Saturday, 16 June 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today is my first wedding anniversary, and to celebrate, I'm posting the reading that I chose for the ceremony -- a heavily edited excerpt from Edvard Westermarck's 'History of Human Marriage'. It worked on many levels. Enjoy!

The History of Human Marriage
Westermarck, E. A. (1891). The History of Human Marriage. London: Macmillan.

Edvard Westermarck was an anthropologist, based at LSE (1904-1930). He was inspired by Darwin to undertake a survey of marriage (and morals). Here is a selection from his major work: The History of Human Marriage (1891).

Marriage -- [the] durable connection between male and female -- is found among many of the lower animals, it occurs as a rule among the anthropomorphous apes, and it is universal among mankind.

[L]ove is the passion which unites the sexes. The stimulating impressions produced by health, youth, and beauty, and ornaments and other artificial means of attraction, are all elements of this feeling. A complete analysis of love would fill a volume. Here I shall discuss only one of [its] most important elements: the sentiment of affection.

Affection depends in a very high degree upon sympathy: affection is strengthened by sympathy, and sympathy is strengthened by affection. Community of interests, opinions, sentiments, culture, and mode of life, as being essential to close sympathy, is therefore favourable to warm affection.

And as affection came to play a more prominent part in choosing a mate, higher regard was paid to intellectual, emotional, and moral qualities, through which the feeling is chiefly provoked.

The affection accompanying the union of the sexes has gradually developed as altruism in general has increased. The feeling which makes husband and wife true companions for better and worse can grow up only in societies where the altruistic sentiments of man are strong enough to make him recognize woman as his equal, and where she is not shut up as an exotic plant in a green-house. 

Among the Bushmen, there is love in all their marriages. Among the races of the Upper Congo, love is ennobled by a certain poetry. The Hos are good husbands and wives, and although they have no terms in their own language to express the higher emotions, "they feel them all the same". In Samoa, stories of affectionate love between husband and wife are preserved in song. Among the Eskimo of the north-east coast of North America, "young couples are frequently seen rubbing noses, their favourite mark of affection, with an air of tenderness". And the man-eating Niam-Niam display an affection for their wives which is unparalleled.

It is, indeed, impossible to believe that there ever was a time when conjugal affection was entirely wanting in the human race... it seems, in its most primitive form, to have been as old as marriage itself. 

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