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- Tis a fault
SHIRLEY'S Constant Maid.
As the attainment of happiness is the grand spring of human action, I have often been surprised at that inattention, so apparent in the generality of mankind, to the most important concern in their lives, the choice of a wife ; a choice, on which not only their present welfare, but their lasting felicity, may depend. Indeed, if we may judge from the slight regard paid to an object of so much moment, we may suppose it commonly understood to be a trivial point, in which little or no reflection is requisite; or that fortune and beauty were in themselves whatever was essential to the happiness of the conjugal state. But let those, who in the ardour of unreflecting youth, form such gay visions of splendid enjoyments and everlasting passion, consider, that there are requisites of a nobler kind, without which, when it may be too late, they may find themselves involved in irretrievable ruin.
What melancholy histories have been recorded, where manly virtue has been united to a fortune and to misery; blooming loveliness sacrificed at the shrine of avarice; or unthinking youth, smitten by exterior charms alone, instead of the attracting graces of modesty, sentiment, and discretion, has become a voluntary victim to insipid, if not to meretricious beauty! I would not be understood, however, as though I apprehended, that beauty and fortune are of no estimation. The former, when united to piety, virtue, and good sense, can be slighted by those only who are devoid of any ideas of whatever is lovely and excellent in nature ; and fortune, or at least a competence, is absolutely neces. sary, since without it the highest degree of virtue, and the most enchanting graces, will be insufficient to insure happi. ness in the conjugal union :
“Let reason teach what passion fain would hide,
Certainly no prudent person ought to engage in the mar. ried state without a sufficiency of means for a comfortable subsistence. That lover cannot regard his mistress with virtuous passion, who would involve her in all the possible consequences of reciprocal poverty. True love never for. gets the happiness of its object; for when this ceases to be regarded, it is not the generous tenderness of love, but the unthinking wildness of passion.
These observations, however, cannot obviate the just complaints which may be made against those matches in which beauty or fortune only are regarded. “Beauty," says Lord Kaimes, “is a dangerous property, tending to corrupt the mind of a wife, though it soon loses its influence over the husband. A figure agreeable and engaging, which inspires affection without the ebriety of love, is a much sa. fer choice. The graces lose not their influence like beauty. At the end of thirty years, a virtuous woman, who makes
an agreeable companion, charms her husband perhaps more than at first. The comparison of love to fire holds good in one respect, that the fiercer it burns, the sooner it is extinguished.”
It is unquestionably true, that happiness in the married state depends not on riches, nor on beauty, but on virtue, good sense, and sweetness of temper. A young man who has himself a sufficient fortune, should not always look for an equivalent of that kind in the object of his love. “Who can find a virtuous woman,” says Solomon, “for her price is far above rubies?” The important object of his inquiry is, not whether she has riches, but whether she possesses those qualifications, which naturally form the amiable wife and the exemplary mother ? In like manner, would a parent conduct his daughter to a wise and judicious choice of a husband ; he will not so much recommend the necessity of a fortune, as a virtuous conduct, good temper, discretion, regularity and industry. With these, a husband, if he be of a reputable profession, may improve the fortune of his wife, and render it of much greater advantage to each other, than the most ample equivalent in money, with the reverse of these qualities.
On the contrary, where interest pervades the bosom, and is the sole motive to union, what can more naturally be expected than unhappy matches ? Without a certain congeniality of sentiment, independent of the adventitious circum stances of beauty or fortune, the connubial state is the very opposite of a heaven. Home becomes disagreeable, where there is a diversity of taste, temper, and wishes; or where those mental resources are wanting which invite to conversation, and render it delightful and endearing. The scenes of wretchedness inseparable from such a state, must be obvious to every mind.
We turn with pleasure to the exquisite happiness, which is the result of a virtuous choice. Home is then delightful, and every moment is replete with satisfaction.
But without dwelling longer on this charming theme, permit me to ask, who would sacrifice the enjoyment of such felicity, for wealth? What weakness of mind does it betray, to forfeit “ the matchless joys of virtuous love,” for the ideal pleasure of affluence!
Of all the pleasures that endear human life, there are none more worthy the attention of a rational creature than those that flow from the mutual return of conjugal love. Our great poet, Milton, after he has described the nuptial bower of Adam and Eve in Paradise, thus calls upon that blissful state :
Hail, wedded love! mysterious law, true source
-Perpetual fountain of domestic bliss !
In this scene the looser passions of youth are consolidated into a settled affection: for the lawful object of love unites every care in itself, and makes even those thoughts that were painful before, become delightful. When two minds are thus engaged by the ties of reciprocal sincerity, each alternately receives and communicates a transport that is inconceivable to all but those that are in this situation : from hence arises that heart-ennobling solicitude for one another's welfare, that tender sympathy that alleviates affliction, and that participated pleasure which heightens prosperity and joy itself. This is a full completion of the blessings of humanity! for if reason and society are the characteristics which distinguish us from other animals, an excellence in these two great privileges of man, which