L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by C. S. RANN, OXFORD;
Messr. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Messrs. PEARSON
And ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Messrs. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, August 15, 1789.
Virginibus puerisque canto.
NOTHING has so often interrupted the harmony of private families, and set the whole genealogical table of Relations in arms against each other, as that unfortunate propensity which the old and the young have ever discovered to differ as much as possible in their opinion on almost every subject that comes in their way. Various in consequence are the disputes, and bitter the altercations which arise from the diversity of opinion on matters in themselves of small consequence, such as the shortness of allowances, and the length of bills, the propriety of saving money, and the pleasure of spending it. But there is one subject, which above all others affords never-failing matter of contention between father, uncles, or guardians, and their sons, nephews or wards. I mean (to use the words of a celebrated dramatic authoress) “The great universal purpose, MATRIMONY,” on which the above-mentioned personages have adopted Ideas so very dissimilar, that to endeavour to reconcile them would be a vain attempt. For nothing is more true, than that the young have taken it into their heads to imagine that youth and beauty, good temper and good sense, are the best recommendations in a wife; that on this occasion similarity of dispositions should be consulted rather than equality of fortunes, and that mutual affection is a surer basis of conjugal happiness than a hundred thousand pounds. While the old, on the other hand, that it is no matter how wide the tempers are separated, provided that the estates join: in order to get possession of a rotten borough, would gladly exchange all the beauties of the person, and all the graces of the mind; and (rather than stand upon trifles) give the four cardinal virtues into the bargain.
Between two opinions so warmly urged and so strongly supported, it is not easy to fix any decision; but I must confess that however, in other respects, I may lean to the side of the young, (well knowing that their experience and coolness must nine times out of ten give them the advantage over their adversaries) yet in this one instance I must revolt to the other party; and shall in this paper endeavour to prove, that marrying from motives of affection is a very improper and absurd action, injurious to our own happiness as individuals, and detrimental to the interests of the community.
That it is injurious to our happiness as individuals, will appear self- evident if we reflect but one moment on the many sorrows, cares, and vexations, which are (from their own confession) attendant on people who marry from Affection, from which the pursuers of the opposite system are absolutely and entirely free. Who has ever been in the House with a new-married Couple who are absurd enough to let their happiness depend on each other, and not observed what endless doubts, anxieties, and fears each party is led into by their unnatural, and ill-placed partiality. If the Lady looks too pale or too red, too thin or too plump, the Husband is immediately under the most cruel alarm for her health. He has a whole list of Disorders which he thinks she may have, and what is worse, a whole list of Remedies to cure them. While on the other side, the Lady (not to be behindhand with him) is in continual apprehension from the falling of Horses, and the bursting of Guns: Most inhumanely insists on tying a silk handkerchief round his neck in a room full of company, and if business should call him ten miles from home, parts from him with as much reluctance as if he were going to the Antipodes.
Now all this is morally impossible to happen to those who marry on what are (properly enough) called prudential motives. For so warm is their indifference, so impassioned their apathy, and so harmonious their disagreement, that nothing which happens to the one can in the least affect the other; and indeed how should it? for their interests like two parallel lines, though they appear close together, yet will never be found to meet. A circumstance which in all the distresses, and misfortunes of this world, must give them greatly the advantage over the others. For in these situations it is usual enough to hear the former exclaim, “My Dear, I feel most for you, It is your sufferings which afflict me most.” Whereas the latter profess to feel, and probably do feel, only for themselves. The superiority, therefore, which I contend for, is here proved with Algebraic accuracy since by all the rules of Arithmetic whatever, it is easier to bear one person’s misfortunes than two.
Nor will the advantages of prudential marriages stop here, since it is also owing to their prevalence, that we see every day such instances of the sublimest virtues amongst the married of both Sexes, especially in the higher ranks of life; (who in this as in every thing else, seem particularly desirous of setting a good example for their inferiors;) nothing being more common than to see Husbands losing their fortunes, and Wives their reputations, without causing any alteration in the behaviour, or any diminution in the Affection of the other. So truly are Resignation and Fortitude the peculiar characteristics of the present age.
