On ladies who make love and their cuckolded husbands
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
On ladies who make love and their cuckolded husbands , Brantôme is the first discourse in Les Vies des Dames Galantes. The title translates in English as "On ladies who make love and their cuckolded husbands."
- "Well, this is all I shall say on the subject of this Chapter , one I could have made a thousand times longer than I have done, having matter so ample and lengthy, that if all the cuckold husbands and their wives that do make them so, were to hold hands, and form a ring, I verily believe this would be great enough to surround and encircle a good half of the globe."
- "I beg all honourable ladies which shall read any of my tales in this chapter, if byhap they do pay any heed to the same, to forgive me and if they be somewhat highly spiced, for that I could scarce have disguised them in more modest fashion, seeing the sauce such must needs have. And I will say further I could well have cited others still more extravagant and diverting, were it not that, finding it impossible to cover the same with any veil of decent modesty, I was afeared to offend such honourable ladies as shall be at the pains and do me the honour to read my books. Now will I add but one thing further, to wit, that these tales which I have here set down are no petty stories of market-town and village gossip, but do come from high and worthy sources, and deal not with common and humble personages. I have cared not to have aught to do but only with great and high subjects, albeit I have dealt with such discreetly ; and as I name no names, I think I have well avoided all scandal and cause of offence. "
Full text of "On ladies who make love and their cuckolded husbands"
- in an A. R. Allinson translation
SEEING 'tis the ladies have laid the foundation of all cuckoldry, and how 'tis they which do make all men cuckolds, I have thought it good to include this First Discourse in my present Book of Fair Ladies, albeit that I shall have occasion to speak therein as much of men as of women. I know right well I am taking up a great work, and one I should never get done withal, if that I did insist on full complete- ness of the same. For of a truth not all the paper in the Records Office of Paris would hold in writing the half of the histories of folk in this case, whether women or men. Yet will I set down what I can; and when I can no more, I will e'en give my pen to the devil, or mayhap to some good fellow-comrade, which shall carry on the tale.
Furthermore must I crave indulgence if in this Dis- course I keep not due order and alignment, for indeed so great is the multitude of men and women so situate, and so manifold and divers their condition, that I know not any Commander and Master of War so skilled as that he could range the same in proper rank and meet array. Following therefore of mine own fantasy, will I speak of them in such fashion as pleaseth me, now in thig present month of April, the which bringeth round once more the very season and open time of cuckoos; I mean the cuckoos that perch on trees, for of the other sort are to be found and seen enough and to spare in all months and seasons of the year.
Now of this sort of cuckolds, there be many of divers kinds, but of all sorts the worst and that which the ladies fear above all others, doth consist of those wild, fierce, tricky, ill-conditioned, malicious, cruel and suspicious hus- bands, who strike, torture and kill, some for true cause, others for no true reason at all, so mad and furious doth the very least suspicion in the world make them. With such all dealings are very carefully to be shunned, both by their wives and by the lovers of the same. Natheless have I known ladies and their lovers which did make no account of them ; for they were just as ill-minded as the others, and the ladies were bold and reckless, to such a degree that if their cavaliers chanced to fail of courage, themselves would supply them enough and to spare for both. The more so that in proportion as any emprise is dangerous and difficult, ought it to be undertaken in a bold and high spirit. On the contrary I have known other ladies of the sort who had no heart at all or ambi- tion to adventure high endeavours ; but cared for naught but their low pleasures, even as the proverb hath it : base of heart as an harlot.
Myself knew an honourable lady, and a great one, who a good opportunity offering to have enjoyment of her lover, when this latter did object to her the incommodity that would ensue supposing the husband, who was not far off, to discover it, made no more ado but left him on the spot, deeming him no doughty lover, for that he said nay to her urgent desire. For indeed this is what an amorous dame, whenas the ardour and frenzy of desire would fain be satsified, but her lover will not or cannot content her straightway, by reason of sundry lets and hindrances, doth hate and indignantly abominate above all else.
Needs must we commend this lady for her doughtiness, and many another of her kidney, who fear naught, if only they may content their passions, albeit therein they run more risks and dangers than any soldier or sailor doth in the most hazardous perils of field or sea.
A Spanish dame, escorted one day by a gallant cavalier through the rooms of the King's Palace and happening to pass by a particular dark and secret recess, the gentle- man, piquing himself on his respect for women and his Spanish discretion, saith to her : Senora, buen lugar, si no fuera vuessa merced (A good place, my lady, if it were another than your ladyship). To this the lady merely answered the very same words back again, Si, buen lugar, si no fuera vuessa merced (Yes, Sir, a good place, if it were another than your lordship). Thus did she imply his cowardliness, and rebuke the same, for that he had not taken of her in so good a place what she did wish and desire to lose, as another and a bolder man would have done in like case. For the which cause she did thereupon altogether pretermit her former love for him, and left him incontinently.
I have heard tell of a very fair and honourable lady, who did make assignation with her lover, only on condition he should not touch her (nor come to extremities at all). This the other accomplished, tarrying all night long in great ecstasy, temptation and continence; and thereat was the lady so grateful that some while after she did give him full gratification, alleging for reason that she had been fain to prove his love in accomplishing the task she had laid upon him. Wherefore she did love him much thereafter, and afforded him opportunity to do quite other feats than this one, verily one of the hardest sort to succeed in.
Some there be will commend his discretion, or timid- ity, if you had rather call it so, others not. For myself I refer the question to such as may debate the point on this side or on that according to their several humours and predispositions.
I knew once a lady, and one of no low degree, who having made an assignation with her lover to come and stay with her one night, he hied him thither all ready, in shirt only, to do his duty. But, seeing it was in winter- tide, he was so sorely a-cold on the way, that he could accomplish naught, and thought of no other thing but to get heat again. Whereat the lady did loathe the caitiff, and would have no more of him.
Another lady, discoursing of love with a gentleman, he said to her among other matters that if he were with her, he would undertake to do his devoir six times in one night, so greatly would her beauty edge him on. "You boast most high prowess," said she ; "I make you assigna- tion therefore" for such and such a night. Nor did she fail to keep tryst at the time agreed; but lo! to his un- doing, he was assailed by so sad a convulsion, that he could by no means accomplish his devoir so much as once even. Whereupon the fair lady said to him, "What ! are you good for naught at all? Well, then! begone out of my bed. I did never lend it you, like a bed at an inn, to take your ease forsooth therein and rest yourself. There- fore, I say, begone!" Thus did she drive him forth, and thereafter did make great mock of him, hating the recre- ant worse than the plague.
This last gentleman would have been happy enough, if only he had been of the complexion of the great Baraud, Protonotary and Almoner to King Francis, for whenas he lay with the Court-ladies, he would even reach the round dozen at the least, and yet next morning he would say right humbly, "I pray you, Madam, make excuse that I have not done better, but I took physic yester- day." I have myself known him of later years, when he was called Captain Baraud, a Gascon, and had quitted the lawyer's robe. He has recounted to me, at my ask- ing, his amours, and that name by name.
As he waxed older, this masculine vigour and power somewhat failed him. Moreover he was now poor, albeit he had had good pickings, the which his prowess had gotten him; yet had he squandered it all, and was now set to compounding and distilling essences. "But verily," he would say, "if only I could now, so well as once I could in my younger days, I should be in better case, and should guide my gear better than I have done."
During the famous War of the League, an honourable gentleman, and a right brave and valiant soldier, having left the place whereof he was Governor to go to the wars, could not on his return arrive in garrison before night- fall, and so betook himself to the house of a fair and very honourable and noble widow, who straight invited him to stay the night within doors. This he gladly con- sented to do, for he was exceeding weary. After mak- ing him good cheer at supper, she gives him her own chamber and bed, seeing that all the other bed-chambers were dismantled by reason of the War, and their furni- ture, and she had good and fair plenishing, under lock and key. Herself meanwhile withdraws to her closet, where she had a day-bed in use.
The gentleman, after several times refusing this bed and bed-chamber, was constrained by the good lady's prayers to take it. Then so soon as he was laid down therein and asleep most soundly, lo! the lady slips in softly and lays herself down beside him in the bed with- out his being ware of aught all the night long, so aweary was he and heavily asleep. There lay he till broad day- light, when the lady, drawing away from him, as the sleeper began to awake, said, "You have not slept without company; for I would not yield you up the whole of my bed, so have I enjoyed the one half thereof as well as ever you have the other. You have lost a chance you will never have again."
The gentleman, cursing and railing for spite of his wasted opportunity ('twere enough to make a man hang himself), was fain to stay her and beg her over. But no such thing! On the contrary, she was sorely displeased at him for not having contented her as she would have had him do, for of a truth she had not come thither for only one poor embrace, as the saying hath it, one em- brace is only the salad of a feast. She loved the plural number better than the singular, as do many worthy dames.
Herein they differ from a certain very fair and honour- able lady I once knew, who on one occasion having made assignation with her lover to come and stay with her, in a twinkling he did accomplish three good embraces with her. But thereafter, he wishing to do a fourth and make his number yet complete, she did urge him with prayers and commands to get up and retire. He, as fresh as at first, would fain renew the combat, and doth promise he would fight furiously all that night long till dawn of day, de- claring that for so little as had gone by, his vigour was in no wise diminished. But she did reply: "Be satisfied I have recognized your doughtiness and good dispositions. They are right fair and good, and at a better time and place I shall know very well how to take better advantage of them than at this present. For naught but some small illhap is lacking for you and me to be discovered. Fare- well then till a better and more secure occasion, and then right freely will I put you to the great battle, and not to such a trifling encounter as this."
Many dames there be would not have shown this much prudency, but intoxicate with pleasure, seeing they had the enemy already on the field, would have had him fight till dawn of day.
The same honourable lady which I spake of before these last, was of such a gallant humour that when the caprice was on her, she had never a thought or fear of her husband, albeit he was a ready swordsman and quick at offence. Natheless hath she alway been so fortunate as that neither she nor her lovers have ever run serious risks of their lives or come near being surprised, by dint of careful posting of guards and good and watchful sentinels.
Still it behoves not ladies to trust too much to this, for one unlucky moment is all that is needed to ruin all, as happened some while since to a certain brave and valiant gentleman 2 who was massacred on his way to see his mistress by the treachery and contrivance of the lady herself, the which her husband made her devise against him. Alas ! if he had not entertained so high a presump- tion of his own worth and valour as he rightly did, he would have kept better guard, and would never have fallen, more's the pity! A capital example, verily, not to trust over much to amorous dames, who to escape the cruel hand of their husbands, do play such a game as these order them, as did the lady in this case, who saved her own life, at the sacrifice of her lover's.
Other husbands there be who kill the lady and the lover both together as I have heard it told of a very great lady whose husband was jealous of her, not for any offence he had certain knowledge of, but out of mere suspiciousness and mistaken zeal of love. He did his wife to death with poison and wasting sickness, a grievous thing and an exceeding sad, after having first slain the lover, a good and honourable man, declaring that the sacrifice was fairer and more agreeable to kill the bull first, and the cow afterwards.
This same Prince was more cruel to his wife than he was later to one of his daughters, the which he had mar- ried to a great Prince, though not so great an one as himself was, he being indeed a monarch in all but name.
It fell out to this fickle dame to be gotten with child by another than her husband, who was at the time busied afar in some War. Presently, having been brought to bed of a fine child, she wist not to what Saint to make appeal, if not to her father; so to him she did reveal all by the mouth of a gentleman she had trust in, whom she sent to him. No sooner had he hearkened to his confidence than he did send and charge her husband that, for his life, he should beware to make no essay against that of his daugh- ter, else would he do the same against his, and make him the poorest Prince in Christendom, the which he was well able to accomplish. Moreover he did despatch for his daughter a galley with a meet escort to fetch to him the child and its nurse, and providing a good house and liveli- hood, had the boy nourished and brought up right well. But when after some space of time the father came to die, thereupon the husband put her to death and so did punish her for her faithlessness at last.
I have heard tell of another husband who did to death the lover before the eyes of his wife, causing him to lan- guish in long pain, to the end she might die in a martyr's agony to see the lingering death of him she had so loved and had held within her arms.
Yet another great nobleman did kill his wife openly before the whole Court. 3 For the space of fifteen years he had granted the same all liberty, .and had been for long while well aware of her ill ways, having many a time and oft remonstrated thereat and admonished her. However at the last a sudden caprice took him ('tis said at the instance of a great Prince, his master), and on a certain morning he did visit her as she still lay abed, but on the point of rising. Then, after lying with her, and after sporting and making much mirth together, he did give her four or five dagger thrusts. This done, he bade a servant finish her, and after had her laid on a litter, and carried openly before all the Court to his own house, to be there buried. He would fain have done the like to her paramours ; but so would he have had overmuch on his hands, for that she had had so many they might have made a small army.
I have heard speak likewise of a certain brave and valiant Captain,* who conceiving some suspicion of his wife, went straight to her without more ado and strangled her himself with his own hands, in her white girdle. Thereafter he had her buried with all due honour, and himself was present at her obsequies in mourning weeds and of a very sad countenance, the which mourning he did continue for many a long day, verily a noble sat- isfaction to the poor lady, as if a fine funeral could bring her to life again ! Moreover he did the same by a damosel which had been in waiting on his wife and had aided and abetted her in her naughtiness. Nor yet did he die with- out issue by this same wife, for he had of her a gallant son, one of the bravest and foremost soldiers of his coun- try, who by virtue of his worth and emprise did reach great honour as having served his Kings and masters right well.
I have heard likewise of a nobleman in Italy which also slew his wife, not being able to catch her gallant who had escaped into France. But it is said he slew her, not so much because of her sin, for that he had been ware of for a long time, how she indulged in loose love and took no heed for aught else, as in order to wed another lady of whom he was enamoured.
Now this is why it is very perilous to assail and attack an armed and defended spot, not but that there be as many of this sort assailed and right well assailed as of unarmed and undefended ones, yea ! and assailed victori- ously to boot. For an example whereof, I know of one that was as well armed and championed as any in all the world. Yet, was there a certain gentleman, in sooth a most brave and valiant soldier, who was fain to hanker after the same; nay! he was not content with this, but must needs pride himself thereon and bruit his success abroad. But it was scarce any time at all before he was incontinently killed by men appointed to that end, with- out otherwise causing scandal, and without the lady's suffering aught therefrom. Yet was she for long while in sore fear and anguish of spirit, seeing that she was then with child and firmly believing that after her bringing to bed, the which she would full fain have seen put off for an hundred years, she would meet the like fate. But the husband showed himself a good and merciful man, though of a truth he was one of the keenest swordsmen in all the world, and freely pardoned her; and nothing else came of it, albeit divers of them that had been her servants were in no small affright. However the one victim paid for all. And so the lady, recognizing the goodness and graciousness of such an husband, gave but very little cause for suspicion thereafter, for that she joined herself to the ranks of the more wise and virtuous dames of that day.
It fell out very different not many years since in the Kingdom of Naples to Donna Maria d'Avalos, one of the fair Princesses of that land and married to the Prince of Venusia, who was enamoured of the Count d'Andriane, likewise one of the noble Princes of the country. So being both of them come together to enjoy their passion, and the husband having discovered it, by means whereof I could render an account, but the tale would be over long, having insooth surprised them there together, had the twain of them slain by men appointed thereto. In such wise that next morning the fair and noble pair, un- happy beings, were seen lying stretched out and exposed to public view on the pavement in front of the house door, all dead and cold, in sight of all passers-by, who could not but weep and lament over their piteous lot.
Now there were kinsfolk of the said lady, thus done to death, who were exceeding grieved and greatly angered thereat, so that they were right eager to avenge the same by death and murder, as the law of that country doth allow. But for as much as she had been slain by base- born varlets and slaves who deserved not to have their hands stained with so good and noble blood, they were for making this point alone the ground of their resentment and for this seeking satisfaction from the husband, whether by way of justice or otherwise, but not so, if he had struck the blow with his own hand. For that had been a different case, not so imperatively calling for satisfaction.
Truly an odd idea and a most foolish quibble have we here! Whereon I make appeal to our great orators and wise lawyers, that they tell me this : which act is the more monstrous, for a man to kill his wife with his own hand, the which hath so oftentimes loved and caressed her, or by that of a base-born slave? In truth there are many good arguments to be alleged on the point; but I will refrain me from adducing of them, for fear they prove over weak and silly in comparison of those of such great folk. I have heard tell that the Viceroy, hearing of the plot that was toward, did warn the lover thereof, and the lady to boot. But their destiny would have it so ; this was to be the issue, and no other, of their so delightsome loves.
This lady was daughter of Don Carlo d'Avalos, second brother of the Marquis di Pesca'ira, to whom if any had played a like trick in any of his love matters wherewith I am acquaint, be sure he would have been dead this many a long day.
I once knew an husband, which coming home from abroad and having gone long without sleeping with his wife, did arrive with mind made up and glad heart to do so with her presently, and having good pleasure thereof. But arriving by night, he did hear by his little spy, how that she was accompanied by her lover in the bed. There- upon did he straight lay hand on sword, and knocked at the door; the which being opened, he entered in resolved to kill her. After first of all hunting for the gallant, who had escaped by the window, he came near to his wife to kill her; but it so happened she was on this occasion so becomingly tricked out, so featly dressed in her night attire and her fair white shift, and so gaily decked (bear in mind she had taken all this pretty pains with herself the better to please her lover), that he had never found her so much to his taste. Then she, falling at his knees, in her shift as she was, and grovelling on the ground, did ask his forgiveness with such fair and gentle words, the which insooth she knew right well how to set forth, that raising her up and seeing her so fair and of so gra- cious mien, he felt his heart stir within him, and dropping his sword, for that he had had no enjoyment for many a day and was anhungered therefor, which likely enough did stir the lady too at nature's prompting, he forgave her and took and kissed her, and put her back to bed again, and in a twinkling lay down with her, after shutting to the door again. And the fair lady did content him so well by her gentle ways and pretty cajoleries, be sure she forgat not any one of them all, that even- tually the next morning they were found better friends than ever, and never was so much loving and caressing between them before. As was the case likewise with King Menelaus, that poor cuckold, the which did ever by the space of ten or twelve years threaten his wife Helen that he would kill her, if ever he could put hands upon her, and even did tell her so, calling from the foot of Troy's wall to her on the top thereof. Yet, Troy well taken, and she fallen into his power, so ravished was he with her beauty that he forgave her all, and did love and fondle her in better sort than ever.
So much then for these savage husbands that from lions turn into butterflies. But no easy thing is it for any to get deliverance like her whose case we now tell.
A lady, young, fair and noble, in the reign of King Francis I., married to a great Lord of France, of as noble a house as is any to be found, did escape otherwise, and in more pious fashion, than the last named. For, whether it were she had given some cause for suspicion to her husband, or that he was overtaken by a fit of dis- trust or sudden anger, he came at her sword in hand for to kill her. But she bethought herself instantly to make a vow to the glorious Virgin Mary, and to promise she would to pay her said vow, if only she would save her life, at her chapel of Loretto at St. Jean des Mauverets, in the country of Anjou. And so soon as ever she had made this vow in her own mind, lo! the said Lord did fall to the ground, and his sword slipped from out his hand. Then presently, rising up again as if awaking from a dream, he did ask his wife to what Saint she had recom- mended herself to escape out of this peril. She told him it was to the Blessed Virgin, in her afore-named Chapel, and how she had promised to visit the holy place. Whereupon he said to her: "Go thither then, and fulfil your vow," the which she did, and hung up there a picture recording the story, together with sundry large and fair votive offerings of wax, such as of yore were customary for this purpose, the which were there to be seen for long time after. Verily a fortunate vow, and a right happy and unexpected escape, as is further set forth in the Chronicles of Anjou. s
HAVE heard say how King Francis 1 once was fain to go to bed with a lady of his Court whom he loved. He found her husband sword in fist ready to kill him ; but the King straight- way did put his own to his throat, and did charge him, on his life, to do him no hurt, but an if he should do him the least ill in the world, how that he would kill him on the spot, or else have his head cut off. So for that night did he send him forth the house, and took his place. The said lady was very fortunate to have found so good a champion and protector of her person, for never after durst the husband to say one word of complaint, and so left her to do as she well pleased.
I have heard tell how that not this lady alone, but many another beside, did win suchlike safeguard and pro- tection from the King. As many folk do in War-time to save their lands, putting of the King's cognizance over their doors, even so do these ladies put the countersign of their monarchs inside and out their bodies; whereby their husbands dare not afterward say one word of re- proach, who but for this would have given them inconti- nently to the edge of the sword.
I have known yet other ladies, favoured in this wise by kings and great princes, who did so carry their passports everywhere. Natheless were there some of them, whose husbands, albeit not daring to use cold steel to them, did yet have resort to divers poisons and secret ways of death, making pretence these were catarrhs, or apoplexy and sudden death. Verily such husbands are odious, so to see their fair wives lying by their side, sickening and dying a slow death day after day, and do deserve death far worse than their dames. Others again do them to death between four walls, in perpetual emprisonment. Of such we have instances in sundry ancient Chronicles of France; and myself have known a great nobleman of France, the which did thus slay his wife, who was a very fair and honourable lady, and this by judgement of the Courts, taking an infatuate delight in having by this means his cuckoldry publicly declared.
Among husbands of this mad and savage temper under cuckoldry, old men hold the first place, who distrusting their own vigour and heat of body, and bent on making sure of their wives' virtue, even when they have been so foolish as to marry young and beautiful ones, so jealous and suspicious are they of the same (as well by reason of their natural disposition as of their former doings in this sort, the which they have either done themselves of yore or seen done by others), that they lead the un- happy creatures so miserable a life that scarce could Purgatory itself be in any wise more cruel.
The Spanish proverb saith : El diablo sabe mucho, porque es vie jo, "The devil knoweth much, because he is old"; and in like sort these old men, by reason of their age and erstwhile habitudes, know full many things. Thus are they greatly to be blamed on this point, for seeing they cannot satisfy their wives, why do they go about to marry them at all? Likewise are the women, being so fair and young, very wrong to marry old men under temptation of wealth, thinking they will enjoy the same after their death, the which they do await from hour to hour. And meanwhile do they make good cheer with young gallants whom they make friends of, for the which some of them do suffer sorely.
I have heard speak of one who, being surprised in the act, her husband, an old man, did give her a certain poison whereby she lay sick for more than a year, and grew dry as a stick. And the husband would go oft to see her, and took delight in that her sickness, and made mirth thereat, declaring she had gotten her deserts.
Yet another her husband shut her up in a room, and put her on bread and water, and very oft would he make her strip stark naked and whip her his fill, taking no pity on that fair naked flesh, and feeling no compunction thereat. And truly this is the worst of them, for seeing they be void of natural heat, and as little subject to temptation as a marble statue, no beauty doth stir their compassion, but they satiate their rage with cruel mar- tyrdoms ; whereas if that they were younger, they would take their satisfaction on their victim's fair naked body, and so forget and forgive, as I have told of in a previous place.
This is why it is ill to marry suchlike ill-conditioned old men; for of a truth, albeit their sight is failing and coming to naught from old age, yet have they always enough to spy out and see the tricks their young wives may play them.
Even so have I heard speak of a great lady who was used to say that never a Saturday was without sun, never a beautiful woman without amours, and never an old man without his being jealous; and indeed everything goeth for the enfeeblement of his vigour.
This is why a great Prince whom I know was wont to say: that he would fain be like the lion, the which, grow he as old as he may, doth never get white ; or the monkey, which, the more he performeth, the more he hath desire to perform ; or the dog, for the older he waxeth, the bigger doth he become; or else the stag, forasmuch as the more aged he is, the better can he accomplish his duty, and the does will resort more willingly to him than to the younger members of the herd.
And indeed, to speak frankly, as I have heard a great personage of rank say likewise, what reason is there, or what power hath the husband so great that he may and ought to kill his wife, seeing he hath none such from God, neither by His law nor yet His holy Gospel, but only to put her away? He saith naught therein of murder, and bloodshedding, naught of death, tortures or imprisonment, of poisons or cruelties. Ah! but our Lord Jesus Christ did well admonish us that great wrong was in these fash- ions of doing and these murders, and that He did hardly or not at all approve thereof, whenas they brought to Him the poor woman accused of adultery, for that He might pronounce her doom and punishment. He said only to them, writing with His finger on the ground : "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," the which not one of them all durst do, feeling themselves touched to the quick by so wise and gentle a rebuke.
Our Creator was for teaching us all not to be so lightly ready to condemn folk and put them to death, even on this count, well knowing the weakness of our human Na- ture, and the violent errors some do commit against it. For such an one doth cause his wife to be put to death, who is more an adulterer than she, while others again often have their wives slain though innocent, being aweary of them and desiring to take other fresh ones. How many such there be! Yet doth Saint Augustine say that the adulterous man is as much to be punished as the woman.
I have heard speak of a very great Prince, and of high place in the world, who suspecting his wife of false love with a certain gallant cavalier, had him assassinated as he came forth by night from his Palace, and afterward the lady. A little while before, this latter at a Tourney that was held at Court, after fixedly gazing at her lover who did manage his horse right gracefully, said suddenly : "Great Lord! how well he doth ride!" "Yea!" was the unexpected answer, "but he rides too high an horse" ; and in short time after was he poisoned by means of certain perfumes or by some draught he swallowed by way of the mouth.
I knew a Lord of a good house who did kill his wife, the which was very fair and of good family and lineage, poisoning her by her private parts, without her being ware of it, so subtle and cunningly compounded was the said poison. This did he in order to marry a great lady who before had been wife to a Prince, without the influence and protection of whose friends he was in sad case, ex- posed to imprisonment and danger. However as his ill- luck would have it, he did not marry her after all, but was disappointed therein and brought into very evil repute, and ill looked at by all men and honourable ladies.
I have seen high personages greatly blame our old-time Kings, such as Louis X. (le Hutin, the Obstinate) and Charles the Fair, for that they did to death their wives, the one Marguerite, daughter of Robert Duke of Bur- gundy, the other Blanche, daughter of Othelin Count of Burgundy, casting up against them their adulteries. So did they have them cruelly done to death within the four walls of the Chateau-Gaillard, as did likewise the Comte de Foix to Jeanne d'Arthoys. Wherein was not so much guilt or such heinous crimes as they would have had men to believe ; but the truth is the said monarchs were aweary of their wives, and so did bring up against them these fine charges, and after did marry others.
As in yet another case, did King Henry of England have his wife put to death and beheaded, to wit Anne Boleyn, in order to marry another, for that he was a monarch very ready to shed blood and quick to change his wives. Were it not better that they should divorce them, according to God's word, than thus cruelly cause them to be slain? But no! they must needs ever have fresh meat these folk, who are fain to sit at table apart without inviting any to share with them, or else to have new and fresh wives to bring them gear after that they have wasted that of their first spouses, or else have not gotten of these enough to satisfy them. Thus did Baldwyn, 2 second King of Jerusalem, who making it to be believed of his first wife that she had played him false, did put her away, in order to take a daughter of the Duke of Malyterne, 3 because she had a large sum of money for dowry, whereof he stood in sore need. This is to be read in the History of the Holy Land. 4 Truly it well becomes these Princes to alter the Law of God and invent a new one, to the end they may make away with their unhappy wives!
King Louis VII. (Le Jeune, the Young) 6 did not pre- cisely so in regard to Leonore, duchesse d'Acquitaine, who being suspected of adultery, mayhap falsely, during his voyaging in Syria, was repudiated by him on his sole authority, without appealing to the law of other men, framed as it is and practised more by might than by right or reason. Whereby he did win greater reputation than the other Kings named above, and the name of good, while the others were called wicked, cruel and tyrannical, forasmuch as he had in his soul some traces of remorse and truth. And this forsooth is to live a Christian life! Why! the heathen Romans themselves did for the most part herein behave more Christianly; and above all sun- dry of their Emperors, of whom the more part were subject to be cuckolds, and their wives exceeding lustful and whorish. Yet cruel as they were, we read of many who did rid themselves of their wives more by divorces than by murders such as we that are Christians do commit.
Julius Caesar did no further hurt to his wife Pompeia, but only divorced her, who had done adultery with Publius Clodius, a young and handsome Roman nobleman. For being madly in love with her, and she with him, he did spy out the opportunity when one day she was perform- ing a sacrifice in her house, to which only women were admitted. So he did dress himself as a girl, for as yet had he no beard on chin, and joining in the singing and playing of instruments and so passing muster, had leisure to do that he would with his mistress. However, being presently recognized, he was driven forth and brought to trial, but by dint of bribery and influence was acquitted, and no more came of the thing.
Cicero expended his Latin in vain in a fine speech he did deliver against him. True it is that Caesar, wishful of convincing the public who would have him deem his wife innocent, did reply that he desired his bed not alone to be unstained with guilt, but free from all suspicion. This was well enough by way of so satisfying the world ; but in his soul he knew right well what the thing meant, his wife being thus found with her lover. Little doubt she had given him the assignation and opportunity; for herein, when the woman doth wish and desire it, no need for the lover to trouble his head to devise means and occa- sions; for verily will she find more in an hour than all the rest of us men together would be able to contrive in an hundred years. As saith a certain lady of rank of mine acquaintance, who doth declare to her lover: "Only do you find means to make me wish to come, and never fear! I will find ways enough."
Caesar moreover knew right well the measure of these matters, for himself was a very great debauchee, and was known by the title of the cock for all hens. Many a hus- band did he make cuckold in his city, as witness the nick- name given him by his soldiers at his Triumph in the verse they did sing thereat: Romani, servate uxores; moechum adducimus calvum,
(Romans, look well to your wives, for we bring you the bald-headed fornicator, who will debauch 'em every one.)
See then how that Caesar by this wise and cunning answer he made about his wife, did shake himself free of bearing himself the name of cuckold, the which he made so many others to endure. But in his heart, he knew for all that how that he was galled to the quick.
3. CTAVIUS CAESAR 1 likewise did put away his wife Scribonia for the sake of his own lecherousness, without other cause, though at the same time without doing her any other hurt, albeit she had good excuse to make him cuckold, by reason of an infinity of ladies that he had relations with. Indeed before their husbands' very faces he would openly lead them away from table at those banquets he was used to give them; then presently, after doing his will with them, would send them back again with hair dishevelled and disordered, and red ears,- a sure sign of what they had been at! Not that myself did ever elsewhere hear tell of this last as a distinctive mark whereby to discover such doings; a red face for a cer- tainty have I heard so spoken of, but red ears never. So he did gain the repute of being exceeding lecherous, and even Mark Antony reproached him therewith; but he was used to excuse himself, saying he did not so much go with these ladies for mere wantonness, as thereby to discover more easily the secrets of their husbands, whom he did distrust.
I have known not a few great men and others, which have done after the same sort and have sought after ladies with this same object, wherein they have had good hap. Indeed I could name sundry which have adopted this good device; for good it is, as yielding a twofold pleasure. In this wise was Catiline's conspiracy dis- covered by the means of a courtesan.
The same Octavius was once seriously minded to put to death his daughter Julia, wife of Agrippa, for that she had been a notorious harlot, and had wrought great shame to him, for verily sometimes daughters do bring more dishonour on their fathers than wives on their hus- bands. Still he did nothing more than banish her the country, and deprive of the use of wine and the wearing of fine clothing, compelling her to wear poor folk's dress, by way of signal punishment, as also of the society of men. And this is in sooth a sore deprivation for women of this kidney, to rob them of the two last named grati- fications !
Another Emperor, and very cruel tyrant, Caligula, 2 did suspect that his wife, Livia Hostilia, had by stealth cheated him of sundry of her favours, and bestowed the same on her first husband, Caius Piso, from whom he had taken her away by force. This last was still alive, and was deemed to have received of her some pleasure and gratification of her fair body, the while the Emperor was away on a journey. Yet did he not indulge his usual cruelty toward her, but only banished her from him, two years after he had first taken her from her husband Piso and married her.
He did the same to Tullia Paulina, whom he had taken from her husband Caius Memmius. He exiled her and that was all, but in this case with the express prohibition to have naught to do at all with the gentle art of love, neither with any other men nor yet with her husband truly a cruel and rigorous order so far as the last was concerned !
I have heard speak of a Christian Prince, and a great one, who laid the same prohibition on a lady whom he affected, and on her husband likewise, by no means to touch her, so jealous was he of her favours.
Claudius, 3 son of Drusus Germanicus, merely put away his wife Plautia Urgulanilla, for having shown herself a most notorius harlot, and what is worse, for that he had heard how she had made an attempt upon his life. Yet cruel as he was, though surely these two reasons were enough to lead him to put her to death, he was content with divorce only.
Then again, for how long a time did he endure the wild doings and filthy debaucheries of Valeria Messalina, his second wife, who was not content with doing it with one and another here and there in dissolute and abandoned sort, but made it her regular practice to go to the brothels to get gratification of her passions, like the big- gest strumpet in all the city. So far did she go, as Juvenal doth describe, that so soon as ever her husband was to bed with her, she would slip lightly away from beside him, when she saw him fast asleep and disguising herself the best she could, would hie her to some common brothel, where she took all she could get, and still would retire weary rather than replete or satisfied. Nay ! she did even worse. For her better contentment, and to win the repute and self-satisfaction of being a good harlot and accomplished light-o'-love, she did even ask for pay- ment, and would tax each round and each several act, like a travelling cess-collector, to the last doit.
I have heard speak of a lady of the great world, and of no mean lineage neither, who for some while did follow the same life, and went thus to the common brothels in disguise, to make trial of this way of existence, and get gratification of her passions, so much so that one night the town-guard, while making their rounds, did actually arrest her unwittingly. And indeed there be other ladies too which play these pranks, as is well enough known.
Boccaccio 4 in his book of "Great Folks that have been Unhappy," doth speak of this Messalina in gentle terms, and representeth her making excuse for her ill behaviour, forasmuch as she was born by nature altogether for this course of life, the day of her birth being signalized by signs in the heavens which do show in all cases an hot and fiery complexion. Her husband was ware of it, and bore long with her, until he learned how that she was secretly mar- ried to Caius Silius, one of the handsome gallants of Rome. So seeing the matter was as good as a plot upon his life, he had her put to death on this count, though in no wise for her lechery; for this he was well accustomed to see and know, and to condone the same.
