Afternoon of the same day.—After coming to the decision I did this morning, I put on my things, and set off into the town. I don't think I ever walked faster than I did to that bookseller's shop. Luckily they had all the books I wanted, or if they are not quite right William has only to change them afterwards. They did not cost as much as I had calculated, too, and with the discount that they gave me I had enough left for the little hanging bookshelves that William took such a fancy to at the cabinet-maker's the other day. I got them all home this afternoon—books as well as shelves—and in less than an hour after their arrival, the nail was knocked into the wall opposite the fire-place; the shelves hung, and all the books arranged upon them. How nice they look, and how pleased will dear William be when he returns! I declare I would not exchange the happiness I now feel in giving him pleasure for the finest house, with the grandest entrance to it too, that ever was built. Six o'clock: and William will be home at seven!
HINTS AND HELPS FOR MARRIED PARTNERS.
AND first, let us speak to the young husband, in the words of the author of that excellent little volume, "A Whisper to a Newly-Married Pair."
'Earnestly endeavour to obtain among your acquaintance the character of a good husband; and abhor that would-be wit, which I have sometimes seen practised among men of the world—a kind of coarse jesting on the bondage of the married state, and a laugh at the shackles which a wife imposes. On the contrary, be it your pride to exhibit to the world that sight on which the wise man passes such an encomium: Beautiful before God and men are a man and his wife that agree together. (Ecclus. xxv, 10)
Make it an established rule to consult your wife on all occasions. Your interest is hers: and undertake no plan contrary to her advice and approbation. Independent of better motives, what a responsibility does it free you from! for, if the affair turn out ill, you are spared reproaches both from her and from your own feelings. But the fact is, she who ought to have most influence on her husband's mind, is often precisely the person who has least; and a man will frequently take the advice of a stranger who cares not for him nor his interest, in preference to the cordial and sensible opinion of his wife. A due consideration of the domestic evils such a line of conduct is calculated to produce, might, one would think, of itself be sufficient to prevent its adoption; but, independent of these, policy should influence you; for there is in woman an intuitive quickness, a sagacity, a penetration, and a foresight into the probable consequences of an event, that make her peculiarly calculated to give her opinion and advice.—"If I was making up a plan of consequences," said the great Lord Bolingbroke, "I should like first to consult with a sensible woman."
Have you any male acquaintance, whom, on reasonable grounds, your wife wishes you to resign? Why should you hesitate? Of what consequence can be the civilities, or even the friendship, of any one, compared with the wishes of her with whom you have to spend your life—whose comfort you have sworn to attend to; and who has a right to demand, not only such a trifling compliance, but great sacrifices, if necessary?
Never witness a tear from your wife with apathy or indifference. Words, looks, actions—all may be artificial; but a tear is unequivocal; it comes direct from the heart, and speaks at once the language of truth, nature, and sincerity! Be assured, when, you see a tear on her cheek, her heart is touched; and do not, I again repeat it, do not behold it with coldness or insensibility!
It is very unnecessary to say that contradiction is to be avoided at all times: but when in the presence of others, be most particularly watchful. A look, or word, that perhaps, in reality, conveys no angry meaning, may at once lead people to think that their presence alone restrains the eruption of a discord, which probably has no existence whatsoever.
Some men, who are married to women of inferior fortune or connexion, will frequently have the meanness to upbraid them with the disparity. My good sir, allow me to ask what was your motive in marrying? Was it to oblige or please your wife? No, truly; it was to oblige and please yourself, your own dear self. Had she refused to marry you, you would have been (in lover's phrase) a very miserable man. Did you never tell her so? Therefore, really, instead of upbraiding her, you should be very grateful to her for rescuing you from such an unhappy fate.
It is particularly painful to a woman, whenever her husband is unkind enough to say a lessening or harsh word of any member of her family: invectives against herself are not half so wounding.
Should illness, or suffering of any kind, assail your wife, your tenderness and attention are then peculiarly called for; and if she be a woman of sensibility, believe me, a look of love, a word of pity or sympathy, will, at times, have a better effect than the prescriptions of her physicians.
Perhaps some calamity, peculiarly her own, may befall her. She may weep over the death of some dear relative or friend; or her spirits and feelings may be affected by various circumstances. Remember that your sympathy, tenderness, and attention, on such occasions, are particularly required.
A man would not, on any account, take up a whip, or a, stick, and beat his wife; but he will, without remorse, use to her language which strikes much deeper to her heart than the lash of any whip he could make use of. "He would not, for the world," says an ingenious writer, "cut her with a knife, but he will, without the least hesitation, cut her with his tongue."
I have known some unfeeling husbands, who have treated their luckless wives with unvaried and unremitting unkindness, till perhaps the arrival of their last illness, and who then became all assiduity and attention. Bat when that period approaches, their remorse, like the remorse of a murderer, is felt too late; the die is cast; and kindness or unkindness can be of little consequence to the poor victim, who only waits to have her eyes closed in the long sleep of death!
Perhaps your wife may be destitute of youth and beauty, or other superficial attractions, which distinguish many of her sex: should this be the case, remember many a plain face conceals a heart of exquisite sensibility and merit; and her consciousness of the defect makes her peculiarly awake to the slightest attention or inattention from you: and just for a moment reflect—
"What is the blooming tincture of the skin, To peace of mind and harmony within? What the bright sparkling of the finest eye, To the soft soothing of a calm reply? Can loveliness of form, or look, or air, With loveliness of words or deeds compare? No: those at first the unwary heart may gain; But these, these only, can the heart retain."
Your wife, though a gentle, amiable creature, may be deficient in mental endowments, and destitute of fancy or sentiment; and you, perhaps a man of taste and talents, are inclined to think lightly of her. This is unjust, unkind and unwise. It is not, believe me, the woman most gifted by nature, or most stored with literary knowledge, who always makes the most comfortable wife; by no, means: your gentle, amiable helpmate may contribute much more to your happiness, more to the regularity, economy, and discipline of your houses and may make your children a much better mother, than many a brilliant dame who could trace, with Moore, Scott, and Byron, every line on the map of taste and sentiment, and descant on the merits and demerits of poetry, as if she had just arrived fresh from the neighbourhood of Parnassus.
Should your wife be a woman of sense, worth, and cultivation, yet not very expert at cutting out a shirt, or making paste, pies, and puddings (though I would not by any means undervalue this necessary part of female knowledge, or tolerate ignorance in my sex respecting them), yet pray, my good sir, do not, on this account only, show discontent and ill-humour towards her. If she is qualified to be your bosom friend, to advise, to comfort, and to soothe you;—if she can instruct your children, enliven your fireside by her conversation, and receive and entertain your friends in a manner which pleases and gratifies you;—be satisfied: we cannot expect to meet in a wife, or indeed in any one, exactly all we could wish. "I can easily," says a sensible friend of mine, "hire a woman to make my linen and dress my dinner, but I cannot so readily procure a friend and companion for myself, and a preceptress for my children." The remark was called forth by his mentioning that he had heard a gentleman, the day before, finding fault with his wife, an amiable, sensible well-informed woman, because she was not clever at pies, puddings, and needle-work! On the other hand, should she be sensible, affectionate, amiable, domestic, yet prevented by circumstances in early life from obtaining much knowledge of books, or mental cultivation, do not therefore think lightly of her; still remember she is your companion, the friend in whom you may confide at all times, and from whom you may obtain counsel and comfort.
