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A LETTER TO A LADY ON THE CIIOICE OF A HUSBAND.
How blest the alliance where no interest rules,
MADAM,—You do me great honour in your application to me on this important occasion; I shall therefore talk to you with the tenderness of a father, in gratitude for your giving me the authority of one. You do not seem to make any great distinction between your two lovers as to their persons; the whole question lies upon their circumstances and behaviour: If the one is less respectful because he is rich, and the other more obsequious because he is not so, they are in that point moved by the same principle, the consideration of fortune; and you must place them in each other's circumstances, before you can judge of their inclination. To avoid confusion in discussing this point, I will call the richer man Strephon, and the other Florio. If
be. lieve Florio with Strephon's estate would behave himself as he does now, Florio is certainly your man: but if you
think Strephon, were he in Florio's condition, would be as obse. quious as Florio is now, you ought for your own sake to choose Strephon ; for where the men are equal, there is no doubt riches ought to be a reason for preference. After this manner I would have you abstract them from their circumstances; for you are to take it for granted, that he who is very humble only because he is poor, is the very same man in nature with him who is haughty because he is rich. When you have
gone thus far, as to consider the figure they make towards you, you will please, madam, next to consider the appearance you make towards them. If they are men of discernment, they can observe the motives of your heart ;
and Florio can see when he is disregarded only upon account of fortune, which makes you to him a mercenary creature; and you are still the same thing to Strephon, in taking him for his wealth only: you are therefore to consider whether you had rather confer than receive an obligation.
The marriage life is always an insipid, a vexatious, or a happy condition. The first is, when two people of no genius or taste for themselves meet together, upon such a settlement as has been thought reasonable by parents and conveyancers, from an exact valuation of the land and cash of both parties : in this case the young lady's person is no more re« garded than the house and improvements in the purchase of an estate ; but she goes with her fortune, rather than her for. tune with her. These make up the crowd or vulgar of the rich, and fill up the lumber of the human race, without benefi. cence to those below them, or respect towards those above them; and lead a despicable, independent, and useless life, without sense of the laws of kindness, good nature, mutual offices, and the elegant satisfactions which flow from reason and virtue.
The vexatious life arises from a conjunction of two people of quick taste and resentment, put together for reasons well known to their friends, in which especial care is taken to avoid (what they think the chief of evils) poverty, and in. sure to them riches, with every evil besides. These good people live in a constant constraint before company, and too great familiarity alone : when they are within observation, they fret at each other's carriage and behaviour ; when alone, they revile each other's person and conduct: in company, they are in a purgatory, when only together, in a hell.,
The happy marriage is where two persons meet and voluntarily make choice of each other, without principally regarding or neglecting the circumstances of fortune or beauty. These may still love in spite of adversity or sickness; the former we may in some measure defend ourselves from; the other is the portion of our very make. When you have
a true notion of this sort of passion, your humour of living great will vanish out of your imagination, and you will find love has nothing to do with state. Solitude, with the person beloved, has a pleasure beyond show or pomp. You are therefore to consider which of your lovers will like you
best undressed, which will bear with you most when out of hu. mour; and your way to this is to ask yourself, which you value most for his own sake; and by that judge which gives the greater instances of his valuing you for yourself only. After
have expressed some sense of the humble approach of Florio, and a little disdain at Strephon's assurance in his address, you cry out, “ What an unexceptionable husband could I make out of both !” It would therefore, methinks, be a good way to determine yourself: take him in whom what you like is not transferable to another; for if you choose otherwise, there is no hopes your husband will ever have what you liked in his rival : but intrinsic qualities in one man may very probably purchase every thing that is adventitious in another. In plainer terms; he whom you take for his personal perfections, will sooner arrive at the gifts of fortune, than he whom you take for the sake of his fortune attain to personal perfections. If Strephon is not as accomplished and agreeable as Florio, marriage to you will never make him so: but marriage to you may make Florio as rich as Strephon : therefore, to make a sure purchase, employ fortune upon certainties, but do not sacrifice cer. tainties to fortune.
I am your most obedient, humble servant,
ON CONJUGAL AFFECTION.
May she, when time has sunk him into years,
MART. EPIG. TRANSL.
Love is a term so very vague and indiscriminate, as it is generally applied, that it would be extremely difficult to investigate its nature from its effects, in any other case but that of marriage; as the modes, perhaps, of feeling, or at least of expressing it, vary, according to the temper, manner, or situation of each individual who either feels or feigns the passion. But conjugal affection is by no means subject to such equivocal appearances; it is tenderness heightened by passion, and strengthened by esteem, tending to promote the happiness of its object here and hereafter.
Such an elevated state of happiness as must result from the affection I have described, when mutual, must surely be the acmé of human felicity. But, as the point of perfection is that of declension also, it will require much pains, (but they are pleasing ones,) to make the ever-turning wheel of sublunary bliss keep steady to the summit it has reached, or at least, to prevent its rolling down the rugged precipice, where jealousy, disgust, and grief, have marked the horrid road.
The disappointments of human life must ever be proportioned to the extravagance of our expectations. Too great an ardour to be blessed, is frequently the source of misery. A life of transport is not the lot of mortals. Whilst we
accept we should chastise our joys, “ lest whilst we clasp we kill them."
That concord of souls which constitutes the happiness of marriage, like a full concert, requires all the parts obliged to fill their several stations in perfect time and place; for though the heart may lead the band, and set out in perfect harmony, one jarring note destroys the rapturous strain, and turns the whole to discord. For this reason I consider a parity of understanding and temper as necessary towards forming a happy marriage.
But grant these circumstances all conjoin and make the union perfect, my fair readers should remember that satiety succeeds to rapture, as sure as night to day. province, then, to keep your husband's heart from sinking into the incurable disease of tasteless apathy. Do not rely too much upon your personal charms, however great, to preserve the conquest they may have gained. The kind. ness of your attention to the bent of his genius and inclinations will awaken his regard ; and gratitude will strengthen his affection, imperceptibly even to himself.
Our first parent justifies his fondness for Eve, to Raphael, upon this principle :
Be it your
“ Neither her outside formed so fair, &c.
To secure the affections of a husband already prepos. sessed in their favour, let the ladies but exert the same ta. lents, with the same desire of pleasing, which they showed before marriage, and I venture to pronounce, that they will succeed.
Every man ought to be the principal object of attention in his family ; of course he should feel himself happier at