Anyone who hath seen the statue of the aforesaid Messalina found in these last days at the town of Bor- deaux will readily allow she did indeed bear the true look that comported with such a life. 'Tis an antique medal, found among some ruins ; and is very fine and well worthy to be preserved to look at and carefully examine. She is a very fine woman, of a very fine, tall figure, with hand- some features, and hair gracefully dressed in the old Roman fashion, and of very great stature, all manifest- ing she was what History doth declare her to have been. For, by what I gather from sundry philosophers, physi- cians and physiognomists, big women be naturally in- clined and well disposed to this thing. In truth such women are of a manly build, and so being, have share in the hot passions both of men and women, and con- joining the natures of both in one bodily frame, are thus more passionate and do possess more vigour than one alone, even as, they say, a great and deep-laden ship doth need deep water to bear her up. Moreover, by what the learned Doctors that be expert in the mysteries of love declare, a big woman is more apt and more delight- some thereto than a small one.
The which doth mind me of a very great Prince, whom I once knew. Wishing to commend a certain woman whose favours he had enjoyed, he said in this wise: " 'Tis a most excellent harlot, as big as my lady mother." Whereon being checked at the over-reckless vivacity of his speech, he did explain how that he meant _ not to say she was as great a harlot as his mother, but that she was of the like stature and as tall as was his mother. For sometimes a man doth say things he intendeth in no wise to say, as sometimes on the other hand he will say, with- out intending, the very actual truth.
Thus we see there is better cheer with big, tall women than with little ones, were it only for the noble grace and majesty, which they do own. For in this matter are these qualities as much called for and as attractive as in other exploits and exercises, neither more nor less for example than in horsemanship. Wherein the riding of a tall and noble charger of blood is an hundred fold more agreeable and pleasant than is that of a little pony, and doth give more enjoyment by far to the cavalier. Albeit must the same be a good rider, and carry himself well, and show much more strength and address. In sim- ilar wise must a man carry himself toward fine, tall women; for that such as be of this stature are wont to have a higher-stepping gait than others, and will full often make riders slip their stirrup, nay! even lose their saddle altogether, as I have heard some tell which have essayed to mount them. In which case do they straight make boast and great mockery, whenas they have unseated them and thrown them flat. So have I been told of a cer- tain lady of the good town of Paris, the which, the first time her lover did stay with her, said to him frankly: "Embrace me with a will, and clip me tight to you as well as ever you can ; and ride boldly, for I am high-paced, so beware of a fall. So for your part spare me not ; I am strong enough and expert enough to bear your assaults, be they as fierce as they may. For indeed, if you spare me, will I not spare you. A good ball de- serveth a good return." But insooth the lady did win the match.
Thus must a man take good heed to his behaviour with suchlike bold, merry, stalwart, fleshly and well-built dames ; and though truly the superabundant heat that is in them doth give great contentment, yet will they at times be overpressing by reason of their excessive pas- sionateness. However, as the proverb saith: There be good hinds of all sizes, so likewise are there little, dwarfish women which have action, grace and manner in these matters coming very nigh to their taller sisters, or mayhap they be fain to copy them, and as keen for the fray as they, or even more so, (I would appeal to the masters in these arts), just as a little horse will curvet every whit as nimbly as a big one. This bringeth to mind the saying of a worthy husband, who declared his wife was like divers animals and above all like an ape, for that when a-bed she would do naught but twist and turn and toss about.
Sundry reminiscences have beguiled me into this digres- sion. 'Tis time now to come back again to our original discussion.
Another case. That cruel tyrant Nero 5 did content himself with the mere putting away of his wife Octavia, daughter of Claudius and Messalina, for her adultery; and his cruelty stopped thereat.
Domitian 6 did even better, who divorced his wife Lon- gina, because she was so fondly enamoured of a certain comedian and buffoon named Paris, and did naught else all day long but play the wanton with him, neglecting the society of her husband altogether. Yet, after no long time, did he take her back again and repented him of the separation from her. Remember this: the said mountebank had taught her meantime sundry tricks of adroitness and cunning address, the which the Emperor did hope he would have good profit of !
Pertinax 7 did show a like clemency toward his wife Favia Sulpitiana. Not indeed that he did divorce her, nor yet take her again, but though well knowing her to be devoted to a singer and player of instruments of music, and to give all her love to the same, yet made he no complaint, but let her do her will. Meanwhile himself pursued an intrigue with one Cornificia, who was his own cousin german. Herein he did but follow the opinion of Heliogabalus, who was used to say there was naught in the world more excellent than the frequenting of one's own relations, male and female. Many there be that I wot of, which have made such exchanges and had such- like dealings, going upon the opinions of these two Princes !
So likewise did the Emperor Severus 8 take no heed of his wife's honour or dishonour, though she was a public harlot. Yet did he never think of correcting her therefor, saying only she was called Julia by her name, and that all who bare that name had from all time been fated to be mighty whores and to cuckold their husbands. In like wise do I know many ladies bearing certain names under this our Christian dispensation, I will not say who they be for the respect I owe to our holy Religion, the which are constantly used to be strumpets and to lift the leg more than other women bearing other names. Of such have been very few which have escaped this evil fate.
Well! of a truth I should never have done, were I to adduce all the infinity of examples of great ladies and Roman Emperors of yore, in whose case their husbands, though sore cajoled and albeit very cruel men, did yet refrain them from exerting their cruelty and undoubted rights and privileges against their wives, no matter how dissolute and ill-conducted these were. I ween few prudes were there in those old days, as indeed is sufficiently declared in the history of their lives, and as may be plainly discerned by careful examination of ancient portraits and medallions representing them; for indeed you may behold in their fair faces this same lubricity manifestly and obviously displayed by chisel and graver. Yet did their husbands, cruel Princes as these were, pardon them, and did put none of them to death, or but a very few. So would it seem true that these Pagans, not knowing God, yet were so gentle and clement toward their wives and the human race, while the most part of our Kings, Princes, great Lords and other Christian men, be so cruel toward the same for a like offence.
JATHELESS must we herein greatly commend our brave and good Philip Augustus, 1 King of France, who after having put away his wife Angerberge, sister of Canute, King of Den- mark, which was his second wife, under pretext she was his cousin in the third degree on the side of his first wife Ysabel, though others say he did suspect her of unfaith- fulness, yet did the said King, under the weight of eccle- siastical censures, albeit he had married again elsewhere, take her back again, and so conveyed her home behind him on horseback, without the privity of the Diet of Soissons, that had been summoned to decide this very matter, but was too dilatory to come to any conclusion thereon.
Nowadays never a one of our great men will do the like; but the least punishment they do their wives is to shut them up in perpetual prison, on bread and water, poisoning them or killing them, whether by their own hand or by legal process. If they have so great a desire to be rid of them and marry others, as doth often happen,
why do they not divorce them and honourably separate from them, without doing other hurt, and then ask power of the Pope to marry another wife? For surely what God hath joined together, man (without God's authority) may in no wise separate. Yet have we had sundry ex- amples thereof, and notably those of our French Kings Charles VIII. 2 and Louis XII. 3 Whereanent I did once hear a great Theologian discourse, namely with regard to the late King Philip of Spain, who had married his niece, the mother of the present King, and this by dis- pensation. He said thus: "Either must we outright allow the Pope to be God's Vicegerent on earth, and so absolutely, or else not at all. If he is, as we Catholics are bound to believe, we must entirely confess his power as absolute and unbounded on earth, and without limit, and that he can tie and untie as good him seemeth. But if we do not hold him such, well, I am sorry for them that be in such error, but good Catholics have naught to do with them." Wherefore hath our Holy Father authority over dissolutions of marriage, and can allay many grave inconveniences which come therefrom to husband and wife, when they do ill agree together.
Certainly women are greatly blameworthy so to treat their husbands and violate their good faith, the which God hath so strongly charged them to observe. But yet on the other hand hath he straitly forbid murder, and it is highly detestable to Him, on whosesoever part it be. Never yet hardly have I seen bloody folk and murderers, above all of their wives, but they have paid dear for it, and very few lovers of blood have ended well, whereas many women that have been sinners have won the pity of God and obtained mercy, as did the Magdalen.
In very deed these poor women are creatures more nearly resembling the Divinity than we, because of their beauty. For what is beautiful is more near akin to God who is all beautiful, than the ugly, which belongeth to the Devil.
The good Alfonzo, King of Naples, was used to say how that beauty was a token of good and gentle manners, as the fair flower is token of a good and fair fruit. And insooth have I seen in my life many fair women who were altogether good ; who though they did indeed indulge in love, did commit no evil, nor take heed for aught else but only this pleasure, and thereto applied all their care without a second thought.
Others again have I seen most ill-conditioned, harmful, dangerous, cruel and exceeding spiteful, naught hindering them from caring for love and evil-doing both together.
It may then well be asked, why, being thus subject to the fickle and suspicious humour of their husbands, the which do deserve punishment ten times more in God's eyes, why they are so sorely punished? Indeed and in- deed the complexion and humour of such folk is as griev- ous as is the sorry task of writing of them.
I speak next of yet another such, a Lord of Dalmatia, who having slain his wife's paramour, did compel her to bed habitually with his dead body, stinking carrion as it was. The end whereof was, the unhappy woman was choked with the evil stench she did endure for several days.
In the Cent Nouvelles of the Queen of Navarre will be found the most touching and saddest tale that can be read on this matter, the tale of that fair lady of Germany the which her husband was used to constrain to drink ever from the skull of her dead lover, whom he had slain. This piteous sight did the Seigneur Bernage, at that day ambassador in the said country for the French King Charles VIII., see and make report thereof. (see, Magdalen's Skull, A/N)
The first time ever I was in Italy, I was told, when passing through Venice, what did purport to be a true story of a certain Albanian knight, the which having surprised his wife in adultery, did kill the lover. And for spite that his wife had not been content with him, for indeed he was a gallant knight, and well fitted for Love's battles, so much so that he could engage ten or twelve times over in one night, he did contrive a strange punishment, and so did seek out carefully in all quarters a dozen stout fellows of the right lecherous sort, who had the repute of being well and vigorously built and very adroit in action. These he took and hired, and engaged the same for money. Then he did lock them in his wife's chamber, who was a very fair woman, and gave her up to them, beseeching them one and all to do their duty thoroughly, with double pay if that they did acquit themselves really well. Thus did they all go at her, one after another, and did handle her in such wise that they did kill her, to the great pleasure of her husband, who did cast it in her teeth, when she was nigh unto death, that having loved this pleasure so much, she could now have her fill thereof. Herein he but copied what Semiramis (or rather Thomyris) said, as she put Cyrus' head into a vessel full of blood. A terrible death truly !
The poor lady had not so died, if only she had been of the robust complexion of a girl that was in Caesar's camp in Gaul. Two legions did pass, 'tis said, over her body in brief space ; yet at the end of all she did dance a fling, feeling no hurt thereof.
I have heard speak of a Frenchwoman, town-bred, a lady of birth and of handsome looks, who was violated in our civil wars, in a town taken by assault, by a multitude of men-at-arms. On escaping away from these, she did consult a worthy Father as to whether she had sinned greatly, first telling him her story. He said, no! inasmuch as she had been had by force, and deflowered without her consent, but entirely misliking the thing. Whereon she did make answer: "Now God be praised, for that once in my life I have had my fill, without sinning or doing offence to God !
A lady of good quality, having been in like wise violated at the time of the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew, and her husband being dead, she did ask of a man of knowledge and right feeling, whether she had offended God, and whether she would not be punished of His sternness, and if she had not sorely wronged the manes of her husband, who had but only quite late been slain. He answered her, that if, when she was at this work, she had taken pleasure therein, then had she surely sinned ; but if she had felt but disgust at the thing, it was as if it had never been. A good and wise judgement!
I once knew well a lady who held quite other views, for she was used to say : Never did she feel so great a pleasure in these doings, as when she was half forced and all but violated as it were, and then was there much pleasure therein. The more a woman showeth herself rebellious and recalcitrant, so much the more doth the man wax ardent and push home the attack; and so having once forced the breach, he doth use his victory more fiercely and savagely, and thereby giveth more appetite to the woman. The latter is for very delight like one half dead and swooned, or so it seemeth; but really 'tis by reason of the extreme pleasure she findeth therein. Indeed the same lady did actually say further, that oftentimes she would make these ados and show resistance to her husband, and play the prudish, capricious and scornful wife, and so put him the more on his mettle. Whereby when he did come to it, both he and she did find an hundredfold more pleasure; for many writers have noted, a woman pleaseth better who makes some little difficulties and resistances than when she lets herself straightway be taken. So in War is a victory won by force more signalised and hailed with greater delight and enthusiasm than when had for nothing, and the riumph thereof is sweeter. Yet must not the lady in all this overdo the part of the peevish and evil-tempered jade, else may she likely be mistaken rather for a silly whore wishful to be playing of the prude. But at such interference would she be sore offended, to go by what I am told by such dames as are most versed and apt in these matters, to the whom I do appeal. For far be it from me to give them instruction in things they do understand much better than I !
Again, I have known many greatly blame some of these callous and murderous husbands on one count in especial, namely that, if their wives be whores, themselves are the cause of it. For, as Saint Augustine saith, it is great foolishness in an husband to demand chastity of his wife, himself being all the while plunged in the slough of lech- erous living; for such mode of life as he doth claim from his wife, the same he should follow himself. Moreover we do read in Holy Scripture how that it is not expedient that the husband and wife love each other so excessively, meaning by this with a wanton and lecherous love. For in that case do they set all their heart and mind on lustful pleasures, and think so much of these and give themselves up so entirely to the same, as that they do neglect the love which they owe to God. Thus have I myself seen many women who so loved their husbands, and their hus- bands them, and burned for them with such ardour, as that both of them did forget God's service utterly, inas- much as the time they should have given thereto, they did devote to their lecheries and employ the whole of it therein.
Furthermore, and this is a yet worse thing, these same husbands do teach their wives a thousand lecheries. The end is that for one fire brand of lust they have in their body to begin with, they do engender an hundred, and so make them exceeding lascivious, so that being so trained and instructed, they cannot later refrain them- selves from leaving their husbands to go after other swains. Whereat are their husbands in despair, and do punish their poor wives sorely. Herein they do commit great injustice, for it is only natural the wives, whenas they feel their heart stirred with satisfaction at being so well trained, should then wish to show others all they know ; but the husbands would fain have them hide their science. In all this is neither sense nor reason, no more than if a good horseman should have a well-trained horse, which could go all paces, and yet should suffer no man to see the same tried or to mount on its back, but should require folk to believe it on his mere word, and take the beast without other warranty.
I have heard tell of an honourable gentleman of the great world, who having fallen deep in love with a certain fair lady, was warned by a friend of his how that he was but wasting his time, seeing she did love her husband far too well. So one day he did contrive to make an hole which looked right into their room. Then when they were together, he failed not to spy at them through this hole, whereby he did behold the greatest lubricities and lecheries, and this as much, nay! even more, on the part of the wife than of the husband. Accordingly the next day he hied him to his comrade, and detailing all the fine sight he had had, did thus say to him: " The woman is mine, I tell you, so soon as ever the husband hath started on such and such a journey; for she will never be able for long to restrain herself under the ardour which nature and art as well have given her, but must needs assuage the same. And in this wise by dint of my perseverance shall I have her."
I know yet another honourable gentleman, the which being exceedingly enamoured of a fair and honourable lady, aware she had a copy of Aretino with pictures in her closet, as her husband well knew and had seen and did allow, straightway augured therefrom that he would overcome her. And so without losing hope, did he make love to her so well, and so long and patiently, that at the last he did win the day. And hereon did he find that she had indeed learned good lessons and excellent science, whether from her husband or from others, albeit neither the one nor the other had been her first masters, but Dame Nature rather, who was a better mistress therein than all the arts. Not but what the book and good practice had helped much in the matter, as she did later confess to him.
We read in ancient Writers of a great courtesan and procuress of the days of old Rome, by name Elephantis, who did make and invent postures or modes of the same sort as those of Aretino, but even worse, the which the great ladies and princesses of yore, following the ways of harlotry, did study as being a very excellent book.
Also that good dame and famous whore of Cyrene in Africa, who did bear the title of Dodecamechanos (she of the twelve devices), because she had discovered twelve several modes whereby to make the pleasure more wanton and voluptuous.
Heliogabalus was used to hire and keep in his pay, at the expense of much money and costly ifts, such men and women as did invent and bring forward new devices of this kind, the better to arouse his lecherousness. Yea ! and I have heard of other such that are like him among the great folk of our own day !
But a few years since did Pope Sixtus V. cause to be hanged at Rome a Secretary which had been in the service of the Cardinal d'Este and was named Capella, for many and divers offences, but amongst other that he had composed a book of these same fine postures, the which were figured by a great ecclesiastic whom I will not name for sake of his cloth, and by a great lady, one of the fair dames of Rome, the whole shown to the life and painted
I ONCE knew a Prince and a great man who did even better, for he had of a goldsmith a very fair cup made of silver gilt, by way of a masterpiece and very especial curiosity, the most high-wrought, well engraven and cunningly chiseled piece of work could anywhere be seen. And thereon were cut most featly and subtly with the graver sundry of the postures from Aretino, of men and women with one another; this on the lower part of the cup, and above and higher up sundry also of the divers modes of beasts.
And 'twas here I first learned (for many is the time I have seen the said cup and drunk therein, not without laughing) the way of cohabitation of the lion and lioness, the which is quite opposite to that of all other animals. This I had never known before, and as to its nature I refer me to those who are ware of the facts without my telling them. The said cup was the glory of the Prince's sideboard; for verily, as I have said, it was right fairly and richly wrought, and very pleasant to look at inside and out.
When this same Prince did give a feast to the ladies, married and single, of his Court, and not seldom was it his habit so to invite them, his butlers never failed, such was his strait command, to serve the company to drink in this cup. Then were such as had never afore seen it moved in divers ways, either while drinking or afterward. Some would be sore astonished, and know not what to say thereat ; some would be all ashamed and the scarlet leaping to their face; some again would be whispering low to one another: "Nay! what is all this carven inside? I fear me they be naughty pictures. I will never drink from the cup again. I must indeed be sore athirst before ever I ask for drink therefrom again?" Yet were they bound to drink from this cup, or burst with thirst; and to this end, would some shut their eyes in drinking, but the rest, who were less shamefaced, not. Such as had heard tell of the hang of it, as well matrons as maids, would be laughing the while under the rose; while such as had not, would be downright bursting with desire to do the like.
When asked what they had to laugh at and what they had seen, some would reply they had seen naught but some pictures, and for anything there was there they would make no ado about drinking another time. Others would say, "As for me, I think no ill thereof: what the eye sees or a picture shows forth doth never soil the soul." Some again would declare, "Bah! good wine is as good in this cup as in another;" and say it was as good to drink out of as any other, and did quench the thirst just the same. Then some of the ladies would be questioned, why they did not shut their eyes in drinking, to which they would make answer they were fain to see what they were drinking, for fear instead of wine it might be some drug or poison. Others would be asked which they did take the more pleasure in, seeing or drinking; whereto they would reply, "In both, of course." Some would be crying, "Oh! the quaint grotesques!" others, "Ah, ha! what be these merry mummeries we have here?" Some, " Oh ! the pretty pictures !" and others, " Here be fine figures to look at!" Some, " Well, well! Master Goldsmith must needs have had good leisure to while away his time in making these gewgaws !" Others, " And you, Sire! to think you should have taken this wondrous cup of him !" " Now feel ye not a something that doth touch you, ladies, at the sight?" They would enquire resently, to which the answer would come, " Nay ! never a one of all these droll images hath had power enough to stir me!" Others again would be asked, whether they had not found the wine hot, and whether it had not warmed them finely in this wintry weather; and they would answer, " Nay ! we noted no heat ; for indeed our draught was cold, and did much refresh us." Some they would ask, which of all these figures they would best love to have; and they would answer they could in no wise remove them from where they were to transport them thither.
In short, an hundred thousand gibes and quips and cranks would pass thereon between the gentlefolk and ladies at table, as I have myself seen, so that it did make right merry jesting, and a very pleasant thing to see and hear. But above all, to my thinking, best and most heartsome was it to watch those innocent maids, or mayhap them that figured only to be so, and other ladies newly come to Court, striving to maintain a cold mien, with an artificial laugh on their face and lips, or else holding themselves in and playing the hypocrite, as was the way with many ladies. And mind this, though they had been a-dying of thirst, yet durst not the butlers have given them to drink in any other cup or glass. Yea ! and likewise were there some ladies that sware, to put a good face on the matter, they would never, never come to these feasts again; but for all that did they in no wise fail to come again often enough, for truly the Prince was a right magnificent and dainty host. Other ladies would say, on being invited thither : "Well ! I will go, but under protest we shall not be given to drink in the cup;" yet when once they were there, would they drink therein as well as ever. At the last would they aye think better of it, and make no more scruple whatever about drinking. Nay ! some did even better, and turned the said images to good use in fitting time and place; and yet more than this, some did act dissolutely of set purpose to make trial of the same, for that every person of spirit would fain essay everything. So here we have the fatal effects of this cup so well dight. And hereanent must each fancy for himself all the other discourse, and thoughts and looks and words, that these ladies did indulge in and give vent to, one with another, whether in privity or in open company.
- Comme un qui prend une couppe,
- Seul honneur de son tresor.
- Et de rang verse a la trouppe
- Du vin qui rit dedans 1'or. *'-'
(As one who takes a cup, sole honour of all his treasure, and duly pours therein to the company good wine that laughs within the gold.)
However in this cup I tell of the wine laughed not at any, but rather the folk at the wine. For verily some dames did drink laughing, and others trembling with de- light; and yet others would be nigh compissoyent, I mean not of course just ordinary piddling, but something more. In a word the said cup did bring dire effects with it, so touching true were these images, figures and repre- sentations.
In likewise do I remember me how once, in a gallery of the Comte de Chasteau-Villain, known as the Seigneur Adjacet, a company of ladies with their lovers having come to visit the said fair mansion, they did fall to contemplating sundry rare and beautiful pictures in the Gallery thereof. Among these they beheld a very beautiful picture, wherein were pourtrayed a number of fair ladies naked and at the bath, which did touch, and feel, and handle, and stroke, one the other, and intertwine and fondle with each other, and so enticingly and prettily and featly did show all their hidden beauties that the coldest recluse or hermit had been warmed and stirred thereat. Wherefore did a certain great lady, as I have heard it told, and indeed I do know her well, losing all restraint of herself before this picture, say to her lover, turning toward him maddened as it were at the madness of love she beheld painted; "Too long have we tarried here. Let us now straightway take coach and so to my lodging; for that no more can I hold in the ardour that is in me. Needs must away and quench it; too sore do I burn." And so she did haste away to enjoy her faithful lover.
Suchlike pictures and portrayals do bring more hurt to a weak soul than men think for. Another of the same sort there, was a Venus naked, lying on a couch and eyed by her son Cupid ; another, Mars a-bed with Venus, another, a Leda with her swan. Many other there be, both there and elsewhere, that are somedel more modestly painted and better veiled than the figures of Aretino; but all do come pretty much to one and the same, and are of the like nature with our cup whereof I have been speaking. This last had, as it were, a sort of likeness in unlikeness to the cup which Renault de Montauban found in the Castle Ariosto doth tell of, the which did openly discover unhappy husbands that were cuckolds, whereas this one was more likely to make them so. But while the one did cause somewhat too great scandal to cuckolds and their faithless wives, the other had no such effect.
Nowadays is no need of these books or these pictures, for that husbands teach their wives themselves enough and to spare without them. And now for the results of suchlike husbands' schooling!
I knew an excellent Venetian printer at Paris named Messer Bernardo, a kinsman of the great Aldus Manutius of Venice, which did keep his shop in the Rue Saint-Jacques. The same did once tell me, and swear to it, that in less than a year he had sold more than fifty of the two volumes of Aretino to very many folks, married and unmarried, as well as to women of whom he did name three very great ladies of society; but I will not repeat the names. To these he did deliver the book into their own hands, and right well bound, under oath given he would breathe never a word of it though he did round it to me natheless. And he did tell me further how that another lady having asked him some time after, if he had not another like the one she had seen in the hands of one of the three, he had answered her: Signora, si, e peggio ("Yes, Madam, and worse") ; and she instantly, money on table, had bought them all at their weight in gold. Verily a frantic inquisitiveness for to send her husband a voyage to the haven of Cornette (the Horns), near by Civita-Vecchia.
All such devices and postures are abominable in God's sight, as indeed St. Jerome saith: "Whosoever doth show himself more unrestrainedly enamoured of his wife than a husband should, is an adulteror and committeth sin. And forasmuch as sundry Doctors of the Church have spoken thereof, I will sum up the matter shortly in Latin words, seeing themselves have not thought good to say it in plain language: Excessus, say they, conjugum fit, quando uxor cognoscitur ante retro stando, sedendo, in latere, et mulier super virum (Excess between married people is committed when the wife is known before by the husband standing behind, or sitting, or sideways, or the woman on top of the man). This last posture is referred to in a little couplet I once read, and which goes as follows :
- In prato viridi monialem ludere vidi
- Cum monacho leviter, ille sub, ilia super.
Other learned Doctors hold that any mode whatsoever is good, provided only that semen ejaculetur in matricem mulieris, et quomodocunque uxor cognoscatur, si vir ejac- tdetur semen in matricem, non est peccatum mortale.
These arguments are to be found in the Summa Bene- dicti. This Benedict * is a Doctor of the Cordeliers, who has writ most excellently of all the sins, and shown how that he hath both seen much and read widely. Anyone who will read this passage, will find therein a number of excesses which husbands do commit toward their wives. Thus he saith that quando mulier est ita pinguis ut non possit aliter coire, non est mortale peccatum, modo vir ejaculetur semen in vas naturale. Whereas others again say it were better husbands should abstain from their wives altogether when they are with child, as do the animals, than for them to befoul marriage with such abominations. I knew once a famous courtesan of Rome, called "The Greek," whom a great Lord of France had kept in that city. After some space, she had a strong desire to visit France, using to this end the Signer Bonvisi, a Banker of Lyons, a native of Lucca and a very rich man, who was her lover. Wherein having succeeded, she did make many enquiries concerning the said gentleman and his wife, and amongst other matters, whether mayhap she did not cuckold him, "seeing that," she would say, "I have so well trained her husband, and have taught him such excellent lessons, that he having once shown them to his wife and practised the same with her, it is not possible but that she have desired to show the same to others also. For insooth our trade is such an one, when it is well learned, that a woman doth find an hundred times more pleasure in showing and practising it with several than with one only." Furthermore did she say that the said lady ought of rights to make her a handsome present and one worthy of her pains and good teaching, foras- much as when her husband did first come to her school, he knew naught at all, but was in these matters the most silly, inexperienced prentice hand ever she had seen. But now, so well had she trained him and fashioned him that his wife must needs find him an hundred times better. For in fact the lady, desiring to see her, went to visit her in disguise; this the courtesan suspected, and held all the discourse to her I have detailed, and worse still and more dissolute, for she was an exceeding dissolute woman. And this is how husbands do forge the knives to cut their own throats withal ; or rather is it a question not of throats at all, but of horns! Acting after this sort do they pollute holy matrimony, for the which God doth presently punish them; then must they have their revenge on their wives, wherein are they an hundred times more deserving of punishment than before. So am I not a whit surprised that the same venerable Doctor did de- clare marriage to be in very truth but a kind of adultery, as it were ; thereby intending, when men did abuse it after the fashion I have been discoursing of.
Thus hath marriage been forbidden our priests ; for that it is no wise meet that, just come from their wives' bed and after polluting themselves exceedingly with them, they should then approach an holy altar. For, by my faith, so far as I have heard tell, some folk do wanton more with their wives than do the very reprobates with the harlots in brothels ; for these last, fearing to catch some ill, do not go to extremes or warm to the work with them as do husbands with their wives. For these be clean and can give no hurt, that is to say the most part of them, though truly not quite all ; for myself have known some to give it to their husbands, as also their husbands to them.
Husbands, so abusing their wives, are much deserving of punishment, as I have heard great and learned Doctors say ; for that they do not behave themselves modestly with their wives in their bed, as of right they should, but wanton with them as with concubines, whereas marriage was instituted for necessity of procreation, and in no wise for dissolute and lecherous pleasure. And this did the Emperor Sejanus Commodus, otherwise called Anchus Verus 5 , well declare unto us, when he said to his wife Calvilla, who did make complaint to him, for that he was used to bestow on harlots and courtesans and other the like what did of rights belong to her in her bed, and rob her of her little enjoyments and gratifications. "Bear with me, wife," he said to her, "that with other women I satiate my foul passions, seeing that the name of wife and consort is one deserving of dignity and honour, and not one for mere pleasure and lecherousness." I have never ,yet read or learned what reply his good wife the Empress made him thereto; but little doubt can be she was ill content with his golden saying, and did answer him from out her heart, and in the words of the most part, nay ! of all, married women : "A fig for your dignity and honour; pleasure for me! We thrive better on this last than on all the other."
Nor yet must we suppose for an instant that the more part of married men of to-day or of any other day, which have fair wives, do speak after this wise. For in- deed they do not marry and enter into wedlock, nor take their wives, but only in order to pass their time pleasure- ably and indulge their passion in all fashions and teach the same merry precepts, as well for the wanton move- ments of their body as for the dissolute and lascivious words of their mouth, to the end their love may be the better awaked and stirred up thereby. Then, after hav- ing thus well instructed and debauched their minds, if they do go astray elsewhere, lo! they are for sorely pun- ishing them, beating and murdering and putting of them to death.
Truly scant reasonableness is there in this, just as if a man should have debauched a poor girl, taking her straight from her mother's arms, and have robbed her of her honour and maidenhood, and should then, after hav- ing his will of her, beat her and constrain her to live quite otherwise, in entire chastity, verily an excellent and opportune thing to ask! Who is there would not condemn such an one, as a man unreasonable and de- serving to be made suffer? The same might justly be said of many husbands, the which, when all is said and done, do more debauch their wives and teach them more precepts to lead them into lechery than ever their gal- lants use, for they do enjoy more time and leisure there- for than lovers can have. But presently, when they cease their instructions, the wives most naturally do seek a change of hand and master, being herein like a good rider, who findeth more pleasure an hundredfold in mounting an horse than one that is all ignorant of the art. "And alack!" so used the courtesan we but now spake of to say, "there is no trade in all the world that is more cunning, nor that doth more call for constant prac- tice, than that of Venus." Wherefore these husbands should be warned not to give suchlike instructions to their wives, for that they be far and away too dangerous and harmful to the same. Or, if they needs must, and after- ward find their wives playing them a knavish trick, let them not punish them, forasmuch as it is themselves have opened the door thereto.
Here am I constrained to make a digression to tell of a certain married woman, fair and honourable and of good station, whom I know, the which did give herself to an honourable gentleman, and that more for the jealousy she bare toward an honourable lady whom this same gentleman did love and keep as his paramour than for
love. Wherefore, even as he was enjoying her favour, the lady said to him : "Now at last, to my great contentment, do I triumph over you and over the love you bear to such an one." The gentleman made answer to her : "A person that is beat down, brought under and trampled on, can scarce be said to triumph greatly." The lady taketh um- brage at this reply, as touching her honour, and straight- way makes answer, "You are very right," and instantly puts herself of a sudden to unseat the man, and slip away from him. Never of yore was Roman knight or warrior so quick and dexterous to mount and remount his horses at the gallop as was the lady this bout with her gallant. Then doth she handle him in this mode, saying the while, "Well then, at present I can declare truly and in good conscience I triumph over you, forasmuch as I hold you subdued under me." Verily a dame of a gay and wanton ambition, and very strange the way in which she did satisfy the same!
I have heard speak of a very fair and honourable lady of the great world, much given over to love, who yet was so arrogant and proud, and so high of heart, that when it came to it, never would she suffer her man to put her under him and humble her. For by so doing she deemed she wrought a great wrong to the nobility of her spirit, and held it a great piece of cowardice to be thus humbled and subdued, as in a triumphant conquest and enslavement ; but was fain ever to guard the upper hand and pre-eminence. And one thing that did greatly help her herein was that she would never have dealings with one greater in rank than herself, for fear that, using his authority and puissance, he might succeed in giving the law to her, and so turn, twist about and
trample her, just as he pleased. Rather for this work would she choose her equals and inferiors, to the which she could dictate their place and station, their order and procedure in the amorous combat, neither more nor less than doth a sergeant major to his men-at-arms on the day of battle. These orders would she in no wise have them overpass, under pain of losing what they most de- sire and value, in some cases her love, in others their own life. In such wise that never, standing or sitting or lying, could they prevail to return back and put upon her the smallest humiliation, submission or subservience, which she had done them. Hereanent I refer me to the words and judgement of such, men and women, as have dealt with such loves, stations and modes.
Anyway the lady we speak of could so order it, that no hurt should be done to the dignity she did affect, and no offence to her proud heart; for by what I have heard from sundry that have been familiar with her, she had powers enough to make such ordinances and regulations.
In good sooth a formidable and diverting woman's caprice, and a right curious scruple of a proud spirit. Yet was she in the right after all; for in truth is it a humiliating and painful thing to be so brought under and bent to another's will, and trod down, when one thinks of it quickly and alone, and saith to oneself, "Such an one hath put me under him and trod me underfoot," for underfoot it is, if not literally, at any rate in a manner of speaking, and doth amount to the same thing.
The same lady moreover would never suffer her infe- riors to kiss her on the mouth, "seeing it is so," she would say, "that the touch and contact of mouth to mouth is the most delicate and precious of all contacts, whether
of the hand or other members." For this reason would she not be so approached, nor feel on her own a foul, un- clean mouth, and one not meet for hers.
Now hereanent is yet another question I have known some debate: what advantage and overplus of glory hath the one, whether man or woman, over his companion, whenas they are at these amorous skirmishes and con- quests ?
The man on his side doth set forth the reasons given above, to wit, that the victory is much greater when as one holdeth his sweet enemy laid low beneath him, and doth subjugate, put underfoot and tame her at his ease and how he best pleaseth. For there is no Princess or great lady so high, but doth, when she is in that case, even though it were with an inferior or subordinate, suffer the law and domination which Venus hath ordained in her statutes ; and for this cause glory and honour do redound therefrom to the man in very high measure.
