- Single Life
In the minds of nearly all properly constituted individuals there exists the hope and expectation of marriage. This is in accordance with the law of God as written in our physical being, and the young man who marries not, save in a few exceptional cases, arising out of ill health, deformity, or eccentricity of character, fails in one of the most palpable duties of life. He deprives himself of life’s most refined and exalted pleasures, of some of its strongest incentives to virtue and activity, sets an example unworthy of imitation, and fails to do much good that he might do in society. Moreover, he leaves one who might have made him a happy and useful companion to pine in maidenhood of heart through all the weary days of life.
A single life is not without its advantages, while a married one that fails of accomplishing its true end is the acme of earthly wretchedness. It is eminently proper to prepare for marriage, since this is designed by the Almighty Author to promote the health, happiness, purity, and real greatness of our species. But it is an error to fancy that you can not be truly happy in a single state, or hastily to assume the responsibilities of married life without due consideration. There is many a wife who, having married hastily and with a lack of due caution, has buried her hopes even of happiness deep in a grave of despair. And many a man who married without due thought and consideration can date from that hour the death of his ambitious purposes, and in the disappointments of married life lose sight of the glorious hopes which inspired him while single.
If the greatest happiness, and perhaps the only real and genuine kind, is to be found in the blessings of chaste and devoted love, yet matrimony, it must be acknowledged, is chargeable with numberless solicitudes and responsibilities; and if it often causes the heart to exult in joy, it as frequently makes it throb with pain. If it does not fall to your lot to participate in the delights and pleasures of a happy and reciprocal union of hearts; if destiny has restricted your sympathies and thwarted your desires, and consigned you, perhaps unwillingly, to solitude and celibacy; if you are only a neutral spectator of those scenes wherein great artifice and deception, unfairness and insincerity are too often practiced, and often hearts are won, but happiness lost, you may console yourself that there are many positive advantages in being alone. The command of time and freedom from many cares should open the way to new and beneficial sources of pastime and usefulness sufficient to reconcile you to your condition, and to make it as enviable as that of those who have more incumbrances but less ease, and who sometimes act as if the world was made for matrimony and nothing else.
From the actions and conversations of some people you would suppose that marriage was the chief end of life, which view is altogether degrading and debasing in its tendency. For while admitting that it is, indeed, that state of life most becoming the dignity and happiness of man, yet it is not true that single life does not present fields of usefulness and honor, and that, above all things, it is true wisdom to remain single to the end of your days, unless you are satisfied that it is advisable to unite your destiny with that of another.
Marriage has a great refining and moralizing tendency. When a man marries early and uses prudence in choosing a suitable companion, he is likely to lead a virtuous, happy life; but in an unmarried state all alluring vices have a tendency to draw him away. Marriage renders a man more virtuous and more wise. An unmarried man is but half of a perfect being, and it requires the other half to make things right; and it can not be expected that in this imperfect state he can keep straight in the path of rectitude any more than that a boat with one oar can keep a straight course. Marriage changes the current of a man’s feelings, and gives him a, center for his thoughts, his affections, and his acts.
There are exceptions to every rule; but the chances are that the young man who marries will make a stronger and better fight all through life than he who remains single. The reason of this is not difficult to find. A man will not put forth all his energies who has not something outside of self to draw him on and to incite him to put forth his best exertions. He also feels the lack of a home, which tends to round out life. He may, indeed, have a place to eat, a place to sleep, and, for that matter, all the luxury that money can buy; but we have long since learned that money will not buy every thing. It is utterly beyond its power to purchase a home and the treasures of love. This the unmarried man can not obtain. He may be courted for his money; he may eat, drink, and revel; and he may sicken and die in a hotel or a garret, with plenty of attendants about him. But, alas! what are attendants, waiting like so many cormorants for their prey, as compared with those whose hearts are knit to him by the strong ties of family relationship.
If marriage increases the cares it also heightens the pleasures of life. If it, in some instances, dampens the enthusiasm and seems a hindrance to success in countless instances it has proved to be the incentive which has called forth the best part of man’s nature, roused him from selfish apathy, and inspired in him those generous principles and high resolves which have caused all his after life to be replete with kindly acts, and himself to develop into a character known, loved, and honored by all within the sphere of its influence.
Jeremy Taylor, in contrasting single life with married life, says, in his quaint style: “Marriage is a school and exercise of virtue, and though marriage hath cares, yet single life hath desires which are more troublesome and more dangerous, and often end in sin; while the cares are but exercises of piety, and therefore, if single life hath more privacy of devotion, yet marriage hath more variety of it, and is an exercise of more grace. Marriage is the proper scene of piety and patience, of the duty of parents, and the charity of relations; here kindness is spread abroad, and love is united and made firm as a center.
“Marriage is the nursery of heaven. The virgin sends prayers to God, but she carries but one soul to him; but the state of marriage fills up the number of the elect, and hath in it the labor of love and the delicacies of friendship, the blessings of society, and the union of hearts and hands. It hath in it more safety than single life hath; it hath more care; it is more merry and more sad; it is fuller of joys and sorrows; it lies under more burdens, but it is supported by all the strength of love and charity, which makes those burdens delightful. Marriage is the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities and churches and heaven itself, and is that state of good things to which God hath designed the present constitution of the world.”
Though a great deal can be urged against marriage at too early an age, or against hasty and injudicious marriages, still there arrives a time in the life of every individual when it would be a great deal wiser for him to marry than to remain single. And we suppose that the number of bachelors who remain single all their life is exceedingly small; comparatively few of them die unmarried. When least expected they contract matrimonial alliances, thereby ofttimes disappointing numerous protégés, who have been confidently expecting that they would come in for the property. And the chances are against such marriages being happy, for it is more one of convenience, both on his part and that of his wife. She probably takes him because he is wealthy and can provide her with a first-rate establishment. He probably marries her because he is insufferably lonely and wishes to have a home of his own, where, if he can not do every thing as he likes, he is certain, of a real welcome.
Though many of the most pathetic sorrows of life are caused by the endearing relations existing, by marriage, between the suffering one and another, yet deep in the heart of many who walk through life alone, unattended by the sympathy of a loving companion,
Deeply buried from human eyes”
some of the deepest and most soul-pervading griefs that humanity knows of. Perhaps that old man, now so cross and fretful, whom we call “old bachelor,” even now has a mistiness come in his eye and a pathetic tremor in his tongue as he looks at a faded picture, to him too sacred for the curious gaze of others—a picture whose limning has faded as the real one faded long ago under the coffin lid. And there are, no doubt, many whom we call selfish, proud, cold-hearted men who once were as warm-hearted and generous as any could wish, who once poured out all the wealth of their affections on one unworthy of them, the discovery of which changed their whole nature.
There are women whom the world calls single, who are as truly wedded to a tear-stained package as if it really were the being it represents to them—who live in the old, sweet time those missives once belonged to, and who keep their hearts apart from the dull reality that makes up the present world. Years may have passed, and nothing remains the same except the dear dream that never knew reality, yet, held in their love-life by their fragile paper bonds, they still dwell in that fair, unsubstantial Spring-time, while Autumn fades and Winter, cold and dreary, reigns in all the outer world.
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