Under the Black Flag

Books and Lovers

Back in 1839, an Englishman by the name of Alexander Walker wrote a manual by the name of Woman, in which he quoted Hume: “Among the inferior creatures, nature herself, being the supreme legislator, prescribes all the laws which regulate their marriages, and varies those laws according to the different circumstances of the creature.”  So far, so good.  Nature is the supreme arbiter, and unnatural acts are a no-no.  Hume then goes on to say,

But nature having endowed man with reason, has not so exactly regulated every article of his marriage contract, but has left him to adjust them, by his own prudence, according to his particular circumstances and situation.

Whew!  Walker, however, disagrees with Hume about monogamy, calling marriage not merely a social but a natural institution.  In other words, once hitched you don’t fool around, and he brings in apes as an example.  They have one female at a time, he writes, which is a bit like pointing out that it’s dark during the night.  Apes do not go in for orgies à la Rome or à la Hollywood.  Or à la Dominique Strauss-Khan, for that matter.  Which brings me to the core of this month’s column: the French, their political leaders, and sex.  With the publication of a new biography of the French...

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