Few women are insensible of tender treatment; and I believe the number of those is small indeed who would not recompense it with the most grateful returns. They are naturally frank and affectionate; and, in general, there is nothing but austerity of look and distance of behaviour, that can prevent those amiable qualities from being evinced on every occasion. There are, probably, but few men who have not experienced, during the intervals of leisure and reflection, a conviction of this truth. In the hour of absence and of solitude, who has not felt his heart cleaving to the wife of his bosom? who has not been, at some seasons; deeply impressed with a sense of her amiable disposition and demeanour, of her unwearied endeavours to promote and perpetuate his happiness, and of its being his indispensable duty to show, by the most unequivocal expressions of attachment and of tenderness, his full approbation of her assiduity and faithfulness? But lives not he that has often returned to his habitation fully determined to requite the kindness he has constantly experienced, yet, notwithstanding, has beheld the woman of his heart joyful at his approach without even attempting to execute his purpose?—who has still withheld the rewards of esteem and affection; and, from some motive, the cause of which I never could develop, shrunk from the task of duty, and repressed those soft emotions which might have gladdened the breast of her that was ever anxious to please, always prompt to anticipate his desires, and eager to contribute everything that affection could suggest, or diligence perform, in order to promote and perpetuate his felicity?
When absent, let your letters to your wife be warm and affectionate. A woman's heart is peculiarly formed for tenderness; and every expression of endearment from the man she loves is flattering and pleasing to her. With pride and pleasure does she dwell on each assurance of his affection: and, surely, it is a cold, unmanly thing to deprive her virtuous heart of such a cheap and easy mode of gratifying it. But, really, a man should endeavour not only for an affectionate, but an agreeable manner of writing to his wife. I remember hearing a lady say, "When my husband writes to me, if he can at all glean out any little piece of good news, or pleasing intelligence, he is sure to mention it." Another lady used to remark, "My husband does not intend to give me pain, or to say anything unpleasant when he writes; and yet, I don't know how it is, but I never received a letter from him, that I did not, when I finished it, feel comfortless and dissatisfied."
I really think a husband, whenever he goes from home, should always endeavour, if possible, to bring back some little present to his wife. If ever so trifling or valueless, still the attention gratifies her; and to call forth a smile of good-humour should be always a matter of importance.
Every one who knows anything of the human mind, agrees in acknowledging the power of trifles, in imparting either pain or pleasure. One of our best writers, speaking on this subject, introduces the following sweet lines:—
"Since trifles make the sum of human things, And half our misery from those trifles springs, O! let the ungentle spirit learn from thence, A small unkindness is a great offence. To give rich gifts perhaps we wish in vain, But all may shun the guilt of giving pain."
So much of happiness and comfort in the wedded life depends upon the wife, that we cannot too often nor too earnestly engage her thoughts on the subject of her duties. Duty, to some, is a cold, repulsive word, but only in the discharge of duties that appertain to each condition in life, is happiness ever secured. From the "Whisper" we copy again:—
'Endeavour to make your husband's habitation alluring and delightful to him. Let it be to him a sanctuary to which his heart may always turn from the ills and anxieties of life. Make it a repose from his cares, a shelter from the world, a home not for his person only, but for his heart. He may meet with pleasure in other houses, but let him find happiness in his own. Should he be dejected, soothe him; should he be silent and thoughtful, or even peevish, make allowances for the defects of human nature, and, by your sweetness, gentleness, and good humour, urge him continually to think, though he may not say it, "This woman is indeed a comfort to me. I cannot but love her, and requite such gentleness and affection as they deserve."
I know not two female attractions so captivating to men as delicacy and modesty. Let not the familiar intercourse which marriage produces, banish such powerful charms. On the contrary, this very familiarity should be your strongest incitement in endeavouring to preserve them; and, believe, me, the modesty so pleasing in the bride, may always, in a great degree, be supported by the wife.
"If possible, let your husband suppose you think him a good husband and it will be a strong stimulus to his being so. As long as he thinks he possesses the character, he will take some pains to deserve it: but when he has once lost the name, he will be very apt to abandon the reality altogether. "I remember at one time being acquainted with a lady who was married to a very worthy man. Attentive to all her comforts and wishes, he was just what the world calls a very good husband; and yet his manner to his wife was cold and comfortless, and he was constantly giving her heart, though never her reason, cause to complain of him. But she was a woman of excellent sense, and never upbraided him. On the contrary, he had every cause for supposing she thought him the best husband in the world; and the consequence was, that instead of the jarring and discord which would have been inevitably produced had she been in the habit of finding fault with him, their lives passed on in uninterrupted peace.
I know not any attraction which renders a woman at all times so agreeable to her husband, as cheerfulness or good humour. It possesses the powers ascribed to magic: it gives charms where charms are not; and imparts beauty to the plainest face. Men are naturally more thoughtful and more difficult to amuse and please than women. Full of cares and business, what a relaxation to a man is the cheerful countenance and pleasant voice of the gentle mistress of his home! On the contrary, a gloomy, dissatisfied manner is a poison of affection; and though a man may not seem to notice it, it is chilling and repulsive to his feelings, and he will be very apt to seek elsewhere for those smiles and that cheerfulness which he finds not in his own house.
In the article of dress, study your husband's taste, and endeavour to wear what he thinks becomes you best. The opinion of others on this subject is of very little consequence, if he approves.
Make yourself as useful to him as you can, and let him see you employed as much as possible in economical avocations.
At dinner, endeavour to have his favourite dish dressed and served up in the manner he likes best. In, observing such trifles as these, believe me, gentle lady, you study your own comfort just as much as his.
Perhaps your husband may occasionally bring home an unexpected guest to dinner. This is not at all times convenient. But beware, gentle lady, beware of frowns. Your fare at dinner may be scanty, but make up for the deficiency by smiles and good humour. It is an old remark, "Cheerfulness in the host is always the surest and most agreeable mode of welcome to the guest." Perhaps, too, unseasonable visiters may intrude, or some one not particularly welcome may come to spend a few days with you. Trifling as these circumstances may be, they require a command of feeling and temper: but remember, as you journey on, inclination must be continually sacrificed; and recollect also, that the true spirit of hospitality lies (as an old writer remarks), not in giving great dinners and sumptuous entertainments, but in receiving with kindness and cheerfulness those who come to you, and those who want your assistance.
Endeavour to feel pleased with your husband's bachelor friends. It always vexes and disappoints a man when his wife finds fault with his favourites—the favourites and companions of his youth, and probably those to whom he is bound not only by the ties of friendship, but by the cords of gratitude.
Encourage in your husband a desire for reading aloud at night. When the window curtains are drawn, the candles lighted, and you are all seated after tea round the fire, how can his time be better employed? You have your work to occupy you: he has nothing to do but to sit and to think; and perhaps to think too that this family scene is extremely stupid. Give interest to the monotonous hour, by placing in his hand some entertaining but useful work. The pleasure which you derive from it will encourage him to proceed; while remarks on the pages will afford improving and animating topics for conversation.
Is he fond of music? When an appropriate moment occurs, sit down with cheerfulness to your piano or harp; recollect the airs that are wont to please him most, and indulge him by playing those favourite tunes. Tell me, gentle lady, when was your time at this accomplishment so well devoted? While he was your lover, with what readiness, and in your very best manner, would you touch the chords; and on every occasion what pains did you take to captivate! And now that he is become your husband (me thinks at this moment I see a blush mantling in your cheek), now that he is your husband, has pleasing him become a matter of indifference to you?
Particularly shun what the world calls in ridicule, "Curtain lectures." When you both enter your room at night, and shut to your door, endeavour to shut out at the same moment all discord and contention, and look on your chamber as a retreat from the vexations of the world, a shelter sacred to peace and affection.
I cannot say I much approve of man and wife at all times opening each other's letters. There is more, I think, of vulgar familiarity in this than of delicacy or confidence. Besides, a sealed letter is sacred; and every one likes to have the first reading of his or her own letters.
Perhaps your husband may be fond of absenting himself from home, and giving to others that society which you have a right to expect: clubs, taverns, &c., &c., may be his favourite resort. In this case it may perhaps be necessary to have recourse to mild reasoning; but never—I again repeat—never to clamorous dispute. And the fonder he seems of quitting his home, the greater should be your effort to make yourself and your fireside agreeable to him. This may appear a difficult task; but I recommend nothing that I have not myself seen successfully practised. I once knew a lady who particularly studied her husband's character and disposition; and I have seen her, when he appeared sullen, fretful, and inclined to go out, invite a friend, or perhaps a few friends, to spend the evening, prepare for him at dinner the dish she knew he liked best, and thus, by her kind, cheerful manner, make him forget the peevishness which had taken possession of him. Believe it from me, and let it take deep root, gentle lady, in your mind, that a good-humoured deportment, a comfortable fireside, and a smiling countenance, will do more towards keeping your husband at home than a week's logic on the subject.
Is he fond of fishing, fowling, &c.? When those amusements do not interfere with business or matters of consequence, what harm can result from them? Strive then to enter into his feelings with regard to the pleasure which they seem to afford him, and endeavour to feel interested in his harmless accounts and chat respecting them. Let his favourite dog be your favourite also; and do not with a surly look, as I have seen some wives put on, say, in his hearing, "That Cato, or Rover, or Ranger, is the most troublesome dog and the greatest pest in the world."
If the day he goes out on these rural expeditions be cold or wet, do not omit having his shirt and stockings aired for him at the fireside. Such little attentions never fail to please; and it is well worth your while to obtain good humour by such easy efforts.
Should he be obliged to go to some distant place or foreign land, at once and without indecision, if circumstances render it at all practicable, let your determination be made in the beautiful and expressive language of Scripture: Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me. (Ruth i. 16, 17.) If his lot be comfortless, why not lessen those discomforts by your society? and if pleasure and gayety await him, why leave him exposed to the temptations which pleasure and gayety produce? A woman never appears in so respectable a light, never to no much advantage, as when under the protection of her husband.
Even occasional separations between man and wife I am no friend to, when they can be avoided. It is not to your advantage, believe me, gentle lady, to let him see how well he can do without you. You may probably say, "Absence is at times unavoidable." Granted: I only contend such intervals of absence should be short, and occur as seldom as possible.
Perhaps it may be your luckless lot to be united to an unkind husband—a man who cares not whether he pleases or displeases, whether you are happy or unhappy. If this be the case, hard is your fate, gentle lady, very hard! But the die is cast; and you must carefully remember that no neglect of duty on his part can give a legitimate sanction to a failure of duty on yours. The sacredness of those ties which bind you as a wife remain equally strong and heavy, whatever be the conduct of your husband; and galling as the chain may be, you must only endeavour for resignation to bear it, till the Almighty, by lightening it, pleases to crown your gentleness and efforts with success.
When at the Throne of Grace (I address you as a religious woman), be fervent and persevering in your prayers for your husband; and by your example endeavour to allure him to that heaven towards which you are yourself aspiring: that, if your husband obey not the word, as the sacred writer says, he may, without the word, be won by the conversation (or conduct) of the wife.
Your husband, perhaps, may be addicted to gambling, horse-racing, drinking, &c. These are serious circumstances; and mild remonstrances must be occasionally used to oppose them; but do not let your argument rise to loud or clamorous disputing. Manage your opponent like a skilful general, and constantly watching the appropriate moment for retreat. To convince without irritating, is one of the most difficult as well as most desirable points of argument. Perhaps this may not be in your power: at all events, make the attempt, first praying to God for direction, and then leaving to him the result.
Or, gentle lady, you may, perhaps, be united to a man of a most uncongenial mind, who, though a very good sort of husband, differs from you in every sentiment. What of this? You must only make the best of it. Look around. Numbers have the same and infinitely worse complaints to make; and, truly, when we consider what real misery there is in the world, it seems the height of folly fastidiously and foolishly to refine away our happiness, by allowing such worthless trifles to interfere with our comfort.
There are very few husbands so bad as to be destitute of good qualities, and probably, very decided ones. Let the wife search out and accustom herself to dwell on those good qualities, and let her treat her own errors, not her husband's, with severity. I have seldom known a dispute between man and wife in which faults on both sides were not conspicuous; and really it is no wonder; for we are so quick-sighted to the imperfections of others, so blind and lenient to our own, that in cases of discord and contention, we throw all the blame on the opposite party, and never think of accusing ourselves. In general, at least, this is the case.
I was lately acquainted with a lady, whose manner to her husband often attracted my admiration. Without appearing to do so, she would contrive to lead to those subjects in which he appeared to most advantage. Whenever he spoke, she seemed to listen as if what he was saying was of importance. And if at any time she differed from him in opinion, it was done so gently as scarcely to be perceived even by himself. She was quite as well informed (perhaps more so) and as sensible as himself, and yet she always appeared to think him superior in every point. On all occasions she would refer to him, asking his opinion, and appearing to receive information at the very moment, perhaps, she was herself imparting it. The consequence was, there never was a happier couple, and I am certain he thought her the most superior woman in the world.
I repeat, it is amazing how trifles—the most insignificant trifles—even a word, even a look,—yes, truly, a look, a glance—completely possess the power, at times, of either pleasing, or displeasing. Let this sink deep into your mind: remember, that to endeavour to keep a husband in constant good humour is one of the first duties of a wife.
