Husband And Wife
( Originally Published 1879 )
Some writer asserts that, "a French woman will love her husband if he is either witty or chivalrous; a German woman, if he is constant and faithful; a Dutch woman, if he does not disturb her ease and comfort too much; a Spanish woman, if he wreaks vengeance on those who incur his displeasure; an Italian woman, if he is dreamy and poetical; a Danish woman, if he thinks that her native country is the brightest and happiest on earth; a Russian woman, if he despises all westerners as miserable barbarians; an English woman, if he succeeds in ingratiating himself with the court and the aristocracy; an American woman, if—he has plenty of money."
In the true wife the husband finds not affection only, but companionship—a companionship with which no other can compare. The family relation gives retirement with solitude, and society without the rough intrusion of the world. It plants in the husband's dwelling a friend who can bear his silence without weariness; who can listen to the details of his interests with sympathy; who can appreciate his repetition of events only important as they are embalmed in the heart. Common friends are linked to us by a slender thread. We must retain them by ministering in some way to their interest or their enjoyment. What a luxury it is for a man to feel that in his home there is a true and affectionate being, in whose presence he may throw off restraint without danger to his dignity; he may confide without fear of treachery; and be sick or unfortunate without being abandoned. If, in the outer world, he grows weary of human selfishness, his heart can safely trust in one whose indulgences over-look his defects.
The treasure of a wife's affection, like the grace of God, is given, not bought. Gold is power. It' can sweep down forests, raise cities, build roads and deck houses. It can collect troops of flatterers, and inspire awe and fear. But alas ! wealth can never purchase love. Bonaparte essayed the subjugation of Europe, under the influence of a genius almost inspired ; an ambition insatiable, and backed by millions of armed men. He almost succeeded in swaying his sceptre from the Straits of Dover to the Mediterranean; from the Bay of Biscay to the sea of Azoff. On many a bloody field his banner floated triumphantly. But the greatest conquest was the unbought heart of Josephine; his sweetest and most priceless treasure her outraged but unchanged love. If any man has failed to estimate the affection of a true-hearted wife, he will be likely to mark the value in his loss when the heart that loved him is stilled by death.
Is man the child of sorrow, and do afflictions and distresses pour their bitterness into his cup? How are his trials alleviated, his sighs suppressed, his corroding thoughts dissipated, his anxieties and pains relieved, his gloom and depression chased away by her cheerfulness and love. Is he overwhelmed by disappointment, and mortified by reproaches? There is one who can hide her eyes even from his faults, and who, like her Father who is in heaven, can forgive and love "without upbraiding." And when he is sickened by the subtle-ties and deception of the world; when the acrimony of men has made him acrimonious ; when he becomes dissatisfied with himself, and all around him, her pleas ant smile, her undissembled tenderness, her artless simplicity, "restore him to himself, and spread serenity and sweetness over his mind."
Nothing is more annoying than that display of affection which some husbands and wives show to each other in society. That familiarity of touch, those half concealed caresses, those absurd names, that prodigality of ,endearing epithets, that devoted attention which they flaunt in the face of the public as a kind of challenge to the world at large, to come and admire their happiness, is always noticed and laughed at. Yet to some women this parade of love is the very essence of married happiness, and part of their dearest privileges. They believe themselves admired and envied, when they are ridiculed and scoffed at ; and they think their husbands are models for other men to copy, when they are taken as examples for all to avoid. Men who have any real manliness, however, do not give in to this kind of thing; though there are some as effeminate and gushing as women themselves, who like this sloppy effusiveness of love, and carry it on to quite old age, fondling the ancient grandmother with gray hairs as lavishly as they had fondled the youthful bride, and seeing no want of harmony in calling a withered old dame of sixty and upwards by the pet names by which they had called her when she was a slip of a girl cf eighteen. This public display of familiar affection is never seen among men who pride themselves on making good lovers, as certain men do; those who have reduced the practice of lovemaking to an art, a science, and know their lesson to a letter. These men are delightful to women, who like nothing so much as being made love to, as well after marriage as before; but men who take matters quietly, and rely on the good sense of their wives to take matters quietly, too, sail round these scientific adorers for both depth and manliness.
Books addressed to young married people abound with advice to the wife to control her temper, and never to utter wearisome complaints or vexatious words when the husband comes home fretful or unreasonable from his out-of-door conflicts with the world. Would not the advice be as excellent and appropriate, if the husband were advised to conquer his fretfulness, and forbear his complaints, in consideration of his wife's ill-health, fatiguing cares, and the thousand disheartening influences of domestic routine? In short, whatsoever can be named as loveliest, best, and most graceful in woman, would likewise be good and graceful in man.
O husbands ! think upon your duty. You who have taken a wife from a happy home of kindred hearts and kind companionship, have you given to her all of your time which you could spare, have you endeavored to make amends to her for the loss of these friends? Have you joined with her in her endeavors to open the minds of your children, and give them good moral lessons? Have you strengthened her mind with advice, kindness, and good books? Have you spent your evenings with her in the cultivation of intellectual, moral, or social excellence? Have you looked upon her as an immortal being, as well as yourself?
