Love, Marriage, and Divorce (1853/1889)

by Henry James, Sr. (1811-1882), Horace Greeley (1811-1872)
and Stephen Pearl Andrews (1812-1886)



[Online editor’s note: This chapter appears only in the second edition (1889). – RTL.]

LMD-19.1 The courteous, kindly, and generous remarks of Mr. James, in the opening of the preceding letter, would disarm at once every disposition that might otherwise have existed toward an acrimonious criticism of his views. It is far more congenial to my feelings to enter upon the ground of mutual investigation in the common field of the search after truth, than to be bandying phrases or hunting for pungent weapons of verbal offence to be hurled at a supposed enemy; or even to be training the heavy artillery of a crushing logic against hostile intrenchments. Still I do not propose to abandon the advantage of utter frankness which the past relations of Mr. James and myself have authorized between us. The fortiter in re may, I hope, be retained without, hereafter, any sacrifice of the suaviter in modo. [Online editor’s note: suaviter in modo, fortiter in re – “gently in manner, forcefully in matter.” – RTL]
LMD-19.2 It is a task of no little difficulty to reply adequately to a letter of this kind. Apart from the occult nature, broad scope, and intrinsic importance of the subject-matter, and apart from the eminent originality and subtle originality of Mr. James in the treatment of whatever subject he handles, there are great incidental difficulties. His points of view are so transcendental and so original in their transcendentalism, his absence of preliminary definitions (for example, he never tells us what he means by marriage), his assumption of a scope of knowledge on the part of his readers which most readers are destitute of, and, finally, his novel and sometimes confusing and almost blindingly brilliant individuality of style, including a system of technicalities peculiarly his own, conspire to make a tangled mass of obstacle. He is one of the easiest of writers to treat adversely and to put conclusively in the wrong, by simply assuming that he means what other mortals would mean by the use of the same language; but one of the very most difficult to treat candidly, and first disinvolve, and then estimate fairly. He is one, therefore, in a sense, whose amity is more to be dreaded than his enmity. He needs an interpreter when he addresses himself to others than his own admiring acolytes; and I could wish that he had one at hand in whom he might more confidingly rely than in me; but, under the circumstances, I must occasionally take the liberty (and I sincerely apologize for doing so) of restating Mr. James, in my own words, for the sake of my readers, or of saying to them, in other language, what I understand him to mean. I will add, however, that I have so long and so lovingly pored over his writings, and have been myself so instructed by then, that I feel some confidence in my ability to apprehend him rightly; and that I hold myself completely subject to his correction wherein I may have failed to do so. A writer who talks of freedom to suffer, and man’s actual superiority over his own nature, and underscores these phrases as containing the gist of his thought, needs as friendly an interpretation as Christ’s words when he teaches us to hate father and mother for the truth’s sake. [Online editor’s note: Luke 14:26. – RTL] Whosoever wishes to understand may have to labor hard to succeed; and whosoever wishes to cavil may readily do so.
LMD-19.3 [I also take the liberty to insert numbers indicating paragraphs and subjects in Mr. James’s letter for ease of reference.] [Online editor’s note: immediately previous note by Andrews. – RTL]
LMD-19.4 The second branch of Mr. James’s definition of what he conceives to be the doctrine of the free lovers, what he calls “our point of disagreement,” and which I have marked, where it is severally restated, by the figure (2), is that they – that I, for example – hold myself “exempt from all inward liability” to my “own distinctive nature as man” for the use I make of my passional nature. Now what he means here to state I take to be that he supposes me and all those who think with me on this subject to have cast off deliberately and as an intellectual conclusion all deference whatsoever to conscience, to our sense of right, or of inherent and essential law regulating the proprieties of conduct, and all deference to the needs or behests of our own superior spiritual natures. I assure our readers (his and mine), with some misgivings as to their ability to credit me, that this is what Mr. James does really mean to say. I could not myself believe it upon the strength of any single formal statement, and would have accepted the theory, rather, that I was dull of understanding and did not comprehend him, except that by his reiterations here, and by recurring to his more elaborate presentation of his views in his previously published letter, I am constrained to know that this otherwise sane and even wise writer and thinker does, in his heart, suppose that bald stultification is the characteristic of a group of philosophers who are not, certainly, in other respects, absolute fools.
LMD-19.5 It was this sort of thing which in my previous critique I denounced as balderdash. I take back the offensive word, and will merely say that any such supposition as this is merely a figment of the imagination of Mr. James. Nearly every word he utters so forcefully and characteristically, although, sometimes, somewhat mystically, of the normal career and graduation of the human character and of society, out of a lower and sensuous life into a higher and spiritual life, is such that I entirely accord with it, affirm it in my teachings from time to time, with all the powers that I possess, and aim to ultimate it by every legitimate means in myself, in those about me, and in society at large. It is for holding and promulgating just these views that I have, in the midst of seeming dissension and inability to be myself comprehended by him, ever loved and cherished the noble type of personality which I always gladly recognize in him, and it grieves me more than I can express that such a man, and with otherwise lofty powers of comprehension, could so far misapprehend me as to attribute to me what my nature would prompt me to denounce with him as akin to a doctrine of devils. When people wilfully misunderstand me, I sometimes take no pains to explain; and perhaps I have even at times couched my doctrines in such terms that my assailants should seem to be successfully gratifying their malignity, while I have known that they were biting a file in attacking my positions; but whenever, as now, I am convinced that there is an honest attribution to me of opinions that I and my co-doctrinaires, so far as I know, utterly repudiate, I hasten to remove, so far as lieth in me, every possibility of a continued misunderstanding.