Perhaps, on some occasion or other, in the frolic of the moment, without in the least degree intending to annoy you, your husband may toy, and laugh, and flirt, while in company, with some pretty girl present. This generally makes a wife look foolish; and it would be as well, nay, much better, if he did not do so. But let not a shade of ill humour cross your brow, nor even by a glance give him or any one present, reason to think his behaviour annoys you. Join in the laugh and chat, and be not outdone in cheerfulness and good humour by any of the party. But remember, gentle lady, there must be no acting in this affair: the effort must extend to your mind as well as your manner; and a, moment's reasoning on the subject will at once restore the banished sunshine. The incomparable Leighton says, "The human heart is like a reservoir of clear water, at the bottom of which lies a portion of mud: stir the mud, and the water gets all sullied. In like manner does some strong passion or peevish feeling rise in the heart, and stain and darken it as the mud does the water." But should there be a prospect of your husband often meeting with this lady in question, endeavour at once to break off the intimacy by bringing forward some pretext consistent with truth (for to truth everything must be sacrificed), such as, You do not like her; The intimacy is not what you would wish, &c. Never, however, avow the real reason: it will only produce discord, and make your husband think you prone to jealousy—a suspicion a woman cannot too carefully guard against. And there is often in men an obstinacy which refuses to be conquered of all beings in the world by a wife. A jealous wife (such is the erroneous opinion of the ill-judging world) is generally considered a proper subject for ridicule; and a woman ought assiduously to conceal from her husband, more than from any one else, any feeling of the kind. Besides, after all, gentle lady, your suspicions may be totally groundless; and you may possibly be tormenting yourself with a whole train of imaginary evils. As you value your peace, then, keep from you, if possible, all such vexatious apprehensions, and remember, a man can very ill bear the idea of being suspected of inconstancy even when guilty; but when innocent, it is intolerable to him.'
Dr. Boardman, in his excellent "Hints on Domestic Happiness," has uttered a timely warning against the depraving influence of Clubs, to which some young married men resort, to their own injury and the destruction of domestic peace.
'I have to do, at present,' he says, 'with certain "avocations and habits which contravene the true idea of home, and are prejudicial to domestic happiness." I have spoken at some length, in this view, of a life of fashionable dissipation, particularly in its influence upon the female sex. The whole range of public amusements might fairly be considered as within the sweep of my subject; but there is one topic which it will not do to pass by. Equal justice ought, in a series of lectures like this, to be meted out to both sexes; and I feel bound to say a few words in respect to CLUBS.
One reason why I do this ha's been given. A second is, that in so far as large cities are concerned, one can hardly sever the mental association which links together Clubs and domestic happiness—or unhappiness. I bring against these institutions no wholesale denunciation. I neither say nor believe that all who belong to them are men of profligate character. I cannot doubt that they comprise individuals not only of high social standing, but of great personal worth. But in dealing with the institutions themselves, I must be permitted to express the conviction that they are unfavourable to the culture of the domestic affections, and hurtful to the morals and manners of society. That this is the common opinion respecting them is beyond a question. Of the respectable people who pass by any fashionable Club-House in an evening, the thoughts of a very large proportion are probably directed, for the moment, with the most intensity, to the homes of its tenantry, with the feeling, "Those would be happier homes if this establishment were out of the way."
The mildest conception of these associations which any one can insist upon, is that given by Mr. Addison, who says, "Our modern celebrated Clubs are founded upon eating and drinking, which are points wherein most men agree, and in which the learned and the illiterate, the dull and the airy, the philosopher and the buffoon, can all of them bear a part." They must be greatly scandalized if billiards and cards do not enter as largely into the recreations they supply, as eating and drinking. There must be some potent attractions which can draw a set of gentlemen away from all other scenes and engagements, domestic and social, moral and religious, literary and political, and hold them together to a late hour, for many nights in succession. If it is social reading, the authors they read may well be flattered with the honours paid them. If it is conversation,
"The feast of reason and the flow of soul."
the talkers must have rare conversational powers. If it is politics, the country must have zealous patriots among her sons. If it is science, no wonder that under the pressure of this prodigious research, the lightning lends its wings to knowledge, that the subjugated earth hastens to reveal its deep arcana to mortal eyes, and that planet after planet should come forth out of the unfathomable abyss of space, and submit to be measured, and weighed, and chronicled, as their older sisters have been. But this is going too far even for the charity which "believeth all things." Those who have never been initiated into the penetralia of these institutions, know enough of them to be satisfied that they are not precisely schools of science—or, if they are, that the sciences they exult in, are not those which soar towards heaven, but those which have to do with the auriferous bowels of the earth, and the full-fed cattle upon its surface.
To come more directly to the point, the allegation made against these Clubs—made in the name of ten thousand injured wives and mothers and children—is, that they become a sort of RIVAL HOME to the home they occupy; that the influence they exert over their members, loosens their domestic ties, indisposes them to their domestic duties, and not unfrequently seduces them into habits of intemperance and gambling. The clients I represent in this argument contend that they are an unnecessary institution—that where gentlemen wish to associate together for literary purposes, there are always within their reach lyceums, athenaeums, libraries, and societies without number; and that as to a social relaxation, it can be had without setting up a quasi-monastery. They urge with truth that any course of social amusements pursued systematically and earnestly by a combination of gentlemen, to the exclusion of ladies, will as really tend to impair, as the companionship of cultivated women does to refine, the manners, and the sensibilities of the heart; that, as a matter of fact, those who become addicted to these coarser pleasures, lose their relish for the best female society; and that the old home sinks in their esteem, as the new one rises. These charges, which cannot be gainsayed, bear not only upon married men, but young men; for the tastes and habits fostered by the Clubs, are precisely those which go to alienate them from the paternal roof, and to unfit them to become heads of families.
After noting down my own reflections on this subject, I met with some observations upon it by an eminent female writer (the best writer, probably, that sex has produced), which one portion of my hearers, as least, will thank me for quoting: they are graphic, forcible, and suggestive: "The Clubs generate and cherish luxurious habits, from their perfect ease, undress, liberty, and inattention to the distinctions of rank; they promote a love of play, and, in short, every temper and spirit which tends to undomesticate; and what adds to the mischief is, all this is attained at a cheap rate compared with what may be procured at home in the same style. A young man in such an artificial state of society, accustomed to the voluptuous ease, refined luxuries, soft accommodations, obsequious attendance, and all the unrestrained indulgences of a fashionable Club, is not to be expected after marriage to take very cordially to a home, unless very extraordinary exertions are made to amuse, to attach, and to interest him; and he is not likely to lend a helping hand to the union, whose most laborious exertions have hitherto been little more than a selfish stratagem to reconcile health with pleasure. Excess of gratification has only served to make him irritable and exacting; it will, of course, be no part of his project to make sacrifices—he will expect to receive them; and, what would appear incredible to the Paladins of gallant times, and the Chevaliers Preux of more heroic days, even in the necessary business of establishing himself for life, he sometimes is more disposed to expect attentions than to make advances." "These indulgences, and this habit of mind, gratify so many passions, that a woman can never hope successfully to counteract the evil by supplying at home, gratifications which are of the same kind, or which gratify the same habits. Now a passion for gratifying vanity, and a spirit of dissipation, is a passion of the same kind; and, therefore, though for a few weeks, a man who has chosen his wife in the public haunts of fashion, and this wife a woman made up of accomplishments, may, from the novelty of the connexion and of the scene, continue domestic; yet, in a little time she will find that those passions to which she has trusted for making pleasant the married life of her husband, will crave the still higher pleasures of the Club; and while these are pursued, she will be consigned over to solitary evenings at home, or driven back to the old dissipations."
