S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
The most delightful and most lasting engagements are generally those which pass between man and woman; and yet upon what trifles are they weakened, or entirely broken! Sometimes the parties fly asunder in the midst of courtship, and sometimes grow cool in the very honey-month. Some separate before the first child, and some after the fifth; others continue good until thirty, others until forty; while some few, whose souls are of a happier make, and better fitted one to another, travel on together to the end of their journey in a continual intercourse of kind offices and mutual endearments.
When we therefore choose our companions for life, if we hope to keep both them and ourselves in good humour to the last stage of it, we must be extremely careful in the choice we make, as well as in the conduct on our own part. When the persons to whom we join ourselves can stand an examination and bear the scrutiny; when they mend upon our acquaintance with them, and discover new beauties the more we search into their characters; our love will naturally rise in proportion to their perfections.
Those marriages generally abound most with love and constancy that are preceded by a long courtship. The passion should strike root, and gather strength before marriage be grafted on it. A long course of hopes and expectations fixes the idea in our minds, and habituates us to a fondness of the person beloved.
Of all disparities, that in humour makes the most unhappy marriages, yet scarce enters into our thoughts at the contracting of them. Several that are in this respect unequally yoked, and uneasy for life with a person of a particular character, might have been pleased and happy with a person of a contrary one, notwithstanding they are both perhaps equally virtuous and laudable in their kind.
Before marriage we cannot be too inquisitive and discerning in the faults of the person beloved, nor after it too dim-sighted and superficial. However perfect and accomplished the person appears to you at a distance, you will find many blemishes and imperfections in her humour, upon a more intimate acquaintance, which you never discovered or perhaps suspected. Here, therefore, discretion and good nature are to show their strength; the first will hinder your thoughts from dwelling on what is disagreeable, the other will raise in you all the tenderness of compassion and humanity, and by degrees soften those very imperfections into beauties.
Marriage enlarges the scene of our happiness and miseries. A marriage of love is pleasant; a marriage of interest, easy; and a marriage where both meet, happy. A happy marriage has in it all the pleasures of friendship, all the enjoyments of sense and reason, and indeed all the sweets of life.
He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works and of greatest merit for the public have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men, which, both in affection and means, have married and endowed the public. Yet it were great reason that those that have children should have greatest care of future times, unto which they know they must transmit their dearest pledges.
For though I am no such an enemy to matrimony as some (for want of understanding the raillery I have sometimes used in ordinary discourse) are pleased to think me, and would not refuse you my advice (though I would not so readily give you my example) to turn votary to Hymen; yet I have observed so few happy matches, and so many unfortunate ones, and have so rarely seen men love their wives at the rate they did whilst they were their mistresses, that I wonder not that legislators thought it necessary to make marriages indissoluble, to make them lasting. And I cannot fitlier compare marriage than to a lottery; for in both he that ventures may succeed and may miss; and if he draw a prize he hath a rich return of his revenue: but in both lotteries there is a pretty store of blanks for every prize.
Many a marriage has commenced, like the morning, red, and perished like a mushroom. Wherefore? Because the married pair neglected to be as agreeable to each other after their union as they were before it. Seek always to please each other, my children, but in doing so keep heaven in mind. Lavish not your love to-day, remembering that marriage has a morrow and again a morrow. Bethink ye, my daughters, what the word house-wife expresses. The married woman is her husbands domestic trust. On her he ought to be able to place his reliance in house and family; to her he should confide the key of his heart and the lock of his storeroom. His honour and his home are under her protection, his welfare in her hands. Ponder this! And you, my sons, be true men of honour, and good fathers of your families. Act in such wise that your wives respect and love you. And what more shall I say to you, my children? Peruse diligently the word of God: that will guide you out of storm and dead calm, and bring you safe into port. And as for the rest,do your best!
Some small engagement at least in business not only sets a mans talents in the fairest light, and allots him a part to act in which a wife cannot well intermeddle, but gives frequent occasions for those little absences, which, whatever seeming uneasiness they may give, are some of the best preservatives of love and desire.
