John Dod and Robert Cleaver, A Godly Form of Household Government (1598)
This text is an early and fairly typical example of "conduct" literature. The authors, both English Protestant ministers, emphasise the need for good order and obedience, and make an analogy between the household and the kingdom as a whole.
The governors of families are first the chief governor, which is the husband, secondly, a fellow helper, which is the wife . . . The husband his duty is, first, to love his wife as his own flesh. Then to govern her in all duties that properly concern the state of marriage, in knowledge, in wisdom, judgment, and justice. Thirdly, to dwell with her. Fourthly, to use her in all due benevolence, honestly, soberly, and chastely . . .
Although the husband shall have power to force his wife to fear and obey him, yet he shall never have strength to force her to love him. Some husbands do boast themselves to be served, feared, and obeyed in their houses, because the wife that abhoreth doth fear and serve her husband. But as the wife ought with great care to endeavour, and by all good means to labour to be in favour and grace with her husband, so likewise the husband ought to fear to be in disgrace and disliking with his wife: for if she do once determine to fix and settle her eyes and liking upon another, then many inconveniences will ensue. The husband ought not to be satisfied with the use of his wife's body, but in that he hath also the possession of her will and affections: for it sufficeth not that they be married, but that they be well married, and live Christianly together, and be very well contented . . .
The wife, her duty is, in all reverence and humility, to submit and subject herself to her husband in all such duties as properly belong to marriage. Secondly, therein to be a help unto him, according to God's ordinance. Thirdly, to obey his commandments in all things which he may command by the authority of a husband. Fourthly and lastly, to give him mutual benevolence . . .
A good wife therefore is known when her words, and deeds, and countenance, are such as her husband loveth. She must not examine whether he be wise or simple, but that she is his wife, and therefore being bound she must obey. For the wife is as much despised for taking rule over her husband, as he for yielding it unto her. It beseemeth not the mistress to be master, no more then it becometh the master to be mistress: but both must sail with their own wind, and both keep their standing . . .
If she be not subject to her husband, to let him rule all [the] household, especially outward affairs; if she will make her head against him, and seek to have her own way, there will be doing and undoing. Things will go backward, the house will come to ruin, for God will not bless where his ordinance is not obeyed. This is allowable, that she may in modest sort show her mind, and a wise husband will not disdain to hear her advice, and follow it also, if it be good. But when her way is not liked of, though it be the best way, she may not thereupon set all at six and seven, with “what should I labour and travail: I see my husband taketh such ways, that he will bring all to nothing”. This were nothing else, but when she seeth the house falling, to help to pull it down faster . . .
All in the family are not to be governed alike. There is one rule to govern the wife by, another for children, another for servants . . . Servants must take heed that they do not knowingly and willingly anger or displease their masters, mistresses or dames, which if they do, then they ought to reconcile themselves unto them, and to ask them forgiveness. They must also forbear them, and suffer their angry and hasty words, and in no wise answer again spitefully or scornfully, neither yet upon any such occasion run away . . . Servants and apprentices therefore, according to the rule of Gods word, must patiently bear and forbear their masters, mistresses, and dames, and do whatsoever lawful thing they shall command them, not being against a good conscience . . .
A household is as it were a little commonwealth, by the good government whereof God's glory may be advanced; the commonwealth, which standeth of several families, benefited; and all that live in that family may receive much comfort and commodity . . .
He is reckoned worthy to rule a commonwealth that with such wisdom, discretion, and judgment doth rule and govern his own house, and that he may easily conserve and keep his citizens in peace and concord, that hath so well established the same in his own house and family. And on the other side, none will think or believe that he is able to be a ruler, or to keep peace and quietness in the town or city, who cannot live peaceably in his own house, where he is not only a ruler, but a King, and Lord of all.