I was in Barnes and Noble this morning to pick up Mile Rowe’s The Way I Heard It for 50% off the sticker price. On my way to the cash register, I stopped at the bargain books table and found an interesting little volume for $2.99:
It’s a book of quotes taken from everyone from Aristotle to Ovid to Einstein about the pleasures and pains of married life. The artwork -including sketches, paintings, and photographs- add to the humor and thoughtfulness of the quotes. It was a fun way to spend my lunch break. I was able to read through the entire thing in about 30 minutes. Here are some of the quotes from different sections within the book.
Section I: The Pleasures of Marriage
Marriage may often be a stormy lake, but celibacy is almost always a muddy horse-pond.~Thomas Love Peacock, Mellincourt, 1817
There were several quotes in this section that made me audibly chuckle, such as this one:
Five or six years of married life will often reduce a naturally irascible man to so angelic a condition that it would hardly be safe to trust him with a pair of wings ~ How to be Happy Though Married, 1895
My experience differs, but who wants a marriage to an angel, anyway? A saint? Sure! An angel, not so much. One last quote, and probably my favorite, from this section:
There is nothing more admirable, than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.~ Homer, The Odyssey, c 8th Century B.C.
Section II: The Pains of Marriage
By all means, marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher. ~ Socrates, 4th Century B.C.
That made me laugh. Another from the pains of marriage:
Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911.
Huh. Interesting book title, no? I suspect a lot of people probably agree with him. Of course, this is what happens when we forget that marriage, not courtship, is where love really blossoms.
Of all the actions of a man’s life, his marriage doth least concern other people; yet of all actions of our life, it is the most meddled with by other people. ~ John Selden, English Scholar (1584-1654)
Section III: Hints for Husbands
This first one is a riff on the barefoot and pregnant trope, I suppose:
According to the old custom, Egyptian women did not wear shoes; this was so that they should spend all day at home. With most women, if you take away their gilded shoes and bracelets and anklets, their purple dresses and their pearls, they too will stay at home. ~ Plutarch, Advice to the Bride and Groom, 1st Century AD.
I don’t agree with that, seeing as all it takes to send me out for a jaunt around the block is a decent pair of sneakers. No gilding, bracelets, or anklets required, but I do appreciate the spirit of the quote.
Remember, if thou marry for beauty, thou bindest thyself all thy life for that which perchance will neither last nor please thee one year; and when thou hast it, it will be to thee of no price at all. ~ Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618)
The last hint for husbands underscored to me what I have always known to be true; namely that there is nothing new under the sun:
When our Mistriss commands us to do anything, nothing should hinder us from giving a blinde obedience. ~ The Art of Making Love, 1676
Section IV: Hints for Wives
Don’t sit up until he comes home from the club; better be in bed and pretend to be asleep. If you must be awake, seem to be glad he came home early. He will probably think you an idiot; but that’s inevitable anyway. ~ The Isle of Man Times, 1895.
That made me grateful for a man who, most of the time anyway, thinks far more highly of me than is warranted. This next one is interesting:
If our husbands are not what we wish- and very few are in every respect- we should try to help them become so…We are apt to expect too much of manhood even, and hence, instead of a pleasant surprise, experience a sad disappointment. ~ Wedlock, 1874
That’s a bit of a headscratcher, but I really liked this next one, which is needed even more in this era:
Don’t expect life to be all sunshine. Besides, if there are no clouds, you will lose the opportunity of showing your husband what a good chum you can be. ~ Don’ts for Husbands and Wives, 1913.
That this next one was offered towards brides is telling, although it is clearly a unisex admonition:
Don’t imagine that the perfect lover, whether male or female, will come along ready made. If they do, mistrust them, since this shows a certain amount of previous experience. ~How to be A Good Lover, 1936
Last, but certainly not least:
Be not arrogant and answer not back your husband that shall be, nor his words, nor contradict what he saith, above all before other people. Le Menagier de Paris, 1393.
Some husbands actually desire to hear their wife’s perspective, especially when it differs from his. However, I would never contradict mine in front of others unless it was a matter of imminent life and death.
Section V: The Marital Bed
I’ll only offer two from this section. The way some of these chauvinists view sex, I’ll tell you…
A man must hug, and dandle, and kittle, and play a hundred little tricks with his bed-fellow when he is disposed to make that use of her that nature designed her for. ~ The Praise of Folly, 1509.
I’ll wind up the marital bed quotes with this one from the more modern era:
Legend speaks of the face that launched a thousand ships: maybe the one you select wouldn’t even launch a canoe, but don’t let that bother you.~ Looking Toward Marriage, 1944.
I enjoyed this little book. It’s funny, and I’m always up for a good laugh. It’s also interesting to read the perspectives of people who lived outside of the craziness of the postmodern world.
It does make one wonder though: Since there is so much literature out there -besides the Bible even- with practical marital advice from the wisdom of the ages- why are more being printed every day?
4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars