Young Men And Marriage
( Originally Published 1879 )
A YOUNG man meets a pretty face in the ball-room, falls in love with it, courts it, marries it, goes to house-keeping with it, and boasts of having a home and a wife to grace it. The chances are, nine to ten, that he has neither. He has been "taken in and done for!" Her pretty face gets to be an old story, or becomes faded, ,or freckled, or fretted, and as the face was all he wanted, all he paid attention to, all he sat up with, all he bargained for, all he swore to love, honor and protect, he gets sick of his trade, knows of a dozen faces he likes better, gives up staying at home evenings, con. soles himself with cigars, oysters and politics, and looks upon his home as a very indifferent boarding-house.
Another young man becomes enamored of a "for-tune." He waits upon it to parties, dances a polka with it, exchanges billet doux with it, pops the question to it, gets accepted by it, takes it to the parson, weds it, calls it "wife," carries it home, sets up an establishment with it, introduces it to his friends, and says he, too, is married and has got a home. It is false. He is not married; he has no home. And he soon finds it out. He is in the wrong box; but it is too late to get out of it; he might as well hope to get out of his coffin. His friends congratulate him, and he has to grin and bear it.
If a young man would escape these sad consequences, let him shun the rocks upon which so many have made shipwreck. Let him disregard, totally, all considerations of wealth, beauty, external accomplishments, fashion, connections in society, and every other mere selfish and worldly end, and look into the mind and heart of the woman he thinks of marrying. If he can-not love her for herself alone-that is, for all that goes to make up her character as a woman—let him disregard every external inducement, and shun a marriage with her as the greatest evil to which he could be subjected. And if he have in him a spark of virtuous feeling—if he have one unselfish and generous emotion—he will shun such a marriage for the woman's sake also, for it would be sacrificing her happiness as well as his own.
From what is here set forth every young man can see how vitally important it is for him to make his choice in marriage from a right end. Wealth cannot bring happiness, and is ever in danger of taking to itself wings; beauty cannot last long where there is grief at the heart; and distinguished connections are a very poor substitute for the pure love of a true woman's heart.
All that has been said refers to the ends which should govern in the choice of a wife. Directions as to the choice itself can only be of a general character, for the circumstances surrounding each one, and the particular circles into which he is thrown, will have specific influences, which will bias the judgment either one way or another. One good rule it will, however, be well to observe, and that is, to be on your guard against those young ladies who seek evidently to attract your attention. It is unfeminine. and proves that there is some-thing wanting to make up the perfect woman. In retiring modesty you will be far more apt to find the virtues after which you are seeking. A brilliant belle may make a loving, faithful wife and mother; but the chances are somewhat against her, and a prudent young man will satisfy himself well by a close observation of her in private and domestic life before he makes up his mind to offer her his hand.
There are many, too many finely educated young ladies who can charm you with their brilliance of intellect, their attainments in science and literature, or their music, who know not the rudiments of how to make a home comfortable and inviting. Some will frankly confess it, with sorrow, others boast of this ignorance as something to be proud of. How many such women marry and make an utter failure of life. They make a wreck of their husbands happiness, of the home he had doted on, of his fortune, and, alas, too often of his character, and his soul's interest. You see them abroad, and are delighted to have made their acquaintance, but you find their homes slipshod homes, sadly contrasting with the really cultivated manners and mind which so attracted you.
When you see the avaricious and crafty taking companions to themselves without any inquiry but after farms and money, or the giddy and thoughtless uniting themselves for life to those whom they have only seen by the light of tapers; when parents make articles for children without inquiring after their consent; when some marry for heirs to disappoint their brothers, and others throw themselves into the arms of those whom they do not love, because they have found themselves rejected where they were more solicitous to please; when some marry because their servants cheat them; some because they squander their own money; some because their houses are pestered with company; some because they will live like other people ; and some because they are sick of themselves, we are not so much inclined to wonder that marriage is sometimes unhappy, as that it appears so little loaded with calamity, and cannot but conclude that society hath something in itself eminently agreeable to human nature, when we find its pleasures so great that even the ill-choice of a companion can hardly overbalance them. Those, therefore, of the above description that should rail against matrimony should be informed that they are neither to wonder nor repine, that a contract begun on such principles has ended in disappointment. A young man and a dear friend once said to me, " I am going to take her for better or for worse." The remark ran over me like a chill breath of winter. I shuddered at the thought. " For better or for worse." All in doubt. Going to marry, yet not sure he was right. The lady he spoke of was a noble young woman, intellectual, cultivated, pious, accustomed to his sphere of life. They were going to marry in uncertainty. Both were of fine families; both excellent young people. To the world it looked like a desirable match. To them it was going to be "for better or for worse." They married. The woman stayed in his home one year and left it, declaring he was a good man and a faultless husband, but not after her heart. She stayed away one year and came back; lived with him one year more and died. Sad tale. It proved for the worse, and all because they did not know each other; if they had they would not have married.
