This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
Marriage implies the utter abandonment of the interests and advancement of self to the exclusion of the other marital companion. If circumspect, by noting marital conduct in others, a fair conception of marriage and its consequences will soon be known. Then, the individual must ask himself, or herself: Am I capable and willing to do my duty? Could I rise superior to all the trials, vexations, and perplexities that present themselves to those in marrige? Would I never weary of doing the best under all circumstances? If you can satisfactorily answer these and others, you can enter fitly and nobly into the marital sphere.
Another consideration is evenness of temper. In the wooing days every one is a lamb, and only becomes the howling wolf after marriage. Circumstances that ruffle the temper in the presence of the intended are but like the harmless squib, but would become like the explosive torpedo in his or her absence, or in after-marriage. Quarrelling caused by matrimonial differences is the most frequent cause of infelicity, and most of them are caused by an innate irate temper of either the husband or wife. Differences that would be amicably adjusted by the exercise of a little reason and temperance in argument or judgment, are to the irascible the subject for the most vehement and angry logic, and the solution is inevitably discord. It is difficult, I acknowledge , to ascertain previously the mental disposition of persons, when they have occasion to conceal the defect in order to enhance their own interest. It is quite possible that Socrates, when he wooed the lovely Xanthippe, deemed her perfection, called her his "darling," his "pet," his "angel," if philosophers ever make use of such endearing expressions. Her conduct evidently deceived him as to her real nature, for the poor old philosopher was egregiously deceived and inexpressibly tortured in his married life by the historically renowned virago and termagant. "Love is blind," but its eyes should not be blindly closed against any such inperfection as naturally tends to destroy wedded bliss. Careful observation in a variety of circumstances will often disclose the real disposition, and the mask is sometimes unwittingly let fall, so that you may gain a cursory glance of the features, which if uncomely, should be enough.
The tastes should not be dissimilar. Some of them may be unimportant, but others are a fruitful source of disagreement. The social wife will never be contented with the unsocial husband, and the gay husband, though his gayety may not be commendable, will always accuse his wife if she lacks a social disposition to a great extent. The religious wife will never excuse a tendency to irreligion in her husband, and though he may be far from being immoral, she is unhappy if he does not participate in her devotions. The one devoted to children will never be happy with one having a natural repugnance for them. In this way we might multiply facts illustrative of the importance of an investigation into the similarity of taste, previous to marriage. Great love, however, overcomes almost every obstacle.
The parties should be nearly of one age, the husband should be the older. The union of the old husband to the young wife, or the reverse, is seldom a happy one. There is seldom that such a marriage occurs in which the incentive is not the wealth of either of the parties. The young graft on the old tree does not thrive well, the vitality required by the one is not afforded by the other. The magnetism of the old is not suited to the young, and there never can be a concord in their union. It is a law of nature that animals of like age should only mate together. The old male bird does not mate with the young female bird, but mating always occurs between those of the same year's brood. It is only in their domestication that they lose this law of instinct, and it is only through a vice of civilization that marriages between the old and young are contracted, in opposition to the original design of marital union. Such marriages are but seldom the result of a mutual love; one of the party is sure to be actuated by motives other than the one of conjugal happiness, and the union is usually enforced by the opportune chance of enhancement in respect to wealth or station in society. The progeny of such a union is very seldom endowed with either physical or mental vigor, which is easily accounted for. The physiologist knows that the mental emotions of the mother, during the period of pregnancy, is very apt to affect development of the child in utero, either favorably or unfavorably. How, then, can a young mother be actually comfortable, how can her emotions be elevated, how can she have that solicitude which is prompted by love, if she bears but little more than respect for her elderly or old husband? She has not that intense solicitude or hope that her child shall be all that is excellent; she has not that incentive of love that prompts her to a revery of desire that her child shall be all that she deems noble and beautiful; her conjugal relation is not calculated to inspire her highest and purest emotions, and the pride of her husband is not great enough for her to yearn for the day when she can present, with all the joys of maternity, an heir to her lord. It is, therefore, a union not calculated to promote domestic contentment, and there must be in the heart of either a husband or wife, an aching void and a longing for other than a senile embrace.
There are other considerations to be viewed before a union is effected. No one should neglect the moral character, the habits of frugality and industry, etc., etc. A marriage should only be consummated when both of the parties are morally certain that they are necessary to each other's existence; that life would be a dreary waste without the oasis of the loved one; that the intended one possesses all you admire and esteem; and that the journey of life in his or her companionship will be one of serenity and happiness; -- the union will then, by the endeavors of both, be attended by all the joy, contentment, and happiness that it is in the power of mortals to obtain here below.
I cannot more appropriately close this subject than by quoting an abstract from a well-known author, who presents his case in full color, but it exposes the undercurrent that leads to the marriage-tie only too truthfully. He asks: "Who dared first to say that marriages are made in heaven? We know that there are not only blunders but roguery in the marriage-office. Do not mistakes occur every day, and are not the wrong people coupled? Had heaven anything to do with the bargain by which young Miss Blushrose was sold to old Mr. Hoarfront? Did heaven order young Miss Fripper to throw over poor Tom Spooner, and marry the wealthy Mr. Bung? You may as well say that horses are sold in heaven, which, as you know, are groomed, are doctored, are chanted on the market, and warranted by dexterous horse-venders as possessing every quality of blood, pace, temper, and age. Against these Mr. Greenhorn has his remedy sometimes: but against a mother who sells a warranted daughter what remedy is there? You have been jockeyed by false representations into bidding for the Cecilia, and the animal is yours for life. She shys, kicks, stumbles, has an infernal temper, is a crib-biter, and she is warranted to you by her mother as the most perfect, good-tempered creature, who the most timid could manage! You have bought her. She is yours. Heaven bless you! Take her home, and be miserable for the rest of your days. You have no redress. You have done the deed. Marriages were made in heaven, you know; and in yours you were as much sold as Moses Primrose was when he bought the gross of green spectacles.