The fair sex are so conscious to themselves that they have nothing in them which can deserve entirely to engross the whole man, that they heartily despise one who, to use their own expression, is always hanging at their apron-strings.
Other legislators, knowing that marriage is the origin of all relations, and consequently the first element of all duties, have endeavoured by every art to make it sacred. The Christian religion, by confining it to the pairs, and by rendering that relation indissoluble, has by these two things done more towards the peace, happiness, settlement, and civilization of the world than by any other part in this whole scheme of Divine wisdom. The direct contrary course has been taken in the synagogue of Antichrist,I mean in that forge and manufactory of all evil, the sect which predominated in the Constituent Assembly of 1789. Those monsters employed the same or greater industry to desecrate and degrade that state, which other legislators have used to render it holy and honourable. By a strange, uncalled-for declaration, they pronounced that marriage was no better than a common civil contract.
The practice of divorce, though in some countries permitted, has been discouraged in all. In the East, polygamy and divorce are in discredit, and the manners correct the laws. In Rome, whilst Rome was in its integrity, the few causes allowed for divorce amounted in effect to a prohibition. They were only three. The arbitrary was totally excluded; and accordingly some hundreds of years passed without a single example of that kind. When manners were corrupted, the laws were relaxed; as the latter always follow the former, when they are not able to regulate them or to vanquish them.
When expressing a conjecture that, as in the previous course of love, so after marriage, it may be that reconciliations after disagreements are accompanied by a peculiar fascinating tenderness,I was told by a very sensible experimentalist that the possibility of this feeling continues but for a while, and that it will be extremely perceptible when the period is come that no such felicitous charm will compensate for domestic misunderstandings. I, however, cannot but think that when this period is come, the sentimental enthusiasm is greatly subsided,that its most enchanting interest is, indeed, quite gone off.
A very respectable widow, remarking on matrimonial quarrels, said that the first quarrel that goes the length of any harsh or contemptuous language is an unfortunate epoch in married life, for that the delicate respectfulness being thus once broken down, the same kind of language much more easily comes afterwards; there is a feeling of having less to love than before.
Among married persons of the common size and texture of minds, the grievances they occasion one another are rather feelings of irritated temper than of hurt sentiment: an important distinction. Of the latter perhaps they were never capable, or perhaps have long since worn out the capability. Their pain, therefore, is far less deep and acute than a sentimental observer would suppose, or would in the same circumstances, with their own feelings, suffer.
Though bachelors be the strongest stakes, married men are the best binders, in the hedge of the commonwealth. It is the policy of the Londoners, when they send a ship into the Levant or Mediterranean Sea, to make every mariner therein a merchant, each seaman venturing somewhat of his own, which will make him more wary to avoid, and more valiant to undergo, dangers. Thus married men, especially if having posterity, are the deeper sharers in that state wherein they live, which engageth their affections to the greater loyalty.
From the records of revelation we learn that marriage, or the permanent union of the sexes, was ordained by God, and existed, under different modifications, in the early infancy of mankind, without which they could never have emerged from barbarism. For conceive only what eternal discord, jealousy, and violence would ensue were the objects of the tenderest affections secured to their possessor by no tie of moral obligation: were domestic enjoyments disturbed by incessant fear, and licentiousness inflamed by hope, who could find sufficient tranquillity of mind to enable him to plan or execute any continued scheme of action, or what room for arts, or sciences, or religion, or virtue, in that state in which the chief earthly happiness was exposed to every lawless invader; where one was racked with an incessant anxiety to keep what the other was equally eager to acquire? It is not probable in itself, independent of the light of Scripture, that the benevolent Author of the human race ever placed them in so wretched a condition at first: it is certain they could not remain in it long without being exterminated. Marriage, by shutting out these evils, and enabling every man to rest secure in his enjoyments, is the great civilizer of the world: with this security the mind is at liberty to expand in generous affections, and has leisure to look abroad, and engage in the pursuits of knowledge, science, and virtue.