LMD-19.6 What possible ground has Mr. James or anybody for assuming that I or any set of representative free lovers have ever pronounced in favor of the emancipation of mankind from their own conscience, from the sense of justice toward all others, or from the claims of their own higher natures? My understanding of the subjects is that they, of all people, are precisely the champions of those higher mental qualities and states; and that, if they sin at all, it is in their readiness to trust too much to the elevating and regulative potency of just those elements. If we understand ourselves, this is the only quarrel we have with the community at large; and we are the representative people of just those things which Mr. James supposes we have cast overboard. His indictment of us is no other than a subtle and highly spiritualized repetition of the same estimate of us and our doctrines which the common vulgar herd of crude, undeveloped, and themselves merely passionally organized people attribute to us, in a purely external and unspiritualized way. It holds curiously the same relation, as a mistake, to the common vulgar blunder of the people which Swedenborg’s and, if I understand him aright, Mr. James’s idea of marriage holds to the common external legal understanding of it. The blunder of the vulgar public, partly innocent and natural misapprehension and partly malignant perversion, has long ceased to astonish or disturb me; but the rarefied and attenuated and transcendental mistake of our present learned and acute critic is a psychological curiosity on the one hand and, on the other, a startling surprise.
LMD-19.7 Now, the doctrine of free love is not even anti-marriage in the external or legal sense of the term, any more than the doctrine of free worship in our churches is anti-worship; certainly, therefore, it is not anti-marriage in respect to the spiritual conception of marriage entertained by Mr. James. It is simply opposed to the legal imposition of marriage as a uniform and compulsory mode of adjusting the sexual relations of society and may be said perhaps to be equally opposed to the dogmatic imposition, upon all of us, of precisely Mr. James’s idea, or anybody’s idea of spiritual marriage. It is simply and wholly the doctrine of “hands off,” or of remitting the jurisdiction of the subject to the parties concerned; of freedom to marry externally and by express contract for those for those who desire so to marry; of freedom to be married ever so closely and exclusively, in the spiritual sense, for those who believe in it and desire it; and of equal freedom for those who believe in neither to regulate their love relations in accordance with whatever ideas they do entertain. The doctrine pronounces absolutely nothing with regard to the truth or falsehood of any of those ulterior doctrines, but simply prohibits the interference of anybody with the affairs of others, in this respect, for the purpose of enforcing their own individual or collective beliefs. The whole doctrine of free love is, therefore, rigorously constrained in what Mr. James defines as the negative side of that doctrine. It has no other side whatever; and upon this side of the subject Mr. James affirms that he is infinitely in accord with us. The other side of the doctrine – what he calls the positive side, and attributes to us – is, as I have previously said, purely a figment of his own imagination, and would be as abhorrent to me, if I recognized it as really existing anywhere, as it is or can be to him.
LMD-19.8 I have said that free love has no positive side in Mr. James’s sense. It is a purely negative doctrine, or merely the doctrine of “hands off.” This is as true of it as it is of Protestantism, which is negatively a denial of the authority of Rome, but which may be positively stated as the right of private judgment in matters of conscience. Every negative doctrine or doctrine of mere freedom may be thus counterstated and thrown into positive form; and, in that sense, free love may be said to have an affirmative side in the assertion of the right to be left free; but this is in no measure what Mr. James embraces in his conception of the positive side of the doctrine, which is, namely, the assertion of the supremacy of the lower and material or animal nature over the higher, intellectual, and spiritual nature, in the individual and in society at large. The inversion which does place the lower nature above I abundantly recognize and deplore as an existent fact of the world’s history hitherto, and it is the earnest desire to remedy that inversion which makes me a free lover, – believing that the complete emancipation of woman would tend especially in that direction; but formulated as a doctrine, and put forth by rational thinkers as something true and desirable, I have never met with it anywhere, and am not aware of its existence. The mere assertion of the right of the individual to decide for himself whether he will subordinate love to marriage or marriage to love, is neither a denying nor an affirming of the essential subordination of either to the other. It is simply an emancipation of them both, and in equal degree, from anybody’s dogmatic and authoritative decision of that question, and is fully covered by that which Mr. James holds in common with us.