The woman on the other hand saith : "Yes ! I do confess you may well feel triumphant when you do hold me under you and put me underfoot. But if it be- only a question of keeping the upper station, I likewise do sometimes take that in mere sportiveness and of a pretty caprice that assaileth me, and not of any constraint. Further, when this upperhand position doth not like me, I do make you work for me like a very serf or galley-slave, or to put it better, make you pull at the collar like a veritable wag- gon-horse, and there you are toiling, striving, sweating, panting, straining to perform the task and labour I choose to exact from you. Meanwhile, for me, lo! I am at my ease, and watch your efforts. Sometimes do I make merry at your expense, and take my pleasure in seeing
you in such sore labour, sometimes too I compassionate you, just as pleaseth me and according as I am inclined to merriment or pity. Then after having well fulfilled my pleasure and caprice herein, I do leave my gallant there, tired, worn out, weakened and enervate, so he can do no more, and hath need of naught so much as of a good sleep and a good meal, a strong broth, a restorative, or some good soup to hearten him up. For me, for all such labours and efforts, I feel no whit the worse, but only that I have been right well served at your expense, sir gallant, and do experience no hurt; but only wish for some other to give me as much again, and to make him as much exhausted as you. And after this wise, never surrendering, but making my sweet foe surrender to me, 'tis I bear away the true victory and true glory, seeing that in a duello he that doth give in is dishonoured, and not he that doth fight on to the last dire extremity."
So have I heard this tale following told of a fair and honourable lady. One time, her husband having wakened her from a sound sleep and good rest she was enjoying, for to do the thing, when he was done, she said to him, "Well! 'tis you did it, not I." And she did clip him ex- ceeding tight with arms, hands, feet and legs crossed over each other, saying, "I will teach you to wake me up another time," and so with might and main and right good will, pulling, pushing and shaking her husband, and who could in no wise get loose, but who lay there sweat- ing and stewing and aweary, and was fain to cry her mercy, she did make him so exhausted, and so foredone and feeble, that he grew altogether out of breath and did swear her a sound oath how another time he would have her only at his own time, humour and desire. The tale is one better to imagine and picture to oneself than to de- scribe in words.
Such then are the woman's arguments, with sundry other she might very well have adduced to boot. And note how the humblest strumpet can do as much to a great King or Prince, if he have gone with her, and this is a great scorn, seeing that the blood royal is held to be the most precious can ever be. At any rate is it right care- fully guarded and very expensively and preciously accom- modated far more than any other man's !
This then is what the women do or say. Yet truly is it great pity a blood so precious should be polluted and con- taminated so foully and unworthily. And indeed it was forbid by the law of Moses to waste the same in any wise on the ground ; but it is much worse done to intermingle it in a most foul and unworthy fashion. Still 'twere too much to have them do as did a certain great Lord, of whom I have heard tell, who having in his dreams at night pol- luted himself among his sheets, had these buried, so scru- pulous-minded was he, saying it was a babe issuing there- from that was dead, and how that it was pity and a very great loss that this blood had not been put into his wife's womb, for then it might well be the child would have lived.
Herein might he very like have been deceived, seeing that of a thousand cohabitations the husband hath with the wife in the year, 'tis very possible, as I have above said, she will not become pregnant thereby, not once in all her life, in fact never in the case of some women which be eunuch and barren, and can never conceive. Whence hath come the error of certain misbelievers, which say that marriage was not ordained so much for the procrea- tion of children as for pleasure. Now this is ill thought and ill said, for albeit a woman doth not grow pregnant every time a man have her, 'tis so for some purpose of God to us mysterious, and that he wills to punish in this wise both man and wife, seeing how the greatest blessing God can give us in marriage is a good offspring, and that not in mere concubinage. And many women there be that take a great delight in having it, but others not. These latter will in no wise suffer aught to enter into them, as well to avoid foisting on their husbands children that are not theirs, as to avoid the semblance of doing them wrong and making them cuckolds.
For by this name of cuckoos (or cuckolds), properly appertaining to those birds of Springtide that are so called because they do lay their eggs in other birds' nests, are men also known by antinomy, 6 when others come to lay eggs in their nest, that is in their wives' article, which is the same thing as saying, cast their seed into them and make them children.
And this is how many wives think they are doing no wrong to their husbands in taking their fill of pleasure, provided only they do not become pregnant. Such their fine scruples of conscience! So a great lady of whom I have heard speak, was used to say to her gallant : "Take your pastime as much as ever you will, and give me pleas- ure; but on your life, take heed to let naught bedew me, else is it a question of life and death for you."
A like story have I heard told by the Chevalier de San- zay of Brittany, a very honourable and gallant gentle- man, who, had not death overtaken him at an early age, would have been a great seaman, having made a very good beginning of his career. And indeed he did bear the marks and signs thereof, for he had had an arm carried off by a cannon shot at a sea-fight he did engage in. As his ill luck would have it, he was taken prisoner of the Corsairs and carried off to Algiers. His master who had him as his slave, was the head Priest of the Mosque in that part, and had a very beauteous wife. This lady did fall so deep in love with the said Sanzay that she bade him come to have amorous dalliance and delight with her, saying how she would treat him very well, better than any of her other slaves. But above all else did she charge him very straitly, and on his life, or on pain of most rigorous imprisonment, not to emit in her body a single drop of his seed, forasmuch as, so she declared, she must in no wise be polluted and contaminated with Chris- tian blood, whereby she thought she would sorely offend against the law of her people and their great Prophet Mahomet. And further she bade him, that albeit she should even order him an hundred times over to do the whole thing outright, he should do nothing of the sort, for that it would be but the exceeding pleasure wherewith she was enraptured that made her say so to him, and in no wise the will of her heart and soul.
The aforesaid Sanzay, in order to get good treatment and greater liberty, Christian as he was, did shut his eyes this once to his law. For a poor slave, hardly entreated and cruelly chained, may well forget his principles now and again. So he did obey the lady, and was so prudent and so submissive to her order, as that he did minister right well to her pleasure. Wherefore the lady did love him the better, because he was so submissive to her strait and difficult command. Even when she would cry to him : "Let go, I say ; I give you full permission !" yet would he never once do so, for he was sore afraid of being beaten as the Turks use (bastinadoed), as he did often see his comrades beaten before his eyes.
Verily a strange and sore caprice; and herein it would seem she did well prevail, both for her own soul's sake which was Turk and for the other who was Christian. But he swore to me how that never in all his life had he been in so sore a strait !
He did tell me yet another tale, the most heartsome and amusing possible, of a trick she once put upon him. But forasmuch as it is not pleasant, I will repeat it not, for dread of doing offence to modest ears.
Later was the same Sanzay ransomed by his friends, the which are folk of honour and good estate in Brittany, and related to many great persons, as to the Connetable de Sanzay, who was greatly attached to his elder brother, and did help him much toward his deliverance. Having won this, the Chevalier did come to Court, and held much discourse to M. d'Estrozze and to me of his adventures and of divers matters, and amongst other such he told us these stories.
HAT are we to say now of some husbands which be not content only to procure them- selves entertainment and wanton pleasure with their wives, but do give the desire there- for to others also, their companions, friends and the like? For so have I known several which do praise their wives to these, detail to them their beauties, picture to them their members and various bodily parts, recount the pleasure that they have with them, and the caresses their wives do use towards them, make them kiss, touch and try them, and even behold them naked.
What do such deserve? Why! that they be cuckolded right off, as did Gyges, by the means of his ring, to Can- daules, 1 King of the Lydians. For the latter, fool that he was, having bepraised to Gyges the rare beauty of his wife, and at the last having shown her to him stark naked, he fell so madly in love with her that he did what seemed him good and brought Candaules to his death and made himself master of his Kingdom. 'Tis said the wife was in such despite and despair at having been so shown by her husband to another man, that she did herself constrain Gyges to play this traitorous part, saying thus to him: "Either must he that hath constrained and counselled you to such a thing die by your hand, or else you, who have looked on me in my nakedness, must die by the hand of another." Of a surety was the said King very ill advised so to rouse desire for a fresh dainty, so good and sweet, which it rather behoved him to hold very specially dear and precious.
Louis, Duke or Orleans, 2 killed at the Barbette Gate of Paris, did the exact opposite. An arrant debaucher was he of the ladies of the Court, and that even of the greatest among them all. For, having once a very fair and noble lady to bed with him, so soon as her husband came into his bedchamber to wish him good-morrow, he did promptly cover up the lady's head, the other's wife's that is, with the sheet, but did uncover all the rest of her body, letting him see her all naked and touch her at his pleasure, only with express prohibition on his life not to take away the linen from off the face, nor to uncover it in any wise, a charge he durst not contravene. Then did the Duke ask him several times over what he thought of this fair, naked body, whereat the other was all astonished and exceeding content. At the last he did get his leave to quit the chamber, and this he did without having ever had the chance to recognize the woman for his own wife.
If only he had carefully looked over her body and ex- amined the same, as several that I have known, he would mayhap have recognized her by sundry blemishes. Thus is it a good thing for men to go over sometimes and ob- serve their wives' bodies.
She, after her husband was well gone, was questioned of M. d'Orleans, if she had felt any alarm or fear. I leave you to imagine what she said thereto, and all the trouble and anguish she was in by the space of a quarter of an hour, seeing all that lacked for her undoing was some little indiscretion, or the smallest disobedience her husband might have committed in lifting the sheet. 'Twas doubtless M. d'Orleans' orders, but still he would surely, on his making discovery, have straightway slain him to stay him of the vengeance he would have wrought on his wife.
And the best of it was that, being the next night to bed with his wife, he did tell her how M. d'Orleans had let him see the fairest naked woman he had ever beheld, but as to her face, that he could give no news thereof, seeing the sight of it had been forbid him. I leave you to imagine what the lady must have thought within her heart. Now of this same lady and M. d'Orleans 'tis said did spring that brave and valiant soldier, the Bastard of Orleans, the mainstay of France and scourge of England, from
However to return to our tales of husband too ready to give others sight of their wives naked, I know one who, on a morning, a comrade of his having gone to see him in his chamber as he was dressing, did show him his wife quite naked, lying all her length fast asleep, having herself thrown her bed-clothes off her, it being very hot weather. So he did draw aside the curtain half way, in such wise that the rising sun shining upon her, he had leisure to contemplate well and thoroughly at his ease, which doing he beheld naught but what was right fair and perfect. On all this beauty then he did feast his eyes, not indeed as long as he would, but as long as he could; and after, the husband and he went forth to the Palace.
The next day, the gentleman who was an ardent lover of this same honourable lady, did report to her the sight he had seen, and even described many things he had noted. He said further it was the husband which did urge him thereto, and he and no other had drawn the curtain for him to see. The lady, out of the despite she then con- ceived against her husband, did let herself go, and so gave herself to his friend on this only account, a thing which all his service and devotion had not before been able to win.
I knew once a very great Lord, who, one morning, wish- ing to go an-hunting, and his gentlemen having come to find him at his rising, even as they were booting him, and he had his wife lying by him and holding him right close to her, he did so suddenly lift the coverlet she had no time to move away from where she rested, in such wise that they all saw her as much as they pleased even to the half of her body. Then with a loud laugh did the Lord cry to these gentlemen there present: "Well, well! sirs, have
not I let you see enough and to spare of my good wife?" But so vexed and chagrined was she at it all that she did conceive a great grudge against him therefor, and above all for the way she had been surprised. And it may well be, she did pay it back to him with interest later on.
I know yet another of these great Lords, who learning that a friend and kinsman of his was in love with his wife, whether to make him the more envious or to make him taste all the despite and despair he might conceive at the thought of the other possessing so fair a woman, and he having never so much as a chance of touching her, did show her him one morning, when he had come to see him, the pair being a-bed together. Yea ! he did even worse, for he did set about to embrace her before his eyes, as though she had been altogether in a privy place. Fur- ther he kept begging of his friend to see, saying he was doing it all to gratify him. I leave you to imagine whether the lady did not find in such conduct of her husband excuse to do likewise in all ways with the friend, and of good con- science, and whether he was not right well punished by being made to bear the horns.
I have heard speak of yet another, likewise a great Lord, who did the same with his wife before a great Prince, his master, but, 'twas by his prayer and commandment, for he was one that took delight in this form of gratifica- tion. Now are not such like persons blameworthy, for that after being pandars to their own wives, they will after be their executioners too?
It is never expedient for a man to expose his wife, any more than his lands, countries or places. And I may cite an example hereof which I did learn from a great Cap- tain. It concerns the late M. de Savoye, who did dissuade
the late King of France, 3 when on his return from Poland he was passing through Lombardy, and counselled him not to go to Milan or enter therein, alleging that the King of Spain might take umbrage thereat. But this was not the real cause at all ; rather was he afraid lest the King being once there and visiting all quarters of the city, and be- holding its beauty and riches and grandeur, might be assailed by an overwhelming desire to have it again and reconquer it by fair and honest right, as had done his predecessors. Now this was the true reason, as a great Prince said who knew the fact from our late King, who for his part quite well understood what the restriction meant. However, to be complaisant to M. de Savoye, and to cause no offence on the part of the King of Spain, he took his march so as to pass by the city, albeit he had all the wish in the world to go thither, by what he did me the honour to tell me after his return to Lyons. In this transaction we cannot but deem M. de Savoye to have been more of a Spaniard than a Frenchman.
I deem those husbands likewise very much to blame who after having received their life by favour of their wives, are so little grateful therefor, as that for any suspicion they have of their intriguing with other men, do treat them exceeding harshly, to the extent of making attempt upon their lives. I have heard speak of a Lord against whose life sundry conspirators having conspired and plot- ted, his wife by dint of her prayers did turn them from their purpose, and saved her husband from being assas- sinated. But nevertheless later on was she very ill re- warded by him and entreated most cruelly.
I have seen likewise a gentleman who, having been ac- cused and brought to trial for very bad performance of
his duty in succouring his General in a battle, so much so that he had left him to be killed without any help or suc- cour at all, was nigh to be sentenced and condemned to have his head cut off, and this notwithstanding 20,000 crowns the which he did give to save his life. Thereupon his wife spake to a great Lord holding high place in the world, and lay with him by permission and at the suppli- cation of the said husband; and so what money had not been able to do, this did her beauty and fair body effect, and she did save him his life and liberty. Yet after he did treat her so ill as that nothing could be worse. Of a surety husbands of the sort, so cruel and savage, are very pitiful creatures.
Others again have I known who did quite otherwise, for that they have known how to show gratitude to those that helped them, and have all their life long honoured the good dame that had saved them from death.
There is yet another sort of cuckolds, those who are not content to have been suspicious and difficult all their life, but when going to leave this world and on the point of death, are so still. Of this sort knew I one who had a very fair and honourable lady to wife, but yet had not always given her all to him alone. When now he was like to die, he said to her repeatedly: "Ah! wife mine, I am going to die ! And would to God you could have kept me company, and you and I could have gone together into the other world ! My death had not then been so hateful to me, and I should have taken it in better part." But the lady, who was still very fair and not more than thirty-seven years old, was by no means fain to follow him, nor agree with him in this. Nor yet was she willing to play the mad- woman for his sake, as we read did Evadne, daughter of
Mars and Thebe and wife of Capaneus, 4 the which did love her husband so ardently that, he having died, so soon as ever his body was cast on the fire, she threw herself thereon all alive as she was, and was burned and con- sumed along with him, in her great constancy and strength of purpose, and so did accompany him in his death.
Alcestis 5 did far better yet, for having learned by an oracle that her husband Admetus, King of Thessaly, was to die presently, unless his life were redeemed by the death of some other of his friends, she did straightway devote herself to a sudden death, and so saved her husband alive.
Nowadays are no women of this kindly sort left, who are fain to go of their own pleasure into the grave before their husbands, and not survive them. No! such are no more to be found; the dams that bare them are dead, as say the horse-dealers of Paris of horses, when no more good ones are to be got.
And this is why I did account the husband, whose case I but now adduced, ill-advised to make such proposals to his wife and odious so to invite her to death, as though it had been some merry feast to invite her to. It was an ar- rant piece of jealousy that did make him so speak, and the despite he did feel within himself, he would presently ex- perience yonder in the lower world, when he should see his wife, whom he had so excellently trained, in the arms of some lover of hers or some new husband.
What a strange sort of jealousy was this her husband must have been seized with for the nonce, and strange how he would keep telling her again and again how if he should recover, he would no more suffer at her hands what he had suffered aforetime ! Yet, so long as he was alive and well, he had never been attacked by the like feelings, but ever let her do at her own good pleasure.
The gallant Tancred 6 did quite otherwise, the same who in old days did so signalise his valour in the Holy War. Being at the point of death, and his wife beside him making moan, together with the Count of Tripoly, he did beg the twain when that he was dead, to wed one another, and charged his wife to obey him therein, the which they afterward did.
Mayhap he had observed some loving dalliance betwixt them during his lifetime. For she may well have been as very a harlot as her mother, the Countess of Anjou, who after the Comte de Bretagne had had her long while, went unto Philip, 7 the King of France, who did treat her the same fashion, and had of her a bastard daughter called Cicile, whom after he did give in marriage to this same valorous Tancred, who by reason of his noble exploits did of a surety little deserve to be cuckold.
An Albanian, having been condemned in Southern lands to be hung for some offence, being in the service of the King of France, when he was to be led out to his punish- ment, did ask to see his wife, who was a very fair and lovable woman, and bid her farewell. Then while he was saying his farewell and in the act of kissing her, lo! he did bite her nose right off and tear it clean out of her pretty face. And the officers thereupon questioning him why he had done this horrible thing to his wife, he replied he had done it out of sheer jealousy, "seeing she is very fair, for the which after my death I wot well she will straightway be sought after and given up to some other of my comrades, for I know her to be exceeding lecherous and one to forget me without more ado. I am fain there-
fore she bear me in memory after my death, and weep and be sorry. If she is not so for my death's sake, at least will she be sore grieved at being disfigured, and none of my comrades will have the pleasure of her I have had." Verily an appalling instance of a jealous husband!
I have heard speak of others who, feeling themselves old, failing, wounded, worn out and near to death, have out of sheer despite and jealousy privily cut short their mates' days, even when they have been fair and beauteous women.
Now as to such strange humours on the part of these cruel and tyrannic husbands which do thus put their wives to death, I have heard the question disputed, to wit, whether it is permitted women, when they do perceive or suspect the cruelty and murder their husbands are fain to practise against them, to gain the first hand and an- ticipate their aggressors and so save their own lives, mak- ing the others play the part first and sending these on in front to make ready house and home in the other world.
I have heard it maintained the answer should be yes, that they may do so, not certainly according to God's law, for thereby is all murder forbid, as I have said, but by the world's way of thinking, well enough. This opinion men base on the saying, better 'tis to be beforehand than behind. For no doubt everyone is bound to take heed for his own life; and seeing God hath given it us, we must guard it well till he shall call us away at our death. Otherwise, knowing their death to be planned, to go head- first into the same, and not to escape from it when they can, is to kill their own selves, a crime which God doth very greatly abhor. Wherefore 'tis ever the best plan to send them on ahead as envoys, and parry their assault, as
did Blanche d'Auverbruckt to her husband, the Sieur de Flavy, Captain of Compiegne and Governor thereof, the same who did betray the maid of Orleans, and was cause of her death and undoing. Now this lady Blanche, learn- ing that her husband did plot to have her drowned, got beforehand with him, and by aid of his barber did smother and strangle him, for which deed our King Charles VII. 8 gave her instantly his pardon; though for the obtaining of this 'tis like the husband's treason went for much, more indeed than any other reason. These facts are to be found in the Chronicles of France, and particularly in those of Guyenne.
The same was done by a certain Madame de la Borne, in the reign of Francis I. 9 This lady did accuse and inform against her husband for sundry follies committed and crimes, it may be monstrous crimes, he had done against her and other women. She had him thrown into prison, pleaded against him and finally got his head cut off. I have heard my grandmother tell the tale, who used to say she was of good family and a very handsome woman. Well ! she at any rate did get well beforehand !
Queen Jeanne of Naples, 10 the First of that name, did the like toward the Infanta of Majorca, her third hus- band, whose head she did cause to be cut off for the reason I have named in the Discourse dealing with him. But it may well be she did also fear him, and was fain to be rid of him the first. Herein was she much in the right, and all women in like case, to act thus when they are sus- picious of their gallants' purpose.
I have heard speak of many ladies that have bravely escaped in this fashion. Nay ! I have known one, who having been found by her husband with her lover, he said
never a word to one or the other, but departed in fierce anger, and left her there in the chamber with her lover, sore amazed and in much despair and doubt. Still the lady had spirit enough to declare, "He has done naught nor said naught to me this time; but I am sore afraid he doth bear rancour and secret spite. Now if I were only sure he was minded to do me to death, I would take thought how to make him feel death the first." Fortune was so kind to her after some while that the husband did die of himself; And hereof was she right glad, for never after his discovery had he made her good cheer, no matter what attention and consideration she showed him.
Yet another question is there in dispute as concerning these same madmen, these furious husbands and perilous cuckolds, to wit on which of the two they set and work their vengeance, whether on their wives, or their wives' lovers.
Some there be which have declared, "on the woman only," basing their doctrine on the Italian proverb morta la bastia, morta la rabbia o vereno "when the beast is dead, the madness, or venom, is dead." For they think, so it would seem, to be quite cured of their hurt when they have once killed her who caused the pain, herein doing neither more nor less than they who have been bit or stung by a scorpion. The most sovran remedy these have is to take the creature, kill and crush it flat, and put it on the bite or wound it hath made. The same are ready to say, and do commonly say, 'tis the women who are the more deserving of punishment. I here refer to great ladies and of high rank, and not to humble, com- mon and of low degree. For suchlike it is, by their lovely charms, their confidences, their orders given and soft words spoken, who do provoke the first skirmishes and bring on the battle, whereas the men do but follow their lead. But such as do call for war and begin it, are more deserving of blame than such as only fight in self-defence. For oftentimes men adventure themselves in the like dan- gerous places and on such high emprize, only when chal- lenged by the ladies, who do signify in divers fashions their predilection. Just as we see in a great, good, well- guarded frontier town, it is exceeding difficult to attack the same unawares or surprise it, unless there be some secret undertaking among some of the inhabitants, and some that do encourage the assailants to the attempt and entice them on and give them a hand of succour.
Now, forasmuch as women are something more fragile than men, they must be forgiven, and it should be remem- bered how that, when once they have begun to love and set love in their hearts, they will achieve it at what cost soever, not content, not all of them that is, to brood over it within, and little by little waste away, and grow dried up and sickly, and spoil their beauty therefor, which is the reason they do long to be cured of it and get pleasure therefrom, and not die in ferret's fashion, as the saying is. 11
Of a surety I have known not a few fair ladies of this humour, who have been foremost to make love to the other sex, even sooner than the men, and for divers accounts, some for that they see them handsome, brave, valiant and lovable; others to cozen them out of a sum of hard cash; others to get of them pearls and precious stones, and dresses of cloth of gold and of silver. And I have seen them take as great pains to get these things as a mer- chant to sell his commodities, and indeed they say the woman who takes presents, sells herself. Some again, to win Court favour ; others to win the like with men of the law. Thus several fair dames I have known, who though having no right on their side, yet did get it over to them by means of their fleshly charms and bodily beauty. Yet others again, only to live delicately by the giving of their body.
Many women have I seen so enamoured of their lovers, that they would, so to speak, chase them and run amain after them, causing the world to cast scorn at them therefor.
I once knew a very fair lady so enamoured of a Lord of the great world, that whereas commonly lovers do wear the colours of their ladies, this one on the contrary would be wearing those of her gallant. I could quite well name the colours, but that would be telling over much.
I knew yet another, whose husband, having affronted her lover at a tourney which was held at Court, the while he was in the dancing-hall and was celebrating his tri- umph, she did out of despite dress herself in man's clothes and went to meet her lover and offer him her favours in masquerade, for so enamoured of him was she, as that she was like to die thereof.
I knew an honourable gentleman, and one of the least spoken against at Court, who did one day manifest desire to be lover to a very fair and honourable lady, if ever there was one; but whereas she made many advances on her side, he on his stood on guard for many reasons and accounts. But the said lady, having set her love on him, and having cast the die this way at whatsoever hazard, as she did herself declare, did never cease to entice him to her by the fairest words of love that ever she could speak,
saying amongst other things: "Nay! but suffer at any rate that I love you, if you will not love me; and look not to my deserts, but rather to the love and passion I do bear you," though in actual truth she did outbal- ance the gentleman on the score of perfections. In this case what could the gentleman have done but love her, as she was very fain to love him, and serve her ; then ask the salary and reward of his service. This he had in due course, as is but reasonable that whoever doth a favour be paid therefor.
I could allege an infinite number of such ladies, which do seek toward lovers rather than are sought. And I will tell you why they have more blame than their lovers. Once they have assailed their man, they do never leave off till they gain their end and entice him by their alluring looks, their charms, the pretty made-up graces they do study to display in an hundred thousand fashions, by the subtle bepainting of their face, if it be not beautiful, their fine head-dresses, the rich and rare fashions of wearing their hair, so aptly suited to their beauty, their magnifi- cent, stately costumes, and above all by their dainty and half-wanton words, as well as by their pretty, frolic ges- tures and familiarities, and lastly by gifts and presents. So this is how men are taken: and being once taken, needs must they take advantage of their captors. Wherefore 'tis maintained their husbands are fairly bound to wreak their vengeance on them.
Others hold the husband should take his satisfaction of the men, when that he can, just as one would of such as lay siege to a town. For they it is are the first to sound the challenge and call on the place to surrender, the first to make reconnaissances and approaches, the first to throw up entrenchments of gabions and raise bastions and dig trenches, the first to plant batteries and advance to the assault, and the first to open negotiations ; and even so is it, they allege, with lovers. For like doughty, valiant and determined soldiers they do assault the fort- ress of ladies' chastity, till these, after all fashions of as- sault and modes of importunity have been duly observed, are constrained to make signal of capitulation and receive their pleasant foes within their fortifications. Wherein methinks they are not so blameworthy as they wauld fain make out ; for indeed to be rid of an importunate beggar is very difficult without leaving somewhat of one's own behind. So have I seen many who by their long service and much perseverance have at length had their will of their mistresses, who at the first would not, so to say, have given them their cvl a baiser, constraining them, or at any rate some of them, to this degree that out of pure pity, and tear in eye, they did give them their way. Just as at Paris a man doth very often give an alms to the beggars about an inn door more by reason of their im- portunity than from devotion or the love of God. The same is the case with many women, who yield rather for being over-importuned than because they are really in love as also with great and powerful wooers, men whom they do fear and dare not refuse because of their high authority, dreading to do them a displeasure and there- after to receive scandal and annoyance of them or a de- liberate affront or great hurt and sore disparagement to their honour. For verily have I seen great mischiefs happen in suchlike conjunctions.
This is why those evil-minded husbands, which take such delight in blood and murder and evil entreatment of
their wives, should not be so hasty, but ought first to make a secret inquiry into all matters, albeit such knowledge may well be grievous to them and very like to make them scratch their head for its sore itching thereat, and this even though some, wretches that they are, do give their wives all the occasion in the world to go astray.
Thus I once knew a great Prince of a foreign country, who had married a very fair and honourable lady. Yet did he very often leave her to go with another woman, which was supposed to be a famous courtesan, though others thought she was a lady of honour whom he had debauched. But not satisfied with this, when he had her to sleep with him, it was in a low-roofed chamber under- neath that of his wife and underneath her bed. Then when he was fain to embrace his mistress, he was not con- tent with the wrong he was doing his lady already, but in derision and mockery would with a half-pike knock two or three blows on the floor and shout up to his wife: "A health to you, wife mine !" This scorn and insult was repeated several days, and did so anger his wife that out of despair and desire of vengeance she did accost a very honourable gentleman one day and said to him privily: "Sir! I am fain you should have your pleasure of me; otherwise do I know of means whereby to undo you." The other, right glad of so fine an adventure, did in no wise refuse her. Wherefore, so soon as her husband had his fair leman in his arms, and she likewise her fond lover, and he would cry, "A health!" to her, then would she answer him in the same coin, crying, "And I drink to you!" or else, "I pledge you back, good Sir !"
These toasts and challenges and replies, so made and arranged as to suit with the acts of each, continued some
longish while, till at length the Prince, a wily and sus- picious man, did suspect something. So setting a watch, he did discover how his wife was gaily cuckolding him all the while, and making good cheer and drinking toasts just as well as he was, by way of retaliation and revenge. Then having made sure it was verily so, he did quick alter and transform his comedy into a tragedy; and having challenged her for the last time with his toast, and she having rendered him back his answer and as good as he gave, he did instantly mount upstairs, and forcing and breaking down the door, rushes in and reproaches her for her ill-doing. But she doth make answer on her side in this wise, "I know well I am a dead woman. So kill me bodily; I am not afraid of death, and do welcome it gladly, now I am avenged on you, seeing I have made you cuckold. For you did give me great occasion thereto, without which I had never gone astray. I had vowed all fidelity to you, and never should I have broken my troth for all the temptations in the whole world. Nay! you were no wise worthy of so honest a wife as I. So kill me straightway; but if there is any pity in your hand, pardon, I beseech you, this poor gentleman, who of him- self is no whit to blame, for I did invite him and urge him to help me to my vengeance." The Prince, over cruel altogether, doth ruthlessly kill the twain. But what else should this unhappy Princess have done in view of the indignities and insults of her husband, if not what, in despair of any other succour in all the world, she did? Some there be will excuse her, some accuse her; many arguments and good reasons may be alleged thereanent on either side.
In the Cent Nouvelles of the Queen of Navarre is an almost similar tale, and a very fine one to boot, of the Queen of Naples, who in like manner did revenge herself on the King her husband. Yet 'Fas the end thereof not so tragical.
7. i|O now let us have done with these demons and mad, furious cuckolds and speak no more of them, for that they be odious and unpleasing, seeing I should never have finished if I should tell of them all, and moreover the subject is neither good nor pleasant. Let us discourse a while of kindly cuckolds, such as are good fellows, of placable humour, men easy to deal with and of a holy patience, well humoured and readily appeased, that shut the eyes and are good- natured fools.
Now of these some are predestined of their very nature to be so, some know how it is before they marry, to wit, know that their ladies, widows or maids, have already gone astray ; others again know naught of it at all, but marry them on trust, on the word of their fathers and mothers, their family and friends.
I have known not a few which have married women and girls of loose life, whom they well knew had been passed in review by sundry Kings, Princes, Lords, gentlemen and other folk. Yet for love of them, or attracted by their goods, jewels and money that they had won at the trade of love, have made no scruple to wed them. However I propose here to speak only of the girls of this sort. I have heard speak of a mistress of a very great and sovereign Prince, who being enamoured of a certain gentleman, and in such wise behaving herself toward him as to have received the first fruits of his love, was so desirous thereof that she did keep him a whole month in her closet, feeding him on fortifying foods, savoury soups, dainty and comforting meats, the better to distil and draw off his substance. Thus having made her first apprentice- ship with him, did she continue her lessons under him so long as he lived, and under others too. Afterward she did marry at the age of forty-five years to a Lord, 1 who found naught to say against her, but rather was right proud of so rare a marriage as he had with her.
Boccaccio repeats a proverb which was current in his day to the effect that a mouth once kissed (others have it differently) is never out of luck; her fortune is like the moon, and waxeth ever anew. This proverb he doth quote in connection with a story he relates of that fair daughter of the Sultan of Egypt who did pass and repass by the weapons of nine different lovers, one after the other, at the least three thousand times in all. At long last was she delivered to the King of Garba a pure virgin, that is, 'twas so pretended, as pure as she was at the first promised to him; and he found no objection to make, but was very well pleased. The tale thereof is a right good one.
I have heard a great man declare that, with many great men, though not all it may be supposed, no heed is paid in case of women of this sort to the fact, though three or four lovers have passed them through their hands, before they make them their wives. This he said anent of a story of a great Lord who was deeply enamoured of a great lady, and one of something higher quality than himself, and she loved him back. However there fell out some hindrance
other. Whereupon this great nobleman, the which I have just spoken of, did straightway ask: "Did he mount the little jade, anyway?" And when he was answered, "no!" in the other's opinion and by what men told him, "So much the worse then," he added, "for at any rate they had had so much satisfaction one of the other, and no harm would have been done !" For among the great no heed is paid to these rules and scruples of maidenhood, seeing that for these grand alliances everything must be excused. Only too delighted are they, the good husbands and gentle suckling cuckolds.
At the time when King Charles did make the circuit of his Kingdom, there was left behind in a certain good town, which I could name very well had I so wished, a female child whereof an unmarried girl of a very good house had been delivered. So the babe was given to a poor woman to nurse and rear, and there was advanced to her a sum of two hundred crowns for her pains. The said poor woman did nurse the infant and manage it so well that in fifteen years' time the girl grew up very fair, and gave herself to a life of pleasure. For never another thought had she of her mother, who in four months after wedded a very great nobleman. Ah! how many such have I known of either sex, where the like things have been, and no man suspect- ing aught!
I once heard tell, when I was in Spain, of a great Lord of Andalusia who had married a sister of his to another very great Lord, and who three days after the marriage was consummated, came and said to him thus : Senor her- mano, agora que soys cazado con my herman, y I'haveys bien godida solo, yo le hago aher que siendo hija, tal y tal gozaron d'ella. De lo passado no tenga cuydado, que poca
cosa es. Dell futuro quartate, que mas y mucho a vos toca. (My Lord and brother, now that you are married to my sister and alone enjoy her favours, it behooves you to know that when she was yet unwed, such and such an one did have her. Take no heed of the past, for truly 'tis but a small thing ; but beware of the future, seeing now it doth touch you much more close), as much as to say that what is done is done, and there is no need to talk about it, but it were well to be careful of the future, for this is more nearly concerned with a man's honour than is the past.
Some there be are of this humour, thinking it not so ill to be cuckold in the bud, but very ill in the flower, and there is some reason in this.
