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Title: Modern marriage and how to bear it
Author: Braby, Maud Churton
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                MODERN MARRIAGE
               And How To Bear It



       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *


  +BIOGRAPHY FOR BEGINNERS.+ By G. K. CHESTERTON. With 48 Illustrations.
  +WHAT MEN LIKE IN WOMEN.+ By the Author of “How to be Happy
    though Married.”
    by TOM BROWNE.
  +THE GAME OF BRIDGE.+ By “CUT CAVENDISH.” With New Rules of Bridge
    and Auction Bridge.
  +THE METHODS OF MR AMES.+ By the Author of “John Johns.”
  +THE KING AND ISABEL.+ By the Author of “John Johns.”

  _Press Notices Of_

  _And How to Bear it_


+W. T. Stead in the Review of Reviews.+--“Mrs Maud Churton Braby has
achieved a remarkable success. She has written an original book upon the
most threadbare of all subjects, in which she has been as witty as she
is wise . . . packed full of good sense, sound morality, and admirable
advice. It is a book naked and unashamed, written by a woman of the
world with the naïve simplicity of an innocent child, and arriving on
the whole at conclusions worthy of any mother in Israel; a book full of
profound wisdom irradiated by a pleasant wit and suffused with the glow
of a genuine human sympathy.”

+“Hubert” in the Sunday Chronicle.+--“On the whole I congratulate Mrs
Braby on her book . . . it is the only book on the subject of Modern
Marriage that has not made me feel rather ill . . . frank, without the
slightest indelicacy, and bold without the least impertinence . . . a
real contribution towards the solution of an intolerably difficult

+Daily Telegraph.+--“Lively and frank . . . should prove instructive as
well as readable and provide people with plenty to think about. The
author has read widely, and thought deeply, and has a sufficiently broad
mind to give her conclusions real value . . . should be read by all who
think seriously on this most serious subject.”

+Standard.+--“A good deal of sound thinking has gone to the book’s
composition and it is also illumined by a very kind and tender spirit.”

+Bystander.+--“A clever and most entertaining volume . . . the reader
may be assured of much that is sage and sound, and much that is witty.”

+Black & White.+--“No one has gone so fully and vigorously into the
various problems connected with marriage as Mrs Braby in her extremely
readable book . . . one of the most vivid and original contributions to
the discussion of a great problem that have appeared for a long time.”

+Literary World.+--“Very brightly written, and even when most audacious
is full of good feeling and good sense . . . amusing and shrewd . . .
clever and stimulating.”

  _By The Same Author_


  An Attempt To Portray A
  “Slice Of Life.”

  _A NOVEL._



This is a powerful study of modern life in London, and concerns the
hearts and passions of live men and women. Being the first novel by Mrs
Maud Churton Braby, author of that vivacious and daring book, “Modern
Marriage and How to Bear it.” As might be expected, some of the serious
problems of women are dealt with in its pages. The story concerns the
fortunes of brilliant and undisciplined Dolly who, on the death of her
mother, an actress, is compelled by the decree of a mysterious trustee
to go first to a convent-school and afterwards become a hospital nurse.
Her temptations and adventures at the Wimpole Street Nursing Home--
(in which environment other characters of much interest appear) --her
tragic love affair, and the depths to which it brings her, together with
her subsequent redemption, are related in a manner which makes a special
appeal to the heart.

       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *




  “Marriage is the origin and summit of all


  Clifford’s Inn



Chap.                                                   Page

   I. The Mutual Dissatisfaction of the Sexes              3
  II. Why Men Don’t Marry                                 14
 III. Why Women Don’t Marry                               26
  IV. The Tragedy of the Undesired                        42


   I. The Various Kinds of Marriage                       57
  II. Why We Fall Out: Divers Discords                    68
 III. The Age to Marry                                    85
  IV. Wild Oats for Wives                                 89
   V. A Plea for the Wiser Training of Girls             101
  VI. ‘Keeping Only to Her’--The Crux of Matrimony       109


   I. Leasehold Marriage à la Meredith                   119
  II. Leasehold Marriage in Practice:
        A Dialogue in 1999                               129
 III. The Fiasco of Free Love                            141
  IV. Polygamy at the Polite Dinner-Table                146
   V. Is Legalised Polyandry the Solution?               159
  VI. A Word for ‘Duogamy’                               161
 VII. The Advantages of the Preliminary Canter           171


   I. To Beget or Not to Beget--the Question
        of the Day                                       177
  II. The Pros and Cons of the Limited Family            184
 III. Parenthood: The Highest Destiny                    193


   I. A Few Suggestions for Reform                       203
  II. Some Practical Advice to Husbands and Wives        209


               C. STANLEY CHURTON

         The Best Father in the World

              With Deep Gratitude

       for a Lifetime of Loving-Kindness



  ‘The Subject of Marriage is kept too much in the dark. Air it!




  ‘The shadow of marriage waits, resolute and awful, at the
  cross-roads.’ --R. L. STEVENSON.

Ever since the time, nineteen years ago, when Mrs Mona Caird attacked
the institution of matrimony in the _Westminster Review_ and led the way
for the great discussion on ‘Is Marriage a Failure?’ in the _Daily
Telegraph_--marriage has been the hardy perennial of newspaper
correspondence, and an unfailing resource to worried sub-editors. When
seasons are slack and silly, the humblest member of the staff has but to
turn out a column on this subject, and whether it be a serious
dissertation on ‘The Perfections of Polygamy’ or a banal discussion on
‘Should husbands have tea at home?’ it will inevitably achieve the
desired result, and fill the spare columns of the papers with letters
for weeks to come. People are always interested in matrimony, whether
from the objective or subjective point of view, and that is my excuse
for perpetrating yet another book on this well-worn, but ever fertile

Marriage indeed seems to be in the air more than ever in this year of
grace; everywhere it is discussed, and very few people seem to have a
good word to say for it. The most superficial observer must have noticed
that there is being gradually built up in the community a growing dread
of the conjugal bond, especially among men; and a condition of
discontent and unrest among married people, particularly women. What is
the matter with this generation that wedlock has come to assume so
distasteful an aspect in their eyes? On every side one hears it vilified
and its very necessity called in question. From the pulpit, the clergy
endeavour to uphold the sanctity of the institution, and unceasingly
exhort their congregations to respect it and abide by its laws. But the
Divorce Court returns make ominous reading; every family solicitor will
tell you his personal experience goes to prove that happy unions are
considerably on the decrease, and some of the greatest thinkers of our
day join in a chorus of condemnation against latter-day marriage.

