Page images


will never turn stones into earth, or sand into loam ; but I

assure you that frugality, industry, and good culture will make a bad farm very tolerable, and an indifferent one truly good.”



It is by far the safest and most promising way, to marry with a person nearly equal in rank, and perhaps in age. This maxim has been in substance advanced by many writers, and therefore little will need to be said upon it. I must, however, explain its meaning, which is not always clearly comprehended. By equality in rank must be un. derstood equality, not in fortune, but in education, taste, and habits of life. I do not call it inequality, when a gentleman of estate marries a lady who has been from the beginning brought up in the same class of society with himself, and is in every respect as elegant in her sentiments and manners, but by some incidents, that perhaps have lately happened, is unequal to him in point of fortune. I know that from the corrupt and selfish views which prevail so generally in the world, a marriage of this kind is often considered as unequal, and an act of great condescension on the part of the man; but the sentiment is illiberal and unjust. In the same manner, when a lady marries a gentleman of character and capacity, and is in every respect suitable to her, but that his estate is not equal to what she might expect, I do not call it unequal. It is true, parents too frequently prefer circumstances to character, and the female friends of a lady at her own disposal, may say, in such a case, that she has made a poor bargain. But, taking it still for granted that the fortune only is unequal, I affirm there is nothing in this circumstance that forebodes future dissensions but rather the contrary. An act of generosity never produced a fretful disposition in the person who did it, nor is it reasonable to suppose it will often have that effect, on the one who re. ceives it.

The importance, therefore, of equality, arises singly from this circumstance—that there is a great probability that the turn, taste, employments, amusements, and general carriage of the persons so intimately joined, and so frequently together, will be mutually agreeable.

The occasion or motive of first entering into the marriage contract, is not of so much consequence to the felicity of the parties, as what they find after they are fairly engaged, and cannot return back. When I visit a new country, my judgment of it may be influenced a little, but neither much nor long, by flattering hopes or hideous apprehensions, entertained before actual trial. It has often been said, that dissensions between married people generally take their rise from very inconsiderable circumstances; to which I will add, that this is most commonly the case among persons of some station, sense, and breeding. This may seem odd, but the difficulıy is easily solved. Persons of this character have a delicacy on the subject of so close a union, and ex. pect a sweetness and compliance, in matters that would not be minded by the vulgar; so that the smallness of the circumstance appears in their eye an aggravation of the offence. I have known a gentleman of rank and his lady part for life, by a difference arising from a thing said at supper, that was not so much as observed to be an impropriety by three fourths of the company.

This, then, is what I apprehend occasions the importance of equality in rank. Without this equality, they do not understand one another sufficiently for continual intercourse. Many causes of difference will arise, not only sudden and unexpected, but impossible to be foreseen, and therefore not provided against. I must also observe, that an explication or expostulation, in the cases here in view, is more tedious and difficult than any other-perhaps more dangerous and un. certain in the issue. How shall the one attempt to convince the other of an incongruity of behaviour, in what all their former ideas have taught them to believe as innocent or

[ocr errors]

decent, sometimes ever laudable? The attempt is often considered as an insult on their former station, and instead of producing concord, lays the foundation of continual soli. citude, or increasing aversion. A man may be guilty of speaking very unadvisedly through intemperate rage, or may perhaps come home flustered with liquor, and his wife, if prudent, may find a season for mentioning them, when the admonition will be received with calmness, and followed by reformation ; but if she discovers her displeasure at rusticity of carriage, or meanness of sentiment, I think there is little hope that it will have any effect that is good. The habit cannot be mended; yet he may have sagacity enough to see that the wife of his bosom has despised him in her heart.

I am going to put a case. Suppose a gentleman of rank, literature, and taste, has married a tradesman's daughter for the sake of fortune, or from desire, which he calls love, kindled by an accidental glance of a fresh-coloured young wo. man; suppose her never to have had the opportunity of being in what the world calls good company, and in consequence to be wholly ignorant of the modes that prevail there : suppose, at the same time, that her understanding has never been enlarged by reading or conversation. 'n such a soon must passion be sated, and what innumerable causes of shame and mortification must every day produce! I am not certain whether the difficulty will be greater, if she continues the manners of her former, or attempts to put on those of her present station. If any man thinks that he can easily preserve the esteem and attention due to a wife in such circumstances, he will probably be mistaken, and no less so if he expects to communicate refinement by a few lessons, or prevent misbehaviour by fretfulness, or peevish and satirical remarks.

se, how


But let me come to another part of the maxim, which I do not remember to have ever met with in any author that there is a much greater risk when a man marries below his rank, than when a woman marries below hers. As to the matter of fact, it depends entirely on the justness and accuracy of my observations, of which every reader must be left to judge for himself. I must, however, take notice, that when I speak of a woman marrying helow her station, I have no view at all to include-what there have been some examples of—a gentleman's daughter running away with her father's footman, or a lady of quality with a player. This is, in every instance, an act of pure lasciviousness, and is, without any exception that ever I heard of, followed by immediate shame and future beggary. It has not, however, any more connexion with marriage, than transactions of a brothel, or the memoirs of a kept mistress. The truth is, elopements in general are things of an eccentric nature : and when I hear of one, I seldom make any further inquiry after the felicity of the parties.

Supposing, therefore, the fact to be as now stated, what remains for me, is, to investigate a little the causes of it, and point out those circumstances in human tempers and characters, or in the state of society, which give us reason to expect, that it will in most cases turn out so.

1. It is much easier, in most cases, for a man to improve or rise after marriage to a more elegant taste in life, than a woman. I do not attribute this in the least to superior natural talents, but to the more frequent oppor. tunities he has of seeing the world, and conversing with

« PreviousContinue »