Pierre Charron on “The duty of Parents and Children”

From Pierre Charron’s “On Wisdome,” (1601) translated by Samson Lennard (1612), pg. 437-437

The duty of Parents and Children is reciprocall, and reciprocally naturall : if that of children be more strait, that of Parents is more ancient, parents being the first authours and cause, and more important to a Common-weal : for to people a State, and to furnish it with honest men and good citizens, the culture and good nourishment of youth is necessary, which is the seed of a Common-wealth. And there comes not so much evils to a Weal-publick, by the ingratitude of Children towards their Parents, as by the carelesness of Parents in the instruction of their Children: and therefore with great reason in Lacedemon, and other good and politick States, there was a punishment and a penalty laid upon the Parents, when the Childdren were ill conditioned. And Plato was wont to say, that he knew not in what a man should be more careful and diligent, than to make a good son And Crates cryed out in choler, To what end do men take so much care in heaping up goods, and so little care of those to whom they shall leave them? It is as much as if a man should take care of his shoo, and not of his foot. What should he do with riches that is not wise, and knows not how to use them? It is like a rich and beautifull saddle upon a Jades back. Parents then are doubly obliged to this duty, both because they are their Children, and because they are the tender plants and hope of the Common-weal : This is to till his own land, together with that of the Weal-publick.

Now this office or duty hath four successive parts, according to those four goods or benefits that a child ought to receive successively from his parents, Life, Nourishment, Instruction, Communication. The first regardeth the time when the infant is in the womb, untill his coming into the world inclusively; the second, the time of his infancy in his Cradle, until he know how to go and to speak; the third, all his youth; this part must be handled more at large, and more seriously; the fourth concerneth their affection, communication and carriage towards their children now come to mans estate, touching their good thoughts, designments.

[Man’s responsibility with respect to “copulation”]

“and if there be a fault committed in this first part, the second and third can hardly repair it . . . When men go unadvisedly and headlong to this copulation, onely provoked thereunto by pleasure, and a desire to disburthen our selves of that which tickleth and presseth us thereunto: if a conception happen therby, it is by chance; for no man goeth to it warily, and with such deliberation and disposition of body as he ought, and nature doth require. . . . Behold then briefly, according to Philosophy the particular advisements touching this first point, that is to say, the begetting of male-children, sound, wise, and judicious: for that which serveth for the one of these qualities, serves for the other.

  1. A man must not couple himself with a woman that is of vile, base, and dissolute condition, or of a naughty and vitious composition of body.
  2. He must abstain from this action and copulation seven or eight dayes.
  3. During which time he is to nourish himself with wholsome victuals, more hot and dry than otherwise, and such as may concoct well in the stomach.
  4. He must use a more than moderate exercise.*
  5. a man must apply himself to this encounter after one manner, a long time after his repast, that is to say, his belly being empty, and he is fasting . . .
  6. And not near the monethly terms of a woman, but six or seven days before, or as much, after them
  7. And upon the point of conception and retention of the feed, the woman turning and gathering her self together upon the right side, and let her so rest for a time
  8. This direction touching the viands and exercise must be continued during the time of her burthen.

*additional comment, All this tendeth to this tend, and purpose, that the feed may be a well concocted and seasoned, hot and dry, fit and proper for a masculine, sound and wise temperature, Vagabonds, idle and lazie people, great drinkers, who have commonly an ill concoction, ever beget effeminate, idle, and dissolute children (as Hippocrates recounteth of the Scythians.)


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