Tolstoy says: ‘The relations between the sexes are searching for a new
form, the old one is falling to pieces.’ Among the manuscript ‘remains’
of Ibsen, that profound student of human nature, the following
noteworthy passage occurs: ‘“Free-born men” is a phrase of rhetoric.
They do not exist, for marriage, the relation between man and wife, has
corrupted the race and impressed the mark of slavery upon all.’ Not long
ago, too, our greatest living novelist, George Meredith, created an
immense sensation by his suggestion that marriage should become a
temporary arrangement, with a minimum lease of, say, ten years.

That the time has not yet come for any such revolutionary change is
obvious, but if the signs and portents of the last decade or two do not
lie, we may safely assume that the time _will_ come, and that the
present legal conditions of wedlock will be altered in some way or

Fifteen years ago there was a sudden wave of rebellion against these
conditions, and a renewed interest in the sex question showed itself in
an outbreak of problem novels--a term which later came to be used as one
of reproach. Perhaps the most important of these was Grant Allen’s _The
Woman Who Did_. I can recall as a schoolgirl the excitement it aroused
and my acute disappointment when it was forcibly commandeered from me by
an irate governess who apparently took no interest in these enthralling
subjects. A host of imitators followed _The Woman Who Did_; some of them
entirely illiterate, all of them offering some infallible key to the
difficult maze of marriage.

Worse still was the reaction that inevitably followed, when realism was
tabooed in fiction, and sickly romance possessed the field. _The Yellow
Book_ and similar strange exotics of the first period withered and died,
and the cult of literature (!) for the British Home was shortly
afterwards in full blast. There followed an avalanche of insufferably
dull and puerile magazines, in which the word _Sex_ was strictly taboo,
and the ideal aimed at was apparently the extreme opposite to real life.
It was odd how suddenly the sex note--(as I will call it for want of a
better word)--disappeared from the press. Psychology was pronounced
‘off,’ and plots were the order of the day. Many names well-known at
that time and associated with a _flair_ for delicate delineation of
character, disappeared from the magazine contents bill and the
publisher’s list, whilst facile writers who could turn out mild
detective yarns or tales of adventure and gore were in clover.

Signs are not wanting that the pendulum of public interest has now swung
back again, and another wave of realism in fiction and inquiry into the
re-adjustment of the conjugal bond is imminent. But the pendulum will
have to swing back and forth a good many times however, before the
relations between the sexes succeed in finding that new form of which
Tolstoy speaks. What the revival I have foretold will accomplish remains
to be seen. What did the last agitation achieve? Practically nothing;
a few women may have been impelled to follow in the footsteps of Grant
Allen’s Herminia to their undying sorrow, and possibly a good many
precocious young girls, who read the literature of that day, may have
given their parents some anxiety by their revolutionary ideas on the
value of the holy estate. But when that trio so irresistible to the
feminine heart came along--the Ring, the Trousseau, and the House of My
Own, to say nothing of the solid, twelve-stone, prospective
husband--which among these advanced damsels remembered the sermon on the

Yet in the fourteen years that have elapsed since the publication of
_The Woman Who Did_, there have certainly been some changes. For one
thing, it is still harder apparently to earn a decent living. Times
are bad and money scarce; men are even more reluctant than before to
‘domesticate the recording angel’ by marrying, and a type of woman has
sprung up amongst us who is shy of matrimony and honestly reluctant to
risk its many perils for the sake of its problematical joys. Most
noticeable of all is the growing dissatisfaction of the sexes with each
other. Men do not shun marriage only because of unfavourable financial
conditions, or because the restrictions of wedlock are any more irksome
to them than formerly, but because they cannot find a wife sufficiently
near their ideal. Woman has progressed to such an extent within the
last generation or two: her outlook has so broadened, her intellect
so developed that she has strayed very far from man’s ideal and,
consequently, man hesitates to marry her. There is something comic about
the situation, and at Olympian dinner-tables I feel sure the gods would
laugh at this twentieth-century conjugal deadlock.

Another reason why men fall in love so much less than they used to do is
largely due to the decay of the imaginative faculty. As for women,
although they are in the main as anxious to marry as ever, although it
is universally acknowledged that the modern young woman does cultivate
the modern young man unduly, their reasons for doing so are less and
less concerned with the time-honoured motives of love. Marriage brings
independence and a certain social importance; for these reasons women
desire it. H. B. Marriot Watson has put the case neatly thus: ‘Women
desire to marry _a_ man; men to marry _the_ woman.’ Nevertheless women
are even now more prone to fall in love than are men, because they have
better preserved this imaginative faculty, which is possibly also the
cause of the disillusionment and discontent of wives after marriage.

The upshot of it all is that men and women appear to have become
antagonistic to each other. However much they love the individual of
their fancy, a kind of veiled distrust seems to obtain between the sexes
collectively, but more especially on the part of men--perhaps because
man is more necessary to woman than woman is to man. This hostility
towards woman is particularly noticeable in the pages of the press.
Scarcely a week passes but some journalist of the nobler sex pours out
his scorn for the inferior one of his mother in columns of masterly
abuse on one score or another. Each article is followed by a passionate
correspondence in which ‘Disgusted Dad,’ ‘Hopeless Hubby,’ ‘Browbeaten
Brother,’ and the inevitable ‘Cynicus’ express high approval of the
writer, whilst ‘Happy Mother of Seven Girls’ and ‘Lover of the Sex’
write to demand his instant execution and public disgrace.

The range of men’s fault-finding is endless; one will assert that women
are mere domestic machines, unfit companions for any intelligent man,
and with no soul above conversation about their servants and children;
another that they are mere blue-stockings striving after an unattainable
intellectuality; a third that they are mere frivolous dolls without
brain or heart, engrossed in the pursuit of pleasure, a fourth that they
are sexless, slangy, misclad masculine monsters.

Judged by the assertions of newspaper correspondents, women are at one
and the same time preposterously masculine, contemptibly feminine,
ridiculously intellectual, repulsively athletic, and revoltingly
frivolous. In appearance they are either lank, gaunt, flat-footed
lamp-posts, or else over-dressed, unnaturally-shaped, painted dolls.
Their extravagance exhausts expletive! When they belong to the class of
society generally denoted with a capital S, they invariably smoke,
drink, gamble and swear. They neglect their homes and their children.
They have little principle and less sense, no morals, no heart and
absolutely _no_ sense of humour!

‘But,’ the observant reader may possibly exclaim, ‘there is nothing new
about this. Woman has ever been man’s favourite grumble-vent, from the
day when the first man got out of his first scrape by blaming the only
available woman!’ True enough, age cannot stale the infinite variety of
women’s misdemeanours, as viewed by men; tradition has hallowed the
subject, custom carries it on; and probably when the last trump shall
sound, the last living man will be found grumbling loudly at the
abominable selfishness of woman for leaving him alone, and the last dead
man to rise will awake cursing because his wife did not call him sooner!