I have likewise heard speak of a great Lord of a foreign land, which had a daughter who was one of the fairest women in the world ; and she being sought in marriage by another great Lord who was well worthy of her was bestowed on him by her father. But before ever he could let her go forth the house, he was fain to try her him- self, declaring he would not easily let go so fine a mount and one which he had so carefully trained, without himself having first ridden thereon, and found out how she could go for the future. I know not whether it be true, but I have heard say it is, and that not only he did make the essay, but another comely and gallant gentleman to boot. And yet did not the husband thereafter find anything bitter, but all as sweet as sugar. He had been very hard to please if he had otherwise, for she was one of the fairest dames in all the world.
I have heard the like tales told of many other fathers, and in especial of one very great nobleman, with regard to
their daughters. For herein are they said to have shown no more conscience than the Cock in Aesop's Fable. This last, when he was met by the Fox, who did threaten him and declare he purposed to kill him, did therefore proceed to rehearse all the benefits he wrought for mankind and above all else the fair and excellent poultry that came from him. To this the fox made answer, "Ha, ha!" said he, "that is just my quarrel with you, sir gallant ! For so lecherous are you, you make no difficulty to tread your own daughters as readily as the other hens," and for this crime did put him to death. Verily a stern and artful judge!
I leave you then to imagine what some maids may do with their lovers, for never yet was there a maid but had or was fain to have a lover, and that some there be that brothers, cousins and kinsfolk have done the like with.
In our own days Ferdinand, King of Naples, 2 knew thus in wedlock his own aunt, daughter of the King of Castile, at the age of 13 or 14 years, but this was by dispensation of the Pope. Difficulties were raised at the time as to whether this ought to be or could be so given. Herein he but followed the example of Caligula, the Roman Em- peror, who did debauch and have intercourse with each of his sisters, one after the other. And above and beyond all the rest, he did love exceedingly the youngest, named Drusilla, whom when only a lad he had deflowered. And later, being then married to one Lucius Cassius Longinus, a man of consular rank, he did take her from her husband, and lived with her openly, as if she had been his wife, so much so indeed that having fallen sick on one occasion, he made her heiress of all his property, including the Empire itself. But it fell out she died, which he did
grieve for so exceedingly sore that he made proclamation to close the Courts and stay all other business, in order to constrain the people to make public mourning along with him. And for a length of time he wore his hair long and beard untrimmed for her sake ; and when he was harangu- ing the Senate, the People or his soldiers, never swore but by the name of Drusilla.
As for his other sisters, when that he had had his fill of them, he did prostitute them and gave them up to his chief pages which he had reared up and known in very foul fashion. Still even so he had done them no outrageous ill, seeing they were accustomed thereto, and that it was a pleasant injury, as I have heard it called by some maids on being deflowered and some women who had been ravished. But over and above this, he put a thousand indignities upon them; he sent them into exile, he took from them all their rings and jewels to turn into money, having wasted and ill guided all the vast sums Tiberius had left him. Natheless did the poor girls, having after his death come back from banishment, and seeing the body of their brother ill and very meanly buried under a few clods of earth, have it disinterred and burned and duly buried as honourably as they could. Surely a good and noble deed on the part of sisters to a brother so graceless and un- natural !
The Italian, by way of excusing the illicit love of his countryman, says that quando messer Bernardo, il bu- ciacchio sta in colera et in sua rabbia, non riceve legge, et non perdona a nissuna dama, "when messer Bernardo, the young ox, stand up in anger and in his passion, he will receive no laws and spare no lady."
We can find plenty of examples amongst the Ancients of
such as have done the same. However to come back to our proper subject, I have heard a tale of one who having married a fair and honourable damsel to one of his friends, and boasting that he had given him a right good and noble mount, sound, clean and free from knots and malanders, as he put it, and that he lay the more under obligation to him therefor, he was answered by one of the company, who said aside to one of his comrades : "That is all quite true, if only she had not been mounted and ridden so young and far too soon. For it has made her a bit foulee in front."
But likewise I would fain ask these noble husbands whether, if such mounts had not often some fault, some little thing wrong with them, some defect or blemish, they would make the match with others who are more deserving than they, like horse-dealers who do all they can to get rid of their blemished horses, but always with those that know naught of the matter. Even so, as I have heard many a father say, 'tis a very fine riddance to be quit of a blemished daughter, or one that doth begin to be so, or seems by her looks like to be.
How many damsels of the great world I know who have not carried their maidenhood to the couch of Hymen, but who have for all that been well instructed of their mothers, or other their kinswomen and friends, right cunning pimps as they are, to make a good show at this first assault. Divers are the means and contrivances they do resort to with artful subtleties, to make their husbands think it well and convince them never a breach has been made before. The most part resort to the making of a desperate resist- ance and defence at this point of attack, and do fight obstinately to the last extremity. Whereof there are some
husbands much delighted, for they do firmly believe they have had all the honour and made the first conquest, like right determined and intrepid soldiers. Then next morn- ing they have fine tales to tell, how they have strutted it like little cocks or cockerels that have eat much millet- seed in the evening, making many boasts to their com- rades and friends, and even mayhap to the very men who have been the first to invade the fortress, unwittingly to them. Whereat these do laugh their fill in their sleeves, and with the women their mistresses, and boast they did their part well too, and gave the damsels as good as they got.
Some suspicious husbands there be however who hold all this resistance as of bad augury, and take no satisfaction in seeing them so recalcitrant. Like one I know who asked his wife why did she thus play the prude and make difficulties, and if she disdained him so much as all that; but she thinking to make excuse and put off the fault on something else than disdain, told him 'twas because she was afraid he would hurt her. To this he retorted, "Now have you given proof positive, for no hurt can be known without having been first suffered." But she was wily, and denied, saying she had heard tell of it by some of her companions who had been married, and had so advised her. And, "Hum! fine advice truly and fine words!" was all he could say.
Another remedy these women recommend is this, next morning after their wedlock to show their linen stained with drops of blood, the which the poor girls shed in the cruel work of their deflowering. So is it done in Spain, where they do publicly display from the window the afore-
said linen, crying aloud, "Virgen la tenemos," "we hold her for a maid."
Likewise of a surety I have heard say that at Viterbo 3 this custom is similarly observed. Moreover, seeing such damsels as have previously affronted the battle cannot make this display of their own blood, they have devised the plan, as I have heard say, and as several young courtesans at Rome have themselves assured me, the better to sell their maidenhood, of staining the said linen with pigeon's blood, which is the most meet of all for the purpose. So next morning the husband doth see the blood and doth feel a great satisfaction thereof, and doth believe firmly 'tis the virginal blood of his wife. He thinks himself a gallant and happy man, but he is sore deceived all the while.
Hereanent will I repeat the following merry tale of a gentleman who had his string tied in a knot the first night of his wedlock ; but the bride, who was not one of the very fair and high-born sort, fearing he would be sore enraged thereat, did not fail, by advice of her good comrades, matrons, kinswomen and good friends, to have the bit of linen stained as usual. But the mischief for her was that the husband was so sore tied that he could do naught at all, albeit she thought no harm to make him a very enticing display and deck herself for the assault as well as ever she could, and lie conveniently without playing the prude or making any show of reluctance or deviltry. At least so the lookers-on, hid near by according to custom, did report; and indeed she did so the better to conceal the loss of her maidenhood elsewhere. But for all the red linen, he had really done naught whatever.
At night, by established custom, the midnight repast
having been carried in, there was as usual a worthy guest ready to advise that in the customary wedding scramble they should filch away the sheet, which they did find finely stained with blood. This was instantly displayed and all in attendance were assured by loud cries she was no longer a maid, and here was the evidence her virgin membrane had been deforced and ruptured. The husband, who was quite certain he had done naught, but who nevertheless was fain to pose as a brave and valiant champion, re- mained sore astounded and wot not what this stained sheet might mean. Only after sufficient pondering, he did begin to suspect some knavish, cunning harlot's trick, yet never breathed a word.
The bride and her confidantes were likewise sore troubled and astounded for that the husband had so missed fire, and that their business was not turning out better. Nothing however was suffered to appear till after a week's time, when lo ! the husband found his knot untied, and did straight let fly with might and main. Whereat being right glad and remembering naught else, he went forth and published to all the company how in all good conscience he had now given proof of his prowess and made his wife a true wife and a proper married woman; but did confess that up till then he had been seized with absolute impotence to do aught. Hereupon those present at the time did hold diverse discourse, and cast much blame and scorn on the bride, whom all had deemed a wife by her stained linen. Thus did she bring scandal on herself, albeit she was not properly speaking an altogether cause thereof, but rather her husband, who by feebleness, slackness and lack of vigour did spoil his
Again, there are some husbands that do know at their first night as to the maidenhood of their wives, whether they have won it or no, by the signs they find. So one that I know, who did marry a wife in second wedlock ; but the wife was for making him believe her first husband had never touched her, by reason of his impotence, and that she was virgin and a maid, as much as before being married at all. Yet did he find her of such ample capacity that he ex- claimed, "What ho ! are you the maid of Marolles, so tight and small as they told me you were?" So he had just to take it as it was, and make the best of it. For if her first husband had never touched her, as was quite true, yet many another man had.
|UT what are we to say of some mothers who, seeing the impotence of their sons-in-law, or that they have the string knotted or some other defect, are procuresses to their own daughters. Thus to win their jointures, they get them to yield to others, and often to become with child by them, to the end they may have offspring to inherit after the death of the father.
I know one such who was ready enough to give this counsel to her daughter, and indeed spared no effort to bring it about, but the misfortune for her was that never could she have a child at all. Also I know a husband who, not being able to do aught to his wife, did yield his place to a big lackey he had, a handsome lad, to lie with his wife and deflower her as she slept, and in this way save his
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honour. But she did discover the trick and the lackey had no success. For which cause they had a long suit at law, and finally were separated.
King Henry of Castile 1 did the like, who as Fulgo- sius 2 relates, seeing he could make no children with his wife, did call in the help of a handsome young gentleman of his Court to make them for him. The which he did; and for his pains the King gave him great estates and advanced him in all honours, distinctions and dignities. Little doubt the wife was grateful to him therefor, and did find the arrangement much to her liking. This is what I call an accommodating cuckold !
As to these "knotted strings" spoken of above, there was lately a law process thereanent in the Court of the Parliament of Paris, between the Sieur de Bray, High Treasurer, and his wife, to whom he could do naught, suf- fering as he did from this or other like defect, for which the wife, once well married, did call him to account. It was ordered by the Court that they should be visited, the two of them, by great doctors expert in these matters. The husband did choose his, and the wife hers. And hereon was writ a right merry sonnet at the Court, the which a great lady read over to me herself, and gave me, whenas I was dining with her. 'Twas said a lady had writ it, though others said a man. Here it is :
Entre les medecins renommes a Paris En scavoir, en espreuve, en science, en doctrine, Pour juger 1'imparfait de la coupe androgine, Par de Bray et sa femme ont este sept choisis, 
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De Bray a eu pour lui les trois de moindre prix, Le Court, 1'Endormy, Pietre: et sa femme plus fine, Les quatre plus experts en 1'art de medecine, Le Grand, le Gros, Duret et Vigoureux a pris.
On peut par la juger qui des deux gaignera, Et si le Grand du Court victorieux sera, Vigoureux d'Endormy, le Gros, Duret, de Pietre.
Et de Bray n'ayant point ces deux de son coste, Estant tant imparfait que mari le peut estre, A faute de bon droict en sera deboute.
(Among all the great doctors of Paris, famed for knowledge, skill, science and learning, seven were chosen out by de Bray and his wife, to judge of the defect in the cup of man and wife. De Bray has on his side the three of lesser price, Le Court, 1'Endormy, Pietre (Drs. Short, Sleepy, Puny) ; his wife has been cleverer and taken Le Grand, Le Gros, Duret and Vigoureux (Drs. Tall, Stout, Hardy and Vigorous). From this it may be guessed which of the pair will gain the day, and if Le Grand will give a good account of Le Court, Vigoureaux, of En- dormy, Le Gros and Duret of Pietre. So de Bray not having these two on his side, and being as ill-dowered as a husband can well be, for lack of a good case will surely be nonsuited.)
I have heard speak of another husband, who did hold his new-made wife in his arms the first night; and she was so ravished with delight and pleasure that quite for- getting herself she could not refrain from a slight turning and twisting and mobile action of the body, such as new wed wives are scarce wont to make. At this he said naught
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else, but only, "Ha, ha ! I know now," and went on his way to the end. These be our cuckolds in embryo, of the which I could tell thousands of tales, but I should never have done. And the worst thing I see in them is when they wed cow and calf at once, as the saying is, and take them when already great with child. Like one I know, who had married a very fair and honourable damsel, by the favour and wish of their Prince and feudal Lord, who was much attached to the said gentleman and had made the marriage. But at the end of a week it became known she was with child, and she did actually publish it abroad, the better to play her part. The Prince, who had always sus- pected some love-making between her and another, said to her, "My lady! I have carefully writ down on my tablets the day and hour of your marriage; when folk shall set these against the time of your bringing to bed, you will have bitter shame!" But she at this word only blushed a little, and did naught else thereanent, but only kept ever the mien and bearing of a donna da ben (vir- tuous lady).
Then again there are some daughters which do so fear their father and mother they had rather lose the life out of their bodies than their maidenhood, dreading their parents an hundred times more than their husbands.
I have heard speak of a very fair and honourable dam- sel, who being sore tempted by her lover to take her pleas- ure of his love, did answer "under this cloak of marriage which doth cover all, we will take our joy with a right good will."
Another, being eagerly sought after by a great noble- man, she said to him, "Petition our Prince and put some pressure on him, that he wed me soon to him that is now
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my suitor, and let me quickly make good my marriage that he hath promised me. The day after my wedding, if we meet not one another, why ! the bargain is off !"
I know a lady who was wooed to love but four days before her bridal by a gentleman, and kinsman of her husband; yet six days after he did enjoy his will, at any rate he did make boast to the effect. Nor was it hard to believe, for they did show such familiarity the one to the other, you would have said they had been brought up together all their lives. Moreover he did even tell sundry signs and marks she had on her body, and further that they did continue their merry sport long while after. The gentleman always declared the famil- iarity that did afford them opportunity to come so far was, that in order to carry out a masquerade they did change clothes with one another. He took the dress of his mistress and she that of her admirer, whereat the hus- band did nothing but laugh, though some there were did find occasion to blame them and think ill of the thing. There was made a song about it at Court, of a husband who was married o' Tuesday and cuckolded o' Thursday, a fair rate of progress in sooth!
What shall we say of another damsel who was long while wooed by a gentleman of a good house and rich, but for all that niggardly and not worthy of her? So being hard pressed at the instance of her family to marry him, she made answer she had liever die than marry him, and that he should be spoken thereof to her or to her kins- folk. For, she declared, if they did force her to marry him, she would only make him cuckold. But for all that it behooved to go by that road, for so was she constrained by the urgency of all the great folk, men and women, who
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had influence and authority over her, as well as by her kinsfolks' orders.
On the eve of her bridal, her husband seeing her all sad and pensive, asked her what ailed her ; and she did answer him angrily, "You would never believe me, and be per- suaded to leave off your pursuit of me. You know what I have always said, that if ever I were so unfortunate as to become your wife, I would make you cuckold. And I swear I will do so, and keep my word to you." She was in no wise dainty about saying the same before sundry of her lady companions and male admirers. Afterward rest assured she was as good as her word, and did show him she was a good and true woman, for that she kept her promise faithfully !
I leave you to judge whether she is to be blamed, for a man once warned should be twice careful, and she did plainly tell him the ill plight he would fall into. So why would he not take heed? But indeed he thought little enough of what she said.
These maids which thus let themselves go astray straightway after being married, but do as the Italian proverb saith: Che la vacca, che e stata molto tempo ligata, corre piu che quella che ha havuto sempre piana libertd, "The cow that hath been long tied up, runs more wild than one that hath ever had her full liberty." Thus did the first wife of Baldwyn, King of Jerusalem, whom I have spoken of before, who having been forced to take the veil by her husband, brake from the cloister and escaped out, and making now for Constantinople, behaved herself in such wanton wise as that she did bestow her favours on all wayfarers by that road, whether going or coming, as well men-at-arms as pilgrims to Jerusalem,
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without heed to her Royal rank. But the reason was the long fast she had had therefrom during her imprisonment.
I might easily name many other such. Well \ they are a good sort of cuckolds these, as are likewise those others which suffer their wives' unfaithfulness, when these be fair and much sought after for their beauty, and abandon them to it, in order to win favour for themselves, and draw profit and wealth therefrom. Many such are to be seen at the Courts of great Kings and Princes, the which do get good advantage thereby; for from poor men as they were aforetime, whether from pledging of their goods, or by some process of law, or mayhap through the cost of warlike expeditions, they be brought low, are they straight raised up again and enriched greatly by way of their good wives' trou. Yet do they find no diminution whatever in that same place, but rather augmentation \
Herein was the case different with a very fair lady I have heard tell of, for that she had lost the half of her affair by misadventure, her husband having, so they said, given her the pox which had eaten it away for her.
Truly the favours and benefits of the great may well shake the most chaste hearts, and are cause of many and many a cuckoldry. And hereanent I have heard the tale related of a foreign Prince 8 who was appointed General by his Sovereign Prince and master of a great expedi- tion of War he had ordered to be made, and left his wife behind, one of the fairest ladies in all Christendom, at his Master's Court. But this last did set to and make suit to her to such effect that he very soon shook and laid low her resolve, and had his will so far that he did get her with child.
The husband, returning at the end of twelve or thirteen
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months, doth find her in this state, and though sore grieved and very wroth against her, durst not ask her the how and why of it. 'Twas for her, and very adroit she was, to frame her excuses, and a certain brother-in- law of hers to help her out. And this-like was the plea she made out : " 'Tis the issue of your campaign that is cause of this, which hath been taken so ill by your Master, for indeed he did gain little profit thereby. So sorely have you been blamed in your absence for that you did not carry out his behests better, that had not your Lord set his love on me, you had verily been undone; and so to save you from undoing, I have e'en suffered myself to be undone. Your honour is as much concerned as mine own, and more, and for your advancement I have not spared the most precious thing I possess. Reflect then if I have done so ill as you might say at first ; for without me, your life, your honour and favour would all have been risked. You are in better case than ever, while the matter is not so public that the stain to your repute be too manifest. Wherefore, I beseech you to excuse and forgive me for that I have done."
The brother-in-law, who was of the best at a specious tale, and who mayhap had somewhat to do with the lady's condition, added thereto yet other good and weighty words, so that at the last all ended well. Thus was peace made, and the twain were of better accord than ever liv- ing together in all freedom and good fellowship. Yet, or so have I heard tell, did the Prince theirjnaster, the which had done the wrong and had made all the difficulty, never esteem him so highly as he had done aforetime, for having taken the thing so mildly. Never after did he deem him a man of such high-souled honour as he had
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thought him previously, though in his heart of hearts he was right glad the poor lady had not to suffer for the pleasure she had given him. I have known sundry, both men and women, ready to excuse the lady in question, and to hold she did well so to suffer her own undoing in order to save her husband and set him back again in his Sovereign's favour.
Ah ! how many examples are to be found to match this ; as that of a great lady who did save her husband's life, the which had been condemned to death in full Court, having been convicted of great peculations and malversa- tions in his government and office. For which thing the husband did after love her well all his life.
I have heard speak again of a great Lord, who had been condemned to have his head cut off ; but lo ! he being already set on the scaffold, his pardon did arrive, the which his daughter, one of the fairest of women, 4 had obtained. Whereon, being come down off the scaffold, he did say this word, and naught else at all: "God save my girl's good motte, which hath saved my life!"
Saint Augustine doth express a doubt whether a certain citizen of Antioch, a Christian, did sin, when to acquit him of a heavy sum of money for the which he was in strict confinement, he gave his wife leave to lie with a gentleman of greath wealth, who undertook to free him from his debt.
If such is the opinion of Saint Augustine, what would he not allow to many women, widows and maids, who to redeem their fathers, kinsmen, yea! sometimes their hus- bands themselves, do surrender their gentle body under stress of many and sundry trials that fall to their lot, as imprisonment, enslavement, peril to life itself, assaults
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and takings of cities, and in a word an host of other the like incommodities. Nay ! sometimes to gain over captains and soldiers, to cause them to fight stubbornly and hold their ground, or to sustain a siege or retake a place, I could recount an hundred instances, they will go the length of fearlessly prostituting their chastity to gain their ends. What evil report or scandal can come to them for this? None surely, but rather much glory and advantage.
Who then will deny it to be a good thing on occasion to be cuckold, forasmuch as a man may draw therefrom such advantages in the way of life saved and favour regained, of honour, dignities and riches ? How many do I know in like case ; and have heard speak of many more which have been advanced by the beauty and bodies of their wives !
I wish not to offend any, but I will take upon me to say this much, that I have it from not a few, both men and women, how ladies have served their mates right well, and how the merits of some of them have not availed them near so much as their wives'.
I know a great lady of much adroit skill who got the Order of St. Michael bestowed on her husband, he being at that time the only one that had it along with the two greatest Princes of Christendom. She would oft tell him, and say out the same before everybody, for indeed she was of merry demeanour and excellent company : "Ha, ha ! my friend, you might have sweated yourself many a long day before you got this pretty bauble to hang at your neck!"
I have heard speak of a great man, in the days of King Francis, who having received the Order, and being fain to make boast thereof one day before M. de la Chastaigne-
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raie, my uncle, did say to him : "Ah ! how glad would you be to have this Order hanging at your neck like me !" My uncle, who was ready of tongue and high of hand and hot- tempered, if ever man was, straight replied : "I had rather be dead than have it by the way you had it by!" The other answered never a word, for he knew the man he had to deal with.
I have heard the story told of a great Lord, whose wife had begged for him the patent appointing him to one of the great offices of his district and did bring it to him in his house, his Prince having bestowed it upon him only by favour of his wife. But he would in no wise accept it, forasmuch as he was aware his wife had tarried three months with the Prince in high favour, and not without suspicions of something worse. Herein he did manifest the same nobility of spirit he had shown all his life ; yet at the last he did take it, after having done a thing I had rather not name.
And this is how fair ladies have made as many knights as battles, and more, the which I would name, knowing their names as well as another, were it not I desired to avoid speaking ill of any, or making scandal. And if they have given them these honours, they have brought them much riches as well.
I know one who was but a poor devil when he first brought his wife to Court, the which was a very beautiful woman. And lo! in less than two years they were in good ease and become very rich folk.
JELL! we must needs think highly of these ladies which do thus raise their husbands in wealth and position, and make them cuckolds not without compensation. Even as men say of Marguerite de Namur, who was so foolish as to bind herself and give all ever she could to Louis, Duke of Orleans, one who was so great and puissant a Lord already, and brother to the King. To this end she did get from her husband whatever she could, till at the last he became a poor man, and was forced to sell his Earl- dom of Blois to the said M. d'Orleans. And this latter, to think of it ! did pay him therefore in the very same coin and goods the man's infatuate wife had given him. Foolish indeed she was, for that she was giving to one greater than herself. And to think that he did laugh at the pair of them, for in good sooth he was the very man so to do, so fickle was he and inconstant in love.
I know a great lady who, having fallen deep in love with a gentleman of the Court, did accordingly suffer him to have his joy of her. And not being able to give him money, seeing her husband ever kept his hoard hid like a priest, did give him the greater part of her precious stones, the which did mount up to a value of thirty thou- sand crowns. Whence men said at Court he might well begin to build now, since he had plenty of stones laid up and stored away. Soon afterward, being come into a great inheritance and having put her hand on some twenty thousand crowns, she scarce kept any thereof, but her lover did enjoy the greater part. And 'twas said that if this inheritance had not fallen in to her, not
knowing what else she could give him, she would have given him the very clothes off her body down to her shift itself. Wherein are suchlike scamps and scorners greatly to blame so to set about it and distil and draw off all the substance of these poor creatures, so hot-headed and infatuate with passion and caprice. For their purse, being so oft visited, cannot stay always swelled out and at its full capacity, like the purse in front, which is ever in the same condition, and ever ready for whosoever wills to fish therein, without the captives that have en- tered and come forth again of the same finding a word to say against it. This worthy gentleman, whom I spoke of as so well stocked with stones, came some time after to die. Then did all his effects, as is the way at Paris, come to be cried and sold at public auction, and so were in this wise reckoned up and known by many persons as having belonged to the lady, not without bitter and deep shame to the same.
There was a great Prince who loving a very honourable lady, did purchase a dozen diamond studs, brilliants of the first water and admirably set, with their Egyptian letters and hieroglyphics, containing a secret and cabalis- tic meaning, the which he did make a present of to his mistress. But she after looking at the same attentively, said to him that at present she found no need of hiero- glyphic lettering, forasmuch as the writings were already done and accomplished between them twain, even as they had been between the gentleman and the fair lady spoken of just above.
I knew once a lady who was forever saying to her husband, how she had rather make him criminal than cuckold. But truly the two words are something equivo-
cal, and mayhap more or less of both of these fine qualities mated together in her and in her husband.
Yet I have known well plenty of fair ladies that have not done so at all. Rather have they kept the purse of their crown-pieces far tighter drawn than that of their fair body. For, albeit very great ladies, never would they be giving but a ring or two, a few favours and such other little compliments, muffs or scarfs, to wear for love of them to enhance their repute.
Yet have I known one very great lady 1 which was exceeding free and generous herein, for the least of her scarfs and the favours she was used to give her lovers was worth five hundred crowns, a thousand crowns, or even three, whereon was such abundance of embroidery, and pearls, and cyphers, and cabalistic letters and pretty conceits, nothing in all this world ever was richer and rarer to look on. And she was right; for so her gifts, once made, were not hid away in chests or in purses, like those of many other dames, but were displayed before all men. For she deemed that her friends did manifest their worth looking at them and showing them as tokens of her regard, whereas such presents when made in coin did smack rather of common women that give money to their bullies than of high-born and honourable ladies. Some- times again she would give beautiful rings of rich jewel- work, forasmuch as favours and scarfs are not ordinarily worn, but only on some great and high emprise, whereas a ring on the finger keeps better company and more con- stant with the wearer.
Though, verily, a gentle and noble-hearted knight should be of this generous complexion that he had rather serve his lady for the beauties which do make her shine resplendent than for all the shining gold and silver she may have.
For myself, I can boast of having served in my day honourable ladies, and those of no low estate. But truly if I had been willing to take all they gave me and extract from their generosity all I might have had, why, I should be a richer man to-day, whether in goods or money or plenishing, than I am by a good thirty thousand crowns ; yet have I alway been content to make evident my love rather by my generosity than by my avariciousness.
Without doubt there is good reason for it, that inas- much as the man doth put somewhat of his own into the purse the woman hath, the woman should likewise put something of hers in the man's. Yet herein must due pro- portion be kept; for just as the man cannot cast in and give as much of his into the woman's purse as she would fain have, so is the man bound in fairness not to draw from that of the woman all he would. The law of give and take must needs be observed and proper measure kept.
I have moreover before now seen many gentlemen lose the love of their mistresses by reason of the importunity of their demands and their inordinate rapacity. For these, seeing them such beggars and so eager to have their pay, have quietly broke off the connexion and left them in the lurch, and that notwithstanding the excellent service rendered.
Wherefore it is that every noble-minded lover were bet- ter to be guilty of greed for his lady's body than for her money; because supposing the lady to be over generous of her goods, the husband finding his property lessening apace, is more angered thereat ten times over than at a thousand largesses she may have made of her person.
Further, some cuckolds there be that are made such in the way of revenge. I mean that often men who have a grudge against some great Lord or gentleman or other person, from the which they have received injuries and affronts, do avenge their wrongs on them by making love to their wives, whom they do debauch and make fine cuckolds of their enemies.
I knew once a great Prince who had suffered from sun- dry attempts at rebellion on the part of one of his subjects, a great Lord, yet was all unable to revenge himself, seeing the offender did all he could to escape him, so that the Prince could never lay hands on him. However, his wife having one day come to Court to solicit her husband's pardon and the better ordering of his case, the Prince did appoint with her to meet him to confer thereof in a garden and a chamber adjoining it. But it was really to talk of love to her, wherein he won his triumph on the spot, without much ado, for she was of very accommo- dating character. Nor did he content himself with having her in his proper person, but did likewise prostitute her to others, down to the very footmen of the chambers. And in this wise would the Prince declare he did feel himself well revenged on his unfaithful subject, having so de- bauched his wife and crowned his head with a good coronal of horns. Albeit but a subject, he had been fain to play petty king and sovereign ; but instead of winning a regal crown of fleurs-de-lis, he had gotten himself a fine one of horns ! 2
This same Prince did a like thing in another case at the
that was a maid, well knowing she was to wed a certain Prince who had done him displeasure and sore troubled his brother's government. Thus he did deflower her and had his will of her finely; yet after two months was she delivered to the poor Prince as a virgin and to be his wife. The revenge herefor was of the mildest, pending other action that did ensue later, of a harsh and violent enough sort. 8
I knew once a very honourable gentleman who, being lover of a fair lady and one of good belongings, did ask her for the recompense of his long love and courtship; but she answered frankly, she would not give him so much as a single doit's worth, seeing she was quite assured he loved her not for this, and bare her not such fond affec- tion for her beauty's sake, as he alleged. His wish was rather, by having his will of her, to avenge himself on her husband, who had done him some displeasure; wherefore he was fain to win this consolation to his pride and to feel for the future he had had the upper hand. But the gentleman, assuring her of the contrary, continued to court her humbly for more than two years longer, and this so faithfully and with such passion, that at the last she did show such ample and full gratitude that she did grant him all she had before refused, declaring that had she not, at the first beginning of their courtship, supposed some idea of vengeance intended to be in his mind, she would immediately have made him as happy a man as she now did at the end, for that her natural bent was to love and prefer him. Note how the lady was able wisely to com- mand her passion so that love did never carry her away to do what all the while she did most desire, for that she
wished to be loved for her own sake and not merely as a means to a man's vengeance on another.
The late M. du Gua, one of the truly gallant and per- fect gentlemen of the world in every way, did invite me to the Court one day to dine with him. He had brought together a dozen of the most learned men of the Court, amongst others the Lord Bishop of Dol, 4 of the house of Espinay in Brittany, MM. de Ronsard, de Baif, Des Fortes, d'Aubigny (the last two are still living, and could contradict me, if I lie), and others whose names I forget. Amongst them all was no man of the sword but only M. du Gua and myself. The discourse during dinner turned on love, and the commodities and incommodities, pleasures and displeasures, good and ill, it brought in its train. After each guest had declared his opinion on the one side or the other, himself did conclude that the sovereign good of its gratification lay in this vengeance it made possible, and prayed each of all these great personages to make a quatrain thereon impromptu. This they all did, and I would I had them to insert here ; but his Lordship of Dol, whose words were true gold, whether spoke or writ, did bear off the prize.
And doubtless M. du Gua had good reason to maintain this view, as against two great Lords of my acquaintance, whom he did cause to wear the horns for the hatred he bare them. Their wives were very fair women, so in this case he did win double pleasures, satisfaction of his ven- geance and gratification of his passions. Many other folk have so revenged themselves and taken delight herein, and accordingly have shared in the same opinion.
Moreover I have known many fair and honourable ladies, who did say and affirm that, when their husbands had maltreated or bullied them, rated or censured them, beat them or otherwise ill-used and outraged them, their greatest joy and delight was to give them a pair of horns, and in the act, to think of them, and scoff and mock and make fun of them with their paramours, going so far as to declare they did hereby have a greater access of appe- tite and sure delight of pleasure than could well be de- scribed.
I have heard speak of a fair and honourable lady who, being asked once if ever she had made her husband cuck- old, did make answer, "Nay ! why should I have made him so, seeing he hath never beat nor even threatened me?" As though implying that, if he had done either one or the other, her champion that she had in front would very soon have revenged her.
And speaking of wit and mockery, I once knew a very honourable and fair lady who, being in these gentle trans- ports of pleasure, did chance by dint of her wild caresses to break an earring she had in the shape of a cornucopia, which was but of black glass, such as were worn in those days. Whereupon she cried instantly to her lover, "Look you, how provident Dame Nature is ; I have broken one horn, but here I am making a dozen others for my poor cuckold of a husband, to bedeck him withal some fine feast- day, if he so will."
Another, having left her husband a-bed and asleep, went to see her lover before lying down herself. Then asked he her where her husband was, and she did reply, "He is keeping his bed, guarding his cuckoo's nest for fear another come to lay therein. But 'tis not with his bed, nor his sheets, nor his nest you have to do, but with me, who am come to see you. I have left him there as sentinel, though truly he is but a sleepy one."
Talking of sentinels, I have heard a tale told of a cer- tain gentleman of consideration, whom I well knew, who one day coming to words with a very honourable lady, whom also I knew, he did ask her, by way of insult, if she had ever gone on pilgrimage to Saint Mathurin. 5 "Oh, yes !" she replied, "but I could never get into the Church, for so full and so well occupied was it with cuckolds, they would never suffer me to enter. And you, who were one of the foremost, were mounted on the steeple, to act sen- tinel and warn the others."
I could tell a thousand other such tales, but I should never have done. Yet do I hope to find room for some of them in some corner or other of my book.
|OME cuckolds there be which are good-natured and which of their own impulse do invite themselves to this feast of cuckoldry. Thus I have known some who would say to their wives, "Such and such an one is in love with you ; I know him well, and he often cometh to visit us, but 'tis for love of you, my pretty. Give him good welcome; he can do us much pleasure, his acquaintance may advantage us greatly."
Others again will say to their wives' admirers, "My wife is in love with you, and right fond of you. Come and see her, you will give her pleasure; you can chat and hold discourse together, and pass the time agreeably." So do they invite folk to feast at their expense. As did the Emperor Hadrian, 1 who being one time in Britain (as we read in his Life), carrying on War there, did receive sundry warnings, how that his wife, the Empress Sabina, was making unbridled love with a number of gallant Ro- man noblemen. As fate would have it, she had writ and despatched a letter from Rome to a certain young Ro- man gentleman who was with the Emperor in Britain, complaining that he had forgot her, and took no more account of her, and that it must needs be he had some intrigue in that region and that some affected little wanton had caught him in the lakes of her beauty. This letter fell by chance into the Emperor's hands ; and when the nobleman in question did some days after ask leave of absence under colour of wishing to go to Rome imme- diately for family affairs of his own, Hadrian said to him in mocking wise, "Well, well! young sir, go there, and boldly, for the Empress, my wife, is expecting you in all affection." But the Roman hearing this, and finding the Emperor had discovered his secret and might likely play him some ill turn, started the very next night, without saying by your leave or with your leave, and took refuge in Ireland.