There is a picture, bright and beautiful, but nevertheless true, where hearts are united for mutual happiness and mutual improvement; where a kind voice cheers the wife in her hour of trouble, and where the shade of anxiety is chased from the husband's brow as he enters his home; where sickness is soothed by watchful love, and hope and faith burn brightly. For such there is a great reward, both here and hereafter, in their own and their families' spiritual happiness and growth, and in the blessed scenes of the world of spirits.
And, wives ! do you also consult the tastes and dispositions of your husbands, and endeavor to give to them high and noble thoughts, lofty aims, and temporal comfort. Be ready to welcome them to their homes, gradually draw their thoughts while with you from business, and lead them to the . regions of the beautiful in art and nature, and the true and the divine in sentiment. Foster a love of the elegant and refined, and gradually will you see business, literature, and high moral culture blending in "sweet accord."
Before marriage, a young man would feel some delicacy about accepting an invitation to spend an evening in company where his "ladye love" had not been invited. After marriage, is he always as particular? During the days of courtship, his gallantry would demand that he should make himself agreeable to her; after marriage, it often happens that he thinks more of being agreeable to himself. How often it happens, that a married man, after having been away from home the livelong day, during which the wife has toiled at her duties, goes at evening again to some place of amusement, and leaves her to toil on alone, uncheered and unhappy ! How often it happens that her kindest offices pass unobserved, and unrewarded even by a smile, and her best efforts are condemned by the fault-finding husband! How often it happens, even when the evening is spent at home, that it is employed in silent reading, or some other way, that does not recognize the wife's right to share in the enjoyments even of the fireside!
Look, ye husbands, for a moment, and remember what your wife was when you took her, not from compulsion, but from your own choice; a choice based, probably, on what you then considered her superiority to all others. She was young—perhaps the idol of her happy home; she was gay and blithe as the lark, and the brothers and sisters at her father's fireside cherished her as an object of endearment. Yet she left all to join her destiny with yours, to make your home happy, and to do all that woman's ingenuity could devise to meet your wishes and to lighten the burdens which might press upon you.
The good wife! How much of this world's happiness and prosperity is contained in the compass of these two short words ! Her influence is immense. The power of a wife, for good or for evil, is altogether irresistible. Home must be the seat of happiness, or it must be forever unknown. A good wife is to a man wisdom, and courage, and strength, and hope, and endurance. A bad one is confusion, weakness, discomfiture, despair. No condition is hopeless when the wife possesses firmness, decision, energy, economy. There is no outward prosperity which can counteract indolence, folly, and extravagance at home. No spirit can long resist bad domestic influences. Man is strong, but his heart is not adamant. He delights in enterprise and action, but to sustain him he needs a tranquil mind and a whole heart. He expends his whole moral . force in the conflicts of the world. His feelings are daily lacerated to the utmost point of endurance by perpetual collision, irritation, and disappointment.
Let woman know, then, that she ministers at the very fountain of life and happiness. It is her hand that lades out with overflowing cup its soul-refreshing waters, or casts in the branch of bitterness which makes them poison and death. Her ardent spirit breathes the breath of life into all enterprise. Her patience and constancy are mainly instrumental in carrying forward to completion the best human designs. Her more delicate moral sensibility is the unseen power which is ever at work to purify and refine society. And the nearest glimpse of heaven that mortals ever get on earth is that domestic circle which her hands have trained to intelligence, virtue, and love, which her gentle influence pervades, and of which her radiant presence is the center and the sun.
Watching those on the sidewalk on the way to labor, we thought we could read a great deal of the home-life of each in the passing glance we gave as they went hurrying by. Here was one whose clothing was ragged and neglected, and on his face a hard, dissatisfied expression. It was easy to see there was no hope in his heart; that he went to his task as if it were a penalty imposed for crime, and that no pleasant and loving home cheered him at the evening and lifted from his heart the clouds that darkened his life. It is a terrible thing when the home of the poor lacks love–the only agency which can lighten its burdens and make it hopeful and happy.
Beside him walks another—no better, but much cleanlier clad, and the broad patches of his blue overalls are cleanly put on and not fringed with ragged 'edges. He has a home, you can see that at once, and, humble as it may be, there is a woman who is his confident as well as his wife, and, together, they plan how to use their little means and increase their little store of comforts. They have ambition, and ambition to improve one's condition never fails to give force to character and something of dignity and worth to life.
Last of all, though this consideration be not the least of all, let it be remembered that the husband is bound by the divine law to treat his wife as an immortal being, and, therefore, to have regard to her moral and spiritual welfare. Can any man have a just sense of the truth that the partner of his heart, the sharer of his fortunes, whose earthly destiny is so closely linked with his own; is, like himself, an immortal spirit; that, after the scenes of time shall all have vanished from her view like a gorgeous dream, she must enter upon those brighter ones that shall be forever expanding in beatific splendor, or else, if unprepared for them, must dwell in those gloomy realms which our Savior describes as "the outer darkness" of banishment from God and happiness, and yet cherish no lively interest in her education for the society of heaven? In that remarkable hour that witnessed the formation of the marriage union, the era of separation was anticipated by the solemn vow which his lips then uttered, that he would cherish the object of his choice as "the wife of his covenant" in wedded love "till death should part them."