chapter  Chapter 5
14 Pages

Love and Marriage in the Eighteenth Century

WithJean-Louis Flandrin

Love and marriage seemed to come together somewhat more in the eighteenth century, at least among the social elite. Love is constantly discussed in Western literature and has been since at least the twelfth century. The idea of marital love is not an eighteenth century invention. It is found as far back as 1694, in the first edition of then Dictionnaire de l'Academie frangaise — under the headings AMOUR and CONpJGAL. It must be stressed that, up until the 1770's, Catholic moralists were themselves little interested in marital love, even when dealing with marriage or love. Moreover, in the series of catechisms, the only one which preached marital love vigorously was not Catholic. In peasant society, the idea of love existed well before the eighteenth century. But it remained active, whereas during the seventeenth century, love became perceived as increasingly passive in the prevailing culture.