Still he had no need to be greatly afraid for all this. Indeed the Emperor himself would often say, being re- galed continually with tales of the extravagant love af- fairs of his wife, "Why, certainly, were I not Emperor, I should have long ago rid me of my wife ; but I desire not to show an evil example." As much as to say, it matters not to the great to be in this case, so long as they let it not be known publicly. And what a fate for great men, one which truly some of them have consented to, though
not for the same reason! So we see this good Emperor suffering himself complacently to be made cuckold.
Another good Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, 2 who had as wife Faustina, a downright harlot, replied on being ad- vised to put her away, "If we give her up, we are bound also to give up her dowry, which is the Empire." And who would not be cuckold like him for such a prize, or even a less one?
His son, Antonius Verus, surnamed Commodus, though he grew up very cruel, yet held the like language to such as advised him to have the said Faustina, his mother, put to death. So madly in love was she and so hot after a gladiator that she could never be cured of the fierce mal- ady, till at last they bethought them to kill the rascally gladiator and make her drink his blood.
Many and many a husband hath done and doth the same as the good Marcus Aurelius, for they do fear to kill their wives, whores though they be, for dread of losing the great fortunes they have of them, and had rather be rich cuckolds on these easy terms than cruel villains.
Heavens! how many of the sort have I known, who were forever inviting their kinsmen and friends and com- rades to come and visit their wives, going so far as to make banquets for them, the better to attract them. Then, when they were there, they would leave them alone with the lady in bedchamber or closet, and so away, with the words, "I leave my wife in your care."
One I knew, a nobleman of the great world, of such behaviour you would have said his whole happiness did rest in this only, to be cuckolded. He seemed to make it his study to give opportunities therefor, and especially never forgot to say this first word, "My wife is in love
with you ; do you love her as well as she loves you, I won- der?" Many a time when he saw his wife with her ad- mirer, he would carry off the company from the room to take a walk, leaving the twain of them together, so giv- ing them good leisure to discuss their loves. And if by any chance he had to return of a sudden into the room, from the very bottom step of the stairs he would begin shouting aloud, calling after someone, spitting or cough- ing, to the end he might not catch the lovers in the act. For commonly, even though one know of them and suspect their coming, these peeps and surprises are scarce pleas- ant whether to the one party or the other.
This same Lord was having a fine mansion built one time, and the master mason having asked whether he would not have the cornices ftorn-amented, he made an- swer, "I don't know what ^ornamentation means. Go and ask my wife who understands the thing, and knows geom- etry; and whatever she tells you to do, do it."
Still worse was it with one I know of, who one day selling one of his estates to a purchaser for fifty thousand crowns, did take forty-five thousand of the sum in gold and silver, and in lieu of the remaining five accepted a unicorn's horn. Huge laughter amid them that knew him ; "Ha, ha !" they said, "as if he had not enough horns at home already, that he must fit in this one to boot."
I knew a very great Lord, a brave and gallant man, who did greet a certain honourable gentleman and profess himself his very good servant, yet adding with a smile these words, "My dear Sir, I know not what you have done to my wife, but she is so much in love with you that day and night she doth nothing but speak to me of you, and
her I have known you longer than she hath, and am well aware of your worth and deserts, which are great." Who more astonished than this same gentleman? for he had but just taken in this lady on his arm to Vespers, which the Queen was attending, and that was all. However, he at once regained his countenance and replied, "Sir! I am your wife's most humble servant, and deeply grateful for the good opinion she hath of me, and do greatly respect her. Yet do I not make love to her," he went on in a merry tone. "All I do is to pay her my court, herein following the good advice yourself gave me quite lately, seeing she hath much influence with my mistress, whom I may be enabled to wed by her help, and therefore do hope she will give me her assistance."
The Prince had no suspicion and did naught but laugh and admonish the gentleman to court his wife more assid- uously than ever. This he did, being right glad under this pretext to be lover to so fair a lady and so great a Princess, who soon made him forget his other mistress he had been fain to wed, and scarce to think of her again, except to find her a convenient mask to dissemble and cover up the whole thing withal. Even so could the Prince not help but feel some pangs of jealousy when one day he did see the said gentleman in the Queen's chamber wearing on his arm a ribband of Spanish scarlet, which had just been brought to Court as a fine novelty, and which he did touch and handle as he talked with him; then going to find his wife who was by the Queen's bedside, lo ! he saw she had one that was its very match, which he did likewise touch and handle and proved it to be like it in all respects and part of the same piece as the other. Yet did he breathe never a word, nor take any steps in the matter. And
indeed in such intrigues it is very needful to cover up their fires with such cinders of discretion and good coun- sel as that they may never be discovered; for very oft such discovery of the scandal will anger husbands far more against their wives than when the same is done, but all in secret, herein illustrating the proverb, Si non caste, tamen caute, "If not with virtue, at any rate with prudence."
What terrible scandals and great incommodities have I seen in my time arise from the indiscretions of ladies and their lovers ! Yet would the husbands have cared naught at all about the thing, if only they had done their doings sotto coperte (under cover, under the rose), as the saying is, and the matter had never seen the light.
I knew one dame who was all for manifesting quite openly her loves and preferences, which she did indulge as if she had had no husband at all, and had been her own mistress entirely, refusing to listen to the counsels of her friends and lovers, who did remonstrate with her and point out the inconveniences she was exposing herself to. And of these she did later reap a sore harvest !
This lady did otherwise than many worthy dames have done at all times, who have gaily enjoyed love and lived a merry life, yet have never given much evidence thereof to the world, except mayhap some small suspicions, that could scarce have revealed the truth even to the most clear-sighted. For they would address their lovers in public so dexterously, and deal with them so adroitly, that neither husbands nor spies, all their life long, could ever get aught to bite at. And when their favourites departed on some journey, or came to die, they would dissemble
and conceal their grief so cunningly that none ever dis- covered aught.
I knew a fair and honourable lady, who the day a cer- tain great Lord, her lover, died, did appear in the Queen's chamber with a countenance as gay and smiling as the day before. Some did think highly of her for such dis- cretion, deeming she did so for fear of doing the King dis- pleasure and angering him, for that he liked not the man deceased. Others blamed her, attributing this bearing rather to the lack of true love, wherein 'twas said she was but poorly furnished, like all women who lead the life she did.
I knew on the other hand two fair and honourable ladies, who having lost their lovers in a misadventure of war, did make great sorrow and lamentation, and did make mani- fest their mourning by their dusky weeds, and eke holy- water vessels and sprinklers of gold engraven with fig- ures, and death's-heads, and all kinds of trophies of dis- solution, in their trinkets, jewels and bracelets which they wear. All this did bring much scandal upon them and was greatly to their hurt ; though their husbands did take no special heed thereof.
This is how these ladies do themselves hurt by the making public their amours ; these we may rightly praise and esteem for their constancy, though not for their dis- cretion, for on this last count what they do is much to their disadvantage.
And if ladies so doing are blameworthy, there be many likewise among their lovers which do deserve reprimand quite as much as they. For they will ever be putting on looks as they were half dead, like she-goats in kid, and a most languorous mien, making eyes and casting ap-
pealing glances, indulging in passionate gestures and love- sick sighs in company, openly bedecking themselves with their ladies' colours,- in a word giving way to so many silly indiscretions that a blind man could scarce fail to note them. Some of them moreover do the like more in pretence than in reality, desiring to let all the Court understand they are in love in an high quarter, and are happy in their amours. Whereas, God wot, it may well be the ladies would not give them so much as one poor farthing in alms, to save their repute for deeds of charity !
I do know well a certain nobleman and great Lord, who desiring to satisfy the world he was the lover of a fair and honourable lady that I know of, had his little mule held in front of her door, with a couple of his lackeys and pages. As it fell out, M. d'Estrozze and myself did pass that way, and beheld this mystery of the mule and the man's pages and lackeys. He asked instantly where was their master, and they replied he was within, in the lady's house. Hereupon M. d'Estrozze burst out a-laughing, and turning to me, said he would wager his life he was not there at all. And in a moment after he posted his page as sentinel to watch if the pretended lover should come forth; then quickly we hied us to the Queen's cham- ber, where we found our man, not without some laughter betwixt him and me.
Then towards evening we went to greet him, and pre- tending to quarrel with him, did ask him where he was at such and such an hour of the afternoon, and how that he could not deceive us, as we had seen his mule and his pages before the said lady's door. But the fellow, mak- ing as though he were vexed we had seen so much and were for this cause attacking him for carrying out an intrigue
in this high quarter, did confess he was there in very truth. At the same time he besought us not to breathe a word; else should we bring him into sore trouble, and the poor lady would incur scandal and the displeasure of her husband. And this we did faithfully promise him, laughing all the while heartily and making mock at him, albeit he was a nobleman of no small rank and quality, and declaring we would not speak of the thing, and never a syllable pass our lips.
Finally after some days during which he did continue his trick with the mule too often for our patience, we did discover our artfulness to him, and attacked him with right good will and in good company. This made him desist for very shame, and indeed the lady did know of it by this time through our information, and had the mule and the pages watched one day and incontinently driven away from her door like beggars in front of an inn. Nay ! we did even better, for we told the tale to the husband, and that in such merry wise he found it right diverting and laughed heartily at the thing, saying he had no fear this fellow would make him cuckold, and that if ever he should find the said mule and pages stationed at his door, he would have the gates opened and invite them inside, to the end they might be more at ease and sheltered from heat, cold or rain. Not but what others all the whole while were cuckolding him soundly enough. And this is how this noble Lord was fain, at the expense of an hon- ourable lady and her repute, to exalt himself, without any heed to the scandal he might cause thereby.
I knew another nobleman who did bring sore scandal on a very fair and honourable lady by his behaviour. He had for some while been in love with her, and did urge her to grant him the little tit-bit reserved for her husband's mouth, but she did refuse him flatly. At last, after sev- eral refusals, he said to her, as if in despair, "Well, if you won't, why, you won't; but I give you my oath I will ruin your honour and repute." And to this end he be- thought him to make many comings and goings in secret, yet not so secret but that he made himself seen of set pur- pose by sundry eyes, and let himself be noted by day and by night frequenting the house where she dwelt. Then he would be ever vaunting and boasting under the rose of his pretended successes, and in company seeking out the lady with more familiarity than he had any call to do, and among his comrades swaggering as the happy lover, and this all in mere pretence. The end was that one night having slipped in very late into the said lady's bedcham- ber, all muffled in his cloak and hiding from the folk of the house, and after playing sundry of his stealthy tricks, he was suspected by the seneschal of the household, who had a watch set. And though they could not find him, yet did the husband beat his wife and give her several buffets ; but later, urged thereto by the seneschal, who said it was not punishment enough, did stab her and kill her; and readily won his pardon therefor from the King. A sad pity truly for the poor lady, who was very fair and beauteous. Afterward the nobleman, which had been cause of all the mischief, did not fare far or well, but was killed in a passage of war, by God's good will, for having so unjustly robbed an honourable lady of her good name and her life.
|O tell the truth as to this example and a host of others I have seen, there are some ladies which do themselves great wrong, and which are the true cause of the scandal and dishonour they incur. For 'tis themselves that do provoke the first skirmishes and purposely draw the gallants to them, from the beginning lavishing on them the fondest caresses, favours and familiarities, raising their hopes by all sorts of gentle wiles and flattering words. Yet when it cometh to the point, they will refuse outright, in such wise that the honourable gentlemen which had promised themselves many a pleasant treat of their person, fall into anger and despair and quit them with harsh words. So they depart abusing them and giving them out for the biggest strumpets in all the world, and make out an hun- dredfold worse tale of their demerits than is really deserved.
And this is why an honourable lady should never set herself to draw a gallant to her, and suffer him to be her servant, if she will not satisfy him at the last according to his deserts and loving service. It behooves her to realize this, unless she would be undone, even when she hath to do with an honourable and gallant man ; else from the first beginning, when he doth first accost her, and she sees it is with this end so much desired in view, that he pay his vows to her, but she feeleth no desire to gratify him herein, she should give him his dismissal at the very threshold. For indeed, to speak quite candidly, any woman that doth suffer a lover to court her, doth lay herself under such obligation that she cannot withdraw
afterward from the fight. She is bound to come to it sooner or later, long though the coming may sometimes be.
There be some dames, however, whose joy is to be served for nothing, but only for the light of their bright eyes. They say they love to be served and courted, that this is their great happiness, and not to come to the final act at all. Their pleasure, they declare, doth lie in wishing for it, not in actually performing of it. I have known many ladies which have told me this. Yet can they never stop there; for if once they do begin wishing for it, without shadow of doubt they will some day come to the doing of it as well. For this is the law of love, that when once a woman doth wish or hope, or but dream of wishing and desiring a man for herself, the thing is done. If only the man know it, and steadily follow up his fair assailant, he will surely have leg or wing, fur or feathers, as they say.
In this wise then are poor husbands made cuckold by such thoughts on the part of ladies, who are ready to wish forsooth, but not to do. For truly, without suspecting it, they will of their own fault be burned in the candle, or at the fire they have themselves built. Like poor simple shepherdesses, which to warm themselves in the fields as they watch their sheep and lambs, do kindle a little fire, without thought of any harm or ill to follow. But they give no heed to the chance their little fire may set so great an one ablaze as will burn up a whole country-side of plains and woods.
'Twere well if such ladies would take example, to teach them wisdom, of the Comtesse d'Escaldasor, a very fair lady dwelling at Pavia, to whom M. de Lescu, afterward known as the Marechal de Foix, was paying court. He was then a student at Pavia, and was called the Pro-
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tonotary de Foix, seeing he was destined for the Church, though afterward he did quit the long robe to adopt the profession of arms. And he might well love her, seeing at that day she bare the bell for beauty over all the ladies of Lombardy. So seeing herself hotly pressed by him, yet not wishing to rudely disoblige him or dismiss him roughly, for he was a near kinsman of the renowned Gaston de Foix, at whose fame all Italy trembled in those days, the Countess on a day of high festivity and state at Pavia, whereat all the fairest ladies of the city and neighbourhood were gathered and many noble gentlemen, did appear, the fairest of them all, superbly attired in a robe of sky blue, all trimmed and bespangled over all its length and breadth with torches and butterflies fluttering round them and burning themselves in their flame. The whole was in broidery of gold and silver, for truly the embroiderers of Milan have ever surpassed those of all the rest of the world, and won the lady the general repute of being the best adorned of all the company there present. Then the Protonotary, leading her out to the dance, was moved to ask her what might be the meaning of the designs on her robe, strongly suspecting there lay be- neath some hidden signification unfavourable to him. She made answer in these words, "Sir, I have had my robe fashioned thus, just as soldiers and horsemen do with their horses when they are wild and vicious, and kick and fling out their heels. For they do fix on their crupper a big silver bell, to the end that this signal may warn their comrades, when they are riding in a close press of com- pany, to take heed of the vicious kicker, lest he do them an injury. In like wise by my fluttering butterflies, burn- ing themselves in these torches, I do warn those honour-
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able gentlemen which do me the favour of loving me and admiring my beauty, not to come too nigh, nor to desire aught else, but only the sight of me. For they will gain nothing thereby, but only like the butterflies, to long, and burn, and get no satisfaction."
The story is writ in the Emblems of Paulus Jovius. 1 In this fashion did she warn her lover to take heed for himself in time. I know not whether or no he did come more nigh, or what he did. But later, being wounded to the death at the battle of Pavia, and taken prisoner, he begged to be carried to the house of this same Countess at Pavia, where he was very well received and tended by her. In three days' time he died there, to the great sor- row of the lady, as I did hear the story told me by M. de Monluc, one time we were together in the trenches at Rochelle. It was night and we were talking together, when I related to him the tale of the robe and its device; on this he assured me he had seen the said Countess, who was very fair, and did love the Marechal well, and how he had been most honourably entreated of her. For the rest he knew not if ever they had gone further at all. This example should be warning enough for many of the ladies the which I have spoken of above.
Then again, there be cuckolds which are so righteous they have their wives preached to and admonished by good and religious men, with a view to their conversion and reform. And these, with forced tears and words of pre- tended sorrow, do make many vows, promising mountains and marvels of repentance, and never, never to do the like again. But their oaths do scarce endure an instant, for truly the vows and tears of suchlike dames are of just so much weight as are the oaths and adjurations of lovers.
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So have I seen and known well a certain lady to the which a great Prince, her Sovereign, did offer the affront of commissioning appointing a Cordelier monk, as from him- self and coming from the Court, to go find her husband, who was spending his vacation on his estate, to warn the same of his wife's reckless loves and the ill report current of the wrong she was doing him, and to say how, for the respect due to his position and office, he was sending him timely news thereof, to the end he might correct this sin- ful soul. The husband was greatly astounded and moved at such a message and kindly warning; yet did take no overt action, except only to thank his Prince and assure him he would see to the matter. Yet on his return he did make no difference for the worse in his treatment of his wife; for truly what would he have gained thereby? Once a woman hath taken to these courses, naught will alter her, like a posthorse which is grown so thoroughly used to go at the gallop that he can in no wise learn to go any other gait whatsoever.
Alas! how oft have we seen honourable ladies which, having been surprised at these tricks, and thereupon chid and beaten, yea! and admonished by every prayer and remonstrance not to return to the like course, do prom- ise, protest and swear they will behave them chastely, yet do presently illustrate the proverb, passato il periglio, gabbato il santo (the danger past, the Saint is mocked), and return again with all the more zest to the game of love. Nay ! many have we seen, which themselves feeling some worm of remorse gnawing their soul, have of their proper act made holy and right solemn vows of reforma- tion, yet have never kept them, but presently have re-
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pented of their repentance, as M. du Bellay doth say of penitent courtesans: 2
Mere d'amour, suivant mes premiers vceux, Dessous tes lois remettre je me veux, Dont je voudrois n'estre jamais sortie; Et me repens de m'estre repentie.
(Mother of love, returning to my earlier vows, I am fain to put me again beneath thy laws, which I would I had never deserted; lo! I repent me of my penitence.)
Such women declare 'tis exceeding hard to give up for- ever so sweet a habit and fond custom, seeing their time is so short in this brief sojourn they make in this world.
To confirm what I here say I would readily appeal to many a fair maid, which hath repented in youth and taken the veil and become a nun. If such were asked on her faith and conscience what she did really desire, many a time, I know, she would say, "Ah ! would the high convent walls were broken down, that I might straight be free again !"
Wherefore husbands need never think to reduce their wives to order again, after once these have made the first breach in their honour, or that they can aught else but only give them the rein, merely recommending discretion and all possible avoidance of scandal. For truly we may apply all the remedies of love which ever Ovid taught, and an host of other subtle remedies that others have invented, yea ! and those puissant ones of Francois Rabelais, which he did teach to the venerable Panurge, yet will none of them all avail. But 'twere best of all to follow the advice given in the refrain of an old song of King Francis' time, which saith,
- Qui voudroit garder qu'une femme
- N'aille du tout a l'abandon,
- II faudroit la fermer dans une pipe,
- Et en jouir par le bondon.
In the reign of the late King Henri of France there was a certain jeweller which did import and expose for sale at the great Fair of St. Germains a round dozen of a certain contrivance for confining women's affairs. These were made of iron and were worn like a belt joining underneath and locking with a key, and were so cunningly framed that the woman, once confined therein, could never find opportunity for the pleasures of love, there being only a few little tiny holes in the thing for empissoyent through.
'Tis said that five or six jealous husbands were found ready to buy one, wherewith they did confine their wives in such wise they might well say, "Good-bye, good times for ever and aye!" Yet was there one wife who bethought her to apply to a locksmith very cunning in his art. So, when she had shown him the said contrivance, her husband being away in the country, he did so well use his ingenuity that he forged a false key therefor, so that the good lady could open and shut the thing at any time, whenever she would. The husband did never suspect or say a word, while the wife took her fill of the best of all pleasures, in spite of the jealous fool and silly cuckold her husband, who did imagine all the time he was living free of all apprehension of such a fate. But truly the naughty locksmith, which made the false key, quite spoiled his game ; yea \ and did even better, by what they say, for he was the first who tasted the dainty, and cuckolded him. Nor was this so extraordinary, for did not Venus, which was the fairest woman and harlot in all the world, mate with Vulcan, ironworker and locksmith, the which was exceeding mean-looking, foul, lame and hideous.
They say, moreover, that there were a number of gallant and honourable gentlemen of the Court which did threaten the jeweller that if ever again he should have aught to do with bringing such villainies with him, he would be killed. They bade him never come back again, and made him throw all the others that were left into the draught-house ; and since then no more has been heard of such contrivances. And this was wisely done; for truly 'twas as good, or as bad, as destroying one half of mankind, so to hinder the engendering of posterity by dint of such confining, locking up and imprisoning of nature,-^-an abominable and hateful wrong to human productiveness.
Some there be which do give their wives into the hands of eunuchs to guard their honour, a thing which the Em- peror Alexander Severus did strongly reprobate, harshly bidding them never have dealings with Roman ladies. But they were soon recalled again. Not indeed that these could ever beget children or the women conceive of them; yet can they afford some slight feeling and superficial taste of minor pleasures, giving some colourable imita- tion of the complete and perfect bliss. Of this many husbands do take very little account, declaring that their main grievance in the adultery of their wives had naught at all to do with what they got given them, but that it
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vexed them sore to have to rear and bring up and recog- nise as heirs children they had never begotten.
Indeed but for this, there is nothing they would have made less ado about. Thus have I known not a few hus- bands, who when they did find the lovers, who had made their wives children, to be easy and good-natured, and ready to give freely and keep them, took no more account of the thing at all, or even advised their wives to beg of them and crave some allowance to keep the little one they had had of them.
So have I heard tell of a great lady, which was the mother of Villeconnin, natural son of Francis I. The same did beseech the King to give or assign her some little property, before he died, for the child he had begot, and this he did. He made over for this end two hun- dred thousand crowns in bank, which did profit him well and ran on ever growing, what with interest and re-in- vestment, in such wise that it became a great sum and he did spend money with such magnificence and seemed in such good case and ample funds at Court that all were astonished thereat. And all thought he enjoyed the fa- vours of some mysterious lady. None believed her his mother, but, seeing he never went about without her, it was universally supposed the great expenditure he made did come from his connexion with her. Yet it was not so at all, for she was really his mother; though few peo- ple were ware of it. Nor was anything known for sure of his lineage or birth, except that he eventually died at Constantinople, and that his inheritance as King's bastard was given to the Marechal de Retz, who was keen and cun- ning enough to have discovered this little secret which he was able to turn to his profit, and did verify the bastardy
LIVES OF FAIR AND GALLANT LADIES
which had been so long hid. Thus he did win the gift of this inheritance over the head of M. de Teligny, who had been constituted heir of the aforesaid Villeconnin.
Other folk, however, declared that the said lady had had the child by another than the King, and had so enriched him out of her own fortune. But M. de Retz did scruti- nize and search among the banks so carefully that he did find the money and the original securities of King Fran- cis. For all this some still held the child to have been the son of another Prince not so high as the King, or some one else of inferior rank, maintaining that for the pur- pose of covering up and concealing the whole thing and yet providing the child a maintenance, 'twas no bad de- vice to lay it all to his Majesty's account, as indeed hath been done in other instances.
This much I do firmly believe, that there be many women in the world, nay! even in France, which if only they thought they could bring children into existence at this rate, would right readily suffer Kings and great Princes to mount on their bellies. But in very fact they ofttimes so mount without any grand regale following. Then are the poor ladies sore deceived and disappointed, for when they do consent to give themselves to suchlike great personages, 'tis only to have the galardon (guer- don, recompense), as folk say in Spanish.
Now as to such putative and doubtful children, a ques- tion doth arise open to much dispute, to wit whether they ought to succeed to their father's and mother's goods, some maintaining 'tis a great sin for women to make them so succeed. Some authorities have declared the woman should surely reveal the thing to the husband and tell him the whole truth, and this is the opinion held by the well- known "Subtle Doctor." Others on the contrary hold this opinion to be bad, because the woman would then be defaming herself by revealing it, and this she is in no wise bound to do ; for good repute is a more precious posses- sion than riches, saith Solomon.
'Tis better then for the goods to be taken, even un- justly, by the child than that the mother's good name be lost, for as a proverb hath it, "A good name is better than a golden girdle." Now the Theologians hold a maxim to the effect that when two opposite precepts and commands are binding on us, the less must give way to the greater. But the command to guard one's repute is greater and more stringent than that which orders to restore another's goods; and so must be preferred be- fore it.
Nay! more, if the wife do reveal this to her husband, she doth thereby put herself in danger of being actually killed at his hands; but it is straitly forbid for any to compass their own death.
EITHER is it allowed a woman to kill herself for dread of being violated, or after being so ; else would she be doing a mortal sin. Where- fore is it better for her to suffer herself to be ravished, if that she can in no wise by fight or crying out avoid the same, than to kill herself. For the violation of the body is not sin, except with the consent of the will. Hence the reply which Saint Lucy did make to the tyrant who threatened to have her taken to the brothel. "If you have me forced," she said, "why ! my chastity will re- ceive a double crown."
For this cause Lucretia hath been found to blame by some. True it is Saint Sabina and Saint Sophronia, along with other Christian virgins, who did take their own lives rather than fall into the hands of barbarians, are excused by our doctors and fathers of the Church, which say they did so by special prompting of the Holy Spirit. By this same prompting, after the taking of Cyprus, a certain Cypriote damsel, lately made Christian, seeing herself being carried off as a slave with many another lady of her sort, to be the prey of Turks, did secretly fire the powder magazine in the galley, so that in an in- stant all was burned up and consumed along with her, saying, "So please God, our bodies will never be polluted and ravished by these foul Turks and Saracens !" Or 'tis possible, God knows, it had already been polluted and she was fain to do penance therefor, unless indeed the fact was her master had refrained from touching her, to the end he might make more money by selling her a maid, see- ing men are desirous in those lands, as indeed in all other lands, to taste a fresh and untainted morsel.
However, to return to the noble custodians of these poor women, the eunuchs. These, as I have said, are not utterly unable to do adultery with them and make their husbands cuckold, excepting always the engender- ing of children.
I knew two women in France which did deliberately set their love on two gentlemen who were castrate, to the end they might not become with child ; yet did they find pleas- ure therein, and free from all fear of scandal. But there have been husbands in Turkey and Barbary so jealous, that having discovered this deceit, they have determined to castrate their wretched slaves altogether and entirely, and cut the whole concern clean off. Now, by what those say who have had experience of Turkey, not two out of the dozen escape of those on whom they do practise this cruelty, and do not die therefrom. Them that do sur- vive, they do cherish and make much of, as true, certain and chaste guardians of their wives' chastity and sure guarantors of their honour.
We Christians on our part do not practise suchlike abominable and too utterly horrible cruelties ; but instead of these castrated slaves, we give our women old men of sixty for guardians. This for instance is done in Spain, even at the Court of the Queens of that country, where I have seen them as custodians of the maids of honour and Court ladies. Yet, God knows, there be old men more dangerous for ruining maids and wives than any young ones, and an hundred times more hot, ingenious and per- severing to gain over and corrupt the same.
I do not believe such men, for all they be hoary headed and white bearded, are more sure guardians at all than younger men, nor old women neither. Thus an aged Spanish duenna once, taking out her maids and passing by a great hall and seeing men's members painted up on the wall in lifelike portrayal, only exaggerated and out of all proportion, did remark, Mira que tan bravos no los pintan estos hombres, como quien no los conociese (Look how brave men those be, and how ill they have painted them, like one who has never seen the things). Then all her maids did turn toward her, and noted what she said, except one, of my acquaintance, who acting the ingenue, did ask one of her companions what birds those were; for some of them were depicted with wings. And the other made answer, they were birds of Barbary, more beautiful in reality than even as depicted. God only knows if she had ever seen any such ; but she had to make what pretence she could.
Many husbands are sore deceived, and often, in their duennas. For they think, provided only their women- kind are in the charge of some old woman, whom both parties do call mother as a title of respect, that they must needs be well safeguarded in front. Yet none are more easy than such guardians to be bribed and won over; for being as they are, avaricious of their very nature, they are ready to take gold from any quarter to sell their prisoners.
Others again cannot be forever on the watch over their young charges, who themselves are always wide awake and on the alert, especially when they be in love; for truly most of their time the old dames will be asleep in the chimney-corner, while before their very face the hus- bands will be a-cuckolding, without their heeding or know- ing aught about it.
I knew once a lady which did it before her duenna's very eyes, in such cunning wise she never perceived any- thing wrong. Another did the like in her own husband's presence and all but under his eyes, the while he was playing at primero.
Then other aged dames will be feeble of foot, and cannot follow up their ladies at a round pace, so that by the time they do reach the extremity of a walk or a wood or a room, the young ones have whipped their little present into their pocket, without the old duenna having observed what was a-doing, or seen aught whatever, being slow of foot and dim of sight. Again there be yet other dames of the sort which, themselves having plied the trade of old, do think it pity to see the young fast, and are so good-natured to them, they will of their own accord open the way for their charges, yea! and provoke them to follow in the same, and help them all they can. Thus Aretino saith how the greatest of pleasures for a woman that hath travelled that road, and her highest satisfac- tion, is ever to make another do likewise.
And this is why, when a man doth crave the aid of a good minister for his amours, he will alway apply and address himself to an old procuress rather than to a young woman. So I do remember a certain very gallant gen- tleman, which did mislike sorely, and did forbid it ex- pressly, that his wife should ever frequent the company of old women, as being much too dangerous society, but with younger women she might go as much as she pleased. And for this course he would adduce many excellent reasons, the which I will leave to men of apter discourse than I to detail in full.
And this is why a certain Lord of the great world I know of did entrust his wife, of whom he was very jealous, to a lady, a cousin of his own, but unmarried, to be her surveillante. This office she did zealously perform, albeit for her own part she did copy the half only of the char- acter of the gardener's dog, seeing he doth never eat the cabbage out of his master's garden, nor yet will suffer other to do so ; but this lady would eat readily enough, but would never suffer her cousin. Yet was the other forever filching some dainty bit, without her noting it, cunning as she was, or mayhap she did but make pre- tence not to see.
I could right easily adduce an host of devices which poor jealous cuckolds do employ to confine, constrain, curb and keep in their wives, that they kick not over the traces. But it is of mighty little use for them either to try these ancient means they have heard tell of, or to invent new ones ; they but lose their labour. For once women have gotten this naughty worm of love in their heads, they will ever be sending their poor husbands to keep house with Guillot the Pensive. And hereof do I hope to discourse further in a chapter I have already half writ, on the ruses and stratagems of women in this matter, the which I do compare with the ambuscades and strata- gems of soldiers in war. But the finest device of all, the most sure and eke the kindest preventive a jealous hus- band can apply to his wife, is ever to let her go her way in full liberty, as I have heard a very gallant married man declare, for that it is the woman's nature the more she is forbid a thing, so much the more to long for the same; and this is especially true in love, where the appe- tite doth grow far hotter by forbidding than by letting things take their course.
Then is there another sort of cuckolds, as to whom doth arise the following question, to wit, whether if a man hath had full enjoyment of a woman during the lifetime of her cuckold husband, and this latter die, and the lover do afterward marry the widow in second nuptials, he ought to wear the name and title of cuckold, a case I have heard debated in regard to several, and these great men.
Some there be do say he cannot be cuckold, because it is himself did have the doing of it, and no one else did make him so but only himself, and the horns were made by him and no other. Yet are there many armourors that do malce swords whereby themselves are killed, or do kill each other.
Others again say he is really cuckold, but only in embryo. For this they do allege many reasons, but see- ing the process is yet undecided, I leave it to be pleaded before the first audience that will listen to the case.
The same may be said concerning a very great lady, and a married one, which did break her marriage vow fourteen years agone with the lover who doth keep to her still, and since that day hath been ever awaiting and longing for her husband's death. But the devil is in it if he hath ever yet contrived to die to meet her wishes ! So that she might well say, "Cursed be the husband and mate, which hath lived longer than I desired !" Sicknesses and calamities of body he hath had galore, but never fatal. In fact our King, the last Henri, having bestowed the inheritance in the fine and rich estate the said cuckold husband had of him on a very honourable and brave gen- tleman, would ofttimes say, "Two persons there be at my Court which are thinking it long till so and so die, one for his estate's sake and the other to wed her lover. But both one and the other have been sore deluded up to now."
See how wise and foreseeing God is, not to send folk what they wish, when it is evil. However, I have been told that for some while past this pair are in ill accord, and have now burned their promise of future marriage and broke the agreement, to the huge despite of the lady and joy of the prospective husband, seeing he did in no wise desire to go on longer and wait forever for the death of the other. This last was alway making a mock of folk, continually giving alarms, as that he was just about to die ; yet in the end he hath survived his would-be supplanter. An instance surely of God's punishment, for a marriage so made is a thing all but unheard of ; and indeed 'tis a great sin, and an odious, to contract and agree upon a second marriage, the first being still exist- ent in its entirety.
I had rather have one, also a great lady, albeit not so great as the other I have just spoke of, who being sought of a nobleman in marriage, did wed him, not for the love she bare him, but because she saw him sickly, thin and worn, and in constant ill-health, and as the doctors told her he would not outlive the year, even after having known this fair lady several times abed. Wherefore she did expect his death very soon, and did make all dispositions after his demise as to his goods and property, fine plenish- ing and great wealth, which he did bring her by marriage ; for he was a nobleman of much riches and very well-to-do. But she was finely cheated; for he liveth still a sturdy wight, and in better fettle an hundred times than before he married her ; since then the lady herself is dead. They say the aforesaid nobleman was used to feign to be sickly and ailing to the end that, knowing as he did the lady to be exceeding avaricious, she might wed him in the hope of getting so rich an inheritance. Yet did God above dispose it all quite contrariwise, and made the she-goat feed where she had been tied, in spite of herself.
