Thursday 27 February 2014


Here are a few bits of advice from Italian politician Francesco Barbaro, who dashed off his marriage manual in 1416 between diplomatic missions at the papal and imperial courts.
Is this what he would look like today?

  • Three things will make a marriage admirable: a wife’s love for her husband, her modesty, and her diligence in domestic matters.In case you are wondering: no, there were no house husbands in Renaissance Italy.
  • Here is how to navigate the emotional terrain of marriage: If your husband is angry and scolds you, tolerate his wrath silently.  If he has been struck silent by a fit of depression, address him with sweet words, encourage, console, amuse, and humour him. No, they didn’t have shrinks in Renaissance Italy. But they had drugs and witchcraft. Barbaro frowned on both.
  • Do not attract husbands to love by means of potions and amorous incantations. I would compare such wives to fishermen who catch fish with poison bait and in so doing make the fish tasteless and almost inedible. Poison bait? Is that why salmon is so tasteless nowadays? And I thought it was the fault of agribusiness.
  • How to look modest: Preserve an evenness and restraint in the movements of your eyes and of your body. A wandering eye, a hasty gait, and excessive movement of the hands and other parts of the body are undignified and signs of vanity and frivolity.
More advice in my next blog post. No time to go on now. Am trying to be diligent in domestic matters to make my marriage admirable.

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