A Wise Precept
A woman detects character quicker than does a man, and it is the duty therefore of a wife to warn her husband against friends whom she instinctively feels are likely to injure him morally. At the same time, a wife who is wise does not begin married life by insisting on her husband giving up his male friends, his club, and all the interests of bachelorhood. A man is not reclaimed, but rather made worse, by excessive domesticity. A husband who occasionally goes to a club is much better than one who bores himself and bores his wife by being too much at home.
And here we would venture to remark that there is no use in a wife trying to reclaim a husband unless she makes a simultaneous similar attempt to reclaim herself. It is our unconscious, much more than our conscious, influence that tells. And the failure at perfect self-improvement which a wife will experience will make her more patient with her husband. She will be better able to obey that wise precept of Thomas a Kempis, "Be not angry that you cannot make others (including the husband) as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be."
The other day 1 heard one woman passing in the street say to another, "He's a man who would be nothing without his wife." Happy is the wife who can reclaim her husband from naughtiness, or the state of being naught, and make something of him! In his "Ethics of the Dust" Ruskin concludes a description of a true wife with these words: "So far as she rules, all must be right, or nothing is. She must be endur-ingly, incorruptibly good, instinctively, infallibly wise - wise for self-renunciation; wise, not that she may set herself above her husband, but that she may never fail from his side."
It has been said that if a man is a real Christian his cat and his dog will be the better for it, and certainly a wife cannot lead a consistent Christian life without her husband being the better for it. I know of a man who was at a meeting where a youth calling himself an atheist talked much blasphemous nonsense. Presently an elderly man at his elbow remarked, "Ay, master, he is young; let him marry a good woman, and bring up four children, and he will know whether there is a God or not."
Smaller matters have also to be considered. The wife who would influence her husband for good must not neglect her personal appearance. No man will be reclaimed by a matron whose everyday toilet suggests a feather-bed tied round with a string. When a husband was a lover his wife used pretty wiles to make him admire her; let her now be equally charming in order to draw him away from evil. And, of course, she will do everything in her power to make his home cheerful and comfortable so that he will have no excuse for staying with bad company in questionable resorts.
But it is not only from vice that a good wife tries to reclaim her husband, but from uncouth ways and tricks of manner that hinder his usefulness. If Dr. Johnson's wife had lived there would have been no hoarding up of orange-peel, no touching all the posts in walking along the street, no eating and drinking with disgusting voracity.
How to Detect a Bachelor
If Oliver Goldsmith had married he never would have worn that memorable and ridiculous coat. Whenever you find a man talking absurdly, oddly dressed, or exhibiting any eccentricity of manner, you may be sure that he is not married.
By Pearl Adam Sir Walter Scott's Wife
He first met his wife when on a holiday in the romantic Lake District. He and his cousin were out riding one morning, and passed a lady, also on horseback, who was so attractive that neither rested till he found out her abode. She proved to be staying at the same house as themselves, and great was the competition between the cousins that night to secure her as partner for the supper-dance at a ball which was given. The young lawyer-poet won; and closer acquaintance with the lady only served to deepen the impression made by the fleeting glance in the morning.
Charlotte Margaret Carpenter, though not, strictly speaking, a beauty, was well dowered with all the accessories of beauty which combine to dazzle the eye with loveliness and conceal the lack of the beauty of feature. Her complexion was of the clearest and lightest olive. Her eyes were large, deep set, and of the dazzling brown of the south. Her hair was abundant, silky, and black as the raven's wing. A mingling of shyness, natural in a young girl not much used to society, and of arch gaiety, pleasing in spirited youth, was well expressed by the hesitating charm of a slightly French accent, her origin being French. She was in every way calculated to strike fire from a young man and a poet. The first meeting at the ball sealed their fate.
Scott acquainted his mother of the successful issue of his short courtship in a letter extremely characteristic of the formality of the time.
"Without flying into raptures - for I must assure you that my judgment as well as my affections are consulted upon this occasion - without flying into raptures, then, I may safely assure you that her temper is sweet and cheerful, her understanding good, and, what I know will give you pleasure, her principles of religion very serious."
In spite of the extreme sobriety of this catalogue of his lady's charms and advantages, Scott was apparently very much like any other lover, and bored his friends with the raptures he spared his mother. His friend Shortreed, with whom he stayed shortly after his engagement, records a most "joyous evening."
"Scott," he wrote, "was sair beside himself about Miss Carpenter. We toasted her twenty times over, and sat together, he raving about her, until it was one o'clock in the morning."
Most of the courtship was conducted by letter, and many were the occasions Scott employed as an excuse for correspondence. He tormented himself, as lovers do, by conjuring up all sorts of imaginary obstacles to their marriage. He supposed this and supposed that, and made many an indirect appeal for sympathy on account of all these "perhapses" to his fiancee; who, however, was a practical, common-sense girl, with not overmuch sympathy for the self-inflicted griefs of her poetic lover.
A Practical Damsel
"Indeed, Mr. Scott, I am by no means pleased with all this writing. I have told you how much I dislike it, and yet you still persist in asking me to write, and that by return of post. Oh, you really are quite out of your senses! I should not have indulged you in that whim of yours had you not given me that hint that my silence gives an air of mystery. . . . Before I conclude this famous epistle, I will give you a little hint - that is, not to put so many musts in your letters; it is beginning rather too soon. And another thing is that I take the liberty not to mind them much, but I expect you to mind me. You must take care of yourself; you must think of me."
They were married in Carlisle, and Scott carried off his Southron bride to brave the curiosity of his relatives and the criticism which all Scots reserve for those of the South.
It was not surprising that many of the things she did provoked uneasiness among Scott's friends and family. It was rumoured as a ghastly detail of the lady's dreadful heathen habits that she actually was accustomed to sit in the best room on weekdays. Her natural leanings were, of course, to the bright side of life, but she possessed a common-sense which made her determined to conquer the good opinion of her husband's friends, and she did so with complete success. She made a charming hostess, and contributed very largely to the gaiety of heart and enjoyment in which Scott did his best early work. She was his faithful companion in times good and bad.
It is true that when the bad times came, and Scott was faced with the ruin of all his commercial ventures, Lady Scott, enfeebled in health, was unable to grasp the severity of the blow. It found her too weak in body and in spirit to offer any cheerful fight against adversity, and Scott seems by his diary, without making complaint upon it, to miss the cheering words of his wife. The break-up of their Edinburgh home affected her very badly, and her asthmatic complaints developed into hydropsy. She lingered on for many a long day, and her husband's diaries are a pathetic record of alternating hope and fear.
She died at Abbotsford on May 16, 1826. Sir Walter was away at the time, and hastened, heartbroken, to the deathbed.
"I think," he wrote, "my heart will break. I am deprived of the sharer of my thoughts and counsels, who could always talk down my sense of the calamitous apprehensions which break the heart that must bear them alone. . . . Cerements of lead and of wood hold her; cold earth must have her soon. But it is not my Charlotte, it is not the bride of my youth, the mother of my children, that will be laid among the ruins of Dryburgh, which we have so often visited in gaiety and pastime. No. No. She is sentient and conscious of my emotions somewhere - somehow; where we cannot tell; how we cannot tell; yet would I not at this moment renounce the mysterious yet certain hope that I shall see her in a better world, for all that this world can give me. Alone or if anything touches me - the choking sensation. I have been to her room; there was no voice in it, no stirring. All was calm - calm as death."
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