But formerly man’s fault-finding was more of the nature of genial chaff,
as when we affectionately laugh at those we love. There was nearly
always a certain good humour about his diatribes, which now is lacking.
In its stead can be noted a bitterness, a distinct animus. Men
apparently take with an ill-grace women’s rebellion against the old
man-made conditions, and they retaliate by falling in love less
frequently, and showing still more reluctance to enter the arena of

Nevertheless, they get there all the same, albeit in a different spirit.
Timorous and trembling, our faint-hearted modern lovers gird on their
new frock-coats and step shrinkingly into the arena where awaits
them--radiant and triumphant--the determined being whose will has
brought them thither. No, not _her_ will, but the mysterious will of
Nature which remains steadfast and of unswerving purpose, indifferent
to our sex-warfare and the progress of our petty loves and hates. The
institution of marriage battered, abused, scarred with countless
thousands of attacks, stained with the sins of centuries still continues
to flourish, for, as Schopenhauer says; ‘_It is the future generation in
its entire individual determination which forces itself into existence
through the medium of all this strife and trouble._’

The _Will-to-Live_ will always have the last word!



  ‘If you wish the pick of mankind, take a good bachelor and a good

  ‘There is probably no other act in a man’s life so hot-headed and
  foolish as this of marriage.’ --R. L. STEVENSON.

  ‘Whatever may be said against marriage, it is certainly an
  experience.’ --OSCAR WILDE.

‘All the men are getting married and none of the girls,’ a volatile lady
is once reported to have said, and one understands what she meant to
convey. In a newspaper correspondence on marriage I once noted the
following significant passage: ‘_But in these days it is different from
what it was when I was a girl. Then every boy had his sweetheart and
every girl her chap. Now it seems to me the boys don’t want sweethearts
and the girls can’t get chaps. For one youth who means honestly to marry
a girl, you will find twenty whose game is mere flirtation, regardless
of how the girl may be injured. The times are ungallant and they want

This letter is signed ‘A Workman’s Wife,’ but it bears ample evidence of
having been written by a member of the staff, who seemed to consider
sufficient _vraisemblance_ had been given to the signature by the
inclusion of an occasional vulgarism, such as ‘chap.’ But in spite of
being penned to order, the statements expressed appear to be only too
true. The times are ungallant indeed and growing more so every year.

Not long ago I was at a cheery social gathering where the non-marrying
tendency of modern men was being discussed. Someone put all the men into
a good humour with the reminder that ‘by persistently remaining single,
a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation,’ and as there
were fifteen bachelors present, the conversation naturally became

One whom I will call Vivian, gallantly remarked that all the nice women
were married, so he perforce remained single. I happen to know that he
is deeply in love with a married woman. Another, Lucian, a very handsome
and popular man of thirty, said he fully meant to marry some day, but
wanted a few more years’ freedom first. Dorian gravely asserted that he
was waiting for my daughter (aged eighteen months), but being in his
confidence, I know that his case is similar to Vivian’s. Hadrian’s
health would make his marriage a crime; we are all aware of that
fortunately, so no one asked him. The same discretion was observed with
regard to Julien of whom it is well known that he has formed an
‘unfortunate’ attachment and has practically not the right to marry.
Florian was jilted years ago, and is shy and distrustful of the sex,
which is a great pity, as he is the kind of man born for fireside and
nursery joys, and would make a wife very happy.

Of Augustin and Fabian it may be truly said that ‘the more they have
known of the others, the less they will settle to one;’ and indeed I
fear they have spoilt themselves for matrimony, unless there is truth in
the old saying that a reformed rake makes the best husband. Endymion is
altogether too ineligible, his blue eyes and broad shoulders being his
only fortune; he makes plenty of capital out of these adjuncts: they
bring him in a rich return of feminine favour, but are nevertheless
hardly sufficient to support a wife.

Claudian is really anxious to marry, but suffers from a fatal
faithlessness and, as he engagingly explains, can’t love a girl long
enough to get the preliminaries settled. One day he is sure to be caught
by some determined and probably very unsuitable woman and led reluctant
to the altar. Galahad won’t marry until he has found ‘the one woman,’
and I fear he will prove a husband wasted, for poor Galahad already
wears spectacles and a bald spot; his devotion to an unrealisable ideal
bids fair to spoil his life.

When I put the question to Aurelian, he smiled his evil smile, which
makes him more like an embittered vulture than ever, and remarked that
he was thinking over his offers and hadn’t yet decided which was the
best. As the fact that he has been refused by seven women is well-known,
we really rather admire the persistence of his pose as a lady-killer.
He has even been known to write passionate letters to himself, in an
assumed hand, and drop cleverly-manufactured tears here and there upon
them, to give an air of greater realism to these amorous masterpieces,
which he uses as a proof of his wild stories of conquest. When dry, the
tears look most life-like; of course it is a dodge that every schoolgirl
knows, but I have never known a man have recourse to it before, and hope
never to again!

Both Cyprian and Valerian gave as the reason for their continued
bachelorhood, the fact that they were too comfortable as bachelors and
had never felt the need of a wife. The latter added that if he could
find just _the_ girl, he would think it over, but as matters stood he
preferred certainty to chance and was taking no risks. Between
ourselves, both these two are very self-satisfied and egotistical
persons, and I don’t think any woman has lost much by their resolve.

The fourteenth man was Bayard, who belongs to a very exasperating type
of philanderer. Most women of the world have met and been bored by him
to their sorrow. It is his grievous habit to go about professing a
yearning for matrimony of the most ideal kind, and confiding at great
length to safely attached young matrons how he longs to find a home in
one good woman’s heart, and what a great, pure, passionate, wild love he
is capable of. There is something rather engaging about him, and his
pose is naturally very attractive to unsuspecting spinsters. He is
always getting desperately entangled, but makes a great parade of his
poverty when the _affaire_ reaches the critical point, and wriggles out
successfully--generally without any too unpleasant explanation. If,
however, things have gone too far for this, he can always make good his
escape under cover of the ‘I love you too much, darling, to drag you
down to poverty’ plea. How many girls, wounded to the heart’s core, have
listened to this hoary lie when they are more than willing to be poor,
if but with him, willing to economise and save, and forego for his sake.

Not, of course, that Bayard and his like inspire such devotion; I mean
that the essentials of this particular excuse are given by very many
unmarried men nowadays as the reason of their single state. Generally
speaking, there are two main reasons why men do not marry: 1. Because
they have not yet met a woman they care for sufficiently; 2.--and these
constitute a large majority--because they are too selfish. Of course men
don’t spell it that way. Like Bayard, they say they ‘can’t afford it.’
They think of all the things they would have to give up--how difficult
it is to get enough for their pleasure now, how impossible it would be
then, with the support of a wife and potential family added; how they
would hate having to knock off poker, find a cheaper tailor, and
economise in golf balls. They shudder at the prospect, and decide in the
expressively vulgar parlance of the day that it’s ‘not good enough.’ The
things that are beyond price are weighed against the things that are
bought with money--and found wanting!