LMD-19.9 I have said that on the whole ground really covered by free love Mr. James announces that he is in full accord with us. But even here he is laboring under some measure of mistake. He more than accords with us. He overstates the doctrine. He believes, apparently, in an unbounded license for those who are under bondage to their own appetites and passions, and holds them exempted from all responsibility, on the ground that they are themselves enslaved to those appetites, and are not, on that account, responsible and accountable human beings. That is to say that they are free, and to be left free, because they are not free, – a doctrine to which I can only assent in a transcendental, ethical sense. His doctrine of freedom without limitations, taken as a basis of social regulation, surpasses everything that free lovers contend for. The doctrine which we affirm is, on the contrary, a doctrine of very stringent and rigorous limitations. It is the doctrine of the freedom of the individual, only so long as he does not encroach upon the equal freedom of all other individuals. This doctrine, which is feared as license, is, when examined, found to be a tremendous two-edged sword; inasmuch as, while it confers freedom on those who deserve it, it authorizes the rigid constraint of just these inferior natures who are not entitled to it; for it is they, chiefly, who are prone to encroach, and to endeavor to enforce their views and desires upon others. Just those persons, therefore, who, Mr. James says, with a certain ethical truthfulness, are not responsible, are those whom our doctrine holds to a rigorous accountability. The doctrine which we propound seems to the thoughtless to be a doctrine of license; but it, in fat, tenders freedom only upon terms with which none but the very most progressed natures are competent to comply: upon the terms, namely, of a propound and reverential regard for the freedom of all others who in turn do not encroach; and the same doctrine authorizes the most rigorous calling to account and the most desperate fighting, if need be, in respect to all those who fail to come up to the high demands of this chivalric code of mutual peace and amity. Mr. James’s doctrine, on the contrary, as loosely stated by him, I should pronounce to be a doctrine of real license or authorized licentiousness, if I did not bear in mind that he is hardly ever engaged in discussing the civil and practical and sociological questions about which we are talking, and that he is, as it were, hurried away, even when he attempts politico-social and sociological matters, by the impetuosity and soaring of his genius into the empyrean heights of purely transcendental ethics. Freedom with him does not here mean the freedom of the citizen at all; and what he says would not have the slightest practical bearing upon the methods of treating ignorant and aggressive offenders; but he means, I suppose, freedom and bondage in a strictly metaphysical sense as affecting the will.
LMD-19.10 This whole lower stage of the evolution of mind, in which the appetites and passions are dominant and the intellectual and spiritual nature undeveloped, is what I denominate technically the naturismus of the mind, whether of the individual or of the community. The second stage of mental evolution, in which, as Mr. James so aptly expresses it, “my intellectual day does eventually break,” is then what I denominate the scien-tismus; and what Mr. James, in his blind technicality, calls “society” near the close of his article (blind, I mean, in the sense that he does not sufficiently distinguish it as a technicality), and there defines to be the reconciliation of that hell of the passions and this heaven of the intellect and the spirit, is what I denominate the artismus of the mental evolution. [Online editor’s note: despite having just chided James for baffling his readers with “a system of technicalities peculiarly his own” and an “absence of preliminary definitions,” Andrews, here and below, introduces without explanation terminology from his own system of “universology” (the investigation of basic principles common to all sciences). Very briefly, for Andrews naturismus (primordial chaos), scientismus (rational order), and artismus (graceful reconciliation) are correlated, respectively, with unismus (undifferentiated unity, evolutionary stage 1), duismus (fragmented diversity, evolutionary stage 2), and trinismus (the integrated transcendence of these opposing principles, evolutionary stage 3). – RTL] I require these technicalities – naturismus, scientismus, and artismus – for universological purposes, because the same principles and the same distribution of principles occur in all the other sciences as well as in social science, and, consequently, in situations where terms derived from social distinctions would be quite inadmissible. I think, also, that these terms, understood and familiarized in this special application of them, will considerably facilitate our mutual understanding of each other in this discussion.
LMD-19.11 At the next turn of Mr. James’s statement his conception and mode of expressions are so peculiar that I venture to attempt to make my understanding of them understood by the reader. Although he has described the prior and, as I think I may say, the objective state of the affectional or sentimental part of the mind, and its stage of evolution, as a state of bondage, and denied to it any freedom, he now speaks of it as a state of freedom to act, or, as I think we may say, of projective freedom; and he contrasts with this a newer state of the affections which is interior, or I think we may say subjective, to which he attributes another kind of what he denominates freedom, – “freedom to suffer or to be acted upon,” – a freedom to receive mental impressions and resolve them subjectively, which we might perhaps call a receptive freedom. “My life is not,” he says, “any longer outwardly, but altogether inwardly constituted or energized, and disdains any outward responsibility,” etc. This distinction is certainly well taken to complete the metaphysical views of the unismus of mind by presenting its objective and subjective sides; but neither has it anything to do with the civic relations of individuals as covered by the doctrine of free love. Mr. James then arrives at and proceeds to define what he supposes to be the point of disagreement. This subject I have already considered, and have shown that he is wholly mistaken, and that no such disagreement exists. I will, in a few words, however, state wherein there are, or probably are, some palpable differences between us.
