The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

Page 7 of 76

Now, on the contrary, a loving, chaste and even-tempered wife, seeks what she may to prevent such dangers, and in every condition does all she can to make him easy. And, in a word, as there is no content in the embraces of a harlot, so there is no greater joy in the reciprocal affection and endearing embraces of a loving, obedient, and chaste wife. Nor is that the principal end for which matrimony was ordained, but that the man might follow the law of his creation by increasing his kind and replenishing the earth; for this was the injunction laid upon him in Paradise, before his fall. To conclude, a virtuous wife is a crown and ornament to her husband, and her price is above all rubies: but the ways of a harlot are deceitful.


Of Errors in Marriages; Why they are, and the Injuries caused by them.

By errors in marriage, I mean the unfitness of the persons marrying to enter into this state, and that both with respect to age and the constitution of their bodies; and, therefore, those who design to enter into that condition ought to observe their ability and not run themselves into inconveniences; for those that marry too young may be said to marry unseasonably, not considering their inability, nor examining the forces of nature; for some, before they are ripe for the consummation of so weighty a matter, who either rashly, of their own accord, or by the instigation of procurers or marriage-brokers, or else forced thereto by their parents who covet a large dower take upon them this yoke to their prejudice; by which some, before the expiration of a year, have been so enfeebled, that all their vital moisture has been exhausted; which had not been restored again without great trouble and the use of medicines. Therefore, my advice is: that it is not convenient to suffer children, or such as are not of age, to marry, or get children.

He that proposes to marry, and wishes to enjoy happiness in that state, should choose a wife descended from honest and temperate parents, she being chaste, well bred, and of good manners. For if a woman has good qualities, she has portion enough. That of Alcmena, in Plautus, is much to the purpose, where he brings in a young woman speaking thus:—

"I take not that to be my dowry, which
The vulgar sort do wealth and honour call;
That all my wishes terminate in this:——
I'll obey my husband and be chaste withall;
To have God's fear, and beauty in my mind,
To do those good who are virtuously inclined."

And I think she was in the right, for such a wife is more precious than rubies.

It is certainly the duty of parents to bring up their children in the ways of virtue, and to have regard to their honour and reputation; and especially to virgins, when grown to be marriageable. For, as has been noted, if through the too great severity of parents, they may be crossed in their love, many of them throw themselves into the unchaste arms of the first alluring tempter that comes in the way, being, through the softness and flexibility of their nature, and the strong desire they have after what nature strongly incites them to, easily induced to believe men's false vows of promised marriage, to cover their shame: and then too late, their parents repent of their severity which has brought an indelible stain upon their families.

Another error in marriage is, the inequality of years in the parties married; such as for a young man, who, to advance his fortune, marries a woman old enough to be his grandmother: between whom, for the most part, strife, jealousies, and dissatisfaction are all the blessings which crown the genial bed, is being impossible for such to have any children. The like may be said, though with a little excuse, when an old doting widower marries a virgin in the prime of her youth and her vigour, who, while he vainly tries to please her, is thereby wedded to his grave. For, as in green youth, it is unfit and unseasonable to think of marriage, so to marry in old age is just the same; for they that enter upon it too soon are soon exhausted, and fall into consumptions and divers other diseases; and those who procrastinate and marry unseemingly, fall into the like troubles; on the other side having only this honour, if old men, they become young cuckolds, especially if their wives have not been trained up in the paths of virtue, and lie too much open to the importunity and temptation of lewd and debauched men. And thus much for the errors of rash and inconsiderate marriages.


The Opinion of the Learned concerning Children conceived and born within Seven Months; with Arguments upon the Subject to prevent Suspicion of Incontinency, and bitter Contest on that Account. To which are added Rules to Know the Disposition of Man's Body by the Genital Parts.

Many bitter quarrels happen between men and their wives upon the man's supposition that the child comes too soon, and by consequence, that he could not be the father; whereas, it is the want of understanding the secrets of nature which brings the man into that error; and which, had he known, might have cured him of his suspicion and jealousy.

To remove which, I shall endeavour to prove, that it is possible, and has been frequently known, that children have been born at seven months. Paul, the Counsel, has this passage in the 19th Book of Pleadings, viz.: "It is now a received truth, that a perfect child may be born in the seventh month, by the authority of the learned Hippocrates; and therefore, we must believe that a child born at the end of the seventh month in lawful matrimony may be lawfully begotten."

Galen is of opinion that there is no certain time set for the bearing of children; and that from Pliny's authority, who makes mention of a woman that went thirteen months with child; but as to what concerns the seventh month, a learned author says, "I know several married people in Holland that had twins born in the seventh month, who lived to old age, having lusty bodies and lively minds. Wherefore their opinion is absurd, who assert that a child at seven months cannot be perfect and long lived; and that it cannot in all parts be perfect until the ninth month." Thereupon the author proceeds to tell a passage from his own knowledge, viz.: " Of late there happened a great disturbance among us, which ended not without bloodshed; and was occasioned by a virgin, whose chastity had been violated, descending from a noble family of unspotted fame. Several charged the fact upon the Judge, who was president of a city in Flanders, who firmly denied it, saying he was ready to take his oath that he never had any carnal copulation with her, and that he would not father that, which was none of his; and farther argued, that he verily believed it was a child born in seven months, himself being many miles distant from the mother of it when it was conceived. Upon which the judges decreed that the child should be viewed by able physicians and experienced women, and that they should make their report. They having made diligent inquiry, all of them with one mind, concluded the child, without discussing who was the father, was born within the space of seven months, and that it was carried in the mother's womb but twenty-seven weeks and some odd days; but if she should have gone full nine months, the child's parts and limbs would have been more firm and strong, and the structure of the body more compact; for the skin was very loose, and the breast bone that defends the heart, and the gristles that lay over the stomach, lay higher than naturally they should be, not plain, but crooked and sharp, rigid or pointed, like those of a young chicken hatched in the beginning of spring. And being a female, it wanted nails upon the joints of the fingers; upon which, from the masculous cartilaginous matter of the skin, nails that are very smooth do come, and by degrees harden; she had, instead of nails, a thin skin or film. As for her toes, there were no signs of nails upon them, wanting the heat which was expanded to the fingers from the nearness of the heart. All this was considered, and above all, one gentlewoman of quality that assisted, affirming that she had been the mother of nineteen children, and that divers of them had been born and lived at seven months, though within the seventh month. For in such cases, the revolution of the month ought to be observed, which perfects itself in four bare weeks, or somewhat less than twenty-eight days; in which space of the revolution, the blood being agitated by the force of the moon, the courses of women flow from them; which being spent, and the matrix cleansed from the menstruous blood which happens on the fourth day, then, if a man on the seventh day lie with his wife, the copulation is most natural, and then the conception is best: and the child thus begotten may be born in the seventh month and prove very healthful. So that on this report, the supposed father was pronounced innocent; the proof that he was 100 miles distant all that month in which the child was begotten; as for the mother she strongly denied that she knew the father, being forced in the dark; and so, through fear and surprise, was left in ignorance."

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