It would, however, be the last word of foolishness to encourage
improvident marriages, already a source of so much misery, and of course
my remarks do not apply to the genuine poverty of the man who really
cannot afford to wed. For him I have a very real sympathy, since he is
missing the best things of life probably through no fault of his own.
The above strictures are intended solely for the man of moderate means,
who could afford to marry if he loved himself less and some woman more.
Five hundred a year, for instance, is a comfortable income for a
bachelor not in the inner circle of Society. On this sum a middle-class
man can do himself well, provided he has no particularly expensive vices
or hobbies--but it certainly means self-denial when stretched to provide
for a wife and two or three children. It means a small house in one of
the cheaper suburbs, instead of a bachelor flat in town, ’buses instead
of cabs, upper boxes instead of stalls, a fortnight _en famille_ at
Broadstairs instead of a month’s fishing _en garçon_ in Norway. It means
no more suppers at the Savoy, no more week-ends in Paris, no more
‘running’ over to Monte Carlo; but it _can_ be done, and done happily,
provided a man puts love above luxuries. Almost every man can afford to
marry--the right woman!

Of course, if a man has still to meet the woman of his fancy, all is
well, but it is the despicable plea of Bayard that so incenses me. If
men would own the truth, it would not be so bad, but, Adam-like, as
usual, they lay the blame on women and say: ‘Girls expect so much
nowadays, it is impossible to make enough money to satisfy them.’ This
is one of the many lies men tell about women, or perhaps they are under
a delusion and really believe the statement to be true. Let them be
undeceived, girls _don’t_ expect so much; they are perfectly willing to
be poor, as I have said before, if only they care for the man enough. At
anyrate, once they have reached that stage of wanting the real things of
life they would sooner have wifehood and comparative poverty than ease
and empty hearts in their parents’ home. They would sooner, in short,
be ‘tired wives than restful spinsters.’

Another delusion men spread about women is that they’re too fond of
pleasure to settle down. How often one hears statements such as ‘Juno
Jones wouldn’t make a good wife, she’s out all day playing golf;’ or
‘I couldn’t afford to marry Sappho Smith, she’s too fond of dress and
theatre-going.’ God bless the man! What else have the poor girls to do?
Sappho has a taste for dainty clothes and a love for the theatre; she
fills her empty existence with these things as far as she can; Juno has
nothing in the wide world to do all day long, but she loves the open
air, and so concentrates her magnificent energies on a game with a stick
and ball, because any active part in the great game of life is denied
her. Marry her--if she will have you--and see what a grand comrade she
will make, and what splendid children she will bear you. Or marry
Sappho, and you will find she will never want any but simple pleasures
within your means, as long as you are kind to her and adore her as she
requires to be adored. She will cheerfully make her own clothes, and
find her greatest joy in planning out your income and adorning your

Everyone can recall having known frivolous and pleasure-loving girls
settle down into admirable wives whose nurseries are models and whose
households are beyond reproach. Doubtless their friends all predicted
disaster when these butterflies were led to the altar. I honestly
believe women only want extravagant pleasures when they are miserable.
It is generally the wretched wives, the unhappy, restless spinsters who
run up bills and fling away money. They feel that life is cheating them
and they must have some compensations.

But to return to my fifteen bachelors. There only remains Florizel,
whose attitude towards wedlock is a blend of that of Bayard and
Claudian. He is genuinely eager to marry, ardent, affectionate, anxious
to do right, but lacking in moral courage and egotistical to the point
of disease. I would much like to see him happily wedded, as he then
would doubtless quickly lose that intense self-centredness, but I
question if any attractive woman exists who would be unselfish enough to
cope with him in his present state of egomania. His mind is always
inflamed with some woman or other, and he hovers about on the edge of
desperate _amours_, anxious to fall head over ears into the sea of love
and cast out an anchor of matrimony to hold him fast where he can swerve
no more. Unfortunately he cannot forget himself enough to take the fatal
plunge. With all his faults there is something very lovable about
Florizel, and I should like to see him knocked into shape, though it
would be a brave and patient woman who would take the task in hand.

When all the fifteen bachelors had ceased to talk about themselves and
settled down to bridge with the rest of the company, an old lady who,
like myself, preferred to be a looker-on, came and sat beside me. ‘How
they _do_ talk,’ she said! ‘But I can tell you why they don’t marry, in
six words, my dear: because they don’t fall in love! And why don’t they
fall in love? Because the girls are too eager; because the girls meet
them all the way--that’s why! I’ve seven sons, all unmarried, and _I_

   *   *   *

NOTE.--It is interesting to note that Westermarck in his _History of
Human Marriage_ quotes a number of authorities to prove that among many
ancient nations marriage was a religious duty incumbent upon all. Among
Mohammedan people generally it is still considered a duty. Hebrew
celibacy was unheard of, and they have a proverb, ‘He who has no wife is
no man.’ In Egypt it is improper and even disreputable for a man to
abstain from marriage when there is no just impediment. For an adult to
die unmarried is regarded as a deplorable misfortune by the Chinese,
and among the Hindus of the present day a man who remains single is
considered to be almost a useless member of society, and is looked upon
as beyond the pale of nature.



  ‘It’s a woman’s business to get married as soon as possible and a
  man’s to remain unmarried as long as he can.’ --G. BERNARD SHAW.

  ‘Marriage is of so much use to a woman, opens out to her so much
  of life, and puts her in the way of so much more freedom and
  usefulness, that whether she marry ill or well, she can hardly
  miss some benefit.’ --R. L. STEVENSON.

‘Why women don’t marry? But they do--whenever they can!’ the intelligent
reader will naturally exclaim. Not ‘whenever they get the chance,’ mark
you; no _intelligent_ reader would make this mistake, though it is a
common enough error among the non-comprehending. Most spinsters over
thirty must have winced at one time or another at the would-be genial
rallying of some elderly man relative: ‘What! you not married yet? Well,
well, I wonder what all the young men are thinking of.’ I write _some
man_ advisedly, for no woman, however cattishly inclined, however
desirous of planting arrows in a rival’s breast, would utter this
peculiarly deadly form of insult, which, strangely enough, is always
intended as a high compliment by the masculine blunderer. The fact that
the unfortunate spinster thus assailed may have had a dozen offers, and
yet, for reasons of her own, prefer to remain single, seems entirely
beyond their range of comprehension.

