We dive down through the ocean of statistics to find, at the bottom, the carte d’amour that has foundered there. Diving into the wreck is a pretty good definition of this history, and LI has been aiming to be one of the deep divers Melville talks about in his famous letter on Emerson:
“Now, there is a something about every man elevated above mediocrity, which is, for the most part, instinctuly perceptible. This I see in Mr Emerson. And, frankly, for the sake of the argument, let us call him a fool; -- then had I rather be a fool than a wise man. -- I love all men who dive. Any fish can swim near the surface, but it takes a great whale to go down stairs five miles or more; & if he don't attain the bottom, why, all the lead in Galena can't fashion the plumet that will. I'm not talking of Mr Emerson now -- but of the whole corps of thought-divers, that have been diving & coming up again with bloodshot eyes since the world began.”
So, with bloodshot eyes from my practice submersions – take me to the river! let me drown in the Deep End, Lord! - LI wants to allude to the last post in which we mentioned the coincidence between the geography of Hajnal’s thesis about the formation of the – in his final version – Northwest European household - and the geography of the happiness culture that we think, at least, we have a hook into, and are raising up inch by painful inch, a true fish tale of continental, or maybe global capture. And if you hook the world and raise the world, where is the world upon which the fisherman sits, or stands or floats in the tale? Whose blood is, after all, at stake here?
As we said, however, Hajnal’s thesis is, to say the least, arguable – and there are too many exceptions to accept his identification of the simple household with modernization. The leaks can’t be stopped, and aren’t these the old, traditional, the West is the Best kind of leakages? Still, we take it that there is a shift in an area of Europe in the sixteenth century that resulted in higher ages of marriage, a consequent prolongation of youth, and simple households around a single married couple. According to Lawrence Stone and André Burguière, the shift in the formation of the household in the sixteenth century corresponds to a wave of ascetism. If we are meeting whales at this depth, they all seem to resemble Max Weber. One keeps bumping into the ascetic thesis. And well you might ask, gentle reader, if this doesn’t completely fuck up LI’s own thesis. Have we got off on the wrong foot, examining the libertines? Shouldn’t we have started with with levelers?
I note these as minnow questions that threaten to turn into sharks. But I won’t be pulled away from love. Love and suicide, those were the themes I want to do for a threadwhile longer.
So, let’s think about women.
In particular, three women, spaced out over the 18th century. First, Mary Astell, whose book about marriage can be found here. Then Sophie Huber, a not completely untypical writer and bourgeois adventurer – in her own way – who responded to the French Revolution with one of her own, ditching her husband, Georg Forster, the famed German explorer, to live with a mutual friend with whom she was more sexually compatible. And Mme de Stael, naturally.