The full title of this work is as follows: "Curious Customs of Sex and Marriage: An Inquiry Relating to all Races and Nations from Antiquity to the Present Day." Quoted from the author's "Introduction."
"The idea of marriage as a purely private and domestic affair, the basic function of which was to " multiply and replenish the earth," permeated early thought to such an extent that to the
ancient Jews a marriage that proved barren ceased to be regarded as a marriage at all. The basic simplicity of the affair, in those early days when marriage was merely a means of regulating procreation, will be apparent from a study of the pages of this work.
In the earliest stages of society, any form of union for the purpose of sexual expression, whether or not procreation was recognised as a definite objective, where it transcended that of
mere gregarious promiscuity, was often beset with difficulties, and certainly in some tribes strong retardatory influences were at work. In order to make the marital union something even
remotely resembling a permanent alliance the superstition which led to the avoidance of marriage had to be overcome by a more powerful superstition designed to outweigh and destroy each and every anti-marital concept, such for instance as some means of overcoming or annulling the evil, which, almost universally, in primitive society, was and is held to result from the mere physical contact of the sexes."
"Inevitably difficulties were encountered. Always has there been a risk that in the attempt to make the marital alliance permanent, in combination with the responsibilities inherent in the contract, society might conceivably drive man into promiscuity as an alternative means of satisfying a biological urge. This risk, from time to time, has been underlined by the steps
which it was sometimes considered necessary to take, even in civilized communities, to make men marry. Thus in seventeenth century New England the life of a bachelor was made most ignominious by his subjection to many forms of persecution. In Hartford, for instance, the penalty for remaining unmarried was the payment of twenty shillings a week to the town. In other towns, single men were compelled to live in houses assigned to them; they were continually spied upon; and their lives generally made miserable. " In those days," said Alice Morse Earle, "a man gained instead of losing his freedom by mary-ing."