Gaolers are of various kinds; but the worst gaoler of all is the marital gaoler, as constituted by the laws of our illogical merrie old England. An absolute lord is this marital gaoler. He holds the person, property, and reputation of his conjugal prisoner in as fast a gaol as ever was built of granite and iron. Society and law are the materials, unsubstantial enough, out of which he has built his house of duresse; but in those airy cells lie more broken hearts than ever the sternest dungeon held. More injustice is committed there than in the vilest Austrian prison known. If the gaoler marital be a decent fellow, and in love with his prisoner, things may go on smoothly enough. But if he be a man of coarse or fickle passionsif he be a man without conscientiousness or honourif he be a man of violent temper, of depraved habits, of reckless life, he may ill treat, ruin, and destroy his prisoner at his pleasure, all in the name of the law, and by virtue of his conjugal rights. The prisoner-wife is not recognized by the law; she is her gaolers property, the same as his dog or his horse; with this difference, that he cannot openly sell her; and if he maim or murder her he is liable to punishment, as he would be to prosecution by the Cruelty to Animals Society if he maimed or ill treated his dog or his horse.
Can there he a lower idea of Marriage than the idea which makes it, in fact, an institution for the development of selfishness on a large and respectable scale? If I am not justified in using the word selfishness, tell me what character a good husband presents (viewed plainly as a man) when he goes out into the world, leaving all his sympathies in his wifes boudoir, and all his affections up-stairs in the nursery, and giving to his friends such shreds and patches of formal recognition, in place of true love and regard, as consist in asking them to an occasional dinner-party and granting them the privilege of presenting his children with silver mugs? He is a model of a husband, the ladies will say. I dare not contradict them; but I should like to know whether he is also a model of a friend?
This, then, is marriage; on the one side a gaoler, on the other a prisoner for life, a legal nonentity, classed with infants or idiots;or, if there should ever come liberty, coming only through that poor prisoners hopeless ruin, ruin she is powerless to avert, be she the most innocent of Gods creatures. Neither property nor legal recognition, neither liberty nor protection has she, nothing but a mans fickle fancy and a mans frail mercy between her and misery, between her and destruction. This is marriage as by the law of England.
The prisoner-wife has no property. All that she possessed before her marriage, and all that she may earn, save, or inherit after her marriage, belongs to her husband. He may squander her fortune at the gaming-table, or among his mistresses; he may bequeath it to his illegitimate children, leaving his wife and her children to beggary; he may do with it as he will; the law makes him lord and gaoler, and places the poor trembling victim unreservedly in his hands. The like may he do with the earnings, the savings of his wife, during his incarceration, if he have committed a crime; during his desertion, if he have taken a fancy to desert her for someone else; during a separation, forced on him by her friends to protect her from his brutality. Whatever be the cause which has thrown the wife on her own resources, and made her work and gain, he may swoop down like a bird of prey on the earnings gained by her own work while she was alone; he may seize and carry them off unhindered, leaving her to the same terrible round of toil and spoliation, until one or the other may die.
It really and truly depends upon her, in more cases than I should like to enumerate, whether her husbands friendships are to be continued, after his marriage, in all their integrity, or are only to be maintained as a mere social form. It is hardly necessary for me to repeatbut I will do so, in order to avoid the slightest chance of misconstructionthat I am here speaking only of the worthiest, the truest, the longest-tried friends of a mans bachelor days. Towards these every sensible married woman feels, as I believe, that she owes a duty for her husbands sake. But, unfortunately, there are such female phenomena in the world as fond wives and devoted mothers, who are anything rather than sensible women the moment they are required to step out of the sphere of their conjugal and maternal instincts. Women of this sort have an unreasonable jealousy of their husbands in small things; and on the misuse of their influence to serve the interests of that jealousy, lies but too often the responsibility of severing such friendships as no man can hope to form for the second time in the course of his life.
Amintor should have cultivated as a moral duty the habit of linking the past to the present, and encouraged his love to ripen into esteem and gratitude. He should have been careful that a purification of the mind accompanied its intellectual advances, and have supplied with a moral sentiment the hiatusthe intellectual and social chasmthat was growing between his own and his wifes mental condition. Perhaps, too, some pains on his own part might have made it much less, or even prevented it altogether. He might, from time to time, have communicated to her what he had himself acquired, and thus, by enabling her to advance with him, preserved more closely the original relation.
