« PreviousContinue »
the attractions of youth and beauty, there is some danger lest even men of sense should overlook the defects of a shallow capacity, especially if they have entertained the tno common notion, that women are no better than playthings, designed rather for the arnusement of their lords and masters than for the more serious purposes of life. But no man ever married a fool without severely repenting it; for though the petty trifler may have served well enough for the hour of dalliance and gayety, yet when folly assumes the reins of domestic, and especially of parental control, she will give a perpetual heart-ache to a considerate partner.
On the other hand, there are to be met with instances of considerable powers of the understanding, combined with waywardness of temper, sufficient to destroy all the comfort of life. Malignity is sometimes joined with wit, haughtiness and caprice with talents, sourness and suspicion with sagacity, and cold reserve with judgment. But all these being in themselves unamiable qualities, it is less necessary to guard against the possessors of them. They generally render even beauty unattractive; and no charm but that of fortune is able to overcome the repugnance they excite. How much more fatal than even folly they are to all domestic felicity, you have probably already seen enough of the matrimonial state to judge.
Many of the qualities, which fit a woman for a companion, also adapt her for the office of a helper ; but many additional ones are requisite. The original purpose for which this sex was created, is said, you know, to have been, providing man with a helpmate ; yet it is, perhaps, that no. tion of a wife which least occupies the imagination in the season of courtship. Be assured, however, that as an of. fice for life, its importance stands extremely high to one, whose situation does not place him above the want of such aid ; and fitness for it should make a leading consideration in his choice. Romantic ideas of domestic felicity will in. fallibly in time give way to that true state of things which
will show that a large part of it must arise from well order. ed affairs, and an accumulation of petty comforts and conveniences. A clean and quiet fire"side, regular and agreea ble meals, decent apparel, a house managed with order and economy, ready for the reception of a friend or the accommodation of a stranger, a skillful as well as affectionate nurse in time of sickness—all these things compose a very considerable part of what the nuptial state was designed to afford us; and without them no charms of person or understanding will long continue to bestow delight. The arts of housewifery should be regarded as professional to the woman who intends to become a wife ; and to select one for that station who is destitute of them, or disinclined to exercise them, however otherwise accomplished, is as absurd, as it would be to choose for your lawyer, or physician, a man who excelled in every thing rather than in law, or physic.
Let me remark, too, that knowledge and good-will are not the only requisites for the office of a helper. It demands a certain energy both of body and mind which is less frequently met with among the females of the present age than might be wished. How much soever infirm and delicate health may interest the feelings, it is certainly an undesira. ble attendant on a connexion for life. Nothing can be more contrary to the qualification of a helpmate, than a condi. tion which constantly requires that assistance which it never can impart. It is, I am sure, the farthest thing from my intention, to harden your heart against impressions of pity, or slacken those services of affectionate kindness, by which you may soften the calamitous lot of the most amiable and deserving of the species. But a matrimonial choice is a choice for your own benefit, by which you are to obtain ad. ditional sources of happiness ; and it would be mere folly, in their stead voluntarily to take upon you new incumbran. ces and distresses. Akin to an unnerved frame of body, is that shrinking timidity of mind, and excessive nicety of feel. ing, which is too much: encouraged under the notion of fe.
male delicacy. That this is carried beyond all reasonable bounds in modern education, can scarcely be doubted by one, who considers what exertions of fortitude and self.com. mand are continually required in the course of female duty. One who views society closely, in its interior as well as ex. terior, will know that occasions of alarm, suffering, and dis. gust, come much more frequently in the way of women than of men. To them belong all the offices about the weak, the sick, and the dying. When the house becomes a scene of wretchedness from any cause, the man often runs abroad; the woman must stay at home, and face the worst. All this takes place in cultivated society, and in classes of life raised above the common level. In the savage state, and in the lower conditions, women are compelled to un. dergo even the most laborious, as well as the most disagreeable tasks. If nature, then, has made them so weak in tem. per and constitution as many suppose, she has not suited means to ends with the foresight we generally discover in her plans.
I confess myself decidedly of the opinion of those who would rather form the two sexes to a resemblance of cha. racter, than contrast them. Virtue, wisdom, presence of mind, patience, viguor, capacity, application, are not sexual qualities; they belong to mankind to all who have duties to perform and evils to endure. It is surely a most degra. ding idea of the female sex, that they must owe their influence to trick and finesse, to counterfeit or real weakness. They are too essential to our happiness to need such arts; too much of the pleasure and the business of the world depends upon them, to give reason for apprehension that we shall cease to join partnership with them. Let them aim at excelling in the qualities peculiarly adapted to the parts they have to act, and they may be excused from affected languor and coquetry. We shall not think them less amiable for being our best helpers.
Having thus endeavoured to give you just ideas of the
principal requisites in a wife, especially in a wife for one in your condition, I have done all that lies within the compass of an adviser. From the influence of passion I cannot guard you : I can only deprecate its power. It may be more to the purpose, 'to dissuade you from hasty engagements, be. cause, in making them, a person of any resolution is not to be regarded as merely passive. Though the head has lost its rule over the heart, it may retain its command of the hand. And surely if we are to pause before any action, it should be before one on which “ all the colour of remaining life” depends. Your reason must be convinced, that to form a solid judgment of so many qualities as are requisite in the conjugal union, is no affair of days and weeks, of casual vi. sits and public exhibitions. Study your object at home—see her tried in her proper department. Let the progress be, liking, approving, loving, and lastly, declaring; and may you, after the experience of as many years as I have had, be as happily convinced, that a choice so formed is not likely to deceive !
You may think it strange, that I have not touched on a consideration, which generally takes the lead in parental estimates of matrimonial views—that of fortune. But I have been treating on the woman only, not on any thing extraneous to her. Fortune acquired with a wife, is the same thing as fortune got any other way. It has its value, and certainly no small one, in procuring the desirable comforts of life; and to rush into a state in which wants will be greatly increased without a reasonable prospect of being able to supply those wants, is an act not merely of carelessness, but of downright folly. But with respect to the sources whence their supply is to be sought, that is a parti. cular inquiry to each individual; and I do not think so ill of your prudence, as to apprehend that you will not give it all the attention its importance demands. Another considera. tion that of the family connexions formed by marriage, is of a similar kind. Its great importance cannot be doubted ;
but it is an affair to be determined on by the dictates of com. mon prudence, just as in forming those connexions after any other mode; though indeed, in no other can they be formed equally strong. One who is master of his deliberations, may be trusted to decide thes
points, as well as any others that occur in the practice of life. That your
may always show you to be possessed of a due power of selfdirection, is the earnest wish of
Your truly affectionate, &c.