The prices paid for first-class wives in modern times vary greatly, ranging from a pound of caramels, a sealskin wrap, or a season's opera ticket, to a duke's coronet or a cottage at Newport. Before the vast aggregations of wealth in modern days enabled men to pay spot-cash for what they wanted, the most customary form of buying a wife was by service, or exchanging a relative for her; and this, as in the modern horse-trade, was frequently provocative of much strife and recrimination between the parties interested, each claiming, and sometimes with a fair presumption of reason, that he or she had been foully cheated.
Thus Jacob worked seven long years for Rachel, and then had the inferior Leah palmed off upon him; and, although the records are kept exceedingly private, the cases are no doubt numerous where men have paid for brand new, first-class articles, only to find them shockingly out of repair and even second-hand at that.
Sometimes the wife is bought on credit, and then she and her confiding parents run all the risk. Cases are recorded where, among savage nations, the young man enjoyed all the privileges of marriage in usus, for years, while he was working for his bride, industriously helping the old gentleman to fish, smoke, and consume various native distillations, and at about the time the period of service expired suddenly taking a notion to seek somewhere else, thus occasioning considerable hard feeling and dissatisfaction. This practice of purchase by service, with which Hebrew tradition, principally, has made us acquainted, is very widely diffused; and in the Eyrbyggja Saga, Vigstyr says to the berserk who asked for his daughter—" as you are a poor man, I shall do as the ancients did and let you deserve your marriage by hard work."1
Among the shastika, in California, a wife is bought for shell money, or horses, ten Cayuse ponies being sometimes paid for a girl of superior grace and beauty.1 On the other hand the Navajos, of New Mexico, consider this an exorbitant price, only paying it for one possessing very extraordinary qualifications, such as beauty, industry and skill in their necessary employments.' Among the Kaffirs a wife may be always obtained M for an ox, or a couple of cowb; " and the Damaras are so poor that the father is often glad to give up a very presentable daughter for one cow, and not the fattest at that either.4 Six sewing needles is the ruling price in Uganda; among the Mangonis, two sheepskins; among the natives of Bonda, a goat suffices; other tribes are satisfied with a box of percussion caps; the Bashkir buys a very fair article for a load of hay; in Tartary ten pounds of good butter may always be depended upon; a nice looking girl in India, among the Kisans, is worth two buckets of rice, far more than some ladies of our acquaintance; among the Mishmis, a pig; among the Fijians "the usual price is a whale's tooth," and we are told by Emin Pasha that in Unyoro, when a man is too poor to pay cash, he may buy a wife on instalments, the children born in the meantime, however, belonging to the wife's father, and redeemable only by payment of a cow for each.'
In the books of Ruth and of Hosea the bridegroom speaks of buying the bride;* and, according to Michaelis, the modern Jcwb, even, have a sham purchase in their marriage ceremony called "marrying by the penny," which is very faithfully observed.7
The Chaldeans, Babylonians and Assyrians, all bought their wives; and Castren, speaking of the Finns, remarks—"there are many reasons for believing that a capful of silver and gold was one of the best proxies in wooing among our ancestors."* Aristotle tells us that the ancient Greeks habitually purchased their wives, and Herodotus says the same of the Thracians. Among the early Teutons a similar custom seems to have been observed, and Scandinavian mythology teaches that even the gods bought their wives.' In England, as late as the sixteenth century, traces of the same custom were to be found in legal procedure,* and in Thuringia to this day the betrothal ceremony speaks of it.*
These are but a few of the vast host of instances in which marriage by purchase is shown to have been almost a universal institution among savage peoples; and among the civilized, I need not cite special cases to show that, although indirectly manifested, it has by no means fallen into "innocuous desuetude" even in America.
History records instances where vast sums have changed hands, sometimes by vote of popular assemblies, at the marriage of one ruler's daughter with the son of another; and there is probably no country in the world where the "dot" is more carefully looked after than in that home of modern chivalry—France. In this country it is becoming more and more a legitimate matrimonial means of defence against failing fortunes, and no American heiress if she possess beauty and stage talent, together with even a spark of the hustling spirit of her race, need go down to the "dark valley" without at least one ducal scalp at her belt.
Leaving the question of dowry, however, as only indirectly related to our present theme, and before taking up the more immediate consideration of sex-life in its physiological and psychological aspects, let us glance briefly at the riteB and ceremonies of marriage from a legal and social point of view.