But the main reason why women don’t marry is obviously because men don’t
ask them. Most women will accept when a sufficiently pleasing man offers
them a sufficiently congenial life. If the offers they receive fall
below a certain standard, then they prefer to remain single, wistfully
hoping, no doubt, that the right man may come along before it is too
late. The preservation of the imaginative faculty in women, to which I
have previously alluded, doubtless accounts for many spinsters. It must
also be remembered that the more educated women become, the less likely
they are to marry for marrying’s sake as their grandmothers did.

Then there are a few women, quite a small section, who, unless they can
realise their ideal in its entirety, will not be content with second
best. By an irony of fate, it happens that these are often the noblest
of their sex. Yet another small section remain single from an honest
dislike of marriage and its duties. It is perhaps not too severe to say
that a woman who has absolutely no vocation for wifehood and motherhood
must be a degenerate, and so lacking in the best feminine instincts as
to deserve the reproach of being ‘sexless.’ This type is apparently
increasing! I shall deal with it further in Part IV.

Then there are those--I should not like to make a guess at their
number--who will marry _any_ man, however undesirable and uncongenial,
rather than be left ‘withering on the stalk.’ It is an acutely
humiliating fact that there exists no man too ugly, too foolish, too
brutal, too conceited and too vile to find a wife. _Any_ man can find
_some_ woman to wed him. In this connection, one recalls the famous
cook, who, when condoled with on the defection of a lover, replied:
‘It don’t matter; thank God I can love any man!’

One cannot help being amused by the serious articles on this subject in
feminine journals. We are gravely told that women don’t marry nowadays
because they price their liberty too high, because those who have money
prefer to be independent and enjoy life, and those who have none prefer
bravely wringing a living from the world to being a man’s slave, a mere
drudge, entirely engrossed in housekeeping, etc., etc.; and so on--pages
of it! All this may possibly be true of a very small portion of the
community, but the uncontrovertible fact remains that the principal
reason for woman’s spinsterhood is man’s indifference.

I have every sympathy with the women who wish to postpone taking up the
heavy responsibilities of matrimony till they have had what in the
opposite sex is termed ‘a fling,’ that is until they have enjoyed a
period of freedom wherein to study, to travel, to enjoy their youth
fully, to meet many men, to look life in the eyes and learn something of
its meaning. But there comes a period in the life of almost every
woman--except the aforesaid degenerate--when she feels it is time to
‘put away childish things,’ and into her heart there steals a longing
for the real things of life--the things that matter, the things that
last--wedded love and little children, and that priceless possession,
a home of one’s own.

It is the fashion nowadays to discredit the home, and it has been
jestingly alluded to by Mr Bernard Shaw as ‘the girl’s prison and the
woman’s workhouse;’ but what a wonderful sanctuary it really is!--and
exactly how much it means to a woman, only those who have felt the need
of it can tell. In our youth, home is the place where hampers come from,
where string and stamps and magazines grow on the premises, a place
generally where love is, but nevertheless essentially a place we take
for granted and for which we never dream of being grateful. Later on it
is sometimes associated with irksome duties; to some it even becomes a
place to get away from; but when we have lost it, how we long for it!
How reverently we think of each room and the things that happened there;
how we yearn in thought over the old garden and dream about the beloved
trees. No matter how mean a home it may have been, every bit of it is
sacred and dear--from the box-room, where on wet days we played at
robbers, to the toolshed, where on fine days we played at everything
under the sun. To this day if I chance on a badly-cooked potato it
almost brings tears to my eyes, not because of its badness, but because
it recalls the potatoes that three small children used to cook with
gladness and eat with silent awe, in the ashes of a bonfire, in an old
garden, long, long ago--whilst the smell of a bonfire itself makes me
feel seven years old again!

But whether she has a home with her parents or not, every normal woman
longs for a home of her own, and a girl who resents even arranging the
flowers on her mother’s dinner-table will after marriage cheerfully do
quite distasteful housework in the place she calls her own.

This passionate love of home is one of the most marked feminine
characteristics; I don’t mean love of being _at_ home, as modern women’s
tastes frequently lie elsewhere, but love of the place itself and the
desire to possess it. A great number of women marry solely to obtain
this coveted possession. As for those who don’t, the advertisement
columns of the _Church Times_, the _Christian World_, and other papers
tell a pitiful story of their need. Ladies ‘by birth’ (pathetic and
foolish little phrase!) are willing to do almost anything in return for
just a modest corner, a very subordinate place even in someone else’s
home. They will be housekeepers, servants, companions, secretaries,
helps for ‘a small salary and a home,’ and sometimes for no salary at
all. They will pack, sew, mend, teach, supervise; they offer their
knowledge of every kind, such as it is, their music, their languages,
their health and strength, their subservience and all their virtues,
real or acquired--all in return for a little food and fire, and the
sheltering of four walls, which constitute their extreme need, their
utmost desire--a home! Beautiful women, gifted and good women, sell
themselves daily just to gain a home. Even Hedda Gabler, most degenerate
of modern heroines, who shot herself rather than be a mother, sold
herself in a loveless marriage only for a home. And yet constantly we
read a list of trivial and fantastic reasons why women don’t marry!

A girl-bachelor who was compelled to spend most of her time in that
uncomfortable place technically known as ‘one’s boxes,’ once told me
that her greatest desire was a spot just big enough for a wardrobe in
which to keep her spare clothes and little possessions. She did without
a home, but she longed intensely for that wardrobe. ‘I shall have to
marry Tony soon,’ she said, ‘just for the convenience of having room for
my clothes. I don’t like him, and I want to wait till someone I do like
comes, but if ever I take him, it will be for wardrobe room, you just
see.’ I must add that ‘someone’ _did_ come, and she now possesses
several wardrobes and three bouncing babies, and Tony cuts her when he
meets her in the Park!

This home passion is even more noticeable in that class of society
usually referred to as the lower. I have occasionally employed a poor
woman who has been in service as cook since her husband died nineteen
years ago. All that time, she has ‘kept on the home,’ _i.e._ a single
room which contains her furniture. She has scarcely ever had to use the
room, except for an odd day or two, and has had to spend much of her
scanty leisure in cleaning it. For nineteen years she has paid
three-and-six a week for the room sooner than sell her furniture. The
£172 thus expended would have paid for the furniture over and over
again. The woman quite realises the absurdity of it, but ‘I simply
couldn’t part with the ’ome,’ is her explanation.

Yet another instance. Once when staying in seaside lodgings, I had the
misfortune to break a homely vessel of thick blue glass which had
evidently begun life as a fancy jam jar, but had been relegated, for
some reason obscure to me, to the proud position of mantel ‘ornament,’
if that be the term. To my surprise the worthy landlady wept bitterly
over the pieces, and when I spoke of gorgeous objects wherewith to
replace her treasure, explained snappishly: ‘Nothing won’t make it good
to me! Why, that there blue vorse was the beginning of the ’ome!’

