SIMPLE instinct can no more be trusted to be the guide of love than we can trust it in the building of a ship, or in playing a symphony of Beethoven's. The terrible misery of blighted love in so many lives tells us, with sad emphasis, the imperative need of knowledge.
Lift the curtain from married life, and we see on every side the sepulchres of bleeding hearts. The air resounds with mournful wails from the lips of suffering millions in truth, scarcely more than one-third of the married population are really contented with their fate.
While upon the surface all is fair, the canker-worm of trouble is gnawing at the heart; but the outside world is not aware of all this secret pain, for those who bear it have learned to wear a mask to hide their real condition, and they can assume the garb of genuine contentment. Go where you may to church, to the public hall, or to the social circle and your eye will rest on one or more of these sorrow-stricken beings, who have learned to so disguise the facts that they are not suspected; and, in conversation, each addresses the other in kindest tones "My dear!" or "My darling!" but, when at home and the doors are shut, it is snarl, snarl, snarl! Snarlings are the frequent notes of married people.
To prove the difficulty of deciding from the outward appearance the condition of the mind, I will give a case to which my attention was directed by a landlady with whom I was once staying. She said, "Did you see that pleasant couple sitting at your right, on the second row of chairs?" I said I saw a good-appearing couple there. The landlady continued: "They are a very happy pair. They live in a pretty cottage on the hillside, surrounded by trees and flowers. They are very charming, and models of married life."
Before I left the town, I received a beautiful bouquet, with a note neatly tied upon the stem, which contained these words: "I beg the privilege of an interview. If agreeable, please appoint an hour I wish to give you some of my experience;" and the name of this happy-appearing lady was appended. At once, in haste, I wrote a note to appoint an hour, and posted it, for I was anxious to learn the sweet experience of this happy wife, who, with her happy husband, dwelt in the pretty cottage on the hillside.
But when she came she told me now miserable her life had been: that her husband and she could not agree upon any important points whatever; that her married life had been a failure; and that all the pleasure she found was in the growth of her plants and beauty of her flowers. I thought, O God, where is their a happy pair? And echo answered, Where? It may be in the household of the present reader, I hope so any way. I am sure there are some very happily married people, for some have frankly told me so. When I hear women say their husbands are very kind, and thoughtful for their wants; that they are very good no better could be found (and there are no happier nor more grateful wives); I realize that such are actual living examples of what the married may attain; and they inspire me with confidence and faith in the holiness and sanctity of this old, time-honoured institution, without which I should be compelled to banish all hope of ever seeing marriage upon a higher basis.
Suffering arising from incompatible marriages far surpasses physical pain. One may endure the torture of neuralgia, and submit to the languishing prostration of dyspepsia; but few can bear the anguish of a broken heart, a spirit crushed, the banishment of all hope of domestic bliss by the bitterness of neglect or the estrangement of the one we once had madly loved. And such cases of suffering we often meet among both sexes. Yes; for men strong, able-bodied men have told me of their sorrow and unhappiness at home; of disappointment in the character or disposition of the chosen wife; that, alas! there proved to be no companionship, and they were almost driven to despair to leave their own firesides to secure any peace in life. And some have wept while telling of their sorrows; others have brushed away the tears, lest one should deem them weak. But men need not hesitate to sometimes shed a tear; it does not imply that they are effeminate, or mentally weak; but, on the contrary, that they have hearts to feel, and sympathy to comprehend, the woes and sufferings of humankind.
Women, too, with trembling lips, and pale sad faces come, and often pour upon my ears what they have never told before. All has been kept from mother, sister, and dearest friend, lest they should give pity, and pity such do not want: it is help they need, but doctors can do but little; for there is no drug to meet the case, no "balm in Gilead " to heal a bruised and bleeding heart. It is only a word of kindness, a word of courage we can give, to strengthen the faltering faith in God and man, to make them brave to battle on through life's storms and tempests, and to hope for rest only when the strife is over.
This sad condition is not found only among the unpretentious classes, and in the humbler ranks; but among the educated, the cultured and refined. Barristers and clergymen, and ladies of high birth, are all representatives of the same misfortune, as well as the middle class. A lawyer, eminent in his profession, told me that his home was barren, and rid of charm, because the wife he had married was no companion for him, and in many ways unsuited to his taste.
A clergyman told me that ever since his wedding day he had seen his great mistake. That the presence of his wife was most repulsive, and the sound of her footstep upon the floors at home, or on the church aisle, sent a feeling of terror through his frame. What a terrible sermon a minister must give under such conditions. When persons know themselves they can better judge who shall be the companion for their lives.
Love must not be sole ruler, it needs wisdom to control it; and if persons madly love, and marry upon impulse when all reason wars against it, the result will be that said:
In evidence of this and to prove it is not alone a morbid state of mind which prompts this solemn strain, a gentleman called one day after hearing my remarks the night before, when I had said among the married not more than one pair out of three of them were happy. He remarked, "Doctor, I don't think from what you said that you know much about the number of happy married people." I replied, "Do you believe there are more happy than I suggested?" "No," he emphatically rejoined; "not one-tenth are happy."
