Roxana's Advanced Views On Marriage
From Roxana, Or The Fortunate Mistress by Daniel Defoe (1724)

I TOLD him, I had, perhaps, different notions of matrimony from what the received custom had given us of it; that I thought a woman was a free agent, as well as a man, and was born free, and could she manage herself suitably, might enjoy that liberty to as much purpose as the men do; that the laws of matrimony were indeed otherwise, and mankind at this time acted quite upon other principles; and those such that a woman gave herself entirely away from herself, in marriage, and capitulated only to be, at best, but an upper servant, and from the time she took the man, she was no better or worse than the servant among the Israelites, who had his ears bored, that is, nailed to the door-post, who by that act gave himself up to be a servant during life. That the very nature of the marriage contract was, in short, nothing but giving up liberty, estate, authority, and every-thing to the man, and the woman was indeed a mere woman ever after, that is to say, a slave. He replied, that though in some respects it was as I had said, yet I ought to consider that as an equivalent to this, the man had all the care of things devolved upon him; that the weight of business lay upon his shoulders, and as he had the trust, so he had the toil of life upon him; his was the labour, his the anxiety of living; that the woman had nothing to do but to eat the fat and drink the sweet; to sit still and look around her, be waited on and made much of, be served and loved, and made easy, especially if the husband acted as became him; and that, in general, the labour of the man was appointed to make the woman live quiet and unconcerned in the world; that they had the name of subjection without the thing; and if, in inferior families, they had the drudgery of the house, and care of the provisions upon them, yet they had, indeed, much the easier part; for in general, the women had only the care of managing, that is, spending what their husbands get; and that a woman had the name of subjection, indeed, but that they generally commanded, not the men only, but all they had; managed all for themselves; and where the man did his duty, the woman's life was all ease and tranquility, and that she had nothing to do but to be easy and to make all that were about her both easy and merry.

I returned, that while a woman was single, she was a masculine in her politic capacity; that she had then the full command of what she had, and the full direction of what she did; that she was a man in her separate capacity, to all intents and purposes that a man could be so to himself; that she was controlled by none, because accountable to none, and was in subjection to none: so I sung these two lines of Mr. ——'s:

"O! 'tis pleasant to be free,
The sweetest Miss is Liberty."

I added, that whoever the woman was that had an estate, and would give it up to be the slave of a great man, that woman was a fool, and must be fit for nothing but a beggar; that it was my opinion a woman was as fit to govern and enjoy her own estate, without a man, as a man was without a woman; and that if she had a mind to gratify herself as to sexes, she might entertain a man as a man does a mistress; that while she was thus single she was her own, and if she gave away that power, she merited to be as miserable as it was possible that any creature could be.

All he could say could not answer the force of this as to argument, only this, that the other way was the ordinary method that the world was guided by; that he had reason to expect I should be content with that which all the world was contented with; that he was of the opinion, that a sincere affection between a man and his wife answered all the objections that I had made about the being a slave, a servant, and the like; and where there was a mutual love there could be no bondage, but that there was but one interest, one aim, one design, and all conspired to make both very happy.

Ay, said I, that is the thing I complain of. The pretence of affection takes from a woman everything that can be called herself; she is to have no interest, no aim, no view; but all is the interest, aim, and view, of the husband; she is to be the passive creature you spoke of, said I. She is to lead a life of perfect indolence, and living by faith (not in God, but) in her husband, she sinks or swims, as he is either fool or wise man, unhappy or prosperous; and in the middle of what she thinks is her happiness and prosperity, she is engulfed in misery and beggary, which she had not the least notice, knowledge, or suspicion of. It is not you, says I, that I suspect, but the laws of matrimony puts the power into your hands, bids you do it, commands you to command, and binds me, forsooth, to obey; you, that are now upon even terms with me, and I with you, says I, are the next hour set up upon the throne, and the humble wife placed at your foot-stool: all the rest, all that you call oneness of interest, mutual affection, and the like, is courtesy and kindness then, and a woman is indeed infinitely obliged where she meets with it, but can't help herself where it fails.

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