I must ask pardon for this digression and return to the subject in hand.
The most depressing aspect of the question is that even if every man
over twenty-five were married there would be still an enormous number of
women left husbandless. This is really very serious, and is a condition
that gives rise to many evils. To make up for it as far as possible,
every man of sound health and in receipt of sufficient income ought to
marry. If it is merely ‘not good’ for man to be alone, then it is very
bad indeed for women! Every woman should have a man companion, a man to
live with--if only to take the tickets, carry the bags and get up in the
night to see what that noise is. Since society as at present constituted
does not countenance men and women living together for companionship,
then clearly every woman ought to have a husband!

Mr Bernard Shaw has written: ‘Give women the vote and in five years
there will be a crushing tax on bachelors.’ So there should be, subject
to certain qualifications of age and income; this is one of the many
matters in which we should take a lesson from the Japanese where all
bachelors over a certain age are taxed; in France too, a bill, to this
effect, is being discussed. At the time of writing, women are full of
anticipation of being speedily enfranchised, and there is a good deal of
talk about what use they will make of the vote. I regret to say that
although there have been some utterly idiotic threats to abolish that
boon to wives--the man’s club--yet so far, with one exception, nothing
has appeared in print as to the advisability of taxing bachelors. The
exception is a very interesting anonymous novel called _Star of the
Morning_, which strongly advocates such a tax, among several other
thoughtful suggestions for political reform.

It is obviously only just that the man who is doing nothing for the
State in the way of rearing a family should be taxed to relieve the man
who is. We hear so much about the falling birth-rate, and the duty of
every married couple to have a family, yet everything is done to
discourage those who do. The professional man slaving to earn, say,
£1000 a year, and bring up three or four children for the State, is
taxed exactly as much as the bachelor in receipt of the same income who
does nothing at all for the State, and can even avoid the other taxes by
being a lodger, if he choose.

But even if we eventually get reasonable legislation, which would offer
rewards instead of additional burdens to those who do their share in
keeping up the birth-rate; even if a bachelor over twenty-five became as
rare an object in these islands as an old maid in a Mohammedan country,
still there would be this enormous superfluity of spinsters. Why is it?
Why should Great Britain be regarded as a paradise of old maids? Why
should we have more spinsters than other countries? Is it because our
colonies swallow up so many men? Then why can’t they swallow up an equal
number of women? I should like this most important matter to be taken up
by the State and an Institution for Encouraging Marriage started under
State auspices. One of the duties of this institution would be to induce
numbers of suitable women to emigrate, so as to preserve the proper
balance of the sexes in the home country, and that every colonist might
have a chance to get a wife. I heard the other day of a very ordinary
colonial girl who had eleven men all wanting to marry her at once.
Eleven men! And yet there are scores of charming English girls who grow
old and soured without having had a single offer of marriage.

Another duty of the Institution for Encouraging Marriage would be to try
and reach and bring together the thousands of lonely middle-class men
and women in large towns, who are engaged at work all day and have no
means of meeting members of the opposite sex. I have just been reading
Francis Gribble’s very interesting novel, _The Pillar of Cloud_, in
which he describes the existence of half a dozen girls in ‘Stonor House’
one of those dreary barracks for homeless females engaged during the
day. The frantic desire of these girls to meet men of their own class is
painfully true, and this desire is not so much the outcome of young
women’s natural tendency to cultivate young men, but because all such
men to them are possible husbands, and marriage is the only way out from
Stonor House and the joyless existence there.

In _The Pathway of the Pioneer_ published a few years ago, Dolf Wyllarde
breaks similar ground, but her young women are more morbid and less
frankly anxious to meet men with a view to matrimony. Both books,
however, give one a good idea of the cheerless, unnatural lives led by
young middle-class women, whose relatives, if any, are far away, and who
work for their living in large towns--condemned almost inevitably to
celibacy by these unfavourable social conditions.

That large numbers of daintily-bred women should be condemned to such an
existence is the strongest possible argument in favour of the
establishment of two French institutions, viz., strictly limited
families and the system of _dots_. Of late years, the former has been
largely adopted in England, and until the latter custom also becomes the
rule, the Institution for Encouraging Matrimony could take the matter in
hand. Two or three unusually sensible philanthropists have already given
their attention to this important subject, but any movement of this
nature at once assumes too much the aspect of a matrimonial agency to be
approved by the class for whose welfare it is destined. However, the
I.F.E.M. would have to deal with this obstacle and conceal its real
intentions under another name. I am sure if its object were sufficiently
wrapped-up that refined men and women could take advantage of it without
loss of self-respect--the response to such an institution by both sexes
would be enormous. A club, ostensibly for promoting social intercourse,
might be the solution, and subscription dances, concerts, organised
excursions would not be difficult to arrange, and would make a source of
brightness and interest in many drab lives. Country branches could be
started if the thing proved a success.

One constantly sees in the newspapers proof of the fact that there are a
very large number of middle-class young men able and anxious to marry,
who lack feminine acquaintances of their own social standing from whom
to make a choice. Unfortunate _mésalliances_ are often the result, and
it seems to me a sad and wasteful thing that these uxoriously-inclined
men cannot be brought into contact with some of the thousands of young
women whose lives are passed in uncongenial toil and who are eating out
their hearts in their anxiety for a home and a husband of their own.
Until the I.F.E.M. becomes fact, here is splendid work ready to hand for
a philanthropist of infinite tact, and large, sympathetic heart. What a
chance to add to the sum of human joy! What a rich reward for the
expenditure of but a little time and money!



  ‘So man and woman will keep their trust,
  Till the very Springs of the Sea run dust.

  ‘Yea, each with the other will lose and win,
  For the Strife of Love’s the abysmal Strife,
  And the Word of Love is the Word of Life.

  ‘And they that go with the Word unsaid,
  Though they seem of the living, are damned and dead.’

    --W. E. HENLEY.

This is a tragedy of which few men know the existence and certainly no
man in these woman-ridden isles can ever have experienced. Men always
treat with derision the woman anxious for matrimony, and gibe equally at
the spinster who fails to attain it. Heaven alone knows why, since by
men’s laws and traditions the married state has been made to mean
everything desirable for a woman, and the unmarried condition everything
undesirable. ‘People think women who do not want to marry unfeminine;
people think women who do want to marry immodest; people combine both
opinions by regarding it as unfeminine for women not to look longingly
forward to wifehood as the hope and purpose of their lives, and
ridiculing and contemning any individual woman of their acquaintance
whom they suspect of entertaining such a longing. They must wish and
not wish; they must not give, and certainly must not withhold,
encouragement--and so it goes on, each precept cancelling the last,
and most of them negative.’[1]

    [Footnote 1: Augusta Webster.]

