Influence Of Matrimony
( Originally Published 1879 )
MARRIAGE is an occasion on which none refuse to sympathize. Would that all were equally able and willing to understand ! Would that all could know how, from the first flow of the affections till they are shed abroad in all their plenitude, the purposes of their creation become fulfilled. They were to life like a sleeping ocean to a bright but barren and silent shore. When the breeze from afar awakened it, new lights began to gleam, and echoes to be heard; rich and unthought-of treasures were cast up from the depths; the barriers of individuality were broken down; and from henceforth, they who ' choose may "hear the mighty waters rolling evermore." Would that all could know how, by this mighty impulse, new strength is given to every power—how the intellect is vivified and enlarged—how the spirit becomes bold to explore the path of life, and clear-sighted to discern its issues !
Marriage is, to a woman, at once the happiest and saddest event of her life; it is the promise of future bliss, raised on the death of all present 'enjoyment. She quits her home, her parents, her companions, her occupations, her amusements—her everything upon which she has hitherto depended for comfort — for affection, for kindness, for pleasure. The parents by whose advice she has been guided, the sister to whom she has dared impart every embryo thought and feeling, the brother who has played with her, in turns the counselor and the counseled, and the younger children to whom she has hitherto been the mother and the playmate—all are to be forsaken in one instant; every former tie is loosened, the spring of every hope and action to be changed, and yet she flies with joy into the untrodden paths before her. Buoyed up by the confidence of requited love, she bids a fond and grateful adieu to the life that is past, and turns with excited hopes and joyous anticipations of the happiness to come. Then woe to the man who can blast such hopes—who can, coward-like, break the illusions that have won her, and destroy the confidence which his love inspired.
There is no one thing more lovely in this life, more full of the divinest courage, than when a young maiden, from her past life, from her happy childhood, when she rambled over every field and moor around her home; when a mother anticipated her wants and soothed her little cares; when brothers and sisters grew from merry playmates to loving, trustful friends; from the Christmas gatherings and romps, the summer festivals in bower or garden; from the rooms sanctified by the death of relatives; from the holy and secure back-grounds of her childhood, and girlhood, and maiden-hood, looks out into a dark and unillumined future, away from all that, and yet unterrified, undaunted, leans her fair cheek upon her lover's breast, and whispers, "Dear heart! I cannot see, but I believe. The past was beautiful, but the future I can trust with thee "
Wherever woman plights her truth, under the sky of heaven, at the domestic hearth, or in the consecrated aisles, the ground is holy, the spirit of the hour is sacramental. That it is thus felt even by the most trivial may be observed at the marriage ceremony. Though the mirth may be fast and furious before or after the irrevocable formula is spoken, yet at that point of time there is a shadow on the most laughing lip—a moisture in the firmest eye. Wedlock, indissoluble, except by an act of God —a sacrament whose solemnity reaches to eternity—will always hold its rank in literature, as the most impressive fact of human experience in dramatic writing, whether of the stage or closet, the play or novel., It must be so. If government, with all its usurpations and aggressions, has appropriated history, let the less ambitious portions of our literature be sacred to the affections-to the family, based upon conjugal and parental love, as that institution is the state which hitherto in the world's annals, has been little else than the sad exponent of human ambition.
A judicious wife is always snipping off from her husband's moral nature, little twigs that are growing in the wrong direction. She keeps him in shape by continual pruning. If you say anything silly, she will affectionately tell you so. If you declare you will do some absurd thing, she will find means of preventing you from doing it. And by far the chief part of all common sense there is in this world belongs unquestionably to woman. The wisest things which a man commonly does are those which his wife counsels him to do. A wife is the grand wielder of the moral pruning knife. When you see a man appearing shabby, hair uncombed, and no buttons on his coat, nine times out of ten you are correct in concluding that he is a bachelor. You can conclude much the same when you see a man profane, or speaking vulgarly of ladies. We . would add that young men who wish to appear well in every respect should get married. It has been well said, "A man unmarried is but a half a man."
It was thus, surely, that intellectual beings of different sexes were intended by their great Creator to go through the world together; thus united, not only in hand and heart, but in principles, in intellect, in views, and in dispositions; each pursuing one common and noble end—their own improvement and the happiness of those around them—by the different means appropriate to their situation; mutually correcting, sustaining and strengthening each other; undegraded by all practices of tyranny on the one hand and of deceit on the other; each finding a candid but severe judge in the understanding, and a warm and partial advocate in the heart of their companion; secure of a refuge from the vexations, the follies, the misunderstandings and the evils of the world the arms of each other, and in the inestimable enjoyments of undisturbed confidence and unrestrained intimacy.
