Notes: The great British philosopher offers a strong citique of Victorian morals about sex and marriage. This book is the source of one of his better-known quotations: "Marriage is for women the commonest form of livelihood, and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution" (p. 153).
He also argues that social progress leads naturally to multiple sexual partners: "I think that uninhibited civilized people, whether men or women, are generally polygamous in their instincts. They may fall deeply in love and be for some years entirely absorbed in one person, but sooner or later sexual familiarity dulls the edge of passion, and then they begin to look elsewhere for a revival of the old thrill."
Whether Russell was describing civilized people or just his own proclivities (he dropped in and out of marriages with regularity, and fathered children outside of marriage in the between-times), Marriage and Morals is a very readable book. Despite all his contributions to math and philosophy, Russell won the Nobel Prize for literature because he knew his way around a sentence.
Russell expresses some unhappily racist views (e.g., "It seems on the whole fair to regard negroes as on the average inferior to white men, although for work in the tropics they are indispensable, so that their extermination (apart from questions of humanity) would be highly undesirable", p. 267), and his philosophical view that women and men were equal was not borne out so well in his personal life. He tended to leave children behind when he left a wife, behavior that is hard to distinguish from that of his less-enlightened brethren. Even with these problems, Russell nicely sets out the basics of modern male-female relationships a generation or more before those views began to gain acceptance in society.
[vi], 320 pages.
Edition + Condition: First US edition (first printing). Spine a bit dulled and lightly worn at the ends, thus a very good copy. Signed at the top of the title page and uncommon thus.
Publication: New York: Horace Liveright, 1929.
Item No: #149610