Our Chinese friends, however, enjoyed far greater latitude in this respect. There were seven just causes of divorce legally recognized—barrenness, talkativeness (0 shades of the sex!), lasciviousness, lack of respect to parents-in-law, thievishness, bad temper, and inveterate infirmity; and a husband putting away his wife except for one of these could be sentenced to " eighty blows."10
There was a convenient elasticity, however, about the causes enumerated which was frequently made use of. Thus in an old Chinese book it is recorded that " when a woman has any quality that is ' not good/ it is but just and reasonable to turn her out of doors." A wife was turned away if she allowed the house to get full of smoke, or if she ' frightened the dog' with any disagreeable noise."1 Yet, notwithstanding these momentous and weighty provisions, as we are told by Medhurst, divorces in China were comparatively rare.1
Although in Japan almost similar reasons held good, the Japanese seldom availed themselves of these " statutory grounds " to repudiate a wife;1 and in spite of the prejudiced account given by missionaries, chiefly, of the miserable status of women in both countries, as a matter of personal observation, 1 have found the treatment accorded them in China to be on the whole remarkably kind and considerate, while in Japan women are honored as among ourselves. If a daughter is born to a Chinese, it is looked on as a misfortune, of course; but one to be borne with, patiently, as a misfortune, and not visited with punishment upon the head of the innocent child. A daughter is of little esteem or value while young and beautiful; but when she becomes old and ugly she is regarded with the greatest respect and veneration.
In Mohammedan countries religion regulates the law of divorce, "In the absence of serious reasons," says a Turkish writer, "no Mussulman can justify divorce in the eyes either of religion or law. If he abandon hie wife, or put her away from simple caprice, he draws down upon himself the divine anger; for the Koran says 'the curse of God rests on him who repudiates his wife capriciously.'" Practically, however, Westermarck states, "a Mohammedan may, whenever he pleases, and without assigning any reason, say to his wife 'thou art divorced,' and she must return to her parents or friends."*
In India, "a wife who drinks spirituous liquor, is of bad conduct, rebellious, diseased, mischievous or wasteful, may at any time be superseded by another; a barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year; one whose children all die, m the tenth year; one who bears only daughters, in the eleventh; but one who is quarrelsome, " loithovt any delay."1 In Southern India, at the present time, while divorce is fairly common among the lower castes, it is not practised, according to Westermarck, among the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, or the higher class Sudras.1
1 "History of Human Marriage," p. 525. A careful reading of the Koran, however, convinces me that Prof. Wcstermarck is slightly in error here. The wife may be divorced, as stated, on payment of a stipulated sum, but always within the strict limitations of law. See Sale's Koran, 2S, 62, 348.
Divorce procedure in Burma is simple. When husband and wife conclude that continued life together is impossible, the latter goes out and buys two candles, of equal size and length, made especially for the use of the unhappily mated. These candles are lighted at the same moment, one representing the wife and the other the husband, and whichever burns out first wins the suit. The owner of the other, whether husband or wife, is compelled to march out in his or her clothes, but with nothing else, leaving the other party in undisputed possession.
In Rome, under the later Emperors, and doubtless through the permeating influence of Christianity, the right of the husband to repudiate his wife was restricted by imperial decrees, which laid down the circumstances under which divorce was legally justifiable.' But the full doctrine of marriage indissolubility, as expressed in the text—" what God hath joined together let no man put asunder,"4 while at all times advocated by the early Fathers, was not fully confirmed until the Council of Trent, in the middle of the sixteenth century, definitely suppressed the last vestiges of divorce, so far as the Church was concerned, giving thereby not only a permanent impetus to the progress of social morality, but laying the foundations of that powerful influence which the Roman Catholic Church has in recent years exercised against this rapidly growing social abuse. In Spain, Portugal and Italy the husband can demand a legal separation—divorce a mensa et thorn—but the marriage contract cannot be dissolved in either country; while in France divorce was practically reintroduced by the law of July, 1884.
In early Rome, marriage being regarded, falsely, as merely a civil contract, entered into for the pleasure or convenience of the contracting parties, its continuance was just as falsely considered to depend only on mutual consent. Either party possessed the right to discontinue it, and to remarry at pleasure; and it is quite reasonable to assume that, under such a lax rule of obligation, the relationship should come to be treated with the extremest levity.
Cicero repudiated his wife, Terentia, when his failing financial resources prompted him to seek for a new dowry;6 and Augustus forced the husband of Livia to repudiate her that he might marry her himself.1 Cato ceded his wife to his friend Hortensius, resuming her after the latter's death;1 Maecenas was constantly changing wives;' Sempronius Sophus put away his wife because she went to the public games without his knowledge;4 and Paulus defended himself for the same act by saying—"my shoes are new and well made, but no one knows where they pinch me."*
Nor must it be assumed that the ladies neglected to exercise the same privilege. Seneca, in his denunciations against the social abuse, says that there were women in Rome who reckoned their years rather by their husbands than the number of consuls;' and Martial speaks of a woman who had already arrived at her tenth husband.1 Probably the most astonishing instance of the kind, however, is the woman mentioned by St. Jerome, who was married to her twenty-third husband, she being the latter's twenty-first wife.*
But it is an interesting fact for the moral philosopher to speculate on, that it was during the period of the greatest sexual libertinism, and social corruption, in Rome, that we find the noblest examples of conjugal love and heroism ever recorded in the world's history. Intellectual culture was widely diffused, and women, even more than men, seemed to draw from it the most exalted ideals of conjugal duty.
I need only to mention Cornelia, the lovely and devoted wife of Pompey, with Marcia, the friend, and Helvia, the mother of Seneca, to direct the reader's attention to a long list of illustrious women, Mallonia, plunging the dagger into her heart, rather than yield herself to the embraces of Tiberius; Porcia, claiming the wife's right to share in the troubles which clouded her husband's brow; Paulina, opening her own veins in order to accompany her husband, Seneca, to the tomb; Axria, the wife of Psetus, who, when he hesitated to strike the blow intended to take his own life, took the dagger from his hand and, plunging it into her own breast, gave it back to him saying with her dying smile—"My Partus, it doesn't hurt I"
But the list is too long even to enumerate. In all the literature of the world the patrician matron of Rome stands, perhaps, preeminent as the type of a pure, noble-minded, devoted wife; and it would be difficult to conceive, as it is equally difficult to reconcile with the prevailing immorality of the times, a more touching image of conjugal love than that furnished by the medallion, so common on nil the Roman sarcophagi, of the husband and wife, with their arms thrown affectionately over one another, united in death, even as they were in life, and making the eternal journey together.