Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cherish Your Husband Carefully

Note: Around the year 1393, an elderly citizen of Paris married a girl of fifteen, who was an orphan from another region. An older gentleman marrying a young bride was not unusual during this time, but she was concerned that she had no experience running a home. So he wrote this treatise of moral and domestic instruction for her, so she could do him credit if she were to remarry after his death. This is one of the examples of his instruction.

Dear sister, if you have another husband after me, be aware that you must take very good care of his person. For generally when a woman has lost her first husband and marriage, it is hard for her, depending on her social status, to find a second who is to her liking, and she remains forsaken and helpless for a long time, and even more so when she loses the second. Therefore, cherish your husband’s person carefully.

I entreat you to keep his linen clean, for this is up to you. Because the care of outside affairs is menacing work, a husband must look after these things, and go and come, run here and there in rain, wind, snow, and hail - sometimes dry, sometimes sweating, other times shivering, badly fed, badly housed, badly shod, badly bedded - and nothing harms him because he is cheered by the anticipation of the care his wife will take of him on his return - of the pleasures, joys, and comfort she will provide, or have provided for him in her presence: to have his shoes off before a good fire, to have his feet washed, to have clean shoes and hose, to be well fed, provided with good drink, well served, well honored, well bedded in white sheets and white nightcaps, well covered with good furs, and comforted with other joys and amusements, intimacies, affections, and secrets about which I am silent. And on the next day fresh linen and garments.
Indeed, dear sister, these favors cause a man to love and desire the return home and the sight of his good wife, and to be reserved with others. And so I advice you to comfort your second husband on all his homecomings, and persevere in this.
Also keep peace with him. Remember the country proverb that says there are three things that drive a good man from his home: a house with a bad roof, a smoking chimney, and a quarrelsome woman. Dear sister, I beg you, in order to preserve your husband’s love and good will, be loving, amiable, and sweet with him. Do for him what the good, simple women of our country claim people have done to their sons when they are enamored elsewhere and they cannot get them back...

...Dear sister, I pray you to bewitch and bewitch again the husband who you will have, preserve him form a badly covered house and a smoky chimney, and be not quarrelsome with him, but be sweet, amiable, and peaceful. Mind that in winter he has a good fire without smoke, and that he is well couched and covered between your breasts, and there bewitch him.
From: “A Mediaeval Home Companion: Housekeeping in the 14th Century” translated by Tania Bayard

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