Monday, May 31, 2010

Proper conduct between married persons

Monday, May 31, 2010
Loretta reports:

June being the wedding month, herewith follows some advice, circa 1833, regarding the proper conduct of married persons toward each other.

Of propriety of conduct in conjugal and domestic relations.

   If any thing can render politeness ridiculous, and even odious, it is the disposition of certain persons, who in society are moderate, amiable, and gracious, but in private show themselves morose, rough and ill-natured. This fault, much too common, is one of the greatest inconsistencies of the human mind. You use all your exertions to please the world which you only see cursorily, and in which you have only power to procure a few moments of pleasure, and you neglect to be agreeable to your husband or wife, from whom you expect the happiness of a whole life… Conjugal intimacy, it is true, dispenses with the etiquette established by politeness, but it does not dispense with attentions. In the presence of your wife or husband, you ought never to do those things which carry with them an idea of disgust, nor perform those duties of the toilet, which before any one but yourself offend decency and cleanliness.*

…If at any time the society of your husband or wife causes you ennui, you ought neither to say so, nor give any suspicion of the cause by abruptly changing the conversation…

   To entertain with a politeness particularly affectionate the friends of a person with whom you are connected by marriage; to respect inviolably the letters which she writes or receives; to avoid prying into the secrets which she conceals from you through delicacy; never to act contrary to her inclinations, unless they are injurious to herself, and even in this case not to oppose her, but to endeavor to check them with address and kindness; to beware of confiding to strangers or to domestics the little vexations which she causes you; to dread like poison marks of contempt, coldness, suspicion, or reproaches; to apologize promptly and in an affectionate manner if you have allowed yourself to run into any ill humor; to receive her counsels with attention, and benevolence, and to execute them as quickly as possible—these are the obligations of propriety and love, to which husbands possessed of gentleness bind themselves, by the sanctity of the vows which they have taken before God.

* As washing the feet, cutting the nails, &c.
Elisabeth Celnart, The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment: Dedicated to the Youth of Both Sexes.  Translated from the French.


Finegan Antiques said...

How far have we fallen!

It is implied that they all lived in domestic bliss but I think that is far, far from the truth. I suppose there was a certain amount of decorum but certainly not complete bliss.


luv your blog!

Anonymous said...

Sort of like: "Treat your friends like family and your family like friends."

Shannon said...

I think that's a rather sweet article that has generally withstood the test of time.

Janey said...

I love reading about the proper conduct of the 1700's and 1800's. I am about to have my own Lake Tahoe wedding, so I'll keep this advice in mind ;) Thanks for finding and posting it!

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