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Let us take a moment to consider an important but lost art of love – the sigh.

Nowadays, very few languishing lovers will attempt to seduce a lady by looking her square in the eyes and forcefully expelling the air from his lungs. In the late seventeenth century, however, this was considered a crucial tool in convincing a lady of your affections – and one so powerful that it had to be used with great care. Indeed, if you do it right eventually your fair mistress will ‘find it difficult to constrain her self’ at the mere sound.

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Published in 1676, The Art of Making Love explains just how delicate the operation was:

‘When a Lover has done all that I have directed… I permit him to sigh before her; for a true Passion cannot be better expressed than by a sigh, when it escapes from the bottom of the Heart; that alone is capable to explain the grandeur of Love…

Therefore when he has the opportunity to entertain her alone, let him not be too profuse of his talk, but let a few Sighs supply the vacancies of discourse. But let him use much caution, lest he be suspected of artifice: let him seem fearful to let ’em escape, and sometimes break ’em in their passage, shewing that it is some pain and violence to him to suppress them: This language is sweet in Love, and the best Interpreter of an amorous desire.

… After believing her self to be beloved, by reason of his inflamed sighs, she findes herself insensibly charmed;… she will find it difficult to constrain her self, but will sigh too.’

The Art of Making Love (London, 1676)

 

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Image courtesy of the British Museum

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You can find the full text of ‘The Art of Making Love’ through Googlebooks here.

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6 thoughts on “The Mighty Power of a Sigh, 1676

    • Hi Nicole, it’s a mezzotint of a Richard Brakenburg work I haven’t been able to find..! There is one in the British Museum collection. E

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