If there is any real foundation for these strictures, it cannot excite your surprise that in vindicating the domestic constitution, these associations should be arraigned and condemned as tending to counteract its beneficent operation. The Family is a divine ordinance. It is God's institution for training men. It is vitally connected with the destinies of individuals and nations. Whatever interferes, therefore, with its legitimate influence, must be criminal in God's sight, and a great social evil. On this ground, Clubs are to be reprobated. They are unfavourable to the domestic virtues. They make no man a better husband or father, a better son or brother. If some have mixed in them without being contaminated, this is more than can be said of all. They have inspired many a man with a disrelish for his home; have made many a young wife water her couch with tears; and kept many a widowed mother walking her parlours in lonely anguish till after midnight, awaiting the return of her wayward son from the card-table. Does it become a community, who would guard their homes as they do their altars, because they know their altars will not long be worth guarding if their homes are desecrated to encourage CLUBS?
The following should be read by every woman in the country, married or unmarried—yes, it should be committed to memory and repeated three times a day, for it contains more truth than many volumes that have been written on the subject:—
'How often we hear a man say, I am going to California, Australia, or somewhere else. You ask him the reason of his going away, and the answer is, in nine cases out of ten, I am not happy at home. I have been unfortunate in business, and I have made up my mind to try my luck in California. The world seems to go against me. While fortune favoured me, there were those whom I thought to be my friends, but when the scale turned, they also turned the cold shoulder against me. My wife, she that should have been the first to have stood by me, and encourage me, was first to point the finger of scorn and say, "It is your own fault; why has this or that one been so fortunate? If you had attended to your business as they have, you would not be where you are now." These and other like insinuations, often drive a man to find other society, other pleasures, in consequence of being unhappy at home. He may have children that he loves, he cannot enjoy life with them as he would; he may love them as dearly as ever; yet home is made unpleasant in consequence of that cold indifference of the wife. Now, I would say to all such wives, sisters, and in fact, all females, deal gently with him that is in trouble; remember that he is very easily excited. A little word, carelessly thrown out, may inflict a wound time never can heal. Then be cautious; a man is but human—therefore he is liable to err. If you see him going wrong, ever meet him with a smile, and with the kiss of affection; show that you love him by repeated acts of kindness; let your friendship be unbounded; try to beguile his unhappy hours in pleasant conversation. By so doing, you may save yourself and children from an unhappy future.
When a man is in trouble, it is but a little word that may ruin him; it is but a little word that may save him.'
Marriage, says Jeremy Taylor, is the proper scene of piety and patience; of the duty of parents and the charity of relations. Here kindness is spread abroad, and love is united and made firm as a centre. Marriage is the nursery of Heaven. The virgin sends prayers to God, but she carries but one soul to him; but the state of marriage fills up the numbers of the elect, and hath in it the labour of love and the delicacies of friendship, the blessing of society, and the union of hands and hearts. It hath in it less of beauty but more of safety than the single life; it hath more ease but less danger; it is more merry and more sad; it is fuller of sorrows and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but is supported by all the strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful. Marriage is the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities and churches, and Heaven itself. Celibole, like the fly in the heart of an apple, dwells in perpetual sweetness, but sits alone, and is confined and dies in singularity; but marriage, like the useful bee, builds a house, and gathers sweetness from every flower, and labours and unites into societies and republics, and sends out colonies, and feeds the world with delicacies, and obeys their king, and keeps order, and exercises many virtues, and promotes the interest of mankind, and is that state of good things to which God hath designed the present constitution of the world.
The every-day married lady is the inventor of a thing which few foreign nations have as yet adopted either in their houses or languages. This thing is "comfort." The word cannot well be defined; the items that enter into its composition being so numerous, that a description would read like a catalogue. We all understand however what it means, although few of us are sensible of the source of the enjoyment. A widower has very little comfort, and a bachelor, none at all—while a married man, provided his wife be an every-day married lady—enjoys it in perfection. But he enjoys it unconsciously, and therefore ungratefully; it is a thing of course—a necessary, a right, of the want of which he complains without being distinctly sensible of its presence. Even when it acquires sufficient intensity to arrest his attention, when his features and his heart soften, and he looks round with a half smile on his face, and says, "This is comfort!" it never occurs to him to inquire where it all comes from. His every-day wife is sitting quietly in the corner; it was not she who lighted the fire, or dressed the dinner, or drew the curtains; and it never occurs to him to think that all these, and a hundred other circumstances of the moment, owe their virtue to her spiriting; and that the comfort which enriches the atmosphere, which sparkles in the embers, which broods in the shadowy parts of the room, which glows in his own full heart, emanates from her, and encircles her like an aureola.
When once a woman is married, when once she has enlisted among the matrons of the land; let not her fancy dream of perpetual admiration; let her not be sketching out endless mazes of pleasure. The mistress of a family has ceased to be a girl. She can no longer be frivolous or childish with impunity. The angel of courtship has sunk into a woman; and that woman will be valued principally as her fondness lies in retirement, and her pleasures in the nursery of her children. And woe to the mother who is obliged to abandon her children during the greater part of the day to hirelings—no, not obliged; for there is no duty so imperious, no social convenience or fashionable custom so commanding, as to oblige her to such shameful neglect: for maternal care, let her remember, supercedes all other duties.
In the matrimonial character which you have now assumed, gentle lady, no longer let your fancy wander to scenes of pleasure or dissipation. Let home be now your empire, your world! Let home be now the sole scene of your wishes, your thoughts, your plans, your exertions. Let home be now the stage on which, in the varied character of wife, of mother, and of mistress, you strive to act and shine with splendour. In its sober, quiet scenes, let your heart cast its anchor, let your feelings and pursuits all be centred. And beyond the spreading oaks that shadow and shelter your dwelling, let not your fancy wander. Leave to your husband to distinguish himself by his valour or his talents. Do you seek for fame at home; and let the applause of your God, of your husband, of your children, and your servants, weave for your brow a never-fading chaplet.
An ingenious writer says, "If a painter wished to draw the very finest object in the world, it would be the picture of a wife, with eyes expressing the serenity of her mind, and a countenance beaming with benevolence; one hand lulling to rest on her bosom a lovely infant, the other employed in presenting a moral page to a second sweet baby, who stands at her knee, listening to the words of truth and wisdom from its incomparable mother."
I am a peculiar friend to cheerfulness. Not that kind of cheerfulness which the wise man calls the mirth of fools,—always laughing and talking, exhausting itself in jests and puns, and then sinking into silence and gloom when the object that inspired it has disappeared. No—no! The cheerfulness I would recommend must belong to the heart, and be connected with the temper, and even with the principles. Addison says, "I cannot but look on a cheerful state of mind as a constant, habitual gratitude to the great Author of nature. An inward cheerfulness is an implicit praise and thanksgiving to Providence under all its dispensations: it is a kind of acquiescence in the state wherein we are placed, and a secret approval of the Divine Will in his conduct towards us." I think there is something very lovely in seeing a woman overcoming those little domestic disquiets which every mistress of a family has to contend with; sitting down to her breakfast-table in the morning with a cheerful, smiling countenance, and endeavouring to promote innocent and pleasant conversation among her little circle. But vain will be her amiable efforts at cheerfulness, if she be not assisted by her husband and the other members around; and truly it is an unpleasant sight to see at family when collected together, instead of enlivening the quiet scene with a little good-humoured chat, sitting like so many statues, as if each was unworthy of the attention of the other. And then, when a stranger comes in, O dear! such smiles, and animation, and loquacity! "Let my lot be to please at home," says the poet; and truly I cannot help feeling a contemptuous opinion of those persons, young or old, male or female, who lavish their good humour and pleasantry in company, and hoard up sullenness and silence for the sincere and loving group which compose their fireside.
