In 1541 Miles Coverdale published an English translation of the humanist Heinrich Bullinger's guide to matrimony, Der Christlich Eestand (1540). It was to be, in English, an extremely influential text. It went through nine editions by 1575 and was the model for subsequent treatments of the subject.1 As early as 1543, Thomas Becon had reissued Coverdale's translation under his own name, with the addition of an elaborate preface, imitative of Erasmus' Encomium Matrimonii, included 'for the more readie sale'. In 1591, the preacher Henry Smith remarketed it under his name, with a dedication to Lord Burghley. A most popular manual of the seventeenth century, John Dod and Robert Cleaver's A Godlie Forme of Householde Government (1610) 'used whole paragraphs at a time' of Coverdale's Bullinger, and the metaphors of the latter 'crop up again and again' in other guides to marriage.2
Chapter 19 of Coverdale's Bullinger, entitled, 'Of Covenient Carefulnes and just keping of the house lyke Christen folke' offers what seems to us a predictable enough division of conjugal labour:
What so ever is to be done without the house, that belongeth to the man &
the woman to studye for thinges within to be done, and to se saved or spent
conveniently whatsoever he bringeth in. As the bird fleeth to and fro to bring
to the nest, so becommeth it the man to apply his outward busines, And as
the damme kepeth the nest, hatcheth the egges, & bringeth forth the frute, so
let them both lern to do of the unreasonable fowles or bestes created of God
naturally to observe theyr sondrye propertyes.3
Extract from 'The Housewife and the Humanist', in The Usurer's Daughter (Routledge, 1994).
© Lorna Hutson. Reprinted with permission.