The law that binds the one man to the one woman is indelibly Written by nature, that wherever it is violated in general system, the human race is found to deteriorate in mind and form. The ennobling influences of women cease; the wife is a companion—a hundred wives are but a hundred slaves. Nor is this all, unless man looks to a woman as a treasure to be wooed and won—her smile the charm of his existence—her single heart the range of his desires—that which deserves the name of love cannot exist; it is struck out of the hateful system of society. Now, if there be a passion in the human breast which most tends to lift us out of egotism and self, which most teaches us to love another, which purifies and warms the whole mortal being, it is love, as we of the North hold it and cherish it. For even when the fair spring of youth has passed, and when the active life is employed in such grave pursuits that the love of his early years seems to him like a dream of romance, still that love, having once lifted him out of egotism into sympathy, does but pass into new forms and development—it has locked his heart to charity and benevolence-it gives a smile to his home—it rises up in the eyes of his children—from his heart it circulates insensibly on to all the laws that protect the earth, to the native lands which spread around it. Thus in the history of the world we discover that wherever' love is created, as it were, and sanctioned by that equality between the sexes which the permanent and holy union of one heart with another proclaims; there, too, patriotism, liberty—the manly and gentle virtues—also find their place; and wherever, on the contrary, polygamy is practiced and love disappears in the gross satiety of the senses, there we find neither respect for humanity nor reverence for home, nor affection for the natal soil. And one reason why Greece is contrasted in all that dignifies our nature, the effeminate and dissolute character of the East which it overthrew, is, that Greece was the earliest civilized country in which, on the borders of those great monarchies, marriage was the sacred tie between one man and one woman—and man was the thoughtful father of a home, not the wanton lord of a seraglio.
Nothing delights me more than to enter the neat little tenement of the young couple, who, within perhaps two or three years, without any resources but their own knowledge or industry, have joined heart and hand, and engaged to share together the responsibilities, duties, interests, trials and pleasures of life. The industrious wife is cheerfully employed with her own hands in domestic duties, putting her house in order, or mending her husband's clothes, or preparing the dinner, whilst, perhaps, the little darling sits prattling on the floor, or lies sleeping in the cradle, and every thing seems preparing to welcome the happiest of husbands, and the best of fathers, when he shall come from his toil to enjoy the sweets of his little para. dise. This is the true domestic pleasure. Health, contentment, love, abundance, and .bright prospects, are all here. But it has become a prevalent sentiment that a man must acquire his fortune before he marries, that the wife must have no sympathy nor share with ,him in the pursuit of it, in which most of the pleasure truly consists; and the young married people must set out with as large and expensive an establishment as is becoming to those who have been wedded for twenty years. This is very unhappy; it fills the community with bachelors, who are waiting to make their fortunes, endangering virtue and promoting vice; it destroys the true economy and design of the domestic institution, and inefficiency among females, who are expecting to be taken up by fortune and passively sustained, without any care or concern on their part; and thus many a wife becomes, as a gentleman once remarked, not a help-mate," but a " help-eat."
The Creator found that it was not good for man to be alone. Therefore he made woman to be a "help-meet for him." And for many ages history has shown that "the permanent union of one man with one woman establishes a relation of affections and interests which can in no other way be made to exist between two human beings." To establish this relation was one of the great designs of God in giving the rite to man; and by establishing this relation, marriage becomes to him an aid in the stern conflict of life. This it is in a theoretical point of view. This, too, it has often proved in practical life. Many a man has risen from obscurity to fame, who, in the days of his triumphant victory, has freely and gratefully acknowledged, that to the sympa thy and encouragement of his wife, during the long and weary years of toil, he owed very much of his achieved success.
But while young men say they cannot marry because the girls of this generation are too extravagant, the fault by no means is altogether with the girls. In the first place, young men as a general thing, admire the elegant costumes in which many ladies appear, and do not hesitate to express their admiration to those who are more plainly dressed. And what is the natural effect of this? In the second place many young men are too proud themselves to commence , their married life in a quiet, economical way. They are not willing to marry until they have money enough to continue all their own private luxuries, and also support a wife in style. The difficulty is not altogether on either side; but if both men and women would be true to the best feelings of their hearts, and careless about what the world would say, pure and happy and noble homes would be more abundant. This state of affairs is very unfortunate for both parties. It leaves woman without a home and without protection or support. Woman needs the strength and courage of man, and he needs her cheerfulness, her sympathy, her , consolation. Our papers tell us, that in a single New England city, there are nearly thirty thousand young men, already engaged, who are putting off marriage until they can make enough to support their wives. So it is throughout the country. Young men need the restraining and elevating influences of home. But as it is now the man must commence business alone, fight his own battles without sympathy or consolation, win, if possible, by years of arduous toil, a competence; and when the conflict is over, the toil is past and the victory is won, then he can have a wife and a home. A man to succeed well in life needs the influence of a pure-minded woman, and her sympathy to sweeten the cup of life.