Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Carol Faulkner's "Unfaithful"

Carol Faulkner is Professor of History at Syracuse University. She is author of Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America and Women's Radical Reconstruction: The Freedmen's Aid Movement.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Lyman Case’s generosity extended to other men. Although a twice-married man, he was an opponent of the institution. According to another habituĂ© of the Unitary Home, Case “not only did not believe in marriage as an institution, but professed to be entirely free from the selfishness which prompts men to claim the exclusive right of the affection and person of the women they love.” When Henry Clapp Jr. brought his Saturday Press partner Edward Howland—a southerner, former cotton merchant, and a Harvard man—to the Unitary Home, Marie was smitten. After Edward and Marie danced, Lyman told her “Marie, you have met your destiny.” When she responded, “I thought I had met my destiny,” he replied, “No lying, Marie. You have met the man of all men whom you need.”

Not everyone remembered Case’s treatment of Marie so positively. In a later attempt to undermine Case’s reputation, William S. Andrews, Stephen Pearl’s son, wrote that Case made a mockery of his marriage. To prove his “extreme liberality,” Case invited the teenage William “to sleep with his wife, in her presence, and told her that she must initiate me into the delights and mysteries of love (or words to that effect).” William Andrews did not take him up on the offer, and Marie apparently told him that “Mr. Case did not mean what he said. . . . he desired to lead her into some indiscretion that would enable him to obtain a divorce.” Case, William Andrews concluded, “was utterly devoid of moral sense.”

Given Marie’s warm memories of Lyman Case, William Andrews’s record of this exchange, particularly Lyman’s intent to manufacture grounds for divorce, is questionable. Marie and Lyman did divorce, but his benevolence was evident in this act as well. The Cases’ marriage ended in New York on July 11, 1865. With adultery the only possible cause, Marie’s complaint detailed her husband’s disregard for the “solemnity of the marriage vow” and charged him with having “carnal connections” with “several persons to this plaintiff unknown” as well as with a prostitute named Antoinette Muller. Two attorneys investigated this charge, interviewing Muller and a man named Leon Whiting, who had apparently accompanied Lyman Case to the brothel. The open marriages at the Unitary Home should have provided ample evidence for adultery, so it is likely that Lyman Case cooperated in constructing this particular incident.
Page 99 works well for my book because it gives readers an example of an “open” marriage, one of the novel romantic arrangements favored by the subjects of Unfaithful. In the nineteenth century, radicals like Lyman and Marie Case (later Howland) tried to reimagine the institution of marriage. With approximately twenty-five other journalists, utopians, bohemians, and free lovers, they lived in a Manhattan brownstone called the Unitary Home. In this utopian domestic experiment, the residents slept in private apartments but shared the public rooms and expenses. Even married members of the Unitary Home, such as Lyman and Marie Case, had love affairs with other residents and visitors. They allowed their affections to be their guide.

My book traces this broad movement to reform marriage from its origins in the 1830s through the Beecher-Tilton scandal of the 1870s. In restrictive New York State, where adultery was the only cause for divorce, Lyman and Marie Case manufactured a charge of adultery so that Marie could marry her true love. For these activists, love was more powerful than any law. A variety of activists, including feminists, spiritualists, and free lovers, redefined adultery as a way to reimagine marriage as more voluntary, equal, and loving. These critics launched public attacks on marriage and divorce laws, viewing them as an obstacle to individual freedom and happiness.
Learn more about Unfaithful at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue