But the Pepys' circumstances gradually became more comfortable, particularly after Samuel became Clerk of the Acts of the Navy, and could afford a fine house and good appointments, several maids, and a coach of his own. Both husband and wife spent a good deal on dress, and Pepys took great pride in his wife's appearance. Lord Sandwich once asked a friend, in Pepys' hearing, what he thought of the latter's wife. Do you not think he hath a great beauty to his wife ? " "Upon my word he hath," was the enthusiastic answer. " Which," comments Pepys, as he narrates the incident ' I was not a little proud of."
A Happy Couple
He often accompanies her shopping, and helps to choose petticoats and gloves and other articles of apparel, and sometimes, after church, they walk to Gray's Inn together to observe the fashions of the ladies, when Mrs. Pepys wants to make herself some new clothes.
She was almost too fond of dress, and occasionally needed her husband's restraining hand in the matter of personal adornment. For a long time they disagreed over her wearing black patches, but Pepys at last gave in, and was forced to admit that they made her look " very pretty." But he never approved of her artificial curls.
They really had a very happy time together, visiting friends, going to see all the new plays, driving abroad in the most fashionable garments they possessed - they both liked this very much - and occasionally seeing bodies hanged at Tyburn by way of a change. Mrs. Pepys found time amid her household duties for lessons in dancing, painting, singing, and arithmetic. Her husband rather disapproved of the frequency of the dancing master's visits, but he took a great interest in his wife's progress in all these subjects.
But they had serious quarrels sometimes. The worst were due to Pepys inordinate admiration for pretty faces. His wife did not like the way his eyes wandered from the stage at the playhouse, and she did not approve of the amount of attention he paid her various pretty serving-maids. Once she appeared between his drawn bed-curtains with a red-hot pair of tongs in her hand. We are not surprised to hear that Pepys was dismayed, and went to some trouble to coax her into good humour again. If, however, Pepys was so upset that he "wept to himself for grief," she invariably melted absolutely and was "mighty kind."
She certainly had reason to be jealous. There were several pretty women whom Pepys "could not forbear to love exceedingly," and sometimes he and his wife would argue together about the charms of some fair lady, he in their favour, she against, till both got angry, and Mrs. Pepys retired weeping to bed. He himself says that his wife " do find, with reason, that, in the company of Pierce, Knipp, or other women that I love, I do not value her or mind her as I ought." And his behaviour in church, when unaccompanied by his wife, was atrocious.
He is, indeed, very difficult to understand, this Pepys. His tenderness towards his little wife when she is ill is very charming. He sits with her during long evenings when she is suffering from toothache, with her face so swollen that he is "frighted to see it." And yet he is angry with her when her new shoes prevent her from walking fast enough to please him, or when the meat is underdone, or the sauce too sweet. But, on the whole, they get on very well, and, although Mrs. Pepys died at the age of twenty-nine, her husband never married again, though at that time second and third marriages were very common indeed.
Nurse - The Misleading Saying : "Better to be an Old Man's Darling than a Young Man's
Young girls are attracted to elderly men more often than are young men to elderly women, and when a marriage between the latter occurs there is generally some sordid, mercenary motive at the bottom of it. It is not always so with girls. They do not seem to realise the tremendous barrier a great disparity of years will make ; and, indeed, the difference between twenty and fifty-five does not seem nearly so great as the difference between thirty and sixty-five. At fifty-five most men are still full of vigour, but there is no getting away from the fact that they have lived their lives. They are beginning to tire of the world and its ways, and to prefer the quiet of their own fireside to the gaieties that would be attractive to a young wife. It is this very feeling of weariness that often makes an elderly man desire a wife. He is really looking for a woman to make his home homelike. But how many of them would choose a woman of their own age, or even approximate to it ? Almost invariably a man's thoughts will turn to someone young enough to be his own daughter, and at her feet he will lay his heart. And many a young girl feels flattered by the attentions of anyone considerably older than herself.
It is like putting a jaded horse to run in harness with a fresh young filly..
It will be difficult for the woman to keep happily young and to enjoy the pleasures that belong by right to youth while her husband is growing too old to partake of any of them. It will be harder still for the man to try to keep pace with his wife while old age comes stalking nearer and nearer.