Both Mr Bernard Shaw and Mr George Moore have stated in print that women
frequently propose to men, and several men have confided in me details
of the proposals they have received from forward fair ones. I believe it
is one of the tenets of advanced women that the sex that bears the child
has a right to choose the husband. Although unpleasantly revolutionary
this seems eminently sane. That the right to choose a mate should be
open to all adults, instead of being the sole privilege of the most
selfish and least observant sex, will possibly be acknowledged in the
future, when the woman question shall be set at rest for ever.

In those far-off days there will, let us hope, be no more tragedy of
the undesired. It seems almost indelicate to apply this phrase to the
noble army of British spinsters, for the most part dignified, worthy
women, comprising ratepayers, householders, philanthropists,
mothers-in-all-but-fact--working parochially, among the poor, in
hospitals, schools, homes, offices, and studios--on public bodies,
on the staff of newspapers--generally cheerful and helpful, sometimes
clever, often charming, occasionally a little narrow perhaps, but on the
whole upholding the best traditions of their sex, and of course _never_
admitting that they would like to have married. Deep in their own
hearts, however, almost all of them must feel the sadness of their
unfulfilment, comfort themselves how they may with other interests.
Those that have engrossing occupations should be thankful, for the woman
whose whole heart is set on finding a husband and who fails to attain
this object generally becomes fretful, bitter, disappointed and useless
in every way. But women whose minds are sufficiently broad to hold other
ideals than the matrimonial one find other work to do, and do it capably
and faithfully. Loving and sympathetic women are always wanted. Marriage
is not essential to such a woman’s life, though it may be to the highest
development of her happiness.

Again, the large number of women who have had chances of marrying can
comfort themselves that they chose to be single for their ideal’s
sake--or for whatever the reason was. Larger still is the number of
those possessing the non-marrying temperament of which Bernard Shaw has
written: ‘Barren--the Life-Force passes it by.’ This rarely troubles
them; they have a host of minor pleasures and interests which suffice;
no storms of feeling, no pangs of stifled mother-longing ruffle the
placid surface of their lives. The real tragedy of the undesired does
not touch either of these classes; it is reserved in all its poignancy
for those who belong to the type of the _grande amoureuse_, whom lack of
opportunity generally, lack of attractiveness sometimes, has prevented
from fulfilling the deepest need of their nature.

I once met at a hotel on the Riviera an elderly spinster who was always
incredibly depressed. However bravely shone the sun, however fair seemed
the world in that fairest spot, nothing had the power to cheer her.
I tried once to get her to join in an excursion which a party of us were
going to make on donkey-back to a neighbouring village in the hills, but
she refused. Another time I invited her to accompany me to the rooms at
Monte Carlo, but she again refused, and after several well-meant efforts
on my part to cheer her had led to the same result, the poor soul told
me in hesitating words that she shunned gay places and lively
gatherings. ‘They always make me discontented and remind me of what I
might have had; it brings home to me the--what shall I call it?--the
_tragedy of the might-have-been_.’ I understood what she meant, and no
further words on the subject passed between us, much to my relief, as
confidences of this nature are very painful to both sides. My readers
will probably despise this poor lady as morbid, selfish and unbalanced.
Possibly they are right, but the sadness of an empty heart, a lonely
life, was the cause of her warped nature. Fortunately hers is an extreme
case; the majority of spinsters I imagine can take a delight in seeing
girls happy, and are generally deeply interested in the love affairs of
others. I recall a beautiful line of Fiona Macleod’s to the effect that
‘a secret vision in the soul will hallow life.’ This will suffice to
keep many spinsters happy--the memory of some love and tenderness,
a romance of some kind to sweeten life; women need it.

To give another instance: a woman once asked me why men fell in love.
‘I wonder if you can tell me what it is about women that makes men
propose to them,’ she said. ‘I’ve known numbers of plain women married
and numbers of penniless ones, and some quite horrid ones without a
single quality likely to make a man happy, yet there must have been
_something_ about them that attracted--some reason for it.’

She went on to tell me in such a pathetic way how she longed to have a
home and a ‘nice, kind man,’ to care for her, and yet no man had ever
asked her; no man had ever desired her or looked on her with love; she
had never known the clasp of a man’s passionate arms, nor the ecstasy of
a lover’s kiss. It seemed very strange to me, strangely painful and
horribly humiliating. I could scarcely bear to look at her while she
told me these things.

‘I would make a man so happy,’ she said, and her mournful dark eyes
filled with tears; she had rather fine eyes, and was quite a
nice-looking woman with a most sweet and gentle manner. ‘I would be so
good to him,’ she went on; ‘I’d simply live for him. I try to put it out
of my mind, but as I grow older, and it’s more hopeless, I think of it
more and more and sometimes I feel I shall go mad with the misery of it.
The future is so utterly grey and it’s all so unjust. I’m so fitted for
love, and now my life’s going and I’ve had nothing, _nothing_!’

She wept bitterly and I wept too in sympathy with her. Curiously enough,
this woman was not only attractive, as I have said, and anxious to
please, and thoroughly feminine, but she had had ample opportunities of
meeting men. I suppose she lacked what the Scotch peasant-woman called
the ‘_come hither in the ’ee_’--some subtle sex-magnetism which had been
possessed by those ‘plain, penniless, and horrid women’ whom she talked
about. Or perhaps it was that the ‘will to live’ was absent and
therefore no mate came to the woman.

There are thousands of women who feel the same, though in most cases
they would scorn to own it. We hear a good deal of man’s right to live;
what about woman’s right to love? Women are so constituted that the need
for loving and being loved is the strongest factor of their being, the
essential of their existence. All over the country there are lonely
women of every class, leisured and working women, pretty and plain, good
and bad, who are hungering and thirsting for love, for a man to take
care of them, for the right to wifehood and the thrice blessed right to
motherhood. In the Press the parrot cry of men echoes ceaselessly:
‘Women shouldn’t meddle in politics; women shouldn’t do this or
that--let them mind their homes and their children.’ But the restless
women who do these things have generally no homes or children to mind;
what is the use of preaching the sacredness of motherhood when you will
not allow them to be mothers? To what end prate of the duties of
wifehood when you do not ask them to be wives?

It is a well-known physiological fact that numbers of women become
insane in middle life who would not have done so if they had enjoyed the
ordinary duties, pleasures and preoccupations of matrimony--if their
women’s natures had not been starved by an unnatural celibacy. This is
not a suitable subject to go into here, but I recommend it to the
attention of my more thoughtful readers and those who concern themselves
with the amelioration of the wretched social conditions of our glorious
twentieth-century civilisation.

