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The History and Philosophy of Marriage   [ Menu ]

The History and Philosophy of Marriage

Chapter 2
Primary Laws of Love


Among all the inherent properties of mankind, none is more

important than that of love; and no one more clearly evinces

the wisdom and benevolence of his Creator. Love, in its

primary sense, to which it will be restricted in this treatise, is

the mutual attraction of the two sexes. It exists in all

persons, either as a sensibility or a passion. It is a

sensibility when in a state of rest, or when exercised

towards the whole of the opposite sex indiscriminately; but

it is a passion when strongly excited and when excercised

towards particular individuals. And it is as truly and

fundamentally a law of human nature as electricity is of

material nature, - to which it bears a curious analogy. We

can scarcely reason with more certainty upon

Page 29

the laws of electricity then upon those of love, for we have

the assistance of consciousness in one case which we want in

the other. But note the analogy: it has been demonstrated

that all bodies possess electricity in a greater or less

degree; and that some are positive when compared with others,

and some are negative. They are usually at rest; but when

two bodies of different electrical states approach each

other, they at once become highly excited, and continue so

till brought in contact with each other, when the positive

charges or impregnates the negative. So it is found that

love exists in different states in the two sexes, and in

different degrees of intensity in different individuals of

the same sex. Males are positive, and females negative; and

while the latter differ less from each other than the former

do, being nearly all of them susceptible to the proper

proposals of genuine love, yet they are not so much affected

by spontaneous passion as the former are, who usually

experience it with great intensity, and are impelled to make

the first advances. But there are always some individuals

among them who need a great deal of encouragement before they

will advance

Page 30

and propose; and others who are almost destitute of the

common sensibility of love, and who will neither make

proposals nor receive them.


Love sheds on earth something of the beauty and the light of

heaven. Love develops the noblest traits of humanity; and

often brings them out from those persons who had given little

promise of possessing them, until they were brought under the

influence of this master passion. There is nothing so great,

so difficult, or so self-sacrificing that love will not

inspire men to dare and to do. But it is not more in

splendid achievements or wonderful adventures, than it is in

the innumerable little things, which conspire to make up the

happiness of social life, that the greatest victories of love

are won. We cannot love any person, without seeking his or

her benefit; and in endeavoring to benefit and please the

object of our affection, we are impelled to improve and

beautify ourselves, in order to become more worthy of our

beloved one's affection in return. And this leads us not

only to adorn our persons but to polish our manners and

cultivate our minds.

Page 31

Hence, we are deeply indebted to this sentiment for those

qualities of mind and person which combine to constitute us

social beings; since it does not more certainly impel us to

the acquisition of what is beautiful and becoming in dress

and deportment, than to the attainment of intelligence and

politeness, and to surround ourselves with all the

embellishments of civilization. Love refines all that it

touches. Under its influence the rough boy becomes the

respectful young gentleman, and the awkward girl assumes the

innate refinement of the lady. Love paints the cheek with

roses, adds new lustre and intelligence to the eye, imparts

strength and elasticity to the step, grace and dignity to the

mien, courage to the heart, eloquence to the tongue, and

poetry to every thought. In fact, love is at once the poetry

of life, and the life of poetry. Love has inspired, in every

age, the brightest dreams of fancy and the noblest

conceptions of literature and of art, constituting the

perpetual theme which animates the writer's pen and tunes the

poet's lyre. Love reposes in the sculptor's marble; love

blushes upon the painter's canvas. And all these various

embodiments of

Page 32

love by literature and art are universally appreciated and

admired; for the pen, the chisel, and the pencil have only

given expression to the general sentiment of mankind. The

poet and the artist have only wrought out what every one else

had already thought: and have only given speech, form, and

color to the silent, shadowy images of the common heart of



That the language of love is universally understood, and

that its varied delineations by the inspiration of art are

always and everywhere delightfully recognized, is sufficient

proof that the sentiment is universally experienced. It is

not confined to the gifted, the highborn, or the rich, nor is

it peculiar to any period of the world, or to any condition

of life. All have possessed the sensibility, if they have

not experienced the passion; they have felt the want of love,

if they have not enjoyed its fruition.

It is our birthright. We have no sooner passed the period of

adolescence than we inherit the power and the inclination to

love. We then feel an

Page 33

instinctive yearning of the heart for a kindred heart. We

are each of us conscious of being incomplete alone, and

incapable of enjoying alone our fullest happiness, and we

intuitively seek that happiness by linking our destiny in

life with some dear one of the opposite sex. It is there only

that our natural wants can be supplied. One sex is the

complement of the other. Each is imperfect alone, and each

supplies what the other lacks. Self-reliant as man may

suppose himself to be, yet divine wisdom has said, "It is not

good for the man to be alone;" he needs a "helpmeet" in

woman. Still less is it good for the woman to be alone, for

"she was created for the man," and every woman wants a man to

love; for love is her life, and it is only while she loves,

or hopes to love, that she lives to any happy or useful or

honest purpose. It has been said that as woman was taken out

of man in her creation, so it is man's instinctive desire to

seek her and to reclaim her as his own counterpart, or that

portion of himself which is required to complete the symmetry

of his nature and the happiness of his life. For this love

the youthful heart longs and pines until it attains the

object of its desires, or

Page 34

until it has become so sordid, so hard, and so profligate,

as to be, at once, unworthy of possessing it, and incapable

of enjoying it. This susceptibility of the youthful heart

has been faithfully portrayed by a youthful poet, in the

following lines, which are at once recognized, as expressing

the common sentiment of humanity:

"It is not that my lot is low,

That bids the silent tear to flow,

It is not grief that bids me moan,

It is that I am all alone.