They do not behold home with the same eyes as did the writer of the following lines:—
"'Home's the resort of love, of joy, of peace;'' So says the bard, and so say truth and grace; Home is the scene where truth and candour move, The only scene of true and genuine love. 'To balls, and routs for fame let others roam, Be mine the happier lot to please at home.' Clear then the stage: no scenery we require, Save the snug circle round the parlour fire; And enter, marshall'd in procession fair, Each happier influence that governs there! First, Love, by Friendship mellow'd into bliss, Lights the warm glow, and sanctifies the kiss; When, fondly welcomed to the accustom'd seat, In sweet complacence wife and husband meet; Look mutual pleasure, mutual purpose share, Repose from labours to unite in care! Ambition! Does Ambition there reside? Yes: when the boy, in manly mood astride, With ruby lip and eyes of sweetest blue, And flaxen locks, and cheeks of rosy hue, (Of headstrong prowess innocently vain), Canters;—the jockey of his father's cane: While Emulation in the daughter's heart Bears a more mild, though not less powerful, part, With zeal to shine her little bosom warms, And in the romp the future housewife forms: Think how Joy animates, intense though meek, The fading roses on their grandame's cheek, When, proud the frolic children to survey, She feels and owns an interest in their play; Tells at each call the story ten times told, And forwards every wish their whims unfold."
"To be agreeable, and even entertaining, in our family circle," says a celebrated writer, "is not only a positive duty, but an absolute morality."
We cannot help quoting the following passage from Miss H. More, as an admirable illustration of true sweetness of temper, patience, and self-denial—qualities so essential in a wife and mistress of a family:—"Remember, that life is not entirely made up of great evils, or heavy trials, but that the perpetual recurrence of petty evils and small trials is the ordinary and appointed exercise of Christian graces. To bear with the feelings of those about us, with their infirmities, their bad judgments, their ill-breeding, their perverse tempers—to endure neglect where we feel we have deserved attention, and ingratitude where we expected thanks—to bear with the company of disagreeable people, whom Providence has placed in our way, and whom he has perhaps provided on purpose for the trial of our virtue—these are the best exercise; and the better because not chosen by ourselves. To bear with vexations in business, with disappointments in our expectations, with interruptions in our retirement, with folly, intrusion, disturbance, in short, with whatever opposes our will and contradicts our humour—this habitual acquiescence appears to be the very essence of self-denial. These constant, inevitable, but inferior evils, properly improved, furnish a good moral discipline, and might well, in the days of ignorance, have superseded pilgrimage and penance." Another remark of the same author is also excellent: "To sustain a fit of sickness may exhibit as true a heroism as to lead an army. To bear a deep affliction well, calls for as high exertion of soul as to storm a town; and to meet death with Christian resolution, is an act of courage in which many a woman has triumphed, and many a philosopher, and even some generals, have failed."
THREE WAYS OF MANAGING A WIFE.
"I allude to that false and contemptible kind of decision which we term obstinacy;—a stubbornness of temper which can assign no reasons but mere will, for a constancy which acts in the nature of dead weight, rather than strength-resembling less the reaction of a powerful spring, than the gravitation of a big stone."
"I HAVE said, Mrs. Wilson, that it is my will to have it so, and I thought you knew me well enough to know that my will is unalterable. Therefore, if you please, let me hear no more about it."
"But, my dear husband, the boy—"
"But, madam, I assure you there is no room for buts in the matter. Am I not master of my own house, and fully capable of governing it?"
"Yes, certainly, my dear, only I happen to know something about this school, which I think would influence you in forming a judgment, if you would listen to me for a moment."
"My judgment is already formed, madam, and is not likely to be altered by anything a woman could say. You may be a very good judge of the merits of a pudding, or the size of a stocking, but this is a matter in which I do not wish for any advice."
So Master James Wilson, a little, delicate, backward boy of ten years, was sent to a large public school, in which the amount of study required was so much beyond his ability, and the rules so severe, that the heavy penalties daily incurred, seriously affected both his health and happiness. It was with an aching heart that the fond mother saw him creeping slowly to school in the morning with a pale and dejected countenance, and returning home, fatigued in body, soured in spirit, and rapidly learning to detest the very sight of his books, as the instruments of his wretchedness. The severity of the husband and father had in this instance produced its usual unhappy effect, by tempting Mrs. Wilson to injudicious indulgence of her son in private, and the perpetual oscillations between the extremes of harshness and fondness thus experienced, rendered the poor boy a weak and unprincipled character, anxious only to escape the consequences of wrongdoing, without any regard to the motives of his conduct.
Not many months after his entrance into the public school, he was violently thrown to the ground during recess, by an older boy, and his limb so much injured by the fall, that a long and dangerous illness was the consequence. Mrs. Wilson was extremely desirous to try the effects of the cold water treatment on the diseased limb, but her husband had adopted a system of his own, composed of all the most objectionable features of other systems, and would not relinquish such an opportunity of testing his skill as a physician. The child was accordingly steamed and blistered until the inflammation became frightful; and then cupping, leeching, &c., were resorted to, without any other effect than greatly to reduce the strength of the patient.
"Husband," Mrs. Wilson ventured at last to say, "the poor child is getting worse every day; and if he lives through it, will, I fear, lose his limb; will you not try what Dr. S. can do with the cold-water treatment?"
"If I could be astonished at any degree of folly on the part of a woman," was his reply, "I should be surprised at such a question. I am doing what I think best for the boy, and you are well aware that my mind was long since made up about the different systems of medicine. Do you confine yourself to nursing the child, and leave his treatment to me."
Ah, this domestic "making up one's mind!" It is a process easily and often rapidly gone through, but its consequences are sometimes so far-reaching and abiding, that we may well tremble as we hear the words carelessly pronounced.
After a period of intense suffering, James Wilson rose from his sick-bed, but he had lost for ever the use of the injured limb; and his mother could not but feel that it was in consequence of the ignorant and barbarous treatment he had received. But remonstrance was vain; the law of the Medes and Persians was not more unalterable than that which regulated the household of Mr. Wilson, not only in matters of consequence, but in the smallest details of domestic economy.
A new cooking apparatus had long been needed in the kitchen of Mr. Wilson, and as this was a matter clearly within her province, his wife hoped she might be able to procure a range which had often been declared indispensable by her domestics. But in this, she was doomed to be disappointed. Her husband remembered the cooking-stove which had been the admiration of his childhood, and resolved, if a change must be made, to have one of that identical pattern in his own house.
"But your mother's stove, though a good one for those days," said Mrs. Wilson, "was one of the first invented, and destitute of most of the conveniences which now accompany them. It consumed, beside, double the amount of fuel required in one of the modern stoves."
