When I found this 1765 poem about a man who spanks his wife every day, and makes it up to her every night, I was struck by the seeming modernity of the business. It’s not that dissimilar a relationship, really, than a lot of BDSM arrangements today that make and keep people very happy:
The Unreasonable Complaint
By John Hall
A brute, a Peasant, dwelt near Nantz,
For they’re synonymous in France,
Who every day of his vile life,
When he had nothing else to do,
Thrash’d or apply’d his wooden shoe
To the posteriors of his wife.
But, as all good and evil’s equal,
All was balanc’d in the sequel;
Every night he had that pride,
His debit, on the whole amount
Of the posterior account,
Was balanc’d by the other side.
Like debts of honour lost at play,
Before he slept, he was sure to pay.
And every morn before he rose,
He left her, over and above,
A token of his constant love,
Steady and constant as his blows.
One morning, at his Spouse’s levee,
The blows and curses fell so heavy,
Before the Lady of the place,
Poor Jaquette ran with her complaint,
With all the red and purple paint
Bestow’d upon her nose and face.
The Lady pity’d her just grief,
And took a course for her relief;
Pierre was summon’d to appear,
And must have rotted in a jail,
Had he not found sufficient bail,
For his behaviour for a year.
The dread of fines, a jail, and whipping,
Like other folks, kept him from tripping.
About a month after this pass’d,
For Jaquette the good Lady sent,
And ask’d her if she was content,
And Pierre peaceable at last.
Truly, says she, I must confess,
That mine’s a singular distress;
For though he beat me black and blue,
At night he always made it up,
In bed, over a chearful cup,
Where I was as content as you.
But now, he says, he’s off his mettle,
Because we’ve no accounts to settle.
Let him indulge his appetite,
This very day let him begin
A fresh account, upon my skin,
And settle it this very night.
After such plenty of good fare,
To be reduc’d is hard to bear.
What then, my Lady, must I feel,
Depriv’d entirely of my meat,
Without a morsel left to eat,
Except what I can beg or steal?
The Lady cry’d, You’d make one think,
That you did nought but eat and drink.
Did you live always at this pass,
Or now and then, and then it ceas’d,
Like Shrovetide, or a village feast,
Or like a Bishop’s saying Mass?
A tear stood trembling in her eye,
Whilst Jaquette made her this reply:
He was as sure as the Church Chimes!
And I can say, what few can say,
He allow’d me three warm meals a day,
And afternoonings too sometimes.
‘Twas not from indigestion,
That never was the question;
If now and then my fare was worse,
It was because, the day before,
He happen’d to allow me more
Than was convenient for his purse.
The Lady cry’d, Submit in quiet;
My Spouse all day shall thrash his fill,
I’ll never say that I’m us’d ill,
If he’ll allow me such a diet.