Worse than all others is the couple who nag and wrangle and jar all day long, whether alone or in company. One is for ever in opposition to the other, and, without the slightest regard for consistency, contradicts everything the other says. Such a home as this must be of the order described by the Bishop of London as "hell upon earth." Fortunately, his lordship was able to add that he had seen some English homes that were a foretaste of heaven, where love, joy, peace, and calm made a serene atmosphere.
Some people are quarrelsome by nature, and when two of the kind are life partners, the results are disastrous. It was of Walter Savage Landor that his own brother remarked "he is seldom out of a passion or a sulky fit, excepting at dinner, when he is more boisterous and good-humoured than ever." This was not at all the sort of man to marry a woman much younger than himself, who never thought a conversation complete without a quarrel, " never realised that more can be said in one minute than can be forgotten in a lifetime." This couple, as may be imagined, parted after some years of wedded unhappiness. She might have been quite happy with a man of her own age, or a man of any age with sufficient sense of justice to blame himself and not his wife when he lost his keys, his purse, his handkerchief.
Byron, as we all know. was perpetually at war with his wife. In thinking of him and of the Carlyles, one wonders if it is true, as some great man once said, that " geniuses should be forbidden to marry." On the other hand, we have the example of Disraeli, who never quarrelled with his wife, who was so many years older than himself. As for Dr. Johnson, he also married a widow twenty years older than himself. The couple fell out on their way to church, but lived in a harmony, if not complete yet nearly so for the rest of their days. As proof of this, it is recorded that when he was thirty-one and his wife fifty-one, he addressed her in a letter as " My dear girl," and "My charming love." Speaking of her to Mrs. Thrale, he had nothing to complain of but her " particular reverence for cleanliness," a characteristic that many a man has found inconvenient. The god of cleanliness is an exacting deity !
A Forbidden Topic
One of the sources of dissension between husband and wife is the constant complaint of the latter about her difficulties with the servants. Charles Kingsley, on his marriage, made an excellent rule that all discussions relating to servants and domestic routine were to be finished by ten o'clock in the morning, and never referred to during the day. What a relief this would be to many and many a harassed husband, who is weary of hearing the disparaging and perpetual fault-finding of his wife about her servants, her tradesmen, her dressmaker, and her tailor.
Haydn, from the noblest motives, married an ill-tempered, disagreeable woman, who made his life wretched. He must have felt this all the more because he had been previously in love with her charming and amiable sister, who went into a convent in order to escape the scolding tongue of the future Madame Haydn. The great composer, however, must have been destitute of that invaluable quality - commonsense. Otherwise he would have known that a scolding woman scolds on through life. If this particular specimen was bad enough to drive her younger sister into a nunnery, what could Haydn have expected for himself ?
There are one-sided matrimonial disputes which belie the old proverb that tells us "it takes two to make a quarrel." There are husbands and wives so docile and submissive by nature that by offering little or no resistance they actually encourage the love of quarrelling, the lust for combat that characterises their partners. John Wesley, great man as he was, was one of these. He was seriously henpecked by a masterful wife. She was a victim to an almost insane jealousy, and entertained suspicions of her husband in directions for which there was no possible foundation. She spied upon him, and it is on record that on one occasion she was found foaming with rage, dragging her husband about the floor by his hair. Small wonder that he promulgated the doctrine of submission and obedience in women, and was very severe upon their faults.
Another couple whose quarrels were due to jealousy on the part of the wife was Andrea del Sarto and his wife. She was so violent in her rages that she inflicted blows, not only upon her husband, but upon his pupils. It is the way of quarrels to spread like measles. Ill-temper is terribly contagious, much more so than are amiable qualities. If the master of the house comes down in a bad mood to breakfast, the servants catch it immediately. He says something rough to the parlour-maid, who tells the cook, whereupon the whole staff, whether small or large, is aware that " master's in one of his tempers." In the same way, many an ill-tempered husband or wife has made an ill-tempered wife or husband. It is one of the tragic things of life that we can pick up bad things with ease, whereas we are sometimes whole years in acquiring what is good.
By "Madge" (Mrs. Humphry)
Somehow the expression "Poor man!" rises inevitably to the lips when contemplating the union in question. But experienced though the widow bride may be (she may even have been married twice before), the bachelor may be capable of holding his own by force of character, especially if his years are sufficiently advanced for him to have formed settled habits. The lady may also have attained to that time of life when customs have become fixed in various ways, but her disposition may be of that accommodating kind which cheerfully forsakes old ways for new.