Marriage is the seal of man's earthly weal or woe. No event is to be compared with this for its interest and its immeasurable results. Why are so many unhappy in this union, never indeed truly married ? Because they rush into its sacred temple, either deluded or unsanctified by God and good principles. They sin in haste, and are left to repent at leisure.
Custom, convenience, proximity, passion, vicious novels, silly companions, intoxicate the brain; and that step is taken without one serious thought, which death only can retrieve.
Robert Southey says. A man may be cheerful and contented in celibacy, but I do not think he can ever be happy; it is an unnatural state, and the best feelings of his nature are never called into action. The risks of marriage are for the greater part on the woman's side. Women have so little the power, of choice that it is not perhaps fair to say that they are less likely to choose well than we are; but I am persuaded that they are more frequently deceived in the attachments they form, and their opinions concerning men are less accurate than men's opinion of their sex. Now, if a lady were to reproach me for having said this, I should only reply that it was another mode of saying there are more good wives in the world than there are good husbands, which I verily believe. I know of nothing which a good and sensible man is so certain to find, if he looks for it, as a good wife.
Who marries for love takes a wife; who marries for the sake of convenience takes a mistress; who marries for consideration takes a lady. You are loved by your wife, regarded by your mistress, tolerated by your lady. You have a wife for yourself, a mistress for your house and its friends, and a lady for the world. Your wife will agree with you, your mistress will accommodate you, and your lady will manage you. Your wife will take care of your household, your mistress of your house, your lady of appearance. If you are sick, your wife will nurse you, your mistress will visit you, and your lady will inquire after your health. You take a walk with your wife, a ride with your mistress, and join partners with your lady. Your wife will share your grief, your mistress your money, and your lady your debts. If you are dead, your wife will shed tears, your mistress lament, and your lady wear mourning. A year after death marries again your wife, in six months your mistress, and in six weeks or sooner, when mourning is over, your lady.
Men and women, before marriage, are as figures and cyphers. The woman is the cypher and counts for nothing till she gets the figure of a husband beside her, when she becomes of importance herself and adds ten-fold to the sum of his. But this, it must be observed, occurs only when she gets and remains on the right side of him, for when she shifts from this position, he returns to his lesser estate, and she to her original insignificance.
Marriage offers the most effective opportunities for spoiling the life of another. Nobody can debase, harrass and ruin a woman so fatally as her own husband, and nobody can do a tithe so much to chill a man's aspirations, to paralyze his energies, as his wife. A man is never irretrievably ruined in his prospects until he marries a bad woman. The Bible tells us that, as the climbing a sandy way is to the feet of the aged, so is a wife full of words to a quiet man. A cheerful wife is a rainbow in the sky when her husband's mind is tossed on the storms of anxiety and care. A good wife is the greatest earthly blessing. A man is what his wife makes him. It is the mother who moulds the character and destiny of the child. Make marriage a matter of moral judgment. Marry in your own religion. Marry into a different blood and temperament from your own. Marry into a family which you have long known.
Husbands and wives of different religious persuasions do not generally live happily. When the spiritual influences are antagonistic, the conjugal union is not complete, for it lacks the unity essential to the fulfillment of serious obligations, and there is an entire absence of that sound and reciprocated confidence—that mutual faith, which, although their roots be in the earth, have their branches in the sky of affection. The subject is painful, and however we may wound the susceptibilities of apparently fond lovers—we say apparently advisedly, for there can be no real love where there is " no silver chord to bind it "—we unhesitatingly express the opinion that marriages between persons who do not thread in the same religious path are wholly unadvisable—nay, wrong—for they tend to invite a future teeming with shadows, clouds, and darkness.