s'en sont tenus à deux ou trois passions, et même à une seule dans leur vie, que nous avons, comme en statistique, pris le mode d'une répartition par tête. Or, si l'on multiplie le nombre des célibataires par le nombre des bonnes fortunes, on obtiendra trois millions d'aventures ; et, pour y faire face, nous n'avons que quatre cent mille femmes honnêtes ?... Si le Dieu de bonté et d'indulgence qui plane sur les mondes ne fait pas une seconde lessive du genre humain, c'est sans doute à cause du peu de succès de la première... Voilà donc ce que c'est qu'un peuple ! voilà une société tamisée, et voilà ce qu'elle offre en résultat ! -- 372 -XVI. Les moeurs sont l'hypocrisie des nations ; l'hypocrisie est plus ou moins perfectionnée. XVII. La vertu n'est peut-être que la politesse de l'âme. L'amour physique est un besoin semblable à la faim, à cela près que l'homme mange toujours, et qu'en amour son appétit n'est pas aussi soutenu ni aussi régulier qu'en fait de table. Un morceau de pain bis et une cruchée d'eau font raison de la faim de tous les hommes ; mais notre civilisation a créé la gastronomie. L'amour a son morceau de pain, mais il a aussi cet art d'aimer, que nous appelons la coquetterie, mot charmant qui n'existe qu'en France, où cette science est née. Eh ! bien, n'y a-t-il pas de quoi faire frémir tous les maris s'ils viennent à penser que l'homme est tellement possédé du besoin inné de changer ses mets, qu'en quelque pays sauvage où les voyageurs aient abordé, ils ont trouvé des boissons spiritueuses et des ragoûts ? Mais la faim n'est pas si violente que l'amour ; mais les caprices de l'âme sont bien plus nombreux, plus agaçants, plus recherchés dans leur furie que les caprices de la gastronomie ; mais tout ce que les poètes et les événements nous ont révélé de l'amour humain arme nos célibataires d'une puissance terrible : ils sont les lions de l'Evangile cherchant des proies à dévorer. Ici, que chacun interroge sa conscience, évoque ses souvenirs, et se demande s'il a jamais rencontré d'homme qui s'en soit tenu à l'amour d'une seule femme ! Comment, hélas ! expliquer pour l'honneur de tous les peuples le problème résultant de trois millions de passions brûlantes qui ne trouve pour pâture que quatre cent mille femmes ?... Veut-on distribuer quatre célibataires par femme, et reconnaître que les femmes honnêtes pourraient fort bien avoir établi, par instinct, et sans le savoir, une espèce de roulement entre elles et les céliba-- 373 -taires semblable à celui qu'ont inventé les présidents de cours royales pour faire passer leurs conseillers dans chaque chambre les uns après les autres au bout d'un certain nombre d'années ?... Triste manière d'éclaircir la difficulté !

Veut-on même conjecturer que certaines femmes honnêtes agissent, dans le partage des célibataires, comme le lion de la fable ?... Quoi ! une moitié au moins de nos autels serait des sépulcres blanchis !... Pour l'honneur des dames françaises, veut-on supposer qu'en temps de paix les autres pays nous importent une certaine quantité de leurs femmes honnêtes, principalement l'Angleterre, l'Allemagne, la Russie ?... Mais les nations européennes prétendront établir une balance en objectant que la France exporte une certaine quantité de jolies femmes. La morale, la religion souffrent tant à de pareils calculs, qu'un honnête homme, dans son désir d'innocenter les femmes mariées, trouverait quelque agrément à croire que les douairières et les jeunes personnes sont pour moitié dans cette corruption générale, ou mieux encore, que les célibataires mentent. Mais que calculons-nous ? Songez à nos maris qui, à la honte des moeurs, se conduisent presque tous comme des célibataires, et font gloire, in petto, de leurs aventures secrètes. Oh ! alors, nous croyons que tout homme marié, s'il tient un peu à sa femme à l'endroit de l'honneur, dirait le vieux Corneille, peut chercher une corde et un clou : foenum habet in cornu. C'est cependant au sein de ces quatre cent mille femmes honnêtes qu'il faut, lanterne en main, chercher le nombre des femmes vertueuses de France !... En effet, par notre statistique conjugale, nous n'avons retranché que des créatures de qui la société ne s'occupe réellement pas. N'est-il pas vrai qu'en France les honnêtes gens, les gens comme il faut, forment à peine le total de trois millions d'individus ; à savoir : notre million de célibataires, cinq cent mille femmes honnêtes, cinq cent mille maris, et un million de douairières, d'enfants et de jeunes filles. Etonnez-vous donc maintenant du fameux vers de Boileau ! Ce vers annonce que le poète avait habilement approfondi les réflexions mathématiquement développées à vos yeux dans ces affligeantes Méditations, et qu'il n'est pas une hyperbole. Cependant il existe des femmes vertueuses : -- 374 -Oui, celles qui n'ont jamais été tentées et celles qui meurent à leurs premières couches, en supposant que leurs maris les aient épousées vierges. Oui, celles qui sont laides comme la Kaïfakatadary des Mille et une Nuits. Oui, celles que Mirabeau appelle les fées concombres, et qui sont composées d'atomes exactement semblables à ceux des racines de fraisier et de nénuphar ; cependant, ne nous y fions pas !... Puis, avouons, à l'avantage du siècle, que, depuis la restauration de la morale et de la religion, et, par le temps qui court, on rencontre éparses quelques femmes si morales, si religieuses, si attachées à leurs devoirs, si droites, si compassées, si roides, si vertueuses, si... que le Diable n'ose seulement pas les regarder ; elles sont flanquées de rosaires, d'heures et de directeurs... Chut ! Nous n'essaierons pas de compter des femmes vertueuses par bêtise, il est reconnu qu'en amour toutes les femmes ont de l'esprit. Enfin, il ne serait cependant pas impossible qu'il y eût, dans quelque coin, des femmes jeunes, jolies et vertueuses de qui le monde ne se doute pas. Mais ne donnez pas le nom de femme vertueuse à celle qui, combattant une passion involontaire, n'a rien accordé à un amant qu'elle est au désespoir d'idolâtrer. C'est la plus

sanglante injure qui puisse être faite à un mari amoureux. Que lui reste-t-il de sa femme ? Une chose sans nom, un cadavre animé. Au sein des plaisirs, sa femme demeure comme ce convive averti par Borgia, au milieu du festin, que certains mets sont empoisonnés : il n'a plus faim, mange du bout des dents, ou feint de manger. Il regrette le repas qu'il a laissé pour celui du terrible cardinal, et soupire après le moment où, la fête étant finie, il pourra se lever de table. Quel est le résultat de ces réflexions sur la vertu féminine ? Le voici ; mais les deux dernières maximes nous ont été données par un philosophe éclectique du dix-huitième siècle. XVIII. Une femme vertueuse a dans le coeur une fibre de moins ou de plus que les autres femmes : elle est stupide ou sublime. XIX. La vertu des femmes est peut-être une question de tempérament. -- 375 -XX. Les femmes les plus vertueuses ont en elles quelque chose qui n'est jamais chaste. XXI. « Qu'un homme d'esprit ait des doutes sur sa maîtresse, cela se conçoit ; mais sur sa femme !... il faut être par trop bête. » XXII. « Les hommes seraient trop malheureux si, auprès des femmes, ils se souvenaient le moins du monde de ce qu'ils savent par coeur. » Le nombre des femmes rares qui, semblables aux vierges de la parabole, ont su garder leur lampe allumée, sera toujours trop faible aux yeux des défenseurs de la vertu et des bons sentiments ; mais encore faudra-t-il le retrancher de la somme totale des femmes honnêtes, et cette soustraction consolante rend encore le danger des maris plus grand, le scandale plus affreux, et entache d'autant plus le reste des épouses légitimes. Quel mari pourra maintenant dormir tranquille à côté de sa jeune et jolie femme, en apprenant que trois célibataires, au moins, sont à l'affût ; que s'ils n'ont pas encore fait de dégât dans sa petite propriété, ils regardent la mariée comme une proie qui leur est due, qui tôt ou tard leur écherra, soit par ruse, soit par force, par conquête ou de bonne volonté ? et il est impossible qu'ils ne soient pas, un jour, victorieux dans cette lutte ! Effrayante conclusion !... Ici, des puristes en morale, les collets-montés enfin, nous accuseront peut-être de présenter des calculs par trop désolants : ils voudront prendre la défense, ou des femmes honnêtes, ou des célibataires ; mais nous leur avons réservé une dernière observation. Augmentez, à volonté, le nombre des femmes honnêtes et diminuez le nombre des célibataires, vous trouverez toujours, en résultat, plus d'aventures galantes que de femmes honnêtes ; vous trouverez toujours une masse énorme de célibataires réduits par nos moeurs à trois genres de crimes. -- 376 --

S'ils restent chastes, leur santé s'altérera au sein des irritations les plus douloureuses ; ils rendront vains les vues sublimes de la nature, et iront mourir de la poitrine en buvant du lait sur les montagnes de la Suisse. S'ils succombent à leurs tentations légitimes, ou ils compromettront des femmes honnêtes, et alors nous rentrons dans le sujet de ce livre, ou ils se dégraderont par le commerce horrible des cinq cent mille femmes de qui nous avons parlé dans la dernière catégorie de la première Méditation, et dans ce dernier cas, que de chances pour aller boire encore du lait et mourir en Suisse !... N'avez-vous donc jamais été frappés comme nous d'un vice d'organisation de notre ordre social, et dont la remarque va servir de preuve morale à nos derniers calculs ? L'âge moyen auquel l'homme se marie est celui de trente ans ; l'âge moyen auquel ses passions, ses désirs les plus violents de jouissances génésiques se développent, est celui de vingt ans. Or, pendant les dix plus belles années de sa vie, pendant la verte saison où sa beauté, sa jeunesse et son esprit le rendent plus menaçant pour les maris qu'à toute autre époque de son existence, il reste sans trouver à satisfaire légalement cet irrésistible besoin d'aimer qui ébranle son être tout entier. Ce laps de temps représentant le sixième de la vie humaine, nous devons admettre que le sixième au moins de notre masse d'hommes, et le sixième le plus vigoureux, demeure perpétuellement dans une attitude aussi fatigante pour eux que dangereuse pour la Société. -- Que ne les marie-t-on ? va s'écrier une dévote. Mais quel est le père de bon sens qui voudrait marier son fils à vingt ans ? Ne connaît-on pas le danger de ces unions précoces ? Il semble que le mariage soit un état bien contraire aux habitudes naturelles, puisqu'il exige une maturité de raison particulière. Enfin, tout le monde sait que Rousseau a dit : « Il faut toujours un temps de libertinage, ou dans un état ou dans l'autre. C'est un mauvais levain qui fermente tôt ou tard. » Or, quelle est la mère de famille qui exposerait le bonheur de sa fille aux hasards de cette fermentation quand elle n'a pas eu lieu ? D'ailleurs, qu'est-il besoin de justifier un fait sous l'empire duquel existent toutes les sociétés ? N'y a-t-il pas en tous pays, -- 377 -comme nous l'avons démontré, une immense quantité d'hommes qui vivent le plus honnêtement possible hors du célibat et du mariage ? -- Ces hommes ne peuvent-ils pas, dira toujours la dévote, rester dans la continence comme les prêtres ? D'accord, madame. Cependant nous ferons observer que le voeu de chasteté est une des plus fortes exceptions de l'état naturel nécessitées par la société ; que la continence est le grand point de la profession du prêtre ; qu'il doit être chaste comme le médecin est insensible aux maux physiques, comme le notaire et l'avoué le sont à la misère qui leur développe ses plaies, comme le militaire l'est à la mort qui l'environne sur un champ de bataille. De ce que les besoins de la civilisation ossifient certaines fibres du coeur et forment des calus sur certaines membranes qui doivent résonner, il n'eu faut pas conclure que tous les hommes soient tenus de subir ces morts partielles et exceptionnelles de l'âme. Ce serait conduire le genre humain à un exécrable suicide moral. Mais qu'il se produise cependant au sein du salon le plus janséniste possible un jeune homme de vingt-huit ans qui ait bien précieusement gardé sa robe d'innocence et qui soit

aussi vierge que les coqs de bruyère dont se festoient les gourmets, ne voyez-vous pas d'ici la femme vertueuse la plus austère lui adressant quelque compliment bien amer sur son courage, le magistrat le plus sévère qui soit monté sur le siége hochant la tête et souriant, et toutes les dames se cachant pour ne pas lui laisser entendre leurs rires ? L'héroïque et introuvable victime se retire-t-elle du salon, quel déluge de plaisanteries pleut sur sa tête innocente !... Combien d'insultes ! Qu'y a-t-il de plus houleux en France que l'impuissance, que la froideur, que l'absence de toute passion, que la niaiserie ? Le seul roi de France qui n'étoufferait pas de rire serait peut-être Louis XIII ; mais quant à son vert-galant de père, il aurait peut-être banni un tel jouvenceau, soit en l'accusant de n'être pas Français, soit en le croyant d'un dangereux exemple. Etrange contradiction ! Un jeune homme est également blâmé s'il passe sa vie en terre sainte, pour nous servir d'une expression de la vie de garçon ! Serait-ce par hasard au profit des femmes honnêtes que les préfets de police et les maires ont de tout temps ordonné aux passions publiques de ne commencer qu'à la nuit tombante et de cesser à onze heures du soir ? -- 378 -Où voulez-vous donc que notre masse de célibataires jette sa gourme ? Et qui trompe-ton donc ici ? comme demande Figaro. Est-ce les gouvernants ou les gouvernés ? L'ordre social est-il comme ces petits garçons qui se bouchent les oreilles au spectacle pour ne pas entendre les coups de fusil ? A-t-il peur de sonder sa plaie ? ou serait-il reconnu que ce mal est sans remède et qu'il faut laisser aller les choses ? Mais il y a ici une question de législation, car il est impossible d'échapper au dilemme matériel et social qui résulte de ce bilan de la vertu publique en fait de mariage. Il ne nous appartient pas de résoudre cette difficulté ; cependant supposons un moment que pour préserver tant de familles, tant de femmes, tant de filles honnêtes, la Société se vît contrainte de donner à des coeurs patentés le droit de satisfaire aux célibataires : nos lois ne devraient-elles pas alors ériger en corps de métier ces espèces de Décius femelles qui se dévouent pour la république et font aux familles honnêtes un rempart de leurs corps ? Les législateurs ont bien eu tort de dédaigner jusqu'ici de régler le sort des courtisanes. XXIII. La courtisane est une institution si elle est un besoin. Cette question est hérissée de tant de si et de mais, que nous la léguons à nos neveux ; il faut leur laisser quelque chose à faire. D'ailleurs elle est tout à fait accidentelle dans cet ouvrage ; car aujourd'hui, plus qu'en aucun temps, la sensibilité s'est développée ; à aucune époque il n'y a eu autant de moeurs, parce qu'on n'a jamais si bien senti que le plaisir vient du coeur. Or, quel est l'homme à sentiment, le célibataire qui, en présence de quatre cent mille jeunes et jolies femmes parées des splendeurs de la fortune et des grâces de l'esprit, riches des trésors de la coquetterie et prodigues de bonheur, voudraient aller.. ? Fi donc ! Mettons pour nos futurs législateurs, sous des formes claires et brèves, le résultat de ces dernières années. XXIV. Dans l'ordre social, les abus inévitables sont des lois de la Nature d'après lesquelles l'homme doit concevoir ses lois civiles et politiques. -- 379 -XXV. L'adultère est une faillite, à cette différence près, dit Champfort, que c'est celui à qui l'on fait banqueroute qui est déshonoré.

En France, les lois sur l'adultère et sur les faillites ont besoin de grandes modifications. Sont-elles trop douces ? pèchent-elles par leurs principes ? Caveant consules ! Eh ! bien, courageux athlète, toi qui as pris pour ton compte la petite apostrophe que notre première Méditation adresse aux gens chargés d'une femme, qu'en dis-tu ? Espérons que ce coup d'oeil jeté sur la question ne te fait pas trembler, que tu n'es pas un de ces hommes dont l'épine dorsale devient brûlante et dont le fluide nerveux se glace à l'aspect d'un précipice ou d'un boa constrictor ! Hé ! mon ami, qui a terre a guerre. Les hommes qui désirent ton argent sont encore bien plus nombreux que ceux qui désirent ta femme. Après tout, les maris sont libres de prendre ces bagatelles pour des calculs, ou ces calculs pour des bagatelles. Ce qu'il y a de plus beau dans la vie, c'est les illusions de la vie. Ce qu'il y a de plus respectable, c'est nos croyances les plus futiles. N'existe-t-il pas beaucoup de gens dont les principes ne sont que des préjugés, et qui, n'ayant pas assez de force pour concevoir le bonheur et la vertu par eux-mêmes, acceptent une vertu et un bonheur tout faits de la main des législateurs ? Aussi ne nous adressons-nous qu'à tous ces Manfred qui, pour avoir relevé trop de robes, veulent lever tous les voiles dans les moments où une sorte de spleen moral les tourmente. Pour eux, maintenant la question est hardiment posée, et nous connaissons l'étendue du mal. Il nous reste à examiner les chances générales qui se peuvent rencontrer dans le mariage de chaque homme, et le rendre moins fort dans le combat dont notre champion doit sortir vainqueur.

Prédestiné signifie destiné par avance au bonheur ou au malheur. La Théologie s'est emparée de ce mot et l'emploie toujours -- 380 -pour désigner les bienheureux ; nous donnons à ce terme une signification fatale à nos élus, de qui l'on peut dire le contraire de ceux de l'Evangile. « Beaucoup d'appelés, beaucoup d'élus. » L'expérience a démontré qu'il existait certaines classes d'hommes plus sujettes que les autres à certains malheurs : ainsi, de même les Gascons sont exagérés, les Parisiens vaniteux ; comme on voit l'apoplexie s'attaquer aux gens dont le cou est court, comme le charbon (sorte de peste) se jette de préférence sur les bouchers, la goutte sur les riches, la santé sur les pauvres, la surdité sur les rois, la paralysie sur les administrateurs, on a remarqué que certaines classes de maris étaient plus particulièrement victimes des passions illégitimes. Ces maris et leurs femmes accaparent les célibataires. C'est une aristocratie d'un autre genre. Si quelque lecteur se trouvait dans une de ces classes aristocratiques, il aura, nous l'espérons, assez de présence d'esprit, lui ou sa femme, pour se rappeler à l'instant l'axiome favori de la grammaire latine de Lhomond : Pas de règle sans exception. Un ami de la maison peut même citer ce vers : La personne présente est toujours exceptée. Et alors chacun d'eux aura, in petto, le droit de se croire une exception. Mais notre devoir, l'intérêt que nous portons aux maris et l'envie que nous avons de préserver tant de jeunes et jolies femmes des caprices et des malheurs que traîne à sa suite un amant, nous forcent à signaler par ordre les maris qui doivent se tenir plus particulièrement sur leurs gardes. Dans ce dénombrement paraîtront les premiers tous les maris que leurs affaires, places ou fonctions chassent du logis à certaines heures et pendant un certain temps. Ceux-là porteront la bannière de la confrérie.

Parmi eux, nous distinguerons les magistrats, tant amovibles qu'inamovibles, obligés de rester au Palais pendant une grande partie de la journée ; les autres fonctionnaires trouvent quelquefois les moyens de quitter leurs bureaux ; mais un juge ou un procureur du roi, assis sur les lys, doit, pour ainsi dire, mourir pendant l'audience. Là est son champ de bataille. Il en est de même des députés et des pairs qui discutent les lois, des ministres qui travaillent avec le roi, des directeurs qui travaillent avec les ministres, des militaires en campagne, et enfin du ca-- 381 -poral en patrouille, comme le prouve la lettre de Lafleur, dans le Voyage Sentimental. Après les gens forcés de s'absenter du logis à des heures fixes, viennent les hommes à qui de vastes et sérieuses occupations ne laissent pas une minute pour être aimables ; leurs fronts sont toujours soucieux, leur entretien est rarement gai. A la tête de ces troupes incornifistibulées, nous placerons ces banquiers travaillant à remuer des millions, dont les têtes sont tellement remplies de calculs que les chiffres finissent par percer leur occiput et s'élever en colonnes d'additions au-dessus de leurs fronts. Ces millionnaires oublient la plupart du temps les saintes lois du mariage et les soins réclamés par la tendre fleur qu'ils ont à cultiver, jamais ne pensent à l'arroser, à la préserver du froid ou du chaud. A peine savent-ils que le bonheur d'une épouse leur a été confié ; s'ils s'en souviennent, c'est à table en voyant devant eux une femme richement parée, ou lorsque la coquette, craignant leur abord brutal, vient, aussi gracieuse que Vénus, puiser à leur caisse... Oh ! alors, le soir, ils se rappellent quelquefois assez fortement les droits spécifiés à l'article 213 du Code civil, et leurs femmes les reconnaissent ; mais comme ces forts impôts que les lois établissent sur les marchandises étrangères, elles les souffrent et les acquittent en vertu de cet axiome : Il n'y a pas de plaisir sans un peu de peine. Les savants, qui demeurent des mois entiers à ronger l'os d'un animal anté-diluvien, à calculer les lois de la nature ou à en épier les secrets ; les Grecs et les Latins qui dînent d'une pensée de Tacite, soupent d'une phrase de Thucydide, vivent en essuyant la poussière des bibliothèques, en restant à l'affût d'une note ou d'un papyrus, sont tous prédestinés. Rien de ce qui se passe autour d'eux ne les frappe, tant est grande leur absorption ou leur extase ; leur malheur se consommerait en plein midi, à peine le verraient-ils ! Heureux ! ô mille fois heureux ! Exemple : Beauzée qui, revenant chez lui après une séance de l'Académie, surprend sa femme avec un Allemand. -- Quand je vous avertissais, madame, qu'il fallait que je m'en aille... s'écrie l'étranger. -- Eh ! monsieur, dites au moins : Que je m'en allasse ! reprend l'académicien. Viennent encore, la lyre à la main, quelques poètes dont toutes les forces animales abandonnent l'entresol pour aller dans l'étage supérieur. Sachant mieux monter Pégase que la jument du compère -- 382 -Pierre, ils se marient rarement, habitués qu'ils sont à jeter, par intervalle, leur fureur sur des Chloris vagabondes ou imaginaires. Mais les hommes dont le nez est barbouillé de tabac ; Mais ceux qui, par malheur, sont nés avec une éternelle pituite ; Mais les maris qui fument ou qui chiquent ;

Mais les gens auxquels un caractère sec et bilieux donne toujours l'air d'avoir mangé une pomme aigre ; Mais les hommes qui, dans la vie privée, ont quelques habitudes cyniques, quelques pratiques ridicules, qui gardent, malgré tout, un air de malpropreté ; Mais les maris qui obtiennent le nom déshonorant de chauffe-la-couche ; Enfin, les vieillards qui épousent de jeunes personnes. Tous ces gens-là sont les prédestinés par excellence ! Il est une dernière classe de prédestinés dont l'infortune est encore presque certaine. Nous voulons parler des hommes inquiets et tracassiers, tatillons et tyranniques, qui ont je ne sais quelles idées de domination domestique, qui pensent ouvertement mal des femmes et qui n'entendent pas plus la vie que les hannetons ne connaissent l'histoire naturelle. Quand ces hommes-là se marient, leurs ménages ont l'air de ces guêpes auxquelles un écolier a tranché la tête et qui voltigent çà et là sur une vitre. Pour cette sorte de prédestinés ce livre est lettres closes. Nous n'écrivons pas plus pour ces imbéciles statues ambulantes, qui ressemblent à des sculptures de cathédrale, que pour les vielles machines de Marly qui ne peuvent plus élever d'eau dans les bosquets de Versailles sans être menacées d'une dissolution subite. Je vais rarement observer dans les salons les singularités conjugales qui y fourmillent, sans avoir présent à la mémoire un spectacle dont j'ai joui dans ma jeunesse. En 1819, j'habitais une chaumière au sein de la délicieuse vallée de l'Isle-Adam. Mon ermitage était voisin du parc de Cassan, la plus suave retraite, la plus voluptueuse à voir, la plus coquette pour le promeneur, la plus humide en été de toutes celles que le luxe et l'art ont créées. Cette verte chartreuse est due à un fermier-général du bon vieux temps, un certain Bergeret, homme célèbre par son originalité, et qui, entre autres héliogabaleries, allait à l'opéra, les cheveux poudrés d'or, illuminait pour lui seul son parc ou -- 383 -se donnait à lui-même une fête somptueuse. Ce bourgeois Sardanapale était revenu d'Italie, si passionné pour les sites de cette belle contrée, que, par un accès de fanatisme, il dépensa quatre ou cinq millions à faire copier dans son parc les vues qu'il avait en portefeuille. Les plus ravissantes oppositions de feuillages, les arbres les plus rares, les longues vallées, les points de vue les plus pittoresques du dehors, les îles Borromées flottant sur des eaux claires et capricieuses, sont autant de rayons qui viennent apporter leurs trésors d'optique à un centre unique, à une isola bella d'où l'oeil enchanté aperçoit chaque détail à son gré, à une île au sein de laquelle est une petite maison cachée sous les panaches de quelques saules centenaires, à une île bordée de glaïeuls, de roseaux, de fleurs et qui ressemble à une émeraude richement sertie. C'est à fuir de mille lieues !... Le plus maladif, le plus chagrin, le plus sec de ceux de nos hommes de génie qui ne se portent pas bien, mourrait là de gras fondu et de satisfaction au bout de quinze jours, accablé des succulentes richesses d'une vie végétative. L'homme assez insouciant de cet Eden, et qui le possédait alors, s'était amouraché d'un grand singe, à défaut d'enfant ou de femme. Jadis aimé d'une impératrice, disait-on, peut-être en avait-il assez de l'espèce humaine. Une élégante lanterne de bois, supportée par une colonne sculptée, servait d'habitation au malicieux animal, qui, mis à la chaîne et rarement caressé par un maître fantasque, plus souvent à Paris qu'à sa terre, avait acquis une fort mauvaise réputation. Je me souviens de l'avoir vu, en présence de certaines dames, devenir presque aussi insolent qu'un homme. Le propriétaire fut obligé de le tuer, tant sa méchanceté alla croissant. Un matin que j'étais assis sous un beau tulipier en fleurs, occupé à ne rien faire, mais respirant les amoureux parfums que de hauts peupliers empêchaient de sortir de cette brillante enceinte, savourant le silence des bois, écoutant les murmures de l'eau et le bruissement des

feuilles, admirant les découpures bleues que dessinaient au-dessus de ma tête des nuages de nacre et d'or, flânant peut-être dans ma vie future, j'entendis je ne sais quel lourdaud, arrivé la veille de Paris, jouer du violon avec la rage subite d'un désoeuvré. Je ne souhaiterais pas à mon plus cruel ennemi d'éprouver un saisissement disparate avec la sublime harmonie de la nature. Si les sons lointains du cor de Roland eussent animé les airs, peut-être... mais une criarde chanterelle qui a la prétention de vous apporter des idées humaines -- 384 -et des phrases ! Cet Amphion, qui se promenait de long en large dans la salle à manger, finit par s'asseoir sur l'appui d'une croisée précisément en face du singe. Peut-être cherchait il un public. Tout à coup je vis l'animal descendu doucement de son petit donjon, se plantant sur ses deux pieds, inclinant sa tête comme un nageur et se croisant les bras sur la poitrine comme aurait pu le faire Spartacus enchaîné ou Catilina écoutant Cicéron. Le banquier, appelé par une douce voix dont le timbre argentin réveilla les échos d'un boudoir à moi connu, posa le violon sur l'appui de la croisée et s'échappa comme une hirondelle qui rejoint sa compagne d'un vol horizontal et rapide. Le grand singe, dont la chaîne était longue, arriva jusqu'à la fenêtre et prit gravement le violon. Je ne sais pas si vous avez eu comme moi le plaisir de voir un singe essayant d'apprendre la musique ; mais en ce moment, que je ne ris plus autant qu'en ces jours d'insouciance, je ne pense jamais à mon singe sans sourire. Le semi-homme commença par empoigner l'instrument à pleine main et par le flairer comme s'il se fût agi de déguster une pomme. Son aspiration nasale fit probablement rendre une sourde harmonie au bois sonore, et alors l'orang-outang hocha la tête, il tourna, retourna, haussa, baissa le violon, le mit tout droit, et l'agita, le porta à son oreille, le laissa et le reprit avec une rapidité de mouvements dont la prestesse n'appartient qu'a ces animaux. Il interrogeait le bois muet avec une sagacité sans but, qui avait je ne sais quoi de merveilleux et d'incomplet. Enfin il tâcha, de la manière la plus grotesque, de placer le violon sous son menton en tenant le manche d'une main ; mais, comme un enfant gâté, il se lassa d'une étude qui demandait une habileté trop longue à acquérir, et il pinça les cordes sans pouvoir obtenir autre chose que des sons discords. Il se fâcha, posa le violon sur l'appui de la croisée ; et, saisissant l'archet, il se mit à le pousser et à le retirer violemment, comme un maçon qui scie une pierre. Cette nouvelle tentative n'ayant réussi qu'à fatiguer davantage ses savantes oreilles, il prit l'archet à deux mains, puis frappa sur l'innocent instrument, source de plaisir et d'harmonie, à coups pressés. Il me sembla voir un écolier tenant sous lui un camarade renversé et le nourrissant d'une volée de coups de poings précipitamment assénés, pour le corriger d'une lâcheté. Le violon jugé et condamné, le singe s'assit sur les débris et s'amusa avec une joie stupide à mêler la blonde chevelure de l'archet cassé. -- 385 -Jamais, depuis ce jour, je n'ai pu voir les ménages des prédestinés sans comparer la plupart des maris à cet orang-outang voulant jouer du violon. L'amour est la plus mélodieuse de toutes les harmonies, et nous en avons le sentiment inné. La femme est un délicieux instrument de plaisir, mais il faut en connaître les frémissantes cordes, en étudier la pose, le clavier timide, le doigté changeant et capricieux. Combien d'orangs !... d'hommes, veux-je dire, se marient sans savoir ce qu'est une femme ! Combien de prédestinés ont procédé avec elles comme le singe de Cassan avec son violon ! Ils ont brisé le coeur qu'ils ne comprenaient pas, comme ils ont flétri et dédaigné le bijou dont le secret leur était inconnu. Enfants toute leur vie, ils s'en vont de la vie les mains vides, ayant végété, ayant parlé d'amour et de plaisir, de libertinage et de vertu, comme les esclaves parlent de la liberté. Presque tous se sont mariés dans l'ignorance la plus profonde et de la femme et de l'amour. Ils ont commencé par enfoncer la porte d'une maison étrangère et ils ont voulu être bien reçus au salon. Mais l'artiste le plus vulgaire sait qu'il existe entre lui et son instrument (son instrument qui est de bois ou d'ivoire !), une sorte d'amitié indéfinissable. Il sait, par expérience, qu'il lui a fallu des années pour établir ce rapport mystérieux entre une matière inerte et lui. Il

n'en a pas deviné du premier coup les ressources et les caprices, les défauts et les vertus. Son instrument ne devient une âme pour lui et n'est une source de mélodie qu'après de longues études ; ils ne parviennent à se connaître comme deux amis qu'après les interrogations les plus savantes. Est-ce en restant accroupi dans la vie, comme un séminariste dans sa cellule, qu'un homme peut apprendre la femme et savoir déchiffrer cet admirable solfége ? Est-ce un homme qui fait métier de penser pour les autres, de juger les autres, de gouverner les autres, de voler l'argent des autres, de nourrir, de guérir, de blesser les autres. Est-ce tous nos prédestinés enfin, qui peuvent employer leur temps à étudier une femme ? Ils vendent leur temps, comment le donneraient-ils au bonheur ? L'argent est leur dieu. L'on ne sert pas deux maîtres à la fois. Aussi le monde est-il plein de jeunes femmes qui se traînent pâles et débiles, malades et souffrantes. Les unes sont la proie d'inflammations plus ou moins graves, les autres restent sous la cruelle domination d'attaques nerveuses plus ou moins violentes. Tous les maris de ces femmes-là -- 386 -sont des ignares et des prédestinés. Ils ont causé leur malheur avec le soin qu'un mariartiste aurait mis à faire éclore les tardives et délicieuses fleurs du plaisir. Le temps qu'un ignorant passe à consommer sa ruine est précisément celui qu'un homme habile sait employer à l'éducation de son bonheur. XXVI. Ne commencez jamais le mariage par un viol. Dans les Méditations précédentes, nous avons accusé l'étendue du mal avec l'irrespectueuse audace des chirurgiens qui développent hardiment les tissus menteurs sous lesquels une honteuse blessure est cachée. La vertu publique, traduite sur la table de notre amphithéâtre, n'a même pas laissé de cadavre sous le scalpel. Amant ou mari, vous avez souri ou frémi du mal ? Hé ! bien, c'est avec une joie malicieuse que nous reportons cet immense fardeau social sur la conscience des prédestinés. Arlequin, essayant de savoir si son cheval peut s'accoutumer à ne pas manger, n'est pas plus ridicule que ces hommes qui veulent trouver le bonheur en ménage et ne pas le cultiver avec tous les soins qu'il réclame. Les fautes des femmes sont autant d'actes d'accusation contre l'égoïsme, l'insouciance et la nullité des maris. Maintenant c'est à vous-même, vous, lecteur, qui avez souvent condamné votre crime dans un autre, c'est à vous de tenir la balance. L'un des bassins est assez chargé, voyez ce que vous mettrez dans l'autre ! Evaluez le nombre de prédestinés qui peut se rencontrer dans la somme totale des gens mariés, et pesez : vous saurez où est le mal. Essayons de pénétrer plus avant dans les causes de cette maladie conjugale. Le mot amour, appliqué à la reproduction de l'espèce, est le plus odieux blasphème que les moeurs modernes aient appris à proférer. La nature, en nous élevant au-dessus des bêtes par le divin présent de la pensée, nous a rendus aptes à éprouver des sensations et des sentiments, des besoins et des passions. Cette double nature crée en l'homme l'animal et l'amant. Cette distinction va éclairer le problème social qui nous occupe. Le mariage peut être considéré politiquement, civilement et -- 387 -moralement, comme une loi, comme un contrat, comme une institution : loi, c'est la reproduction de l'espèce ; contrat, c'est la transmission des propriétés ; institution, c'est une garantie dont les obligations intéressent tous les hommes : ils ont un père et une mère, ils auront des enfants. Le mariage doit donc être l'objet du respect général. La société n'a pu considérer que ces sommités, qui, pour elle, dominent la question conjugale.

