LEAVING those more general of phases of Love I shall now consider conjugal affection an attraction which binds together only two individuals just one man and just one woman, leading to the marriage compact. Some persons may at once pronounce this to be a selfish phase of love, as it includes but two, when fraternal love is so very broad. We would say it is not selfish, when we pause to consider its demands: that a man give all of his love to one woman, and that he ask simply for all of her love in return. If this is granted the exchange is fair and just. And if a woman can give all of her love to one man, and all she asks is a return of his undivided love, that is fair, and equally just. But she does not always get it! She may get a part, and it may be a meagre part, while some other woman gets the most; in that case it is very unfair, very selfish, and unjust.
Love for love is the only recompense; no fortune, no position, nor fame, can be equivalent, and any man or woman who demands such a boon as all the love a human heart may yield, and in return only gives a part of his or hers, but favours others with the greater share, offers for a priceless jewel a worthless bauble which can never satisfy, and, in a moral sense, is more guilty than one who accepts money under false pretence.
The heart may open its petals day by day,
For the present good of humanity, and for the welfare of posterity, this most important phase of love has been too much neglected. Seldom is the theme advanced in the social circle, or from the public rostrum; and the clergy hold themselves aloof from the pulpit investigation of this, which is professed to be the basis of every Christian family.
These expounders of religious matters freely descant upon the love of God to man and man's fidelity to God; but never have we heard a sermon from the text, "Husbands, love your wives," nor from "Wives, love your husbands," the fulfilment of which would be the establishment of Eden here on earth, and a preparatory means to enjoy heaven.
A disregard of the importance of this subject is evident even in the family circle. If the junior members commence to speak of whom they love, and why, the parents arrest the words by "Hush, don't talk of that." Yet these parents have loved and married, and now they forbid reference to the subject by these novitiates!
How is wholesome knowledge to be acquired upon this most important question of "What is Love?" if the subject must be ignored?
It surely is a great mistake to keep the youth in ignorance of what they should early be informed to guide them wisely in their matrimonial choice. But parents often act as if love were contraband, and sinful to confess; or as if marriage were a trifling circumstance, and not to be improved upon.
No doubt but there are some suspicious ones, even dwelling in your midst, who would not listen to the subject if it were being discussed, for fear their minds would sustain a shock from what they might see or hear.
How pure-minded such persons are! How very immaculate! So very clear, they are almost transparent; and were we to meet them we might see the shadow of some dark deeds performed, or their faces might reveal the evil thoughts they would conceal. Such are not yet prepared to rend the curtain which time and circumstances have woven out of error and prejudice, that they may catch a glimpse of the purer light which now reflects upon the mysteries of love.
This suspected impropriety so frequently evinced is not peculiar to the ignorant and unrefined ; but persons well informed on other topics fail to see the benefit accruing from the study of love, the evidence of which we have often met in coming into contact with the world. I will give an instance from my early experience, while on a lecturing tour, when I travelled alone, quite unlike the present time, with no efficient staff to pave the way, no lady friend, no maid. To do my own advertising I must leave my place of business on Friday, and prepare for a course of lectures for the following week. 'Tis true I could not do all the work myself, with just one pair of hands and ome pair of lips, so I would call upon some who could assist, such as editors and clergymen; for both are potent agents if they choose to act. And I beg leave to say that both have usually been most courteous, and have rendered material aid by their kind expressions, both verbally and through the Press, for which I am most grateful. On the occasion referred to, I called upon the clergymen to enlist their interest in the cause. Of the first I asked, as a favour, that he would read a notice from his pulpit; I preceded the request by handing him a programme of my subjects and a complimentary ticket. I did not want to buy the man; it was my compliment to him, and I wished by his presence to compliment myself, as I am always glad to have clever persons present.
This clergyman kindly took the programme and read the page; then, with a genial smile, remarked, "Yes, Madam, I will read your notice; these are all useful subjects." Then I said, "Good sir, will you be kind enough to read it twice, after both morning and evening services" that all the more may hear? If it will not infringe upon your conscience." To this he gave consent with seeming pleasure and remarked that he had no scruples against reading any notice from the pulpit which would help a useful cause. He then pleasantly related the circumstance of one of his congregation having lost a cow, a red cow, with white spots upon it; and that a notice of the same was given him to read; and by so doing, before the week had passed the cow was found. That was an act of practical Christianity, I said, and if the sermon failed to take effect the cow at least was found, to which he mirthfully assented.
Then I called upon another, an older man, whose locks of grey indicated much brain work. He lived in a large and well-appointed house. He sat in his easy chair, his feet upon an ottoman, and the Bible on his knee. The programme of subjects, complimentary ticket, and notice were given to him, with the same request. He glanced at the programme for a moment, then, looking over his glasses, gave me a searching glance, and said, in not the most encouraging tone, "What do you lecture for?" If anyone ever had a work to do, and felt that he must do it or be unhappy, and someone of whom he hoped for help should say, in a satirical way, "What do you do it for?" he may jndge something of how I felt; and I was prompted to say what I did not. I could have said, with a free, good will: "I lecture, doubtless, for the same reason that you preach to do good and make money! However, as he was my senior, I did not say it all, but in a meek and humble way, as a woman must, simply said: "I lecture, sir, to do good and make money."
Then he read my programme down until he came to the line "Love, Courtship, and Marriage," when, with emphasis, he said, "No good will surely come from that?" Then I felt still worse, to think that he should speak that way upon a subject I prized so highly, almost above all others; and since that time I have erased those frightful words from my public papers, and have substituted "Hearts and Homes." I asked this clergyman if he had ever seen any unhappiness in the marriage state. He answered in the affirmative. I then asked if he supposed that all of the married members of his congregation were living in peace and love at home, and he said he thought not. Then I said, for this reason the subject should be discussed, so that the young people might court more wisely, and be more fortunate in their marriages than their parents were. He replied, "The object may be well," but he presumed "they would marry whom they wished; and that lecturing would not change their choice." What a faithless man that was! He had no faith in public teaching. I wondered if he had in preaching.
I make no great profession, nor claim much beyond the practice of the golden rule, but I am sure that my faith surpasses the faith of that professor; for I believe that good results may arise from the proper discussion of all important subjects, whether social, political, or religious; that every sermon coming from an earnest heart may awaken thought and serve to lessen sin; and that love may be elucidated, and the mystery somewhat removed; that marriages may be more complete not dependent upon the legal act alone, but that the union be sanctified by a holier power, and consummated through the influence of wisely guided love.
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