London: Printed for T. Warner, 1727. First edition. Second issue, with the replaced title page instead of the first issue title Conjugal Lewdness. Bound in full calf with gilt to spine and boards. Marbled end papers, all edges stained red, a Fine copy overall. With the bookplate of Henry B.H. Beaufoy, the famed hot-air balloonist and Royal Society bibliophile, on the front paste-down. Internally fresh and unmarked, measuring 190 x 127mm and collating vi, , 406: complete, with pages 382-383 misnumbered as 362-363 as noted by ESTC. Released only a few months after the first issue title brought controversy and scandal. The first issue title page last appeared at auction in 1969, while the present issue last appeared over 20 years ago at Christies in 1995.
A critique of contemporary marriage practices, Defoe’s text argues that men and women degrade the institution when they join together for mercenary reasons such as sex, social position, or economic stability. Wedding for these reasons leads to matrimonial whoredom rather than proper and holy matrimony. From the start, Defoe is adamant in defining marriage as companionate and equal, and in this way he lays critical groundwork for the women’s rights movements of the next century. “The great Duty between the Man and his Wife, I take to consist in that of Love, in the Government of Affection…the Obligation is reciprocal, ‘tis drawing in an equal Yoke; Love knows no superior or inferior, no imperious Command on one hand, no reluctant Subjection on the other…This is Matrimony in its just appointed meaning, whatever Notions our fashionable People may have of it.” (Item #2999)