In the woods and glens I love to roam,

When the tired hedger hies him home;

Or by the woodland pool to rest,

When pale the star looks on its breast.

Yet when the silent evening sighs,

With hallowed airs and symphonies,

My spirit takes another tone,

And sighs that it is all alone.

The woods and winds with sudden wail

Tell all the same unvaried tale;

I've none to smile when I am free,

And when I sigh, to sigh with me.

Page 35

Yet in my dreams a form I view,

That thinks on me and loves me too;

I start! and when the vision's flown,

I weep that I am all alone."


Another poet has expressed the same sentiment in the

following impassioned lines: -

"Give me but

Something whereunto I may bind my heart;

Something to love, to cherish, and to clasp

Affection's tendrils round."

Now, if any one should be inclined to call all this but

love-sick sentimentality, unworthy our serious consideration,

I shall only answer him in the words of Dr. Johnson, the

English moralist: "We must not ridicule the passion of love,

which he who never felt, never was happy; and he who laughs

at never deserves to feel, - a passion which has inspired

heroism, and subdued avarice; a passion which has caused the

change of empires, and the loss of worlds."

Shall these heaven-born impulses of nature be regarded, or

must they be repressed? Shall we

Page 36

permit these tendrils of our love to bind themselves around

some kindred heart, or shall we suffer them to be rudely torn

asunder, and cast aside to wither and decay? Implanted for

the noblest purposes within our breasts, interwoven with the

very fibres of our being, the laws of God and of nature

unquestionably demand their indulgence.


In plainer terms, the laws of God and of nature clearly

indicate that every man and every woman, possessing

sufficient health and vitality to experience the passion of

love, is benefited by its proper gratification; and those

laws both allow and invite every one to enjoy it in its full

fruition. A man is not wholly a man, nor a woman wholly a

woman, who has never experienced the ecstasies of gratified

love. And those men and women who are spending their most

vigorous period of life in cold and barren celibacy, without

ever having yielded to the warm desires or reproduction, are

living, every moment, in debt to their Creator and to the

commonwealth of mankind. They have never fulfilled some of

the most important purposes of their being.

Page 37

"Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,

Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,

Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear;

Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse:

Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth beauty,

Thou wast begot - to get it is thy duty.

Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou feed,

Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?

By law of Nature thou art bound to breed,

That thine may live, when thou thyself art dead;

And so in spite of death thou dost survive,

In that thy likeness still is left alive."

SHAKESPEARE (Venus and Adonis)


Yet men and women must not rush into sensual pleasure like

brutes, for we are moral beings, as well as corporeal beings,

and, as such, the subjects of moral law, which requires us to

govern our passions, and circumscribe them within the limits

of purity. But, even in this respect, there is no real

disagreement between the laws of morality and those of

Nature: when they are properly understood, they are each

equally explicit in forbidding every form of licentious

impurity. The most

Page 38

loathsome and incurable diseases are the penalties imposed by

natural law, and the severest retributions of eternity, the

penalties imposed by divine law, upon the promiscuous and

unrestrained indulgence of the amorous propensity. Nor are

these penalties unnecessary. No passion of our nature is

more vehement, and no one more liable to be tempted and led

astray from the path of rectitude; and we should, therefore,

attend the more carefully to those laws and limitations which

God and Nature have imposed upon its indulgence. And I

cannot doubt that they have limited its indulgence strictly

to the marriage relation. Some well-defined limit there must

be between chastity and unchastity, and vice and virtue, or

else the laws which define them and which punish transgressors

must be unjust and oppressive.


Here there is no oppression and no injustice. Everybody is

born with a propensity to love, and everybody that is

willing to marry may marry, and indulge that propensity in

innocence and purity. Within this limit the gratification of

love affords

Page 39

us the most exquisite pleasure, promotes health, conduces to

longevity, and is entirely consistent with the rules of

morality and religion. But when it oversteps this limit

prescribed by our Creator, and bursts the barriers of

chastity, it then assumes the form of unprincipled lust, and

inflicts upon its miserable votaries the utmost torture of

body, degradation of mind, and remorse of conscience.

"Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but

whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." - Heb. xiii. 4.

"Hail wedded love, mysterious law, true source

Of human offspring, sole propriety,

In Paradise, of all things common else.

By these adulterous lust was driven from man,

Among the bestial herd to range; by thee

Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure

Relations dear and all the charities

Of father, son, and brother first were known.

Far be it, that I should write thee sin or blame;

Or think thee unbefitting holiest place;

Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets,

Whose bed is undefiled and chaste pronounced,

Present or past, as saints and patriarchs used.

Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights

His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings."


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The History and Philosophy of Marriage
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Chapter Menu
Chapter 1 - Introductory
Chapter 2 - Primary Laws of Love
Chapter 3 - Primary Laws of Marriage
Chapter 4 - Origin of Polygamy
Chapter 5 - Origin of Monogamy
Chapter 6 - Monogamy After the Introduction of Christianity
Chapter 7 - Monogamy As It Is
Chapter 8 - Relation of Monogamy to Crime
Chapter 9 - Objections to Polygamy
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