And he was a married man, no doubt, but he had had experiences. On another occasion I was having my medical lecture apparatus changed, the ghastly figures removed, when a young woman in a listless manner, resting her hand upon the table while watching the performance, said, "You are not going to have your skeletons to-night?" "No," I replied, "I shall lecture on love to-night, and shall not need to illustrate by skeletons." "True," she calmly said, "for there is one in nearly every house." What did she mean? Surely not that in every house did hang a human skeleton, such as I had there, white and perfect! She doubtless meant the skeletons of love; that the rich warm glow of actual love gave place to the merest skeleton. Poor girl! I pitied her, to learn that she had so early seen those tragic sights the skeletons of love.
She was a governess, and had boarded in different families, and had learned her lesson from actual life, which was far from being romantic. I hope her future home will be free from all such spectral forms.
If young men do not marry now before they are twenty-five, they often postpone nuptials until they are thirty, and many conclude to "back it " for the rest of their lives, for the experience of their friends does not seem inviting.
Some young aspirants may ask the question, "If persons are unhappy in marriage, can they not separate and be divorced ?" Yes, some can; but some cannot. It is not an easy task to break the matrimonial bonds, for they are tightly riven. Some desperate deed must be performed, some outrage be committed to prompt the courts to sanction the rupture of this contract; and many times the ten thousand small annoyances are more difficult to bear, more wearing on the body and soul, than some great or weightier wrong; but under such conditions there is no redress.
If a young couple wish to marry, the task is easy and soon performed. The swain leads the maiden into the presence of the magistrate or parson, and there declares intentions. The parson bids them to clasp hands and stand erect; his ceremony is brief; when over, the married pair may turn away and take their chance for happiness. It may be seen in five years after, more or less, their joy has changed to sorrow. Now, this sad couple make appeals to the same source that wed them, and ask to be unmarried, because their fancied love had changed, and they had learned to dislike one another as earnestly as ever they once loved. "Unmarried!" the astonished parson now exclaims, "I cannot unniarry you." Ah no! he had the legal right to bind the two into a co-partnership that cannot be absolved by him; now a course of litigation must be carried out in order to secure the freedom they desire: and even then that is a doubtful process, often attended by much trouble and expense, and requiring years of time.
A case comes to my mind of a young woman who had married one she thought she loved, but after more acquaintance and years of great unhappiness, she was fully convinced that she did not, and never could love him; and for more than all things else, she wished the freedom she once possessed, and she sought for a bill of divorce; and to obtain this, it took three years of time, twenty-two law-suits, with postponements, and cost the little fortune her father left her at his death, before she gained her liberty. And she almost lost her life through the troubles and vexations her husband's opposition caused, for he threw all the barriers he could between her and the object she had in view. She said he opposed her, not because he wished her for his wife, but because he wished for the money her father left her; however, he failed to get that, for the lawyers got it all, and she thought they deserved it more than he, for through them she was again made free.
And in case of separation, suppose there should be a little family of children, two or three, what would become of these? Someone might say divide them. If there were three, how could they be divided so as to make the division equal between the two? One party must take two, the other one. Which will take the two? The strongest, no doubt, if such should be his wish; but if one child should be very young he might kindly condescend that the mother shall have the custody of it, because he would not wish the care. A generous act, to give away what he does not wish to keep! If this little one should be a daughter, when she comes to the age of three or four, and sees other little girls with fathers to love, sees them smoothing their father's hair and face, while sitting on his knee, this little child will feel the desire to do the same, and will ask her mother if she has no papa. "Yes," her mother might reply. "Where is my papa?" the child will exclaim. "Gone away with another woman," might be the answer given. "When will papa come back? I want my papa," the pleading child persists. She wants to smooth her father's brow, and gently stroke his face; she wants to put her arms about her father's neck, as other little daughters do. But there is no father for her, no paternal love bestowed upon that child, and through all her life she feels the dearth of love she should have had. And if the father had taken her, to care for the best he could, she would always have wished for the mother's love, and have needed the mother's fostering care, which every child should get. And such waifs are to be daily met in all the walks of life, pleading in their hearts for paternal or maternal love.
I was sitting in my room one day; the rain was falling fast. So great was the storm that ladies were compelled to stay indoors; but a young girl was ushered in, all dripping with the rain. She took a seat near by, and at first she wore a happy face, perhaps to find me quite alone. After the casual conversation incident to strangers meeting, her countenance changed, and she arose and stood before me, and in a timid, plaintive tone, she said, "May I call you mother?" "Why ask a stranger for such a privilege?" I said. The girl replied, "My father and mother parted when I was very young; I have been with strangers ever since, and now I want to talk to some kind woman who can understand me, and I feel that you can." I took her by the hand, and drew her to my lap, and placed my arms about her as if she were my child. She told me of her troubles, and the trials she had passed through, and asked me questions. I counselled her and gave her advice. We kissed and parted. I have never seen that daughter since; and since she has never seen this mother. So these separations are often fraught with sorrow to the helpless children, when the fetters are broken that had held the parents in unwilling bondage. But all this proves that it would be wiser to marry right, and have no need to separate, than try to learn how to live in harmony.
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.
© avictorian.com | Proudly Hosted by Network Solutions
All rights reserved.
Our graphics, owner's Mission Statement and presentation are all copyright protected;
invasion of this privacy (by Plagiarism, using source HTML, and/or images/graphics will result in legal action.
Pages are scanned on a regular basis for evidence of Hyper-Theft.