Now what shall we say of such men as do wed with harlots and courtesans, that are very famous, as is com- monly done in France, but still more in Spain and Italy, where men are persuaded they are winning God's mercy for good deeds, por librar un' anima Christiana del in- fierno, "for delivering a Christian soul from hell," as they say, and setting it in the right way.
I have undoubtedly seen some men maintain this opin- ion and doctrine, that if they did marry them for this good and religious object, they ought in no wise to be ranked as cuckolds. For surely what is done for the honour of God should not be made a matter of shame. This, of course, provided that their wives, once started afresh in the right way, do not leave it again and return to the other. So have I seen some of these women in the two countries named which did sin no more after being married, but others that could never reform, and went back to trip and stumble in the old ditch.
The first time ever I was in Italy, I fell in love with a very beautiful courtesan of Rome, who was called Faus- tina. But seeing I had no great wealth, and she was of a very high price, from ten to twelve crowns a night, I was constrained to content me with words and looks only. After some time I paid a second visit to the same city, and being now better furnished with money, I went to visit her at her lodging by the introduction of another lady, and did find her married to a man of the law, though still established in her old quarters. She did welcome me affectionately, and recounted me the good fortune of her marriage, repudiating altogether the follies of her previ- ous life, to the which she had said farewell forever. I did then show her an handful of good French crowns, for indeed I was dying of love for her worse than ever. She was tempted at the sight and did grant me that I longed for, saying how in concluding marriage, she had claimed and agreed with her husband for her entire liberty, without scandal, however, or concealment, and only at the price of a large sum, to the end the pair of them might live in affluence. She was therefore to be had only by wealthy men; and to them he would yield very willingly, but not to petty customers at all. Truly here was a husband cuckold out and out, in bud and blossom too.
I have heard speak of a lady of the great world who, in concluding marriage, did desire and stipulate that her husband should leave her at Court to follow the pursuit of love, reserving herself alway the use of her forest of dead-wood or common faggot at her own good pleasure. However, in return, she was to give him every month a thousand francs for his little indulgences of every day. In fact the one thought was to have a merry life of it.
Thus it is, such women as have been free, cannot easily refrain, but will e'en burst the strait bars of the doors imprisoning them, however strong these be and well guarded, wherever gold doth clink and glitter. Witness the beauteous daughter of King Acrisius (Danae), who all confined and imprisoned in her great tower as she was, yet did feel the persuasive drops of Jupiter's fair rain of gold, and admit the same.
Ah! how hard it is, a gallant gentleman of my ac- quaintance used to say, to safeguard a woman which is fair, ambitious, greedy and covetous of being bravely attired, and richly dressed, gaily decked out and well appointed, so that she lay not cul en terre, no matter how well armed, as they say, her fort be, and however brave and valiant a man her husband be, and albeit he doth carry a good sword to defend her withal.
I have known so many of these same brave and valiant folk which have all gone this road. And truly 'tis great pity to see these honourable and brave men come to this, and that, after so many gallant victories won by them, so many notable conquests over their enemies and noble combats decided by their valour, they should yet be forced to carry horns intermingled among the fair flowers and leaves of the crowns of triumph they wear, horns which do altogether spoil the effect thereof. Yet do they think far more of their high ambitions and noble com- bats, their honourable emprises and valiant exploits, than of safeguarding their wives and throwing light on their dark places. And this is how, without more ado, they do come to the city of Cuckoldland and the conquest of the same. Yet is it a sore pity. For instance, I once knew a very brave and valiant gentleman, bearing a very high name and title, who was one day proudly telling over his valiant deeds and conquests, when a very honourable and noble gentleman, his comrade and friend, who was pres- ent, did say, "Yes! there he is telling us of all his won- derful conquests ; but truly to master his own wife's affair is the greatest of all he hath ever won, or ever will!"
Many others have I known, who no matter what grace, majesty and proud carriage they might show, yet did every one display that look of the cuckold which doth spoil all the rest. For truly this look and defect cannot ever be hid or dissembled; no confidence of bearing and gesture whatsoever can hinder its being known and evi- dently noted. And for myself, never have I seen any one of these folk in all my life but did have their own dis- tinctive marks, gestures, postures, looks and defects, excepting only one I knew once, in whom the most keen- sighted could have found naught to observe or take hold of, without knowing his wife as well ; such an easy grace,
pleasant manners, and honourable, dignified deportment were his.
I would earnestly beg ladies which have husbands so perfect not to play them such tricks and put such affronts on them. But then they might in their turn retort upon me, "Nay ! tell us where are to be found these perfect husbands, such as was the man whose example you have just quoted to us?"
Verily, ladies, you are right ; for that all men cannot be Scipios and Caesars. I hold, therefore, that herein ye must e'en follow your fancies. For indeed, speaking of the Caesars, the most gallant of mankind have all gone this road, and the most virtuous and perfect, as I have said above and as we do read of that enlightened Em- peror Trajan, 2 whose perfections, however, could not hin- der his wife Plotina from yielding herself up entirely to the good pleasure of Hadrian, which was Emperor after- ward. From her did this last win great advantages, profits and aggrandisement, so much so that she was the chief cause of his advancement. Nor was he in any wise ungrateful, after he had come to greatness, for he did love her and ever honour her right well. And after her death he did make such mourning and felt such sadness that at the last he did altogether lose all wish to eat and drink for a while, and was forced to tarry in Narbonese Gaul, where he had heard the sad tidings, three or four months, during which time he writ to the Senate order- ing them to stablish Plotina in the number of the God- desses, and did command that at her funeral sacrifices, exceeding rich and sumptuous, should be offered. Mean- time he did employ his leisure in building and raising up, to her honour and memory, a very beautiful temple near
Nemausus, now called Nimes, adorned with most fair and rich marbles and porphyries, with other gawds.
See then how in matters of love and its satisfaction, naught at all can be laid down for certain. For truly Cupid the God thereof is blind, as doth clearly appear in sundry women, which having husbands as handsome and honourable and accomplished as can anywhere be seen, yet do fall in love with other men as ill-favoured and foul as mortals may be.
I have seen many cases that did force one to ask this question : Which is the more whorish dame, she that hath a right handsome and honourable husband, yet taketh an ill-favoured lover, one that is evil-tempered and quite un- like her husband; or she which hath an ill-favoured and ill-conditioned husband, and doth take a handsome, agree- able lover, and yet ceaseth not to love and fondly caress her husband, as if he were the prince of men for beauty, as myself have seen many a woman do?
Of a surety the common voice doth declare that she which, having an handsome husband, yet doth leave the same to love an ill-favoured lover is a very great whore, just as a person is surely a foul glutton which doth quit good food to eat of bad. So when a woman doth quit an handsome piece to take up with an ill-favoured, it hath all the semblance of her doing this out of sheer lecherous- ness, seeing there is naught more licentious and more fitted to satisfy licentiousness than an ugly man, with a savour more after the fashion of a stinking, filthy and lascivious goat than of a proper man. And in very deed handsome and honourable men are something more deli- cate and less apt to satiate an excessive and unbridled
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wantonness than is a coarse, bearded, lewd fellow, some big ramping countrified satyr.
Others maintain that the woman which doth love a handsome lover and an ill-favoured husband, and doth caress them both, is at the least as great a whore as the other, for that she is fain to lose naught whatever of her ordinary diet and sustenance.
Such women are like them that travel in foreign lands, yea ! and in France to boot, which being arrived at night at the inn to supper, do never forget to claim of mine host the wheeler's measure. Yea! and the fellow must needs have it too, albeit he should be full of good liquor to the throat already.
So will these dames, when night comes, never be without their "wheeler's measure," as was the way with one I Icnew well, who yet had a husband that was a right good performer. Natheless are they fain to increase and re- double their pleasure by any means they may, liking to have the lover for the day, which doth show up his beauty and so make the lady more eager for the fray, and give her more delight and satisfaction by reason of the good daylight. But the worthy husband with his ill-favoured face is kept for nighttime ; for truly, as they say all cats are grey at night, and provided the lady have satisfaction of her appetites, she recks naught whether her mate is ill or well favoured.
Indeed, as I learn from sundry, when one is in these ecstasies of amorous pleasure, neither man nor woman reck aught of any other thing or thought whatever, but only what they are at for the instant ; albeit on the other hand I have it on good authority how many dames have persuaded their lovers that, when they were at it with their
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husbands, they would ever give their thoughts to their lovers, and not reck at all of their husbands, in order to get the greater pleasure therefrom. So likewise have I heard husbands declare that when with their wives, they would be alway thinking of their mistresses with the like object. But these be disagreeable subjects!
Natural philosophers have told me that none but the present object of passion can possibly dominate them at this crisis, and in no wise the absent ; and give many rea- sons for their opinion. However I am not philosopher enough nor sufficiently learned to contradict them; and besides sundry of their reasons are filthy ones, and I would fain ever preserve decency. But for these predilections for all-favoured loves, I have seen many such in my day that have astonished me an hundred times over.
Returning once from a journey in a foreign land, I will not give the name, for fear men should recognise whereof I speak, and discoursing with a noble lady of the great world, I chanced to speak of another great lady and Princess, the which I had seen in those parts ; where- upon she did ask me as to this latter's love affairs. So I told her the name of the personage whom she held fa- vourite, one that was neither handsome nor of graceful presence, and of very low degree. Her reply was, "Verily she doth herself great wrong, and eke plays love a sorry trick, seeing she is so fair and honourable a lady, as all men hold."
And the said lady was surely right in the language she held, for that herself did act accordingly, and gainsaid not her opinions. For she had a worthy and honourable lover, whom she cherished right well. And when all is said, a fair lady will be doing no harm in loving, if only
she will choose a worthy object of her love, nor wronging her husband neither, if for no other reason, at least for the sake of their descendants. This, seeing there be hus- bands that are so ill-favoured, so stupid, senseless and silly, so graceless and cowardly, so poor spirited and good for naught, that their wives, having children of them and like them, might as well have none at all. And in- deed myself have known many ladies, which have borne children to suchlike husbands, and these have been all of them just like their fathers; yet afterward, when they have e'en borrowed one or two from their lovers, these have surpassed their supposed fathers, their brothers and sisters in all things whatsoever.
Some, moreover, among philosophers which have treated of this matter, have always maintained how that children thus borrowed by stealth, or stolen, if you will, thus en- gendered under the rose, and on the spur of the moment, are ever far more gallant, and recall more the merry fashion wherein they are used to be created, nimbly and cleverly, than such as are begot in bed, heavily, dully, ponderously, at leisure, their parents more than half asleep the while, giving never a thought but of brutish satisfaction to the pleasure in hand.
In like wise have I heard them that have charge of the stud-farms of kings and great lords say how they have many a time seen better foals got stealthily by their dams than others bred with every precaution by the masters of the stud, and from stallions specially chosen and assigned thereto. And so it is with human beings.
How many cases have I seen where ladies have borne handsomer and braver and more excellent children than they would have done, if the putative fathers had really
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begotten them, mere calves and brute beasts as they would then have been.
A good reason why women are well advised to seek the help and commodity of good and handsome stallions, to the end they may produce good offspring. Yet I have seen on the other hand some which had handsome hus- bands, but did nevertheless call in the aid of ill-favoured lovers and base stallions, which did beget ugly and evil- conditioned descendants.
This indeed is one of the most signal commodities and incommodities of the state of cuckoldry.
I once knew a great lady of society which had an ex- ceeding ill-favoured and ill-bred husband; and of four girls and two boys she had, there were only two good for aught, being children of her lover, while the others, com- ing of her scrub of a husband, I had all but said her screech-owl of a husband, for truly he had all the look of one, were but poor misbegotten creatures.
Now herein doth it behoove ladies to be very well ad- vised and cunning withal, for as a rule children do resem- ble their fathers, and whenas they do not so, bring grave suspicion on their mothers' honour. So have I seen in my life many fair ladies possessed of this craze, to have it said and thought of all the world that their children do altogether resemble their father and not themselves, though really they are not the least like them. For to say so is the greatest pleasure one can do them, seeing there is then presumption they have not borrowed them from any other, however opposite the truth may really be.
One time I was present at a great assemblage of the Court, whereat folk were discussing the portraits of two daughters of a certain very great Queen. Each stated
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his opinion as to whom they did resemble, in such wise that all, men and women, declared they took altogether after the mother. But I, being a most humble servant and admirer of the mother, did hold the other side, and maintained stoutly they took entirely after the father, and that if only they had known and seen the same as intimately as I had, they would grant me it was so. Whereupon the Queen's sister did thank me for my words, and was exceeding grateful to me, seeing there were sun- dry persons, which did say what they did, of set purpose, to raise suspicion of her going astray in love, the more that there was something of dust in her flute, as the say- ing is. Thus did my judgement as to the children's like- ness to their father put all right again. Wherefore in this matter, whosoever shall love a lady and shall be looking upon children of her blood and bone, let him alway declare these do take after the father altogether, whether it be so or no.
True they will do no hurt, if they maintain the chil- dren take a little after the mother, as was said by a gen- tleman of the Court, a chief friend of mine, speaking in company of two gentlemen, brothers and high favourites with the King. Being asked which they were like, the father or mother, he did make answer that the one which was cold was like the father, and the other, which was hot, the mother. By this quip giving a pretty stroke at the mother, who was of a somewhat hot complexion. And as a matter of fact these two children did partake of these two several humours, the hot and the cold.
There is yet another sort of cuckolds, they which are made such by reason of the scorn they show their wives. Thus I have known several who, though having fair and
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honourable dames to wife, did take no account of them, but would ever scorn and disdain them. These being sharp of wit and full of spirit, and of good family to boot, seeing themselves so disdained, did proceed to pay them back in their own coin. Quick was there fine love mak- ing, and quick the accomplishment of the same; for as saith the Italian and Neapolitan catch, amor non si vince con altro che con sdegno "love si mastered by scorn, and scorn only."
For so a fair and honourable lady, and one that doth know herself such and taketh pride therein, seeing her husband treating her with mere disdain, though she should bear him the fondest wifely love in the world, and albeit they should preach and put before her all the commands of the law to love and honour him, yet if she have the least spark of spirit, will she leave him in the lurch and take a lover elsewhere to help her in her little needs, and choose her out some private pleasure of her own.
I knew once two ladies of the Court, that were sisters- in-law. Of these the one had married an husband which was high in favour, a courtier and an adroit one. Yet did he not make such account of his wife as it behooved, seeing the birth she was of, but would speak to her before company as she were a mere savage, and treat her very roughly. This behaviour she did endure patiently for a while, till at length the husband did fall something out of favour. Then noting her opportunity and taking it cleverly as it came, having indeed waited for a good one, she straightway paid him back the scorn he had put on her, lightly and gaily making the poor man cuckold. And her sister did likewise, following her example. This last had been wed when very young and of tender years, so
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that her husband took no great heed of her, deeming her a mere chit and child, and did not love her as he should. But she coming to a riper time of life, and finding out she had a heart and was fair to look on, did soon pay him back in his own coin, and so made him a present of a fine pair of horns by way of interest on his past neglect.
Another time I knew a great Lord, which having taken two courtesans into favour, whereof one was a Moorish woman, to be his delight and joy of heart, did make no account of his wife, albeit she did seek to him with all due respect, and all the wifely love and reverence ever she could. Yet could he never look upon her with a fa- vourable eye, or cherish her with a good grace, and of an hundred nights he would hardly bestow twain on her. What must she do then, the poor girl, after so many indignities, but what she did, choose another vacant bed, and couple with another better half, and so take that she was fain of? .
At least she had been justified, if the husband had been like another I know of, who was of a like humour, and being pressed by his wife, a very fair lady and one that did take her joy elsewhere than at home, did tell her frankly : "Well ! well ! take your pleasures abroad ; I give you full leave. Do on your part what you please with another; I leave you in perfect liberty. Only make no trouble about my amours, and suffer me to do as I like. I will never hinder your pleasures and satisfaction; so do not you hinder mine." So, each independent of the other, the twain did go forth on their merry way, one to right, the other to left, without a thought or care for one another; a good and happy life truly!
No less should I commend a certain old man I knew
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once, who being impotent, sickly and gouty, did say thus one fine day to his wife, who was very fair, seeing clearly he could not satisfy her as she was fain to be dealt with : "I know right well, my pretty, how that my impotence accords ill with your heartsome years. This may well make me odious to you, and render it impossible to you to be my loving wife, as if I could to you the regular offices a strong, robust husband should. So I have thought good to suffer you and grant you full freedom to love some other, and borrow one that may satisfy you better than I can. But above all, I pray you choose out one that is discreet and modest, and will in no wise bring scandal on you, nor on me neither. And may he make you a pair of fine lads, the which I will love and rear as my own, in such wise that all men shall think them our own true and lawful offspring. And this is the more possible, seeing I have still in me some show of vigour and strength, and appearance enough of bodily manhood to make folk suppose them mine."
I leave you to suppose whether the fair girl was glad to receive this agreeable little homily, and free leave to enjoy such pleasing liberty. This she did turn to such good account that in a twinkling she did people the house with two or three fine infants, wherein the husband, inas- much as he did touch her at times and sleep with her, might deem he had some share, and did actually think so, and the neighbours and every one. In such wise were both husband and wife well pleased, and had good prog- eny, to boot.
Here again is another sort of cuckolds, they which are made so by reason of an amiable opinion certain women hold, to wit that there is no thing nobler and more lawful
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and more commendable than Charity. And by Charity they say they mean not merely giving to the poor who have need of succour and assistance from the wealth and abundance of the rich, but likewise helping to assuage the flames of poor languishing lovers that one sees con- suming with the fire of an ardent passion. "For of a truth," they declare, "what can be more charitable than to restore life to one we see dying, and to quite refresh again the man thus consuming away?" So says that brave Paladin, the Seigneur de Montauban, upholding the fair Genevra in Ariosto, who doth maintain that of rights the woman should die, which robs her lover of life, and not she who gives it him.
This did he say of a maid, and if it be true of a maid, then much more are suchlike deeds of Charity commend- able in wives even more than in maids, seeing these have not their purses untied and open yet like married women, the which, or at any rate some among them, have these same exceeding ample and well adapted to enlarge their charities !
Which doth remind me of a tale of a very fair lady of the Court, who did attire herself for a Candlemas-tide all in a dress of white damask, with all else white to match, so that naught that day did look fairer or more white. Then did the lady's lover win over one of her companions, which likewise was a very fair lady, but somewhat older and better skilled in speech, and well fitted to intercede for him. So, whenas they all three were looking at a very fine picture, wherein was depicted Charity clad all in white with a white veil, this last did say to her friend: "You do wear this day the same dress as Charity here; but seeing you do resemble her in attire, you should be like
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her too as concerneth your lover, there being no other thing more commendable than good pity and sweet char- ity, in whatsoever way it be showed forth, provided always it be with good will to help one's neighbour. Therefore be charitable; but if you have the fear of your husband and the sanctity of wedlock before your eyes, why! 'tis a vain superstition we women should never entertain, see- ing how nature hath given us good things in divers sorts, not to use the same niggardly, like some vile miserly hag with her treasure hoard, but rather to distribute them generously to poor suffering mortals and men in dire straits. True it is our chastity doth resemble a treasure, which it behooves us be niggard of on base occasions ; but for high and noble ones, we should dispense thereof lib- erally and without stint. In like wise ought we to deal with our chastity, the which we must yield up generously to folk of merit and desert, and ill-fortune to boot, but refuse to such as be vile, worthless, and such as do not stand in need. As for our husbands, truly these be fine idols, for us never to pay our vows and candles to any but them only, and never to visit other handsome images ! For 'tis to God alone we do owe absolute and unbroken allegiance, and to no man."
Now this discourse was in no wise displeasing to the lady, and did much advantage the lover, who by help of a little perseverance, did presently reap the benefit thereof. Yet are Charity sermons of the sort right dan- gerous for the unhappy husbands. I have heard tell (I know not whether it be true, so I will not say for certain it is so), how at the beginning when the Huguenots did first establish their religion, and they would be holding their preachings at night and in secret places, for fear
of being surprised, sought out and punished, whenas one day they were thus in the Rue St. Jacques at Paris, in the days of King Henri II., certain great ladies resorting thither to receive this Charity, were all but caught in the act. After the Minister had done his sermon, at the end thereof he did recommend them to be charitable; whereupon without more ado they did extinguish the lights, and on the spot each man and woman did exercise the same towards his or her brother or sister in Christ, dispensing it one to the other according to the good will and ability of each. But this I dare not assert right out, though I have been assured 'tis a true thing. Yet on the contrary 'tis very possible the whole is a mere lie and imposture.
At any rate I know this much well, how at Poitiers there dwelt at that time a certain advocate's wife, known by the name of the fair Gotterelle, whom myself have seen, which was one of the most beautiful women of her day, of the most charming grace and shape, and one of the most desirable dames in all the town at that time. Wherefore was every man fain to be making eyes at the same, and laying of his heart at her feet. She was one day at the end of sermon time handled by a round dozen of student lads, one after the other, whether in the Con- sistory or under some pent-house, or as I have heard some say, under a gallows in the Old Market, at any rate without her having made one single outcry or refusal. Rather, asking only the text of the sermon for password, she did welcome them one after other right courteously, as her true brothers in Christ. This gentle alms-giving she did long continue afterward towards them, yet would she never bestow one farthing's worth on any Papist.
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Yet were there sundry of that faith which, borrowing of the Huguenot comrades the word and the jargon of their meeting-house, did enjoy her favours. Others again would resort to the sermonizing expressly for this cause, and pretend to be converted, to learn the secret and so have pleasure of this beauteous dame. I was then at Poitiers as a student lad, and several good comrades of mine, who had their share of her favour, did assure me of the fact, and swear to it; moreover the general bruit in the place did confirm the same. Verily a delectable and charitable deed to do, and a right conscientious lady thus to make choice and preference of her fellow re- ligionists !
Yet another form of Charity is there, which is oft times practised towards poor prisoners who are shut up in dungeons and robbed of all enjoyments with women. On such do the gaolers' wives and women that have charge over them, or chatelaines who have prisoners of war in their Castle, take pity and give them share of their love out of very charity and mercifulness. Thus did a certain Roman courtesan say once to her daughter, of whom a gallant was deeply enamoured, but she would never be- stow on him so much as a farthing's worth: E dagli, al manco por misericordia, "Well, well ! do him charity then for pity's sake."
Thus do these gaolers' wives, noble chatelaines and others, treat their prisoners, the which, captive and un- happy though they be, yet cease not for that to feel the prickings of the flesh, as much as ever they did in their best days. As saith the old proverb, "Longing cometh of lacking," so even in the straw and on the hard ground,
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my lord Priapus will still be lifting his head, as well as on the best and softest bed in all the world.
Hence it cometh that beggars and prisoners, in their lazar-houses and prisons, are just as wanton as Kings, Princes and great folk in their rich Palaces and on their royal and dainty couches.
To confirm what I say, I will instance a tale that Cap- tain Beaulieu, Captain of the King's Galleys, of whom I have before spoke once and again, did tell me. He was in the service of the late Grand Prior of France, a mem- ber of the house of Lorraine, who was much attached to him. Going one time to take his patron on board at Malta in a frigate, he was taken by the Sicilian galleys, and carried prisoner to the Castel-a-mare at Palermo, where he was shut up in an exceeding narrow, dark and wretched dungeon, and very ill entreated by the space of three months. By good hap the Governor of the Castle, who was a Spaniard, had two very fair daughters, who hearing him complaining and making moan, did one day ask leave of their father to visit him, for the honour of the good God; and this he did freely give them permis- sion to do. And seeing the Captain was of a surety a right gallant gentleman, and as ready-tongued as most, he was able so to win them over at this, the very first visit, that they did gain their father's leave for him to quit his wretched dungeon and to be put in a seemly enough chamber and receive better treatment. Nor was this all, for they did crave and get permission to come and see him freely every day and converse with him.
And this did fall out so well that presently both the twain of them were in love with him, albeit he was not
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handsome to look upon, and they very fair ladies. And so, without a thought of the chance of more rigorous imprisonment or even death, but rather tempted by such opportunities, he did set himself to the enjoyment of the two girls with good will and hearty appetite. And these pleasures did continue without any scandal, for so fortu- nate was he in this conquest of his for the space of eight whole months, that no scandal did ever hap all that time, and no ill, inconvenience, nor any surprise or discovery at all. For indeed the two sisters had so good an under- standing between them and did so generously lend a hand to each other and so obligingly play sentinel to one an- other, that no ill hap did ever occur. And he sware to me, being my very intimate friend as he was, that never in his days of greatest liberty had he enjoyed so excellent entertainment or felt keener ardour or better appetite for it than in the said prison, which truly was a right good prison for him, albeit folk say no prison can be good. And this happy time did continue for the space of eight months, till the truce was made betwixt the Emperor and Henri II., King of France, whereby all pris- oners did leave their dungeons and were released. He sware that never was he more grieved than at quitting this good prison of his, but was exceeding sorry to leave these fair maids, with whom he was in such high favour, and who did express all possible regrets at his departing. I did ask him if ever he apprehended ill consequences, if he were discovered. To which he made reply, he most certainly did, yet was not afeared thereof. For at the worst they would but have put him to death, and he had rather have died than go back to his first dungeon. Moreover he was afraid, if he had failed to gratify these
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honourable maids, seeing they sought to him so eagerly, that they would have conceived so sore a despite and dis- dain against him, that he would have gotten some worse treatment even than afore. Wherefore, close shutting his eyes to all consequences, he did adventure boldly on this merry emprise.
Many another adventure of the sort is related in our land of France, as of the Due d'Arschot, who when a prisoner in the Bois de Vincennes, did escape by the help of an honourable lady; the which lady however was like to have suffered sore for it, seeing 'twas a matter of the King's service. And indeed suchlike deeds of charity are blameworthy, if they do touch the general weal, though very good and commendable, when only the indi- vidual is concerned, and the lover's life and his mistress's only endangered. In this there is scant hurt.
I could instance many fine examples pertinent to this matter, if I were desirous of writing a separate discourse thereon, and insooth 'twould be by no means an un- amusing subject. However I will but quote the following one, and no other beside, for the sake of telling a pleas- ant and classic tale.
We read in Livy how, after the Romans had utterly destroyed the town of Capua, certain inhabitants of that city did come to Rome to represent their unhappj 7 state to the Senate, and beseech the Fathers to have pity on them. The matter was debated and amongst others which did pronounce an opinion was M. Atilius Regulus, who did maintain they should show no mercy whatever. "For he could in no wise discover," he declared, "any sin- gle Capuan, since the revolting of their city, who could be said to have displayed the least atom of friendliness
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or affection for the Roman State, except only two honour- able women," the one Vestia Oppia, an Atellane, from the city of Atella, domiciled at Capua at the time, and the other, one Faucula Cluvia, both of whom had been afore- time ladies of pleasure and courtesans, plying their trade publicly in that city. The one had let never a day pass without offering up prayers and sacrifices for the success and victory of the Roman People, while the other had deserved well for having by stealth succoured with victuals the poor prisoners of war, dying of hunger and misery. Verily good and pious deeds of Charity these! But hereanent, a noble gentleman, an honourable lady and myself reading of this passage of Livy together one day, we did suddenly exclaim one to the other, how seeing these two honourable dames had gone thus far and had performed such good and pious offices, that doubtless they had gone on to yet others, and had bestowed on the poor prisoners the charity of their fair bodies. For indeed in former days they had distributed these same alms to other folk, being then courtesans, or mayhap being so still. Still the book doth not say so, but leaveth this point in doubt; yet may we guess how 'twas. But even granting they had of yore plied this trade, but had now left it off for some space, yet might they very well have taken it up again, nothing being more easy and facile to do. Then likely enough they did recognise and once again receive some of the good lovers of their former acquaintance, and were now ready to return once more somewhat on their old courses. Or again 'tis quite likely that among the prisoners, they may have seen some, hitherto unknown and which they had never set eyes on but this once, and found the same handsome, brave, valiant and well-liking gal-
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lants, that did well deserve all their charity, and so could they do no otherwise than grant them full enjoyment of their good favours.
Thus, in whatsoever way it came about, did these hon- ourable ladies well earn the courtesy which the Roman Commonwealth showed them, making them to recover all their goods, and assuring them the peaceable enjoyment of the same for all time. Nay! more, they did make known to them how they might ask what they would, and they should have their request. And to speak candidly, if Titus Livy had not been so reticent and unduly con- strained by shamefacedness and overmodesty, he might very well have spoke right out about these ladies, and said plainly they did not grudge the favour of their fair bodies. So would this passage of History have been yet more excellent and entertaining to peruse, had he not thus docked his narrative, and left sticking at his pen- point the best part of the tale. Such was the discourse we three did hold thereon at the time.
13. KING JOHN of France, when a prisoner in England, did in like-wise receive many marks of favour from the Countess of Salisbury, and such pleasant ones that, not being able to forget the same and the titbits she bestowed on him, he did return once more to see her again, as she had made him swear and promise he would do.
Other ladies there be which are complaisant herein up to a certain point of conscience and charity. Of this sort was one which would never suffer her lover, sleep with her as oft as he might, to kiss her the least in the world on the lips, giving as her reason that 'twas her mouth had made the oath of faith and fealty to her husband, and she would fain not foul the same by way of the very mouth that hade made and taken it. But as for that of the body, the which had said never a word and promised naught, this she did let him do with at his good pleasure, and made no scruple to yield to her lover, seeing it is not in the competence of the upper part to pledge itself for the lower, any more than for the lower for the upper. For that the custom of Law doth say that none can bind himself for another without the consent and word of either party, nor one only for the whole.
Another most conscientious and scrupulous dame, when granting her friend enjoyment of her, would always take the upper station and bring her man under her, never abating one jot of this rule. For, by observing the same straitly and regularly, she would say, if her husband or any other did ask whether such an one had done to her, that she could deny even on oath, and assuredly protest, without sinning against God, that never had he done so with her. This oath she did so emphatically make as to quite satisfy her husband and others by dint of her confident swearing in answer to heir questions. So did they credit her in what she alleged, "yet had never the wit," she would say, "to demand if ever she had taken the upper part herself; by the which question they would have brought much scorn on me," she said, "and sore trouble of mind."
Methinks I have before now spoke of this point; yet cannot a man always remember everything. Moreover it doth better accord with the matter here in hand than with other, as it seemeth me.
Commonly ladies of this sort are great liars, and speak never a word of truth. For so trained are they and broken in to lying, and truly if they do otherwise, they are fools, and come but to ill, to their husbands and lovers anent these matters and these changes of love, and so used to swearing they never give themselves to any but them only, that when they come to deal with other matters of consequence, of business or argument, they never do aught but lie, and no man can believe a thing they say.
Other women again I have both known and heard speak of, which would never grant their favours to their lovers but when they were with child, to the end they might not conceive. Wherein they did make great scruple so as not to falsely give their husbands a fruit that was not really theirs, and nourish, feed and bring up the same as their own. I have already spoke on this subject. However, being once pregnant, they would deem they were doing the husband no wrong nor making him cuckold by prostituting themselves.
Very like, some were used to do thus for the same reasons as moved Julia, the Emperor Augustus' daughter and wife of Agrippa, who in her time was a notorious harlot, whereat was her father more sore angered than her husband. Once being asked if that she were not afeared of being made pregnant by her lovers, and her husband noting it and being very wroth with her, she made answer: "Nay! I take good heed in this, for I do receive no man and take never a passenger in my ship, but when it is laden and carrying full cargo."
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Now here we have yet another sort of cuckolds ; and these same are true martyrs, they which have wives as ugly as devils in hell, who nevertheless are fain to take their share in tasting the sweets of love just as much as their fairer sisters, though these last properly do deserve this privilege alone according to the proverb: "Handsome men to the gallows, fair dames to the brothel." 2 Yet do these ugly coal-wenches play the gay woman like the rest. And they must needs be forgiven; for are they not women too, and with a like nature and complexion, only not so fair seeming. I have seen very plain women, at any rate in their youth, which did rate themselves just as highly as fairer dames, deeming that a woman is valued at just the worth she doth put upon herself and will sell herself for. Even as at a good market all sorts of wares are sold and pledged, some at a high, some at a lower rate, according to the amount of business a-doing, and the time at which one cometh to market after others, and according to the good or bad price one doth find ruling there. For, as folk say, a man goeth always to the best market, and albeit the stuff be not of the best, the price will depend on the skill of the market-man and market-woman.
So is it with plain women, of whom I have seen some that, by my troth, were as hot and lustful and as well inclined for love as the fairest, and would put themselves on the market and be as fain as any to get a good price and full value.
But the worst thing I find in them is this, that whereas the dealers make offers to the fairest, these others do make offers to the dealers and beg them to take and accept of their goods, the which they are ready to give
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them for nothing or at a very low price. Nay! they go further still; for most often they do give them money to taste of their lecherousness and be debauched of them. Now look at the pity of it! for in payment of such de- bauching no little sum of money is needed, so much so that it doth cost more than the person is worth. And yet is the poor husband no less degraded and made cuck- old by a plain wife, whose fare is much harder to digest than a beautiful woman's. To say nothing of a man's having to lie by his side a devil of hell, in place of a beauteous angel.
Wherefore I have heard many gallant men say they had rather have a beautiful woman, and one something whorish, than a plain woman, though the most chaste in all the world. For in a foul dame is to be found naught but wretchedness and displeasure ; in a fair one is abund- ance of all pleasure and good happiness, as some folk maintain. For myself I refer me to such as have trod this roadway and path.
I have heard some men say sometimes, that for hus- bands it is no such grand thing for them to have their wives chaste. For then are these so boastful of the fact, I mean those women that do possess this most uncommon gift, that you might almost declare them fain to dom- inate not alone their husbands, but the very world itself and the stars of heaven ! Nay ! they seem to think, judg- ing from their pride of chastity, that God doth owe them some special return therefor. Yet are they greatly de- ceived; for I have heard learned Doctors say, how that God doth more love a poor sinful woman, repentant and contrite, as in the case of the Magdalene, than a prideful and haughty dame, which doth suppose she hath surely
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won Paradise, without any need for the pity and merciful judgment of God.