His wife, affectionate and faithful, willingly became his co-labourer, and bore with him the burthen and the yoke of his struggling days,partook with him the fever and the fret of aspiring ambition. Well-directed energy led to fortunate results. In the course of years, Amintor has gained a competency, a respectable station in life, and connections valuable to him, either on the score of talent or fashion, or both. People of genius are his companions, and people of taste invite him to their parties of pleasure. Too late he makes the discovery, that while he has been improving his position in the world without, his wife, engrossed in domestic cares, has contracted the habits and manners of a household drudge, and, though sympathizing in his pursuits, has acquired no skill in conversing on them with propriety or elegance. Much discomfort ensues. The husband is ashamed to introduce his homely partner into society; she herself even is disinclined to enter scenes for which she feels herself unqualified.
There is no observation more frequently made by such as employ themselves in surveying the conduct of mankind, than that marriage, though the dictate of nature, and the institution of Providence, is yet very often the cause of misery, and that those who enter into that state can seldom forbear to express their repentance, and their envy of those whom either chance or caution hath withheld from it.
This general unhappiness has given occasion to many sage maxims among the serious, and smart remarks among the gay; the moralist and the writer of epigrams have equally shown their abilities upon it; some have lamented and some have ridiculed it; but as the faculty of writing has been chiefly a masculine endowment, the reproach of making the world miserable has been always thrown upon the women.
Wives and husbands are, indeed, incessantly complaining of each other; and there would be reason for imagining that almost every house was infested with perverseness or oppression beyond human sufferance, did we not know upon how small occasions some minds burst out into lamentations and reproaches, and how naturally every animal revenges his pain upon those who happen to be near, without any nice examination of its cause. We are always willing to fancy ourselves within a little of happiness, and when, with repeated efforts, we cannot reach it, persuade ourselves that it is intercepted by an ill-paired mate, since, if we could find any other obstacle, it would be our own fault that it was not removed.
Marriage is the strictest tie of perpetual friendship, and there can be no friendship without confidence, and no confidence without integrity; and he must expect to be wretched who pays to beauty, riches, or politeness that regard which only virtue and piety can claim.
Were not a man to marry a second time, it might be concluded that his first wife had given him a disgust to marriage; but by taking a second wife he pays the highest compliment to the first, by showing that she made him so happy as a married man that he wishes to be so a second time.
Whatever you may now think (now, perhaps, you have some fondness for me), though your love should continue in its full force, there are hours when the most beloved mistress would be troublesome. People are not forever (nor is it in human nature that they should be) disposed to be fond; you would be glad to find in me the friend and the companion. To be agreeably the last, it is necessary to be gay and entertaining. A perpetual solitude, in a place where you see nothing to raise your spirits, at length wears them out, and conversation falls into dull and insipid. When I have no more to say to you, you will like me no longer. How dreadful is that view!
Lady Mary W. Montagu: To E. W. Montagu (before marriage).
As concerning marriage, besides that it is a covenant, the entrance into which is only free, but the continuance in it forcd and compelld, having another dependance than that of our own free-will, and a bargain commonly contracted to other ends, there almost always happens a thousand intricacies in it, to unravel enough to break the thread, and to divert the current of a lively affection: whereas friendship has no manner of business or traffick with any but itself. Moreover, to say truth, the ordinary talent of women is not such as is sufficient to maintain the conference and communication requird to the support of this conjugal tie; nor do they appear to be endud with constancy of mind to endure the pinch of so hard and durable a knot.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. xxvii.
A good marriage, it be really so, rejects the company and conditions of love, and tries to represent those of friendship. Tis a sweet society of life, full of constancy, trust, and an infinite number of useful and solid offices and mutual obligations; which any woman enjoys that has a right taste; and if rightly taken, marriage is the best of all human societies. We cannot live without it, and yet we do nothing but decry it. It happens, as with cages, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out. Socrates being askd whether it was more commodious to take a wife, or not? Let a man take which course he will, said he, he will be sure to repent. Tis a contract to which the common saying, Homo homini, aut Deus, aut Lupus, Erasm. Adag., Man to man is either a god or a woolf, may very fitly be applied. There must be a concurrence of many qualities to the erecting it. It is found now a days more convenient for innocent and plebeian souls, where delights, curiosity, and idleness do not so much disturb it; but extravagant humours, that hate all sorts of obligation and restraint, are not proper for it.