LMD-19.12 I have already done this in part, in saying that Mr. James’s statement of the crude freedom of individuals is altogether too lax for us. Free love with me – and it is generally safer to state one’s own views than to assume to represent any considerable number of persons – is merely an extension, or a special application rather, of Josiah Warren’s doctrine of the Sovereignty of the Individual, which, when stated in full, is always accompanied by a prohibition of encroachment. It is, therefore, merely a doctrine of the mutual adjustment of relations in freedom between parties mutually desirous of doing right, and who recognize their mutual equality as a basis. It has no application, therefore, to undeveloped parties incapable of the mutual application of principles; to the unjust or those who are not disposed to live on principle; or, in fine, to any but those who know enough and are good enough to apply and live by the principle. In respect to all the rest of mankind I am free to regulate my life according to the exigencies of the case, in the absence of this readiness on their part to adopt and act upon a principle of right, regulating freedom. If I were the Czar of Russia, I should be just as free, unhindered by any theory I hold of human rights, to enact and enforce stringent laws, according to my judgment of the stage of development in that country, as if I held no sociological doctrines whatsoever. As a political ruler, with power and responsibility for social order, I should not be trammelled or hampered by sociology or ethics, beyond the legitimate claims of one sphere of affairs to influence every other sphere. I might then and there enact laws, and be engaged in enforcing them, which I might be, here and now, engaged in breaking and encouraging others to break. Even here, as a legislator, I might favor and help enforce laws politically which, as a social agitator, I would treat with contempt and try to induce the people to despise. I am no silly doctrinaire, propounding theories of life which are wholly impracticable, but simply a social scientist, dealing in social solutions. J. Stuart Mill, if he had understood Mr. Warren or me, would never have written his work on “Liberty” so loosely worded in limiting the right of the State as to have laid himself open to the raking fire of James Fitzjames Stephen [Online editor’s note: Stephen’s Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1874) was a critique of Mill’s 1859 On Liberty – RTL]; and so Mr. James, with a right study of the subject, would not state the non-accountability of crude offenders so wildly.
LMD-19.13 Allow me to explain upon a branch of the subject which I am here led into, and which I do not remember ever to have treated upon. There are three quite distinct, almost wholly different spheres of collective human affairs to be considered, which we may call: 1, The ordinary politico-civic sphere, mainly practical and only slightly scientific – the unismus of this series; 2, The sociologico-ethical sphere, which is rigorously scientific, adjusting by principles and exact definitions the social relations of individuals in society, in so far as they desire to know and are ready to regulate their mutuality by exact knowledge, – the sphere of Warrenism, and by derivation of free-loveism, – the duismus of this series; 3, The transcendental ethical sphere, partly practical, spontaneous, natural; partly scientific; but, in the major part, sentimental or artismal; regulating the individual conduct relating to others in foro conscientiæ [Online editor’s note: in the court of conscience – RTL], or as regards the individual’s approbation or disapprobation of his own such conduct, in view of his own respect for the Most High, – which last is the trinismus of this series.
LMD-19.14 It is in this last, or trinismal sphere that we find Mr. James usually speaking, but not always. Sometimes he is talking in the unismus. But of the duismus, the scientific and truly regulative sphere, he really knows nothing, and is sure to misunderstand anybody who speaks in it. He is not always, I say, in the third sphere. When he talks of “progressively enlarging the grounds of divorce,” he is talking in the first sphere – politico-civic – like an ordinary mortal, and refers to actual legislation, to take place in legislature, congress, or parliament; but when, a few paragraphs further on, he talks of “the non-accountability to one’s fellow-men for the exercise of one’s appetites and passions, because of one’s own bondage to the same,” he has suddenly, and it would seem unconsciously, vaulted up into the trinismus. He does not mean that it would do for any mundane legislature to conduct government on that principle, but only that in ethical strictness there is no holding ground for the flukes of the anchor of conscience.
LMD-19.15 When, in the middle field between these extremes, Mr. James attempts to state our doctrine, he wholly fails, for want of the habit of scientific exactitude. “Your doctrine, if I rightly understand it, is,” he says, “two-fold, namely: First, that men are de jure exempt from outward liability, which is liability to other men for the indulgence of their appetites and passions; second,” etc. Now this is not my doctrine, but a perfect caricature of my doctrine, in so far as I have ever propounded any doctrine on the subject. I do not hold that men are de jure exempt, etc., except conditionally, the condition being that they know how to abstain, and will abstain, from encroachment upon the rights of other people, – the sovereignty of the individual [only] at his own cost, which makes a wholly different thing of the whole doctrine.
LMD-19.16 The free lover rejoices in any relaxation of civil-marriage stringency, any facilitation by legislation of the laws of divorce such as Mr. James desires; but we choose to base our social agitation on the higher law of individual rights, leaving individuals to battle with their legal restrictions as they best may; as the abolitionists chose to do, rather than to agitate for special ameliorations of the condition of the slaves. This is in fact the only difference between Mr. James and us qua this particular question of the method of arriving at more practical freedom.
LMD-19.17 I have said that, as a mere politician or judicial functionary, I might myself be engaged, on the lower ground of expediency and practical necessity, in enacting and enforcing laws which, as a sociological writer and agitator, I should be instigating people to set aside and defy; and I will add that, in this latter capacity, I might be engaged in vindicating for individuals or the people freedom to act in ways in which, if they did act, I should wholly and energetically condemn them upon the still higher ground of transcendental ethics; and I hold still further tat any one who cannot understand and adjust himself to all these complexities is incompetent to be integrally a sociologist.