"What an absurd idea! A stove is a stove. I take it, and what was good enough for my mother is good enough for my wife. That which answered all the purposes of cooking in so large a family as my father's, might suffice, I should imagine, in our small one. At any rate, I choose to get this pattern, and therefore no more be said on the subject."
It was nothing to Mr. Wilson, that the expenditure of fuel, and time, and labour was so greatly increased by his arrangement—it was nothing that his wife was constantly annoyed by complaints, threats, and changes in her kitchen, or that several mortifying failures in her cuisine had resulted from the obstinate refusal of the oven to bake—what was all this to the luxury of having his own way in his own house?
But the pleasures of absolutism are not unalloyed. Mr. Wilson, like other despots, was obeyed only from necessity; and whenever an opportunity occurred of cheating him, it was generally improved. His wife was a quiet, timid woman, with no pretensions to brilliancy of intellect, but possessing what is far better, good common sense, a warm heart, and tastes and feelings thoroughly domestic. With a different husband—one who understood her disposition, and would have encouraged her to rely on her own judgment, and to act with energy and efficiency, she would have made a useful and happy wife and mother; but as it was, neglected and regarded as a mere household drudge—with all her warm affections chilled and driven back upon her own heart—she became a silent schemer, an adroit dissimulator, seeking only (in self-defence as she believed) to carry out her own plans as often as possible, in spite of her lord and master.
Mr. Bennet, the neighbour and friend of Mr. Wilson, was shocked at the petty tyranny he evinced, and thanked his stars that he knew better than to follow such an example. Though so long accustomed to consult only his own inclinations (for Mr. Bennet married late in life), he took pleasure in referring everything to the choice of his amiable companion, only reserving to himself the privilege of the veto, that indispensable requisite to a "proper balance of power." Let us intrude on the conjugal tete-a-tete, the first year after marriage, that we may better understand the meaning of this "reserved right." The parties were about to commence housekeeping, and the subject under consideration was the renting of a house.
"Which of those houses do you intend to take?" inquired the wife.
"Just which you prefer, my dear. I wish you to please yourself in the matter."
"Well, then, if I may choose, I shall say the cottage by all means—the other house is sadly out of repair, much larger than we need, and will require so much furniture to make it comfortable."
"I am rather surprised at your choice, my dear—the rooms at the cottage are so small, and those in the other house so large and airy—do as you please, but I must say I am surprised. Such nice airy rooms."
"But they are gloomy and dilapidated, and will require so much expense to make them comfortable. Still, if you prefer them—"
"Oh, that is nothing, you are to choose, you know, but I dislike small, confined rooms, and the cottage is nothing but a bird's-nest."
"Do you not remember how we used to admire it when Mrs. Murray lived there?"
"Oh, certainly, certainly, take it if you like; but the rooms are so small, and I never can breathe in a small room. Those in the large house are just the right size, and not at all gloomy in my eyes; but of course do as you please. I rather wonder at your choice, however."
"Well, then, what do you say to the new house on the hill? That is neither too large nor too small, and it is such a convenient distance from your office; besides the grounds are delightful. I could be very happy there."
"Really, Mrs. Bennet, you have a singular taste. The neighbourhood is, I dare say, detestable, and the dampness of the walls, the smell of new paint, and a hundred other things, would be hard to bear. Notwithstanding, if you choose the new house, we will take it; but the rooms in the other tenement are so large and airy, and I do so like large rooms—well, what do you say?"
With a suppressed sigh, the young wife answered—"I think, on the whole, we had better take the large house."
"I was sure you would come over to my opinion!" was the husband's exulting exclamation; "see what it is to have a sensible wife, and an accommodating husband."
The large house was taken, and various were the discomforts experienced by Mrs. Bennet in her new abode. The chimneys smoked, the rain came in through numerous crevices in the roof, and the wide halls, and lofty apartments, many of which were unfurnished, struck a chill to the heart of the lonely wife, who, if she visited them after sunset, trembled at the sound of her own footfalls echoing through the house. But she made few complaints, and Mr. Bennet, even if aware of some trifling annoyances, was happy in the consciousness that he had magnanimously submitted to his wife the choice of a habitation. Fortunately for him, that wife was a woman of sense, firmness, and principle, who studied her husband's peculiarities that she might as far as possible adapt herself to them; though, it must be confessed, the attempt was often fruitless, and she was compelled to acknowledge to her own heart, that the open assumption of authority is not the only way in which domestic despotism manifests itself.
When Mr. Bennet became a father, in the first gush of parental emotion he forgot even the exercise of the veto, in reference to the arrangements for the comfort of the little stranger, so that for a few weeks the happy mother carried out her own plans without any interference.
"Have you decided on a name for this dear little girl?" said Mrs. Bennet, as they sat together, one morning, caressing the object of so many hopes, and of so much affection.
"I wish you to name her, my dear," he replied; "it is your privilege to do so."
"I should like to call her Mary, if you have no objection—it is the name of my mother, therefore very dear to me."
"Is it possible you can like that common name so well? For my part I am tired of the very sight and sound of it. It can be nicknamed, too, and Molly, you must confess, is not very euphonious. I hoped you might choose the name of Ruth: it is a scriptural name, simple and sweet."
"It happens, unfortunately, to be one I particularly dislike, but as you do not like Mary, perhaps we can select one in which we shall both agree. What do you say to Martha? It is our sister's name, and a scriptural one also," she added, with a smile.
"Oh, I should never think of anything but Patty. Surely you could select a better name than that. Ruth is much prettier—what a pity you do not like it! I admire it greatly; but my taste is not much. Well, please yourself, only I am sorry you cannot fancy Ruth."
"How would you like Lucy? There can be no objection to that on the score of nicknames, and it is easily spoken."
"Yes, and so is Polly, if that were all. But you must think of some other name beside Lucy. I once knew a girl of that name who was my perfect aversion, and she has spoiled it for me. Ruth is the best name, after all, pity you cannot think so. But choose something else, if you please."
Various were the names suggested by Mrs. Bennet, and rejected by her husband, some on one ground, and some on another, still with the same ending—"I wish you could like Ruth"—until wearied by the discussion, and hopeless of gaining anything by its continuance, she replied to his request that she would please herself—
"Let her be called Ruth, if you prefer it."
"How delighted I am that we are always of the same opinion at last—it quite repays me for the concession some might imagine me to make in submitting these things to the judgment of my wife."
As years passed on, and matters of greater importance came up for decision, Mrs. Bennet was sometimes compelled from principle to abide by her own opinion, though at an expense of personal comfort which few could appreciate. She had yielded so long and so often to the wearisome pertinacity of her husband, that when she first dared to do what he had always boasted of permitting, he could hardly credit his senses.
"Do you really mean," he inquired one day, long after the scene we have just described, "to forbid young Barton's visiting our children?"
"Did you not tell me to do just as I pleased about it?"
"Yes, to be sure—but I thought you would of course take my advice about it, as usual."
"I could not, because I know, what you do not, that young Barton is a depraved and dangerous character, and Ruth and Harry are just of an age to be attracted by the false glitter of his external advantages. Where the temporal and eternal welfare of my children is concerned, my dear husband, you must allow me to follow my own convictions of duty. In all things where conscience is not concerned, I shall, as I have uniformly done, yield my own preference and wishes to yours."
