Published: January 2008
Don't think that your wife has placed waste-paper baskets in the rooms as ornaments.
Don't forget that very true remark that while face powder may catch a man, baking powder is the stuff to hold him.
Marriage can be a series of humorous miscommunications, a power struggle, or a diplomatic nightmare. Men and women have long struggled to figure each other out--and the misunderstandings can continue well after they've been joined in matrimony. But long before Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, couples turned to self-help booklets such as How to Be a GoodHusband and How to Be a Good Wife, two historic advice books that are now delightfully reproduced by the Bodleian Library.
The books, originally published in the 1930s for middle-class British couples, are filled with witty and charming aphorisms on how wives and husbands should treat each other. Some advice is unquestionably outdated--"It is a wife's duty to look her best. If you don't tidy yourself up, don't be surprised if your husband begins to compare you unfavorably with the typist at the office"--but many other pieces of advice are wholly applicable today. They include such insightful sayings as: "Don't tell your wife terminological inexactitudes, which are, in plain English, lies. A woman has wonderful intuition for spotting even minor departures from the truth"; "After all is said and done, husbands are not terribly difficult to manage"; or "Don't squeeze the tube of toothpaste from the top instead of from the bottom. This is one of the small things of life that always irritates a careful wife."
Entertaining and charmingly illustrated, How to Be a Good Husband and How to Be a Good Wife offer enduringly useful advice for all couples, from the newly engaged to those celebrating their golden anniversary.
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