La plupart des hommes n'ont eu en vue par leur mariage que la reproduction, la propriété ou l'enfant ; mais ni la reproduction, ni la propriété, ni l'enfant ne constituent le bonheur. Le crescite et multiplicamini n'implique pas l'amour. Demander à une fille que l'on a vue quatorze fois en quinze jours de l'amour de par la loi, le roi et justice, est une absurdité digne de la plupart des prédestinés ! L'amour est l'accord du besoin et du sentiment, le bonheur en mariage résulte d'une parfaite entente des âmes entre les époux. Il suit de là que, pour être heureux, un homme est obligé de s'astreindre à certaines règles d'honneur et de délicatesse. Après avoir usé du bénéfice de la loi sociale qui consacre le besoin, il doit obéir aux lois secrètes de la nature qui font éclore les sentiments. S'il met son bonheur à être aimé, il faut qu'il aime sincèrement : rien ne résiste à une passion véritable. Mais être passionné, c'est désirer toujours. Peut-on toujours désirer sa femme ? Oui. Il est aussi absurde de prétendre qu'il est impossible de toujours aimer la même femme qu'il peut l'être de dire qu'un artiste célèbre a besoin de plusieurs violons pour exécuter un morceau de musique et pour créer une mélodie enchanteresse. L'amour est la poésie des sens. Il a la destinée de tout ce qui est grand chez l'homme et de tout ce qui procède de sa pensée. Ou il est sublime, ou il n'est pas. Quand il existe, il existe à jamais et va toujours croissant. C'est là cet amour que les Anciens faisaient fils du Ciel et de la Terre. La littérature roule sur sept situations ; la musique exprime tout avec sept notes ; la peinture n'a que sept couleurs ; comme ces trois arts, l'amour se constitue peut-être de sept principes, nous en abandonnons la recherche au siècle suivant. Si la poésie, la musique et la peinture ont des expressions infi-- 388 -nies, les plaisirs de l'amour doivent en offrir encore bien davantage ; car dans les trois arts qui nous aident à chercher peut-être infructueusement la vérité par analogie, l'homme se trouve seul avec son imagination, tandis que l'amour est la réunion de deux corps et de deux âmes. Si les trois principaux modes qui servent à exprimer la pensée demandent des études préliminaires à ceux que la nature a créés poètes, musiciens ou peintres, ne tombe-t-il pas sous le sens qu'il est nécessaire de s'initier dans les secrets du plaisir pour être heureux ? Tous les hommes ressentent le besoin de la reproduction, comme tous ont faim et soif ; mais ils ne sont pas tous appelés à être amants et gastronomes. Notre civilisation actuelle a prouvé que le goût était une science, et qu'il n'appartenait qu'à certains êtres privilégiés de savoir boire et manger. Le plaisir, considéré comme un art, attend son physiologiste. Pour nous, il suffit d'avoir démontré que l'ignorance seule des principes constitutifs du bonheur produit l'infortune qui attend tous les prédestinés. C'est avec la plus grande timidité que nous oserons hasarder la publication de quelques aphorismes qui pourront donner naissance à cet art nouveau comme des plâtres ont créé la géologie ; et nous les livrons aux méditations des philosophes, des jeunes gens à marier et des prédestinés. CATECHISME CONJUGAL. XXVII. Le mariage est une science. XXVIII.

Un homme ne peut pas se marier sans avoir étudié l'anatomie et disséqué une femme au moins. XXIX. Le sort d'un ménage dépend de la première nuit. XXX. La femme privée de son libre arbitre ne peut jamais avoir le mérite de faire un sacrifice. -- 389 -XXXI. En amour, toute âme mise à part, la femme est comme une lyre qui ne livre ses secrets qu'à celui qui en sait bien jouer. XXXII. Indépendamment d'un mouvement répulsif, il existe dans l'âme de toutes les femmes un sentiment qui tend à proscrire tôt ou tard les plaisirs dénués de passion. XXXIII. L'intérêt d'un mari lui prescrit au moins autant que l'honneur de ne jamais se permettre un plaisir qu'il n'ait eu le talent de faire désirer par sa femme. XXXIV. Le plaisir étant causé par l'alliance des sensations et d'un sentiment, on peut hardiment prétendre que les plaisirs sont des espèces d'idées matérielles. XXXV. Les idées se combinant à l'infini, il doit en être de même des plaisirs. XXXVI. Il ne se rencontre pas plus dans la vie de l'homme deux moments de plaisirs semblables, qu'il n'y a deux feuilles exactement pareilles sur un même arbre. XXXVII. S'il existe des différences entre un moment de plaisir et un autre, un homme peut toujours être heureux avec la même femme. XXXVIII. Saisir habilement les nuances du plaisir, les développer, leur donner un style nouveau, une expression originale, constitue le génie d'un mari. XXXIX. Entre deux êtres qui ne s'aiment pas, ce génie est du libertinage ; mais les caresses auxquelles l'amour préside ne sont jamais lascives. -- 390 -XL. La femme mariée la plus chaste peut être aussi la plus voluptueuse. XLI.

La femme la plus vertueuse peut être indécente à son insu. XLII. Quand deux êtres sont unis par le plaisir, toutes les conventions sociales dorment. Cette situation cache un écueil sur lequel se sont brisées bien des embarcations. Un mari est perdu s'il oublie une seule fois qu'il existe une pudeur indépendante des voiles. L'amour conjugal ne doit jamais mettre ni ôter son bandeau qu'à propos. XLIII. La puissance ne consiste pas à frapper fort ou souvent, mais à frapper juste. XLIV. Faire naître un désir, le nourrir, le développer, le grandir, l'irriter, le satisfaire, c'est un poème tout entier. XLV. L'ordre des plaisirs est du distique au quatrain, du quatrain au sonnet, du sonnet à la ballade, de la ballade à l'ode, de l'ode à la cantate, de la cantate au dithyrambe. Le mari qui commence par le dithyrambe est un sot. XLVI. Chaque nuit doit avoir son menu. XLVII. Le mariage doit incessamment combattre un monstre qui dévore tout : l'habitude. XLVIII. Si un homme ne sait pas distinguer la différence des plaisirs de deux nuits consécutives, il s'est marié trop tôt. XLIX. Il est plus facile d'être amant que mari, par la raison qu'il est -- 391 -plus difficile d'avoir de l'esprit tous les jours que de dire de jolies choses de temps en temps. L. Un mari ne doit jamais s'endormir le premier ni se réveiller le dernier. LI. L'homme qui entre dans le cabinet de toilette de sa femme est philosophe ou un imbécile. LII. Le mari qui ne laisse rien à désirer est un homme perdu. LIII. La femme mariée est un esclave qu'il faut savoir mettre sur un trône.

LIV. Un homme ne peut se flatter de connaître sa femme et de la rendre heureuse que quand il la voit souvent à ses genoux. C'était à toute la troupe ignorante de nos prédestinés, à nos légions de catarrheux, de fumeurs, de priseurs, de vieillards, de grondeurs, etc., que Sterne adressait la lettre écrite, dans le Tristram Shandy, par Gauthier Shandy à son frère Tobie, quand ce dernier se proposait d'épouser la veuve de Wadman. Les célèbres instructions que le plus original des écrivains anglais a consignées dans cette lettre pouvant, à quelques exceptions près, compléter nos observations sur la manière de se conduire auprès des femmes, nous l'offrons textuellement aux réflexions des prédestinés en les priant de la méditer comme un des plus substantiels chefsd'oeuvre de l'esprit humain. Lettre de M. Shandy au capitaine Tobie Shandy. MON CHER FRERE TOBIE, Ce que je vais te dire a rapport à la nature des femmes et à la manière de leur faire l'amour. Et peut-être est-il heureux pour -- 392 -toi (quoiqu'il ne le soit pas autant pour moi) que l'occasion se soit offerte, et que je me sois trouvé capable de t'écrire quelques instructions sur ce sujet. Si c'eût été le bon plaisir de celui qui distribue nos lois de te départir plus de connaissances qu'à moi, j'aurais été charmé que tu te fusses assis à ma place, et que cette plume fût entre tes mains ; mais puisque c'est à moi à t'instruire, et que madame Shandy est là auprès de moi, se disposant à se mettre au lit, je vais jeter ensemble et sans ordre sur le papier des idées et des préceptes concernant le mariage, tels qu'ils me viendront à l'esprit, et que je croirai qu'ils pourront être d'usage pour toi ; voulant en cela te donner un gage de mon amitié, et ne doutant pas, mon cher Tobie, de la reconnaissance avec laquelle tu la recevras. En premier lieu, à l'égard de ce qui concerne la religion dans cette affaire (quoique le feu qui monte au visage me fasse apercevoir que je rougis en te parlant sur ce sujet ; quoique je sache, en dépit de ta modestie, qui nous le laisserait ignorer, que tu ne négliges aucune de ses pieuses pratiques), il en est une cependant que je voudrais te recommander d'une manière plus particulière pour que tu ne l'oubliasses point, du moins pendant tout le temps que dureront tes amours. Cette pratique, frère Tobie, c'est de ne jamais te présenter chez celle qui est l'objet de tes poursuites, soit le matin, soit le soir, sans te recommander auparavant à la protection du Dieu tout-puissant, pour qu'il te préserve de tout malheur. Tu te raseras la tête, et tu la laveras tous les quatre ou cinq jours, et même plus souvent, si tu le peux, de peur qu'en ôtant ta perruque dans un moment de distraction, elle ne distingue combien de tes cheveux sont tombés sous la main du Temps, et combien sous celle de Trim. Il faut, autant que tu le pourras, éloigner de son imagination toute idée de tête chauve. Mets-toi bien dans l'esprit, Tobie, et suis cette maxime comme sûre : Toutes les femmes sont timides. Et il est heureux qu'elles le soient ; autrement, qui voudrait avoir affaire à elles ? Que tes culottes ne soient ni trop étroites ni trop larges, et ne ressemblent pas à ces grandes culottes de nos ancêtres.

Un juste medium prévient tous les commentaires. -- 393 -Quelque chose que tu aies à dire, soit que tu aies peu ou beaucoup à parler, modère toujours le son de ta voix. Le silence et tout ce qui en approche grave dans la mémoire les mystères de la nuit. C'est pourquoi, si tu peux l'éviter, ne laisse jamais tomber la pelle ni les pincettes. Dans tes conversations avec elle, évite toute plaisanterie et toute raillerie ; et, autant que tu le pourras, ne lui laisse lire aucun livre jovial. Il y a quelques traités de dévotion que tu peux lui permettre (quoique j'aimasse mieux qu'elle ne les lût point) ; mais ne souffre pas qu'elle lise Rabelais, Scarron ou Don Quichotte. Tous ces livres excitent le rire ; et tu sais, cher Tobie, que rien n'est plus sérieux que les fins du mariage. Attache toujours une épingle à ton jabot avant d'entrer chez elle. Si elle te permet de t'asseoir sur le même sofa, et qu'elle te donne la facilité de poser ta main sur la sienne, résiste à cette tentation. Tu ne saurais prendre sa main, sans que la température de la tienne lui fasse deviner ce qui se passe en toi. Laisse-la toujours dans l'indécision sur ce point et sur beaucoup d'autres. En te conduisant ainsi, tu auras au moins sa curiosité pour toi ; et si ta belle n'est pas encore entièrement soumise, et que ton âne continue à regimber (ce qui est fort probable), tu te feras tirer quelques onces de sang au-dessous des oreilles, suivant la pratique des anciens Scythes, qui guérissaient par ce moyen les appétits les plus désordonnés de nos sens. Avicenne est d'avis que l'on se frotte ensuite avec de l'extrait d'ellébore, après les évacuations et purgations convenables, et je penserais assez comme lui. Mais surtout ne mange que peu, ou point de bouc ni de cerf ; et abstiens-toi soigneusement, c'est-à-dire, autant que tu le pourras, de paons, de grues, de foulques, de plongeons, et de poules d'eau. Pour ta boisson, je n'ai pas besoin de te dire que ce doit être une infusion de verveine et d'herbe hanéa, de laquelle Elien rapporte des effets surprenants. Mais si ton estomac en souffrait, tu devrais eu discontinuer l'usage, et vivre de concombres, de melons, de pourpier et de laitue. Il ne se présente pas pour le moment autre chose à te dire... A moins que la guerre venant à se déclarer... Ainsi, mon cher Tobie, je désire que tout aille pour le mieux ; Et je suis ton affectionné frère, GAUTHIER SHANDY. » -- 394 -Dans les circonstances actuelles, Sterne lui-même retrancherait sans doute de sa lettre l'article de l'âne ; et, loin de conseiller à un prédestiné de se faire tirer du sang, il changerait le régime des concombres et des laitues en un régime éminemment substantiel. Il recommandait alors l'économie pour arriver à une profusion magique au moment de la guerre, imitant en cela l'admirable gouvernement anglais qui, en temps de paix, a deux cents vaisseaux, mais dont les chantiers peuvent au besoin en fournir le double quand il s'agit d'embrasser les mers et de s'emparer d'une marine tout entière. Quand un homme appartient au petit nombre de ceux qu'une éducation généreuse investit du domaine de la pensée, il devrait toujours, avant de se marier, consulter ses forces et physiques et morales. Pour lutter avec avantage contre les tempêtes que tant de séductions s'apprêtent à élever dans le coeur de sa femme, un mari doit avoir, outre

la science du plaisir et une fortune qui lui permette de ne se trouver dans aucune classe de prédestinés, une santé robuste, un tact exquis, beaucoup d'esprit, assez de bon sens pour ne faire sentir sa supériorité que dans les circonstances opportunes, et enfin une finesse excessive d'ouïe et de vue. S'il avait une belle figure, une jolie taille, un air mâle, et qu'il restât en arrière de toutes ces promesses, il rentrerait dans la classe des prédestinés. Aussi un mari laid, mais dont la figure est pleine d'expression, serait-il, si sa femme a oublié une seule fois sa laideur, dans la situation la plus favorable pour combattre le génie du mal. Il s'étudiera, et c'est un oubli dans la lettre de Sterne, à rester constamment inodore, pour ne pas donner de prise au dégoût. Aussi fera-t-il un médiocre usage des parfums, qui exposent toujours les beautés à d'injurieux soupçons. Il devra étudier sa conduite, éplucher ses discours comme s'il était le courtisan de la femme la plus inconstante. C'est pour lui qu'un philosophe a fait la réflexion suivante : « Telle femme s'est rendue malheureuse pour la vie, s'est perdue, s'est déshonorée pour un homme qu'elle a cessé d'aimer parce qu'il a mal ôté son habit, mal coupé un de ses ongles, mis son bas à l'envers, ou s'y est mal pris pour défaire un bouton. » Un de ses devoirs les plus importants sera de cacher à sa femme la véritable situation de sa fortune, afin de pouvoir satisfaire les fan-- 395 -taisies et les caprices qu'elle peut avoir, comme le font de généreux célibataires. Enfin, chose difficile, chose pour laquelle il faut un courage surhumain, il doit exercer le pouvoir le plus absolu sur l'âne dont parle Sterne. Cet âne doit être soumis comme un serf du treizième siècle à son seigneur ; obéir et se taire, marcher et s'arrêter au moindre commandement. Muni de tous ces avantages, à peine un mari pourra-t-il entrer en lice avec l'espoir du succès. Comme tous les autres, il court encore le risque d'être, pour sa femme, une espèce d'éditeur responsable. Hé ! quoi, vont s'écrier quelques bonnes petites gens pour lesquels l'horizon finit à leur nez, faut-il donc se donner tant de peines pour s'aimer ; et, pour être heureux en ménage, serait-il donc nécessaire d'aller préalablement à l'école ? Le gouvernement vat-il fonder pour nous une chaire d'amour, comme il a érigé naguère une chaire de droit public ? Voici notre réponse : Ces règles multipliées si difficiles à déduire, ces observations si minutieuses, ces notions si variables selon les tempéraments, préexistent, pour ainsi dire, dans le coeur de ceux qui sont nés pour l'amour, comme le sentiment du goût et je ne sais quelle facilité à combiner les idées se trouvent dans l'âme du poëte, du peintre ou du musicien. Les hommes qui éprouveraient quelque fatigue à mettre en pratique les enseignements donnés par cette Méditation, sont naturellement prédestinés, comme celui qui ne sait pas apercevoir les rapports existants entre deux idées différentes est un imbécile. En effet, l'amour a ses grands hommes inconnus, comme la guerre a ses Napoléons, comme la poésie a ses André Chéniers et comme la philosophie a ses Descartes. Cette dernière observation contient le germe d'une réponse à la demande que tous les hommes se font depuis long-temps : pourquoi un mariage heureux est-il donc si peu fréquent ? Ce phénomène du monde moral s'accomplit rarement, par la raison qu'il se rencontre peu de gens de génie. Une passion durable est un drame sublime joué par deux acteurs

égaux en talents, un drame où les sentiments sont des catastrophes, où les désirs sont des événements, où la plus légère pensée fait changer la scène. Or, comment trouver souvent, dans ce troupeau de bimanes qu'on -- 396 -nomme une nation, un homme et une femme qui possèdent au même degré le génie de l'amour, quand les gens à talents sont déjà si clairsemés dans les autres sciences où pour réussir l'artiste n'a besoin que de s'entendre avec lui-même ? Jusqu'à présent nous nous sommes contenté de faire pressentir les difficultés, en quelque sorte physiques, que deux époux ont à vaincre pour être heureux ; mais que serait-ce donc s'il fallait dérouler l'effrayant tableau des obligations morales qui naissent de la différence des caractères ?... Arrêtons-nous ! l'homme assez habile pour conduire le tempérament sera certainement maître de l'âme. Nous supposerons que notre mari-modèle remplit ces premières conditions voulues pour disputer avec avantage sa femme aux assaillants. Nous admettrons qu'il ne se trouve dans aucune des nombreuses classes de prédestinés, que nous avons passées en revue. Convenons enfin qu'il est imbu de toutes nos maximes ; qu'il possède cette science admirable de laquelle nous avons révélé quelques préceptes ; qu'il s'est marié très-savant ; qu'il connaît sa femme, qu'il en est aimé ; et poursuivons l'énumération de toutes les causes générales qui peuvent empirer la situation critique à laquelle nous le ferons arriver pour l'instruction du genre humain.

Si vous avez épousé une demoiselle dont l'éducation s'est faite dans un pensionnat, il y a trente chances contre votre bonheur de plus que toutes celles dont l'énumération précède, et vous ressemblez exactement à un homme qui a fourré sa main dans un guêpier. Alors, immédiatement après la bénédiction nuptiale, et sans vous laisser prendre à l'innocente ignorance, aux grâces naïves, à la pudibonde contenance de votre femme, vous devez méditer et suivre les axiomes et les préceptes que nous développerons dans la Seconde Partie de ce livre. Vous mettrez même à exécution les rigueurs de la Troisième Partie, en exerçant sur-le-champ une active surveillance, en déployant une paternelle sollicitude à toute heure, car le lendemain même de votre mariage, la veille peut-être, il y avait péril en la demeure. En effet, souvenez-vous un peu de l'instruction secrète et appro-- 397 -fondie que les écoliers acquièrent de natura rerum, de la nature des choses. Lapeyrouse, Cook, ou le capitaine Parry, ont-ils jamais eu autant d'ardeur à naviguer vers les pôles que les lycéens vers les parages défendus de l'océan des plaisirs ? Les filles étant plus rusées, plus spirituelles et plus curieuses que les garçons, leurs rendez-vous clandestins, leurs conversations, que tout l'art des matrones ne saurait empêcher, doivent être dirigés par un génie mille fois plus infernal que celui des collégiens. Quel homme a jamais entendu les réflexions morales et les aperçus malins de ces jeunes filles ? Elles seules connaissent ces jeux où l'honneur se perd par avance, ces essais de plaisir, ces tâtonnements de volupté, ces simulacres de bonheur, qu'on peut comparer aux vols faits par les enfants trop gourmands à un dessert mis sous clef. Une fille sortira peut-être vierge de sa pension ; chaste, non. Elle aura plus d'une fois discuté en de secrets conventicules la question importante des amants, et la corruption aura nécessairement entamé le coeur ou l'esprit, soit dit sans antithèse.

Admettons cependant que votre femme n'aura pas participé à ces friandises virginales, à ces lutineries prématurées. De ce qu'elle n'ait point eu voix délibérative aux conseils secrets des grandes, en sera-t-elle meilleure ? Non. Là, elle aura contracté amitié avec d'autres jeunes demoiselles, et nous serons modeste en ne lui accordant que deux ou trois amies intimes. Etes-vous certains que, votre femme sortie de pension, ses jeunes amies n'auront pas été admises à ces conciliabules où l'on cherchait à connaître d'avance, au moins par analogie, les jeux des colombes ? Enfin, ses amies se marieront ; vous aurez alors quatre femmes à surveiller au lieu d'une, quatre caractères à deviner, et vous serez à la merci de quatre maris et d'une douzaine de célibataires de qui vous ignorez entièrement la vie, les principes, les habitudes, quand nos méditations vous auront fait apercevoir la nécessité où vous devez être un jour de vous occuper des gens que vous avez épousés avec votre femme sans vous en douter. Satan seul a pu imaginer une pension de demoiselles au milieu d'une grande ville !... Au moins madame Campan avait-elle logé sa fameuse institution à Ecouen. Cette sage précaution prouve qu'elle n'était pas une femme ordinaire. Là, ses demoiselles ne voyaient pas le musée des rues, composé d'immenses et grotesques images et de mots obscènes dus aux crayons du malin esprit. Elles n'avaient pas incessamment sous les -- 398 -yeux le spectacle des infirmités humaines étalé par chaque borne en France, et de perfides cabinets littéraires ne leur vomissaient pas en secret le poison des livres instructeurs et incendiaires. Aussi, cette savante institutrice ne pouvait-elle guère qu'à Ecouen vous conserver une demoiselle intacte et pure, si cela est possible. Vous espéreriez peut-être empêcher facilement votre femme de voir ses amies de pension ? folie ! elle les rencontrera au bal, au spectacle, à la promenade, dans le monde ; et combien de services deux femmes ne peuvent-elles pas se rendre !... Mais nous méditerons ce nouveau sujet de terreur en son lieu et place. Ce n'est pas tout encore : si votre belle-mère a mis sa fille en pension, croyez-vous que ce soit par intérêt pour sa fille ? Une demoiselle de douze à quinze ans est un terrible argus ; et, si la belle-mère ne voulait pas d'argus chez elle, je commence à soupçonner que madame votre belle-mère appartient inévitablement à la partie la plus douteuse de nos femmes honnêtes. Donc, en toute occasion, elle sera pour sa fille ou un fatal exemple ou un dangereux conseiller. Arrêtons-nous..., la belle-mère exige toute une Méditation. Ainsi, de quelque côté que vous vous tourniez, le lit conjugal est, dans cette occurrence, également épineux. Avant la révolution, quelques familles aristocratiques envoyaient les filles au couvent. Cet exemple était suivi par nombre de gens qui s'imaginaient qu'en mettant leurs filles là où se trouvaient celles d'un grand seigneur, elles en prendraient le ton et les manières. Cette erreur de l'orgueil était d'abord fatale au bonheur domestique ; puis les couvents avaient tous les inconvénients des pensionnats. L'oisiveté y règne plus terrible. Les grilles claustrales enflamment l'imagination. La solitude est une des provinces les plus chéries du diable ; et l'on ne saurait croire quel ravage les phénomènes les plus ordinaires de la vie peuvent produire dans l'âme de ces jeunes filles rêveuses, ignorantes et inoccupées. Les unes, à force d'avoir caressé des chimères, donnent lieu à des quiproquo plus ou moins bizarres. D'autres, s'étant exagéré le bonheur conjugal, se disent en ellesmêmes : Quoi ! ce n'est que cela !... quand elles appartiennent à un mari. De toute manière l'instruction incomplète que peuvent acquérir les filles élevées en commun a tous les dangers de l'ignorance et tous les malheurs de la science. -- 399 -Une jeune fille élevée au logis par une mère ou une vieille tante vertueuses, bigotes, aimables ou acariâtres ; une jeune fille dont les pas n'ont jamais franchi le seuil

domestique sans être environnée de chaperons, dont l'enfance laborieuse a été fatiguée par des travaux même inutiles, à laquelle enfin tout est inconnu, même le spectacle de Séraphin, est un de ces trésors que l'on rencontre, çà et là, dans le monde, comme ces fleurs de bois environnées de tant de broussailles que les yeux mortels n'ont pu les atteindre. Celui qui, maître d'une fleur si suave, si pure, la laisse cultiver par d'autres, a mérité mille fois son malheur. C'est ou un monstre ou un sot. Ce serait bien ici le moment d'examiner s'il existe un mode quelconque de se bien marier, et de reculer ainsi indéfiniment les précautions dont l'ensemble sera présenté dans la Seconde et la Troisième Partie ; mais n'est-il pas bien prouvé qu'il est plus aisé de lire l'école des femmes dans un four exactement fermé que de pouvoir connaître le caractère, les habitudes et l'esprit d'une demoiselle à marier ? La plupart des hommes ne se marient-ils pas absolument comme s'ils achetaient une partie de rentes à la Bourse ? Et si dans la Méditation précédente nous avons réussi à vous démontrer que le plus grand nombre des hommes reste dans la plus profonde incurie de son propre bonheur en fait de mariage, est-il raisonnable de croire qu'il se rencontrera beaucoup de gens assez riches, assez spirituels, assez observateurs, pour perdre, comme le Burchell du Vicaire de Wakefield, une ou deux années de leur temps à deviner, à épier les filles dont ils feront leurs femmes, quand ils s'occupent si peu d'elles après les avoir conjugalement possédées pendant ce laps de temps que les Anglais nomment la Lune de miel, et de laquelle nous ne tarderons pas à discuter l'influence ? Cependant, comme nous avons long-temps réfléchi sur cette matière importante, nous ferons observer qu'il existe quelques moyens de choisir plus ou moins bien, même en choisissant promptement. Il est, par exemple, hors de doute que les probabilités seront en votre faveur : 1° Si vous avez pris une demoiselle dont le tempérament ressemble à celui des femmes de la Louisiane ou de la Caroline. Pour obtenir des renseignements certains sur le tempérament -- 400 -d'une jeune personne, il faut mettre en vigueur auprès des femmes de chambre le système dont parle Gil Blas, et employé par un homme d'Etat pour connaître les conspirations ou savoir comment les ministres avaient passé la nuit. 2° Si vous choisissez une demoiselle qui, sans être laide, ne soit pas dans la classe des jolies femmes. Nous regardons comme un principe certain que, pour être le moins malheureux possible en ménage, une grande douceur d'âme unie chez une femme à une laideur supportable sont deux éléments infaillibles de succès. Mais voulez-vous savoir la vérité ? ouvrez Rousseau, car il ne s'agitera pas une question de morale publique de laquelle il n'ait d'avance indiqué la portée. Lisez : « Chez les peuples qui ont des moeurs, les filles sont faciles, et les femmes sévères. C'est le contraire chez ceux qui n'en ont pas. » Il résulterait de l'adoption du principe que consacre cette remarque profonde et vraie qu'il n'y aurait pas tant de mariages malheureux si les hommes épousaient leurs maîtresses. L'éducation des filles devrait alors subir d'importantes modifications en France. Jusqu'ici les lois et les moeurs françaises, placées entre un délit et un crime à prévenir, ont favorisé le crime. En effet, la faute d'une fille est à peine un délit, si vous la comparez à celle commise par la femme mariée. N'y a-t-il donc pas incomparablement moins de

danger à donner la liberté aux filles qu'à la laisser aux femmes ? L'idée de prendre une fille à l'essai fera penser plus d'hommes graves qu'elle ne fera rire d'étourdis. Les moeurs de l'Allemagne, de la Suisse, de l'Angleterre et des Etats-Unis donnent aux demoiselles des droits qui sembleraient en France le renversement de toute morale ; et néanmoins il est certain que dans ces trois pays les mariages sont moins malheureux qu'en France. « Quand une femme s'est livrée tout entière à un amant, elle doit avoir bien connu celui que l'amour lui offrait. Le don de son estime et de sa confiance a nécessairement précédé celui de son coeur. » Brillantes de vérité, ces lignes ont peut-être illuminé le cachot au fond duquel Mirabeau les écrivit, et la féconde observation qu'elles renferment, quoique due à la plus fougueuse de ses pas-- 401 -sions, n'en domine pas moins le problème social dont nous nous occupons. En effet, un mariage cimenté sous les auspices du religieux examen que suppose l'amour, et sous l'empire du désenchantement dont est suivie la possession, doit être la plus indissoluble de toutes les unions. Une femme n'a plus alors à reprocher à son mari le droit légal en vertu duquel elle lui appartient. Elle ne peut plus trouver dans cette soumission forcée une raison pour se livrer à un amant, quand plus tard elle a dans son propre coeur un complice dont les sophismes la séduisent en lui demandant vingt fois par heure pourquoi, s'étant donnée contre son gré à un homme qu'elle n'aimait point, elle ne se donnerait pas de bonne volonté à un homme qu'elle aime. Une femme n'est plus alors recevable à se plaindre de ces défauts inséparables de la nature humaine, elle en a, par avance, essayé la tyrannie, épousé les caprices. Bien des jeunes filles seront trompées dans les espérances de leur amour !... Mais n'y aura-t-il pas pour elles un immense bénéfice à ne pas être les compagnes d'hommes qu'elles auraient le droit de mépriser ? Quelques alarmistes vont s'écrier qu'un tel changement dans nos moeurs autoriserait une effroyable dissolution publique ; que les lois ou les usages, qui dominent les lois, ne peuvent pas, après tout, consacrer le scandale et l'immoralité ; et que s'il existe des maux inévitables, au moins la société ne doit pas les sanctifier. Il est facile de répondre, avant tout, que le système proposé tend à prévenir ces maux, qu'on a regardés jusqu'à présent comme inévitables ; mais, si peu exacts que soient les calculs de notre statistique, ils ont toujours accusé une immense plaie sociale, et nos moralistes préféreraient donc le plus grand mal au moindre, la violation du principe sur lequel repose la société, à une douteuse licence chez les filles ; la dissolution des mères de famille qui corrompt les sources de l'éducation publique et fait le malheur d'au moins quatre personnes, à la dissolution d'une jeune fille qui ne compromet qu'elle, et tout au plus un enfant. Périsse la vertu de dix vierges, plutôt que cette sainteté de moeurs, cette couronne d'honneur de laquelle une mère de famille doit marcher revêtue ! Il y a dans le tableau que présente une jeune fille abandonnée par son séducteur je ne sais quoi d'imposant et de sacré : c'est des ser-- 402 -ments ruinés, de saintes confiances trahies, et, sur les débris des plus faciles vertus, l'innocence en pleurs doutant de tout en doutant de l'amour d'un père pour son enfant. L'infortunée est encore innocente ; elle peut devenir une épouse fidèle, une tendre mère ; et si le passé s'est chargé de nuages, l'avenir est bleu comme un ciel pur. Trouveronsnous ces douces couleurs aux sombres tableaux des amours illégitimes ? Dans l'un la femme est victime, dans les autres, criminelle. Où est l'espérance de la femme adultère ! si Dieu lui remet sa faute, la vie la plus exemplaire ne saurait en effacer ici-bas les fruits

vivants. Si Jacques Ier est fils de Rizzio, le crime de Marie a duré autant que sa déplorable et royale maison, et la chute des Stuarts est justice. Mais, de bonne foi, l'émancipation des filles renferme-t-elle donc tant de dangers ? Il est très-facile d'accuser une jeune personne de se laisser décevoir par le désir d'échapper à tout prix à l'état de fille ; mais cela n'est vrai que dans la situation actuelle de nos moeurs. Aujourd'hui une jeune personne ne connaît ni la séduction ni ses piéges, elle ne s'appuie que sur sa faiblesse, et, démêlant les commodes maximes du beau monde, sa trompeuse imagination, gouvernée par des désirs que tout fortifie, est un guide d'autant plus aveugle que rarement une jeune fille confie à autrui les secrètes pensées de son premier amour... Si elle était libre, une éducation exempte de préjugés l'armerait contre l'amour du premier venu. Elle serait, comme tout le monde, bien plus forte contre des dangers connus que contre des périls dont l'étendue est cachée. D'ailleurs, pour être maîtresse d'elle-même, une fille en sera-t-elle moins sous l'oeil vigilant de sa mère ? Compterait-on aussi pour rien cette pudeur et ces craintes que la nature n'a placées si puissantes dans l'âme d'une jeune fille que pour la préserver du malheur d'être à un homme qui ne l'aime pas ? Enfin où est la fille assez peu calculatrice pour ne pas deviner que l'homme le plus immoral veut trouver des principes chez sa femme, comme les maîtres veulent que leurs domestiques soient parfaits ; et qu'alors, pour elle, la vertu est le plus riche et le plus fécond de tous les commerces ? Après tout, de quoi s'agit-il donc ici ? Pour qui croyez-vous que nous stipulions ? Tout au plus pour cinq ou six cent mille virginités armées de leurs répugnances et du haut prix auquel elles -- 403 -s'estiment : elles savent aussi bien se défendre que se vendre. Les dix-huit millions d'êtres que nous avons mis en dehors de la question se marient presque tous d'après le système que nous cherchons à faire prévaloir dans nos moeurs ; et, quant aux classes intermédiaires, par lesquelles nos pauvres bimanes sont séparés des hommes privilégiés qui marchent à la tête d'une nation, le nombre des enfants trouvés que ces classes demiaisées livrent au malheur irait en croissant depuis la paix, s'il faut en croire M. Benoiston de Châteauneuf, l'un des plus courageux savants qui se soient voués aux arides et utiles recherches de la statistique. Or, à quelle plaie profonde n'apportons nous pas remède, si l'on songe à la multiplicité des bâtards que nous dénonce la statistique, et aux infortunes que nos calculs font soupçonner dans la haute société ? Mais il est difficile de faire apercevoir ici tous les avantages qui résulteraient de l'émancipation des filles. Quand nous arriverons à observer les circonstances qui accompagnent le mariage tel que nos moeurs l'ont conçu, les esprits judicieux pourront apprécier toute la valeur du système d'éducation et de liberté que nous demandons pour les filles au nom de la raison et de la nature. Le préjugé que nous avons en France sur la virginité des mariées est le plus sot de tous ceux qui nous restent. Les Orientaux prennent leurs femmes sans s'inquiéter du passé et les enferment pour être plus certains de l'avenir ; les Français mettent les filles dans des espèces de sérails défendus par des mères, par des préjugés, par des idées religieuses, et ils donnent la plus entière liberté à leurs femmes, s'inquiétant ainsi beaucoup plus du passé que de l'avenir. Il ne s'agirait donc que de faire subir une inversion à nos moeurs. Nous finirions peut-être alors par donner à la fidélité conjugale toute la saveur et le ragoût que les femmes trouvent aujourd'hui aux infidélités. Mais cette discussion nous éloignerait trop de notre sujet s'il fallait examiner, dans tous ses détails, cette immense amélioration morale, que réclamera sans doute la France au vingtième siècle ; car les moeurs se réforment si lentement ! Ne faut-il pas pour obtenir le plus léger changement que l'idée la plus hardie du siècle passé soit devenue la plus triviale du siècle présent ? Aussi, est-ce en quelque sorte par coquetterie que nous

avons effleuré cette question ; soit pour montrer qu'elle ne nous a pas échappé, soit pour léguer un ouvrage de plus à nos neveux ; et, de bon compte, -- 404 -voici le troisième : le premier concerne les courtisanes, et le second est la physiologie du plaisir : Quand nous serons à dix, nous ferons une croix. Dans l'état actuel de nos moeurs et de notre imparfaite civilisation, il existe un problème insoluble pour le moment, et qui rend toute dissertation superflue relativement à l'art de choisir une femme ; nous le livrons, comme tous les autres, aux méditations des philosophes. PROBLEME. L'on n'a pas encore pu décider si une femme est poussée à devenir infidèle plutôt par l'impossibilité où elle serait de se livrer au changement que par la liberté qu'on lui laisserait à cet égard. Au surplus, comme dans cet ouvrage nous saisissons un homme au moment où il vient de se marier, s'il a rencontré une femme d'un tempérament sanguin, d'une imagination vive, d'une constitution nerveuse, ou d'un caractère indolent, sa situation n'en serait que plus grave. Un homme se trouverait dans un danger encore plus critique si sa femme ne buvait que de l'eau (voyez la Méditation intitulée : Hygiène conjugale) : mais si elle avait quelque talent pour le chant, ou si elle s'enrhumait trop facilement, il aurait à trembler tous les jours ; car il est reconnu que les cantatrices sont pour le moins aussi passionnées que les femmes dont le système muqueux est d'une grande délicatesse. Enfin le péril empirerait bien davantage si votre femme avait moins de dix-sept ans ; ou encore, si elle avait le fond du teint pâle et blafard ; car ces sortes de femmes sont presque toutes artificieuses. Mais nous ne voulons pas anticiper sur les terreurs que causeront aux maris tous les diagnostics de malheur qu'ils pourraient apercevoir dans le caractère de leurs femmes. Cette digression nous a déjà trop éloigné des pensionnats, où s'élaborent tant d'infortunes, d'où sortent des jeunes filles incapables d'apprécier les -- 405 -pénibles sacrifices par lesquels l'honnête homme, qui leur fait l'honneur de les épouser, est arrivé à l'opulence ; des jeunes filles impatientes des jouissances du luxe, ignorantes de nos lois, ignorantes de nos moeurs, saisissant avec avidité l'empire que leur donne la beauté, et prêtes à abandonner les vrais accents de l'âme pour les bourdonnements de la flatterie. Que cette Méditation laisse dans le souvenir de tous ceux qui l'auront lue, même en ouvrant le livre par contenance ou par distraction, une aversion profonde des demoiselles élevées en pension, et déjà de grands services auront été rendus à la chose publique.

