Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 only because they are sick of them. selves, I am not so much inclined to wonder that marriage is sometimes unhappy, as that it appears generally so little loaded with calamity; and cannot but conclude, that society has something in itself eminently agreeable to human nature, when I find its pleasures so great, that even the ill choice of a companion can hardly overbalance them.

By the ancient custom of the Muscovites, the men and women never saw each other, till they were united beyond the power of parting. It may be suspected that by this method many unsuitable matches were produced, and many tempers associated that were very little qualified to give pleasure to each other. Yet, perhaps, among a people so little delicate, where the paucity of objects, and the uniformity of life gave no opportunity for imagination to inter. pose its objections, there was not so much danger of capricious dislike ; and whilst they felt neither cold nor hunger, they might live quietly together, without any thought of the defects of one another.

Among us, whom knowledge has made nice, and affluence wanton, there are, indeed, more cautions requisite to secure tranquillity; and yet if we observe the manner in which those converse, who have singled out each other for marriage, we shall, perhaps, think that the Russians lost little by their restraint. For the whole endeavour of both par. ties, during the time of courtship, is to hinder themselves from being known, and to disguise their natural temper and real desires, in hypocritical imitation, studied compliance,

and continued affectation. From the time that their love is avowed, neither sees the other, but in a mask, and the cheat is managed often on both sides with so much art, and discovered afterwards with so much abruptness, that each has reason to think there has been some transformation on the wedding-night, and by a strange imposture, one has been courted, and another married.

All, therefore, who come with matrimonial complaints, concerning their behaviour in the time of courtship, are to be informed, that they are neither to wonder nor repine, that a contract begun with fraud. has ended in disappointment.

10*

A LETTER FROM A FATHER TO HIS SON, ON THE CHOICE OF

A WIFE.

Hail, wedded love !-
Perpetual fountain of domestic bliss.

MILTON.

A RECENT and valuable collection of letters from a father to his son, on various topics relative to literature, and the conduct of life, offers to my readers a judicious and excellent letter on the choice of a wife.

Dear Son, There is no species of advice, which seems to come with more peculiar propriety from parents to children, than that which respects the marriage state; for it is a matter in which the first must have acquired some experience, and the last cannot. At the same time, it is found to be that, in which advice produces the least effect. For this, various causes may be assigned; of which, no doubt, the principal is, that passion commonly takes this affair under its management, and excludes reason from her share of the deliberation. I. am inclined to think, however, that the neglect with which admonitions on this head are treated, is not unfrequently owing to the manner in which they are given, which is of.. ten too general, too formal, and with too little accommoda.. tion to the feelings of young persons. If in descanting a little on this subject, I can avoid these errors, I flatter my.. self you are capable of bestowing some unforced attention to what an affectionate desire of promoting your happiness in so essential a point, may prompt.

The difference of opinion between sons and fathers in the matrimonial choice, may be stated in a single position—that she former have in their minds the first month of marriage,

the latter, the whole of its duration. Perhaps you will, and with justice, deny that this is the difference between us two, and will assert, that you as well as I, in thinking of this connexion, reflect on its lasting consequences.

So much the better! We are then agreed as to the mode in which it is to be considered, and I have the advantage ‘of you only in experience and more extensive observation.

I need to say little as to the share that personal charms ought to have in fixing a choice of this kind. Whilst I readily admit, that it is desirable, that the object, on which the eyes are most frequently to dwell for a whole life, should be an agreeable one ; you will probably as freely acknow. ledge, that more than this is of too fancisul and fugitive a nature, to coine into the computation of permanent enjoy. ment. Perhaps in this matter I might look more narrowly for you than you would for yourself, and require a suitable. ness of years and vigour of constitution, which might conti. nue this advantage to a period that you do not yet contemplate. But dropping this part of the subject, let us proceed to con. sider the two main points, on which the happiness to be ex. pected from a female associate in life must depend-her qualifications as a companion, and as a helper.

Were you engaged to make a voyage round the world, on the condition of sharing a cabin with an unknown messmate, how solicitous would you be, to discover his character and disposition before you set sail! If, on inquiry, he should prove to be a person or good sense and cultivated manners, and especially of a temper inclined to please and be pleased, how fortunate would you think yourself! But, if in addi. tion to this, his tastes, studies, and opinions, should be found comformable to yours, your satisfaction would be complete. You could not doubt, that the circumstance which brought you together, would lay the foundation of an intimate and delightful friendship. On the other hand, if he were represented by those who thoroughly knew him, as weak, igno. rant, obstinate, and quarrelsome, of manners and disposi.

tions totally opposite to your own, you would probably rather give up your project, than submit to live so many months confined with such an associate.

Apply this comparison to the domestic companion of the voyage of life—the intimate of all hours—the partaker of all fortunes—the sharer in pain and pleasure the mother and instructress of your offspring. Are you not struck with a sense of the infinite consequence it must be to you, what are the qualities of the heart and understanding of one who stands in this relation; and of the comparative insignifi. cance of external charms and ornamental accomplishments ? But as it is scarcely probable that all you would wish in these particulars can be obtained, it is of importance to as. certain, which qualities are the most essential, that you may make the best compromise in your power. Now tastes, manners, and opinions, being things not original, but acquired, cannot be of so much consequence as the fundamentalproperties of good sense and good temper.

Possessed of these, a wife, who loves her husband, will: fashion herself in the others, according to what she perceives to be his inclination; and, if, after all, a considerable diver. sity remain between them in such points, this is not incom-patible with domestic comfort. But sense and temper can never be dispensed with in the companion for life: they form the basis on which the whole edifice of happiness is to be raised. As both are absolutely essential, it is needless to: inquire which is so in the highest degree. Fortunately they are oftener met with together than separate; for the just and reasonable estimation of things which true good sense inspires almost necessarily produces that equanimity and moderation of spirit, in which good temper properly consists. There is, indeed, a kind of thoughtless good nature, which is not unfrequently coupled with weakness of understanding ;: but: having no power of self-direction, its operations are capri. cious, and no reliance can be placed on it in promoting solid felicity. When, however, this easy humour appears with

« PreviousContinue »