In all the marriages I have ever seen, most of which have been unhappy ones, the great cause of evil has proceeded from slight occasions; and I take it to be the first maxim in a married condition, that you are to be above trifles. When two persons have so good an opinion of each other as to come together for life, they will not differ in matters of importance, because they think of each other with respect; and in regard to all things of consideration that may affect them, they are prepared for mutual assistance and relief in such occurrences. For less occasions, they form no resolutions, but leave their minds unprepared.
I will not enter into the dispute between you, which I find his prudence put an end to before it came to extremity; but charge you to have a care of the first quarrel, as you tender your happiness; for then it is that the mind will reflect harshly upon every circumstance that has ever passed between you. If such an accident is ever to happen, which I hope never will, be sure to keep to the circumstance before you; make no allusions to what is passed, or conclusions referring to what is to come: do not show a hoard of matter for dissension in your breast; but, if it is necessary, lay before him the thing as you understand it, candidly, without being ashamed of acknowledging an error, or proud of being in the right. If a young couple be not careful in this point, they will get into a habit of wrangling; and when to displease is thought of no consequence, to please is always of as little moment.
It is very commonly observed, that the most smart pangs which we meet with, are in the beginning of wedlock, which proceed from ignorance of each others humour, and want of prudence to make allowances for a change from the most careful respect, to the most unbounded familiarity. Hence it arises, that trifles are commonly occasions of the greatest anxiety; for contradiction being a thing wholly unusual between a new-married couple, the smallest instance of it is taken for the highest injury; and it very seldom happens, that the man is slow enough in assuming the character of a husband, or the woman quick enough in condescending to that of a wife. It immediately follows, that they think they have all the time of their courtship been talking in masks to each other, and therefore begin to act like disappointed people. Philander finds Delia ill-natured and impertinent; and Delia, Philander surly and inconstant.
Those who begin this course of life without jars at their setting out, arrive within few months at a pitch of benevolence and affection of which the most perfect friendship is but a faint resemblance. As in the unfortunate marriage, the most minute and indifferent things are objects of the sharpest resentment; so in a happy one, they are occasions of the most exquisite satisfaction. For what does not oblige in one we love? What does not offend in one we dislike? For these reasons I take it for a rule, that in marriage, the chief business is to acquire a prepossession in favour of each other. They should consider one anothers words and actions with a secret indulgence. There should always be an inward fondness pleading for each other, such as may add new beauties to everything that is excellent, give charms to what is indifferent, and cover everything that is defective. For want of this kind propensity and bias of mind, the married pair often take things ill of each other, which no one else would take notice of in either of them.
But the most unhappy circumstance of all is, where each party is always laying up fuel for dissension, and gathering together a magazine of provocations to exasperate each other with when they are out of humour.
Methinks it is a misfortune, that the marriage state, which in its own nature is adapted to give us the completest happiness this life is capable of, should be so uncomfortable a one to so many as it daily proves. But the mischief generally proceeds from the unwise choice people make for themselves, and an expectation of happiness from things not capable of giving it. Nothing but the good qualities of the person beloved can be a foundation for a love of judgment and discretion; and whoever expects happiness from anything but virtue, wisdom, good humour, and a similitude of manners will find themselves widely mistaken.
When you talk of the subject of love, and the relations arising from it, methinks you should take care to leave no fault unobserved which concerns the state of marriage. The great vexation that I have observed in it is, that the wedded couple seem to want opportunities of being often alone together, and are forced to quarrel and be fond before company. Mr. Hotspur and his lady, in a room full of their friends, are ever saying something so smart to each other, and that but just within rules, that the whole company stand in the utmost anxiety and suspense, for fear of their falling into extremities which they could not be present at. On the other side, Tom Faddle and his pretty spouse, wherever they come, are billing and cooing at such a rate as they think must do our hearts good to behold them. Cannot you possibly propose a mean between being wasps and doves in public?