Si nos premières Méditations prouvent qu'il est presque impossible à une femme mariée de rester vertueuse en France, le dénombrement des célibataires et des prédestinés, nos remarques sur l'éducation des filles et notre examen rapide des difficultés que comporte le choix d'une femme, expliquent jusqu'à un certain point cette fragilité nationale. Ainsi, après avoir accusé franchement la sourde maladie par laquelle l'état

social est travaillé, nous en avons cherché les causes dans l'imperfection des lois, dans l'inconséquence des moeurs, dans l'incapacité des esprits, dans les contradictions de nos habitudes. Un seul fait reste à observer : l'invasion du mal. Nous arrivons à ce premier principe en abordant les hautes questions renfermées dans la Lune de Miel ; et, de même que nous y trouverons le point de départ de tous les phénomènes conjugaux, elle nous offrira le brillant chaînon auquel viendront se rattacher nos observations, nos axiomes, nos problèmes, anneaux semés à dessein au travers des sages folies débitées par nos Méditations babillardes. La Lune de Miel sera, pour ainsi dire, l'apogée de l'analyse à laquelle nous devions nous livrer avant de mettre aux prises nos deux champions imaginaires. Cette expression, Lune de Miel, est un anglicisme qui passera dans toutes les langues, tant elle dépeint avec grâce la nuptiale saison, si fugitive, pendant laquelle la vie n'est que douceur et ravissement ; elle restera comme restent les illusions et les erreurs, -- 406 -car elle est le plus odieux de tous les mensonges. Si elle se présente comme une nymphe couronnée de fleurs fraîches, caressante comme une sirène, c'est qu'elle est le malheur même ; et le malheur arrive, la plupart du temps, en folâtrant. Les époux destinés à s'aimer pendant toute leur vie ne conçoivent pas la Lune de Miel ; pour eux, elle n'existe pas, ou plutôt elle existe toujours : ils sont comme ces immortels qui ne comprenaient pas la mort. Mais ce bonheur est en dehors de notre livre ; et, pour nos lecteurs, le mariage est sous l'influence de deux lunes : la Lune de Miel, la Lune Rousse. Cette dernière est terminée par une révolution qui la change en un croissant ; et, quand il luit sur un ménage, c'est pour l'éternité. Comment la Lune de Miel peut-elle éclairer deux êtres qui ne doivent pas s'aimer ? Comment se couche-t-elle quand une fois elle s'est levée ?... Tous les ménages ont-ils leur lune de miel ? Procédons par ordre pour résoudre ces trois questions. L'admirable éducation que nous donnons aux filles et les prudents usages sous la loi desquels les hommes se marient vont porter ici tous leurs fruits. Examinons les circonstances dont sont précédés et accompagnés les mariages les moins malheureux. Nos moeurs développent chez la jeune fille dont vous faites votre femme une curiosité naturellement excessive ; mais comme les mères se piquent en France de mettre tous les jours leurs filles au feu sans souffrir qu'elles se brûlent, cette curiosité n'a plus de bornes. Une ignorance profonde des mystères du mariage dérobe, à cette créature aussi naïve que rusée, la connaissance des périls dont il est suivi ; et, le mariage lui étant sans cesse présenté comme une époque de tyrannie et de liberté, de jouissances et de souveraineté, ses désirs s'augmentent de tous les intérêts de l'existence à satisfaire : pour elle, se marier, c'est être appelée du néant à la vie. Si elle a, en elle, le sentiment du bonheur, la religion, la morale, les lois et sa mère lui ont mille fois répété que ce bonheur ne peut venir que de vous. L'obéissance est toujours une nécessité chez elle, si elle n'est pas vertu ; car elle attend tout de vous : d'abord les sociétés consacrent l'esclavage de la femme, mais elle ne forme même pas le souhait de s'affranchir, car elle se sent faible, timide et ignorante. A moins d'une erreur due au hasard ou d'une répugnance que

-- 407 -vous seriez impardonnable de n'avoir pas devinée, elle doit chercher à vous plaire ; elle ne vous connaît pas. Enfin, pour faciliter votre beau triomphe, vous la prenez au moment où la nature sollicite souvent avec énergie les plaisirs dont vous êtes le dispensateur. Comme saint Pierre, vous tenez la clef du Paradis. Je le demande à toute créature raisonnable, un démon rassemblerait-il autour d'un ange dont il aurait juré la perte les éléments de son malheur avec autant de sollicitude que les bonnes moeurs en mettent à conspirer le malheur d'un mari ?... N'êtes-vous pas comme un roi entouré de flatteurs ? Livrée avec toutes ses ignorances et ses désirs à un homme qui, même amoureux, ne peut et ne doit pas connaître ses moeurs secrètes et délicates, cette jeune fille ne sera-telle pas honteusement passive, soumise et complaisante pendant tout le temps que sa jeune imagination lui persuadera d'attendre le plaisir ou le bonheur jusqu'à un lendemain qui n'arrive jamais ? Dans cette situation bizarre où les lois sociales et celles de la nature sont aux prises, une jeune fille obéit, s'abandonne, souffre et se tait par intérêt pour elle-même. Son obéissance est une spéculation ; sa complaisance, un espoir ; son dévouement, une sorte de vocation dont vous profitez ; et son silence est générosité. Elle sera victime de vos caprices tant qu'elle ne les comprendra pas ; elle souffrira de votre caractère jusqu'à ce qu'elle l'ait étudié ; elle se sacrifiera sans aimer, parce qu'elle croit au semblant de passion que vous donne le premier moment de sa possession ; elle ne se taira plus le jour où elle aura reconnu l'inutilité de ses sacrifices. Alors, un matin arrive où tous les contre-sens qui ont présidé à cette union se relèvent comme des branches un moment ployées sous un poids par degrés allégé. Vous avez pris pour de l'amour l'existence négative d'une jeune fille qui attendait le bonheur, qui volait au-devant de vos désirs dans l'espérance que vous iriez au-devant des siens, et qui n'osait se plaindre des malheurs secrets dont elle s'accusait la première. Quel homme ne serait pas la dupe d'une déception préparée de si loin, et de laquelle une jeune femme est innocente, complice et victime ? Il faudrait être un Dieu pour échapper à la fascination dont vous êtes entouré par la nature et la société. Tout n'est-il pas piège autour de vous et en vous ? car, pour être heureux, ne serait-il pas nécessaire de vous défendre des impétueux désirs -- 408 -de vos sens ? Où est, pour les contenir, cette barrière puissante qu'élève la main légère d'une femme à laquelle on veut plaire, parce qu'on ne la possède pas encore ?... Aussi, avez-vous fait parader et défiler vos troupes quand il n'y avait personne aux fenêtres ; avez-vous tiré un feu d'artifice dont la carcasse reste seule au moment où votre convive se présente pour le voir. Votre femme était devant les plaisirs du mariage comme un Mohican à l'opéra : l'instituteur est ennuyé quand le Sauvage commence à comprendre. LVI. En ménage, le moment où deux coeurs peuvent s'entendre est aussi rapide qu'un éclair, et ne revient plus quand il a fui. Ce premier essai de la vie à deux, pendant lequel une femme est encouragée par l'espérance du bonheur, par le sentiment encore neuf de ses devoirs d'épouse, par le désir de plaire, par la vertu si persuasive au moment où elle montre l'amour d'accord avec le devoir, se nomme la Lune de Miel. Comment peut-elle durer long-temps entre deux êtres qui s'associent pour la vie entière, sans se connaître parfaitement ? S'il faut

s'étonner d'une chose, c'est que les déplorables absurdités accumulées par nos moeurs autour d'un lit nuptial fassent éclore si peu de haines !... Mais que l'existence du sage soit un ruisseau paisible, et que celle du prodigue soit un torrent ; que l'enfant dont les mains imprudentes ont effeuillé toutes les roses sur son chemin ne trouve plus que des épines au retour : que l'homme dont la folle jeunesse a dévoré un million ne puisse plus jouir, pendant sa vie, des quarante mille livres de rente que ce million lui eût données, c'est des vérités triviales si l'on songe à la morale, et neuves si l'on pense à la conduite de la plupart des hommes. Voyez-y les images vraies de toutes les Lunes de Miel ; c'est leur histoire, c'est le fait et non pas la cause. Mais, que des hommes doués d'une certaine puissance de pensée par une éducation privilégiée, habitués à des combinaisons profondes pour briller, soit en politique, soit en littérature, dans les arts, dans le commerce ou dans la vie privée, se marient tous avec l'intention d'être heureux, de gouverner une femme par l'amour ou -- 409 -par la force, et tombent tous dans le même piége, deviennent des sots après avoir joui d'un certain bonheur pendant un certain temps, il y a certes là un problème dont la solution réside plutôt dans des profondeurs inconnues de l'âme humaine, que dans les espèces de vérités physiques par lesquelles nous avons déjà tâché d'expliquer quelques-uns de ces phénomènes. La périlleuse recherche des lois secrètes, que presque tous les hommes doivent violer à leur insu en cette circonstance, offre encore assez de gloire à celui qui échouerait dans cette entreprise pour que nous tentions l'aventure. Essayons donc. Malgré tout ce que les sots ont à dire sur la difficulté qu'ils trouvent à expliquer l'amour, il a des principes aussi infaillibles que ceux de la géométrie ; mais chaque caractère les modifiant à son gré, nous l'accusons des caprices créés par nos innombrables organisations. S'il nous était permis de ne voir que les effets si variés de la lumière, sans en apercevoir le principe, bien des esprits refuseraient de croire à la marche du soleil et à son unité. Aussi, les aveugles peuvent-ils crier à leur aise ; je me vante, comme Socrate, sans être aussi sage que lui, de ne savoir que l'amour, et, je vais essayer de déduire quelques-uns de ses préceptes, pour éviter aux gens mariés ou à marier la peine de se creuser la cervelle, ils en atteindraient trop promptement le fond. Or, toutes nos observations précédentes se résolvent à une seule proposition qui peut être considérée comme le dernier terme ou le premier, si l'on veut, de cette secrète théorie de l'amour, qui finirait par vous ennuyer si nous ne la terminions pas promptement. Ce principe est contenu dans la formule suivante : LVII. Entre deux êtres susceptibles d'amour, la durée de la passion est en raison de la résistance primitive de la femme, ou des obstacles que les hasards sociaux mettent à votre bonheur. Si l'on ne vous laisse désirer qu'un jour, votre amour ne durera peut-être pas trois nuits. Où faut-il chercher les causes de cette loi ? je ne sais. Si nous voulons porter nos regards autour de nous, les preuves de cette règle abondent : dans le système végétal, les plantes qui restent le plus de temps à croître sont celles auxquelles -- 410 -est promise la plus longue existence ; dans l'ordre moral, les ouvrages faits hier meurent demain ; dans l'ordre physique, le sein qui enfreint les lois de la gestation livre un fruit mort. En tout, une oeuvre de durée est long-temps couvée par le temps. Un long avenir demande un long passé. Si l'amour est un enfant, la passion est un homme. Cette loi générale, qui régit la nature, les êtres, et les sentiments, est précisément celle que tous les mariages enfreignent, ainsi que nous l'avons démontré. Ce principe a créé les fables

amoureuses de notre moyen âge : les Amadis, les Lancelot, les Tristan des fabliaux, dont la constance en amour paraît fabuleuse à juste titre, sont les allégories de cette mythologie nationale que notre imitation de la littérature grecque a tuée dans sa fleur. Ces figures gracieuses dessinées par l'imagination des trouvères consacraient cette vérité. LVIII. Nous ne nous attachons d'une manière durable aux choses que d'après les soins, les travaux ou les désirs qu'elles nous ont coûté. Tout ce que nos méditations nous ont révélé sur les causes de cette loi primordiale des amours, se réduit à l'axiome suivant, qui en est tout à la fois le principe et la conséquence. LIX. En toute chose l'on ne reçoit qu'en raison de ce que l'on donne. Ce dernier principe est tellement évident par lui-même que nous n'essaierons pas de le démontrer. Nous n'y joindrons qu'une seule observation, qui ne nous paraît pas sans importance. Celui qui a dit : Tout est vrai et tout est faux, a proclamé un fait que l'esprit humain naturellement sophistique interprète à sa manière, car il semble vraiment que les choses humaines aient autant de facettes qu'il y a d'esprits qui les considèrent. Ce fait, le voici : Il n'existe pas dans la création une loi qui ne soit balancée par une loi contraire : la vie en tout est résolue par l'équilibre de deux forces contendantes. Ainsi, dans le sujet qui nous occupe, en -- 411 -amour, il est certain que si vous donnez trop, vous ne recevrez pas assez. La mère qui laisse voir toute sa tendresse à ses enfants crée en eux l'ingratitude, l'ingratitude vient peut-être de l'impossibilité où l'on est de s'acquitter. La femme qui aime plus qu'elle n'est aimée sera nécessairement tyrannisée. L'amour durable est celui qui tient toujours les forces de deux êtres en équilibre. Or, cet équilibre peut toujours s'établir : celui des deux qui aime le plus doit rester dans la sphère de celui qui aime le moins. Et n'est-ce pas, après tout, le plus doux sacrifice que puisse faire une âme aimante, si tant est que l'amour s'accommode de cette inégalité ? Quel sentiment d'admiration ne s'élève-t-il pas dans l'âme du philosophe, en découvrant qu'il n'y a peut-être qu'un seul principe dans le monde comme il n'y a qu'un Dieu, et que nos idées et nos affections sont soumises aux mêmes lois qui font mouvoir le soleil, éclore les fleurs et vivre l'univers !... Peut-être faut-il chercher dans cette métaphysique de l'amour les raisons de la proposition suivante, qui jette les plus vives lumières sur la question des Lunes de Miel et des Lunes Rousses. THEOREME. L'homme va de l'aversion à l'amour ; mais, quand il a commencé par aimer et qu'il arrive à l'aversion, il ne revient jamais à l'amour. Dans certaines organisations humaines, les sentiments sont incomplets comme la pensée peut l'être dans quelques imaginations stériles. Ainsi de même que les esprits sont doués de la facilité de saisir les rapports existants entre les choses sans en tirer de conclusion ; de la faculté de saisir chaque rapport séparément sans les réunir, de la force de voir, de comparer et d'exprimer ; de même les âmes peuvent concevoir les sentiments d'une manière imparfaite. Le talent, en amour comme en tout autre art, consiste dans la

réunion de la puissance de concevoir et de celle d'exécuter. Le monde est plein de gens qui chantent des airs sans ritournelle, qui ont des quarts d'idée comme des quarts de sentiment, et qui ne coordonnent pas plus les mouvements de leurs affections que leurs pensées. C'est, en un mot, des êtres incomplets. Unissez une belle intelligence à une intelligence manquée, vous préparez un malheur ; car il faut que l'équilibre se retrouve en tout. -- 412 -Nous laissons aux philosophes de boudoir et aux sages d'arrière-boutique le plaisir de chercher les mille manières par lesquelles les tempéraments, les esprits, les situations sociales et la fortune rompent les équilibres, et nous allons examiner la dernière cause qui influe sur le coucher des Lunes de Miel et le lever des Lunes Rousses. Il y a dans la vie un principe plus puissant que la vie elle-même. C'est un mouvement dont la rapidité procède d'une impulsion inconnue. L'homme n'est pas plus dans le secret de ce tournoiement que la terre n'est initiée aux causes de sa rotation. Ce je ne sais quoi, que j'appellerais volontiers le courant de la vie, emporte nos pensées les plus chères, use la volonté du plus grand nombre, et nous entraîne tous malgré nous. Ainsi, un homme plein de bon sens, qui ne manquera même pas à payer ses billets, s'il est négociant, ayant pu éviter la mort, ou, chose plus cruelle peut-être ! une maladie, par l'observation d'une pratique facile, mais quotidienne, est bien et dûment cloué entre quatre planches, après s'être dit tous les soirs : -- « Oh ! demain, je n'oublierai pas mes pastilles ! » Comment expliquer cette étrange fascination qui domine toutes les choses de la vie ? est-ce défaut d'énergie ? les hommes les plus puissants de volonté y sont soumis ; est-ce défaut de mémoire ? les gens qui possèdent cette faculté au plus haut degré y sont sujets. Ce fait que chacun a pu reconnaître en son voisin est une des causes qui excluent la plupart des maris de la Lune de Miel. L'homme le plus sage, celui qui aurait échappé à tous les écueils que nous avons déjà signalés, n'évite quelquefois pas les piéges qu'il s'est ainsi tendus à lui-même. Je me suis aperçu que l'homme en agissait avec le mariage et ses dangers à peu près comme avec les perruques ; et peut-être est-ce une formule pour la vie humaine que les phases suivantes de la pensée à l'endroit de la perruque. PREMIERE EPOQUE. -- Est-ce que j'aurai jamais les cheveux blancs ? DEUXIEME EPOQUE. -- En tout cas, si j'ai des cheveux blancs, je ne porterai jamais de perruque : Dieu ! que c'est laid une perruque ! Un matin, vous entendez une jeune voix que l'amour a fait vibrer plus de fois qu'il ne l'a éteinte, s'écriant : -- Comment, tu as un cheveu blanc !... -- 413 -TROISIEME EPOQUE. -- Pourquoi ne pas avoir une perruque bien faite qui tromperait complétement les gens ? Il y a je ne sais quel mérite à duper tout le monde ; puis, une perruque tient chaud, elle empêche les rhumes, etc. QUATRIEME EPOQUE. -- La perruque est si adroitement mise que vous attrapez tous ceux qui ne vous connaissent pas. La perruque vous préoccupe, et l'amour-propre vous rend tous les matins le rival des plus habiles coiffeurs. CINQUIEME EPOQUE. -- La perruque négligée. -- Dieu ! que c'est ennuyeux d'avoir à se découvrir la tête tous les soirs, à la bichonner tous les matins !

SIXIEME EPOQUE. -- La perruque laisse passer quelques cheveux blancs ; elle vacille, et l'observateur aperçoit sur votre nuque une ligne blanche qui forme un contraste avec les nuances plus foncées de la perruque circulairement retroussée par le col de votre habit. SEPTIEME EPOQUE. -- La perruque ressemble à du chiendent, et (passez-moi l'expression) vous vous moquez de votre perruque !... -- Monsieur, me dit une des puissantes intelligences féminines qui ont daigné m'éclairer sur quelques-uns des passages les plus obscurs de mon livre, qu'entendez-vous par cette perruque ?... -- Madame, répondis-je, quand un homme tombe dans l'indifférence à l'endroit de la perruque, il est... il est... ce que votre mari n'est probablement pas. -- Mais, mon mari n'est pas... (Elle chercha.) Il n'est pas... aimable ; il n'est pas... trèsbien portant ; il n'est pas... d'une humeur égale ; il n'est pas... -- Alors, madame, il serait donc indifférent à la perruque. Nous nous regardâmes, elle avec une dignité assez bien jouée, moi avec un imperceptible sourire. -- Je vois, dis-je, qu'il faut singulièrement respecter les oreilles du petit sexe, car c'est la seule chose qu'il ait de chaste. Je pris l'attitude d'un homme qui a quelque chose d'important à révéler, et la belle dame baissa les yeux comme si elle se doutait d'avoir à rougir pendant ce discours. -- Madame, aujourd'hui l'on ne pendrait pas un ministre, comme jadis, pour un oui ou un non ; un Châteaubriand ne torturerait guère Françoise de Foix, et nous ne portons plus au côté une longue épée prête à venger l'injure. Or, dans un siècle où la civilisation a fait des progrès si rapides, où l'on nous apprend la -- 414 -moindre science en vingt-quatre leçons, tout a dû suivre cet élan vers la perfection. Nous ne pouvons donc plus parler la langue mâle, rude et grossière de nos ancêtres. L'âge dans lequel on fabrique des tissus si fins, si brillants, des meubles si élégants, des porcelaines si riches, devait être l'âge des périphrases et des circonlocutions. Il faut donc essayer de forger quelque mot nouveau pour remplacer la comique expression dont s'est servi Molière ; puisque, comme a dit un auteur contemporain, le langage de ce grand homme est trop libre pour les dames qui trouvent la gaze trop épaisse pour leurs vêtements. Maintenant les gens du monde n'ignorent pas plus que les savants le goût inné des Grecs pour les mystères. Cette poétique nation avait su empreindre de teintes fabuleuses les antiques traditions de son histoire. A la voix de ses rapsodes, tout ensemble poètes et romanciers, les rois devenaient des dieux, et leurs aventures galantes se transformaient en d'immortelles allégories. Selon M. Chompré, licencié en droit, auteur classique du Dictionnaire de Mythologie, le Labyrinthe était « un enclos planté de bois et orné de bâtiments disposés de telle façon que quand un jeune homme y était entré une fois, il ne pouvait plus en trouver la sortie. » Çà et là quelques bocages fleuris s'offraient à sa vue, mais au milieu d'une multitude d'allées qui se croisaient dans tous les sens et présentaient toujours à l'oeil une route uniforme ; parmi les ronces, les rochers et les épines, le patient avait à combattre un animal nommé le Minotaure. Or, madame, si vous voulez me faire l'honneur de vous souvenir que le Minotaure était, de toutes les bêtes cornues, celle que la mythologie nous signale comme la plus dangereuse ; que, pour se soustraire aux ravages qu'il faisait, les Athéniens s'étaient abonnés à lui livrer, bon an, mal an, cinquante vierges ; vous ne partagerez pas l'erreur de ce bon M. Chompré, qui ne voit là qu'un jardin anglais ; et vous reconnaîtrez dans cette fable ingénieuse une allégorie délicate, ou, disons mieux, une image fidèle et terrible des dangers du mariage. Les peintures récemment découvertes à Herculanum ont achevé de prouver cette opinion. En effet, les savants avaient cru long-temps, d'après quelques auteurs, que le minotaure était un animal moitié homme, moitié

taureau ; mais la cinquième planche des anciennes peintures d'Herculanum nous représente ce monstre allégorique avec le corps entier d'un homme, à la réserve d'une tête de taureau ; et, pour enlever toute espèce -- 415 -de doute, il est abattu aux pieds de Thésée. Eh ! bien, madame, pourquoi ne demanderions-nous pas à la mythologie de venir au secours de l'hypocrisie qui nous gagne et nous empêche de rire comme riaient nos pères ? Ainsi, lorsque dans le monde une jeune dame n'a pas très-bien su étendre le voile sous lequel une femme honnête couvre sa conduite, là où nos aïeux auraient rudement tout expliqué par un seul mot, vous, comme une foule de belles dames à réticences, vous vous contentez de dire : -« Ah ! oui, elle est fort aimable, mais... -- Mais quoi ?.. -- Mais elle est souvent bien inconséquente... » J'ai long-temps cherché, madame, le sens de ce dernier mot et surtout la figure de rhétorique par laquelle vous lui faisiez exprimer le contraire de ce qu'il signifie ; mes méditations ont été vaines. Vert-Vert a donc, le dernier, prononcé le mot de nos ancêtres, et encore s'est-il adressé, par malheur, à d'innocentes religieuses, dont les infidélités n'atteignaient en rien l'honneur des hommes. Quand une femme est inconséquente, le mari serait, selon moi, minotaurisé. Si le minotaurisé est un galant homme, s'il jouit d'une certaine estime, et beaucoup de maris méritent réellement d'être plaints, alors, en parlant de lui, vous dites encore d'une petite voix flûtée : « M. A... est un homme bien estimable, sa femme est fort jolie, mais on prétend qu'il n'est pas heureux dans son intérieur. » Ainsi, madame, l'homme estimable malheureux dans son intérieur, l'homme qui a une femme inconséquente, ou le mari minotaurisé, sont tout bonnement des maris à la façon de Molière. Hé ! bien, déesse du goût moderne, ces expressions vous semblent-elles d'une transparence assez chaste ? -- Ah ! mon Dieu, dit-elle en souriant, si la chose reste, qu'importe qu'elle soit exprimée en deux syllabes ou en cent ? Elle me salua par une petite révérence ironique et disparut, allant sans doute rejoindre ces comtesses de préface et toutes ces créatures métaphoriques si souvent employées par les romanciers à retrouver ou à composer des manuscrits anciens. Quant à vous, êtres moins nombreux et plus réels qui me lisez, si, parmi vous, il est quelques gens qui fassent cause commune avec mon champion conjugal, je vous avertis que vous ne deviendrez pas tout d'un coup malheureux dans votre intérieur. Un homme arrive à cette température conjugale par degrés et insensiblement. Beaucoup de maris sont même restés malheureux dans -- 416 -leur intérieur, toute leur vie, sans le savoir. Cette révolution domestique s'opère toujours d'après des règles certaines ; car les révolutions de la Lune de Miel sont aussi sûres que les phases de la lune du ciel et s'appliquent à tous les ménages ! n'avons-nous pas prouvé que la nature morale a ses lois, comme la nature physique ? Votre jeune femme ne prendra jamais, comme nous l'avons dit ailleurs, un amant sans faire de sérieuses réflexions. Au moment où la Lune de Miel décroît, vous avez plutôt développé chez elle le sentiment du plaisir que vous ne l'avez satisfait ; vous lui avez ouvert le livre de vie, elle conçoit admirablement par le prosaïsme de votre facile amour la poésie qui doit résulter de l'accord des âmes et des voluptés. Comme un oiseau timide, épouvanté encore par le bruit d'une mousqueterie qui a cessé, elle avance la tête hors du nid, regarde autour d'elle, voit le monde ; et, tenant le mot de la charade que vous avez jouée, elle sent instinctivement le vide de votre passion languissante. Elle devine que ce n'est plus qu'avec un amant qu'elle pourra reconquérir le délicieux usage de son libre arbitre en amour. Vous avez séché du bois vert pour un feu à venir.

Dans la situation où vous vous trouvez l'un et l'autre, il n'existe pas de femme, même la plus vertueuse, qui ne se soit trouvée digne d'une grande passion, qui ne l'ait rêvée, et qui ne croie être très-inflammable ; car il y a toujours de l'amour-propre à augmenter les forces d'un ennemi vaincu. -- Si le métier d'honnête femme n'était que périlleux, passe encore... me disait une vieille dame ; mais il ennuie, et je n'ai jamais rencontré de femme vertueuse qui ne pensât jouer en dupe. Alors, et avant même qu'aucun amant ne se présente, une femme en discute pour ainsi dire la légalité ; elle subit un combat que se livrent en elle les devoirs, les lois, la religion et les désirs secrets d'une nature qui ne reçoit de frein que celui qu'elle s'impose. Là commence pour vous un ordre de choses tout nouveau ; là, se trouve le premier avertissement que la nature, cette indulgente et bonne mère, donne à toutes les créatures qui ont à courir quelque danger. La nature a mis au cou du minotaure une sonnette, comme à la queue de cet épouvantable serpent, l'effroi du voyageur. Alors se déclarent, dans votre femme, ce que nous appellerons les premiers symptômes, et malheur à qui n'a pas su les combattre ! ceux qui en nous lisant se souviendront de les avoir -- 417 -vus se manifestant jadis dans leur intérieur, peuvent passer à la conclusion de cet ouvrage, ils y trouveront des consolations. Cette situation, dans laquelle un ménage reste plus ou moins long-temps, sera le point de départ de notre ouvrage, comme elle est le terme de nos observations générales. Un homme d'esprit doit savoir reconnaître les mystérieux indices, les signes imperceptibles, et les révélations involontaires qu'une femme laisse échapper alors ; car la Méditation suivante pourra tout au plus accuser les gros traits aux néophytes de la science sublime du mariage.

Lorsque votre femme est dans la crise où nous l'avons laissée, vous êtes, vous, en proie à une douce et entière sécurité. Vous avez tant de fois vu le soleil que vous commencez à croire qu'il peut luire pour tout le monde. Vous ne prêtez plus alors aux moindres actions de votre femme cette attention que vous donnait le premier feu du tempérament. Cette indolence empêche beaucoup de maris d'apercevoir les symptômes par lesquels leurs femmes annoncent un premier orage ; et cette disposition d'esprit a fait minotauriser plus de maris que l'occasion, les fiacres, les canapés et les appartements en ville. Ce sentiment d'indifférence pour le danger est en quelque sorte produit et justifié par le calme apparent qui vous entoure. La conspiration ourdie contre vous par notre million de célibataires affamés semble être unanime dans sa marche. Quoique tous ces damoiseaux soient ennemis les uns des autres et que pas un d'eux ne se connaisse, une sorte d'instinct leur a donné le mot d'ordre. Deux personnes se marient-elles, les sbires du minotaure, jeunes et vieux, ont tous ordinairement la politesse de laisser entièrement les époux à eux-mêmes. Ils regardent un mari comme un ouvrier chargé de dégrossir, polir, tailler à facettes et monter le diamant qui passera de main en main, pour être un jour admiré à la ronde. Aussi, l'aspect d'un jeune ménage fortement épris réjouit-il toujours ceux d'entre les célibataires qu'on a nommés les Roués, ils se gardent bien de troubler le travail dont doit profiter la société ; ils savent aussi que les grosses pluies durent peu ; ils se tiennent alors à l'écart, en faisant le guet, en épiant, avec une in-- 418 --

croyable finesse, le moment où les deux époux commenceront à se lasser du septième ciel. Le tact avec lequel les célibataires découvrent le moment où la bise vient à souffler dans un ménage ne peut être comparé qu'à cette nonchalance à laquelle sont livrés les maris pour lesquels la Lune Rousse se lève. Il y a, même en galanterie, une maturité qu'il faut savoir attendre. Le grand homme est celui qui juge tout ce que peuvent porter les circonstances. Ces gens de cinquante-deux ans, que nous avons présentés comme si dangereux, comprennent très-bien, par exemple, que tel homme qui s'offre à être l'amant d'une femme et qui est fièrement rejeté, sera reçu à bras ouverts trois mois plus tard. Mais il est vrai de dire qu'en général, les gens mariés mettent à trahir leur froideur la même naïveté qu'à dénoncer leur amour. Au temps où vous parcouriez avec madame les ravissantes campagnes du septième ciel, et où, selon les caractères, on reste campé plus ou moins long-temps, comme le prouve la Méditation précédente, vous alliez peu ou point dans le monde. Heureux dans votre intérieur, si vous sortiez, c'était pour faire, à la manière des amants, une partie fine, courir au spectacle, à la campagne, etc. Du moment où vous reparaissez, ensemble ou séparément, au sein de la société, que l'on vous voit assidus l'un et l'autre aux bals, aux fêtes, à tous ces vains amusements créés pour fuir le vide du coeur, les célibataires devinent que votre femme y vient chercher des distractions ; donc, son ménage, son mari l'ennuient. Là, le célibataire sait que la moitié du chemin est faite. Là, vous êtes sur le point d'être minotaurisé, et votre femme tend à devenir inconséquente : c'est-à-dire, au contraire, qu'elle sera très-conséquente dans sa conduite, qu'elle la raisonnera avec une profondeur étonnante, et que vous n'y verrez que du feu. Dès ce moment elle ne manquera en apparence à aucun de ses devoirs, et recherchera d'autant plus les couleurs de la vertu qu'elle en aura moins. Hélas ! disait Crébillon : Doit-on donc hériter de ceux qu'on assassine ! Jamais vous ne l'aurez vue plus soigneuse à vous plaire. Elle cherchera à vous dédommager de la secrète lésion qu'elle médite de faire à votre bonheur conjugal, par de petites félicités qui vous font croire à la perpétuité de son amour ; de là vient le proverbe : -- 419 -Heureux comme un sot. Mais selon les caractères des femmes, ou elles méprisent leurs maris, par cela même qu'elles les trompent avec succès ; ou elles les haïssent, si elles sont contrariées par eux ; ou elles tombent, à leur égard, dans une indifférence pire mille fois que la haine. En cette occurrence, le premier diagnostic chez la femme est une grande excentricité. Une femme aime à se sauver d'elle-même, à fuir son intérieur, mais sans cette avidité des époux complétement malheureux. Elle s'habille avec beaucoup de soin, afin, dira-telle, de flatter votre amour-propre en attirant tous les regards au milieu des fêtes et des plaisirs. Revenue au sein de ses ennuyeux pénates, vous la verrez parfois sombre et pensive ; puis tout à coup riant et s'égayant comme pour s'étourdir ; ou prenant l'air grave d'un Allemand qui marche au combat. De si fréquentes variations annoncent toujours la terrible hésitation que nous avons signalée. Il y a des femmes qui lisent des romans pour se repaître de l'image habilement présentée et toujours diversifiée d'un amour contrarié qui triomphe, ou pour s'habituer, par la pensée, aux dangers d'une intrigue.

