Paul Blouet was a celebrated French author and humorist of the late 19th century. Under the pseudonym Max O’Rell, he wrote such works as “Drat the Boys!” (1886) and “Rambles in Womanland” (1903). A popular figure on the lecture circuit, he packed the Grand Opera House in Minneapolis on Feb. 20, 1890, poking fun at Americans, Englishmen, Frenchmen and “Scotchmen.” He earned a rave review the next day in the Tribune. “He has a remarkably good vocabulary,” the paper reported, “while his accent rather lends a charm than otherwise to his delivery.”
O’Rell’s wry observations appeared in newspapers of the day. This piece appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune.
By Max O’Rell
If you see your wife about to reach across the table for the butter, don’t let her try to be successful, but go quickly to her assistance; it will be economy, as the seams of her bodice are not so strong as those of your coat.
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If you wish your wife to be agreeable while at dinner, don’t tell her just before she enters the dining room that her hair is badly done. Besides, by so doing, you also run the risk that she will return to her room, stay there half an hour and spoil the dinner.
Don’t tell your wife that she will always find you her best friend, or she will conclude that you have given Cupid notice to leave.
Don’t spend half your time bothering, tormenting your wife, or you will discover yourself in the act of spending the other half indemnifying her for it.
Don’t ever say to your wife, “What’s the matter with you, dear?” because she will answer you: “What’s the matter with Me? Surely you ought to know!” And she is right. You ought to know; very often she does not.
Don’t tell fibs to your wife. Never attempt to teach a monkey how to make faces.
When you have taken your young wife to a ball where she has been admired all the evening, and you return home, don’t fail to be amiable in the carriage. There’s your chance. If you miss it, she will dream all night of the success she has had at the ball, of all the pretty compliments she has received, and, maybe, of some of the men who have paid them to her. You have it in your power to surpass yourself and them all. A man who is cold toward his wife on returning from a ball with her is a brute and an ass. A woman never forgives a man who misses his opportunity. In her eyes he is ridiculous.
For the love of everything which you hold sacred, never commit the slightest act which may cause you to appear ridiculous in the eyes of your wife, or even may make her laugh at you. The day on which a woman has laughed at her husband, she has ceased to love him.
Remember always that, in the eyes of a woman, you have to appear to be manly, that is to say, generous, magnanimous. A woman will rather forgive an act of brutality than an act of meanness in the man she loves.
A woman can afford to be wrong because she has not to acknowledge it; but you, my dear man, don’t ever make such a mistake as to be wrong, because being able to acknowledge it, you will have to pay dearly for it.
Never frown at home, and always be indulgent for the faults of your children. Be their “pal,” their friend and confidant. Let your son well understand that if ever he should get into trouble, into a scrape, the best thing for him to do is to come straight to you, make a clean breast of it and receive good advice and help. There are stern fathers who insist on being called “sir” by their sons and who wonder that their sons turn bad. Good heavens! I would rather have a loving, familiar boy who called me “Sonny” than have a timid, too respectful one who called me “Sir.” Just fancy, sir! Why not your majesty?
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If your wife has a temper, don’t show yours. No one has yet discovered anything better than cold water to put out fires with.
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Don’t yawn before your wife, because, as a man and his wife make one, she will come to the conclusion that you are bored in your own company.
This well-tempered family sat for a photo at a studio in Albert Lea, Minn., in about 1899. Father must have held his tongue about Mother's badly done hair. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)