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- The Physiology of Marriage Part 3 - 10/19 -



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:



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 lime-water. 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 Physiology of Marriage Part 3 - 10/19

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