Elle professera la plus haute estime pour vous. Elle vous dira qu'elle vous aime, comme on aime un frère ; que cette amitié raisonnable est la seule vraie, la seule durable, et que le mariage n'a pour but que de l'établir entre deux époux. Elle distinguera fort habilement qu'elle n'a que des devoirs à remplir, et qu'elle peut prétendre à exercer des droits. Elle voit avec une froideur que vous seul pouvez calculer tous les détails du bonheur conjugal. Ce bonheur ne lui a peut-être jamais beaucoup plu, et d'ailleurs, pour elle, il est toujours là ; elle le connaît, elle l'a analysé ; et combien de légères mais terribles preuves viennent alors prouver à un mari spirituel que cet être fragile argumente et raisonne au lieu d'être emporté par la fougue de la passion !... LX. Plus on juge, moins on aime. De là jaillissent chez elle et ces plaisanteries dont vous riez le premier, et ces réflexions qui vous surprennent par leur profon-- 420 -deur ; de là viennent ces changements soudains et ces caprices d'un esprit qui flotte. Parfois elle devient tout à coup d'une extrême tendresse comme par repentir de ses pensées et de ses projets ; parfois elle est maussade et indéchiffrable ; enfin, elle accomplit le varium et mutabile foemina que nous avons eu jusqu'ici la sottise d'attribuer à leur constitution. Diderot, dans le désir d'expliquer ces variations presque atmosphériques de la femme, est même allé jusqu'à les faire provenir de ce qu'il nomme la bête féroce ; mais vous n'observerez jamais ces fréquentes anomalies chez une femme heureuse. Ces symptômes, légers comme de la gaze, ressemblent à ces nuages qui nuancent à peine l'azur du ciel et qu'on nomme des fleurs d'orage. Bientôt les couleurs prennent des teintes plus fortes. Au milieu de cette méditation solennelle, qui tend à mettre, selon l'expression de madame de Staël, plus de poésie dans la vie, quelques femmes, auxquelles des mères vertueuses par calcul, par devoir, par sentiment ou par hypocrisie, ont inculqué des principes tenaces, prennent les dévorantes idées dont elles sont assaillies pour des suggestions du démon ; et vous les voyez alors trottant régulièrement à la messe, aux offices, aux vêpres même. Cette fausse dévotion commence par de jolis livres de prières reliés avec luxe, à l'aide desquels ces chères pécheresses s'efforcent en vain de remplir les devoirs imposés par la religion et délaissés pour les plaisirs du mariage. Ici posons un principe et gravez-le en lettres de feu dans votre souvenir. Lorsqu'une jeune femme reprend tout à coup des pratiques religieuses autrefois abandonnées, ce nouveau système d'existence cache toujours un motif d'une haute importance pour le bonheur du mari. Sur cent femmes il en est au moins soixante-dixneuf chez lesquelles ce retour vers Dieu prouve qu'elles ont été inconséquentes ou qu'elles vont le devenir. Mais un symptôme plus clair, plus décisif, que tout mari reconnaîtra, sous peine d'être un sot, est celui-ci. Au temps où vous étiez plongés l'un et l'autre dans les trompeuses délices de la Lune de Miel, votre femme, en véritable amante, faisait constamment votre volonté. Heureuse de pouvoir vous prouver une bonne volonté que vous preniez, vous deux, pour de l'amour, elle aura désiré que vous lui eussiez commandé de marcher sur -- 421 --

le bord des gouttières, et, sur-le-champ, agile comme un écureuil, elle eût parcouru les toits. En un mot, elle trouvait un plaisir ineffable à vous sacrifier ce je qui la rendait un être différent de vous. Elle s'était identifiée à votre nature, obéissant à ce voeu du coeur : Una caro. Toutes ces belles dispositions d'un jour se sont effacées insensiblement. Blessée de rencontrer sa volonté anéantie, votre femme essaiera maintenant de la reconquérir au moyen d'un système développé graduellement et de jour en jour avec une croissante énergie. C'est le système de la Dignité de la Femme mariée. Le premier effet de ce système est d'apporter dans vos plaisirs une certaine réserve et une certaine tiédeur de laquelle vous êtes le seul juge. Selon le plus ou le moins d'emportement de votre passion sensuelle, vous avez peutêtre, pendant la Lune de Miel, deviné quelques-unes de ces vingt-deux voluptés qui autrefois créèrent en Grèce vingt-deux espèces de courtisanes adonnées particulièrement à la culture de ces branches délicates d'un même art. Ignorante et naïve, curieuse et pleine d'espérance, votre jeune femme aura pris quelques grades dans cette science aussi rare qu'inconnue et que nous recommandons singulièrement au futur auteur de la Physiologie du Plaisir. Alors par une matinée d'hiver, et semblables à ces troupes d'oiseaux qui craignent le froid de l'Occident, s'envolent d'un seul coup, d'une même aile, la Fellatrice, fertile en coquetteries qui trompent le désir pour en prolonger les brûlants accès ; la Tractatrice, venant de l'Orient parfumé où les plaisirs qui font rêver sont en honneur ; la Subagitatrice, fille de la grande Grèce ; la Lémane, avec ses voluptés douces et chatouilleuses ; la Corinthienne, qui pourrait, au besoin, les remplacer toutes ; puis enfin, l'agacante Phicidisseuse, aux dents dévoratrices et lutines, dont l'émail semble intelligent. Une seule, peut-être, vous est restée ; mais un soir, la brillante et fougueuse Propétide étend ses ailes blanches et s'enfuit, le front baissé, vous montrant pour la dernière fois, comme l'ange qui disparaît aux yeux d'Abraham, dans le tableau de Rembrandt, les ravissants trésors qu'elle ignore elle-même, et qu'il n'était donné qu'à vous de contempler d'un oeil enivré, de flatter d'une main caressante. Sevré de toutes ces nuances de plaisir, de tous ces caprices -- 422 -d'âme, de ces flèches de l'Amour, vous êtes réduit à la plus vulgaire des façons d'aimer, à cette primitive et innocente allure de l'hyménée, pacifique hommage que rendait le naïf Adam à notre mère commune, et qui suggéra sans doute au Serpent l'idée de la déniaiser. Mais un symptôme si complet n'est pas fréquent. La plupart des ménages sont trop bons chrétiens pour suivre les usages de la Grèce païenne. Aussi avons-nous rangé parmi les derniers symptômes l'apparition dans la paisible couche nuptiale de ces voluptés effrontées qui, la plupart du temps, sont filles d'une illégitime passion. En temps et lieu, nous traiterons plus amplement ce diagnostic enchanteur : ici, peut-être, se réduit-il à une nonchalance et même à une répugnance conjugale que vous êtes seul en état d'apprécier. En même temps qu'elle ennoblit ainsi par sa dignité les fins du mariage, votre femme prétend qu'elle doit avoir son opinion et vous la vôtre. « En se mariant, dira-t-elle, une femme ne fait pas voeu d'abdiquer sa raison. Les femmes sont-elles donc réellement esclaves ? Les lois humaines ont pu enchaîner le corps, mais la pensée !... ah ! Dieu l'a placée trop près de lui pour que les tyrans pussent y porter les mains. » Ces idées procèdent nécessairement ou d'une instruction trop libérale que vous lui aurez laissé prendre, ou de réflexions que vous lui aurez permis de faire. Une Méditation tout entière a été consacrée à l'instruction en ménage.

Puis votre femme commence à dire : « Ma chambre, mon lit, mon appartement. » A beaucoup de vos questions, elle répondra : -- « Mais, mon ami, cela ne vous regarde pas ! » Ou : -- « Les hommes ont leur part dans la direction d'une maison, et les femmes ont la leur. » Ou bien, ridiculisant les hommes qui se mêlent du ménage, elle prétendra que « les hommes n'entendent rien à certaines choses. » Le nombre des choses auxquelles vous n'entendez rien augmentera tous les jours. Un beau matin vous verrez, dans votre petite église, deux autels là où vous n'en cultiviez qu'un seul. L'autel de votre femme et le vôtre seront devenus distincts, et cette distinction ira croissant, toujours en vertu du système de la dignité de la femme. Viendront alors les idées suivantes, que l'on vous inculquera, malgré vous, par la vertu d'une force vive, fort ancienne et peu -- 423 -connue. La force de la vapeur, celle des chevaux, des hommes ou de l'eau sont de bonnes inventions ; mais la nature a pourvu la femme d'une force morale à laquelle ces dernières ne sont pas comparables : nous la nommerons force de la crécelle. Cette puissance consiste dans une perpétuité de son, dans un retour si exact des mêmes paroles, dans une rotation si complète des mêmes idées, qu'à force de les entendre vous les admettrez pour être délivré de la discussion. Ainsi, la puissance de la crécelle vous prouvera : Que vous êtes bien heureux d'avoir une femme d'un tel mérite ; Qu'on vous a fait trop d'honneur en vous épousant ; Que souvent les femmes voient plus juste que les hommes ; Que vous devriez prendre en tout l'avis de votre femme, et presque toujours le suivre ; Que vous devez respecter la mère de vos enfants, l'honorer, avoir confiance en elle ; Que la meilleure manière de n'être pas trompé est de s'en remettre à la délicatesse d'une femme, parce que, suivant certaines vieilles idées que nous avons eu la faiblesse de laisser s'accréditer, il est impossible à un homme d'empêcher sa femme de le minotauriser ; Qu'une femme légitime est la meilleure amie d'un homme ; Qu'une femme est maîtresse chez elle, et reine dans son salon, etc. Ceux qui, à ces conquêtes de la dignité de la femme sur le pouvoir de l'homme, veulent opposer une ferme résistance, tombent dans la catégorie des prédestinés. D'abord, s'élèvent des querelles qui, aux yeux de leurs femmes, leur donnent un air de tyrannie. La tyrannie d'un mari est toujours une terrible excuse à l'inconséquence d'une femme. Puis, dans ces légères discussions, elles savent prouver à leurs familles, aux nôtres, à tout le monde, à nous-mêmes, que nous avons tort. Si, pour obtenir la paix, ou par amour, vous reconnaissez les droits prétendus de la femme, vous laissez à la vôtre un avantage dont elle profitera éternellement. Un mari, comme un gouvernement, ne doit jamais avouer de faute. Là, votre pouvoir serait débordé par le système occulte de la dignité féminine ; là, tout serait perdu ; dès ce moment elle marcherait de concession en concession jusqu'à vous chasser de son lit. La femme étant fine, spirituelle, malicieuse, ayant tout le temps -- 424 --

de penser à une ironie elle vous tournerait en ridicule pendant le choc momentané de vos opinions. Le jour où elle vous aura ridiculisé verra la fin de votre bonheur. Votre pouvoir expirera. Une femme qui a ri de son mari ne peut plus l'aimer. Un homme doit être pour la femme qui aime, un être plein de force, de grandeur, et toujours imposant. Une famille ne saurait exister sans le despotisme. Nations pensez-y ! Aussi, la conduite difficile qu'un homme doit tenir en présence d'événements si graves, cette haute politique du mariage est-elle précisément l'objet des Seconde et Troisième Parties de notre livre. Ce bréviaire du machiavélisme marital vous apprendra la manière de vous grandir dans cet esprit léger, dans cette âme de dentelle, disait Napoléon. Vous saurez comment un homme peut montrer une âme d'acier, peut accepter cette petite guerre domestique, et ne jamais céder l'empire de la volonté sans compromettre son bonheur. En effet, si vous abdiquiez, votre femme vous mésestimerait par cela seul qu'elle vous trouverait sans rigueur ; vous ne seriez plus un homme pour elle. Mais nous ne sommes pas encore arrivé au moment de développer les théories et les principes par lesquels un mari pourra concilier l'élégance des manières avec l'acerbité des mesures ; qu'il nous suffise pour le moment de deviner l'importance de l'avenir, et poursuivons. A cette époque fatale, vous la verrez établissant avec adresse le droit de sortir seule. Vous étiez naguère son dieu, son idole. Elle est maintenant parvenue à ce degré de dévotion qui permet d'apercevoir des trous à la robe des saints. -- Oh ! mon Dieu, mon ami, disait madame de la Vallière à son mari, comme vous portez mal votre épée ! M. de Richelieu a une manière de la faire tenir droit à son côté que vous devriez tâcher d'imiter ; c'est de bien meilleur goût. -- Ma chère, on ne peut pas me dire plus spirituellement qu'il y a cinq mois que nous sommes mariés !... » répliqua le duc dont la réponse fit fortune sous le règne de Louis XV. Elle étudiera votre caractère pour trouver des armes contre vous. Cette étude, en horreur à l'amour, se découvrira par les mille petits piéges qu'elle vous tendra pour se faire, à dessein, rudoyer, gronder par vous ; car lorsqu'une femme n'a pas d'excuses pour minotauriser son mari elle tâche d'en créer. -- 425 -Elle se mettra peut-être à table sans vous attendre. Si elle passe en voiture au milieu d'une ville, elle vous indiquera certains objets que vous n'aperceviez pas ; elle chantera devant vous sans avoir peur ; elle vous coupera la parole, ne vous répondra quelquefois pas, et vous prouvera de vingt manières différentes qu'elle jouit près de vous de toutes ses facultés et de son bon sens. Elle cherchera à abolir entièrement votre influence dans l'administration de la maison, et tentera de devenir seule maîtresse de votre fortune. D'abord, cette lutte sera une distraction pour son âme vide ou trop fortement remuée ; ensuite elle trouvera dans votre opposition un nouveau motif de ridicule. Les expressions consacrées ne lui manqueront pas, et en France nous cédons si vite au sourire ironique d'autrui !... De temps à autre, apparaîtront des migraines et des mouvements de nerfs ; mais ces symptômes donneront lieu à toute une Méditation. Dans le monde, elle parlera de vous sans rougir, et vous regardera avec assurance. Elle commencera à blâmer vos moindres actes, parce qu'ils seront en contradiction avec ses idées ou ses intentions secrètes. Elle n'aura plus autant de soin de ce qui vous touche, elle ne saura seulement pas si vous avez tout ce qu'il vous faut. Vous ne serez plus le terme de ses comparaisons.

A l'imitation de Louis XIV qui apportait à ses maîtresses les bouquets de fleurs d'oranger que le premier jardinier de Versailles lui mettait tous les matins sur sa table M. de Vivonne donnait presque tous les jours des fleurs rares à sa femme pendant le premier temps de son mariage. Un soir il trouva le bouquet gisant sur une console, sans avoir été placé comme à l'ordinaire dans un vase plein d'eau. -- « Oh ! oh ! dit-il si je ne suis pas un sot, je ne tarderai pas à l'être. » Vous êtes en voyage pour huit jours et vous ne recevez pas de lettre, ou vous en recevez une dont trois pages sont blanches...Symptôme. Vous arrivez monté sur un cheval de prix, que vous aimez beaucoup, et, entre deux baisers, votre femme s'inquiète du cheval et de son avoine... Symptôme. A ces traits, vous pouvez maintenant en ajouter d'autres. Nous -- 426 -tâcherons dans ce livre de toujours peindre à fresque, et de vous laisser les miniatures. Selon les caractères, ces indices, cachés sous les accidents de la vie habituelle, varient à l'infini. Tel découvrira un symptôme dans la manière de mettre un châle, lorsque tel autre aura besoin de recevoir une chiquenaude sur son âne pour deviner l'indifférence de sa compagne. Un beau matin de printemps, le lendemain d'un bal, ou la veille d'une partie de campagne, cette situation arrive à son dernier période. Votre femme s'ennuie et le bonheur permis n'a plus d'attrait pour elle. Ses sens, son imagination, le caprice de la nature peut-être appellent un amant. Cependant elle n'ose pas encore s'embarquer dans une intrigue dont les conséquences et les détails l'effraient. Vous êtes encore là pour quelque chose ; vous pesez dans la balance, mais bien peu. De son côté, l'amant se présente paré de toutes les grâces de la nouveauté, de tous les charmes du mystère. Le combat qui s'est élevé dans le coeur de votre femme devient devant l'ennemi plus réel et plus périlleux que jadis. Bientôt plus il y a de dangers et de risques à courir, plus elle brûle de se précipiter dans ce délicieux abîme de craintes, de jouissances, d'angoisses, de voluptés. Son imagination s'allume et pétille. Sa vie future se colore à ses yeux de teintes romanesques et mystérieuses. Son âme trouve que l'existence a déjà pris du ton dans cette discussion solennelle pour les femmes. Tout s'agite, tout s'ébranle, tout s'émeut en elle. Elle vit trois fois plus qu'auparavant, et juge de l'avenir par le présent. Le peu de voluptés que vous lui avez prodiguées plaide alors contre vous ; car elle ne s'irrite pas tant des plaisirs dont elle a joui que de ceux dont elle jouira ; l'imagination ne lui présente-t-elle pas le bonheur plus vif, avec cet amant que les lois lui défendent, qu'avec vous ? enfin elle trouve des jouissances dans ses terreurs, et des terreurs dans ses jouissances. Puis, elle aime ce danger imminent, cette épée de Damoclès, suspendue au-dessus de sa tête par vous-même, préférant ainsi les délirantes agonies d'une passion à cette inanité conjugale pire que la mort, à cette indifférence qui est moins un sentiment que l'absence de tout sentiment. Vous qui avez peut-être à aller faire des accolades au ministère des finances, des bordereaux à la Banque, des reports à la Bourse, ou des discours à la Chambre ; vous, jeune homme, qui avez si ardemment répété avec tant autres dans notre première Méditation -- 427 -le serment de défendre votre bonheur en défendant votre femme, que pouvez-vous opposer à ces désirs si naturels chez elle ?... car pour ces créatures de feu, vivre, c'est sentir ; du moment où elles n'éprouvent rien, elles sont mortes. La loi en vertu de laquelle vous marchez produit en elles ce minotaurisme involontaire. -- « C'est, disait d'Alembert, une suite des lois du mouvement ! » Eh ! bien, où sont vos moyens de défense ?... Où ? Hélas ! si votre femme n'a pas encore tout à fait baisé la pomme du Serpent, le Serpent est devant elle ; vous dormez, nous nous réveillons, et notre livre commence.

Sans examiner combien de maris, parmi les cinq cent mille que cet ouvrage concerne, seront restés avec les prédestinés ; combien se sont mal mariés ; combien auront mal débuté avec leurs femmes ; et sans vouloir chercher si, de cette troupe nombreuse, il y en a peu ou prou qui puissent satisfaire aux conditions voulues pour lutter contre le danger qui s'approche, nous allons alors développer dans la Seconde et la Troisième Partie de cet ouvrage les moyens de combattre le minotaure et de conserver intacte la vertu des femmes. Mais, si la fatalité, le diable, le célibat, l'occasion veulent votre perte, en reconnaissant le fil de toutes les intrigues, en assistant aux batailles que se livrent tous les ménages, peut-être vous consolerez-vous. Beaucoup de gens ont un caractère si heureux, qu'en[Coquille du Furne : eu.] leur montrant la place, leur expliquant le pourquoi, le comment, ils se grattent le front, se frottent les mains, frappent du pied, et sont satisfaits.

Fidèle à notre promesse, cette Première Partie a déduit les causes générales qui font arriver tous les mariages à la crise que nous venons de décrire ; et, tout en traçant ces prolégomènes conjugaux, nous avons indiqué la manière d'échapper au malheur, en montrant par quelles fautes il est engendré. Mais ces considérations premières ne seraient-elles pas incomplètes si, après avoir tâché de jeter quelques lumières sur l'inconséquence de nos idées, de nos moeurs et de nos lois, relativement à une question qui embrasse la vie de presque tous les êtres, nous ne cherchions pas à établir par une courte péroraison les causes -- 428 -politiques de cette infirmité sociale ? Après avoir accusé les vices secrets de l'institution, n'est-ce pas aussi un examen philosophique que de rechercher pourquoi, et comment nos moeurs l'ont rendue vicieuse ? Le système de lois et de moeurs qui régit aujourd'hui les femmes et le mariage en France est le fruit d'anciennes croyances et de traditions qui ne sont plus en rapport avec les principes éternels de raison et de justice développés par la grande révolution de 1789. Trois grandes commotions ont agité la France : la conquête des Romains, le christianisme et l'invasion des Francs. Chaque événement a laissé de profondes empreintes sur le sol, dans les lois, dans les moeurs et l'esprit de la nation. La Grèce, ayant un pied en Europe et l'autre en Asie, fut influencée par son climat passionné dans le choix de ses institutions conjugales ; elle les reçut de l'Orient où ses philosophes, ses législateurs et ses poètes allèrent étudier les antiquités voilées de l'Egypte et de la Chaldée. La réclusion absolue des femmes, commandée par l'action du soleil brûlant de l'Asie, domina dans les bois de la Grèce et de l'Ionie. La femme y resta confiée aux marbres des Gynécées. La patrie se réduisant à une ville, à un territoire peu vaste, les courtisanes, qui tenaient aux arts et à la religion par tant de liens, purent suffire aux premières passions d'une jeunesse peu nombreuse, dont les forces étaient d'ailleurs absorbées dans les exercices violents d'une gymnastique exigée par l'art militaire de ces temps héroïques. Au commencement de sa royale carrière, Rome, étant allée demander à la Grèce les principes d'une législation qui pouvait encore convenir au ciel de l'Italie, imprima sur le front de la femme mariée le sceau d'une complète servitude. Le sénat comprit l'importance de la vertu dans une république, il obtint la sévérité dans les moeurs par un développement excessif de la puissance maritale et paternelle. La dépendance de la femme se trouva écrite partout. La réclusion de l'Orient devint un devoir, une obligation morale, une vertu. De là, les temples élevés à la Pudeur, et les temples consacrés à la sainteté du mariage ; de là, les censeurs, l'institution dotale, les lois somptuaires, le

respect pour les matrones, et toutes les dispositions du Droit romain. Aussi, trois viols accomplis ou tentés furent-ils trois révolutions ; aussi, était-ce un grand événement solennisé par -- 429 -des décrets, que l'apparition des femmes sur la scène politique ! Ces illustres Romaines, condamnées à n'être qu'épouses et mères, passèrent leur vie dans la retraite, occupées à élever des maîtres pour le monde. Rome n'eut point de courtisanes, parce que la jeunesse y était occupée à des guerres éternelles. Si plus tard la dissolution vint, ce fut avec le despotisme des empereurs ; et encore, les préjugés fondés par les anciennes moeurs étaient-ils si vivaces, que Rome ne vit jamais de femmes sur un théâtre. Ces faits ne seront pas perdus pour cette rapide histoire du mariage en France. Les Gaules conquises, les Romains imposèrent leurs lois aux vaincus ; mais elles furent impuissantes à détruire et le profond respect de nos ancêtres pour les femmes, et ces antiques superstitions qui en faisaient les organes immédiats de la Divinité. Les lois romaines finirent cependant par régner exclusivement à toutes autres dans ce pays appelé jadis de droit écrit qui représentait la Gallia togata, et leurs principes conjugaux pénétrèrent plus ou moins dans les pays de coutumes. Mais pendant ce combat des lois contre les moeurs, les Francs envahissaient les Gaules, auxquelles ils donnèrent le doux nom de France. Ces guerriers, sortis du nord, y importaient le système de galanterie né dans leurs régions occidentales, où le mélange des sexes n'exige pas, sous des climats glacés, la pluralité des femmes et les jalouses précautions de l'Orient. Loin de là, chez eux, ces créatures presque divinisées réchauffaient la vie privée par l'éloquence de leurs sentiments. Les sens endormis sollicitaient cette variété de moyens énergiques et délicats, cette diversité d'action, cette irritation de la pensée et ces barrières chimériques créées par la coquetterie, système dont quelques principes ont été développés dans cette Première Partie, et qui convient admirablement au ciel tempéré de la France. A l'Orient donc, la passion et son délire, les longs cheveux bruns et les harems, les divinités amoureuses, la pompe, la poésie et les monuments. A l'Occident, la liberté des femmes, la souveraineté de leurs blondes chevelures, la galanterie, les fées, les sorcières, les profondes extases de l'âme, les douces émotions de la mélancolie, et les longues amours. Ces deux systèmes partis des deux points opposés du globe vinrent lutter en France ; en France, où une partie du sol, la Langue -- 430 -d'Oc, pouvait se plaire aux croyances orientales, tandis que l'autre, la Langue d'Oïl, était la patrie de ces traditions qui attribuent une puissance magique à la femme. Dans la Langue d'Oïl l'amour demande des mystères ; dans la Langue d'Oc, voir c'est aimer. Au fort de ce débat, le christianisme vint triompher en France, et il vint prêché par des femmes, et il vint consacrant la divinité d'une femme qui, dans les forêts de la Bretagne, de la Vendée et des Ardennes, prit, sous le nom de Notre-Dame, la place de plus d'une idole au creux des vieux chênes druidiques. Si la religion du Christ, qui, avant tout, est un code de morale et de politique, donnait une âme à tous les êtres, proclamait l'égalité des êtres devant Dieu et fortifiait par ses principes les doctrines chevaleresques du Nord, cet avantage était bien balancé par la résidence du souverain pontife à Rome, de laquelle il s'instituait héritier, par l'universalité de la langue latine qui devint celle de l'Europe au Moyen-âge, et par le puissant intérêt que les moines, les scribes et les gens de loi eurent à faire triompher les codes trouvés par un soldat au pillage d'Amalfi.

Les deux principes de la servitude et de la souveraineté des femmes restèrent donc en présence, enrichis l'un et l'autre de nouvelles armes. La loi salique, erreur légale, fit triompher la servitude civile et politique sans abattre le pouvoir que les moeurs donnaient aux femmes, car l'enthousiasme dont fut saisie l'Europe pour la chevalerie soutint le parti des moeurs contre les lois. Ainsi se forma l'étrange phénomène présenté, depuis lors, par notre caractère national et notre législation ; car, depuis ces époques qui semblent être la veille de la révolution quand un esprit philosophique s'élève et considère l'histoire, la France a été la proie de tant de convulsions ; la Féodalité, les Croisades, la Réforme, la lutte de la royauté et de l'aristocratie, le despotisme et le sacerdoce l'ont si fortement pressée dans leurs serres, que la femme y est restée en butte aux contradictions bizarres nées du conflit des trois événements principaux que nous avons esquissés. Pouvait-on s'occuper de la femme, de son éducation politique et du mariage, quand la Féodalité mettait le trône en question, quand la Réforme les menaçait l'une et l'autre, et quand le peuple était oublié entre le sacerdoce et l'empire ? Selon une expression de madame Necker, les femmes furent à travers ces grands événements -- 431 -comme ces duvets introduits dans les caisses de porcelaine : comptés pour rien, tout se briserait sans eux. La femme mariée offrit alors en France le spectacle d'une reine asservie, d'une esclave à la fois libre et prisonnière. Les contradictions produites par la lutte des deux principes éclatèrent alors dans l'ordre social en y dessinant des bizarreries par milliers. Alors la femme étant physiquement peu connue, ce qui fut maladie en elle se trouva un prodige, une sorcellerie ou le comble de la malfaisance. Alors ces créatures, traitées par les lois comme des enfants prodigues et mises en tutelle, étaient déifiées par les moeurs. Semblables aux affranchis des empereurs, elles disposaient des couronnes, des batailles, des fortunes, des coups d'état, des crimes, des vertus, par le seul scintillement de leurs yeux, et elles ne possédaient rien, elles ne se possédaient pas elles-mêmes. Elles furent également heureuses et malheureuses. Armées de leur faiblesse et fortes de leur instinct, elles s'élancèrent hors de la sphère où les lois devaient les placer, se montrant tout-puissantes pour le mal, impuissantes pour le bien ; sans mérite dans leurs vertus commandées, sans excuses dans leurs vices ; accusées d'ignorance et privées d'éducation ; ni tout à fait mères, ni tout à fait épouses. Ayant tout le temps de couver des passions et de les développer, elles obéissaient à la coquetterie des Francs, tandis qu'elles devaient comme des Romaines rester dans l'enceinte des châteaux à élever des guerriers. Aucun système n'étant fortement développé dans la législation, les esprits suivirent leurs inclinations, et l'on vit autant de Marions Delormes que de Cornélies, autant de vertus que de vices. C'était des créatures aussi incomplètes que les lois qui les gouvernaient : considérées par les uns comme un être intermédiaire entre l'homme et les animaux, comme une bête maligne que les lois ne sauraient garrotter de trop de liens et que la nature avait destinée avec tant d'autres au bon plaisir des humains ; considérée par d'autres comme un ange exilé, source de bonheur et d'amour, comme la seule créature qui répondît aux sentiments de l'homme et de qui l'on devait venger les misères par une idolâtrie. Comment l'unité qui manquait aux institutions politiques pouvait-elle exister dans les moeurs ? La femme fut donc ce que les circonstances et les hommes la firent, au lieu d'être ce que le climat et les institutions la devaient faire : vendue, mariée contre son gré en vertu de la puissance -- 432 -paternelle des Romains ; en même temps qu'elle tombait sous le despotisme marital qui désirait sa réclusion, elle se voyait sollicitée aux seules représailles qui lui fussent permises. Alors elle devint dissolue quand les hommes cessèrent d'être puissamment

occupés par des guerres intestines, par la même raison qu'elle fut vertueuse au milieu des commotions civiles. Tout homme instruit peut nuancer ce tableau, nous demandons aux événements leurs leçons et non pas leur poésie. La révolution était trop occupée d'abattre et d'édifier, avait trop d'adversaires, ou fut peutêtre encore trop voisine des temps déplorables de la Régence et de Louis XV, pour pouvoir examiner la place que la femme doit tenir dans l'ordre social. Les hommes remarquables qui élevèrent le monument immortel de nos codes étaient presque tous d'anciens légistes frappés de l'importance des lois romaines ; et d'ailleurs, ils ne fondaient pas des institutions politiques. Fils de la révolution, ils crurent, avec elle, que la loi du divorce, sagement rétrécie, que la faculté des soumissions respectueuses étaient des améliorations suffisantes. Devant les souvenirs de l'ancien ordre de choses, ces institutions nouvelles parurent immenses. Aujourd'hui, la question du triomphe des deux principes, bien affaiblis par tant d'événements et par le progrès des lumières, reste tout entière à traiter pour de sages législateurs. Le temps passé contient des enseignements qui doivent porter leurs fruits dans l'avenir. L'éloquence des faits serait-elle perdue pour nous ? Le développement des principes de l'Orient a exigé des eunuques et des sérails ; les moeurs bâtardes de la France ont amené la plaie des courtisanes et la plaie plus profonde de nos mariages : ainsi, pour nous servir de la phrase toute faite par un contemporain, l'Orient sacrifie, à la paternité, des hommes et la justice ; la France, des femmes et la pudeur. Ni l'Orient, ni la France, n'ont atteint le but que ces institutions devaient se proposer : le bonheur. L'homme n'est pas plus aimé par les femmes d'un harem que le mari n'est sûr d'être, en France, le père de ses enfants ; et le mariage ne vaut pas tout ce qu'il coûte. Il est temps de ne rien sacrifier à cette institution, et de mettre les fonds d'une plus grande somme de bonheur dans l'état social, en conformant nos moeurs et nos institutions à notre climat. Le gouvernement constitutionnel, heureux mélange des deux -- 433 -systèmes politiques extrêmes, le despotisme et la démocratie, semble indiquer la nécessité de confondre aussi les deux principes conjugaux qui en France se sont heurtés jusqu'ici. La liberté que nous avons hardiment réclamée pour les jeunes personnes remédie à cette foule de maux dont la source est indiquée, en exposant les contre-sens produits par l'esclavage des filles. Rendons à la jeunesse les passions, les coquetteries, l'amour et ses terreurs, l'amour et ses douceurs, et le séduisant cortége des Francs. A cette saison printanière de la vie, nulle faute n'est irréparable, l'hymen sortira du sein des épreuves armé de confiance, désarmé de haine, et l'amour y sera justifié par d'utiles comparaisons. Dans ce changement de nos moeurs, périra d'elle-même la honteuse plaie des filles publiques. C'est surtout au moment où l'homme possède la candeur et la timidité de l'adolescence qu'il est égal pour son bonheur de rencontrer de grandes et de vraies passions à combattre. L'âme est heureuse de ses efforts, quels qu'ils soient ; pourvu qu'elle agisse, qu'elle se meuve, peu lui importe d'exercer son pouvoir contre elle-même. Il existe dans cette observation, que tout le monde a pu faire, un secret de législation, de tranquillité et de bonheur. Puis, aujourd'hui, les études ont pris un tel développement, que le plus fougueux des Mirabeaux à venir peut enfouir son énergie dans une passion et dans les sciences. Combien de jeunes gens n'ont-ils pas été sauvés de la débauche par des travaux opiniâtres unis aux renaissants obstacles d'un premier, d'un pur amour ? en effet, quelle est la jeune fille qui ne désire pas prolonger la délicieuse enfance des sentiments, qui ne se trouve orgueilleuse d'être connue, et qui n'ait à opposer les craintes enivrantes de sa timidité, la pudeur de ses transactions secrètes avec ellemême, aux jeunes désirs d'un amant inexpérimenté comme elle ? La galanterie des Francs et ses plaisirs seront donc le riche apanage de la jeunesse, et alors s'établiront

naturellement ces rapports d'âme, d'esprit, de caractère, d'habitude, de tempérament, de fortune, qui amènent l'heureux équilibre voulu pour le bonheur de deux époux. Ce système serait assis sur des bases bien plus larges et bien plus franches, si les filles étaient soumises à une exhérédation sagement calculée ; ou si, pour contraindre les hommes à ne se déterminer dans leurs choix qu'en faveur de celles qui leur offriraient des gages de bonheur par leurs vertus, leur caractère ou leurs ta-- 434 -lents, elles étaient mariées, comme aux Etats-Unis, sans dot. Alors le système adopté par les Romains pourra, sans inconvénients, s'appliquer aux femmes mariées qui, jeunes filles, auront usé de leur liberté. Exclusivement chargées de l'éducation primitive des enfants, la plus importante de toutes les obligations d'une mère, occupées de faire naître et de maintenir ce bonheur de tous les instants, si admirablement peint dans le quatrième livre de Julie, elles seront, dans leur maison, comme les anciennes Romaines, une image vivante de la Providence qui éclate partout, et ne se laisse voir nulle part. Alors les lois sur l'infidélité de la femme mariée devront être excessivement sévères. Elles devront prodiguer plus d'infamie encore que de peines afflictives et coercitives. La France a vu promener des femmes montées sur des ânes pour de prétendus crimes de magie, et plus d'une innocente est morte de honte. Là est le secret de la législation future du mariage. Les filles de Milet se guérissaient du mariage par le mort, le Sénat condamne les suicidées à être traînées nues sur une claie, et les vierges se condamnent à la vie. Les femmes et le mariage ne seront donc respectés en France que par le changement radical que nous implorons pour nos moeurs. Cette pensée profonde est celle qui anime les deux plus belles productions d'un immortel génie. L'Emile et la Nouvelle Héloïse ne sont que deux éloquents plaidoyers en faveur de ce système. Cette voix retentira dans les siècles, parce qu'elle a deviné les vrais mobiles des lois et des moeurs des siècles futurs. En attachant les enfants au sein de leurs mères, Jean-Jacques rendait déjà un immense service à la vertu ; mais son siècle était trop profondément gangrené pour comprendre les hautes leçons que renfermaient ces deux poèmes ; il est vrai d'ajouter aussi que le philosophe fut vaincu par le poète, et qu'en laissant dans le coeur de Julie mariée des vestiges de son premier amour, il a été séduit par une situation poétique plus touchante que la vérité qu'il voulait développer, mais moins utile. Cependant, si le mariage, en France, est un immense contrat par lequel les hommes s'entendent tous tacitement pour donner plus de saveur aux passions, plus de curiosité, plus de mystère à l'amour, plus de piquant aux femmes, si une femme est plutôt un ornement de salon, un mannequin à modes, un porte-manteau, qu'un être dont les fonctions, dans l'ordre politique, puissent se -- 435 -coordonner avec la prospérité d'un pays, avec la gloire d'une patrie ; qu'une créature dont les soins puissent lutter d'utilité avec celles des hommes... j'avoue que toute cette théorie, que ces longues considérations, disparaîtraient devant de si importantes destinées !... Mais c'est avoir assez pressé le marc des événements accomplis pour en tirer une goutte de philosophie, c'est avoir assez sacrifié à la passion dominante de l'époque actuelle pour l'historique, ramenons nos regards sur les moeurs présentes. Reprenons le bonnet aux grelots et cette marotte de laquelle Rabelais fit jadis un sceptre, et poursuivons le cours de cette analyse, sans donner à une plaisanterie plus de gravité qu'elle n'en peut avoir, sans donner aux choses graves plus de plaisanterie qu'elles n'en comportent.

