Read CHAPTER IX of Her Royal Highness Woman, free online book, by Max O'Rell, on


Pleasure and happiness-Love is the poetry of the senses-The artistic temperament-The instrument and the instrumentalist-The defence of monogamy on artistic principles-Polygamy versus monotony.

Pleasure is a passing sensation. What the soul craves for is a permanent state. Pleasure is the satisfaction of the moment; happiness is the security of the morrow. Nothing but happiness gives satisfaction to the soul.

Thomas Carlyle spent his life in scolding the human race for trying to be happy. His diatribes should have been aimed only at those who are foolish enough to try to find happiness in pleasure.

Happiness is to be found in congenial work, in a regular and well-spent life, in obscurity and retirement, in sound and true friendship, and especially in the love of a man and a woman who thoroughly appreciate each other.

For instance, Carlyle abused money-making, that chief occupation of modern life which most people pursue in order to attain the great end, happiness. But men may find pleasure in money-grubbing, not happiness. Carlyle mistook pleasure for happiness. His dyspeptic state prevented him from enjoying any pleasure, and his sour disposition any happiness; and, just as a man who cannot eat a dinner loves to lecture another who enjoys a good digestion, he scolded and snarled. Now, mankind has never been improved by scolding, and that is why his writings have passed over the heads of the human race and done no good. Man has ever been, is, and ever will be, in search of the solution of the great problem of life, happiness; and what they want is thinkers, writers who will help them to find it. Carlyle treated the human race very much as he treated his wife: he wrote beautiful love-letters to her, but never said a kind or sweet word to her which might have helped to make her happy.

There is always something very unsatisfactory and inconclusive about a blind man discoursing on colour, or a dyspeptic one on pleasure and happiness.

No doubt the greatest source of happiness in this world is to be found in the love and devotion of a man and a woman. You may find it in every sphere of life, but more particularly in that little cottage covered with ivy, jasmine, and honeysuckle which seldom attracts the attention of the passer-by. Happy the one whose nest is hidden far from the crowd!

Now, what will especially help a man and woman to find happiness in love? Many, many things will help, but most especially the artistic temperament-that temperament which can be cultivated and developed, and which will cause the man and the woman to always look for the beautiful, for the enjoyment of the soul and the heart at the same time as that of the body.

Love is the poetry of the senses. It reveals its secrets and its ecstasies only to those who can so mingle their thoughts, their hearts, their souls, as to transform two beings into one-only to people of refinement and of artistic disposition.

The French, for example, are neither more moral nor more immoral than the English or the Americans: they are different in their morality, different in their immorality, as they are in their tastes, customs, and habits. But what I am perfectly sure of is that they are the happiest people on earth, simply because of their artistic temperament, which makes them take all their pleasures in discreet moderation, like epicures, and, by making the companionship of man and woman most pleasant and attractive, enables them to enjoy domestic relations in all their beautiful fulness.

But, some people will say, is not an artistic temperament conducive to unfaithfulness? Will not a man with an artistic temperament, for example, constantly have new ‘artistic’ aspirations, and constantly fall in love with beauty? Not at all necessarily. If you will allow me to repeat an expression, of which I cannot say I am particularly proud, but the truth of which I insist on, that woman is a beautiful instrument and man a good or a bad instrumentalist, I will answer: No, not at all necessarily. I am not aware that Sarasate or Joachim require more than one violin to give their marvellous performances on, and I know that when Paderewski goes on tour, he insists on always playing on the same piano, which follows him everywhere.

It is not only on moral but on artistic grounds that I object to polygamy, and that I advocate monotony-I mean monogamy. And on this subject another question might be put: Should a woman prefer to marry a man to whom woman is an enigma? I know that most people who belong to the retinue of Mrs. Grundy will at once exclaim: Most decidedly a woman should expect to find the man as he expects to find her. There goes again the old saying: ’What is good for the goose should be good for the gander.’

Well, there is something in that; but when I consider that the whole happiness of a married life may depend on the start, I would fain reply: Remember that the first time a man whispers words of love he is a fearful stammerer.

Mrs. Grundy is a very moral person for whom I cannot help feeling some respect; but she is the cause of a great deal of happiness being missed in Anglo-Saxon lands. My greatest grudge against that lady is that she is the bitter, implacable enemy of the artistic, the beautiful, and the truthful, of which she has succeeded in denuding art, literature, and life itself. Anglo-Saxon intelligence-’the intellectuals,’ as we call them in France, are dead against her, loathe her, but the masses of the people are crawling on their knees before her. All the conventionalities of English life have been invented to suit her tastes, and to please her the most innocent pleasures have had to be transformed into funereal functions. Everything suggests impropriety and indecency to her distorted mind, and she is the cause that, in England, and also to some extent in America, art, literature, and life, have to lie in order to avoid running the risk of deserving her frowns.