Polyandry, or plurality of husbands, is rarer as a form of marriage than polygyny.1 In the Aleutian Islands, Langsdorf tells of a woman who lived with two husbands, on mutually satisfactory conditions between the latter as to the method of sharing her favors;' and Veniaminoff asserts that a Thlinket woman was privileged to have, in addition to her real husband, a legal paramour, who was usually the brother of the former.' Along the Orinoco, Humboldt often found brothers who had only one wife between them;8 and the Warraus, according to Brett, do not consider the custom of "one woman having two husbands to be bad,"* a case being reported by the writer named in which it took three husbands to square the family.
In the Island of Lance rote, most of the women have three husbands;7 and Thunberg tells us the same is true of the Hottentots. Dr. Fritsch mentions polyandry among the Damaras, and Mr. Theal, among the tribes of the Bantu race.* The Hovas of Madagascar have a word expressive of the permission given by a husband to his wife to have intercourse with another man, if he were going to be long absent;' and in Nukahiva, rich wives commonly have, in addition to the chief husband, another, who might be classed, as in pharmacy, a "qualified assistant."10
Among the Tod as, all the brothers of one family live in mixed intercourse with one or more wives; every wife, when she marries, claiming the right of sexual intercourse with her husband's brothers, be they many or few.11 The same custom obtains among the Kurgs of Mysore; and the Nair-women of Malabar commonly have two men as husbands, as well as, perhaps, half a dozen more with whom they cohabit with nearly equal regularity.11 Polyandry is common pretty much all over India, and in Thibet; and Mr. Ravenstein quotes a Japanese traveller as saying that it prevailed among the Saporogian Cossacks, and in Eastern Siberia.1*
Among the Russian peasants the comfortable practice exists of the father cohabiting with the wife of his son, during the latter's minority;'* and, according to Strabo, all the male members of a Median family married the same woman. Perhaps we find a hint of this custom in the mythic account of the goddess Frigga "marrying," during her husband's absence, his two brothers, Vili and Ve.1
Among some races a custom exists which, in one important respect, is a marked improvement on our own. If two men propose to the same woman, she is not compelled to break one heart in making the other happy. She marries one of them, generally the rich one, but makes the other an auxiliary, and both are well satisfied.1 An equal liberality in such matters among ourselves might take the form of a real philanthrophy.
With the ancient Britons, to prevent domestic confusion, the children were regarded—not always correctly—as belonging to him who had first taken the virgin to wife;' and in Thibet the choice of the wife belongs to the elder brother, though all the others are entitled to the husband's privileges, if they choose to avail themselves of them.4