To be or not be...

L'être ou ne pas l'être, voilà toute la question.

Shakespeare, HAMLET. Quand un homme arrive à la situation où le place la Première Partie de ce livre, nous supposons que l'idée de savoir sa femme possédée par un autre peut encore faire palpiter son coeur, et que sa passion se rallumera, soit par amour-propre ou par égoïsme, soit par intérêt, car s'il ne tenait plus à sa femme, ce serait l'avant-dernier des hommes, et il mériterait son sort. Dans cette longue crise, il est bien difficile à un mari de ne pas commettre de fautes ; car, pour la plupart d'entre eux, l'art de gouverner une femme est encore moins connu que celui de la bien choisir. Cependant la politique maritale ne consiste guère que dans la constante application de trois principes qui doivent être l'âme de votre conduite. Le premier est de ne jamais croire à ce qu'une -- 436 -femme dit ; le second, de toujours chercher l'esprit de ses actions sans vous arrêter à la lettre ; et le troisième, de ne pas oublier qu'une femme n'est jamais si bavarde que quand elle se tait, et n'agit jamais avec plus d'énergie que lorsqu'elle est en repos. Dès ce moment, vous êtes comme un cavalier qui, monté sur un cheval sournois, doit toujours le regarder entre les deux oreilles, sous peine d'être désarçonné. Mais l'art est bien moins dans la connaissance des principes que dans la manière de les appliquer : les révéler à des ignorants, c'est laisser des rasoirs sous la main d'un singe. Aussi, le premier et le plus vital de vos devoirs est-il dans une dissimulation perpétuelle à laquelle manquent presque tous les maris. En s'apercevant d'un symptôme minotaurique un peu trop marqué chez leurs femmes, la plupart des hommes témoignent, tout d'abord, d'insultantes méfiances. Leurs caractères contractent une acrimonie qui perce ou dans leurs discours, ou dans leurs manières ; et la crainte est, dans leur âme, comme un bec de gaz sous un globe de verre, elle éclaire leur visage aussi puissamment qu'elle explique leur conduite. Or, une femme qui a, sur vous, douze heures dans la journée pour réfléchir et vous observer, lit vos soupçons écrits sur votre front au moment même où ils se forment. Cette injure gratuite, elle ne la pardonnera jamais. Là, il n'existe plus de remède ; là, tout est dit : le lendemain même s'il y a lieu, elle se range parmi les femmes inconséquentes. Vous devez donc, dans la situation respective des deux parties belligérantes, commencer par affecter envers votre femme cette confiance sans bornes que vous aviez naguère en elle. Si vous cherchez à l'entretenir dans l'erreur par de mielleuses paroles, vous êtes perdu, elle ne vous croira pas ; car elle a sa politique comme vous avez la vôtre. Or, il faut autant de finesse que de bonhomie dans vos actions, pour lui inculquer, à son propre insu, ce précieux sentiment de sécurité qui l'invite à remuer les oreilles, et vous permet de n'user qu'à propos de la bride ou de l'éperon. Mais comment oser comparer un cheval, de toutes les créatures la plus candide, à un être que les spasmes de sa pensée et les affections de ses organes rendent par moments plus prudent que le Servite Fra-Paolo, le plus terrible Consulteur que les Dix aient eu à Venise ; plus dissimulé qu'un roi ; plus adroit que Louis XI ; plus profond que Machiavel ; sophistique autant que Hobbes ; fin -- 437 -comme Voltaire ; plus facile que la Fiancée de Mamolin, et qui, dans le monde entier, ne se défie que de vous ?

Aussi, à cette dissimulation, grâce à laquelle les ressorts de votre conduite doivent devenir aussi invisibles que ceux de l'univers, vous est-il nécessaire de joindre un empire absolu sur vous-même. L'imperturbabilité diplomatique si vantée de M. de Talleyrand sera la moindre de vos qualités ; son exquise politesse, la grâce de ses manières respireront dans tous vos discours. Le professeur vous défend ici très-expressément l'usage de la cravache si vous voulez parvenir à ménager votre gentille Andalouse. LXI. Qu'un homme batte sa maîtresse... c'est une blessure ; mais sa femme !... c'est un suicide. Comment donc concevoir un gouvernement sans maréchaussée, une action sans force, un pouvoir désarmé ?... Voilà le problème que nous essaierons de résoudre dans nos Méditations futures. Mais il existe encore deux observations préliminaires à vous soumettre. Elles vont nous livrer deux autres théories qui entreront dans l'application de tous les moyens mécaniques desquels nous allons vous proposer l'emploi. Un exemple vivant rafraîchira ces arides et sèches dissertations : ne sera-ce pas quitter le livre pour opérer sur le terrain ? L'an 1822, par une belle matinée du mois de janvier, je remontais les boulevards de Paris depuis les paisibles sphères du Marais jusqu'aux élégantes régions de la Chaussée-d'Antin, observant pour la première fois, non sans une joie philosophique, ces singulières dégradations de physionomie et ces variétés de toilette qui, depuis la rue du Pas-de-la-Mule jusqu'à la Madeleine, font de chaque portion du boulevard un monde particulier, et de toute cette zone parisienne un large échantillon de moeurs. N'ayant encore aucune idée des choses de la vie, et ne me doutant guère qu'un jour j'aurais l'outrecuidance de m'ériger en législateur du mariage, j'allais déjeuner chez un de mes amis de collége qui s'était de trop bonne heure, peut-être, affligé d'une femme et de deux enfants. Mon ancien professeur de mathématiques demeurant à peu de distance de la maison qu'habitait mon camarade, -- 438 -je m'étais promis de rendre une visite à ce digne mathématicien, avant de livrer mon estomac à toutes les friandises de l'amitié. Je pénétrai facilement jusqu'au coeur d'un cabinet, où tout était couvert d'une poussière attestant les honorables distractions du savant. Une surprise m'y était réservée. J'aperçus une jolie dame assise sur le bras d'un fauteuil comme si elle eût monté un cheval anglais, elle me fit cette petite grimace de convention réservée par les maîtresses de maison pour les personnes qu'elles ne connaissent pas, mais elle ne déguisa pas assez bien l'air boudeur qui, à mon arrivée, attristait sa figure, pour que je ne devinasse pas l'inopportunité de ma présence. Sans doute occupé d'une équation, mon maître n'avait pas encore levé la tête ; alors, j'agitai ma main droite vers la jeune dame, comme un poisson qui remue sa nageoire, et je me retirai sur la pointe des pieds en lui lançant un mystérieux sourire qui pouvait se traduire par : « Ce ne sera certes pas moi qui vous empêcherai de lui faire faire une infidélité à Uranie. » Elle laissa échapper un de ces gestes de tête dont la gracieuse vivacité ne peut se traduire. -- « Eh ! mon bon ami, ne vous en allez pas ! s'écria le géomètre. C'est ma femme ! » Je saluai derechef !... O Coulon ! où étais-tu pour applaudir le seul de tes élèves qui comprît alors ton expression d'anacréontique appliquée à une révérence !... L'effet devait en être bien pénétrant, car madame la professeuse, comme disent les Allemands, rougit et se leva précipitamment pour s'en aller en me faisant un léger salut qui semblait dire : -- adorable !... Son mari l'arrêta en lui disant : -- « Reste, ma fille. C'est un de mes élèves. » La jeune femme avança la tête vers le savant, comme un oiseau qui, perché sur une branche, tend le cou pour avoir une graine. -- « Cela n'est pas possible !... dit le mari en poussant un soupir ; et je vais te le prouver par A plus B. -- Eh ! monsieur, laissons cela, je vous prie ! répondit-elle en clignant des yeux et me montrant. (Si ce n'eût été que de l'algèbre, mon maître aurait pu comprendre ce regard, mais c'était pour lui du chinois, et alors il continua.)-- Ma fille, vois, je te fais juge ; nous avons dix

mille francs de rente... » A ces mots, je me retirai vers la porte comme si j'eusse été pris de passion pour des lavis encadrés que je me mis à examiner. Ma discrétion fut récompensée par une éloquente oeillade. Hélas ! elle ne savait pas que j'aurais pu jouer dans Fortunio le rôle de Fine-Oreille qui entend pousser les truffes. -- « Les principes de l'économie générale, -- 439 -disait mon maître, veulent qu'on ne mette au prix du logement et aux gages des domestiques que deux dixièmes du revenu ; or, notre appartement et nos gens coûtent ensemble cent louis. Je te donne douze cents francs pour ta toilette. (Là il appuya sur chaque syllabe.) Ta cuisine, reprit-il, consomme quatre mille francs ; nos enfants exigent au moins vingt-cinq louis ; et je ne prends pour moi que huit cents francs. Le blanchissage, le bois, la lumière vont à mille francs environ ; partant, il ne reste, comme tu vois, que six cents francs qui n'ont jamais suffi aux dépenses imprévues. Pour acheter la croix de diamants, il faudrait prendre mille écus sur nos capitaux ; or, une fois cette voie ouverte, ma petite belle, il n'y aurait pas de raison pour ne pas quitter ce Paris, que tu aimes tant, nous ne tarderions pas à être obligés d'aller en province rétablir notre fortune compromise. Les enfants et la dépense croîtront assez ! Allons, sois sage. -- Il le faut bien, dit-elle, mais vous serez le seul, dans Paris, qui n'aurez pas donné d'étrennes à votre femme ! » Et elle s'évada comme un écolier qui vient d'achever une pénitence. Mon maître hocha la tête en signe de joie. Quand il vit la porte fermée, il se frotta les mains ; nous causâmes de la guerre d'Espagne, et j'allai rue de Provence, ne songeant pas plus que je venais de recevoir la première partie d'une grande leçon conjugale que je ne pensais à la conquête de Constantinople par le général Diebitsch. J'arrivai chez mon amphitryon au moment où les deux époux se mettaient à table, après m'avoir attendu pendant la demi-heure voulue par la discipline oecuménique de la gastronomie. Ce fut, je crois, en ouvrant un pâté de foie gras que ma jolie hôtesse dit à son mari d'un air délibéré : -- « Alexandre, si tu étais bien aimable, tu me donnerais cette paire de girandoles que nous avons vue chez Fossin. -- Mariez-vous donc !... s'écria plaisamment mon camarade en tirant de son carnet trois billets de mille francs qu'il fit briller aux yeux pétillants de sa femme. Je ne résiste pas plus au plaisir de te les offrir, ajouta-t-il, que toi à celui de les accepter. C'est aujourd'hui l'anniversaire du jour où je t'ai vue pour la première fois : les diamants t'en feront peut-être souvenir !... -- Méchant !... » dit-elle avec un ravissant sourire. Elle plongea deux doigts dans son corset ; et, en retirant un bouquet de violettes, elle le jeta par un dépit enfantin au nez de mon ami. Alexandre donna le prix des girandoles en s'écriant : -- « J'avais bien vu les fleurs !... » Je n'oublierai jamais le geste vif et l'avide -- 440 -gaieté avec laquelle, semblable à un chat qui met sa patte mouchetée sur une souris, la petite femme se saisit des trois billets de banque, elle les roula en rougissant de plaisir, et les mit à la place des violettes qui naguère parfumaient son sein. Je ne pus m'empêcher de penser à mon maître de mathématiques. Je ne vis alors de différence entre son élève et lui que celle qui existe entre un homme économe et un prodigue, ne me doutant guère que celui des deux qui, en apparence, savait le mieux calculer, calculait le plus mal. Le déjeuner s'acheva donc très-gaiement. Installés bientôt dans un petit salon fraîchement décoré, assis devant un feu qui chatouillait doucement les fibres, les consolait du froid, et les faisait épanouir comme au printemps, je me crus obligé de tourner à ce couple amoureux une phrase de convive sur l'ameublement de ce petit oratoire. -- « C'est dommage que tout cela coûte si cher !... dit mon ami ; mais il faut bien que le nid soit digne de l'oiseau ! Pourquoi, diable, vas-tu me complimenter sur des tentures qui ne sont pas payées ?... Tu me fais souvenir, pendant ma digestion, que je dois encore deux mille francs à un turc de tapissier. » A ces mots, la maîtresse de la maison inventoria des yeux ce joli boudoir ; et, de brillante, sa figure devint songeresse. Alexandre me prit par la main et m'entraîna dans l'embrasure d'une croisée. -- « Auraistu par hasard un millier d'écus à me prêter ? dit-il à voix basse. Je n'ai que dix à douze mille livres de rente, et cette année... -- Alexandre !... s'écria la chère créature en interrompant son mari, en accourant à nous et présentant les trois billets,

vois bien que c'est une folie... -- De quoi te mêles-tu !... répondit-il, garde donc ton argent. -- Mais, mon amour, je te ruine ! Je devrais savoir que tu m'aimes trop pour que je puisse me permettre de te confier tous mes désirs... -- Garde, ma chérie, c'est de bonne prise ! Bah, je jouerai cet hiver, et je regagnerai cela !... -- Jouer !... dit-elle, avec une expression de terreur. Alexandre, reprends tes billets ! Allons, monsieur, je le veux. - Non, non, répondit mon ami en repoussant une petite main blanche et délicate ; ne vastu pas jeudi au bal de madame de... ? »-- Je songerai à ce que tu me demandes, dis-je à mon camarade ; et je m'esquivai en saluant sa femme, mais je vis bien d'après la scène qui se préparait que mes révérences anacréontiques ne produiraient pas là beaucoup d'effet. -- Il faut qu'il soit fou, pensais-je en m'en al-- 441 -lant, pour parler de mille écus à un étudiant en droit ! Cinq jours après, je me trouvais chez madame de..., dont les bals devenaient à la mode. Au milieu du plus brillant des quadrilles, j'aperçus la femme de mon ami et celle du mathématicien. Madame Alexandre avait une ravissante toilette, quelques fleurs et de blanches mousselines en faisaient tous les frais. Elle portait une petite croix à la Jeannette, attachée par un ruban de velours noir qui rehaussait la blancheur de sa peau parfumée, et de longues poires d'or effilées décoraient ses oreilles. Sur le cou de madame la professeuse scintillait une superbe croix de diamants. -- Voilà qui est drôle !... dis-je à un personnage qui n'avait encore ni lu dans le grand livre du monde, ni déchiffré un seul coeur de femme. Ce personnage était moi-même. Si j'eus alors le désir de faire danser ces deux jolies femmes, ce fut uniquement parce que j'aperçus un secret de conversation qui enhardissait ma timidité. -- « Eh ! bien, madame, vous avez eu votre croix ? dis-je à la première. -- Mais je l'ai bien gagnée !... répondit-elle, avec un indéfinissable sourire. »-« Comment ! pas de girandoles ?... demandai-je à la femme de mon ami. -- Ah ! dit-elle, j'en ai joui pendant tout un déjeuner !... Mais, vous voyez, j'ai fini par convertir Alexandre... -- Il se sera facilement laissé séduire ? » Elle me regarda d'un air de triomphe. C'est huit ans après que, tout à coup, cette scène, jusque-là muette pour moi, s'est comme levée dans mon souvenir ; et, à la lueur des bougies, au feu des aigrettes, j'en ai lu distinctement la moralité. Oui, la femme a horreur de la conviction ; quand on la persuade, elle subit une séduction et reste dans le rôle que la nature lui assigne. Pour elle, se laisser gagner, c'est accorder une faveur ; mais les raisonnements exacts l'irritent et la tuent ; pour la diriger, il faut donc savoir se servir de la puissance dont elle use si souvent : la sensibilité. C'est donc en sa femme, et non pas en lui-même, qu'un mari trouvera les éléments de son despotisme : comme pour le diamant, il faut l'opposer à elle-même. Savoir offrir les girandoles pour se les faire rendre, est un secret qui s'applique aux moindres détails de la vie. Passons maintenant à la seconde observation. Qui sait administrer un toman, sait en administrer cent mille, a dit un proverbe indien ; et moi, j'amplifie la sagesse asiatique, en disant : Qui peut gouverner une femme, peut -- 442 -gouverner une nation. Il existe, en effet, beaucoup d'analogie entre ces deux gouvernements. La politique des maris ne doit-elle pas être à peu près celle des rois ? ne les voyons-nous pas tâchant d'amuser le peuple pour lui dérober sa liberté ; lui jetant des comestibles à la tête pendant une journée, pour lui faire oublier la misère d'un an ; lui prêchant de ne pas voler, tandis qu'on le dépouille ; et lui disant : « Il me semble que si j'étais peuple, je serais vertueux ? » C'est l'Angleterre qui va nous fournir le précédent que les maris doivent importer dans leurs ménages. Ceux qui ont des yeux ont dû voir que, du moment où la gouvernementabilité s'est perfectionnée en ce pays, les whigs n'ont obtenu que trèsrarement le pouvoir. Un long ministère tory a toujours succédé à un éphémère cabinet

libéral. Les orateurs du parti national ressemblent à des rats qui usent leurs dents à ronger un panneau pourri dont on bouche le trou au moment où ils sentent les noix et le lard serrés dans la royale armoire. La femme est le whig de votre gouvernement. Dans la situation où nous l'avons laissée, elle doit naturellement aspirer à la conquête de plus d'un privilége. Fermez les yeux sur ses brigues, permettez-lui de dissiper sa force à gravir la moitié des degrés de votre trône ; et quand elle pense toucher au sceptre, renversez-la, par terre, tout doucement et avec infiniment de grâce, en lui criant : Bravo ! et en lui permettant d'espérer un prochain triomphe. Les malices de ce système devront corroborer l'emploi de tous les moyens qu'il vous plaira de choisir dans notre arsenal pour dompter votre femme. Tels sont les principes généraux que doit pratiquer un mari, s'il ne veut pas commettre des fautes dans son petit royaume. Maintenant, malgré la minorité du concile de Mâcon (Montesquieu, qui avait peut-être deviné le régime constitutionnel, a dit, je ne sais où, que le bon sens dans les assemblées était toujours du côté de la minorité), nous distinguerons dans la femme une âme et un corps, et nous commencerons par examiner les moyens de se rendre maître de son moral. L'action de la pensée est, quoi qu'on en dise, plus noble que celle du corps, et nous donnerons le pas à la science sur la cuisine, à l'instruction sur l'hygiène. -- 443 --

Instruire ou non les femmes, telle est la question. De toutes celles que nous avons agitées, elle est la seule qui offre deux extrémités sans avoir de milieu. La science et l'ignorance, voila les deux termes irréconciliables de ce problème. Entre ces deux abîmes, il nous semble voir Louis XVIII calculant les félicités du treizième siècle, et les malheurs du dix-neuvième. Assis au centre de la bascule qu'il savait si bien faire pencher par son propre poids, il contemple à l'un des bouts la fanatique ignorance d'un frère-lai, l'apathie d'un serf, le fer étincelant des chevaux d'un banneret ; il croit entendre : France et Montjoie-Saint-Denis !... mais il se retourne, il sourit en voyant la morgue d'un manufacturier, capitaine de la garde nationale ; l'élégant coupé de l'agent de change ; la simplicité du costume d'un pair de France devenu journaliste, et mettant son fils à l'école Polytechnique ; puis les étoffes précieuses, les journaux, les machines à vapeur ; et il boit enfin son café dans une tasse de Sèvres au fond de laquelle brille encore un N couronné. Arrière la civilisation ! arrière la pensée !... voilà votre cri. Vous devez avoir horreur de l'instruction chez les femmes, par cette raison, si bien sentie en Espagne, qu'il est plus facile de gouverner un peuple d'idiots qu'un peuple de savants. Une nation abrutie est heureuse : si elle n'a pas le sentiment de la liberté, elle n'en a ni les inquiétudes ni les orages ; elle vit comme vivent les polypiers ; comme eux, elle peut se scinder en deux ou trois fragments ; chaque fragment est toujours une nation complète et végétant, propre à être gouvernée par le premier aveugle armé du bâton pastoral. Qui produit cette merveille humaine ? L'ignorance : c'est par elle seule que se maintient le despotisme ; il lui faut des ténèbres et le silence. Or, le bonheur en ménage est, comme en politique, un bonheur négatif. L'affection des peuples pour le roi d'une monarchie absolue est peutêtre moins contre nature que la fidélité de la femme envers son mari quand il n'existe plus d'amour entre eux : or, nous savons que chez vous l'amour pose en ce moment un pied sur l'appui de la fenêtre. -- 444 -Force vous est donc de mettre en pratique les rigueurs salutaires par lesquelles M. de Metternich prolonge son statu quo ; mais nous vous conseillerons de les appliquer avec plus de finesse et plus d'aménité encore ; car votre femme est plus rusée que tous les Allemands ensemble, et aussi voluptueuse que les Italiens.

Alors vous essaierez de reculer le plus long-temps possible le fatal moment où votre femme vous demandera un livre. Cela vous sera facile. Vous prononcerez d'abord avec dédain le nom de bas-bleu ; et, sur sa demande, vous lui expliquerez le ridicule qui s'attache, chez nos voisins, aux femmes pédantes. Puis, vous lui répéterez souvent que les femmes les plus aimables et les plus spirituelles du monde se trouvent à Paris, où les femmes ne lisent jamais ; Que les femmes sont comme les gens de qualité, qui, selon Mascarille, savent tout sans avoir jamais rien appris ; Qu'une femme, soit en dansant, soit en jouant, et sans même avoir l'air d'écouter, doit savoir saisir dans les discours des hommes à talent les phrases toutes faites avec lesquelles les sots composent leur esprit à Paris ; Que dans ce pays l'on se passe de main en main les jugements décisifs sur les hommes et sur les choses ; et que le petit ton tranchant avec lequel une femme critique un auteur, démolit un ouvrage, dédaigne un tableau, a plus de puissance qu'un arrêt de la cour ; Que les femmes sont de beaux miroirs, qui reflètent naturellement les idées les plus brillantes ; Que l'esprit naturel est tout, et que l'on est bien plus instruit de ce que l'on apprend dans le monde que de ce qu'on lit dans les livres ; Qu'enfin la lecture finit par ternir les yeux, etc. Laisser une femme libre de lire les livres que la nature de son esprit la porte à choisir !... Mais c'est introduire l'étincelle dans une sainte-barbe ; c'est pis que cela, c'est apprendre à votre femme à se passer de vous, à vivre dans un monde imaginaire, dans un paradis. Car que lisent les femmes ? Des ouvrages passionnés, les Confessions de JeanJacques, des romans, et toutes ces compositions qui agissent le plus puissamment sur leur sensibilité. Elles n'aiment ni la raison ni les fruits mûrs. Or, avez-vous jamais songé aux phénomènes produits par ces poétiques lectures ? -- 445 -Les romans, et même tous les livres, peignent les sentiments et les choses avec des couleurs bien autrement brillantes que celles qui sont offertes par la nature ! Cette espèce de fascination provient moins du désir que chaque auteur a de se montrer parfait en affectant des idées délicates et recherchées, que d'un indéfinissable travail de notre intelligence. Il est dans la destinée de l'homme d'épurer tout ce qu'il emporte dans le trésor de sa pensée. Quelles figures, quels monuments ne sont pas embellis par le dessin ? L'âme du lecteur aide à cette conspiration contre le vrai, soit par le silence profond dont il jouit ou par le feu de la conception, soit par la pureté avec laquelle les images se réfléchissent dans son entendement. Qui n'a pas, en lisant les Confessions de Jean-Jacques, vu madame de Warens plus jolie qu'elle n'était ? On dirait que notre âme caresse des formes qu'elle aurait jadis entrevues sous de plus beaux cieux ; elle n'accepte les créations d'une autre âme que comme des ailes pour s'élancer dans l'espace ; le trait le plus délicat, elle le perfectionne encore en se le faisant propre ; et l'expression la plus poétique dans ses images y apporte des images encore plus pures. Lire, c'est créer peut-être à deux. Ces mystères de la transsubstantiation des idées sontils l'instinct d'une vocation plus haute que nos destinées présentes ? Est-ce la tradition d'une ancienne vie perdue ? Qu'était-elle donc si le reste nous offre tant de délices ?.. Aussi, en lisant des drames et des romans, la femme, créature encore plus susceptible que nous de s'exalter, doit-elle éprouver d'enivrantes extases. Elle se crée une existence idéale auprès de laquelle tout pâlit ; elle ne tarde pas à tenter de réaliser cette vie voluptueuse, à essayer d'en transporter la magie en elle. Involontairement, elle passe de l'esprit à la lettre, et de l'âme aux sens.

