« PreviousContinue »
home than in any other place. It is, doubtless, the great business of a woman's life, to render home pleasing to her husband; he will then delight in her society, and not seek abroad for alien amusements. A husband may, possibly, in his daily excursions, see many women whom he thinks hand somer than his wife ; but it is generally her fault, if he meet with one whom he thinks more amiable. A desire of pleasing very rarely fails of its effect; but in a wife that desire must be managed with the nicest delicacy; it should appear rather in the result than in the design ; “not obvious, not obtrusive." These little attentions are the best supple. ment to our great duties, and render the commerce of life delightful. Like an elegant dessert, they complete the feast, and leave not a wish unsatisfied.
We have hitherto looked only on the pleasing side of the tapestry, and seen marriage in its most favourable light. Let us now turn the canvass, and take a view of its defects.
Let us suppose, then, (what I think the worst of all situa. tions,) an amiable young woman possessing the tenderest affection for her husband, whilst he, from the depravity and inconstancy of his nature, has withdrąwn his love from her, and perhaps bestowed it on some unworthy object, to whom he devotes his time and fortune. In such a state of wretch. edness, what line shall our neglected wife pursue? The first step that I would recommend to her, is, that of entering into a serious, strict, and impartial review of her own con. duct, even to the minutiæ of her dress, and the expressions of her looks, from the first of her acquaintance with her husband. If after such examination, she cannot discover any fault in her manners that might have given offence, or created disgust, let her steadily pursue the same behaviour she has hitherto practised; for, if that be totally free from error, it is impossible that any alteration can give an addi. tional efficacy to it. For to resent, or to retaliate, neither duty nor her religion will permit.
“ To carry smiles upon the face, when discontent sits
brooding at the heart," is, I confess, one of the most difficult tasks that can possibly be imposed upon an ingenuous and feeling soul. But a thorough conviction that it is her province to endeavour to recall the wanderer back, for his own happiness, as well as hers, and a certainty that there are no other means of accomplishing so desirable an end, will enable her to pursue this arduous undertaking, till either her heart shall rejoice in its success, or from reiterated dis. appointments, become indifferent to the worthless object of its former esteem and attention.
Granting the last to be the case, she has a right to expect that the good opinion of the world will attend her conduct; but a higher and more certain reward awaits it ; self-approbation, arising from a consciousness of having fulfilled her duty, and an assurance of having essayed the only me. thod that was likely to insure success; for never yet was love recalled by lamentations, or upbraidings. The first may sometimes, perhaps, create pity, but oftener begets contempt ; and the latter never did, nor can, produce any. passion but instant rage, or cool determined hate.
Recollection may furnish to my fair readers many in. stances, where patient sufferings have been rewarded with returning love; but I think there is scarcely one to be met with, where female violence has ever conquered male outrage; or where dissipation and coquetry, though they may have alarmed the pride, ever reclaimed the alienated affections of a husband.
True love, like true virtue, shrinks not on the first attack; it will bear many shocks before it be entirely vanquished. As it contends not for victory, but for the prize, it will not display itself in the vain arts of elocution, but in the more powerful eloquence of action; it will leave nothing undone, that can prove its sincerity; but it will not boast, even to its object, of what it has done ; much less will it vaunt its merits to any other confidant, or complain to the world of the unkind return it has experienced.
There is such a variety of circumstances which may disturb the happiness of the marriage state, that it is im. possible to specify them all; but as a virtuous woman will consider the loss of her husband's affection as the greatest calamity that can befall her, her duty and prudence will, be. fore the evil happens, upon every occasion supply rules of conduct to herself; and the reliance she will necessarily have upon
the tenderness of his attachment to her, joined to the sincerity of hers to him, will support her through every difficulty, which accident, misfortune, or even imprudence, may have brought upon them. She will say, with Prior's Emma,
“ Thy rise of fortune did I only wed,
This is the natural language of conjugal affection ; this the fulfilling of the marriage vow, where self is lost in a still dearer object, where tenderness is heightened by distress, and attachment cemented even by the tears of sorrow. Such a union of souls may brave the power of time; and I trust that death itself shall not be able to destroy it.
Good humour only teaches charms to last,
It has been justly remarked, that a parity of temper is one of the principal requisites in matrimonial happiness ; and yet it is possible, that too great a similarity of disposi. tion
may, in some cases, render both parties wretched. For instance, if two persons of a gay and careless turn of mind should happen to be united, both will think themselves entitled to pursue their joint or separate amusements, without being encumbered with any attention to domestic economy, till even the necessary means for their support may be irretrievably lavished away.
Again, should two persons of a saturnine complexion be joined in the indissoluble bond of marriage, the natural gloominess of their dispositions will be increased by each other's converse ; melancholy will become habitual, and care be heightened by despondency.
“Not minds of melancholy strain,
Can the dear bondage bless;
Or none beside the bass.
“Nor can the soft enchantment hold
The rugged and the keen;
With firebrands tied between."
From these examples it is obvious, that a similitude of dispositions alone, though a strong incentive to affection, will not always insure matrimonial felicity. And yet I am perfectly convinced, that wherever there is any material differ. ence of sentiments, or manners, there never was, nor will be, a happy marriage. We naturally admire those we love, and as naturally imitate what we admire. The similarity that arises from this conformity and a desire to please, has a superior charm to that which is merely complexional. To adopt the sentiments of a person is the most delicate proof of approbation and esteem ; and perhaps the compliment is valued by our self-love, in proportion to the sacrifice which has been made of an opposite way of thinking.
That conformity of manners, as far as religion and reason will permit, is one of the indispensable duties of a wife, will not, I believe, be denied by any one. But there are la. dies who have an art of letting their condescension appear too strongly in the act, as if submitting to the impositions of a tyrant, rather than cheerfully fulfilling the obligation they had entered into at the altar-to love, honour, and obey.
The same words or actions, expressed or performed in a gracious or ungracious marner, may produce effects as different as love and hate. I would therefore recommend it to the candidates for happiness in the marriage state, to sacri. fice to the graces, in their conjugal demeanour, as sincerely as they do at their toilets ; for good breeding is as necessary to the preservation of domestic harmony, as it can possibly be to the general intercourse and commerce of life.
Solomon, in his description of a virtuous woman, has fur. nished us with the finest idea that ever was given of a wife's address to her husband. “ She opened her mouth with wis. dom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” And surely there exists not a being under the form of man, who could teject such an address with scorn or insolence. Ladies ahould, however, take particular care to time their conversation with their husbands, and neither idly obtrude