I have heard tell of a lady so boastful by reason of her chastity that she did come so to look down upon her husband, that when asked if she had lain with him, "No !" she would reply, "but he hath lain with me." So proud a dame was she! I leave you to imagine how these same silly, boastful, virtuous wives do chide their poor hus- bands, even though they may have naught really to re- proach them with. So in especial do such wives as are chaste and rich likewise. A wife that is at once virtuous and wealthy in her own right, will ever be playing the disdainful, haughty, proud and bold lady towards her husband, so that by reason of the over high value she doth set on her chastity and her well guarded front, she cannot refrain her from putting on the airs of an empress and chiding her husband on his committing the smallest fault, as I have seen sundry do, and above all on his ill way of life. If he gamble, or be wasteful or extrava- gant, mightily doth she protest and storm, making her home to seem rather a hell upon earth than an honour- able household. Then if he need to sell aught of his property to meet the cost of a journey to Court or to the wars, or of his lawsuits, necessities or minor follies and frivolous expenses, never a word must he speak thereof. For such an empire hath the wife assumed over him, resting it on the strong foundation of her virtue, that her husband must needs refer all to her judgment, as Juvenal well says in one of his Satires:
"... Animus uxoris si deditus uni, Nil unquam in vita donabis conjuge; vendes, Hac obstante, nihil haec, si nolit, emetur." 3 
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These lines of the poet show plainly that the ancient Roman dames were in this matter of an humour much akin to that of many ladies of our own day. On the contrary, when a wife is something whorish, she will show herself far more acommodating, more yielding, docile and timid, of a much gentler and more agreeable disposition, more humble and ready to do aught her husband may desire, and more complaisant to him in all things. So have I seen some such which durst never scold or cry out, nor show themselves cross-gained, for fear the hus- band should confront them with their fault and throw their adultery in their face, and make them to feel the consequences thereof at the cost of their life itself. Then if the gallant fellow is fain to sell some property of theirs, lo! their names are writ to the contract before ever the husband have time to say the word. Many of this sort have I seen. In one word they do what their husbands please.
Well ! are these then so sorely hurt to be made cuckold of such fair dames, and to win of them such fine goods and advantages as these, to say naught of the fine, delightsome pleasure they do enjoy in wantoning with suchlike beauteous women, and swimming, so to speak, with them in a beautiful, clear stream instead of a foul and repulsive slough? And since a man must die, as a certain great Captain I know used to say, is it not far better for it to be by a fine fresh sword, bright, clear, shining and keen-edged, than by an old blade, all rusted and ill burnished, one calling for more emery than all the sword-cutlers of Paris together could furnish?
And what I say of young women that are plain, I say the like of some old women, the which are fain to be
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debauched and be kept clean and bright by use, just as much as the fairest in all the world. Elsewhere do I give a special Discourse to this subject (the Fifth Dis- course, following). And this is the worst of it: when their husbands cannot fulfil the duty, then the rogues will be calling in substitutes, being every bit as passionate as 3 r ounger women, or even more so. So have I seen some that neither at the beginning nor the middle of life are ready to be excited, but only at the end. And rightly do men say that in these matters the end is more fierce than the two other ages, the beginning and the middle, so far as wishing goes. For very often strength and competence are then lacking, a thing that doth vex them sore, as saith the old proverb: 'Tis great grief and pain, when a backside hath right good will, but power is a-wanting.
So are there always some of these poor old wretches, which do admit their lovers gratis, like a muleteer on his beast, and do distribute their largess at the expense of their two purses ; but 'tis the money purse only makes these find the other, the body's purse, good and narrow. Thus we say that liberality is more to be esteemed in all matters than avarice and niggardliness, except only with women, who, the more liberal they are, the less are they esteemed, but the avaricious and niggard all the more for being so.
This was what a great Lord did say one time of two great ladies, sisters, whom I know of, whereof the one was niggard of her honour, but liberal of her purse and expenditure, the other exceeding chary of her purse and money, but very liberal of her person.
Next there is yet another sort of cuckolds, one that of a surety is utterly abominable and hateful before God and man alike, they who, enamoured of some handsome Adonis, do abandon their wives to men of this kind in order to enjoy their favour in return.
The first time ever I was in Italy, I did hear of an example of this at Ferrara, the tale being told me of one who, captivated by a certain handsome youth, did persuade his wife to accord her favours to the said young man, who was in love with her, and to appoint a day and consent to do all he should bid her. The lady was willing nough, for truly she did desire no better venison to regale herself withal than this. At length was the day fixed, and the hour being come when the young lover and the lady were at their pleasant game and entertainment, lo! the husband, who was hid near at hand, according to the compact betwixt him and his wife, did rush in. So catching them in the very act, he did put his dagger to the lover's throat, deeming him worthy of death for such offence, in accordance with the laws of Italy, which herein be something more rigorous than in France. So was he constrained to grant the husband what he did desire, and they made exchange one with the other. The young man did prostitute himself and the husband did abandon his wife to the young man. Thus was the husband cuckold after an exceeding foul fashion.
I have heard tell of a lady, which being desperately in love with an honourable gentleman whom she had taken for lover and chief favourite, and this latter fearing the husband would do him or her some ill turn, did comfort him, saying, "Nay ! have no fear, for he would in no wise dare do aught, for dread I should accuse him of having wished to practice the backdoor Venus, which might well bring about his death, if I were to breathe the least word thereof and denounce him to justice. But in this way I do hold him in check and in terror, so that for fear of my accusation, he dares not say one word to me."
Without a doubt such accusation would have involved the poor husband in naught less than peril of his life; for the legists declare that this act is punishable for the mere wish to commit the same. But mayhap the lady did never mean to let out the word altogether, and would not have gone so far as this without reconsidering her intent.
I have been told how in one of these latter years a young French gentleman, a handsome gallant that had been seen many a day at Court, being gone to Rome for instruction in manly exercises, like others his con- temporaries, was in that city regarded with so favourable an eye, and did meet with such great admiration of his beauty, as well of men as of women, that folk were ready almost to force him to their will. And so whenever they were aware of his going to Mass or other place of public assemblage, they would never fail, either men or women, to be there likewise for to see him. Nay, more, several husbands did suffer their wives to give him love assigna- tions in their houses, to the end that being come thither and then surprised, they might effect an exchange, the one of his wife, the other of him. For which cause he was advised never to yield to the love and wishes of these ladies, seeing the whole matter had been contrived and arranged merely to entrap him. And herein he did show himself wise and did set his honour and good conscience above all such detestable pleasures, winning thereby a
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high and worthy repute. Yet at the last his squire did kill him. Divers reasons are given therefor. At any rate 'twas a sore pity, for that he was a very honourable young man, of good station, and one that did promise well of his nature as well by reason of his noble actions as of the fine and noble character he did manifest herein. For indeed, as I have heard a very gallant man of my time say, and as is most true, never yet was bougre or catamite a brave, valiant and generous man but only the great Julius Caesar, seeing that by divine permission and ordinance all such abominable folk are brought low and reduced to shame. And this doth make me wonder how sundry, whom I have seen stained by this horrid vice, have yet prospered under heaven in high good fortune; yet doth God wait for them, and at the last we shall surely see them meet their proper fate.
How many women there be in the world, which if they were examined by midwives and doctors and expert sur- geons, would be found no more virgin one way than an- other, and which could at any moment bring action against their husbands. Yet do they dissimulate it and dare not discover the matter, for fear of bringing scandal on themselves and their husbands, or perhaps because they do find therein some greater pleasure than we can suppose. Or it may be for the purpose I have above named, to keep their husbands in such subjection, if they do make love in other quarters, which indeed some husbands do on these terms allow them to do. Yet are none of these reasons really sufficient to account for the thing.
The Summa Benedicti saith: If the husband chooseth thus to take his part contrary to the order of nature,
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he commits a mortal sin; and if he maintain that he may dispose of his own wife as he please, he doth fall into a detestable and foul heresy of sundry Jews and evil Rabbis, which are cited as saying thus, dudbus mulieribus apud synagogam conquestis se fuisse a viris sms cognitu so- domitico cognitas, responsum est ab Hits Rabinis: virum esse u&oris dominum, proinde posse uti ejus utcumque libuerit, non aliter quam qui piscem emit: ille enim, tarn anterioribus quam posterioribus partibus, ad arbitrium vesci posse.
This have I quoted only in Latin, forasmuch as it soundeth ill to honourable and modest ears. Abominable wretches that they be, thus to desert a fair, pure and lawful habit, to adopt instead one that is foul, dirty, filthy and forbid, and disgraceful to boot.
But if the man will take the woman so, it is lawful for her to separate from him, if there is no other means to cure him. And yet, it is stated again, such women as fear God ought never to consent thereto, but rather cry out for help, regardless of the scandal which might so arise, and of dishonour and the fear of death; for 'tis better, saith the law, to die than to consent to evil. The same book doth say another thing which I deem very strange: that whatsoever way a husband know his wife, provided she may conceive thereby, herein is no mortal sin, but only a venial one. Nor do these same smack at all of marital purity, albeit, as I have before said, it may be permissible in case of pregnant women, as well as such as have a strong and unpleasant breath, whether from the mouth or nose. Thus have I known and heard speak of several women to kiss whom and scent their breath was as bad as smelling at a sewer; or to put it another way, I
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have heard it said of a certain great lady, a very great one indeed I mean, that once one of her ladies declared her breath stank more than a backhouse. These are the very words she used.
I would say more of this, but in truth I have a horror of speaking thereof at all. It hath vexed me to have said so much as I have ; but 'tis needful sometimes to lay open public vices in order to reform the same.
JEXT it behoveth me to mention an ill opinion which many have held and do still hold con- cerning the Court of our French Kings. Men say the ladies thereof, both maids and wives, do oft times trip, indeed do so customarily. But in this are they very much deceived, for truly there be amongst these very chaste, honourable and virtuous women, nay! even more than elsewhere. Virtue doth reside there just as much, or more than in other places, a fact we should duly prize, for that it can readily be put to proof.
Je n'alleguerai que ce seul exemple de Mme. la grande- duchesse de Florence d'aujourd'hui, de la maison de Lor- raine, laquelle etant arrivee a Florence le soir que le grand -due 1'epousa, et qu'il voulut aller coucher avec elle pour la depuceler, il la fit avant pisser dans un bel urinoir de cristal, le plus beau et le plus clair qu'il put, et en ayant vu 1'urine, il la consulta avec son medecin, qui etait un tres grand et tres savant et expert personnage, pour savoir de lui, par cette inspection, si elle etait pucelle oui ou non. Le medecin 1'ayant bien fixement et doctement inspectee, il trouva qu'elle etait telle comme
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quand sortit du ventre de sa mere, et qu'il y allat hardi- ment, et qu'il n'y trouverait point le chemin nullement ouvert, fraye ni battu; ce qu'il fit, et en trouva la verite telle et puis.
Then next morning, in amaze, he did exclaim thus: "Lo and behold, a miracle, that the girl should thus have come forth a virgin from yonder Court of France!" Truly a curious investigation, and a strange opinion! I know not if the tale be true, but it hath been confidently affirmed to me as being so.
A fine repute for our Court. But indeed 'tis no long while since men generally held that all the ladies of the Court and of Paris city were not so virtuous of their body as they of the open countryside, and such as never left their homes. There have been men known so scrupu- lous they would never wed with girls or women which had travelled far afield, and seen the world, be it ever so little. Thus in our native Guyenne, in the days of my youth, I have heard not a few gallant gentlemen say this and seen them swear to the same, that they would never wed girl or woman which should ever have gone forth of the Port de Pille, to journey away toward France. Poor silly creatures surely herein, albeit wise and gallant men enough in other matters, to suppose that cuckoldry did never abide in their own houses, at their hearths and in their closets and bedchambers, just as readily, or may- hap more so, seeing the easy opportunities, as in the Royal Palaces and the great Royal towns ! For could not lovers well enough come thither to suborn, win over, court and undo their wives for them, when they were themselves away at Court, at the wars, or the chase, attending their law business or on their journeyings
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abroad? This they would never understand, but were so simple as to think men would never dare to say one word of love to their ladies, but speak only of their households, gardens, hunting and hawking parties. And so by such blindness and rash confidence they did get themselves cuckolded even more freely than elsewhere ; for there is no spot where a fair and clever woman, and an honourable and gallant man, cannot find room and convenience for love-making. Poor fools and idiots that they were ! could they not realize how that Venus hath no fixed and special place of abode, as of old in Cyprus, at Paphos and Amathos, and see that she doth dwell everywhere, yea ! even in the very herdsmen's cots and the lowly lap of shepherdesses the most simple seeming?
Since some while now have they begun to abandon these silly prejudices. For, having observed that in all parts was risk of this same unhappy cuckoldry, they have of late taken wives wherever they have pleased or been able. Nay! they have gone yet further; for they have sent them or taken them with them to Court, to let their beauty be manifest and have full appreciation, and so strike envy to the heart of all and sundry, as if for the very end of getting themselves a set of horns !
Others again do nowadays send their wives, or take the same along with them, to plead and influence by their solicitations their suits at law; whereof some really and truly have no law business at all, but do make pretense they have. Or else, if they really have some case toward, they will wilfully prolong the same, the better to prolong their amours. Nay! sometimes husbands will actually leave their wives on duty at the Courts, in the galleries and great Hall thereof, and so away to their own homes,
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deeming these will better do their business for them, and they will win their cause better so. And in truth I do know of several which have so won them, more by the dexterity and delights of their wives' fore parts than by any claim of justice on their side. And so many a time will the wives be gotten with child at this game, and then to avoid scandal, drugs having failed of their efficacy to preserve them therefrom, will speedily hie away home to their husbands, feigning they are going thither to look up titles or documents of the which they stand in need, or to institute some enquiry, or else that 'tis to await Martinmas and the re-opening of the Courts, and that being unable in vacation time to make any progress in their suit, they are fain to have a bout of the male and see their households again and husbands. And so they do in sooth, but they were well in child, ere ever they began !
I appeal to many a learned judge and presiding mag- istrate as to the fine tit-bits these same have enjoyed from time to time of country gentlemen's wives.
'Tis no long while since a very fair, great and honour- able lady, which myself have known, going in this wise to forward her case at the Paris Courts, one seeing it did say, "Why! what doth she think to do? She will surely lose, for she hath no great claim of right and justice." But, tell me, doth not her right and justice lie in the beauty of her fore part, even as Caesar did bear his on the pommel and point of his sword ?
Thus are country gentlemen cuckolded by the men of the Law, in revenge for the cuckoldries they themselves commit on judges' and magistrates' good ladies. And in- deed some of these last I have seen who have been a fair
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match, when all charms were displayed, for many wives and daughters of Lords, Knights and high-born gentle- men of the Court and other such.
I knew once a great lady, which had been very fair, but years had worn out her beauty. Having a law case at Paris, and seeing her beauty was no more meet to help her to forward and win her process, she did take with her a certain neighbour of hers, a young and pretty woman. And to this end she did supply her with a good sum of money, as much as ten thousand crowns; and so what she could not herself do, willing as she would have been, in this she did find her advantage, and the young lady to boot, and both the twain were well pleased.
'Tis no long while since I saw a mother take thither one of her daughters, albeit she was a married woman, to help her forward her case, having no other business there at all. And truly she is a very fair lady, and well worth a man's while to listen to.
However 'tis high time I should make an end in this my grand discourse concerning cuckoldry. For at the last would my long periods, tossed to and fro in these deep waters and mighty torrents, be clean drowned; and I should never have done, or have wit enough to get me out of the thing, no more than out of that Labyrinth of yore, though I should have the longest and strongest thread was ever in this world for guide and safe conduct.
Finally I will conclude by saying this, that if we are the cause of many ills, and do give torments, martyrdoms and evil times to the poor cuckolds, still we do verily pay for the same through the nose, as the saying is, and are mulcted in a triple interest. For verily the more part of them that do them wrong and make unlawful love, the
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more part of the same gallants, do endure quite as great ills as they inflict, seeing all the jealousies they are liable to, not less from their rivals in the pursuit than from the husbands themselves. Then consider the anxieties and caprices they have to put up with, the risks they run of danger and death, of maiming and wounds, of affronts, insults, quarrels, terrors, pains and penalties of every kind. Think how they must needs endure cold and wet, wind and heat. I say naught here of pox and chancres, all the plagues and diseases they incur at this game, as much with high-born dames as with those of low degree. Thus it is that many and many a time they buy right dear what is granted them, and the game is truly not worth the candle.
Yea ! many such have we seen perish miserably, at the very time they were set forth on their way to conquer a whole kingdom. Witness M. de Bussi, the paragon of his day, and many another.
Of such I could cite an host more ; but I will leave them unnamed, to the end I may have done, only admonishing lovers and advising them to practise the Italian proverb which saith, Che molto guadagna chi putana perde! (He who loseth an harlot, gaineth much).
Ame, Count of Savoy, was often used to say:
En jeu d'armes et d'amours Pour une joye cent doulours. ("In the sport of arms and of love, for one joy an hundred dolours.")
using this quaint old word, the better to make out his rhyme. Another saying of his was, that love and anger had this point of great unlikeness one with the other,
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that whereas anger doth pass away soon and very readily from the person affected, love doth so only with the ex- treme of difficulty.
And this is why we should guard well against love of this sort for that it doth cost us quite as much as it is worth, and doth often lead to great ill fortunes. And to speak the real truth, the more part of patient and contented cuckolds have an hundred fold better time, if only they have the wit to recognise their position and come to an agreement with their wives, than have the active agents. Yea \ and many an one have I seen, though his horns were in question, would make mock at us and laugh at all the humours and pretty speeches of us gal- lants in converse of love with the wife. The same again when we had perchance to do with wily dames, who do make an understanding with their husbands and so sell us. So I knew once a very brave and honourable gentle- man, who had long loved a certain fair and honourable lady and had had of her the enjoyment he had been fain of for so long. But one day having observed that the husband and she were making merry at some peculiarity of his, he did take the thing in such dudgeon that he did leave her, and for good; for taking a long journey for to divert his thoughts, he did never speak to the lady again, so he told me. And truly suchlike wily, cunning and fickle dames must be guarded against, as they were savage beasts; for to content and appease their husbands, they will quit their old lovers, and thereafter again take other ones, being in no wise able to do without them altogether.
So too I have known a very honourable and great lady, which yet had this ill fortune with her, that of five or six lovers I have seen her have in my day, all died one after
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the other, not without sore grief on her part therefor. Wherefore did men say of her how that she was Sej amis' horse, seeing all they which did mount her did die, and scarce ever survived. Yet had she this good in her and this merit, that whosoever it may have been, she was never known to change or abandon any of her good friends and lovers while yet living, for to take others instead. Only when they did come to die, she was ever eager to have a new mount, to the end she might not go a-foot. Moreover, as the lawyers themselves main- tain, 'tis allowed to adopt any protector one may choose for one's estate and lands, whenas they are deprived of their first master. Such constancy in this fair lady was much to be commended ; but albeit she was so far firm in her good faith, yet have there ever been an host of other dames that have been far from so constant.
Besides, to speak candidly, 'tis never advisable to grow old in one and the same spot, and no man of spirit ever doth so. A man must be a bold adventurer and ever be turning him this way and that, just as much in love as in war and in other matters. For verily if a sailor do trust to but one anchor in his ship, if he drag this, he is very likely to lose his vessel, especially if it be in an ex- posed place and in a storm, where squalls and tempestu- ous waves are more like to occur than in a calm and in harbour.
And in what more dangerous and exposed waters could a man adventure himself and sail forth than in making love to one fair lady only? For though of herself she may not have been wily and cunning at the beginning, yet we men do soon make her so and sharpen her wits by the many strange tricks we play with her, whereby we
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do often hurt ourselves, by making her able to carry the war into our own country, having fashioned and trained her thereto. So is it better far, as a certain gallant gentleman was used to say, to wed some fair and honour- able dame, albeit with the risk of having a touch of the horns and suffering this misfortune of cuckoldry that is common to so many, rather than to endure so many hardships and perils in the making of other folks cuckold.
However this is all contrary to the opinion expressed by M. du Gua, to whom one day I did make a proposition on the part of a certain great lady which had begged me so to do, to marry him. But he did make this answer only, that heretofore he had ever deemed me one of his best friends, but that now I did make him think himself deceived in this, by my holding such language to him, trying to hunt him into the very thing he most did hate, that is to get him to marry and be cuckolded, in lieu of his making other men so. He did further say he could always wed plenty of women every year, speaking of mar- riage as an hidden prostitution of a man's repute and liberty, ordained by a specious law. Moreover that the worst of it was, this, as myself also do see and have noted to be the case, that the more part, nay ! all, of them that have thus taken delight in making other folks cuckold, when themselves come to wed, infallibly do they fall into the married, I mean the cuckolded, state. Never yet have I known it fall out otherwise, according to the word, "As thou shalt do to others, so shall it be done unto you."
Before making an end, I will say yet one word more, how that I have seen a dispute raised that is still un- decided, to wit, in which provinces and regions of our Christendom and Europe there be most cuckolds and
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harlots? Men declare that in Italy the ladies are exceed- ingly hot, and for that cause very whorish, as saith M. de Beze 1 in a Latin Epigram, to the effect that where the sun is hot and doth shine with most power, there doth it the most heat women, inditing a verse thus conceived ;
Credible est ignes multiplicare suos. ("Pis to believed he doth there multiply their fires.)
Spain is in the like case, though it lie more to the West- ward ; yet doth the sun there warm fair ladies as well as ever it can in the East.
Flemish, Swiss, German, English and Scotch women, albeit they dwell more to the Northward and inhabit cold regions, share no less in this same natural heat ; and indeed I have known them as hot as dames of any other land.
The Greeks have good reason to be so, for that they are well to the Eastward. So in Italy men do pray for Greca in let to, or "a Greek bedfellow." And in sooth they do possess many attractive points and merits, as is but to be expected, seeing in times of old they were the delight of all the world, and have taught many a secret to the ladies of Italy and Spain, from ancient times even to the present day, so much so that these do well nigh surpass their teachers, whether ancient or modern. And verily was not the Queen and Empress of all harlots, which was Venus, a Greek?
As for my fair countrywomen of France, in old days they were notoriously very coarse and unrefined, content- ing themselves with doing of it in a coarse, rude fashion. But, beginning some fifty years since, they have borrowed so much and learned from other nations so many gentle ways, pretty tricks, charms and attractions, fine clothes, wanton looks, or else themselves have so well studied to fashion themselves therein, that we are bound to say that they do now surpass all other women in every way. So, as I have heard even men of foreign nations admit, they are better worth a man's having than any others, not to mention that naughty words in French are more naughty, better sounding and more rousing, than in any other tongue.
Over and above all this, that excellent liberty we have in France, a thing more to be esteemed than aught else, doth surely make our women more desirable and lovable, more easy of access and more amenable, than they of any other nation. Again adultery is not so constantly pun- ished as in other lands, by the good wisdom of our noble Councils and French law-makers, which seeing abuses to arise by reason of such harsh punishments, have some- thing checked the same, and corrected the rigorous laws of a former day, passed by men which herein did allow themselves full license of merry disport, but deprived women altogether of the same privilege. Thus was it not allowed to an innocent woman to accuse her husband of adultery, by any laws imperial or canon, as Cajetan doth assure us. But truly cunning men did make this rule for the reasons named in the following Italian verses :
Perche, di quel che Natura concede Cel' vieti tu, dura legge d'honore. Ella a noi liberal large ne diede Com' agli altri animal legge d'amore. Ma Fhuomo fraudulento, e senza fede, Che fu legislator di quest' errore, Vendendo nostre f orze e buona schiena, Copri la sua debolezza con la pena.
("Oh ! over harsh law of honour, why dost thou forbid the thing that Nature urges us to do? She grants us, as to all animals, the enjoyment of love abundantly and liberally. But the base deceiver, man, knowing only too well the vigour of our loins, has established this mistaken law, so to conceal the weakness of the sexes.")
In a word, 'tis good to love in this land of France. I appeal to our authentic doctors in this science, and even to our courtesans, which will be more apt than I to elab- orate subtle details thereanent. And to tell the very truth: harlots are there in all lands, and cuckolds the same, as myself can surely testify, for that I have seen all the countries I have named, and others to boot. Chastity abideth not in one quarter of the earth more than another.
lOW will I further ask this one question only, and never another, one which mayhap hath never yet been enquired into of any, or possibly even thought of, to wit, whether two ladies that be in love one with the other, as hath been seen aforetime, and is often seen nowadays, sleeping together in one bed, and doing what is called donna con donna, imitating in fact that learned poetess Sappho, of Lesbos, whether these can commit adultery, and between them make their husbands cuckold.
Of a surety do they commit this crime, if we are to believe Martial in Epigram CXIX of his First Book. Therein doth he introduce and speak of a woman by name Bassa, a tribad, reproaching the same greatly in that men were never seen to visit her, in such wise that folk deemed her a second Lucretia for chasteness. But presently she came to be discovered, for that she was observed to be constantly welcoming at her house beautiful women and girls; and 'twas found that she herself did serve these and counterfeit a man. And the poet, to describe this, doth use the words, geminos committere cunnos. And further on, protesting against the thing, he doth signify the riddle and give it out to be guessed and imagined, in this Latin line :
"a strange thing," that is, "that where no man is, yet is adultery done."
I knew once a courtesan of Rome, old and wily if ever there was one, that was named Isabella de Luna, a Spanish woman, which did take in this sort of friendship another courtesan named Pandora. This latter was eventually married to a butler in the Cardinal d'Armaignac's household, but without abandoning her first calling. Now this same Isabella did keep her, and extravagant and ill-ordered as she was in speech, I have oft times heard her say how that she did cause her to give her husbands more horns than all the wild fellows she had ever had. I know not in what sense she did intend this, unless she did follow the meaning of the Epigram of Martial just referred to.
Tis said how that Sappho the Lesbian was a very high mistress in this art, and that in after times the Lesbian dames have copied her therein, and continued the practice to the present day. So Lucian saith : such is the character of the Lesbian women, which will not suffer men at all. Now such women as love this practice will not suffer men, but devote themselves to other women and are called tribads, a Greek word derived, as I have learned of the Greeks, from rpiSu, TpiBeiv, that is to say fricare. These tribads are called in Latin fricatrices, and in French the same, that is women who do the way of donne con donne, as it is still found at the present day.
Juvenal again speaks of these women, when he saith:
- . . . frictum Grissantis adorat
talking of such a tribad, who adored and loved the embraces of one Grissas.
The excellent and diverting Lucian hath a chapter on this subject, and saith therein how that women do come mutually together. Moreover this name of tribad, which doth elsewhere occur but rarely as applied to these women, is freely employed by him throughout, and he saith that the female sex must needs be like the notorious Philaenis, who was used to parody the actions of manly love. At the same time he doth add, 'tis better far for a woman to be given up to a lustful affection for playing the male, than it is for a man to be womanish ; so utterly lacking in all courage and nobility of character doth such an one show himself. Thus the woman, according to this, which doth counterfeit the man, may well be reputed to be more valorous and courageous than another, as in truth I have known some such to be, as well in body as in spirit.
En un autre endroit, Lucien introduit deux dames devi- santes de cet amour ; et une demande a 1'autre si une telle avait ete amoureuse d'elle, et si elle avait couche avec elle, et ce qu'elle lui avait fait. L'autre repondit librement: "Premierement, elle me baisa ainsi que font les hommes, non pas seulement en joignant les levres, mais en ouvrant aussi la bouche, cela s'entend en pigeonne, la langue en bouche; et, encore qu'elle n'eut point le membre viril et qu'elle flit semblable a nous autres, si est-ce qu'elle disait avoir de coeur, 1'affection et tout le reste viril; et puis je 1'embrassai comme un homme, et elle me le faisait, me baisait et allentait (je n'entends point bien ce mot), et me semblait qu'elle y prit plaisir outre mesure, et cohabita d'une certain Ja9on beaucoup plus agreable que d'un homme." Voila ce qu'en dit Lucien.
Well, by what I have heard say, there be in many regions and lands plenty of such dames and Lesbian devotees, in France, in Italy, in Spain, Turkey, Greece and other places. And wherever the women are kept secluded, and have not their entire liberty, this practice doth greatly prevail.
The Turkish women go to the baths more for this than for any other reason, and are greatly devoted thereto. Even the courtesans, which have men at their wish and at all times, still do employ this habit, seeking out the one the other, as I have heard of sundry doing in Italy and in Spain. In my native France women of the sort are common enough; yet it is said to be no long time since they first began to meddle therewith, in fact that the fashion was imported from Italy by a certain lady of quality, whom I will not name.
Several others have I known which have given account of the same manner of loves, amongst whom I have heard tell of a noble lady of the great world, who was superlatively given this way, and who did love many ladies, courting the same and serving them as men are wont. So would she take them and keep them at bed and board, and give them whatever they would. Her husband was right glad and well content thereat, as were many other husbands I have known, all of whom were right glad their wives did follow after this sort of affection rather than that of men, deeming them to be thus less wild. But indeed I think they were much deceived ; for by what I have heard said, this is but an apprenticeship, to come later to the greater one with men.
How many of these Lesbian dames have I seen who, for all their customs and habits, yet fail not at the last to go after men!. Even Sappho herself, the mistress of them all, did she not end by loving her fond, favourite Phaon, for whose sake she died? For after all, as I have heard many fair ladies declare, there is nothing like men. All these other things do but serve them but in the lack of men. And if they but find a chance and opportunity free from scandal, they will straight quit their comrades and go throw their arms round some good man's neck.
I have known in my time two very fair and honourable damsels of a noble house, cousins of one another, which having been used to lie together in one bed for the space of three years, did grow so well accustomed to this, that at the last getting the idea the said pleasure was but a meagre and imperfect one compared with that to be had with men, they did determine to try the latter, and soon became downright harlots. And this was the answer a very honourable damsel I knew did once make to her lover, when he asked her if she did never follow this way with her lady friend, "No, no !" she replied, "I like men too well."
I have heard of an honourable gentleman who, desiring one day at Court to seek in marriage a certain very honourable damsel, did consult one of her kinswomen thereon. She told him frankly he would but be wasting his time; for, as she did herself tell me, such and such a lady, naming her, ('twas one I had already heard talk of) will never suffer her to marry. Instantly I did recognize the hang of it, for I was well aware how she did keep this damsel at bed and board, and did guard her carefully. The gentleman did thank the said cousin for her good advice and warning, not without a merry gibe or two at herself the while, saying she did herein put in a word or two for herself as well as for the other, for that she did take her little pleasures now and again under the rose. But this she did stoutly deny to me.
This doth remind me of certain women which do thus and actually love these friends so dearly they would not share them for all the wealth in the world, neither with Prince nor great noble, with comrade or friend. They are as jealous of them as a beggarman of his drinking barrel; yet even he will offer this to any that would drink. But this lady was fain to keep the damsel all to herself, without giving one scrap to others.
'Tis said how that weasels are touched with this sort of love, and delight female with female to unite and dwell together. And so in hieroglyphic signs, women loving one another with this kind of affection were represented of yore by weasels. I have heard tell of a lady which was used always to keep some of these animals, for that she did take pleasure in watching her little pets together.
- Voici un autre point, c'est que ces amours feminines se traitent en deux facons, les unes par fricarelles, et par, comme dit ce poete, geminos committere connos.
- Cette faon n'apporte point de dommage, ce disent aucuns, comme quand on s'aide d'instruments faconnes de . . . , mais qu'on a voulu appeler des g. . . .
- J'ai oui conter q'un grand prince, se doutant de deux dames de sa cour qui s'en aidaient, leur fit faire le guet si bien qu'il les surprit, tellement que 1'une se trouva saisie et accommodee d'un gros entre les jambes, si gentiment attache avec de petites bandelettes a l'entour du corps qu'il semblait un membre naturel. Elle en fut si surprise qu'elle n'eut loisir de l'oter; tellement que ce prince la contraignit de lui montrer comment elles deux se le faisaient.
- On dit que plusieurs femmes en sont mortes, pour engendrer en leurs matrices des apostumes faites par mouvements et frottements point naturels.
- J'en sais bien quelques-unes de ce nombre, dont ca ete grand dommage, car c'etaient de tres belles et honnetes dames et demoiselles, qu'il cut bien mieux valu qu'elles eussent eu compagnie de quelques honnetes gentilhommes, qui pour cela ne les font mourir, mais vivre et ressusciter, ainsi que j'espere le dire ailleurs; et meme que pour la guerison de tel mal, comme j'ai oui' conter a aucuns chirurgiens, qu'il n'y a rien de plus propre que de les faire bien nettoyer ladedans par ces membres naturels des hommes, qui sont meilleurs que des pessaires qu'usent les medecins et chirurgiens, avec des eaux a ce composees ; et toutef ois il y a plusieurs femmes, nonobstant les inconvenients qu'elles en voient arriver souvent, si f aut-il qu'elles en aient de ces engins contrefaits.
- J'ai oui faire un conte, moi etant lors a la Cour, que la reine mere ay ant fait commandement de visiter un jour les chambres et coffres de tous ceux qui etaient loges dans le Louvre, sans epargner dames et filles, pour voir s'il n'y avait point d'armes cachees et meme des pistolets, durant nos troubles, il y en cut une qui fut trouvee saisie dans son coffre par le capitaine des gardes, non point de pistolets, mais de quati'e gros g. . . . gentiment faconnes, qui donnerent bien de la risee au monde, et a elle bien de l'etonnement.
- Je connais la demoiselle : je crois qu'elle vit encore ; mais elle n'eut jamais bon visage. Tels instruments enfin sont tres dangereux. Je ferai encore ce conte de deux dames de la cour qui s'entr'aimaient si fort et etaient si chaudes a leur metier, qu'en quelque endroit qu'elles fussent ne s'en pouvaient garder ni abstenir que pour le moins ne fissent quelques signes d'amourettes ou de baiser; qui les scandulisaient si fort et donnaient a penser beaucoup aux homines. II y en avait une veuve, et 1'autre mariee ; et comme la mariee, un jour d'une grande magnificence, se fut fort bien paree et habillee d'une robe de toile d'argent, ainsi que leur maitresse etait allee a vepres, elles entrerent dans son cabinet, et sur sa chaise percee se mirent a faire leur fricarelle si rudement et si impetueusement qu'elle en rompit sous elles, et la dame mariee qui faisait le dessous tomba avec sa belle robe de toile d'argent a la renverse tout a plat sur l'ordure du bassin, si bien qu'elle se gata et souilla si fort qu'elle ne sut que faire que s'essuyer le mieux qu'elle put, se trousser, et s'en aller en grande hate changer de robe dans sa chambre, non sans pourtant avoir ete apercue et bien sentie a la trace, tant elle puait: dont il en fut ri assez par aucuns qui en surent le conte; meme leur maitresse le sut, qui s'en aidait comme elle, et en rit son saoul. Aussi il fallait bien que cette ardeur les maitrisat fort, que de n'attendre un lieu et un temps a propos, sans se scandaliser.
