« السابقةمتابعة »
Unbroken by complaints or strife,
There is no topic more common in conversation, nor any subject more frequently treated of in writing, than the happiness and the unhappiness of marriage. It is by all confessed, that nothing can equal the felicity of the married state, when two persons, mutually loving and beloved, give and receive all the engaging demonstrations of a reciprocal tenderness and goodnature; nor is it, on the contrary, by the most strenuous advocates for matrimony, denied, that a life in wedlock, where the affections of the soul are never mutual, is of all miseries the greatest. Thus marriage is generally considered in its extremes; and they who defend it, or inveigh against it, seem not to allow of any medium: as for myself, though for many circumstantial reasons I continue a bachelor, I am, and have always been of opinion, that there
is no true enjoyment of life without marriage; and I think the miseries which are attributed to that state, arise chiefly from imaginary causes, or from the want of a proper regulation of the passions. It is my belief, therefore, that those persons who, by being joined to any particular man or woman, become so very miserable, would not be much more happy was that obligation dissolved, and they had their free choice to marry again. I am apprehensive that this supposition may seem somewhat absurd, yet I have not advanced it without some kind of authority; for many are the widows and widowers, who, during their first marriage, vehemently exclaimed against the miseries which attended it, yet have soon entered into a second, in which they have not been the least more sensible of felicity.
I was led into these reflections, by musing on an argument which an old bachelor urged this evening in conversation against marriage in general : “ That trite observation (says he), that had one priest the power and privilege to unmarry, it would be the best benefice in the kingdom, is to me a rational proof that all marriages are more or less unhappy ; nor do I believe there are any two fools in the nation, who have been coupled a week, but would with much
satisfaction and gladness of heart pay a visit to the doctor." I then began to make some ob. servations on his scheme; but he was so di. verted with the jest of the uncoupling parson, and of the benefit he would be to mankind, that as I could not be heard calmly, I reserved the subject for my own private contemplation. It was hence that the sentiments of the introduc. tory paragraph occurred to me; and as I was smiling at my old bachelor's unmarrying project, I began whimsically to entertain myself with a wild imagination of what a scene might be produced, and what the consequences of it would be, if my friend's scheme could in reality be put in practice. When the thoughts are intensely employed, and all the faculties of the soul confined to one point, fancy can present to our eyes such strong imaginary objects, as to have all the force of reality. By the aid of this ideal goddess, I
was, methought, conveyed into some fields ad. jacent to a great metropolis, from which great numbers of men and women, joined together in couples, seemed to hasten. They all took one route towards a temple, which was erected in the middle of a spacious plain: though they all seemed to be fettered together like felons, and very uneasy at their restraint, yet there appeared a visible joy in most of their countenances;
and by the frequent eager looks they cast towards the temple, shewed that the object of their wishes was centred there. I could not contain my curiosity, but inquired of a grave single gentleman the meaning of such a procession. “ I thought, sir (replied he), that you could not possibly be ignorant of so remarkable an occurrence, but was come, as well as myself and others, to make remarks, and see the issue of it: know then, as you have not been informed of it, that the gods, wearied with the complaints of unreasonable mortals, have granted their prayers, and have erected that dome, in which a high-priest attends six successive days, to unmarry whoever may come to him : this is the last day, and though the multitude is so very great, it does not exceed the numbers of the days preceding. As you are alone, if you will accept of me for a companion, I will perform the office of an interpreter, and explain soine passages to you, which may be entertaining as well as instructive.” I readily accepted his proposal, and he conducted me into the temple, and situated me in such a convenient place, that I could see and hear all that passed at the altar where the high-priest attended. The temple was now near full, and the ceremonies began as soon as the first pair offered themselves to have the gordian knot of matrimony unloosed. The whole form was short and expressive; the dissolution of the banns of marriage were published; and as no one forbad the divorce, by assigning any reason that they should continue still married, the priest asked if they both assented to separation ; and on their answering in the affirmative, he turned the face of the man full north, and that of the woman full south; then crying “ Part for ever,” they both marched off, with their divorce fully ratified. “ There (cries my companion), there is a notable example of the vicissitude of the human passions : that pair which you just now saw divorced, married two years ago against the advice of their parents, for love alone: he, like a true knight-errant, scaled her chamber-window, carried away his distressed lady, and they were married at an infamous place where such ceremonies are clandestinely performed: after this, they lived like two turtles, ever cooing, and fondling, and playing