Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Balzac on love and marriage II

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. 
Honoré de Balzac, The Physiology of Marriage, 
Produced by Dagny and John Bickers

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Balzac on Love and Marriage I


"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. 
Produced by Dagny and John Bickers