18

An 1825 piece claims: The following inscription is written, in large characters, over the principal gate of the city of Agra, in Hindostan:

"In the first year of the reign of king Julief, two thousand married couple were separated, by the magistrate, with their own consent. The emperor was so indignant, on learning these particulars, that he abolished the privilege of divorce. In the course of the following year, the number of marriages in Agra was less than before by three thousand; the number of adulteries was greater by seven thousand; three hundred women were burned alive for poisoning their husbands; seventy-five men were burned for the murder of their wives; and the quantity of furniture broken and destroyed, in the interior of private families, amounted to the value of three millions of rupees. The emperor re-established the privilege of divorce."

The above story is repeated in later papers and books about divorce: Blake (1962, pp. 80-81), Foster (1968, p. 36), Wires (1976, p. 358), Riley (1991).

Does or did such an inscription ever exist?

And, as a follow up question, if the inscription never did exist, does the story contained in the fictitious inscription have any basis?

2

Not necessarily proof the story is true, but there is an earlier source of the same information.

In the December 1818 issue of La Belle Assemblee, volume 18, page 263, there is a letter to the editor about divorce which reads in part:

Over the Eastern gate of Agra is the following inscription:-"In the first year of the reign of Julef, two thousand married couple applied to the magistrate, to obtain a separation, and the Emperor, indignant, abolished divorce. In the subsequent year, there were in Agra three thousand marriages less; seven thousand adulteries more; three hundred women burnt for poisoning their husbands; seventy-five men empaled for having murdered their wives; and amougst the most peaceable families the furniture destroyed amounted to at least 3,000,000 rupees. The Emperor re-established divorce."

And in French, there is an even earlier source. In Récit exact de ce qui s'est passé à la séance de la Société des observateurs; observateurs de la femme dated 02 November 1802, the same story is at pages 145-146. It is in a numbered list with the heading "Phrases détachées de la Dissertation sur le mariage des courtisanes , par le marquis de Kornlongen"

2

This is probably false. The quote from "the marquis de kornlongen" seems to have occurred in the writings of Pierre-Edward Lemontey, and nowhere else. The original can be found here and consists of a series of "pensees detache", that is, disconnected thoughts, from the marquis' notebook. However, while my French is rusty, the excerpt is part of a philosophical discussion of sexual mores, and the quote is not intended to be taken as literal truth, any more than Shelley's Ozymandias accurately describes the origin of the head of Ramesses II in the British Museum.

That the discussion is not intended to be taken literally is indicated on page 181, where it is claimed that girls raised in the tropics reach puberty earlier than European girls due to the temperature differences, and a father can regulate when his daughter reaches puberty simply by controlling the temperature of the dwelling.

Given the satirical nature of the discussion, it seems most unlikely that the "marquis" actually existed. Certainly, a Google of "marquis de kornlongen" and "marquis de Korn-longen" seem to produce nothing but links back to this source.

  • I don't think the version you linked is quite the original, it is the "troisième" (third) edition. Compare to the version linked in my answer. In the version you linked, the inscription story is roman numeral XIX in a list, while in the earlier edition it is XIII. – DavePhD Dec 16 '15 at 14:23
  • I'm not sure what the second paragraph of this answer is trying to say - that temperature regulating puberty is such a ridiculous belief that we shouldn't take anything the author says seriously? That seems a stretch. – IMSoP Jun 1 '20 at 10:44
  • @IMSoP - You have the point exactly. And the idea is ridiculous, and it won't work, and the fact is so obvious that it can't have been intended seriously. Does this mean that "we shouldn't take anything the author says seriously"? Well, yes, at least in context of this particular work. The author made a statement which he must have known was untrue, and which he knew his readers would know to be untrue, and this sets the tone of the entire discussion. – WhatRoughBeast Jun 2 '20 at 10:58
  • I think you are massively underestimating the advances in our understanding of biology in the last 200 years. The onset of puberty does vary, and we still don't know all the factors. Meanwhile, Wikipedia suggests that the existence of hormones wasn't even speculated on until 50 years later; so a theory that temperature affected development seems entirely plausible at the beginning of the 19th Century. It might seem equally ridiculous that diet could affect it, but that seems to be widely accepted by current science. – IMSoP Jun 2 '20 at 12:02
  • It wasn't that much earlier that phlogiston theory was dismissed. When we don't have an established and satisfactory evidence for a correct explanation, people are trying to come up with something that makes sense. Why shouldn't people think higher temperature makes people mature faster? What exactly is ridiculous about that, in the absence of all modern science? When almost all you've got is superficial observations, this theory is just unfounded, not ridiculous at all. – Szymon Dec 27 '20 at 20:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .