« PreviousContinue »
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ART OF PLEASING, WITH CRIMI
NATING LETTERS BETWEEN A HUSBAND AND A WIFE.
Among the many advantages arising from cultivated sen timent, one of the first and most truly valuable, is that delicate complacency of mind, which leads us to consult the feelings of those with whom we live, by showing a disposi. tion to gratify them as far as in our power, and by avoiding whatever has a contrary tendency. They must indeed have attended little to what passes in the world, who do not know the importance of this disposition ; who have not observed that the want of it often poisons the domestic happiness of families, whose felicity every other circumstance concurs to promote. Among the letters lately received from my correspondents, are two, which as they afford a lively picture of the bad consequences resulting from the neglect of this complacency, I shall here lay before my readers.
SIR, My father was a merchant of some eminence, who gave me a good education, and a fortune of several thousand pounds. With these advantages, a tolerable person, and I think not an unamiable temper, I was not long arrived at womanhood before I found myself possessed of many admi. rers. Among others was Mr. Gold, a gentleman of a very respectable character, who had some connexion in trade with my father. To him, being a young man of a good fi
gure, and of very open and obliging manners, I soon gave the preference ; and we were accordingly married with the universal approbation of my friends.
We have now lived together above three years. I go lit. tle abroad, attend to nothing so much as the economy of our family, am as obliging as possible to all my husband's friends, and study in every particular to be a kind and dutiful wife. Mr. Gold's reputation and success in business daily increases, and he is, in the main, a kind and attentive husband; yet I find him so particular in his temper, and so often out of hu. mour about trifles, that, in spite of all those comfortable cir. cumstances, I am perfectly unhappy.
At one time he finds fault with the dishes at table; at another with the choice of my maid servants; sometimes he is displeased with the trimming of my gown, sometimes with the shape of my cloak, or the figure of my head dress; and should I chance to give an opinion on any subject which is not perfectly to his mind, he probably looks out of hu. mour at the time, and he is sure to chide me about it when we are by ourselves.
It is of no consequence whether I have been right or wrong, in any of these particulars. If I say a word in defence of my choice or opinion, it is sure to make matters worse, and I am only called a fool for my pains; or, if I express my wonder that he should give myself uneasiness about such trifles, he answers, sullenly, that, to be sure, every thing is a trifle, in which I choose to disoblige him.
In a word, Mr. Gold will allow me to have no mind but his; and unless I can see with his eyes, hear with his ears, and state with his palate, (none of which I can very easily bring myself to do, as you must know all of them are somewhat particular,) I see no prospect of our situation changing for the better; and what makes our present one doubly provoking, is, that but for this unfortunate weakness, Mr. Gold, who is, in other respects, a very worthy man, would make one of the best of husbands.
Pray tell me, sir, what I should do in this situation; or take your own way of letting my husband see his weakness, the reformation of which would be the greatest of all earthly blessings to
I was thinking how I could answer this letter, or in what way I could be useful to my correspondent, when I received the following, addressed to me; the insertion of which is, I believe, the best reply I can make to it.
SIR, I was bred a merchant; by my success in trade I am now in affluent circumstances, and I have reason to think that I am so with an unblemished character.
Some years ago I married the daughter of a respectable citizen, who brought a comfortable addition to my fortune ; and, as she had been virtuously educated, and seemed cheerful and good tempered—as I was myself naturally of a domestic turn, and resolved to make a good husband—I thought we bade fair for being happy in each other.
But though I must do my spouse the justice to say, that she is discreet and prudent, attentive to the affairs of her family, a careful and fond mother to her children, and, in many respects, an affectionate and dutiful wife; yet one foible in her temper destroys the effect of all these good qualities. She is so much attached to her own opinions in every trifle, so impatient of contradiction in them, and withal so ready to dispute mine, that if I disapprove of her taste or sentiments, in any one particular, or seem dissatisfied when she disapproves of my taste or sentiments, it is the certain source of a quarrel ; and, whilst we perfectly agree as to our general plan of life, and every essential circumstance of our domestic economy, this silly fancy, that I must eat, dress, think, and speak, precisely as she would have me, whilst she will not accommodate herself to me in the most trifling of these particulars, gives me perpetual uneasiness. So that, with almost every thing I could wish, a genteel income, a good reputation, promising children, and a virtuous wife, whom I sincerely esteem, I have the mortification to find myself absolutely unhappy.
I am sure, this foible of my poor wife will appear to you, sir, in its proper light; your making it appear so to her, may be the means of alleviating our mutual distress; for
the truth, I believe she is almost as great a suf. ferer as I am. I hope you will gratify me in this desire; by doing so, you may be of general service, and will par. ticularly oblige Your constant reader, and Obedient humble servant,
On comparing these two letters, it is evident, that, from the want of that complacercy mentioned in the beginning of this paper, the very sensibility of temper, and strength of affection, which, under its influence, would have made this good couple happy, has had quite a contrary effect. The source of the disquiet they complain of, is nothing else than the want of that respect for the taste, feelings, and opinions of each other, which constitues the disposition I have recommended above, and which, so far from being inconsistent with a reasonable desire of reforming each other in these particulars, is the most probable means of accomplishing it.
Nor is the case of Mr. and Mrs. Gold singular in this respect. Domestic quarrels generally originate from the want of this pliancy of disposition which people seem, very absurdly, to suppose may be dispensed with in trifles. I have known a man, who would have parted with half his estate to serve a friend, to whom he would not have yielded a hair's breadth in an argument. But the smaller virtues must be attended to as well as the greater; the manners as well as the duties of life. They form a sort of pocket coin, which though it does not enter into great and important transactions, is absolutely necessary for common and ordi. nary intercourse.