According as the husband has disposed in himself, every circumstance in his life is to give him torment or pleasure. When the affection is well placed, and is supported by the considerations of duty, honour, and friendship, which are in the highest degree engaged in this alliance, there can nothing rise in the common course of life, or from the blows and favours of fortune, in which a man will not find matters of some delight unknown to a single condition.
Marriage is an institution calculated for a constant scene of as much delight as our being is capable of. Two persons who have chosen each other out of all the species, with design to be each others mutual comfort and entertainment, have in that action bound themselves to be good-humoured, affable, discreet, forgiving, patient, and joyful, with respect to others frailties and perfections, to the end of their lives. The wiser of the two (and it always happens one of them is such) will, for her or his own sake, keep things from outrage with the utmost sanctity. When this union is thus preserved (as I have often said), the most indifferent circumstance administers delight. Their condition is an endless source of new gratifications.
The marriage-life is always an insipid, a vexatious, or a happy condition. The first is, when two people of no genius or taste for themselves meet together upon such a settlement as has been thought reasonable by parents and conveyancers, from an exact valuation of the lands and cash of both parties. In this case the young ladys person is no more regarded than the house and improvements in purchase of an estate; but she goes with her fortune, rather than her fortune with her. These make up the crowd or vulgar of the rich, and fill up the lumber of the human race, without beneficence towards those below them, or respect towards those above them.
The vexatious life arises from a conjunction of two people of quick taste and resentment, put together for reasons well known to their friends, in which especial care is taken to avoid (what they think the chief of evils) poverty, and insure to them riches, with every evil besides. These good people live in a constant constraint before company, and too great familiarity alone. When they are within observation, they fret at each others carriage and behaviour; when alone, they revile each others person and conduct. In company, they are in purgatory; when alone together, in a hell.
The happy marriage is where two persons meet and voluntarily make choice of each other without principally regarding and neglecting the circumstances of fortune or beauty. These may still love in spite of adversity or sickness: the former we may, in some measure, defend ourselves from; the other is the portion of our very make.
The state of marriage fills up the numbers of the elect, and hath in it the labour of love, and the delicacies of friendship, the blessing of society, and the union of hands and hearts; it hath in it less of beauty, but more of safety, than the single life; it hath more care, but less danger; it is more merry, and more sad; it is fuller of sorrows, and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but is supported by all the strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful. Marriage is the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities, churches, and heaven itself.
Jeremy Taylor: Twenty-five Sermons Preached at Golden Grove: XVII., The Marriage Ring.
Man and wife are equally concerned to avoid all offences of each other in the beginning of their conversation: every little thing can blast an infant blossom; and the breath of the south can shake the little rings of the vine when first they begin to curl like the locks of a new-weaned boy; but when by age and consolidation they stiffen into the hardness of a stem, and have, by the warm embraces of the sun and the kisses of heaven, brought forth their clusters, they can endure the storms of the north, and the loud noises of a tempest, and yet never be broken: so are the early unions of an unfixed marriage: watchful and observant, jealous and busy, inquisitive and careful, and apt to take alarm at every unkind word . After the hearts of the man and the wife are endeared and hardened by a mutual confidence, and experience longer than artifice and pretence can last, there are a great many remembrances, and some things present, that dash all little unkindnesses in pieces.
Jeremy Taylor: Twenty-five Sermons Preached at Golden Grove: XVII., The Marriage Ring.
Husbands must give to their wives love, maintenance, duty, and the sweetnesses of conversation; and wives must pay to them all they have or can, with the interest of obedience and reverence: and they must be complicated in affections and interest, that there be no distinction between them of mine and thine.
Jeremy Taylor: Holy Living: Rules for Married Persons.
Some married persons, even in their marriage, do better please God than some virgins in their state of virginity: they, by giving great examples of conjugal affection, by preserving their faith unbroken, and by educating children in the fear of God, please God in a higher degree than those virgins whose piety is not answerable to their opportunities.