Et vous auriez la bonhomie de croire que les manières, les sentiments d'un homme comme vous, qui, la plupart du temps, s'habille, se déshabille, et..., etc., devant sa femme, lutteront avec avantage devant les sentiments de ces livres, et en présence de leurs amants factices à la toilette desquels cette belle lectrice ne voit ni trous ni taches ?... Pauvre sot ! trop tard, hélas ! pour son malheur et le vôtre, votre femme expérimenterait que les héros de la poésie sont aussi rares que les Apollons de la sculpture !... Bien des maris se trouveront embarrassés pour empêcher leurs femmes de lire, il y en a même certains qui prétendront que la lecture a cet avantage qu'ils savent au moins ce que font les leurs -- 446 -quand elles lisent. D'abord, vous verrez dans la Méditation suivante combien la vie sédentaire rend une femme belliqueuse ; mais n'avez-vous donc jamais rencontré de ces êtres sans poésie, qui réussissent à pétrifier leurs pauvres compagnes, en réduisant la vie à tout ce qu'elle a de mécanique ? Etudiez ces grands hommes en leurs discours ! apprenez par coeur les admirables raisonnements par lesquels ils condamnent la poésie et les plaisirs de l'imagination. Mais si après tous vos efforts votre femme persistait à vouloir lire..., mettez à l'instant même à sa disposition tous les livres possibles, depuis l'Abécédaire de son marmot jusqu'à René, livre plus dangereux pour vous entre ses mains que Thérèse philosophe. Vous pourriez la jeter dans un dégoût mortel de la lecture en lui donnant des livres ennuyeux ; la plonger dans un idiotisme complet, avec Marie Alacoque, la Brosse de pénitence, ou avec les chansons qui étaient de mode au temps de Louis XV ; mais plus tard vous trouverez dans ce livre les moyens de si bien consumer le temps de votre femme, que toute espèce de lecture lui sera interdite. Et, d'abord, voyez les ressources immenses que vous a préparées l'éducation des femmes pour détourner la vôtre de son goût passager pour la science. Examinez avec quelle admirable stupidité les filles se sont prêtées aux résultats de l'enseignement qu'on leur a imposé en France ; nous les livrons à des bonnes, à des demoiselles de compagnie, à des gouvernantes qui ont vingt mensonges de coquetterie et de fausse pudeur à leur apprendre contre une idée noble et vraie à leur inculquer. Les filles sont élevées en esclaves et s'habituent à l'idée qu'elles sont au monde pour imiter leurs grand'mères, et faire couver des serins de Canarie, composer des herbiers, arroser de petits rosiers de Bengale, remplir de la tapisserie ou se monter des cols. Aussi, à dix ans, si une petite fille a eu plus de finesse qu'un garçon à vingt, est-elle timide, gauche. Elle aura peur d'une araignée, dira des riens, pensera aux chiffons, parlera modes, et n'aura le courage d'être ni mère, ni chaste épouse. Voici quelle marche on a suivie : on leur a montré à colorier des roses, à broder des fichus de manière à gagner huit sous par jour. Elles auront appris l'histoire de France dans Le Ragois, la chronologie dans les Tables du citoyen Chantreau, et l'on aura laissé leur jeune imagination se déchaîner sur la géographie ; le -- 447 -tout, dans le but de ne rien présenter de dangereux à leur coeur ; mais en même temps leurs mères, leurs institutrices, répétaient d'une voix infatigable que toute la science d'une femme est dans la manière dont elle sait arranger cette feuille de figuier que prit notre mère Eve. Elles n'ont entendu pendant quinze ans, disait Diderot, rien autre chose que : -- Ma fille, votre feuille de figuier va mal ; ma fille, votre feuille de figuier va bien ; ma fille, ne serait-elle pas mieux ainsi ? Maintenez donc votre épouse dans cette belle et noble sphère de connaissances. Si par hasard votre femme voulait une bibliothèque, achetez-lui Florian, Malte-Brun, le Cabinet des Fées, les Mille et une Nuits, les Roses par Redouté, les Usages de la Chine, les Pigeons par madame Knip, le grand ouvrage sur l'Egypte, etc. Enfin, exécutez le spirituel

avis de cette princesse qui, au récit d'une émeute occasionnée par la cherté du pain, disait : « Que ne mangent-ils de la brioche !... » Peut-être votre femme vous reprochera-t-elle, un soir, d'être maussade et de ne pas parler ; peut-être vous dira-t-elle que vous êtes gentil, quand vous aurez fait un calembour ; mais ceci est un inconvénient très-léger de notre système : et, au surplus, que l'éducation des femmes soit en France la plus plaisante des absurdités et que votre obscurantisme marital vous mette une poupée entre les bras, que vous importe ? Comme vous n'avez pas assez de courage pour entreprendre une plus belle tâche, ne vaut-il pas mieux traîner votre femme dans une ornière conjugale bien sûre que de vous hasarder à lui faire gravir les hardis précipices de l'amour ? Elle aura beau être mère, vous ne tenez pas précisément à avoir des Gracchus pour enfants, mais à être réellement pater quem nuptiae demonstrant : or, pour vous aider à y parvenir, nous devons faire de ce livre un arsenal où chacun, suivant le caractère de sa femme ou le sien, puisse choisir l'armure convenable pour combattre le terrible génie du mal, toujours près de s'éveiller dans l'âme d'une épouse ; et, tout bien considéré, comme les ignorants sont les plus cruels ennemis de l'instruction des femmes, cette Méditation sera un bréviaire pour la plupart des maris. Une femme qui a reçu une éducation d'homme possède, à la vérité, les facultés les plus brillantes et les plus fertiles en bonheur pour elle et pour son mari ; mais cette femme est rare comme le bonheur même ; or, vous devez, si vous ne la possédez pas pour -- 448 -épouse, maintenir la vôtre, au nom de votre félicité commune, dans la région d'idées où elle est née, car il faut songer aussi qu'un moment d'orgueil chez elle peut vous perdre, en menant sur le trône un esclave qui sera d'abord tenté d'abuser du pouvoir. Après tout, en suivant le système prescrit par cette Méditation, un homme supérieur en sera quitte pour mettre ses pensées en petite monnaie lorsqu'il voudra être compris de sa femme, si toutefois cet homme supérieur a fait la sottise d'épouser une de ces pauvres créatures, au lieu de se marier à une jeune fille de laquelle il aurait éprouvé long-temps l'âme et le coeur. Par cette dernière observation matrimoniale, notre but n'est pas de prescrire à tous les hommes supérieurs de chercher des femmes supérieures, et nous ne voulons pas laisser chacun expliquer nos principes à la manière de madame de Staël, qui tenta grossièrement de s'unir à Napoléon. Ces deux êtres-là eussent été très-malheureux en ménage ; et Joséphine était une épouse bien autrement accomplie que cette virago du dix-neuvième siècle. En effet, lorsque nous vantons ces filles introuvables, si heureusement élevées par le hasard, si bien conformées par la nature, et dont l'âme délicate supporte le rude contact de la grande âme de ce que nous appelons un homme, nous entendons parler de ces nobles et rares créatures dont Goëthe a donné un modèle dans la Claire du Comte d'Egmont : nous pensons à ces femmes qui ne recherchent d'autre gloire que celle de bien rendre leur rôle ; se pliant avec une étonnante souplesse aux plaisirs et aux volontés de ceux que la nature leur a donnés pour maîtres ; s'élevant tour à tour dans les immenses sphères de leur pensée, et s'abaissant à la simple tâche de les amuser comme des enfants ; comprenant et les bizarreries de ces âmes si fortement tourmentées, et les moindres paroles et les regards les plus vagues ; heureuses du silence, heureuses de la diffusion ; devinant enfin que les plaisirs, les idées et la morale d'un lord Byron ne doivent pas être ceux d'un bonnetier. Mais arrêtons-nous, cette peinture nous entraînerait trop loin de notre sujet : il s'agit de mariage et non pas d'amour. -- 449 --

Cette Méditation a pour but de soumettre à votre attention un nouveau mode de défense par lequel vous dompterez sous une prostration invincible la volonté de votre femme. Il s'agit de la réaction produite sur le moral par les vicissitudes physiques et par les savantes dégradations d'une diète habilement dirigée. Cette grande et philosophique question de médecine conjugale sourira sans doute à tous ces goutteux, ces impotents, ces catarrheux, et à cette légion de vieillards de qui nous avons réveillé l'apathie à l'article des Prédestinés ; mais elle concernera principalement les maris assez audacieux pour entrer dans les voies d'un machiavélisme digne de ce grand roi de France qui tenta d'assurer le bonheur de la nation aux dépens de quelques têtes féodales. Ici, la question est la même. C'est toujours l'amputation ou l'affaiblissement de quelques membres pour le plus grand bonheur de la masse. Croyez-vous sérieusement qu'un célibataire soumis au régime de l'herbe hanea, des concombres, du pourpier et des applications de sangsues aux oreilles, recommandé par Sterne, serait bien propre à battre en brèche l'honneur de votre femme ? Supposez un diplomate qui aurait eu le talent de fixer sur le crâne de Napoléon un cataplasme permanent de graine de lin, ou de lui faire administrer tous les matins un clystère au miel, croyez-vous que Napoléon, Napoléon-le-Grand, aurait conquis l'Italie ? Napoléon a-t-il été en proie ou non aux horribles souffrances d'une dysurie pendant la campagne de Russie ?... Voilà une de ces questions dont la solution a pesé sur le globe entier. N'est-il pas certain que des réfrigérants, des douches, des bains, etc., produisent de grands changements dans les affections plus ou moins aiguës du cerveau ? Au milieu des chaleurs du mois de juillet, lorsque chacun de vos pores filtre lentement et restitue à une dévorante atmosphère les limonades à la glace que vous avez bues d'un seul coup, vous êtes-vous jamais senti ce foyer de courage, cette vigueur de pensée, cette énergie complète qui vous rendaient l'existence légère et douce quelques mois auparavant ? -- 450 -Non, non, le fer le mieux scellé dans la pierre la plus dure soulèvera et disjoindra toujours le monument le plus durable par suite de l'influence secrète qu'exercent les lentes et invisibles dégradations de chaud et de froid qui tourmentent l'atmosphère. En principe, reconnaissons donc que si les milieux atmosphériques influent sur l'homme, l'homme doit à plus forte raison influer à son tour sur l'imagination de ses semblables, par le plus ou le moins de vigueur et de puissance avec laquelle il projette sa volonté qui produit une véritable atmosphère autour de lui. Là, est le principe du talent de l'acteur, celui de la poésie et du fanatisme, car l'une est l'éloquence des paroles comme l'autre l'éloquence des actions ; là enfin est le principe d'une science en ce moment au berceau. Cette volonté, si puissante d'homme à homme, cette force nerveuse et fluide, éminemment mobile et transmissible, est elle-même soumise à l'état changeant de notre organisation, et bien des circonstances font varier ce fragile organisme. Là, s'arrêtera notre observation métaphysique, et là nous rentrerons dans l'analyse des circonstances qui élaborent la volonté de l'homme et la portent au plus haut degré de force ou d'affaissement. Maintenant ne croyez pas que notre but soit de vous engager à mettre des cataplasmes sur l'honneur de votre femme, de la renfermer dans une étuve ou de la sceller comme une lettre ; non. Nous ne tenterons même pas de vous développer le système magnétique qui vous donnerait le pouvoir de faire triompher votre volonté dans l'âme de votre femme : il n'est pas un mari qui acceptât le bonheur d'un éternel amour au prix de cette tension perpétuelle des forces animales ; mais nous essaierons de développer un

système hygiénique formidable, au moyen duquel vous pourrez éteindre le feu quand il aura pris à la cheminée. Il existe, en effet, parmi les habitudes des petites-maîtresses de Paris et des départements (les petites-maîtresses forment une classe très-distinguée parmi les femmes honnêtes), assez de ressources pour atteindre à notre but, sans aller chercher dans l'arsenal de la thérapeutique les quatre semences froides, le nénuphar et mille inventions dignes des sorcières. Nous laisserons même à Elien son herbe hanéa et à Sterne son pourpier et ses concombres, qui annoncent des intentions antiphlogistiques par trop évidentes. -- 451 -Vous laisserez votre femme s'étendre et demeurer des journées entières sur ces moelleuses bergères où l'on s'enfonce à mi-corps dans un véritable bain d'édredon ou de plumes. Vous favoriserez, par tous les moyens qui ne blesseront pas votre conscience, cette propension des femmes à ne respirer que l'air parfumé d'une chambre rarement ouverte, et où le jour perce à grand'peine de voluptueuses, de diaphanes mousselines. Vous obtiendrez des effets merveilleux de ce système, après avoir toutefois préalablement subi les éclats de son exaltation ; mais si vous êtes assez fort pour supporter cette tension momentanée de votre femme, vous verrez bientôt s'abolir sa vigueur factice. En général les femmes aiment à vivre vite, mais après leurs tempêtes de sensations, viennent des calmes rassurants pour le bonheur d'un mari. Jean-Jacques, par l'organe enchanteur de Julie, ne prouvera-t-il pas à votre femme qu'elle aura une grâce infinie à ne pas déshonorer son estomac délicat et sa bouche divine, en faisant du chyle avec d'ignobles pièces de boeuf, et d'énormes éclanches de mouton ? Est-il rien au monde de plus pur que ces intéressants légumes, toujours frais et inodores, ces fruits colorés, ce café, ce chocolat parfumé, ces oranges, pommes d'or d'Atalante, les dattes de l'Arabie, les biscottes de Bruxelles, nourriture saine et gracieuse qui arrive à des résultats satisfaisants en même temps qu'elle donne à une femme je ne sais quelle originalité mystérieuse ? Elle arrive à une petite célébrité de coterie par son régime, comme par une toilette, par une belle action ou par un bon mot. Pythagore doit être sa passion, comme si Pythagore était un caniche ou un sapajou. Ne commettez jamais l'imprudence de certains hommes qui, pour se donner un vernis d'esprit fort, combattent cette croyance féminine : que l'on conserve sa taille en mangeant peu. Les femmes à la diète n'engraissent pas, cela est clair et positif ; vous ne sortirez pas de là. Vantez l'art avec lequel des femmes renommées par leur beauté ont su la conserver en se baignant, plusieurs fois par jour, dans du lait, ou des eaux composées de substances propres à rendre la peau plus douce, en débilitant le système nerveux. Recommandez-lui surtout, au nom de sa santé si précieuse pour vous, de s'abstenir de lotions d'eau froide ; que toujours l'eau chaude ou tiède soit l'ingrédient fondamental de toute espèce d'ablution. Broussais sera votre idole. A la moindre indisposition de votre -- 452 -femme, et sous le plus léger prétexte, pratiquez de fortes applications de sangsues ; ne craignez même pas de vous en appliquer vous-même quelques douzaines de temps à autre, pour faire prédominer chez vous le système de ce célèbre docteur. Votre état de mari vous oblige à toujours trouver votre femme trop rouge ; essayez même quelquefois de lui attirer le sang à la tête, pour avoir le droit d'introduire, dans certains moments, une escouade de sangsues au logis.

Votre femme boira de l'eau légèrement colorée d'un vin de Bourgogne agréable au goût, mais sans vertu tonique ; tout autre vin serait mauvais. Ne souffrez jamais qu'elle prenne l'eau pure pour boisson, vous seriez perdu. « Impétueux fluide ! au moment que tu presses contre les écluses du cerveau, vois comme elles cèdent à ta puissance ! La Curiosité paraît à la nage, faisant signe à ses compagnes de la suivre : elles plongent au milieu du courant. L'imagination s'assied en rêvant sur la rive. Elle suit le torrent des yeux, et change les brins de paille et de joncs en mâts de misaine et de beaupré. A peine la métamorphose est-elle faite, que le Désir, tenant d'une main sa robe retroussée jusqu'au genou, survient, les voit et s'en empare. O vous, buveurs d'eau ! est-ce donc par le secours de cette source enchanteresse, que vous avez tant de fois tourné et retourné le monde à votre gré ? Foulant aux pieds l'impuissant, écrasant son visage, et changeant même quelquefois la forme et l'aspect de la nature ? » Si par ce système d'inaction, joint à notre système alimentaire, vous n'obteniez pas des résultats satisfaisants, jetez vous à corps perdu dans un autre système que nous allons développer. L'homme a une somme donnée d'énergie. Tel homme ou telle femme est à tel autre, comme dix est à trente, comme un est a cinq, et il est un degré que chacun de nous ne dépasse pas. La quantité d'énergie ou de volonté, que chacun de nous possède, se déploie comme le son : elle est tantôt faible, tantôt forte ; elle se modifie selon les octaves qu'il lui est permis de parcourir. Cette force est unique, et bien qu'elle se résolve en désirs, en passions, en labeurs d'intelligence ou en travaux corporels, elle accourt là où l'homme l'appelle. Un boxeur la dépense en coups de poing, le boulanger à pétrir son pain, le poète dans une exaltation qui en -- 453 -absorbe et en demande une énorme quantité, le danseur la fait passer dans ses pieds ; enfin, chacun la distribue à sa fantaisie, et que je voie ce soir le Minotaure assis tranquillement sur mon lit, si vous ne savez pas comme moi où il s'en dépense le plus. Presque tous les hommes consument en des travaux nécessaires ou dans les angoisses de passions funestes, cette belle somme d'énergie et de volonté dont leur a fait présent la nature ; mais nos femmes honnêtes sont toutes en proie aux caprices et aux luttes de cette puissance qui ne sait où se prendre. Si chez votre femme, l'énergie n'a pas succombé sous le régime diététique, jetez-la dans un mouvement toujours croissant. Trouvez les moyens de faire passer la somme de force, par laquelle vous êtes gêné, dans une occupation qui la consomme entièrement. Sans attacher une femme à la manivelle d'une manufacture, il y a mille moyens de la lasser sous le fléau d'un travail constant. Tout en vous abandonnant les moyens d'exécution, lesquels changent selon bien des circonstances, nous vous indiquerons la danse comme un des plus beaux gouffres où s'ensevelissent les amours. Cette matière ayant été assez bien traitée par un contemporain, nous le laisserons parler. « Telle pauvre victime qu'admire un cercle enchanté paie bien cher ses succès. Quel fruit faut-il attendre d'efforts si peu proportionnés aux moyens d'un sexe délicat ? Les muscles, fatigués sans discrétion, consomment sans mesure. Les esprits, destinés à nourrir le feu des passions et le travail du cerveau, sont détournés de leur route. L'absence des désirs, le goût du repos, le choix exclusif d'aliments substantiels, tout indique une nature appauvrie, plus avide de réparer que de jouir. Aussi un indigène des coulisses me disait-il un jour : -- « Qui a vécu avec des danseuses, a vécu de mouton ; car leur épuisement ne peut se passer de cette nourriture énergique. » Croyez-moi donc, l'amour qu'une danseuse inspire est bien trompeur : on rencontre avec dépit, sous un printemps factice, un sol froid et avare, et des sens incombustibles. Les médecins calabrois ordonnent la danse pour remède aux passions hystériques qui sont communes

parmi les femmes de leur pays, et les Arabes usent à peu près de la même recette pour les nobles cavales dont le tempérament trop lascif empêche la fécondité. « Bête comme un danseur » est un proverbe connu au théâtre. Enfin, les meilleures têtes de l'Eu-- 454 -rope sont convaincues que toute danse porte en soi une qualité éminemment réfrigérante. En preuve à tout ceci, il est nécessaire d'ajouter d'autres observations. « La vie des pasteurs donna naissance aux amours déréglées. Les moeurs des tisserandes furent horriblement décriées dans la Grèce. Les Italiens ont consacré un proverbe à la lubricité des boiteuses. Les Espagnols, dont les veines reçurent par tant de mélanges l'incontinence africaine, déposent le secret de leurs désirs dans cette maxime qui leur est familière : Muger y gallina pierna quebrantada ; il est bon que la femme et la poule aient une jambe rompue. La profondeur des Orientaux dans l'art des voluptés se décèle tout entière par cette ordonnance du kalife Hakim, fondateur des Druses, qui défendit, sous peine de mort, de fabriquer dans ses états aucune chaussure de femme. Il semble que sur tout le globe les tempêtes du coeur attendent, pour éclater, le repos des jambes ! » Quelle admirable manoeuvre que de faire danser une femme et de ne la nourrir que de viandes blanches !... Ne croyez pas que ces observations, aussi vraies que spirituellement rendues, contrarient notre système précédent ; par celui-ci comme par celui-là vous arriverez à produire chez une femme cette atonie tant désirée, gage de repos et de tranquillité. Par le dernier vous laissez une porte ouverte pour que l'ennemi s'enfuie ; par l'autre vous le tuez. Là, il nous semble entendre des gens timorés et à vues étroites, s'élevant contre notre hygiène au nom de la morale et des sentiments. La femme n'est-elle donc pas douée d'une âme ? N'a-t-elle pas comme nous des sensations ? De quel droit, au mépris de ses douleurs, de ses idées, de ses besoins, la travaille-t-on comme un vil métal duquel l'ouvrier fait un éteignoir ou un flambeau ? Serait-ce parce que ces pauvres créatures sont déjà faibles et malheureuses qu'un brutal s'arrogerait le pouvoir de les tourmenter exclusivement au profit de ses idées plus ou moins justes ? Et si par votre système débilitant ou échauffant qui allonge, ramollit, pétrit les fibres, vous causiez d'affreuses et cruelles maladies, si vous conduisiez au tombeau une femme qui vous est chère, si, si, etc. Voici notre réponse : Avez-vous jamais compté combien de formes diverses Arlequin -- 455 -et Pierrot donnent à leur petit chapeau blanc ? ils le tournent et retournent si bien, que successivement ils en font une toupie, un bateau, un verre à boire, une demi-lune, un berret, une corbeille, un poisson, un fouet, un poignard, un enfant, une tête d'homme, etc. Image exacte du despotisme avec lequel vous devez manier et remanier votre femme. La femme est une propriété que l'on acquiert par contrat, elle est mobilière, car la possession vaut titre ; enfin, la femme n'est, à proprement parler, qu'une annexe de l'homme ; or, tranchez, coupez, rognez, elle vous appartient à tous les titres. Ne vous inquiétez en rien de ses murmures, de ses cris, de ses douleurs ; la nature l'a faite à notre usage et pour tout porter : enfants, chagrins, coups et peines de l'homme.

Ne nous accusez pas de dureté. Dans tous les codes des nations soi-disant civilisées, l'homme a écrit les lois qui règlent le destin des femmes sous cette épigraphe sanglante : Vae victis ! Malheur aux faibles. Enfin, songez à cette dernière observation, la plus prépondérante peut-être de toutes celles que nous avons faites jusqu'ici : si ce n'est pas vous, mari, qui brisez sous le fléau de votre volonté ce faible et charmant roseau ; ce sera, joug plus atroce encore, un célibataire capricieux et despote ; elle supportera deux fléaux au lieu d'un. Tout compensé, l'humanité vous engagera donc à suivre les principes de notre hygiène.

Peut-être les Méditations précédentes auront-elles plutôt développé des systèmes généraux de conduite, qu'elles n'auront présenté les moyens de repousser la force par la force. Ce sont des pharmacopées et non pas des topiques. Or, voici maintenant les moyens personnels que la nature vous a mis entre les mains, pour vous défendre ; car la Providence n'a oublié personne : si elle a donné à la seppia (poisson de l'Adriatique) cette couleur noire qui lui sert à produire un nuage au sein duquel elle se dérobe à son ennemi, vous devez bien penser qu'elle n'a pas laissé un mari sans épée : or, le moment est venu de tirer la vôtre. -- 456 -Vous avez dû exiger, en vous mariant, que votre femme nourrirait ses enfants : alors, jetez-la dans les embarras et les soins d'une grossesse ou d'une nourriture, vous reculerez ainsi le danger au moins d'un an ou deux. Une femme occupée à mettre au monde et à nourrir un marmot, n'a réellement pas le temps de songer à un amant ; outre qu'elle est, avant et après sa couche, hors d'état de se présenter dans le monde. En effet, comment la plus immodeste des femmes distinguées, dont il est question dans cet ouvrage, oserait-elle se montrer enceinte, et promener ce fruit caché, son accusateur public ? O lord Byron, toi qui ne voulais pas voir les femmes mangeant !... Six mois après son accouchement, et quand l'enfant a bien tété, à peine une femme commence-t-elle à pouvoir jouir de sa fraîcheur et de sa liberté. Si votre femme n'a pas nourri son premier enfant, vous avez trop d'esprit pour ne pas tirer parti de cette circonstance et lui faire désirer de nourrir celui qu'elle porte. Vous lui lisez l'Emile de Jean-Jacques, vous enflammez son imagination pour les devoirs des mères, vous exaltez son moral, etc. ; enfin, vous êtes un sot ou un homme d'esprit ; et, dans le premier cas même, en lisant cet ouvrage, vous seriez toujours minotaurisé ; dans le second, vous devez comprendre à demi-mot. Ce premier moyen vous est virtuellement personnel. Il vous donnera bien du champ devant vous pour mettre à exécution les autres moyens. Depuis qu'Alcibiade coupa les oreilles et la queue à son chien, pour rendre service à Périclès, qui avait sur les bras une espèce de guerre d'Espagne et des fournitures Ouvrard, dont s'occupaient alors les Athéniens, il n'existe pas de ministre qui n'ait cherché à couper les oreilles à quelque chien. Enfin, en médecine, lorsqu'une inflammation se déclare sur un point capital de l'organisation, on opère une petite contre-révolution sur un autre point, par des moxas, des scarifications, des acupunctures, etc. Un autre moyen consiste donc à poser à votre femme un moxa, ou à lui fourrer dans l'esprit quelque aiguille qui la pique fortement et fasse diversion en votre faveur. Un homme de beaucoup d'esprit avait fait durer sa Lune de Miel environ quatre années ; la Lune décroissait et il commençait

-- 457 -à apercevoir l'arc fatal. Sa femme était précisément dans l'état où nous avons représenté toute femme honnête à la fin de notre première partie : elle avait pris du goût pour un assez mauvais sujet, petit, laid ; mais enfin ce n'était pas son mari. Dans cette conjoncture, ce dernier s'avisa d'une coupe de queue de chien qui renouvela, pour plusieurs années, le bail fragile de son bonheur. Sa femme s'était conduite avec tant de finesse, qu'il eût été fort embarrassé de défendre sa porte à l'amant avec lequel elle s'était trouvé un rapport de parenté très éloignée. Le danger devenait de jour en jour plus imminent. Odeur de Minotaure se sentait à la ronde. Un soir, le mari resta plongé dans un chagrin, profond, visible, affreux. Sa femme en était déjà venue à lui montrer plus d'amitié qu'elle n'en ressentait même au temps de la Lune de Miel ; et dès lors, questions sur questions. De sa part, silence morne. Les questions redoublent, il échappe à monsieur des réticences, elles annonçaient un grand malheur ! Là, il avait appliqué un moxa japonnais qui brûlait comme un auto-da-fé de 1600. La femme employa d'abord mille manoeuvres pour savoir si le chagrin de son mari était causé par cet amant en herbe : première intrigue pour laquelle elle déploya mille ruses. L'imagination trottait... de l'amant ? il n'en était plus question. Ne fallait-il pas, avant tout, découvrir le secret de son mari. Un soir, le mari, poussé par l'envie de confier ses peines à sa tendre amie, lui déclare que toute leur fortune est perdue. Il faut renoncer à l'équipage, à la loge aux Bouffes, aux bals, aux fêtes, à Paris ; peut-être en s'exilant dans une terre, pendant un an ou deux, pourront-ils tout recouvrer ! S'adressant à l'imagination de sa femme, à son coeur, il la plaignit de s'être attachée au sort d'un homme amoureux d'elle, il est vrai, mais sans fortune ; il s'arracha quelques cheveux, et force fut à sa femme de s'exalter au profil de l'honneur ; alors, dans le premier délire de cette fièvre conjugale, il la conduisit à sa terre. Là, nouvelles scarifications, sinapismes sur sinapismes, nouvelles queues de chien coupées : il fit bâtir une aile gothique au château ; madame retourna dix fois le parc pour avoir des eaux, des lacs, des mouvements de terrain, etc., enfin le mari, au milieu de cette besogne, n'oubliait pas la sienne : lectures curieuses, soins délicats, etc. Notez qu'il ne s'avisa jamais d'avouer à sa femme cette ruse, et si la fortune revint, ce fut précisément par suite de la construction des ailes et des sommes énormes dépensées à faire des -- 458 -rivières ; il lui prouva que le lac donnait une chute d'eau, sur laquelle vinrent des moulins, etc. Voilà un moxa conjugal bien entendu, car ce mari n'oublia ni de faire des enfants, ni d'inviter des voisins ennuyeux, bêtes, ou âgés ; et, s'il venait l'hiver à Paris, il jetait sa femme dans un tel tourbillon de bals et de courses, qu'elle n'avait pas une minute à donner aux amants, fruits nécessaires d'une vie oisive. Les voyages en Italie, en Suisse, en Grèce, les maladies subites qui exigent les eaux, et les eaux les plus éloignées sont d'assez bons moxas. Enfin, un homme d'esprit doit savoir en trouver mille pour un. Continuons l'examen de nos moyens personnels. Ici nous vous ferons observer que nous raisonnons d'après une hypothèse, sans laquelle vous laisseriez là le livre, à savoir : que votre Lune de Miel a duré un temps assez honnête, et que la demoiselle de qui vous avez fait votre femme était vierge ; au cas contraire, et d'après les moeurs françaises, votre femme ne vous aurait épousé que pour devenir inconséquente. Au moment où commence, dans votre ménage, la lutte entre la vertu et l'inconséquence, toute la question réside dans un parallèle perpétuel et involontaire que votre femme établit entre vous et son amant.

Là, il existe encore pour vous un moyen de défense, entièrement personnel, rarement employé par les maris, mais que des hommes supérieurs ne craignent pas d'essayer. Il consiste à l'emporter sur l'amant, sans que votre femme puisse soupçonner votre dessein. Vous devez l'amener à se dire avec dépit, un soir, pendant qu'elle met ses papillottes : « Mais mon mari vaut mieux. » Pour réussir, vous devez, ayant sur l'amant l'avantage immense de connaître le caractère de votre femme, et sachant comment on la blesse, vous devez, avec toute la finesse d'un diplomate, faire commettre des gaucheries à cet amant, en le rendant déplaisant par lui-même, sans qu'il s'en doute. D'abord, selon l'usage, cet amant recherchera votre amitié, ou vous aurez des amis communs ; alors, soit par ces amis, soit par des insinuations adroitement perfides, vous le trompez sur des points essentiels ; et, avec un peu d'habileté, vous voyez votre femme éconduisant son amant, sans que ni elle ni lui ne puissent jamais en deviner la raison. Vous avez créé là, dans l'intérieur de -- 459 -votre ménage, une comédie en cinq actes, où vous jouez, à votre profit, les rôles si brillants de Figaro ou d'Almaviva ; et, pendant quelques mois, vous vous amusez d'autant plus, que votre amour-propre, votre vanité, votre intérêt, tout est vivement mis en jeu. J'ai eu le bonheur de plaire dans ma jeunesse à un vieil émigré qui me donna ces derniers rudiments d'éducation que les jeunes gens reçoivent ordinairement des femmes. Cet ami, dont la mémoire me sera toujours chère, m'apprit, par son exemple, à mettre en oeuvre ces stratagèmes diplomatiques qui demandent autant de finesse que de grâce. Le comte de Nocé était revenu de Coblentz au moment où il y eut pour les nobles du péril à être en France. Jamais créature n'eut autant de courage et de bonté, autant de ruse et d'abandon. Agé d'une soixantaine d'années, il venait d'épouser une demoiselle de vingt-cinq ans, poussé à cet acte de folie par sa charité : il arrachait cette pauvre fille au despotisme d'une mère capricieuse. -- Voulez-vous être ma veuve ?... avait dit à mademoiselle de Pontivy cet aimable vieillard ; mais son âme était trop aimante pour ne pas s'attacher à sa femme, plus qu'un homme sage ne doit le faire. Comme pendant sa jeunesse il avait été manégé par quelques-unes des femmes les plus spirituelles de la cour de Louis XV, il ne désespérait pas trop de préserver la comtesse de tout encombre... Quel homme ai-je jamais vu mettant mieux que lui en pratique tous les enseignements que j'essaie de donner aux maris ! Que de charmes ne savait-il pas répandre dans la vie par ses manières douces et sa conversation spirituelle. Sa femme ne sut qu'après sa mort et par moi qu'il avait la goutte. Ses lèvres distillaient l'aménité comme ses yeux respiraient l'amour. Il s'était prudemment retiré au sein d'une vallée, auprès d'un bois, et Dieu sait les promenades qu'il entreprenait avec sa femme !... Son heureuse étoile voulut que mademoiselle de Pontivy eût un coeur excellent, et possédât à un haut degré cette exquise délicatesse, cette pudeur de sensitive, qui embelliraient, je crois, la plus laide fille du monde. Tout à coup, un de ses neveux, joli militaire échappé aux désastres de Moscou, revint chez l'oncle, autant pour savoir jusqu'à quel point il avait à craindre des cousins, que dans l'espoir de guerroyer avec la tante. Ses cheveux noirs, ses moustaches, le babil avantageux de l'état-major, une certaine disinvol-- 460 -tura aussi élégante que légère, des yeux vifs, tout contrastait entre l'oncle et le neveu. J'arrivai précisément au moment où la jeune comtesse montrait le trictrac à son parent. Le proverbe dit que les femmes n'apprennent ce jeu que de leurs amants, et réciproquement. Or, pendant une partie, monsieur de Nocé avait surpris le matin même entre sa femme et le vicomte un de ces regards confusément empreints d'innocence, de peur et de désir. Le soir, il nous proposa une partie de chasse, qui fut acceptée. Jamais je ne le vis si dispos et si gai qu'il le parut le lendemain matin, malgré les sommations de

sa goutte qui lui réservait une prochaine attaque. Le diable n'aurait pas su mieux que lui mettre la bagatelle sur le tapis. Il était ancien mousquetaire gris, et avait connu Sophie Arnoult. C'est tout dire. La conversation devint bientôt la plus gaillarde du monde entre nous trois ; Dieu m'en absolve ! -- Je n'aurais jamais cru que mon oncle fût une si bonne lame ! me dit le neveu. Nous fîmes une halte, et quand nous fûmes tous trois assis sur la pelouse d'une des plus vertes clairières de la forêt, le comte nous avait amenés à discourir sur les femmes mieux que Brantôme et l'Aloysia. -- « Vous êtes bien heureux sous ce gouvernement-ci, vous autres !... les femmes ont des moeurs !... (Pour apprécier l'exclamation du vieillard, il faudrait avoir écouté les horreurs que le capitaine avait racontées.) Et, reprit le comte, c'est un des biens que la révolution a produits. Ce système donne aux passions bien plus de charme et de mystère. Autrefois, les femmes étaient faciles ; eh ! bien, vous ne sauriez croire combien il fallait d'esprit et de verve pour réveiller ces tempéraments usés : nous étions toujours sur le qui vive. Mais aussi, un homme devenait célèbre par une gravelure bien dite ou par une heureuse insolence. Les femmes aiment cela, et ce sera toujours le plus sûr moyen de réussir auprès d'elles !... » Ces derniers mots furent dits avec un dépit concentré. Il s'arrêta et fit jouer le chien de son fusil comme pour déguiser une émotion profonde -- « Ah ! bah ! dit-il, mon temps est passé ! Il faut avoir l'imagination jeune... et le corps aussi !... Ah ! pourquoi me suis-je marié ? Ce qu'il y a de plus perfide chez les filles élevées par les mères qui ont vécu à cette brillante époque de la galanterie, c'est qu'elles affichent un air de candeur, une pruderie... Il semble que le miel le plus doux offenserait leurs lèvres délicates, et ceux qui les connaissent savent qu'elles mangeraient des dragées de sel ! » Il se leva, haussa son -- 461 -fusil par un mouvement de rage ; et, le lançant sur la terre, il en enfonça presque la crosse dans le gazon humide. -- « Il parait que la chère tante aime les fariboles !... » me dit tout bas l'officier. -- « Ou les dénoûments qui ne traînent pas ! » ajoutai-je. Le neveu tira sa cravate, rajusta son col, et sauta comme une chèvre calabroise. Nous rentrâmes sur les deux heures après midi. Le comte m'emmena chez lui jusqu'au dîner, sous prétexte de chercher quelques médailles desquelles il m'avait parlé pendant notre retour au logis. Le dîner fut sombre. La comtesse prodiguait à son neveu les rigueurs d'une politesse froide. Rentrés au salon, le comte dit à sa femme : -- « Vous faites votre trictrac ?... nous allons vous laisser. » La jeune comtesse ne répondit pas. Elle regardait le feu et semblait n'avoir pas entendu. Le mari s'avança de quelques pas vers la porte en m'invitant par un geste de main à le suivre. Au bruit de sa marche, sa femme retourna vivement la tête. -- « Pourquoi nous quitter ?... dit-elle ; vous avez bien demain tout le temps de montrer à monsieur des revers de médailles. » Le comte resta. Sans faire attention à la gêne imperceptible qui avait succédé à la grâce militaire de son neveu, le comte déploya pendant toute la soirée le charme inexprimable de sa conversation. Jamais je ne le vis si brillant ni si affectueux, Nous parlâmes beaucoup des femmes. Les plaisanteries de notre hôte furent marquées au coin de la plus exquise délicatesse. Il m'était impossible à moi-même de voir des cheveux blancs sur sa tête chenue ; car elle brillait de cette jeunesse de coeur et d'esprit qui efface les rides et fond la neige des hivers. Le lendemain le neveu partit. Même après la mort de monsieur de Nocé, et en cherchant à profiter de l'intimité de ces causeries familières où les femmes ne sont pas toujours sur leurs gardes, je n'ai jamais pu savoir quelle impertinence commit alors le vicomte envers sa tante. Cette insolence devait être bien grave, car depuis cette époque, madame de Nocé n'a pas voulu revoir son neveu et ne peut, même aujourd'hui, en entendre prononcer le nom sans laisser échapper un léger mouvement de sourcils. Je ne devinai pas tout de suite le but de la chasse du comte de Nocé ; mais plus tard je trouvai qu'il avait joué bien gros jeu. Cependant, si vous venez à bout de remporter, comme monsieur de Nocé, une si grande victoire, n'oubliez pas de mettre singulièrement en pratique le système des moxas ; et ne vous imaginez pas que l'on puisse recommencer impunément de semblables tours de

-- 462 -force. En prodiguant ainsi vos talents, vous finiriez par vous démonétiser dans l'esprit de votre femme ; car elle exigerait de vous en raison double de ce que vous lui donneriez, et il arriverait un moment où vous resteriez court. L'âme humaine est soumise, dans ses désirs, à une sorte de progression arithmétique dont le but et l'origine sont également inconnus. De même que le mangeur d'opium doit toujours doubler ses doses pour obtenir le même résultat, de même notre esprit, aussi impérieux qu'il est faible, veut que les sentiments, les idées et les choses aillent en croissant. De là est venue la nécessité de distribuer habilement l'intérêt dans une oeuvre dramatique, comme de graduer les remèdes en médecine. Ainsi vous voyez que si vous abordez jamais l'emploi de ces moyens, vous devez subordonner votre conduite hardie à bien des circonstances, et la réussite dépendra toujours des ressorts que vous emploierez. Enfin, avez-vous du crédit, des amis puissants ? occupez-vous un poste important ? Un dernier moyen coupera le mal dans sa racine. N'aurez-vous pas le pouvoir d'enlever à votre femme son amant par une promotion, par un changement de résidence, ou par une permutation, s'il est militaire ? Vous supprimez la correspondance, et nous en donnerons plus tard moyens ; or, sublatâ causâ, tollitur effectus, paroles latines qu'on peut traduire à volonté par : pas d'effet sans cause ; pas d'argent, pas de Suisses. Néanmoins vous sentez que votre femme pourrait facilement choisir un autre amant ; mais, après ces moyens préliminaires, vous aurez toujours un moxa tout prêt, afin de gagner du temps et voir à vous tirer d'affaire par quelques nouvelles ruses. Sachez combiner le système des moxas avec les déceptions mimiques de Carlin. L'immortel Carlin, de la comédie italienne, tenait toute une assemblée en suspens et en gaîté pendant des heures entières par ces seuls mots variés avec tout l'art de la pantomime et prononcés de mille inflexions de voix différentes. « Le roi dit à la reine. -La reine dit au roi. » Imitez Carlin. Trouvez le moyen de laisser toujours votre femme en échec, afin de n'être pas mat vous-même. Prenez vos grades auprès des ministres constitutionnels dans l'art de promettre. Habituez-vous à savoir montrer à propos le polichinelle qui fait courir un enfant après vous, sans qu'il puisse s'apercevoir du chemin parcouru. Nous sommes tous enfants, et les femmes sont assez disposées par leur curiosité à perdre leur temps à la poursuite d'un feu follet. Flamme brillante et trop -- 463 -tôt évanouie, l'imagination n'est-elle pas là pour vous secourir ? Enfin, étudiez l'art heureux d'être et de ne pas être auprès d'elle, de saisir les moments où vous obtiendrez des succès dans son esprit, sans jamais l'assommer de vous, de votre supériorité, ni même de son bonheur. Si l'ignorance dans laquelle vous la retenez n'a pas tout à fait aboli son esprit, vous vous arrangerez si bien que vous vous désirerez encore quelque temps l'un et l'autre.