"Well," said Mr. Bennet to himself, as he turned away, "women are inexplicable beings, and I begin to think neighbour Wilson's way of managing them is better than mine, after all. If you give them even a loophole to creep out at, they will be sure, sooner or later, to rebel openly, and set up for themselves. I am too old to change now, but if I were to begin life again, I would manage so as to secure submission from my wife on all points. It is the only way to preserve domestic harmony."
It was at the close of a lovely day in the "month of roses," that Robert Manly brought his youthful bride to their own pleasant home, and for the fist time, welcomed her as its mistress. They were both very happy, for young love shed its roseate hues over all around, and they had just spoken those solemn words which bound them to each other, in joy and sorrow, sickness and health, prosperity and adversity, till separated by death.
"What a paradise it is!" exclaimed the delighted Ellen; "I shall want nothing on earth, but the occasional society of my friends, to render my felicity complete."
A kiss was the only reply of the husband, as he gazed tenderly on the bright face so fondly upturned to his own, for though he had early learned the sad lesson of which she was yet ignorant, that perfect and abiding happiness is not the growth of earth, he could not rudely dispel her dream of bliss, by reflections that must have seemed unsuited to the occasion. Young as he was, Robert Manly had been trained in the school of adversity, and its stern but valuable lessons had not been thrown away upon him. The only son of his mother, and she a widow, he had been compelled, almost in childhood, to depend upon his own exertions for support, and, carefully guarded by his excellent parent from evil companions and influences, had early established a character for energy and integrity, which was worth more to him than thousands of gold and silver. He was now a partner in the respectable mercantile firm which he had first entered as a poor and friendless clerk; and was reaping the rich reward of uprightness and honour, in the confidence and respect of all with whom he was associated in business. While still very young, he formed an attachment for the daughter of his employer, a lovely, dark-eyed girl, whose sweet voice and, endearing attentions to the lonely boy won his heart, before he had thought of regarding her in any other light than that of a playful and engaging child. She had grown up to womanhood at his side, and every year strengthened the tie that bound them to each other, though he could not but feel with pain, that the education she was receiving was far from being a useful or rational one. As the youngest of a large family, and the pet and plaything of the whole, Ellen was trained in the very lap of luxury and indulgence; and her lover was compelled to admit to himself, that however highly educated, amiable, and accomplished she might be, she was wholly ignorant of many things pertaining to her duties as the mistress of a family. To his mother, the dear confidant of all his joys and sorrows, he expressed his apprehensions on this subject.
"Have you committed yourself, my son?" she inquired.
"Certainly, in honour, and in fact. I love Ellen with all my heart, and have no doubt that her native strength of character, and affection for me, will make her all I could desire, when once she feels the necessity for exertion."
"Youth is always sanguine," was the reply; "however, my dear boy, from my heart I pray that your hopes be fulfilled. I regret that you have chosen a wife who will have everything to learn after marriage, but the choice is made, and much will now depend on yourself, as regards the result. You will find that deficiency of knowledge in domestic matters, on the part of a wife, materially affects the comfort and happiness of her husband; and if, on feeling this, you become impatient and ill-humoured, this will discourage and alienate her, and the almost certain loss of domestic happiness will be the consequence. On the contrary kindness and encouragement on your part, if she is what you think her, will be a constant stimulus to exertion, and thus in time all your expectations may be realized. Fortunately, you have been brought up by an old-fashioned mother, who believed that boys might be made useful at home, and have learned much that will be of advantage to you both in a home of your own. Never forget, my son, that a kind expression of your wishes will do far more to influence the conduct of a woman of sense who loves you, than harshness or rebuke. The power of gentleness is always irresistible, when brought to bear on noble and generous minds."
The lesson thus given, was not forgotten or disregarded. Soon, after his marriage, young Manly found that, lovely, accomplished, and intelligent as she was, his wife was wholly incompetent to the task of managing a household; and when, by the discharge of a worthless servant, they were for the first time left alone, her perplexity and helplessness would have been ridiculous, had not the subject been too serious to be thus disposed of. As it was, he lost neither his spirits nor his temper, but cheerfully and hopefully sought, through her affections, to rouse her to exertion.
"I am certain there is nothing about the house you cannot do as well as others," he said to her as she was lamenting her deficiencies, "if you will only make the attempt; and the plainest food would be far sweeter to me prepared by my wife, than the most costly delicacies from any other hand. Our united skill will, I have no doubt, prove a fair substitute for the help we have lost, until we can procure more valuable assistance."
Thus encouraged, the young wife, with tears and smiles contending on her sunny face, commenced the work of practical housekeeping, and, though her mistakes and failures were almost innumerable, had made so much progress before another girl was found, that she was deeply interested in her duties, and determined to understand them thoroughly. The next time her kitchen was left vacant (for in our country these things are constantly happening), she was in a measure independent, and it was one of the proudest moments of her life, when she placed before her husband bread of her own making, which he pronounced the most delicious he had ever eaten. Let not my young readers suppose that Mrs. Manly sacrificed any part of her refinement by becoming a skilful and useful housewife. She still dearly loved music, and drawing, and literature, and communion with cultivated minds, and was not less a lady in the parlour because she had learned the uses and importance of the kitchen. But we will let her speak for herself, of the change wrought in her habits and views, in a conversation with the mother of her beloved Robert.
"Will you not now come to us," she said, "and take up your abode with us permanently? If you knew how much and how long we have both wished it, I am sure you would not refuse.
"I do know it, my dear," replied the venerable matron, "but I have hitherto refused, because I thought it best for you both, to learn to depend on your own resources as early as possible. I knew too that a young housekeeper, to whom everything is strange and new, might find it embarrassing to have an old woman in so, near a relation, always looking on, and noticing defects should any happen to exist. I have therefore, until now, preferred remaining by himself, but I have not been estranged from you in heart. I have watched with the most intense interest your whole course thus far, and, my beloved child, I can no longer withhold the need of approbation which is so justly your due. I own, I trembled for the happiness of my dear son, when I learned that his choice had fallen on a fashionably educated young lady, like yourself, but I knew not as he did, the sterling worth of character concealed beneath that glittering exterior. The God of his fathers has indeed been gracious to him, in giving him a treasure whose price is above rubies, even a virtuous woman, in whom his heart can safely trust."
"Oh, my dear mother!" exclaimed the young wife, while tears choked her utterance, "you would not say so if you knew all—if you knew how entirely I owe everything that I now am, and all my present happiness, to the generous forbearance, the delicate kindness of my beloved husband. He has borne with my ignorance and helplessness, encouraged my first miserable attempts to do right, and soothed and praised me when ready to despair of ever becoming what I ought to be. He has taught me that the true end and aim of life is not to seek my own enjoyment, but the good of others, and the glory of my Father in Heaven. From my inmost soul I thank you for training up such a son and such a husband, and earnestly pray that I may be enabled so to guide my own darling boy, that some heart may thus be blessed by my exertions, as mine has been by your maternal care and faithfulness, for my own experience has convinced me that the training of the boy has far more to do with forming the character of the husband, than all other influences combined."