All this, and much more may be said against matches of Affection, as they concern our private happiness. I shall now consider in what various and important circumstances they may very materially affect the Interests of the Community.
My first and greatest objection to them arises from observing the large families with which those who marry for love are commonly blessed, and the consequent increase of Population in a Country which cannot already support half its inhabitants.
It must indeed be owned, that the Legislature of this Kingdom (who seem equally fearful with myself of the misfortune of being too populous) have done all in their power to diminish the number of his Majesty’s subjects, by passing the Marriage Act. And their efforts have not been altogether without effect; yet it may be fairly inferred, that our Country is even now much too crowded with Inhabitants, both from the immense annual exports of each Sex which we find ourselves obliged to make to Botany Bay and other places; and from the very small provision for many of those who are left behind. We have at present Officers without pay, and Clergymen without livings; Lawyers without practice, and Statesmen without places. And I can never readily admit those to be friends to their Country, who would willingly bring into the world a set of beings, who when they come to years of discretion, may perhaps have no other alternative than either to starve or be hanged.
Nor is it to the interests of the Community, considered in a general light, only, that this absurd custom will be found detrimental; for it will in a very particular manner affect several descriptions of Men, and will be the utter ruin of a large class of our fellow Subjects, whose deep learning and extensive utility demand a very different return at our hands. For if once people take it into their heads to marry for love, there is no knowing whether they may not continue to love all their lives. There will consequently be no such thing as Divorces; and then what is to become of the Gentlemen of Doctors’ Commons? Such an idea must alarm every humane mind. It is indeed (as I have often heard the old say) exceedingly difficult ever to bring young people to consider; yet on this occasion, I must beg them to remember, that the education of a Civil Lawyer is a work of time, labour, and expense; that many hundreds, and perhaps some thousands must have been spent in Oxford and London before he can receive a Penny; and will ask whether it is consistent with common humanity or common sense, to let those men starve who have been at so much pains to qualify themselves for their service? I must therefore hope, that Ladies and Gentlemen will consider that matter in its proper light, and act accordingly.
After this, it is perhaps scarce necessary to enumerate the less important sufferings which some of the inferior ranks of life would experience, if the present fashionable mode of forming matrimonial connections, and its equally fashionable consequences were to be abolished. Yet (as all Authors have a fellow feeling for each other) I must be allowed to lament the situation of our Newswriters, who during the present recess of Parliament would be terribly embarrassed to find materials to fill their papers, should this resource fail them. And I am still more seriously concerned for the fate of those ingenious gentlemen, who (doubtless with an intention to reform the Age) have been at the pains of publishing a very copious and account of all the various Heroes and Heroines, who for these last twenty years have been most celebrated for fashionable infidelity. Which said narrations, together With the elegant and interesting Frontispieces annexed, must have tended highly to the Edification of the British Youth of both Sexes, and should, I think, have well entitled the Compilers of them of the most exalted rewards.
I should trust, therefore, that the above-mentioned arguments, if considered in their proper light, would be sufficient to deter the Young from marrying on motives of Affection; or at least encourage the Old to use every method to put a stop to such flagitious proceedings, by finding fit and suitable matches for them, and thus force them to be happy against their wills. If, however, what I have offered on the subject does not carry with it force enough to combat early prejudices, and alter confirmed opinions, I will fairly own that I have but one more argument to offer, and if that fails, I must leave such obstinate people to the fate they deserve. I will desire them to remember, that supposing the Agrémens attendant on each species of matrimonial connection to be equal at first, that of mine must be allowed the preference, as being infinitely more certain and durable. For beauty and elegance are very fleeting commodities, wit and good temper very uncertain ones, and a woman may sometimes chance to outlive them all. Whereas, farms, and woods, India bonds, and annuities, are very solid and substantial goods; will, with a little management, last during (what the law terms) a man’s natural life; that is, till his spirits and constitution are ruined; and are to be obtained at the very trifling sacrifice of social happiness and domestic comfort.
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