Still excuse may be made for maids and widows for loving these frivolous and empty pleasures, preferring to devote themselves to these than to go with men and come to dishonour, or else to lose their pains altogether, as some have done and do every day. Moreover they deem they do not so much offend God, and are not such great harlots, as if they had to do with the men, maintaining there is a great difference betwixt throwing water in a vessel and merely watering about it and round the rim. However I refer me to them; I am neither their judge nor their husband. These last may find it ill, but generally I have never seen any but were right glad their wives should be companionable with their lady friends. And in very deed this is a very different thing from that with men, and, let Martial say what he please, this alone will make no man cuckold. 'Tis no Gospel text, this word of a foolish poet. In this at any rate he saith true, that 'tis much better for a woman to be masculine and a very Amazon and lewd after this fashion, than for a man to be feminine, like Sardanapalus or Heliogabalus, and many another their fellows in sin. For the more manlike she is, the braver is she. But concerning all this, I must refer me to the decision of wiser heads.
Monsieur du Gua and I were reading one day in a little Italian book, called the Book of Beauty, writ in the form of a dialogue by the Signor Angelo Firenzuola, a Florentine, and fell upon a passage wherein he saith that women were originally made by Jupiter and created of such nature that some are set to love men, but others the beauty of one another. But of these last, some purely and holily, and as an example of this the author doth cite the very illustrious Marguerite of Austria, which did love the fair Laodamia Fortenguerre, but others again wantonly and lasciviously, like Sappho the Lesbian, and in our own time at Rome the famous courtesan Cecilia of Venice. Now this sort do of their nature hate to marry, and fly the conversation of men all ever they can.
Hereupon did Monsieur du Gua criticise the author, saying 'twas a falsehood that the said fair lady, Marguerite of Austria, did love the other fair dame of a pure and holy love. For seeing she had taken up her rather than others which might well be equally fair and virtuous as she, 'twas to be supposed it was to use her for her pleasures, neither more nor less than other women that do the like. Only to cover up her naughtiness, she did say and publish abroad how that her love for her was a pure and holy love, as we see many of her fellows do, which do dissemble their lewdness with suchlike words.
This was what Monsieur du Gua did remark there-anent; and if any man doth wish to discuss the matter farther, well ! he is at liberty to do so.
This same fair Marguerite was the fairest Princess was ever in all Christendom in her day. Now beauty and beauty will ever feel mutual love of one sort or another, but wanton love more often than the other. She was married three times, having at her first wedlock espoused King Charles VIII. of France, secondly John, son of the King of Aragon, and thirdly the Duke of Savoy, surnamed the Handsome. And men spake of them as the handsomest pair and fairest couple of the time in all the world. However the Princess did have little profit of this union, for that he died very young, and at the height of his beauty, for the which she had very deep sorrow and regret, and for that cause would never marry again.
She it was had that fair church 2 built which lyeth near Bourg en Bresse, one of the most beautiful and noble edifices in Christendom. She was aunt to the Em- peror Charles, and did greatly help her nephew; for she was ever eager to allay all differences, as she and the Queen Regent did at the treaty of Cambrai, whereunto both of them did assemble and met together there. And I have heard tell from old folk, men and women, how it was a beauteous sight there to see these two great Prin- cesses together.
Cornelius Agrippa hath writ a brief Treatise on the virtue of women, and all in panegyric of this same Marguerite. The book is a right good one, as it could not but be on so fair a subject, and considering its author, who was a very notable personage.
I have heard a tale of a certain great lady, a Princess, which among all her maids of honour did love one above all and more than the rest. At first were folk greatly surprised at this, for there were plenty of others did surpass her in all respects. But eventually 'twas discovered she was a hermaphrodite.
I have heard a certain great lady also named as being hermaphrodite. She hath a virile member, but very tiny ; yet hath she more of the woman's complexion, and I know, by having seen her, she is very fair. I have heard sundry famous doctors say they have seen plenty such.
Well, this is all I shall say on the subject of this Chapter, one I could have made a thousand times longer than I have done, having matter so ample and lengthy, that if all the cuckold husbands and their wives that do make them so, were to hold hands, and form a ring, I verily believe this would be great enough to surround and encircle a good half of the globe.
In the days of the late King Francis an old song was current, which I have heard a very honourable and venerable dame repeat, to the following effect :
Mais quand viendra la saison Que les cocus s'assembleront, Le mien ira devant, qui portera la banniere ; Les autres suivront apres, le vostre sera au derriere. La procession en sera grande, L'on verra une tres longue bande.
(But when the season shall come that the cuckolds shall muster, then mine shall march in front, and shall bear the banner; the rest shall follow after, while yours shall bring up the rear. A grand sight will the procession of them be, a long, long train !)
Yet would I not inveigh over much against honourable and modest wives, which have borne themselves virtuously and faithfully in the fealty sacredly sworn to their hus- bands; and I do hope anon to write a separate chapter to their praise, and give the lie to Master Jean de Meung. 3 Now this poet in his Roman de la Rose did write these words: Toutes vous autres femmes . . .
(Ye women every one are, or have been, mere whores, if not in deed, then in desire.)
By these verses he did incur such ill will on the part of the Court ladies of that day, that by a plot sanctioned of the Queen and with her privity, these did undertake one day to whip the poet, and did strip him stark naked. But as all stood ready to strike, he did beseech them that at any rate the greatest whore of all should begin first. Then each for very shame durst not strike first; and in this wise he did escape the whip. Myself have seen the story represented in an old tapestry among the ancient furnishings of the Louvre.
|O less do I admire a certain Preacher, who one day preaching to a worthy company, and tak- ing occasion to reprove the habits of some women and of their husbands which did en- dure to be cuckolded of them, did of a sudden set to and shout out : "Yes, I know them well, I can see them, and I am going to throw these two stones at the heads of the biggest cuckolds in the assembly." Then as he did make pretence to throw them, there was never a man in all the congregation but did duck his head, or put up his cloak, or his cape, or his arm, before his face, for to ward off the blow. But the divine, rebuking them, cried, "Did I not tell you? I did suppose there might be two or three cuck- olds in my congregation; but lo! by what I see, there is never a man but is one."
Still, let these wild talkers say what they will, there be many very chaste and honourable women, who if they had to give battle to their opposites, would gain the day, not for their numbers but their virtue, which doth resist and easily subdue its contrary.
Moreover when the aforenamed Jean de Meung doth blame those women which are "whores, in desire," meseems he ought rather to commend and extol such to the skies, seeing that if they do burn so ardently in their body and spirit, yet put no wrong in practice, they do herein mani- fest their virtue, and the firmness and nobility of their heart. For they do choose rather to burn and consume away in their own fire and flame of desire, like that rare and wondrous bird the phoenix, than forfeit and stain their honour. Herein they do resemble the white ermine, which had rather die than foul itself, 'tis the device of a very great lady I knew at one time, yet but ill carried out by her, seeing how, it being in their power to apply the remedy, yet do they so nobly refrain, and seeing there is no greater virtue nor no nobler victory than to master and subdue one's own nature. Hereanent we have a very excellent story in the Cent Nouvelles of the Queen of Navarre, concerning that honourable lady of Pampeluna, who albeit in her heart and of desire a whore, and burning for the love of the handsome and noble M. d'Avannes, did choose rather to die in her heat of longing than seek her remedy, as she did find means to inform him in her dying words.
Most unfairly and unjustly then did this same fair and honourable lady bring to pass her own death; and, as I did hear an honourable gentleman and lady say, when discoursing on this passage, the thing was not void of offence against God, seeing she could have saved herself from death. But to so bring it on herself and precipitate it, this is rightly called suicide. And there be many of her kidney which by reason of this great continence and abstinence from the pleasures of love, do bring about their own death, both for body and spirit.
I have it from a very great physician, and I fancy he hath given a like lesson and instruction to several honour- able dames, that the human body can scarce ever be well, unless all the parts and members thereof, from the greatest to the least, do all of them and in due accord perform those offices and functions which wise nature hath appointed them for their proper health. All must make one harmony together, like a concert of music, it being in no wise right that while some of the said parts and mem- bers are active, others be out of work. So in a common- weal must all officers, artisans, workmen and others, do their several tasks unanimously, without idling and with- out throwing their work the one on the other, if it is to go well and the body politic to continue healthy and en- tire. And so is it likewise with the human body.
Suchlike fair ladies, whores in spirit but chaste in body, do verily deserve everlasting praises. Not so they which are cold as marble, dull, slack, and stirless as a rock, and have naught of the flesh about them or any atom of feeling though such are scarce ever really to be found. These be neither fair nor sought after of men, and may be described in the Latin poet's words,
. . . Casta quam nemo rogavit, (Chaste, seeing no man ever solicited her favours.)
As to this, I do know a great lady, who was used to say to sundry of her companions that were fair of face, "Truly God hath done me a great grace in that he hath not made me fair like you. For then should I have loved like you, and been an harlot even as you are." Wherefore the more should men commend such women as are fair and yet chaste, seeing what their natural bent is. Very often too are we deceived in such women. For some of them there be which, to see them so full of airs and graces, so rueful and pitiful of mien, so cold and discreet in bearing, and so straitlaced and modest in their words and severe costume, a man might well take for regular Saints and most prudish dames. Yet are the same inwardly and of heart's desire, and eke outwardly in very deed, downright fine harlots.
Others again we see which by their pleasant ways and merry words, their free gestures and worldly, modish dress, might well be deemed of dissolute manners and ready to give themselves at a moment's notice. Yet of their body will these same be highly correct and respectable dames, in the world's eye. As to their secret life, we can only guess at the truth, so well is it hid away.
Of these things I could bring forward many and many an example, that myself have seen and heard of; but I will content me with one which Livy doth cite, and Boc- caccio in even better terms, of a certain fair Roman dame, by name Claudia Quinta. This lady did ever appear abroad more than all the other Roman ladies in showy and something immodest dress, and by her gay and free bear- ing did seem more worldly than was meet, and so won a very ill name as touching her honour. Yet when the great day came for the welcoming to the city of the goddess Cybele, she was cleared of all ill repute. For she had the especial honour, above all other women, to receive the image of the goddess out of the ship, to handle and con- vey the same to the town. At this were all men aston- ished, for it had been declared that the best man and the best woman of the city alone were worthy of this office. Note how folk may be deceived in women. One is bound to know them well first, and well examine them, before judging them, one sort as much as the other.
So must I, before making an end of this subject, name yet another virtue and property cuckoldry doth contain. This I have of a very honourable and fair lady of a good house, into whose closet being one day entered in, I did find her in the very act of finishing the inditing of a Tale with her own hand. This Tale she did show me very freely, for I was one of her close friends, and she kept no secrets from me. She was very witty and ready of words, and right well endowed for love. Now the opening of the tale was after this wise :
"It doth seem," she saith, "how that among other good properties cuckoldry may bring with it, is the good and excellent knowledge won thereby as to how the wit is right pleasantly exercised for the pleasure and content of human nature. For this it is which doth watch and in- vent and fashion the needful artifices to succeed, whereas mere nature doth only furnish the desire and sensual appetite. And this may be hid by many ruses and cun- ning devices that are practised in the trade of love, which doth give horns to poor mankind. For 'tis needful to cajole a jealous, suspicious and angry husband; 'tis needful to cajole and blind the eyes of those that be most ready to suspect evil, and to turn aside the most curious from knowledge of the truth. 'Tis needful to inspire belief in good faith just where is naught but fraud, and frankness where is naught but dissimulation. In a word so many be the difficulties must be overcome to ensure success, these do far exceed what natural endowment can reach. The wit must be given full play, which doth fur- nish forth pleasure, and maketh more horns than ever the body doth, which strictly speaking implanteth and fixeth the same."
Such were the very words of the said fair lady's dis- course, without any change whatsoever, which she doth make at the beginning of her story, that she writ herself. However she did disguise the thing under other names; and so, following out the loves of the Lord and lady she hath to do with, and to reach an end and proper perfec- tion, she doth allege that the appearance of love is but one of satisfaction and content. 'Tis altogether without form until the entire gratification and possession of the same, and many a time folk deem they have arrived at this extreme, when really they are far enough from their desire. Then for all recompense remaineth naught but the time lost, a cause for bitter regrets. These last words do deserve to be carefully noted and well weighed, for they do hit the mark and afford matter for serious thought. Still there is no other thing but the actual en- joyment in love whether for man or woman to prevent all regrets for the past time. And for this cause the said honourable lady did give assignation to her lover in a wood, whither oft times she would betake her to walk in a very fair avenue, at the entrance whereof she did leave her women, and so went forward to find him under a fine, spreading, shady chestnut. For it was in summer-tide. "In the which retreat," to go on with the lady's tale in her own words, "there is no doubt what life the twain did lead for a space, and what a fine altar they did raise up to the poor husband in the Temple of Ceraton (Temple of Horns), albeit they were not in the island of Delos, the which fane was made all of horns, doubtless founded by some gay and gallant fellow of yore."
This is the way the lady did malce a mock of her hus- band, as well in her writings as also in her pleasures and in very deed. Note well all she saith, for her words do carry weight, being pronounced and writ down by so clever and honourable a dame.
The Tale in truth is right excellent, and I would gladly have copied the same and inserted it in this place. But alas ! 'tis too long, for the discourse and negotiations be- fore coming to the end they did, are finely expressed and eke lengthy. First she doth reproach her lover, who was ever praising her extravagantly, how that 'twas the effect rather of native and fresh passion in him than of any especial merit in her, albeit she was one of the fairest and most honourable ladies of the time. Then, for to combat this opinion, the lover must needs give great proofs of his love, the which are right well specified and depicted in the said Tale. Afterward, being now in accord, the pair do exhibit all sorts of ruses, trickeries and love cajoleries, both against the husband and against other folk, all which be of a surety very excellent and very wittily con- ceived.
I did beseech the lady to give me a copy of the Tale. This she did very readily, and would have none copy it but herself, for fear of indiscretion; the which copy I do hold as one of my most precious possessions.
Now this lady was very right in assigning this virtue and good property to cuckoldry. For before devoting herself to love, she was not clever at all. But later, hav- ing once taken it in hand, she did become one of the most witty and clever women in all France, as well in this prov- ince as in others. And in truth she is by no means the enly one I have seen which hath got good training by the handling of love. For I have known an host of dames which were most silly and awkward at their first begin- ning; yet had the same not tarried a year at the school of Cupid and his lady mother Venus before they came forth thereof right clever and accomplished adepts in all ways. And for myself I have never yet seen an harlot but was right clever and well able to hold her own.
Now will I ask yet this one question more, in which season of the year are the most cuckolds made, and which is the most meet for love, and to shake the virtue of a woman, whether wife or maid ? Without a doubt common consent hath it there is never a time for this like the Spring, the which doth awaken body and spirit, both put to sleep by the wearisome, melancholic winter-tide. See- ing all birds and beasts do rejoice at this season's com- ing, and all betake them to love, surely mankind, which have yet stronger feelings and promptings, will experience the same even more, and womenfolk above all others, an opinion maintained by many philosophers and wise physicians. For truly women do then entertain a greater heat and lovingness than at any other season, as I have heard sundry fair and honourable dames say, and in espe- cial a certain great lady, that did never miss, so sure as Spring-tide came round, to be more touched and pricked of these feelings than at any other period whatsoever. She was used to say she did feel the fresh grass springing, and did crave after the same like as mare and colts do, and she must needs taste thereof, or she should grow pined and thin. And this she did, I do assure you, and at the season did wax more lustful than ever. Thus three or four new intrigues that I have seen her enter on in her life, all these she did commence in Spring, and not with- out reason; for of all the months in the year, April and May be the most surely consecrate and devoted to Venus, at the which times fair ladies do set them, more than afore, to pet their bodies and deck them out daintily, to arrange their hair in wanton wise and don light raiment. And it may well be said how that these new changes in dress and ways do all aim at one and the same thing, to wit lasciviousness, and to people the earth with cuckoos a-walking about thereon, to match the winged ones that the air of heaven doth produce in these same months of April and May.
Further, 'tis not to be supposed but that fair dames, maids and widows alike, whenas they do behold in their walks abroad in their forests and woods, their warrens, parks, meadows, gardens, shrubberies and other pleas- aunces, beasts and birds all a-making love together and sporting in wanton wise, should feel strange prickings in their flesh, which do make them fain to apply instant rem- edy for the smart. And this is just one of the persuasive and moving things that a many lovers are wont to say one to the other, when they see their mates lacking heat and flame and zest ; for then do they upbraid them, point- ing to the example of beasts and birds, the which whether wild or tame, as sparrows and house-pigeons, are ever at some wanton sport, ever engendering and conceiving, all nature at the work of reproduction, down to the very trees and plants. Now this is what a fair Spanish lady found one day to say to a cavalier who was over cold or over respectful: Sa, gentil cavallero, mira como los amores de todas suertes se tratan y triumfan en este verano, y V, S. quada flaco y abatido, that is to say, "See, Sir cavalier, how everv sort of love doth prevail and triumph in this Spring-time ; yet all the while you are slack and crest-fallen."
Spring-time ended doth give place to Summer, which cometh after, bringing its hot days with it. And seeing one heat doth provoke another, fair dames do thereby double theirs; and truly no refreshment can so well as- suage the same as a bain chaud et trouble de sperme ve- nerig. 'Tis in no wise contrary to sense for an ill to be medicined by its contrary, as like is medicined by like. For albeit a woman should bathe her every day, and every day plunge in the clearest fountain of a whole country- side, yet do this naught avail, nor yet the lightest gar- ments ever she can don, for to give her refreshing cool- ness, though she tuck them up as short as she please, without ever a petticoat, as many do in hot weather. And this is just the worst of it ; for in such costume are they drawn to look at themselves, and take delight in their own beauty, and pore over their own charms in the fair sunlight, and thus beholding their bodies so fair, white, smooth, plump and in good case, do of a sudden feel the heat of concupiscence and sore temptation. But indeed of such martyrs of continence mighty few have ever been known ; and silly fools would they have been, had it been otherwise. And so they lie there in their fine beds, unable to endure coverlet or sheet, but tucking up their very shifts to display themselves half naked ; then at daybreak, as the rising sun doth shine in on them and they come to contemplate their bodies more closely still and at their ease on all sides and in every part, they grow exceeding fain after their lovers and fondly wait their coming. And so, should these by any hap arrive at this moment, lo! they are right welcome, and very soon clipped in their arms and close embraced. "For then," say they, "is the very best embracement and enjoyment of any hour of day or night."
None the less is there an old proverb which saith : "June and July, mouth wet and body dry ;" and to these may be added the month of August likewise. The same is true also of men, who are in a parlous state when they do get overheated at these seasons, and in especial when the dog- star is in the ascendant, a thing they should beware of. But if they will burn at their own candle, well ! so much the worse for them ! Women run no such risk, for that everj r month, and every season, every time and every planet, are good for them.
Then again the good summer fruits appear, that seem as if they must refresh these worthy dames. Some I have noted to eat little of these, others much. Yet for all this, scarce any change is seen in their heat, whether they eat much or little, whether they refrain altogether or eat thereof freely. For the worst of it is that, if there be sundry fruits which have power to refresh, there are many others that have just as powerful a heating effect, to the which the ladies do most often resort, as also to sundry simples that be of their nature good and pleasant to eat in soups and salads, as for example asparagus, artichokes, morels, truffles, mushrooms, and pumpkins. Then there be sundry newfangled viands which the cooks, at their orders, do well know how to contrive and accommodate at once to their gourmandise and their wanton desires, and which doctors likewise are cunning in ordering them. But if only some wise gallant, expert in these mysteries, would undertake to complete this poor account of mine, he might well fulfil the task far better than I can.
After all these fine dainties, look to yourselves, that's all, poor lovers and husbands ! Verily if you be not well prepared, you are very like to be disgraced, and find the fair ones have left you for pastures new.
Nor is this all; for to these new fruits, and herbs of garden and field, must be added great rich pasties, an in- vention of late times, compounded of great store of pis- tachio nuts, pine-seeds and other inflammatory drugs of the apothecary's store, the which Summer doth produce and give in greater abundance than Winter and the other seasons. Moreover in Summer time is there usually a greater slaughter of cockerels and young cocks ; where- as in Winter 'tis rather the grown birds, that are not so good or so fitting for this as the young ones, these last being hotter, more ardent and more wanton than the other sort. Here is one, amongst many, of the good pleasures and conveniences that Summer-tide doth afford for lovers.
Now these pasties compounded in this wise of dainty trifles, of young cocks and the tips of artichokes and truffles, or other heating viands, are much used by many ladies, by what I hear said. And these same ladies, when they are eating thereof and a-fishing in the platter, put- ting their hand into the mess or plunging a fork therein, will bring out and clap in their mouth now an artichoke or a truffle, now a pistachio-nut or a cockscomb or other morsel, and at any of these will cry out with a look of sad disappointment, "Bah! a blank." But when they come across one of the dear cock's crests, and find these under their teeth, lo ! they do exclaim, "A prize, by'r lady !" and laugh gaily. 'Tis like at the lottery in Italy ; and a man might deem they had drawn a real prize and won some rich and precious jewel.
Well ! they surely owe good thanks to these same good little cockerels, which Summer doth produce, as doth the first half of Autumn likewise, the which season I put along with Summer. The same time of each year doth give us many other sorts of fruits and small fowl that are an hundred times more hot than those of Winter-tide or the second half of Autumn, the near neighbour of chill Win- ter. True this is reckoned part of the season of Autumn ; yet can we not gather therein all these excellent simples at their best nor aught else as in the hot time of the year. Yet doth Winter ever endeavour to supply what it may, for instance those good thistles which do engender an excellent heat and concupiscence, whether raw or cooked, including the little hot field thistles, on the which asses live and thrive and are vigorous love-makers. These Sum- mer doth harden and dry up, whereas Winter doth make the same tender and delicate. Exceeding good salads are made of these, a new invented delicacy.
Furthermore, and beside all these things, so many other serviceable drugs are sought out by apothecaries, dealers and perfumers, that naught is overlooked, whether for these same pasties or for soups. And of a surety good justification may be found by women for this keeping up and maintaining of the heat in Winter time all ever they can. "For," say they, "just as we are careful to main- tain the heat of the outside of the body by heavy clothing and thick furs, why shall we not do the same for the in- side?" The men say on their side, "Nay! what availeth it thus to add heat to heat, like putting silk on silk, con- trary to the Canons, seeing of their own selves they be hot enough already, and that at whatsoever hour we are fain to assail them, they be always ready by their natural complexion, without resort to any artificial aid at all?" What would you have? Mayhap 'tis that they fear their hot and boiling blood will lose strength and ebb in their veins, and grow chill and icy, and if it be not kept hot, like that of an hermit that liveth on roots alone.
Well ! well ! let them have their way. 'Tis all good for merry gallants ; for women being so constantly in ardour, at the smallest assailment of love upon them, lo ! they are taken at once, and the poor husbands cuckold and horned like satyrs! Nay! sometimes they will go still further, these worthy dames, for that they do sometimes share their good pasties, broths and soups with their lovers out of compassion, to the end these may be more doughty and not find themselves overexhausted when it cometh to work, and so themselves may enjoy more exciting and abundant pleasure. Likewise will they give them receipts to have dishes compounded privately in their own kitch- ens. But herein have some been sore deceived and disap- pointed. Thus a certain gallant gentleman I have heard tell of, having in this wise taken his special soup and com- ing all cock-a-whoop to accost his mistress, did threat her how that he would give it her soundly, telling her he had taken his soup and eat his pasty. She did merely answer him, Well! you shall prove your worth; at present I know naught about it." Presently, when they were now in each other's arms and at work, these dainties did but serve him poorly. Whereon the lady did declare that either his cook had compounded them ill, or had been niggardly of the drugs and ingredients needed, or else he had not made all due preparation before taking his sovran medi- cine, or mayhap his body was for that while ill disposed to take it and feel the proper effects thereof. Thus did she make mock of the poor man.
Still 'tis to be remembered all simples and all drugs, all viands and all medicines, are not suitable for all alike. With some they will operate, while others do but draw blank. Moreover I have known women which, eating of these viands, when 'twas cast up to them how they would surely by this means have extraordinary and excessive en- joyment, could yet declare, and affirm the same on oath, that such diet did never cause them any temptation of any sort whatever. But God wot, they must herein surely have been playing the pretended prude!
Now as to the claims of Winter, ladies that do cham- pion this season, maintain that for soups and hot viands, they do know as good receipts for to make these every whit as good in Winter time as at any other part of the year. They do possess ample experience, and do declare this season very meet for love-making. True it is Win- ter is dim and dark, close, quiet, retired and secret, yet so must love be, and be performed in secret, in some re- tired and darkling spot, whether in a closet apart, or in a chimney corner near a good fire, the which doth en- gender, by keeping close thereto and for a considerable while, as much good heat as ever the Summer can pro- voke. Then how it is in the dimly lit space betwixt bed and wall, where the eyes of the company, provided they be near the fire a-warming of themselves, do but hardly penetrate, or else seated on chests or beds in remote cor- ners, so to enjoy dalliance. For seeing man and maid pressing the one to the other, folk deem 'tis but because of the cold and to keep them warm. Yet in this wise are fine things done, when the lights are far withdrawn on a distant table or sideboard.
Besides, which is best, Summer or Winter, when one is in bed? 'Tis the greatest delight in all the world for lovers, man and maid, to cling together and kiss close, to entwine one with other, for fear of the nipping cold, and this not for a brief space but for a long while, and so right pleasantly warm each other, all this without feel- ing aught at all of the excessive heat Summer doth pro- voke, and that extreme of sweating that doth sore hinder the carrying out of love. For truly in Summer time, in- stead of embracing tight and pressing together and squeezing close, a pair must needs hold loosely and much apart. Then Winter is best in this, say the ladies, ac- cording to the doctors : men are more meet for love, more ardent and devoted thereto, in Winter than in Summer.
I knew once in former days a very great Princess, who was possessed of much wit, and both spake and wrote better than most. One day she did set herself to com- pose verses in favour and praise of Winter, and the meet- ness of that season for love. By this we may conceive herself had found it highly favourable and fitting for the same. These stanzas were very well composed, and I had them long preserved in my study. Would I had valued them more, and could find them now, to give the same here, to the end men might read therein and mark the great merits of Wintertide and the good properties and meet- ness for love of that season.
I knew another very high-born lady, and one of the fairest women in all the world, which being new widowed, and making pretence she cared not, in view of her new weeds and state of widowhood, to go of evenings after supper either to visit the Court, or the dance, or the Queen's couchee, and was fain not to seem worldly-minded, did never leave her chamber, but suffering all and sundry of her attendants, male and female, to hie them to the dance, and her son and every soul about her, or even actually sending them thither, would retire to her secret chamber. And thither her lover of old, well treated, loved and favoured of her in her married life, would pres- ently arrive. Or else, having supped with her, he would stay on and never leave her, sitting out a certain brother- in-law, who was much by way of guarding the fair lady from ill. So there would they practise and renew their former loves, and indulge in new ones preparatory to a second wedlock, the which was duly accomplished the fol- lowing Summer. Well! by all I can see after duly con- sidering the circumstances, I do believe no other season could have been so favourable for their projects as Win- ter was, as indeed I did overhear one of her dainty, in- triguing maids also declare.
So now, to draw to an end, I do maintain and declare: that all seasons be meet for love, when they be chosen suitably, and so as to accord with the caprice of the men and women which do adopt the same. For just as War, that is Mars' pastime, is made at all seasons and times, and just as the God doth give his victories as it pleaseth him, and according as he doth find his fighting men well armed and of good spirit to offer battle, so doth Venus in like wise, according as she doth find her bands of lovers, men and maids, well disposed for the fray. Indeed the seasons have scarce aught to do therewith, and which of them is taken and which chosen doth make but little dif- ference. Nor yet do their simples, or fruits, their drugs, or drug-dealers, nor any artifice or device that women do resort to, much avail them, whether to augment their heat, or to refresh and cool the same.
For indeed, as to this last, I do know a great lady, whose mother, from her childhood up, seeing her of a complexion so hot and lecherous that it was like to take her one fine day straight on the road to the brothel, did make her use sorrel- juice constantly by the space of thirty years regularly at all her meals, whether with her meat or in her soups and broths, or to drink great two- handled bowls full thereof unmixed with other viands; in one word every sauce she did taste was sorrel- juice, sorrel- juice, everlastingly. Yet were these mysterious and cool- ing devices all in vain, for she ended by becoming a right famous and most arrant harlot, one that had never need of those pasties I have spoke of above to give her heat of body, seeing she had enough and to spare of her own. Yet is this lady as greedy as any to eat of these same dishes !
Well! I must needs make an end, albeit I could have said much more and alleged many more good reasons and instances. But we must not be for ever gnawing con- tentedly at the same bone ; and I would fain hand over my pen to another and better writer than myself, to argue out the merits of the divers seasons. I will only name the wish and longing a worthy Spanish dame did once express. The same did wish and desire it to be Winter when her love time should be, and her lover a fire, to the end that when she should come to warm herself at him and be rid of the bitter cold she should feel, he might enjoy the delight of warming her, and she of absorbing his heat as she did get warm. Moreover she would so have oppor- tunity of displaying and exposing herself to him often and at her ease, that he might enjoy the sight of her lovely limbs hid before under her linen and skirts, as to warm herself the more thoroughly, and keep up her other, internal, fire and heat of concupiscence.
Next she did wish for Spring to come, and her lover to be a garden full of flowers, with the which she might deck her head and her beautiful throat and bosom, yea! and roll her lovely body among them between the sheets.
Likewise she did oftimes wish it to be Summer, and her lover a clear fountain or glittering stream, for to receive her in his fair, fresh waters, when she should go to bathe therein and take sport, and so fully and completely to let him see, touch over and over again, each of her lovely, wanton limbs.
Finally she did desire it to be Autumn, for him to re- turn once more to his proper shape, and she to be a woman and her lover a man, that both might in that season have wit, sense and reason to contemplate and remember over all the by-gone happiness, and so live in these delight- some memories and reveries of the past, and inquire and discourse betwixt them which season had been most meet and pleasant for their loves.
In such wise was this lady used to apportion and ad- judge the seasons. Wherein I do refer me to the decision of better informed writers than myself to say which of the four was like to be in its qualities most delightful and agreeable to the twain.
Now for good and all I do make an end of this present subject. If any will know further thereof and learn more of the divers humours of cuckolds, let him study an old song which was made at Court some fifteen or sixteen years agone, concerning cuckolds, whereof this is the burden :
Un cocu meine 1'autre, et tous jours sont en peine; Un cocu meine 1'autre.
(One cuckoo maketh many, and all are in sorry case; one cuckoo many maketh.)
I beg all honourable ladies which shall read any of my tales in this chapter, if byhap they do pay any heed to the same, to forgive me and if they be somewhat highly spiced, for that I could scarce have disguised them in more modest fashion, seeing the sauce such must needs have. And I will say further I could well have cited others still more extravagant and diverting, were it not that, finding it impossible to cover the same with any veil of decent modesty, I was afeared to offend such honourable ladies as shall be at the pains and do me the honour to read my books. Now will I add but one thing further, to wit, that these tales which I have here set down are no petty stories of market-town and village gossip, but do come from high and worthy sources, and deal not with common and humble personages. I have cared not to have aught to do but only with great and high subjects, albeit I have dealt with such discreetly ; and as I name no names, I think I have well avoided all scandal and cause of offence.
- Femmes, qui transformez vos marys en oyseaux,
- Ne vous en lassez point, la forme en est tres-belle;
Car, si vous les laissez en leurs premieres peaux, Ilz voudront vous tenir tou jours en curatelle,
- Et comme homines voudront user de leur puissance ;
- Au lieu qu'estant oyseaux, ne vous feront d'offense.
- (Ladies fair, which do transform your husbands into birds,
- weary not of the task, the shape they so take is a right con-
- venient one. For if you do leave them in their first skins, they
- will for ever keep you under watch and ward, and manlike will
- fain to use their power over you; whereas being birds, they
- will do you no offence.)
Ceux qui voudront blasmer les femmes amiables Qui font secretement leurs bons marys cornards, Les blasment a grand tort, et ne sont que bavards; Car elles font 1'aumosne et sont fort charitables. En gardant bien la loy a 1'aumosne donner, Ne faut en hypocrit la trompette sonner.
(They that will be blaming well meaning wives which do in secret give their husbands horns, these do much wrong by their reproaches, and are but vain babblers; for indeed such dames are but giving alms and showing good charity. They do well observe the Christian law of almsgiving, never, like the hypocrites, sound the trumpet to proclaim your good deeds!)
An old Rhyme on the Game of Love, found by the Author among some old papers:
Le jeu d'amours, ou jeunesse s'esbat, A un tablier se peut accomparer. Sur un tablier les dames on abat ; Puis il convient le trictrac preparer, Et en celui ne faut que se parer. Plusieurs font Jean. N'est-ce pas jeu honneste, Qui par nature un joueur admoneste Passer le temps de coeur joyeusement? Mais en defaut de trouver la raye nette, II s'en ensuit un grand jeu de torment.
(The game of love, whereat youth takes its delight, may be likened to a chess-board. On a chess-board we lay down the pieces, dames, ladies; then 'tis the time to marshal our men, and herein we have but to make the best game we can. Many play the masterful king; and is it not merely fair play, and an abomination of dame Nature, that a man should make his game in hearty, joyous wise? But should he fail to find a sound queen (quean), why! his game is like to end in woeful pain and sorrow.)