Les moyens et les systèmes qui précèdent sont en quelque sorte purement moraux. Ils participent à la noblesse de notre âme et n'ont rien de répugnant ; mais maintenant nous allons avoir recours aux précautions à la Bartholo. N'allez pas mollir. Il y a un courage marital, comme un courage civil et militaire, comme un courage de garde national. Quel est le premier soin d'une petite fille après avoir acheté une perruche ? n'est-ce pas de l'enfermer dans une belle cage d'où elle ne puisse plus sortir sans sa permission ? Cet enfant vous apprend ainsi votre devoir. Tout ce qui tient à la disposition de votre maison et de ses appartements sera donc conçu dans la pensée de ne laisser à votre femme aucune ressource, au cas où elle

aurait décrété de vous livrer au minotaure ; car la moitié des malheurs arrivent par les déplorables facilités que présentent les appartements. Avant tout, songez à avoir pour concierge un homme seul et entièrement dévoué à votre personne. C'est un trésor facile à trouver : quel est l'homme qui n'a pas toujours, de par le monde, ou un père nourricier ou quelque vieux serviteur qui jadis l'a fait sauter sur ses genoux. Une haine d'Atrée et de Thyeste devra s'élever par vos soins entre votre femme et ce Nestor, gardien de votre porte. Cette porte est l'Alpha et l'Oméga d'une intrigue. Toutes les intrigues en amour ne se réduisent-elles pas toujours à ceci : entrer, sortir ? Votre maison ne vous servirait à rien si elle n'était pas entre cour et jardin, et construite de manière à n'être en contact avec nulle autre. Vous supprimerez d'abord dans vos appartements de réception -- 464 -les moindres cavités. Un placard, ne contînt-il que six pots de confitures, doit être muré. Vous vous préparez à la guerre, et la première pensée d'un général est de couper les vivres à son ennemi. Aussi, toutes les parois seront-elles pleines, afin de présenter à l'oeil des lignes faciles à parcourir, et qui permettent de reconnaître sur-le-champ le moindre objet étranger. Consultez les restes des monuments antiques, et vous verrez que la beauté des appartements grecs et romains venait principalement de la pureté des lignes, de la netteté des parois, de la rareté des meubles. Les Grecs auraient souri de pitié en apercevant dans un salon les hiatus de nos armoires. Ce magnifique système de défense sera surtout mis en vigueur dans l'appartement de votre femme. Ne lui laissez jamais draper son lit de manière à ce qu'on puisse se promener autour dans un dédale de rideaux. Soyez impitoyable sur les communications. Mettez sa chambre au bout de vos appartements de réception. N'y souffrez d'issue que sur les salons, afin de voir, d'un seul regard, ceux qui vont et viennent chez elle. Le Mariage de Figaro vous aura sans doute appris à placer la chambre de votre femme à une grande hauteur du sol. Tous les célibataires sont des Chérubins. Votre fortune, donne sans doute, à votre femme le droit d'exiger un cabinet de toilette, une salle de bain et l'appartement d'une femme de chambre ; alors, pensez à Suzanne, et ne commettez jamais la faute de pratiquer ce petit appartement-là au-dessous de celui de madame ; mettez-le toujours au-dessus ; et ne craignez pas de déshonorer votre hôtel par de hideuses coupures dans les fenêtres. Si le malheur veut que ce dangereux appartement communique avec celui de votre femme par un escalier dérobé, consultez long-temps votre architecte ; que son génie s'épuise à rendre à cet escalier sinistre, l'innocence de l'escalier primitif, l'échelle du meunier ; que cet escalier, nous vous en conjurons, n'ait aucune cavité perfide ; que ses marches anguleuses et raides ne présentent jamais cette voluptueuse courbure dont se trouvaient si bien Faublas et Justine en attendant que le marquis de B., fût sorti. Les architectes, aujourd'hui, font des escaliers préférables à des ottomanes. Rétablissez plutôt le vertueux colimaçon de nos ancêtres. En ce qui concerne les cheminées de l'appartement de madame, -- 465 -vous aurez soin de placer dans les tuyaux une grille en fer à cinq pieds de hauteur audessus du manteau de la cheminée, dût-on la sceller de nouveau à chaque ramonage. Si votre femme trouvait cette précaution ridicule, alléguez les nombreux assassinats commis au moyen des cheminées. Presque toutes les femmes ont peur des voleurs.

Le lit est un de ces meubles décisifs dont la structure doit être longuement méditée. Là tout est d'un intérêt capital. Voici les résultats d'une longue expérience. Donnez à ce meuble une forme assez originale pour qu'on puisse toujours le regarder sans déplaisir au milieu des modes qui se succèdent avec rapidité en détruisant les créations précédentes du génie de nos décorateurs, car il est essentiel que votre femme ne puisse pas changer à volonté ce théâtre du plaisir conjugal. La base de ce meuble sera pleine, massive, et ne laissera aucun intervalle perfide entre elle et le parquet. Et souvenez-vous bien que la dona Julia de Byron avait caché don Juan sous son oreiller. Mais il serait ridicule de traiter légèrement un sujet si délicat. LXII. Le lit est tout le mariage. Aussi ne tarderons-nous pas à nous occuper de cette admirable création du génie humain, invention que nous devons inscrire dans notre reconnaissance bien plus haut que les navires, que les armes à feu, que le briquet de Fumade, que les voitures et leurs roues, que les machines à vapeur, à simple ou double pression, à siphon ou à détente, plus haut même que les tonneaux et les bouteilles. D'abord, le lit tient de tout cela pour peu qu'on y réfléchisse ; mais si l'on vient à songer qu'il est notre second père et que la moitié la plus tranquille et la plus agitée de notre existence s'écoule sous sa couronne protectrice, les paroles manquent pour faire son éloge. (Voyez la Méditation XVII, intitulée : Théorie du lit.) Lorsque la guerre, de laquelle nous parlerons dans notre Troisième Partie, éclatera entre vous et madame, vous aurez toujours d'ingénieux prétextes pour fouiller dans ses commodes et dans ses secrétaires ; car si votre femme s'avisait de vous dérober une statue, il est de votre intérêt de savoir où elle l'a cachée. Un gynécée construit d'après ce système vous permettra de reconnaître d'un -- 466 -seul coup d'oeil s'il contient deux livres de soie de plus qu'à l'ordinaire. Laissez-y pratiquer une seule armoire, vous êtes perdu ! Accoutumez surtout votre femme, pendant la Lune de Miel, à déployer une excessive recherche dans la tenue des appartements : que rien n'y traîne. Si vous ne l'habituez pas à un soin minutieux, si les mêmes objets ne se retrouvent pas éternellement aux mêmes places, elle vous introduirait un tel désordre, que vous ne pourriez plus voir s'il y a ou non les deux livres de soie de plus ou de moins. Les rideaux de vos appartements seront toujours en étoffes très-diaphanes, et le soir vous contracterez l'habitude de vous promener de manière à ce que madame ne soit jamais surprise de vous voir aller jusqu'à la fenêtre par distraction. Enfin, pour finir l'article des croisées, faites-les construire dans votre hôtel de telle sorte que l'appui ne soit jamais assez large pour qu'on y puisse placer un sac de farine. L'appartement de votre femme une fois arrangé d'après ces principes, existât-il dans votre hôtel des niches à loger tous les saints du Paradis, vous êtes en sûreté. Vous pourrez tous les soirs, de concert avec votre ami le concierge, balancer l'entrée par la sortie ; et, pour obtenir des résultats certains, rien ne vous empêcherait même de lui apprendre à tenir un livre de visites en partie double. Si vous avez un jardin, ayez la passion des chiens. En laissant toujours sous vos fenêtres un de ces incorruptibles gardiens, vous tiendrez en respect le Minotaure, surtout si vous habituez votre ami quadrupède à ne rien prendre de substantiel que de la main de votre concierge, afin que des célibataires sans délicatesse ne puissent pas l'empoisonner. Toutes ces précautions se prendront naturellement et de manière à n'éveiller aucun soupçon. Si des hommes ont été assez imprudents pour ne pas avoir établi, en se

mariant, leur domicile conjugal d'après ces savants principes, ils devront au plus tôt vendre leur hôtel, en acheter un autre, ou prétexter des réparations et remettre la maison à neuf. Vous bannirez impitoyablement de vos appartements les canapés, les ottomanes, les causeuses, les chaises longues, etc. D'abord, ces meubles ornent maintenant le ménage des épiciers, on les trouve partout, même chez les coiffeurs ; mais c'est essentiellement des meubles de perdition ; jamais je n'ai pu les voir sans frayeur, il m'a toujours semblé y apercevoir le diable avec ses cornes et son pied fourchu. -- 467 -Après tout rien de si dangereux qu'une chaise, et il est bien malheureux qu'on ne puisse pas enfermer les femmes entre quatre murs !... Quel est le mari qui, en s'asseyant sur une chaise disjointe, n'est pas toujours porté à croire qu'elle a reçu l'instruction du Sopha de Crébillon fils ? Mais nous avons heureusement arrangé vos appartements d'après un système de prévision tel que rien ne peut y arriver de fatal, à moins que vous n'y consentiez par votre négligence. Un défaut que vous contracterez (et ne vous en corrigez jamais) sera une espèce de curiosité distraite qui vous portera sans cesse à examiner toutes les boîtes, à mettre cen dessus dessous les nécessaires. Vous procéderez à cette visite domiciliaire avec originalité, gracieusement, et chaque fois vous obtiendrez votre pardon en excitant la gaieté de votre femme. Vous manifesterez toujours aussi l'étonnement le plus profond à l'aspect de chaque meuble nouvellement mis dans cet appartement si bien rangé. Sur-le-champ vous vous en ferez expliquer l'utilité ; puis vous mettrez votre esprit à la torture pour deviner s'il n'a point un emploi tacite, s'il n'enferme pas de perfides cachettes. Ce n'est pas tout. Vous avez trop d'esprit pour ne pas sentir que votre jolie perruche ne restera dans sa cage qu'autant que cette cage sera belle. Les moindres accessoires respireront donc l'élégance et le goût. L'ensemble offrira sans cesse un tableau simple et gracieux. Vous renouvellerez souvent les tentures et les mousselines. La fraîcheur du décor est trop essentielle pour économiser sur cet article. C'est le mouron matinal que les enfants mettent soigneusement dans la cage de leurs oiseaux, pour leur faire croire à la verdure des prairies. Un appartement de ce genre est alors l'ultima ratio des maris : une femme n'a rien à dire quand on lui a tout prodigué. Les maris condamnés à habiter des appartements à loyer sont dans la plus horrible de toutes les situations. Quelle influence heureuse ou fatale le portier ne peut-il pas exercer sur leur sort ! Leur maison ne sera-t-elle pas flanquée à droite et à gauche de deux autres maisons ? Il est vrai qu'en plaçant d'un seul côté l'appartement de leurs femmes, le danger diminuera de moitié ; mais ne sont-ils pas obligés d'apprendre par coeur et de méditer l'âge, l'état, la fortune, le caractère, les habitudes des locataires de la -- 468 -maison voisine et d'en connaître même les amis et les parents ? Un mari sage ne se logera jamais à un rez-de-chaussée. Tout homme peut appliquer à son appartement les précautions que nous avons conseillées au propriétaire d'un hôtel, et alors le locataire aura sur le propriétaire cet avantage, qu'un appartement occupant moins d'espace est beaucoup mieux surveillé.


-- Eh ! non, madame, non... -- Car, monsieur, il y aurait là quelque chose de si inconvenant... -- Croyez-vous donc, madame, que nous voulions prescrire de visiter, comme aux barrières, les personnes qui franchissent le seuil de vos appartements ou qui en sortent furtivement, afin de voir s'ils ne vous apportent pas quelque bijou de contrebande ? Eh ! mais il n'y aurait là rien de décent ; et nos procédés, madame, n'auront rien d'odieux, partant rien de fiscal : rassurez-vous. -- Monsieur, la douane conjugale est de tous les expédients de cette Seconde Partie celui qui peut-être réclame de vous le plus de tact, de finesse, et le plus de connaissances acquises a priori, c'est-à-dire avant le mariage. Pour pouvoir exercer, un mari doit avoir fait une étude profonde du livre de Lavater et s'être pénétré de tous ses principes ; avoir habitué son oeil et son entendement à juger, à saisir, avec une étonnante promptitude, les plus légers indices physiques par lesquels l'homme trahit sa pensée. La Physiognomonie de Lavater a créé une véritable science. Elle a pris place enfin parmi les connaissances humaines. Si, d'abord, quelques doutes, quelques plaisanteries accueillirent l'apparition de ce livre ; depuis, le célèbre docteur Gall est venu, par sa belle théorie du crâne, compléter le système du Suisse, et donner de la solidité à ses fines et lumineuses observations. Les gens d'esprit, les diplomates, les femmes, tous ceux qui sont les rares et fervents disciples de ces deux hommes célèbres, ont souvent eu l'occasion de remarquer bien d'autres signes évidents auxquels on reconnaît la pensée humaine. Les habitudes du corps, l'écriture, le son de la voix, les manières ont plus d'une fois éclairé la femme qui aime, le diplomate qui trompe, l'administrateur habile ou le sou-- 469 -verain obligés de démêler d'un coup d'oeil l'amour, la trahison ou le mérite inconnus. L'homme dont l'âme agit avec force est comme un pauvre ver-luisant qui, à son insu, laisse échapper la lumière par tous ses pores. Il se meut dans une sphère brillante où chaque effort amène un ébranlement dans la lueur et dessine ses mouvements par de longues traces de feu. Voilà donc tous les éléments des connaissances que vous devez posséder, car la douane conjugale consiste uniquement dans un examen rapide, mais approfondi, de l'état moral et physique de tous les êtres qui entrent et sortent de chez vous, lorsqu'ils ont vu ou vont voir votre femme. Un mari ressemble alors à une araignée qui, au centre de sa toile imperceptible, reçoit une secousse de la moindre mouche étourdie, et, de loin, écoute, juge, voit ou la proie ou l'ennemi. Ainsi, vous vous procurerez les moyens d'examiner le célibataire qui sonne à votre porte, dans deux situations bien distinctes : quand il va entrer, quand il est entré. Au moment d'entrer, combien de choses ne dit-il pas sans seulement desserrer les dents !... Soit que d'un léger coup de main, ou en plongeant ses doigts à plusieurs reprises dans ses cheveux, il en abaisse et en rehausse le toupet caractéristique ; Soit qu'il fredonne un air italien ou français, joyeux ou triste, d'une voix de ténor, de contr'alto, de soprano, ou de baryton ; Soit qu'il s'assure si le bout de sa cravate significative est toujours placé avec grâce ; Soit qu'il aplatisse le jabot bien plissé ou en désordre d'une chemise de jour ou de nuit ; Soit qu'il cherche à savoir par un geste interrogateur et furtif si sa perruque blonde ou brune, frisée ou plate, est toujours à sa place naturelle ;

Soit qu'il examine si ses ongles sont propres ou bien coupés ; Soit que d'une main blanche ou peu soignée, bien ou mal gantée, il refrise ou sa moustache ou ses favoris, ou soit qu'il les passe et repasse entre les dents d'un petit peigne d'écaille ; Soit que, par des mouvements doux et répétés, il cherche à placer son menton dans le centre exact de sa cravate ; Soit qu'il se dandine d'un pied sur l'autre, les mains dans ses poches ; -- 470 -Soit qu'il tourmente sa botte, en la regardant, comme s'il se disait : « Eh ! mais, voilà un pied qui n'est certes pas mal tourné !... » Soit qu'il arrive à pied ou en voiture, qu'il efface ou non la légère empreinte de boue qui salit sa chaussure ; Soit même qu'il reste immobile, impassible comme un Hollandais qui fume ; Soit que, les yeux attachés à cette porte, il ressemble à une âme sortant du purgatoire et attendant saint Pierre et ses clefs ; Soit qu'il hésite à tirer le cordon de la sonnette ; et soit qu'il le saisisse négligemment, précipitamment, familièrement ou comme un homme sûr de son fait ; Soit qu'il ait sonné timidement, faisant retentir un tintement perdu dans le silence des appartements comme un premier coup de matines en hiver dans un couvent de Minimes ; ou soit qu'après avoir sonné avec vivacité, il sonne encore, impatienté de ne pas entendre les pas d'un laquais ; Soit qu'il donne à son haleine un parfum délicat en mangeant une pastille de cachundé ; Soit qu'il prenne d'un air empesé une prise de tabac, en en chassant soigneusement les grains qui pourraient altérer la blancheur de son linge ; Soit qu'il regarde autour de lui, en ayant l'air d'estimer la lampe de l'escalier, le tapis, la rampe, comme s'il était marchand de meubles, ou entrepreneur de bâtiments ; Soit enfin que ce célibataire soit jeune ou âgé, ait froid ou chaud, arrive lentement, tristement ou joyeusement, etc. Vous sentez qu'il y a là, sur la marche de votre escalier, une masse étonnante d'observations. Les légers coups de pinceau que nous avons essayé de donner à cette figure vous montrent, en elle, un véritable kaléidoscope moral avec ses millions de désinences. Et nous n'avons même pas voulu faire arriver de femme sur ce seuil révélateur ; car nos remarques, déjà considérables, seraient devenues innombrables et légères comme les grains de sable de la mer. En effet, devant cette porte fermée, un homme se croit entièrement seul ; et, pour peu qu'il attende, il y commence un monologue muet, un soliloque indéfinissable, où tout, jusqu'à son pas, dévoile ses espérances, ses désirs, ses intentions, ses secrets, ses qualités, ses défauts, ses vertus, etc. ; enfin, un homme est, sur un -- 471 -palier, comme une jeune fille de quinze ans dans un confessionnal, la veille de sa première communion.

En voulez-vous la preuve ?... Examinez le changement subit opéré sur cette figure et dans les manières de ce célibataire aussitôt que de dehors il arrive au dedans. Le machiniste de l'Opéra, la température, les nuages ou le soleil, ne changent pas plus vite l'aspect d'un théâtre, de l'atmosphère et du ciel. A la première dalle de votre antichambre, de toutes les myriades d'idées que ce célibataire vous a trahies avec tant d'innocence sur l'escalier, il ne reste pas même un regard auquel on puisse rattacher une observation. La grimace sociale de convention a tout enveloppé d'un voile épais ; mais un mari habile a dû déjà deviner, d'un seul coup d'oeil, l'objet de la visite, et lire dans l'âme de l'arrivant comme dans un livre. La manière dont on aborde votre femme, dont on lui parle, dont on la regarde, dont on la salue, dont on la quitte... il y a là des volumes d'observations plus minutieuses les unes que les autres. Le timbre de la voix, le maintien, la gêne, un sourire, le silence même, la tristesse, les prévenances à votre égard, tout est indice, et tout doit être étudié d'un regard, sans effort. Vous devez cacher la découverte la plus désagréable sous l'aisance et le langage abondant d'un homme de salon. Dans l'impuissance où nous nous trouvons d'énumérer les immenses détails du sujet, nous nous en remettons entièrement à la sagacité du lecteur, qui doit apercevoir l'étendue de cette science ; elle commence à l'analyse des regards et finit à la perception des mouvements que le dépit imprime à un orteil caché sous le satin d'un soulier ou sous le cuir d'une botte. Mais la sortie !... car il faut prévoir le cas où vous aurez manqué votre rigoureux examen au seuil de la porte, et la sortie devient alors d'un intérêt capital, d'autant plus que cette nouvelle étude du célibataire doit se faire avec les mêmes éléments, mais en sens inverse de la première. Il existe cependant, dans la sortie, une situation toute particulière, c'est le moment où l'ennemi a franchi tous les retranchements dans lesquels il pouvait être observé, et qu'il arrive à la rue !... Là, un homme d'esprit doit deviner toute une visite en voyant un homme sous une porte cochère. Les indices sont bien plus rares, mais aussi quelle clarté ! C'est le dénouement, et -- 472 -l'homme en trahit sur-le-champ la gravité par l'expression la plus simple du bonheur, de la peine ou de la joie. Les révélations sont alors faciles à recueillir : c'est un regard jeté ou sur la maison, ou sur les fenêtres de l'appartement ; c'est une démarche lente ou oisive ; le frottement des mains du sot, ou la course sautillante du fat, ou la station involontaire de l'homme profondément ému : enfin, vous aviez sur le palier les questions aussi nettement posées que si une académie de province proposait cent écus pour un discours ; à la sortie, les solutions sont claires et précises. Notre tâche serait au-dessus des forces humaines s'il fallait dénombrer les différentes manières dont les hommes trahissent leurs sensations : là, tout est tact et sentiment. Si vous appliquez ces principes d'observation aux étrangers, à plus forte raison soumettrez-vous votre femme aux mêmes formalités. Un homme marié doit avoir fait une étude profonde du visage de sa femme. Cette étude est facile, elle est même involontaire et de tous les moments. Pour lui, cette belle physionomie de la femme ne doit plus avoir de mystères. Il sait comment les sensations s'y peignent, et sous quelle expression elles se dérobent au feu du regard. Le plus léger mouvement de lèvres, la plus imperceptible contraction des narines, les dégradations insensibles de l'oeil, l'altération de la voix, et ces nuages indéfinissables qui enveloppent les traits, ou ces flammes qui les illuminent, tout est langage pour vous.

Cette femme est là : tous la regardent, et nul ne peut comprendre sa pensée. Mais, pour vous, la prunelle est plus ou moins colorée, étendue, ou resserrée ; la paupière a vacillé, le sourcil a remué ; un pli, effacé aussi rapidement qu'un sillon sur la mer, a paru sur le front ; la lèvre a été rentrée, elle a légèrement fléchi ou s'est animée... pour vous, la femme a parlé. Si, dans ces moments difficiles où une femme dissimule en présence de son mari, vous avez l'âme du Sphinx pour la deviner, vous sentez bien que les principes de la douane deviennent un jeu d'enfant à son égard. En arrivant chez elle ou en sortant, lorsqu'elle se croit seule, enfin votre femme a toute l'imprudence d'une corneille, et se dirait tout haut, à elle-même, son secret : aussi, par le changement -- 473 -subit de ses traits au moment où elle vous voit, contraction qui, malgré la rapidité de son jeu, ne s'opère pas assez vite pour ne pas laisser voir l'expression qu'avait le visage en votre absence, vous devez lire dans son âme comme dans un livre de plain-chant. Enfin votre femme se trouvera souvent sur le seuil aux monologues, et là, un mari peut à chaque instant vérifier les sentiments de sa femme. Est-il un homme assez insouciant des mystères de l'amour pour n'avoir pas, maintes fois, admiré le pas léger, menu, coquet d'une femme qui vole à un rendez-vous ? Elle se glisse à travers la foule comme un serpent sous l'herbe. Les modes, les étoffes et les piéges éblouissants tendus par les lingères déploient vainement pour elle leurs séductions ; elle va, elle va, semblable au fidèle animal qui cherche la trace invisible de son maître, sourde à tous les compliments, aveugle à tous les regards, insensible même aux légers froissements inséparables de la circulation humaine dans Paris. Oh ! comme elle sent le prix d'une minute ! Sa démarche, sa toilette, son visage commettent mille indiscrétions. Mais, ô quel ravissant tableau pour le flâneur, et quelle page sinistre pour un mari, que la physionomie de cette femme quand elle revient de ce logis secret sans cesse habité par son âme !... Son bonheur est signé jusque dans l'indescriptible imperfection de sa coiffure dont le gracieux édifice et les tresses ondoyantes n'ont pas su prendre, sous le peigne cassé du célibataire, cette teinte luisante, ce tour élégant et arrêté que leur imprime la main sûre de la camériste. Et quel adorable laissez-aller dans la démarche ! comment rendre ce sentiment qui répand de si riches couleurs sur son teint, qui ôte à ses yeux toute leur assurance et qui tient à la mélancolie et à la gaieté, à la pudeur et à l'orgueil par tant de liens ! Ces indices, volés à la Méditation des derniers symptômes, et qui appartiennent à une situation dans laquelle une femme essaie de tout dissimuler, vous permettent de deviner, par analogie, l'opulente moisson d'observations qu'il vous est réservé de recueillir quand votre femme arrive chez elle, et que, le grand crime n'étant pas encore commis, elle livre innocemment le secret de ses pensées. Quant à nous, nous n'avons jamais vu de palier sans avoir envie d'y clouer une rose des vents et une girouette. Les moyens à employer pour parvenir à se faire dans sa maison une sorte d'observatoire dépendant entièrement des lieux et des cir-- 474 -constances, nous nous en rapportons à l'adresse des jaloux pour exécuter les prescriptions de cette Méditation.

J'avoue que je ne connais guère à Paris qu'une seule maison conçue d'après le système développé dans les deux Méditations précédentes. Mais je dois ajouter aussi que j'ai bâti

le système d'après la maison. Cette admirable forteresse appartient à un jeune maître des requêtes, ivre d'amour et de jalousie. Quand il apprit qu'il existait un homme exclusivement occupé de perfectionner le mariage en France, il eut l'honnêteté de m'ouvrir les portes de son hôtel et de m'en faire voir le gynécée. J'admirai le profond génie qui avait si habilement déguisé les précautions d'une jalousie presque orientale sous l'élégance des meubles, sous la beauté des tapis et la fraîcheur des peintures. Je convins qu'il était impossible à sa femme de rendre son appartement complice d'une trahison. -- Monsieur, dis-je à l'Otello du Conseil-d'état qui ne me paraissait pas très-fort sur la haute politique conjugale, je ne doute pas que madame la vicomtesse n'ait beaucoup de plaisir à demeurer au sein de ce petit paradis ; elle doit même en avoir prodigieusement, surtout si vous y êtes souvent ; mais un moment viendra où elle en aura assez ; car, monsieur, on se lasse de tout, même du sublime. Comment ferez-vous alors quand madame la vicomtesse, ne trouvant plus à toutes vos inventions leur charme primitif, ouvrira la bouche pour bâiller, et peut-être pour vous présenter une requête tendant à obtenir l'exercice de deux droits indispensables à son bonheur : la liberté individuelle, c'est-à-dire la faculté d'aller et de venir selon le caprice de sa volonté ; et la liberté de la presse, ou la faculté d'écrire et de recevoir des lettres, sans avoir à craindre votre censure ?... A peine avais-je achevé ces paroles, que monsieur le vicomte de V*** me serra fortement le bras, et s'écria : -- Et voilà bien l'ingratitude des femmes ! S'il y a quelque chose de plus ingrat qu'un roi, c'est un peuple ; mais, monsieur, la femme est encore plus ingrate qu'eux tous. Une femme mariée en agit avec nous -- 475 -comme les citoyens d'une monarchie constitutionnelle avec un roi : on a beau assurer à ceux-là une belle existence dans un beau pays ; un gouvernement a beau se donner toutes les peines du monde avec des gendarmes, des chambres, une administration et tout l'attirail de la force armée, pour empêcher un peuple de mourir de faim, pour éclairer les villes par le gaz aux dépens des citoyens, pour chauffer tout son monde par le soleil du quarante-cinquième degré de latitude, et pour interdire enfin à tous autres qu'aux percepteurs de demander de l'argent ; il a beau paver, tant bien que mal, des routes,... eh ! bien, aucun des avantages d'une si belle utopie n'est apprécié ! Les citoyens veulent autre chose !... Ils n'ont pas honte de réclamer encore le droit de se promener à volonté sur ces routes, celui de savoir où va l'argent donné aux percepteurs ; et enfin le monarque serait tenu de fournir à chacun une petite part du trône, s'il fallait écouter les bavardages de quelques écrivassiers, ou adopter certaines idées tricolores, espèces de polichinelles que fait jouer une troupe de soi-disant patriotes, gens de sac et de corde, toujours prêts à vendre leurs consciences pour un million, pour une femme honnête ou une couronne ducale. -- Monsieur le vicomte, dis-je en l'interrompant, je suis parfaitement de votre avis sur ce dernier point, mais que ferez-vous pour éviter de répondre aux justes demandes de votre femme ? -- Monsieur, je ferai..., je répondrai comme font et comme répondent les gouvernements, qui ne sont pas aussi bêtes que les membres de l'Opposition voudraient le persuader à leurs commettants. Je commencerai par octroyer solennellement une espèce de constitution, en vertu de laquelle ma femme sera déclarée entièrement libre. Je reconnaîtrai pleinement le droit qu'elle a d'aller où bon lui semble, d'écrire à qui elle veut, et de recevoir des lettres en m'interdisant d'en connaître le contenu. Ma femme aura tous les droits du parlement anglais : je la laisserai parler tant qu'elle voudra, discuter, proposer des mesures fortes et énergiques, mais sans qu'elle puisse les mettre à exécution, et puis après.. nous verrons !

