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acquaintance with the domestic histories of men, in all ranks of life, has shown me that next to a good disposition, nothing in a wife is so likely to ensure domestic happiness as good looks, especially if they are of a lasting kind, not mere bloom or pretti
We all must acknowledge that good looks are among the best passports in the world. Even children, the most unprejudiced witnesses possible, frankly admit that they like so and so, because she or he has a nice face. It is unwise to undervalue, or pretend to undervalue, the women's advantages of comeliness of face and form. A woman with a good physique starts with advantages that other women cannot acquire. She is spared a thousand and one temptations—jealousy and other low feelings supposed to haunt occasionally the female breast—with which her less favoured sisters have to contend. Physical attractions, again, help to tide over many of those little domestic differences which will occur in married life. Man's sexual sense will be aroused by beauty when all other influences have failed to move him. It would be a curious inquiry, perhaps worth pursuing, whether, even among the lower classes, a comely-looking woman was ever ill-used by her husband, except when he was drunk. In a state of nature we find that animals select the most perfect forms for their mates—thus instinctively providing for the perpetuation of as perfect a species as possible. It would be well in many respects if this example were more closely followed by human beings.
That I do not exaggerate the importance of bearing these and similar consider tions in mind in choosing a wife is tolerably self-evident. I may, however refer those who require an authority to the Republic and the New Atlantis, to show what minute care Plato and Bacon recommended, in their ideal commonwealths, in the selection of those who were to be mothers and nurses of the citizens.
I have submitted the above remarks to a clever unmarried woman, and she has favored me with several additional observations on the subject, of which I gladly avail myself.
Almost the first thing a girl is told in the nursery is that beauty soon fades, and that ugly girls are as much valued as handsome ones; but on their first step over the thresh hold into the world a woman soon discovers the fallacy of this early teaching; and I perfectly agree with Sidney Smith in his remarks upon personal beauty as affecting the destiny of women. Comeliness of form and beauty of feature ought not to be despised, as they are the gifts of God.
Milton represents Eve as the embodiment of female loveliness. Sarai, the wife of Abraham, was a fair woman to look upon; and Rachel, Jacob's best loved wife, “was beautiful and well favored."
It is, however, very difficult to define in what beauty consists. It is more a kind of pleasure conveyed to the mind of the beholder than any special personal attraction of form or figure. All nations and ages agree in worshipping beauty of some sort or other. We see it portrayed in pictures and statues; and one of the great reasons for supposing that it is considered desirable in the eyes of man is, that where it does not exist women frequently try to supply its place by artificial means. It is said that Madame de Stael would have given up all her fame and renown to have been as beautiful as her friend Madame de Rocca; and I doubt very much whether we should have felt the same degree of pity for Mary Queen of Scots had she been as ugly as her illustrious rival Elizabeth.
It is, however, rare to meet with very ugly women. A mere set of features, however beautiful in form, seldom please an educated man, unless they are lighted up by good sense and good temper. A man soon gets tired of the pretty child wife. After twenty-five the bloom of youth begins to fade, and yet what is called beauty often lasts for years; so that, in a general way, it is the mind and morals that in a great measure influence the appearance of women and heighten their attractions in the eyes of men; and however much they may deny it, or try to conceal it, yet I believe there is inherent in every woman's heart a wish to be pleasing and agreeable to the other sex; and as it is in a great measure the destiny of most women to be married, it seems incumbent upon parents to give girls that judicious training in early life which will fit them to be good wives and mothers; and there is, I believe, no greater happiness on earth than is to be found in the married state, where two persons of affectionate dispositions, and equals in birth and station, agree to pass the rest of their lives together, till, in fact, death, and not Lord Pen.zance, them do part. In the higher grades of life beauty is often a binding tie; in the lowest ranks of life I do not think men deem personal appearance of any consequenee. Much of the happiness in wedded life depends mainly upon the woman. She should be the sharer of his joys and the comforter in his griefs. She was made for him, not be for her; and her privileges as his companion are great and many. Now what kind of woman, in a general way, is most capable of heightening his joys and lessening his sorrows ?
Sir Lytton Bulwer has summed up what a man wants in a wife. He wants a companion. “He does not want a singing animal, nor a dancing animal, nor a drawing animal,—and yet these three last accomplishments have cost many women years of painful toil to acquire; and they often marry a man who cannot appreciate any one of them.” After forty, few women can sing, and few care to dance. A great proficiency in these accomplishments often
leads a woman into expensive and dangerous society, where her vanity is fed by excessive praise.
What a man looks for most in the chosen companion of his heart and home, is that she should have, added to a pleasing exterior, a well cultivated mind. Let her have also the “mens sana in corpore sano,” good health and good temper; for what we call happiness depends very much 'upon the temper, and state of the digestion,-much more so, I believe, than we are generally aware of. Avoid marrying, if possible, a woman of an hysterical temperament. A few tears may be very interesting during that treacle period called the honeymoon; but in after life there is no misery for a man greater than to be united to a woman of delicate fibre and weak digestion, who, upon all occasions and no occasion, throws herself into that incurable and misery-causing malady,a fit of hysterics. In early life it may be cured, but if suffered to go on for any lengthened period, it causes the patient to be a curse instead of a blessing to all connected with her.