LMD-19.18 The rise of a higher social doctrine in the community is like the rise of a new tissue in the development of the body. It finds the ground preoccupied by the old, which it has to crowd aside to make room for itself. Hence the necessity for a conflict; and the same individual may find himself related at one moment to the old in a way to enforce duties upon him of that order, and the next moment to the new in a similar manner. Mrs. Woodhull, who agitates for free love, and the judge and jury who try her, and, if the evidence and the law require it, condemn her and send her to Blackwell’s Island, are both right; and Mrs. Woodhull, if empaneled on a jury to try one like herself, might have, in good conscience, to join in such a verdict against another doing the same as she may have been charged with doing. When people go to war, there is no use in whining over the fact that they are liable to get hurt; and a doubleness of duty in different directions is one of the commonest events of life. I simply rejoice that just in this age, and here in America, and perhaps in a few other countries, the old civilization has grown so rotten and enfeebled that the agitators for the new civilization have the advantage, and can defy and conquer with less of martyrdom than most other reforms have demanded.
LMD-19.19 Now, fortunately, the sociologico-ethical doctrine, that which scientifically defines the rights of individuals, reciprocally, in their mutual relations, sexual and otherwise, is merely a doctrine regulating reciprocity, and is not binding on the conscience of the other party the moment the reciprocity fails; and that moment the advocate of the doctrine is free to fall back upon the lower law and fight it out there; although, as a magnanimous policy, he may think it best not to avail himself of his privilege, – as in political economy the free-trader is only bound by his principles, on grounds of justice and equity, to inaugurate free trade with nations who will reciprocate, but he may, as magnanimity or far-reaching expediency, deem it best not to stop there. So the Declaration of American Independence declares certain rights to be inalienable, but it proceeds immediately to provide certain punishments, consisting of depriving individuals of the exercise of those very rights. What is meant is that the rights are conditionally inalienable, the condition being that those who claim them shall come with clean hands to do so; not at the same instant infringing the same rights in others. The South, in the war, demanded, on the ground of right, to be let alone, but demanded it for the purpose of enslaving others, and so lost her standing in court to make that plea, while, yet, the plea remained, abstractly, perfectly good. So I, as a free lover, am not bound to accord the freedom to regulate their own conduct, relieved from my interference, to any but those who can and will, in good faith and chivalric certainty, leave every other person, their dearest lovers included, equally free.
LMD-19.20 As regards all the rest of mankind, they have no right whatever under this doctrine “which white men are bound to respect.” [Online editor’s note: a sarcastic reference to the language of the Dred Scott decision. – RTL] I may deem it magnanimous or educationally expedient to recognize as free lovers, and to agitate in behalf of, those who are only half born into the doctrine; but they have no claims on my conscience to do so. Apart from this compact of equitable amity with a handful of people who are morally and intellectually competent to appreciate a scientific gauge of equity, I am just as free, in conscience, if I find it expedient, as the veriest old fogy, to help in the suppression of every deviation from the rigors of the law or of Mrs. Grundy. I am not, in other words, under any conscientious inability to behave as a good citizen on the lower politico-civic ground. But I deem the new doctrine so infinitely better, so fast as the world can be brought to regulate its conduct by a scientific principle, instead of force, that, as an agitator for the higher truth, the mere legislation of the hour takes no rank in the comparison; and if I find myself entangled in the meshes of the contradiction, I must take my risks and fight it through according to the circumstances of the individual case.
LMD-19.21 We come now to the still higher sphere, to the transcendental ethical sphere, where Mr. James commonly thinks and writes and figures. It is here that he usually talks of marriage, and by marriage in this sense I understand him to mean: whatsoever right conjunction of the counterparting factors of life; either as abstract principles, or in the realm of concrete personality. Marriage in this sense is what I mean by trinism, the reconciliative harmony of opposites. The idea is Swedenborgian, is Jamesian, is universological. In it I believe most religiously; for it I work most assiduously; to it I would lead all mankind; and in the effort to that end I recognize and fellowship Mr. James most heartily. He may, and I think probably would, define this spiritual, ethical, metaphysical marriage in a technical and somewhat narrow doctrinaire sense which I should reject; and here I think is another point of our real differences; and here, to make a clean breast of it, I think he may, perhaps, have something yet to learn from me. If he accepts the above definition, and if he will leave the questions: What are the counterparting factors of life, and What is a right adjustment of them, open to free scientific investigation, not imposing on the inquirer any doctrinaire interpretation of them, we can start fair; and I shall have many words, when the time comes, to utter about this matter.
LMD-19.22 But it seems to me a pity that Mr. James, with such a meaning of marriage, should never notify his readers when he passes to and fro between it and the common vulgar idea of statute marriage; the confusion so induced sometimes seeming to make of his writings a brilliant kaleidoscope of mysticism, instead of a body of intelligible instruction. For example, take this sentence: “Thus your doctrine has both a negative or implicit force, as addressed to the making marriage free by progressively enlarging the grounds of divorce; and a positive or explicit force, as addressed to the making love free, by denying its essential subordination to marriage.”