-- Par saint Joseph !... dis-je en moi-même, voilà un homme qui comprend aussi bien que moi la science du mariage. -- Et puis vous verrez, monsieur, répondis-je à haute voix pour obtenir de plus amples révélations, vous verrez que vous serez, un beau matin, tout aussi sot qu'un autre. -- 476 --- Monsieur, reprit-il gravement, permettez-moi d'achever. Voilà ce que les grands politiques appellent une théorie, mais ils savent faire disparaître cette théorie par la pratique, comme une vraie fumée ; et les ministres possèdent encore mieux que tous les avoués de Normandie l'art d'emporter le fond par la forme. Monsieur de Metternich et monsieur de Pilat, hommes d'un profond mérite, se demandent depuis long-temps si l'Europe est dans son bon sens, si elle rêve, si elle sait où elle va, si elle a jamais raisonné, chose impossible aux masses, aux peuples et aux femmes. Messieurs de Metternich et de Pilat sont effrayés de voir ce siècle-ci poussé par la manie des constitutions, comme le précédent l'était par la philosophie, et comme celui de Luther l'était par la réforme des abus de la religion romaine ; car il semble vraiment que les générations soient semblables à des conspirateurs dont les actions marchent séparément au même but en se passant le mot d'ordre. Mais ils s'effraient à tort, et c'est en cela seulement que je les condamne, car ils ont raison de vouloir jouir du pouvoir, sans que des bourgeois arrivent, à jour fixe, du fond de chacun de leurs six royaumes pour les taquiner. Comment des hommes si remarquables n'ont-ils pas su deviner la profonde moralité que renferme la comédie constitutionnelle, et voir qu'il est de la plus haute politique de laisser un os à ronger au siècle ? Je pense absolument comme eux relativement à la souveraineté. Un pouvoir est un être moral aussi intéressé qu'un homme à sa conservation. Le sentiment de la conservation est dirigé par un principe essentiel, exprimé en trois mots : Ne rien perdre. Pour ne rien perdre, il faut croître, ou rester infini ; car un pouvoir stationnaire est nul. S'il rétrograde, ce n'est plus un pouvoir, il est entraîné par un autre. Je sais, comme ces messieurs, dans quelle situation fausse se trouve un pouvoir infini qui fait une concession ? il laisse naître dans son existence un autre pouvoir dont l'essence sera de grandir. L'un anéantira nécessairement l'autre, car tout être tend au plus grand développement possible de ses forces. Un pouvoir ne fait donc jamais de concessions qu'il ne tente de les reconquérir. Ce combat entre les deux pouvoirs constitue nos gouvernements constitutionnels, dont le jeu épouvante à tort le patriarche de la diplomatie autrichienne, parce que, comédie pour comédie, la moins périlleuse et la plus lucrative est celle que jouent l'Angleterre et la France. Ces deux patries ont dit au peuple : « Tu es libre ! » et il -- 477 -a été content ; il entre dans le gouvernement comme une foule de zéros qui donnent de la valeur à l'unité. Mais le peuple veut-il se remuer, on commence avec lui le drame du dîner de Sancho, quand l'écuyer, devenu souverain de son île en terre-ferme, essaie de manger. Or, nous autres hommes, nous devons parodier cette admirable scène au sein de nos ménages. Ainsi, ma femme a bien le droit de sortir, mais en me déclarant où elle va, comment elle va, pour quelle affaire elle va, et quand elle reviendra. Au lieu d'exiger ces renseignements avec la brutalité de nos polices, qui se perfectionneront sans doute un jour, j'ai le soin de revêtir les formes les plus gracieuses. Sur mes lèvres, dans mes yeux, sur mes traits, se jouent et paraissent tour à tour les accents et les signes de la curiosité et de l'indifférence, de la gravité et de la plaisanterie, de la contradiction et de l'amour. C'est de petites scènes conjugales pleines d'esprit, de finesse et de grâce, qui sont très-agréables à jouer. Le jour où j'ai ôté de dessus la tête de ma femme la couronne de fleurs d'oranger qu'elle portait, j'ai compris que nous avions joué, comme au couronnement d'un roi, les premiers lazzis d'une longue comédie. -- J'ai des gendarmes !... J'ai ma garde royale, j'ai mes procureurs généraux, moi !.. reprit-il avec une sorte d'enthousiasme. Est-ce que je souffre jamais que madame aille à pied sans être accompagnée d'un laquais en livrée ? Cela n'est-il pas du meilleur ton ? sans compter l'agrément qu'elle a de dire à tout le monde : -- J'ai des gens. Mais mon principe conservateur a été de toujours faire coïncider mes courses avec celles de ma femme, et depuis deux ans j'ai su lui prouver que c'était pour moi un plaisir toujours nouveau de lui

donner le bras. S'il fait mauvais à marcher, j'essaie de lui apprendre à conduire avec aisance un cheval fringant ; mais je vous jure que je m'y prends de manière à ce qu'elle ne le sache pas de sitôt !... Si, par hasard ou par l'effet de sa volonté bien prononcée, elle voulait s'échapper sans passe-port, c'est-à-dire dans sa voiture et seule, n'ai-je pas un cocher, un heiduque, un groom ? Alors ma femme peut aller où elle veut, elle emmène toute une sainte hermandad, et je suis bien tranquille... Mais, mon cher monsieur, combien de moyens n'avons-nous pas de détruire la charte conjugale par la pratique, et la lettre par l'interprétation ! J'ai remarqué que les moeurs de la haute société comportent une flânerie qui dévore la moitié de la vie d'une femme, sans qu'elle puisse se sentir vivre. J'ai, pour mon compte, formé le projet d'amener adroite-- 478 -ment ma femme jusqu'à quarante ans sans qu'elle songe à l'adultère, de même que feu Musson s'amusait à mener un bourgeois de la rue Saint-Denis à Pierrefitte, sans qu'il se doutât d'avoir quitté l'ombre du clocher de Saint-Leu. -- Comment ! lui dis-je en l'interrompant, auriez-vous par hasard deviné ces admirables déceptions que je me proposais de décrire dans une Méditation, intitulée : Art de mettre la mort dans la vie !... Hélas ! je croyais être le premier qui eût découvert cette science. Ce titre concis m'avait été suggéré par le récit que fit un jeune médecin d'une admirable composition inédite de Crabbe. Dans cet ouvrage, le poète anglais a su personnifier un être fantastique, nommé la Vie dans la Mort. Ce personnage poursuit à travers les océans du monde un squelette animé, appelé la Mort dans la vie. Je me souviens que peu de personnes, parmi les convives de l'élégant traducteur de la poésie anglaise, comprirent le sens mystérieux de cette fable aussi vraie que fantastique. Moi seul, peutêtre, plongé dans un silence brute, je songeais à ces générations entières qui, poussées par la VIE, passent sans vivre. Des figures de femmes s'élevaient devant moi par milliers, par myriades, toutes mortes, chagrines, et versant des larmes de désespoir en contemplant les heures perdues de leur jeunesse ignorante. Dans le lointain, je voyais naître une Méditation railleuse, j'en entendais déjà les rires sataniques ; et vous allez sans doute la tuer... Mais voyons, confiez-moi promptement les moyens que vous avez trouvés pour aider une femme à gaspiller les moments rapides où elle est dans la fleur de sa beauté, dans la force de ses désirs... Peut-être m'aurez-vous laissé quelques stratagèmes, quelques ruses à décrire... Le vicomte se mit à rire de ce désappointement d'auteur, et me dit d'un air satisfait : -Ma femme a, comme toutes les jeunes personnes de notre bienheureux siècle, appuyé ses doigts, pendant trois ou quatre années consécutives, sur les touches d'un piano qui n'en pouvait mais. Elle a déchiffré Beethoven, fredonné les ariettes de Rossini et parcouru les exercices de Crammer. Or, j'ai déjà eu le soin de la convaincre de sa supériorité en musique : pour atteindre à ce but, j'ai applaudi, j'ai écouté sans bâiller les plus ennuyeuses sonates du monde, et je me suis résigné à lui donner une loge aux Bouffons, Aussi ai-je gagné trois soirées paisibles sur les sept que Dieu a crééés dans la semaine. Je suis à l'affût des maisons à -- 479 -musique. A Paris, il existe des salons qui ressemblent exactement à des tabatières d'Allemagne, espèces de Componiums perpétuels où je vais régulièrement chercher des indigestions d'harmonie, que ma femme nomme des concerts. Mais aussi, la plupart du temps, s'enterre-t-elle dans ses partitions... -- Hé ! monsieur, ne connaissez-vous donc pas le danger qu'il y a de développer chez une femme le goût du chant, et de la laisser livrée à toutes les excitations d'une vie sédentaire ?... Il ne vous manquerait plus que de la nourrir de mouton, et de lui faire boire de l'eau... -- Ma femme ne mange jamais que des blancs de volaille, et j'ai soin de toujours faire succéder un bal à un concert, un rout à une représentation des Italiens ! Aussi ai-je

réussi à la faire coucher pendant six mois de l'année entre une heure et deux du matin. Ah ! monsieur, les conséquences de ce coucher matinal sont incalculables ! D'abord, chacun de ces plaisirs nécessaires est accordé comme une faveur, et je suis censé faire constamment la volonté de ma femme : alors je lui persuade, sans dire un seul mot, qu'elle s'est constamment amusée depuis six heures du soir, époque de notre dîner et de sa toilette, jusqu'à onze heures du matin, heure à laquelle nous nous levons. -- Ah ! monsieur, quelle reconnaissance ne vous doit-elle pas pour une vie si bien remplie !... -- Je n'ai donc plus guère que trois heures dangereuses à passer ; mais n'a-t-elle pas des sonates à étudier, des airs à répéter ?... N'ai-je pas toujours des promenades au bois de Boulogne à proposer, des calèches à essayer, des visites à rendre, etc. ? Ce n'est pas tout. Le plus bel ornement d'une femme est une propreté recherchée, ses soins à cet égard ne peuvent jamais avoir d'excès ni de ridicule : or, la toilette m'a encore offert les moyens de lui faire consumer les plus beaux moments de sa journée. -- Vous êtes digne de m'entendre !.. m'écriai-je. Eh ! bien, monsieur, vous lui mangerez quatre heures par jour si vous voulez lui apprendre un art inconnu aux plus recherchées de nos petites-maîtresses modernes... Dénombrez à madame de V*** les étonnantes précautions créées par le luxe oriental des dames romaines, nommez-lui les esclaves employées seulement au bain chez l'impératrice Poppée : les Unctores, les Fricatores, les Alipilariti, les Dropacistae, les Paratiltriae, les Picatrices, les Tractatri-- 480 -ces, les essuyeurs en cygne, que sais-je !... Entretenez-la de cette multitude d'esclaves dont la nomenclature a été donnée par Mirabeau dans son Erotika Biblion. Pour qu'elle essaie à remplacer tout ce monde-là, vous aurez de belles heures de tranquillité, sans compter les agréments personnels qui résulteront pour vous de l'importation dans votre ménage du système de ces illustres Romaines, dont les moindres cheveux artistement disposés avaient reçu des rosées de parfums, dont la moindre veine semblait avoir conquis un sang nouveau dans la myrrhe, le lin, les parfums, les ondes, les fleurs, le tout au son d'une musique voluptueuse. -- Eh ! monsieur, reprit le mari qui s'échauffait de plus en plus, n'ai-je pas aussi d'admirables prétextes dans la santé ? Cette santé, si précieuse et si chère, me permet de lui interdire toute sortie par le mauvais temps, et je gagne ainsi un quart de l'année. Et n'ai-je pas su introduire le doux usage de ne jamais sortir l'un ou l'autre sans aller nous donner le baiser d'adieu, en disant : « Mon bon ange, je sors. » Enfin, j'ai su prévoir l'avenir et rendre pour toujours ma femme captive au logis, comme un conscrit dans sa guérite !... Je lui ai inspiré un enthousiasme incroyable pour les devoirs sacrés de la maternité. -- En la contredisant ? demandai-je. -- Vous l'avez deviné !... dit-il en riant. Je lui soutiens qu'il est impossible à une femme du monde de remplir ses obligations envers la société, de mener sa maison, de s'abandonner à tous les caprices de la mode, à ceux d'un mari qu'on aime, et d'élever ses enfants... Elle prétend alors qu'à l'exemple de Caton, qui voulait voir comment la nourrice changeait les langes du grand Pompée, elle ne laissera pas à d'autres les soins les plus minutieux réclamés par les flexibles intelligences et les corps si tendres de ces petits êtres dont l'éducation commence au berceau. Vous comprenez, monsieur, que ma diplomatie conjugale ne me servirait pas à grand'chose, si, après avoir ainsi mis ma femme au secret, je n'usais pas d'un machiavélisme innocent, qui consiste à l'engager perpétuellement à faire ce qu'elle veut, à lui demander son avis en tout et sur tout. Comme cette illusion de liberté est destinée à tromper une créature assez spirituelle, j'ai soin de tout sacrifier pour convaincre madame de V*** qu'elle est la femme la plus libre qu'il y ait à Paris, et, pour atteindre à ce but, je me garde bien de commettre ces grosses balourdises politiques qui échappent souvent à nos ministres.

-- 481 --- Je vous vois, dis-je, quand vous voulez escamoter un des droits concédés à votre femme par la charte, je vous vois prenant un air doux et mesuré, cachant le poignard sous des roses, et, en le lui plongeant avec précaution dans le coeur, lui demandant d'une voix amie : -- Mon ange, te fait-il mal ? Comme ces gens sur le pied desquels on marche, elle vous répond peut-être : -- Au contraire ? Il ne put s'empêcher de sourire, et dit : -- Ma femme ne sera-t-elle pas bien étonnée au jugement dernier ? -- Je ne sais pas, lui répondis-je, qui le sera le plus de vous ou d'elle. Le jaloux fronçait déjà les sourcils, mais sa physionomie redevint sereine quand j'ajoutai : -- Je rends grâce, monsieur, au hasard qui m'a procuré le plaisir de faire votre connaissance. Sans votre conversation j'aurais certainement développé moins bien que vous ne l'avez fait quelques idées qui nous étaient communes. Aussi vous demanderai-je la permission de mettre cet entretien en lumière. Là, où nous avons vu de hautes conceptions politiques, d'autres trouveront peut-être des ironies plus ou moins piquantes, et je passerai pour un habile homme aux yeux des deux partis... Pendant que j'essayais de remercier le vicomte (le premier mari selon mon coeur que j'eusse rencontré), il me promenait encore une fois dans ses appartements, où tout paraissait irréprochable. J'allais prendre congé de lui, quand, ouvrant la porte d'un petit boudoir, il me le montra d'un air qui semblait dire : -- Y a-t-il moyen de commettre là le moindre désordre que mon oeil ne sût reconnaître ? Je répondis à cette muette interrogation par une de ces inclinations de tête que font les convives à leur amphitryon en dégustant un mets distingué. -- Tout mon système, me dit-il à voix basse, m'a été suggéré par trois mots que mon père entendit prononcer à Napoléon en plein Conseil-d'Etat, lors de la discussion du divorce. - L'adultère, s'écria-t-il, est une affaire de canapé ! Aussi, voyez ! J'ai su transformer ces complices en espions, ajouta le maître des requêtes en me désignant un divan couvert d'un casimir couleur thé, dont les coussins étaient légèrement froissés. -- Tenez, cette marque m'apprend que ma femme a eu mal à la tête et s'est reposée là... -- 482 -Nous fîmes quelques pas vers le divan, et nous vîmes le mot – SOT – capricieusement tracé sur le meuble fatal par quatre

De ces je ne sais quoi, qu'une amante tira Du verger de Cypris, labyrinthe des fées, Et qu'un duc autrefois jugea si précieux Qu'il voulut l'honorer d'une chevalerie, Illustre et noble confrérie Moins pleine d'hommes que de Dieux.
-- Personne dans ma maison n'a les cheveux noirs ! dit le mari en pâlissant. Je me sauvai, car je me sentis pris d'une envie de rire que je n'aurais pas facilement comprimé.

-- Voilà un homme jugé !... me dis-je. Il n'a fait que préparer d'incroyables plaisirs à sa femme, par toutes les barrières dont il l'a environnée. Cette idée m'attrista. L'aventure détruisait de fond en comble trois de mes plus importantes Méditations, et l'infaillibilité catholique de mon livre était attaquée dans son essence. J'aurais payé de bien bon coeur la fidélité de la vicomtesse de V*** de la somme avec laquelle bien des gens eussent voulu lui acheter une seule faute. Mais je devais éternellement garder mon argent. En effet, trois jours après, je rencontrai le maître des requêtes au foyer des Italiens. Aussitôt qu'il m'aperçut, il accourut à moi. Poussé par une sorte de pudeur, je cherchais à l'éviter ; mais, me prenant le bras : -- Ah ! je viens de passer trois cruelles journées !... me dit-il à l'oreille. Heureusement, ma femme est peut-être plus innocente qu'un enfant baptisé d'hier... -- Vous m'avez déjà dit que madame la vicomtesse était très-spirituelle... répliquai-je avec une cruelle bonhomie. -- Oh ! ce soir j'entends volontiers la plaisanterie ; car ce matin, j'ai eu des preuves irrécusables de la fidélité de ma femme. Je m'étais levé de très-bonne heure pour achever un travail pressé... En regardant mon jardin par distraction, j'y vois tout à coup le valet de chambre d'un général, dont l'hôtel est voisin du mien, grimper par-dessus les murs. La soubrette de ma femme, avançant la tête hors du vestibule, caressait mon chien et protégeait la retraite du galant. Je prends mon lorgnon, je le braque sur le maraud... des cheveux de jais !... Ah ! jamais face de chrétien ne m'a -- 483 -fait plus de plaisir à voir !... Mais, comme vous devez le croire, dans la journée les treillages ont été arrachés. -- Ainsi, mon cher monsieur, reprit-il, si vous vous mariez, mettez votre chien à la chaîne, et semez des fonds de bouteilles sur tous les chaperons de vos murs... -- Madame la vicomtesse s'est-elle aperçue de vos inquiétudes pendant ces trois joursci ?... -- Me prenez-vous pour un enfant ? me dit-il en haussant les épaules... Jamais de ma vie je n'avais été si gai. -- Vous êtes un grand homme inconnu !... m'écriai-je, et vous n'êtes pas... Il ne me laissa pas achever ; car il disparut en apercevant un de ses amis qui lui semblait avoir l'intention d'aller saluer la vicomtesse. Que pourrions-nous ajouter qui ne serait une fastidieuse paraphrase des enseignements renfermés dans cette conversation ? Tout y est germe ou fruit. Néanmoins, vous le voyez, ô maris, votre bonheur tient à un cheveu.

Il était environ sept heures du soir. Assis sur leurs fauteuils académiques, ils décrivaient un demi-cercle devant une vaste cheminée, où brûlait tristement un feu de charbon de terre, symbole éternel du sujet de leurs importantes discussions. A voir les figures graves quoique passionnées de tous les membres de cette assemblée, il était facile de deviner qu'ils avaient à prononcer sur la vie, la fortune et le bonheur de leurs semblables. Ils ne tenaient leurs mandats que de leurs consciences, comme les associés d'un antique et mystérieux tribunal, mais ils représentaient des intérêts bien plus immenses que ceux des rois ou des peuples, ils parlaient au nom des passions et du bonheur des générations infinies qui devaient leur succéder.

Le petit-fils du célèbre BOULLE était assis devant une table ronde, sur laquelle se trouvait la pièce à conviction, exécutée avec une rare intelligence ; moi chétif secrétaire, j'occupais une place à ce bureau afin de rédiger le procès-verbal de la séance. -- 484 --- Messieurs, dit un vieillard, la première question soumise à vos délibérations se trouve clairement posée dans ce passage d'une lettre écrite à la princesse de Galles, Caroline d'Anspach, par la veuve de Monsieur, frère de Louis XIV, mère du régent. « La reine d'Espagne a un moyen sûr pour faire dire à son mari tout ce qu'elle veut. Le roi est dévot ; il croirait être damné s'il touchait à une autre femme qu'à la sienne, et ce bon prince est d'une complexion fort amoureuse. La reine obtient ainsi de lui tout ce qu'elle souhaite. Elle a fait mettre des roulettes au lit de son mari. Lui refuse-t-il quelque chose ?... elle pousse le lit loin du sien. Lui accorde-t-il sa demande ? les lits se rapprochent, et elle l'admet dans le sien. Ce qui est la plus grande félicité du roi, qui est extrêmement porté... » -- Je n'irai pas plus loin, messieurs, car la vertueuse franchise de la princesse allemande pourrait être taxée ici d'immoralité. Les maris sages doivent-ils adopter le lit à roulettes ?... Voilà le problème que nous avons à résoudre. L'unanimité des votes ne laissa aucun doute. Il me fut ordonné de consigner sur le registre des délibérations que, si deux époux se couchaient dans deux lits séparés et dans une même chambre, les lits ne devaient point avoir de roulettes à équerre. -- Mais sans que la présente décision, fit observer un membre, puisse en rien préjudicier à ce qui sera statué sur la meilleure manière de coucher les époux. Le président me passa un volume élégamment relié, contenant l'édition originale, publiée en 1788, des lettres de Madame Charlotte-Elisabeth de Bavière, veuve de MONSIEUR, frère unique de Louis XIV, et pendant que je transcrivais le passage cité, il reprit ainsi : -Mais, messieurs, vous avez dû recevoir à domicile le bulletin sur lequel est consignée la seconde question. -- Je demande la parole... s'écria le plus jeune des jaloux assemblés. Le président s'assit après avoir fait un geste d'adhésion. -- Messieurs, dit le jeune mari, sommes-nous bien préparés à délibérer sur un sujet aussi grave que celui présenté par l'indiscrétion presque générale des lits ? N'y a-t-il pas là une question plus ample qu'une simple difficulté d'ébénisterie à résoudre ? Pour ma part, j'y vois un problème qui concerne l'intelligence humaine. Les mystères de la conception, messieurs, sont encore en-- 485 -veloppés de ténèbres que la science moderne n'a que faiblement dissipées. Nous ne savons pas jusqu'à quel point les circonstances extérieures agissent sur les animaux microscopiques, dont la découverte est due à la patience infatigable des Hill, des Baker, des Joblot, des Eichorn, des Gleichen, des Spallanzani, surtout de Müller, et, en dernier lieu, de monsieur Bory de Saint-Vincent. L'imperfection du lit renferme une question musicale de la plus haute importance, et, pour mon compte, je déclare que je viens d'écrire en Italie pour obtenir des renseignements certains sur la manière dont y sont généralement établis les lits... Nous saurons incessamment s'il y a beaucoup de tringles, de vis, de roulettes, si les constructions en sont plus vicieuses dans ce pays que partout ailleurs, et si la sécheresse des bois due à l'action du soleil ne produit pas, ab ovo, l'harmonie dont le sentiment inné se trouve chez les Italiens... Par tous ces motifs, je demande l'ajournement.

-- Et sommes-nous ici pour prendre l'intérêt de la musique ?... s'écria un gentleman de l'Ouest en se levant avec brusquerie. Il s'agit des moeurs avant tout, et la question morale prédomine toutes les autres... -- Cependant, dit un des membres les plus influents du conseil, l'avis du premier opinant ne me paraît pas à dédaigner. Dans le siècle dernier, messieurs, l'un de nos écrivains le plus philosophiquement plaisant et le plus plaisamment philosophique, Sterne, se plaignait du peu de soin avec lequel se faisaient les hommes : « O honte ! s'écria-t-il, celui qui copie la divine physionomie de l'homme reçoit des couronnes et des applaudissements, tandis que celui qui présente la maîtresse pièce, le prototype d'un travail mimique, n'a, comme la vertu, que son oeuvre pour récompense !... » Ne faudraitil pas s'occuper de l'amélioration des races humaines, avant de s'occuper de celle des chevaux ? Messieurs, je suis passé dans une petite ville de l'Orléanais où toute la population est composée de bossus, de gens à mines rechignées ou chagrines, véritables enfants de malheur... Eh ! bien, l'observation du premier opinant me fait souvenir que tous les lits y étaient en très-mauvais état, et que les chambres n'offraient aux yeux des époux que de hideux spectacles... Eh ! messieurs, nos esprits peuvent-ils être dans une situation analogue à celle de nos idées, quand au lieu de la musique des anges, qui voltigent çà et là au -- 486 -sein des cieux où nous parvenons, les notes les plus criardes de la plus importune, de la plus impatientante, de la plus exécrable mélodie terrestre, viennent à détonner ?... Nous devons peut-être les beaux génies qui ont honoré l'humanité à des lits solidement construits, et la population turbulente à laquelle est due la révolution française a peutêtre été conçue sur une multitude de meubles vacillants, aux pieds contournés et peu solides ; tandis que les Orientaux, dont les races sont si belles, ont un système tout particulier pour se coucher... Je suis pour l'ajournement. Et le gentleman s'assit. Un homme qui appartenait à la secte des Méthodistes se leva. -- Pourquoi changer la question ? Il ne s'agit pas ici d'améliorer la race, ni de perfectionner l'oeuvre. Nous ne devons pas perdre de vue les intérêts de la jalousie maritale et les principes d'une saine morale. Ignorez-vous que le bruit dont vous vous plaignez semble plus redoutable à l'épouse incertaine du crime que la voix éclatante de la trompette du jugement dernier ?... Oubliez-vous que tous les procès en criminelle conversation n'ont été gagnés par les maris que grâce à cette plainte conjugale ?... Je vous engage, messieurs, à consulter les divorces de milord Abergaveny, du vicomte Bolingbrocke, celui de la feue reine, celui d'Elisa Draper, celui de madame Harris, enfin tous ceux contenus dans les vingt volumes publiés par... (Le secrétaire n'entendit pas distinctement le nom de l'éditeur anglais.) L'ajournement fut prononcé. Le plus jeune membre proposa de faire une collecte pour récompenser l'auteur de la meilleure dissertation qui serait adressée à la Société sur cette question, regardée par Sterne comme si importante ; mais à l'issue de la séance, il ne se trouva que dix-huit schellings dans le chapeau du président. Cette délibération de la société qui s'est récemment formée à Londres pour l'amélioration des moeurs et du mariage, et que lord Byron a poursuivie de ses moqueries, nous a été transmise par les soins de l'honorable W. Hawkins, Esq, cousin-germain du célèbre capitaine Clutterbuck. Cet extrait peut servir à résoudre les difficultés qui se rencontrent dans la théorie du lit relativement à sa construction. Mais l'auteur de ce livre trouve que l'association anglaise a donné trop d'importance à cette question préjudicielle. Il existe

-- 487 -peut-être autant de bonnes raisons pour être Rossiniste que pour être Solidiste en fait de couchette, et l'auteur avoue qu'il est au-dessous ou au-dessus de lui de trancher cette difficulté. Il pense avec Laurent Sterne qu'il est honteux à la civilisation européenne d'avoir si peu d'observations physiologiques sur la callipédie, et il renonce à donner les résultats de ses méditations à ce sujet parce qu'ils seraient difficiles à formuler en langage de prude, qu'ils seraient peu compris ou mal interprétés. Ce dédain laissera une éternelle lacune en cet endroit de son livre ; mais il aura la douce satisfaction de léguer un quatrième ouvrage au siècle suivant qu'il enrichit ainsi de tout ce qu'il ne fait pas, magnificence négative dont l'exemple sera suivi par tous ceux qui disent avoir beaucoup d'idées. La théorie du lit va nous donner à résoudre des questions bien plus importantes que celles offertes à nos voisins par les roulettes et par les murmures de la criminelle conversation. Nous ne reconnaissons que trois manières d'organiser un lit (dans le sens général donné à ce mot) chez les nations civilisées, et principalement pour les classes privilégiées, auxquelles ce livre est adressé. Ces trois manières sont : 1° LES DEUX LITS JUMEAUX, 2° DEUX CHAMBRES SEPAREES, 3° UN SEUL ET MEME LIT. Avant de nous livrer à l'examen de ces trois modes de cohabitation qui, nécessairement, doivent exercer des influences bien diverses sur le bonheur des femmes et des maris, nous devons jeter un rapide coup d'oeil sur l'action du lit et sur le rôle qu'il joue dans l'économie politique de la vie humaine. Le principe le plus incontestable en cette matière est que le lit a été inventé pour dormir. Il serait facile de prouver que l'usage de coucher ensemble ne s'est établi que fort tard entre les époux, par rapport à l'ancienneté du mariage. Par quels syllogismes l'homme est-il arrivé à mettre à la mode une pratique si fatale au bonheur, à la santé, au plaisir, à l'amour-propre même ?... Voilà ce qu'il serait curieux de rechercher. Si vous saviez qu'un de vos rivaux a trouvé le moyen de vous exposer, à la vue de celle qui vous est chère, dans une situation -- 488 -où vous étiez souverainement ridicule : par exemple, pendant que vous aviez la bouche de travers comme celle d'un masque de théâtre, ou pendant que vos lèvres éloquentes, semblables au bec en cuivre d'une fontaine avare, distillaient goutte à goutte une eau pure ; vous le poignarderiez peut-être. Ce rival est le sommeil. Existe-t-il au monde un homme qui sache bien comment il est et ce qu'il fait quand il dort ?... Cadavres vivants, nous sommes la proie d'une [Coquille du Furne : un.] puissance inconnue qui s'empare de nous malgré nous, et se manifeste par les effets les plus bizarres : les uns ont le sommeil spirituel et les autres un sommeil stupide. Il y a des gens qui reposent la bouche ouverte de la manière la plus niaise. Il en est d'autres qui ronflent à faire trembler les planchers.

La plupart ressemblent à ces jeunes diables que Michel-Ange a sculptés, tirant la langue pour se moquer des passants. Je ne connais qu'une seule personne au monde qui dorme noblement, c'est l'Agamemnon que Guérin a montré couché dans son lit au moment où Clytemnestre, poussée par Egisthe, s'avance pour l'assassiner. Aussi ai-je toujours ambitionné de me tenir sur mon oreiller comme se tient le roi des rois, dès que j'aurai la terrible crainte d'être vu, pendant mon sommeil, par d'autres yeux que par ceux de la Providence. De même aussi, depuis le jour où j'ai vu ma vieille nourrice soufflant des pois, pour me servir d'une expression populaire mais consacrée, ai-je aussitôt ajouté, dans la litanie particulière que je récite à saint Honoré, mon patron, une prière pour qu'il me garantisse de cette piteuse éloquence. Qu'un homme se réveille le matin, en montrant une figure hébétée, grotesquement coiffée d'un madras qui tombe sur la tempe gauche en manière de bonnet de police, il est certainement bien bouffon, et il serait difficile de reconnaître en lui cet époux glorieux célébré par les strophes de Rousseau ; mais enfin il y a une lueur de vie à travers la bêtise de cette face à moitié morte... Et si vous voulez recueillir d'admirables charges, artistes, voyagez en malle-poste, et à chaque petit village où le courrier réveille un buraliste, examinez ces têtes départementales !...Mais, fussiez-vous cent fois plus plaisant que ces visages bureaucratiques, au moins vous avez alors la bouche fermée, les yeux ouverts, et votre phy-- 489 -sionomie a une expression quelconque... Savez-vous comment vous étiez une heure avant votre réveil, ou pendant la première heure de votre sommeil, quand, ni homme, ni animal, vous tombiez sous l'empire des songes qui viennent par la porte de corne ?... Ceci est un secret entre votre femme et Dieu ! Etait-ce donc pour s'avertir sans cesse de l'imbécillité du sommeil que les Romains ornaient le chevet de leurs lits d'une tête d'âne ?... Nous laisserons éclaircir ce point par messieurs les membres composant l'académie des inscriptions. Assurément, le premier qui s'avisa, par l'inspiration du diable, de ne pas quitter sa femme, même pendant le sommeil, devait savoir dormir en perfection. Maintenant, vous n'oublierez pas de compter au nombre des sciences qu'il faut posséder, avant d'entrer en ménage, l'art de dormir avec élégance. Aussi mettons-nous ici, comme un appendice à l'axiome XXV du Catéchisme Conjugal, les deux aphorismes suivants : Un mari doit avoir le sommeil aussi léger que celui d'un dogue, afin de ne jamais se laisser voir endormi. Un homme doit s'habituer dès son enfance à coucher tête nue. Quelques poètes voudront voir, dans la pudeur, dans les prétendus mystères de l'amour, une cause à la réunion des époux dans un même lit ; mais il est reconnu que si l'homme a primitivement cherché l'ombre des cavernes, la mousse des ravins, le toit siliceux des antres pour protéger ses plaisirs, c'est parce que l'amour le livre sans défense à ses ennemis. Non, il n'est pas plus naturel de mettre deux têtes sur un même oreiller qu'il n'est raisonnable de s'entortiller le cou d'un lambeau de mousseline. Mais la civilisation est venue, elle a renfermé un million d'hommes dans quatre lieues carrées ; elle les a parqués dans des rues, dans des maisons, dans des appartements, dans des chambres, dans des cabinets de huit pieds carrés ; encore un peu, elle essaiera de les faire rentrer les uns dans les autres comme les tubes d'une lorgnette. De là et de bien d'autres causes encore, comme l'économie, la -- 490 --

peur, la jalousie mal entendue, est venue la cohabition des époux ; et cette coutume a créé la périodicité et la simultanéité du lever et du coucher. Et voilà donc la chose la plus capricieuse du monde, voilà donc le sentiment le plus éminemment mobile, qui n'a de prix que par ses inspirations chatouilleuses, qui ne tire son charme que de la soudaineté des désirs, qui ne plaît que par la vérité de ses expansions, voilà l'amour, enfin, soumis à une règle monastique et à la géométrie du bureau des longitudes ! Père, je haïrais l'enfant qui, ponctuel comme une horloge, aurait, soir et matin, une explosion de sensibilité, en venant me dire un bonjour ou un bonsoir commandés. C'est ainsi que l'on étouffe tout ce qu'il y a de généreux et d'instantané dans les sentiments humains. Jugez par là de l'amour à heure fixe ! Il n'appartient qu'à l'auteur de toutes choses de faire lever et coucher le soleil, soir et matin, au milieu d'un appareil toujours splendide, toujours nouveau, et personne ici-bas, n'en déplaise à l'hyperbole de Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, ne peut jouer le rôle du soleil. Il résulte de ces observations préliminaires qu'il n'est pas naturel de se trouver deux sous la couronne d'un lit ; Qu'un homme est presque toujours ridicule endormi ; Qu'enfin la cohabitation constante présente pour les maris des dangers inévitables. Nous allons donc essayer d'accommoder nos usages aux lois de la nature, et de combiner la nature et les usages de manière à faire trouver à un époux un utile auxiliaire et des moyens de défense dans l'acajou de son lit. § I. -- LES DEUX LITS JUMEAUX. Si le plus brillant, le mieux fait, le plus spirituel des maris veut se voir minotauriser au bout d'un an de ménage, il y parviendra infailliblement s'il a l'imprudence de réunir deux lits sous le dôme voluptueux d'une même alcôve. L'arrêt est concis, en voici les motifs : Le premier mari auquel est due l'invention des lits jumeaux était sans doute un accoucheur qui, craignant les tumultes involontaires -- 491 -de son sommeil, voulut préserver l'enfant porté par sa femme des coups de pied qu'il aurait pu lui donner. Mais non, c'était plutôt quelque prédestiné qui se défiait d'un mélodieux catarrhe ou de lui-même. Peut-être était-ce aussi un jeune homme qui, redoutant l'excès même de sa tendresse, se trouvait toujours, ou sur le bord du lit près de tomber, ou trop voisin de sa délicieuse épouse dont il troublait le sommeil. Mais ne serait-ce pas une Maintenon aidée par un confesseur, ou plutôt une femme ambitieuse qui voulait gouverner son mari ?... Ou, plus sûrement, une jolie petite Pompadour attaquée de cette infirmité parisienne si plaisamment exprimée par monsieur de Maurepas dans ce quatrain qui lui valut sa longue disgrâce, et qui contribua certainement aux malheurs du règne de Louis XVI. Iris, on aime vos appas, vos grâces sont vives et franches ; et les fleurs naissant sous vos pas, mais ce sont des fleurs...

Enfin pourquoi ne serait-ce pas un philosophe épouvanté du désenchantement que doit éprouver une femme à l'aspect d'un homme endormi ? Et, celui-là se sera toujours roulé dans sa couverture, sans bonnet sur la tête. Auteur inconnu de cette jésuitique méthode, qui que tu sois, au nom du diable, salut et fraternité !... Tu as été la cause de bien des malheurs. Ton oeuvre porte le caractère de toutes les demi-mesures ; elle ne satisfait à rien et participe aux inconvénients des deux autres partis sans en donner les bénéfices. Comment l'homme du dix-neuvième siècle, comment cette créature souverainement intelligente qui a déployé une puissance surnaturelle, qui a usé les ressources de son génie à déguiser le mécanisme de son existence, à déifier ses besoins pour ne pas les mépriser, allant jusqu'à demander à des feuilles chinoises, à des fèves égyptiennes, à des graines du Mexique, leurs parfums, leurs trésors, leurs âmes ; allant jusqu'à ciseler les cristaux, tourner l'argent, fondre l'or, peindre l'argile, et solliciter enfin tous les arts pour décorer, pour agrandir son bol alimentaire ! comment ce roi, après avoir caché sous les plis de la mousseline, couvert de diamants, parsemé de rubis, enseveli sous le lin, sous les trames du coton, sous les riches couleurs de la soie, sous les dessins de la dentelle, la seconde de ses pauvretés, peut-il venir la faire échouer avec tout ce luxe sur deux bois de