I perfectly agree with you in the opinion that literary ladies do not generally make good wives, although, of course, there are exceptions. Their time and thoughts are too much engrossed by studies needful for their profession, to allow them to devote their time and thoughts to the daily comfort and well-being of their husbands. What Mrs. Hemans calls the dinner-ordering cares of life, are often neglected by authoresses. I totally differ with you in your opinion, viz., that if there is to be a difference in rank husband ought to be the lower. A woman sinks to the level of the man she marries. He can raise her, but she never can, and never does, raise him.
Her pliant nature and yielding disposition accommodate themselves to his status in life; but I think such marriages are productive of very little happiness.
It seems a hard and unchristian opinion that it is better not to marry the daughter of a divorced woman; but I believe that the sin of unfaithfulness is often inherited, as well as many other family diseases.
The poet Cowper says, " that it is a wholesome rigour in the main, that, by the loss of chastity, women loose their place in the social circle; though
“It seems hard for here and there a waif
The pretty horsebreaker may be a pleasant companion in Rotten Row ; but I much fear that, as a wife, she may end in breaking her husband's heart.
The French say that an Englishwoman makes a better mother than she does a wife, and they have some reason for so saying; as we often see, after the first year of married life a woman becomes a slave to the nursery duties and neglects her husband and her personal appearance; and, in fact, sinking the duties of wife into those of the mother, and often regarding the husband as an incumbrance instead of treating him as the chief, the real, the only one requiring her care and love.
But, after all, men must remember that women have many sorrows and much suffering to contend with, peculiar to themselves. The small cares and domestic troubles of life fall largely upon them, and they require much love and affection to enable them to bear up against the vicissitudes of life. Men are the oak-women the ivy.
CHAPT. III.-SEXUAL INTERCOURSE IN MARRIAGE.
THE ACT OF COPULATION.- In order to be able hereafter to deal with cases in which sexual congress is not properly performed, it is necessary clearly to understand in what the act of copulation consists. It is thus described by Carpenter :“When, impelled by sexual excitement, the male seeks intercourse with the female, the erectile tissue of the genital organs becomes turgid with blood, and the surface acquires a much increased sensibility. This is especially acute in the glans penis. By the friction of the glans against the rugous walls of the vagina the excitement is increased, and the impression which is thus produced at last becomes so strong that it calls forth, through the medium of the spinal cord, a reflex contraction of the muscular fibres of the vasa deferentia, and of the muscles which surround the vesiculæ seminales and prostrate gland. These receptacles discharge their contents into the urethra, from which they are expelled with some degree of force, and with a kind of convulsive action, by its compressor muscles. Now, although the sensations concerned in this act are ordinarily most acutely pleasurable, there appears sufficient evidence that they are by no means essential to its performance, and that the impression which is conveyed to the spinal cord need not give rise to a sensation in order to produce the reflex contraction of the ejacular muscles.” (“Principles of Human Physiology,” 7th edition, p. 826.) The muscular contractions which produce the emissio seminis are excito-motor in their nature, being independent of the will, and not capable of restraint by it when once fully excited, and being (like those of deglutition) excitable in no other way than by a particular local irritation.
As stated in the above paragraph, the sexual act is ordinarily attended with great pleasure. In fact, from the risks which animals will run to enjoy the gratification, and the recklessness with which even the wildest male will approach the tame female when in heat, it would seem that no pleasure is equal to this. There is every reason to believe that it is the mere and simple act of emission which gives the pleasurable sensations in animals which (like many birds) have no intromittent organ. This pleasurable sensation, however, is of momentary duration ; like a battery, it exhausts itself in a shock. The nervous excitement is very intense while it lasts, and, were it less momentary than it is, more mischief would probably result from repeated acts than ordinarily happens.
1 See page 134 for explanation of this.
Parise has remarked, perhaps with some exaggeration, that "if the pleasurable moments, as well as the torments, which attend
1 I am speaking here, it will be observed, of the pleasure experienced by the male. In the females of many animals, and especially of those low down in the scale of existence, we can scarcely believe that any gratification at all attends the act.
In fishes copulation, properly speaking, does not take place. According to Mr. Walsh, a close observer who wrote an account in the "Field" newspaper for March 7th, 1863, the mode of impregnation is as follows:-" The female fish does not first deposit her spawn, and then leave it to be impregnated by the male; the male cares nothing for the spawn, except to eat it; his desire is for the female, for the possession of whom he will fight as long as he is able. The spawning process is carried on in this manner:-The female works away at the ridd, and after she has made a kind of trough she lies in it quite still; the male-who, during the time she is working, is carrying on a constant war--comes up, enters the trough, and lies side by side with the female; then they fall over on their sides, and with a tremulous motion the spawn and milt are exuded at the same instant. The male then drops astern. After a short time the female again throws herself on her side, and fans up the gravel, advancing the trough a little, and covering up the deposited spawn. The operation is repeated till both fish are exhausted. A great quantity of spawn is of course wasted, being eaten by trout and other fish, which are always waiting about for the purpose. The exhaustion of the males is greater than that of the females; they die in numbers; the females do not die. You may pick up a great many exhausted and dead males, but never a female.
In some animals the act must, we would think, be an unmitigated distress and annoyance to the female. The female frog, for instance, is not only encumbered with an abdomen distended with ova, but is obliged to carry about her busband on her back as long as he may see fit, as he is provided by nature at this peried with an enlarged thumb, which enables him to keep his hold, so that the female is unable to shake him off.