LMD-19.23 The word marriage is used here in two senses as if they were one; first, in the ordinary sense, and, second, to mean the true rational adjustment of the relations of love; and it is against this last, which he identifies first (at least as a factor) with “society” (meaning the highest ideal well-bring and true order of society), and then with “God,” the ideal personal author of this system of true order, that Mr. James supposes the free lovers to be in revolt (in addition to their revolt, in which he concurs, against the outward restrictions of enforced marriage in the lower sense).
LMD-19.24 The only solution I can think of (at first I could think of none) of this seemingly gratuitous assumption is this: Free lovers do often speak of their relative contempt for marriage as compared with the claims of genuine affection, and Mr. James, having the fixed idea in his mind of marriage in this higher sense, as the permanent meaning of the word, has attributed to them a meaning which he would have had, had had he used similar language. But he should know that they are not piping in the high transcendental keys in which he habitually sings or talks. They mean merely that love is for them the higher law over statute marriage without love. They are not then talking, or thinking, in the least, of denying that duty in a thousand forms may be a higher law still over love; that is to say, over the sensuous indulgences of mere love: duty to one’s self is f the health is to incur injury, duty to one’s higher spiritual nature if it is to be marred, duty to one’s children if their destiny is involved, duty to previous innocent companions and parties implicated in one’s act, duty to society at large and its well-being, duty to God or divine law written in the soul demanding integral and distributive justice; duty, in a word, to the Most High, or that, whatsoever it is, which is the highest in each individual soul. Some persons, to be sure, deny duty altogether on a ground of metaphysical subtlety, saying that, when they know what is right, that is the attraction and its doing not from duty but from love; but this is merely another mode of stating the common idea.
LMD-19.25 The mere agitators for free love are for the most part those who have not risen to the consideration of the ulterior questions involved in the true uses of freedom, any more than slaves struggling for freedom enquire what line of conduct they will pursue, or what considerations they will abide by in deciding their conduct, when free; and it is a pure gratuity to assume that they have decided against any moral course whatever.
LMD-19.26 Pope puts into the mouth of Eloise the following startling words: (Pope’s Poetical Works, vol. i., p. 125.)

How oft, when pressed to marriage, have I said,
Curse on all laws but those which love has made!
Love, free as air, at sight of human ties,
Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies.
Let wealth, let honor, wait the wedded dame,
August her deed, and sacred be her name;
Before true passion all those views remove;
Fame, wealth, and honor! What are you to love?
The jealous God, when we profane his fires,
Those restless passions in revenge inspires,
And bids them make mistaken mortals groan,
Who seek in love for aught but love alone.
Should at my feet the world’s great Master fall,
Himself, His throne, His world, I’d scorn them all:
Not Caesar’s empress would I deign to prove;
No, make me mistress to the man I love;
If there be yet another name more free,
More fond than mistress, make me that to thee!
Oh, happy state! when souls each other draw,
When love is liberty, and nature law:
All then is full, possessing and possessed,
No craving void left aching in the breast;
Even thought meets thought, ere from the lips it part,
And each warm wish springs mutual from the heart.
This sure is bliss (if bliss on earth there be),
And once the lot of Abelard and me.
LMD-19.27 The most exalted pythoness of free love of our day has never said more or gone farther than this: and yet a few pages farther on in this poem, this same rebel against marriage in the lower sense, as by the laws of man, is found struggling desperately with her own sense of right in the higher court of conscience, or as related to ethical truth; which, with her, held the from of obedience to God. Read the following in this vein:

Ah, wretch! believed the spouse of God in vain,
Confessed within the slave of love and man.
Assist me, heaven! but whence arose that prayer?
Sprung it from piety, or from despair?
Even here, where frozen chastity retires,
Love finds an altar for forbidden fires.
I ought to grieve, but cannot as I ought;
I mourn the lover, not lament the fault;
I view my crime, but kindle with the view,
Repent old pleasures, and solicit new;
Now turned to heaven, I weep my past offence.
Now think of thee, and curse my innocence.
Of all affliction taught a lover yet,
’Tis sure the hardest science to forget!
How shall I love the sin, yet keep the sense,
[Online editor’s note: “lose the sin,” in Pope’s original. – RTL]
And love the offender, yet detest the offence?
How the dear object from the crime remove,
Or how distinguish penitence from love?
Unequal task! a passion to resign,
For hearts so touched, so pierced, so lost as mine.
Ere such a soul regains its peaceful state,
How often must it love, how often hate!
How often hope, despair, resent, forget,
Conceal, disdain, – do all things but regret!
[Online editor’s note: Andrews has switched “forget” and “regret.” – RTL]
But let heaven seize it, all at once ’tis fired;
Not touched, but wrapt; not weakened, but inspired!
[Online editor’s note: “rapt” and “waken’d,” in Pope’s original. – RTL]
O come! O teach me Nature to subdue,
Renounce my love, my life, myself – and you;
Fill my fond heart with God alone, for He
Alone can rival, can succeed to thee.
