Whether girls realise it or not, certainly an immense number of them associate marriage with the very healthy desire of having children of their own. With a little further cultivation they will come to think of the man they wish to marry as the father of these unborn children; and most women - even girls - can early discriminate between the man they enjoy dancing with and the man they would like to be some day head of their house and father of their children. This develops what I hold to be of such great importance: that the girl herself should feel respect, or at any rate approval, of the man she thinks of marrying. There should be many solid reasons for entering into so important a partnership beyond the fact of love, even if that be ever so real. At the same time I do not mean to imply that the man's moral standard in the past should necessarily have been the same as the woman's. The man who understands women extracts far more love from them - and so, in the end, makes them happier - than the man who knows little about them. I hold it to be a great mistake for a man to have that kind of fear of the girl he is engaged to or of his wife which leads him to think it is desirable to deceive her. That seems the great danger of the tone of the present day, a woman expecting too much of men.

One of the chief difficulties in talking or writing of love is that the word may be interpreted in so many ways. To generalise on love is almost as difficult as to define it; it means such different things to different people. Girls who read novels and poetry are apt to think that the fancy they feel for the first man they meet is the great passion which they will never get over; whereas, broadly speaking, strong feeling most often belongs to inconstant natures. As I think of it, real love never exists until it is tried by adversity; but I am the last to deny that the real thing - however you define it - gives dignity and nobility to life, and makes it worth living. 'C'est bien à l'amour qu'il en faut venir à toute époque, en toutes circonstances, en tout pays, tant qu'on veut chercher à comprendre pourquoi l'on vit sans vouloir le demander à Dieu.'

Thomas Moore puts it:

When first the Fount of life was flowing,

Heavy and dark and cold it ran, Every gloomy instant growing

Bitterer to the lips of Man; Till Love came by one lucky minute, Light of heart and fair of brow,

And flung his sweetening cordial in it,

Proudly saying, 'Taste it now.'

Mr. Austin has a pretty definition of love:

'Tis a fifth season, a sixth sense, a light, A warmth beyond the cunning of the sun.

Another element; fire, water, air, Nor burn, nor quench, nor feed it, for it lives

Steeped in its self-provided atmosphere.

Doubt and fear were linked with it in very early days, for Plotinus says of love: 'It is worth the labour to consider well of Love, whether it be a god, or a devil, or a passion of the mind, or partly god, partly devil, partly passion.' Dr. South puts it: 'Love is the great instrument and engine of Nature, the bond and cement of society, the spring and spirit of the universe. It is of that active, restless nature that it must of necessity exert itself; and like the fire, to which it is often compared, it is not a free agent to choose whether it will heat or no, but it streams forth by natural results and unavoidable emanations, so that it will fasten upon an inferior, unsuitable object rather than none at all. The soul may sooner leave off to subsist than to love; and, like the vine, it withers and dies if it has nothing to embrace.' Here are some lines by a Frenchwoman who feels the sadness of love: Car la douleur, hélas! est l'ombre de l'amour Et le suit, pas à pas, et la nuit et le jour; Elle est même à tel point sa compagne fidèle, Que l'amour à la fin ne peut vivre sans elle. Or s'il en est ainsi, qui pourrait me blâmer Qu'ayant peur de souffrir je n'ose pas aimer?

This kind of cowardice, however, lasts a very short time, and the father's advice to his child in George Eliot's poem comes much nearer to what we most of us practise:

'Where blooms, O my father, a thornless Rose?'

'That can I not tell thee, my child; Not one on the bosom of earth e'er grows

But wounds whom its charms have beguiled.'

'Would I'd a Rose on my bosom to lie!

But I shrink from the piercing thorn. I long, but I dare not, its point defy;

I long, and I gaze forlorn.'

'Not so, 0 my child - round the stem again

Thy resolute fingers entwine; Forego not the joy for its sister - pain. Let the Rose, the sweet Rose, be thine.'

Here is one more example of the many forms love takes - perhaps the noblest and the best: renunciation, no matter why or wherefor, but for duty's sake. It is one of Mrs. Browning's 'sonnets from the Portuguese':

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand

Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore,

Alone upon the threshold of my door Of individual life, I shall command The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand

Serenely in the sunshine as before,

Without the sense of that which I forbore - Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine

With pulses that beat double. What I do And what I dream include thee, as the wine

Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue God for myself, He hears that name of thine

And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

Tennyson's two lines everlastingly contain the true test:

Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might - Smote the chord of Self, that - trembling - pass'd in music out of sight.

And now, to wind up the definitions of love, I will quote from two clever modern novels. Lucas Malet in 'The Wages of Sin' attempts to describe the little god, who, we are told, still has something of the sea from which his mother, Venus, rose:

Love is quiet and subtle and fearless; yet he comes softly and silently, stealing up without observation; and at first we laugh at his pretty face, which is the face of a merry earthly child - but his hands, when we take them, grasp like hands of iron, and his strength is the strength of a giant, and his heart is as the heart of a tyrant. And he gives us to drink of a cup in which sweet is mingled with bitter; and the sweet too often is soon forgotten, while the taste of the bitter remains. And we hardly know whether to bless him or curse him, for he has changed all things; and we cannot tell whether to weep for the old world we have lost, or shout for joy at the new world we have found. Such is love for the great majority; a matter terrestrial rather than celestial, and of doubtful happiness after all.'

Mr. Mallock in one of his clever novels takes the matter further in a way that may console those who suffer from what appears such a wasted experience: 'A serious passion is a great educator. But its work only begins when the pain it causes has left us. Strong present feeling narrows our sympathies; strong past feeling enlarges them. Thus a woman of the world always should have been, but should not be, in love. She should always have had a grief; she should never have a grievance.'

How true it is, even with the commonplace, glorified at the moment by their suffering: 'On a tant d'âme pour soufirir et si peu d'esprit pour le dire'!

While on this subject, for the sake of those who have not the pleasure of knowing Mr. Wilfred Blunt's poems I quote three of his sonnets. First, because I think them beautiful; and secondly, because they strike a note, very well recognised by those who have a knowledge of human nature, of the danger of too great suppression in youth. And I hold the sonnets up as a looking-glass to some, and those by no means the worst, that they may recognise what perhaps will be the trials and temptations of their own future. These poems describe very truthfully the phases many women go through, in a more or less degree, according to their kind - women who, to all appearances, are just like everyone else, who lead their quiet dutiful lives in all sincerity and honour. During my lifetime the fact has been much more recognised that the temptations and trials of women are not really so very different from those of men, though in our civilised life they come to them in a different way and often at a different age. This fact was, I believe, well understood in the old world, though covered over and distorted during the Middle Ages. Here are the sonnets, so rightly called the 'Three Ages of Woman':