Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Balzac: Catechism of Marriage

Marriage is a science.

A man ought not to marry without having studied anatomy, and dissected
at least one woman.

The fate of the home depends on the first night.

A woman deprived of her free will can never have the credit of making
a sacrifice.

In love, putting aside all consideration of the soul, the heart of a
woman is like a lyre which does not reveal its secret, excepting to
him who is a skillful player.

Independently of any gesture of repulsion, there exists in the soul of
all women a sentiment which tends, sooner or later, to proscribe all
pleasure devoid of passionate feeling.

The interest of a husband as much as his honor forbids him to indulge
a pleasure which he has not had the skill to make his wife desire.

Pleasure being caused by the union of sensation and sentiment, we can
say without fear of contradiction that pleasures are a sort of
material ideas.

As ideas are capable of infinite combination, it ought to be the same
with pleasures.

In the life of man there are no two moments of pleasure exactly alike,
any more than there are two leaves of identical shape upon the same

If there are differences between one moment of pleasure and another, a
man can always be happy with the same woman.

To seize adroitly upon the varieties of pleasure, to develop them, to
impart to them a new style, an original expression, constitutes the
genius of a husband.

Between two beings who do not love each other this genius is
licentiousness; but the caresses over which love presides are always

The married woman who is the most chaste may be also the most

The most virtuous woman can be forward without knowing it.

When two human beings are united by pleasure, all social
conventionalities are put aside. This situation conceals a reef on
which many vessels are wrecked. A husband is lost, if he once forgets
there is a modesty which is quite independent of coverings. Conjugal
love ought never either to put on or to take away the bandage of its
eyes, excepting at the due season.

Power does not consist in striking with force or with frequency, but
in striking true.

To call a desire into being, to nourish it, to develop it, to bring it
to full growth, to excite it, to satisfy it, is a complete poem of

The progression of pleasures is from the distich to the quatrain, from
the quatrain to the sonnet, from the sonnet to the ballad, from the
ballad to the ode, from the ode to the cantata, from the cantata to
the dithyramb. The husband who commences with dithyramb is a fool.

Each night ought to have its _menu_.

Marriage must incessantly contend with a monster which devours
everything, that is, familiarity.

If a man cannot distinguish the difference between the pleasures of
two consecutive nights, he has married too early.

It is easier to be a lover than a husband, for the same reason that it
is more difficult to be witty every day, than to say bright things
from time to time.

A husband ought never to be the first to go to sleep and the last to

The man who enters his wife's dressing-room is either a philosopher or
an imbecile.

The husband who leaves nothing to desire is a lost man.

The married woman is a slave whom one must know how to set upon a

A man must not flatter himself that he knows his wife, and is making
her happy unless he sees her often at his knees.

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