LMD-19.28 Nobody can, in fact, escape his own worship of the Most High. I prefer this to the term God as equally orthodox and as less implicated with existing dogma. The Most High of Eloise was the Catholic conception of a personal God. The Most High of Mr. James is a perfect law, ultimating in a perfect ideal social adjustment which he sometimes calls “society” and sometimes calls “God”; and the element of deference to this perfect law in the settlement of our love affairs is what he calls “marriage,” as the counterparting and major element in this question, as compared with mere love. No free lover has ever denied this, because hitherto they have not been called, as a body, even to consider the subject. Individually, these cases of conscience are arising among them every day; and if Mr. James will write so that they can understand him, I will venture to say that he can find no other public so ready to accept, gratefully, any ethical solutions he can furnish them.
LMD-19.29 What Mr. James supposes is that they are a body of people whose Most High, or highest conception and object of devotion, is their own appetite and passional indulgences. When this was put in the form of an accusation, I resented it as a gross slander. Reduced to the proportions of an honest misapprehension, I hasten to do my best, by a laborious effort, to remove it; and I assure Mr. James that I know of no such class of people as he conceives of, under the name of free lovers. They are, indeed, as I know them, among those farthest removed from this description. They consist, on the contrary, in a great measure, of idealists of a weak passional nature, and who, for that reason, could not bear the yoke of matrimony; of benevolent, kindly people who have witnessed the misery of others in that relation until their natures revolted; and of speculative thinkers who have solved or are trying to solve the problem of the social relations; and it is on these grounds that they are gradually, and just now pretty deeply, imbuing the whole public mind.
LMD-19.30 What Mr. James calls in one way society, in another the social spirit, again God’s life in my spirit, and finally God, is just as important and just as paramount in my view as in his; though I may not always choose to adopt any of these modes of expression, and may, at times, rather speak of my own higher and lower nature instead. I do not, however, object, if he does not insist and seek to impose a special from of expression of a thought otherwise essentially the same. The fact that this higher life is mine does not deny the fact that it is yours also, and I only insist on freedom of conception and expression; and the distinction between our nature and ourselves has a mystical seeming which I might choose to avoid. With a right adjustment of the technicalities of expression, I presume, however, that there is no difference here between Mr. James and myself.
LMD-19.31 What he says of suffering is wholly good or monstrously bad, according to the farther exposition it might have; and it would take me too far away from my present purpose to follow him. I simply reserve, as the lawyers say, my bill of exceptions. I will, however, confess that I am not conscious of sweating so hard, spiritually, over the effort to be good as Mr. James deems it requisite; and either that I never get to be so good as his ideal good man is, or else that it comes more natural to me. Perhaps I was sanctified somewhat earlier, and have forgotten my growing pains.
LMD-19.32 Yes, I do hold that our appetites and passions are a direct divine boon to us, etc., which Mr. James denies with all his heart; and yet I hold all this in that larger sense that has all Mr. James’s distinctions within it, – as Col. Benton said of a certain bill in Congress that it had “a stump speech in the belly of it.” I affirm every one of his affirmations, in spirit if not in terms, and only negate his negations.
LMD-19.33 Mr. James next proceeds, after the preparation thus made, to characterize free love, philosophically, as free hell. The opening sentence of this part of Mr. James’s communication is in itself utterly ambiguous, for the reason that it is impossible to tell from it whether in “emancipation from the marriage-constraint” he means by marriage-constraint the outer constraint of the statute law or that release, which he has imagined to be the demand of the free lovers, from the divine order, whatever that may be, of the love relations of mankind. But light is thrown upon the subject farther on, and it appears that he means the last, for he contrasts the “emancipation” from it, under the name of hell, with “that marriage-love of the sexes by which heaven has always been appropriately symbolized.”
LMD-19.34 Now by marriage as appropriately symbolizing heaven he undoubtedly means nothing other than harmoniously adjusted love relations in accordance with the divine law; by which is meant, again, nothing other than the highest law in the universe applicable to the subject. He may assume in his thought that this highest law is such, or such; but that does not affect the question, as he may be either right or wrong in the assumption; and he can hardly, I think, reject my definitions, which transcend all special renderings of the law. This highest law must in turn be ascertained by intuition, by inspirational impression, by experience, by reason, and, in fine, in the highest degree, by the absolute science of the subject superadded to and modifying the results of all the other methods, – by, in a word, whatsoever faculties and means the human minds possesses foe compassing a knowledge of the highest truth, especially in this sphere of affairs. Love – as a SUBSTANCE or subject-matter, appropriately regulated by the truest and highest law of its relations – as a FORM – this substance and this form, again, happily united or married to each other, is what Mr. James is here characterizing as marriage-love and as heaven; and nobody can, I think, appropriately object to this characterization.
LMD-19.35 So, on the other hand, the divorce or sundering of this substance and this form (it is a little queer to call that idea an “emancipation,” but no matter so long as we can guess at what is meant) may, with the same appropriateness, extending the symbol, be denominated hell. I contended at once, in my previous answer, that what Mr. James understood us to propound as doctrine would be a doctrine of devils; and I suppose that sort of things is rightly characterized as hell. But I have now to show that, as I think, Mr. James does not quite understand himself on this subject; and I take the liberty to correct, as, if he is going to conduct us to the sulphurous abyss, I want he should go straight to hell, and not deviate a hair’s breadth to the right nor the left.
LMD-19.36 I have pointed out two senses in which Mr. James has used the word marriage. There is involved here a third meaning so subtle that I presume he is entirely unaware of it. Marriage is here in one breath contrasted with love, as the opposite partner in a partnership of ideas, and in the next breath it is used to mean love conjoined with marriage (marriage now being used in the former sense), – that is to say, to mean the partnership itself. It is as if Smith were about, in the first place, to be fairly treated in relation to Jones in settling the affairs of the firm of Smith & Jones, but that, surreptitiously, the assumption were glided in that Jones is the firm of Smith & Jones, and that poor Smith has now to reckon with the whole firm against him.
LMD-19.37 Read the following extract in the light of this criticism: “I am only making an honest attempt intellectually to characterize it [free love]. And as by the marriage-love [love and true marriage conjoined] of the sexes heaven has always been appropriately symbolized to the intellect, so I take no liberty with thought in saying that hell is no less appropriately symbolized by love as opposed to marriage. I repeat, then, that free love, regarded as the enemy of marriage, means, to the philosophic imagination, free hell, neither more nor less,” etc. It will appear at once, on a close inspection of this extract, that marriage, the last two times it is here used, is used as synonymous with marriage-love, – as, in other words, a partnership-idea, including love as one of the partners, – and in that case love is no more an appropriate idea to contrast with it than Smith is the appropriate antithet, in the case supposed above, of Smith & Jones. The true antithetical idea of a partnership is the individuals as individuals, and both of them equally, out of the partnership. So the true antithet, in idea, of marriage (meaning love in marriage and marriage in love conjointly) is love and marriage, as a substance and a form, mutually contrasted, divorced or separated from each other; and then, if the word free is used to mean their separation (or emancipation) from each other, it is just as applicable to marriage as one of the partners as it is to love as the other partner; and it is not alone free love which is hell, but it is love divorced from true relational adjustment (here called marriage) and true relational adjustment (that is, the relational adjustment which would be true of love were present) this last without love, which are both and equally the symbol of hell. In other words, love without marriage and marriage without love are hell, – the reader remembering that we are not now talking of statute marriage, but of true sexual adjustments; and love married to true sexual adjustments, or vice versa, is heaven.
LMD-19.38 No philosophical free lover, any more than any other philosopher, would object, I presume, to these statements; and this is what Mr. James means, or should mean, in the premises.
LMD-19.39 We are all aware that love, as mere unsatisfied desire, is hell, or misery; and satisfied upon a low plane it is still hell to one who has conflicting superior desires unsatisfied; and when the satisfaction is complete in kind, if the adjustments are imperfect, conflicting, or disharmonious, in whatsoever sense, the result is still hell; and this authorizes Mr. James to call free love hell, he having taken the word free to mean divorced or sundered from true or harmonic adjustment; but how he could ever have thought any set of people to be the partisans of this particular kind of hell is still very surprising. On the other hand, he might just as rightly, and is even required by consistency, to say free marriage, in the sense of mere formal adjustment divorced from love as its appropriate infilling substance, and then to denounce it as hell of another kind; which we all know it to be. It is this latter hell which free lovers are especially engaged in combatting; and it is that hell of devils and this hell of Satans (Swedenborgian) between which I insist that Mr. James should hold even balance; in other words, that he shall go straight to hell.
LMD-19.40 But Mr. James’s ladder of argument, though there is a round loose occasionally, is still a ladder conducting him up to a culmination of magnificent philosophical statement. Free love, as hell, is still with him by no means altogether disreputable. Hell itself is getting up in the world. It is an equal factor in the genesis of all things, an equally honorable combatant in the grand final battle of principles, the end of which is not defeat for either, but a trinismal reconciliation whereby the new heavens and the new earth are or are to be constituted. All this is universological and grand and true, and it rejoices me to have so distinct an announcement of the doctrine, in this connection, from Mr. James. I gladly concede also that he has derived only the materials for this doctrine from Swedenborg, and that the form of it is new and equally original with Mr. James and myself, and perhaps some other thinkers of this age. At all events, I am in full fellowship with him upon this central point of what I must undoubtedly believe is the final and integral philosophy of mankind.
LMD-19.41 I should not, it is true, base my faith in a final philosophy upon Swedenborg’s personal experiences in the spirit world, not upon any merely historical averment of events which may have transpired in any world, but upon what to me is far securer, the universological laws and principles of all being. Still, I have no contempt for Swedenborg’s experiences, whether they prove to have been subjective or objective phenomena; and the rendering which Mr. James gives of the event alluded to is altogether sublime and alike true whether the event literally and objectively occurred or not. If the date of these spiritual espousals was so far back, it would seem that the effective promulgation of the fact has been reserved for this and the coming age. The new divine manhood has as yet made but small external progress in the world. The germ, nevertheless, exists, and it is taking on, every day, increased proportions. The most fatal mistake that soldiers make in war is to fire upon detachments of their own army, and it is all-important that they discover and retrieve the blunder. The figure is commended to Mr. James’s consideration. Verbum sap. sat. [Online editor’s note: verbum sat sapienti, or verbum sapienti satis est – “a word to the wise is sufficient.” – RTL]


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