Hardest of all is the case of the woman who longs not merely for
wifehood and ‘a kind man,’ but more especially for motherhood, the
bitter-sweet crown of the sex that celibate priests preach ceaselessly
as woman’s first duty and highest good, but which thousands of women in
this country are debarred from fulfilling! Surely no bitterness must
be so poignant as the bitterness of the woman who longs for
motherhood--ceaselessly in her ears the Life Force is calling, and deep
in her heart the dream children are stirring, crying, ‘Give us life!
give us life!’ becoming more importunate every year, as each year finds
the divine possibilities unrealised.

I often think how everything combines to torment a generous-hearted,
full-blooded, mother-woman whose nature is starved thus. She has, of
course, to suppress all emotion on the subject, to hold her head high,
and endure with a smile the ‘experienced’ airs of girls, much younger
than herself, who happen to wear that magical golden ring that changes
all life for a woman; to pretend generally that she has no wish to
marry, never had, and could have if she chose, to laugh at this page if
she should happen to read it, and call the writer a morbid idiot--in
short, she always has to act a part before a world which professes to
find exquisitely humorous the fact of a woman being cheated out of the
birthright of her sex. Every paper and book she picks up nowadays
contains some reference to the glories of motherhood, the joys of love.
Music, pictures, novels and plays, all speak of sex fulfilled and
triumphant, not starved and denied like hers. The same principle is
everywhere in Nature--the sky, the sea, the flowers, the green trees,
the sound of summer rain--all beautiful sights and sounds have the same
meaning, the same burden, the same sharp sting for her. If she is
inclined to be morbid, every child’s face seen in the street turns the
knife in the wound; every sweet baby’s cooing is another pang. ‘Not for
me--not for me!’ must be the perpetual refrain in her mind. Her arms are
empty, her heart is cold; she belongs to the vast, sad army of the

_Do you wonder the madhouses are full of single women?_

   *   *   *

NOTE.--A clever and delightful friend of mine, a spinster by choice,
takes exception to my views on the single estate. I should be deeply
grieved if any words of mine were to cause pain to other women. I have
said before that some of the best women are spinsters, which is sad to a
believer in marriage like myself. Two of the sweetest and noblest women
I know are unmarried; one of them especially seems absolutely without a
thought of self, and has worked hard for others all her life, giving her
powers of brain and body to their utmost limit, and the treasures of her
beautiful heart generously and without stint. I beg my readers to note
that I have tried to differentiate between those spinsters who do not
want to marry and those who do; between the rich spinster who can
command all the amenities of life, and the poor one compelled to a
relentless and unceasing round of uncongenial toil. Still more do I wish
to distinguish between the placid contented woman who can adapt herself
to circumstances and find a quiet sort of happiness in any life--and the
less well-balanced, more passionate natures, with deeper desires and an
imperious need of loving. It is this need of loving stifled, crushed and
fought against that awakens my profound compassion--a compassion which
my friend informs me is wasted and misplaced. My readers must judge.



  ‘For Marriage is like Life in this, that it is a field of battle,
  not a bed of roses.’ --R. L. STEVENSON.

  ‘Marriage is to me apostasy, profanation of the sanctuary of my
  soul, violation of my manhood, sale of my birthright, shameful
  surrender, ignominious capitulation, acceptance of defeat.’
    --_Man and Superman._

  ‘A wise man should avoid married life, as though it were a burning
  pit of live coals.’ --_Dhammika Sutta._



  ‘Marriage is the great mistake that wipes out the smaller
  stupidities of Love.’ --SCHOPENHAUER.

In one of his essays Stevenson says: ‘I am so often filled with wonder
that so many marriages are passable successes, and so few come to open
failure, the more so as I fail to understand the principle on which
people regulate their choice.’

Out of the chaos which envelops this ‘principle’ four special motives
seem to stand out, and we can therefore roughly divide the marriages
that take place into five sections thus--

  1. The Marriage of Passion.
  2. The Marriage of Convenience.
  3. Marriage for a Purpose.
  4. Haphazard Marriage.
  5. The Marriage of Affection.

   *   *   *

_The Marriage of Passion._--One of Mr Somerset Maugham’s characters in
_The Merry-Go-Round_ says: ‘I’m convinced that marriage is the most
terrible thing in the world, unless passion makes it absolutely
inevitable.’ Although a profound admirer of Mr Maugham’s work, here I
find myself entirely at variance with him. Most of the mad, unreasonable
matches are those which ‘passion makes inevitable.’ Theoretically this
is one of the most promising types of marriage--in practice it proves
the most fatally unhappy of all. ‘They’re madly in love with each other,
it’s an ideal match’ is a comment one often hears expressed with much
satisfaction, but it is a painful fact that these desperate loves lead
very frequently to disaster and divorce. Most of the miserable married
couples personally known to me were ‘madly in love’ with each other at
the start.

Is it to be wondered at when one considers the matter? Nature, who
seldom makes a mistake where primitive mankind is concerned is by no
means infallible when dealing with the artificial conditions of our
Western civilisation. In the East where greater sex licence is allowed,
it seems quite safe to trust Nature and follow the instincts she
implants. Not so in our hemisphere. The young man and maid who fall
under passion’s thrall are temporarily blind and mad; their judgment is
obscured, their reasoning powers non-existent, nothing in the world
seems of the slightest importance except the overwhelming necessity _to
give_ themselves--_to possess_ the beloved, the being who has fired
their blood.

If the Fates are cruel, these two are permitted to rush into matrimony.
Nature has worked her will and pays no more heed. She is well-satisfied:
the children born of these unions of utter madness are generally the
finest and strongest, and what else does Nature care about? But for the
young couple? . . . Gradually the roseate clouds lift, the intoxicating
fumes are wafted away--the rapture subsides, and each awakes from the
effects of the most potent drug in the universe to find a very ordinary
young person at their side--and around them a chain which men name

Unhappy indeed are these two if, when they stand facing each other over
passion’s grave, there proves to be no link at all between them except
the memory of the madness that has died. Fortunately this is by no means
always the case, but when it is a very unhappy married life must
inevitably follow. Schopenhauer gives as the reason for such matches
proving unhappy the fact that their participants look after ‘the welfare
of the future generation at the expense of the present,’ and quotes the
Spanish proverb, ‘He who marries for love must live in grief.’ From the
point of view of the individual’s interest, and not that of the future
generation, it certainly seems a mistake to wed the object of intense
desire unless there is also spiritual harmony, community of tastes and
interests, and many other points of union in common. But under the
influence of suppressed passion people lose their clearness of mental
vision and are therefore more or less incapable of judging.

Let there be passion in marriage by all means--so far I entirely agree
with Mr Maugham--but let it be merely the outer covering of love--a
garment of flame the embrace of which is ecstasy indeed, but which, when
it has burnt itself away, still leaves love a solid form of joy and
beauty, erect beneath its ashes. ‘Real friendship,’ founded on harmony
of sentiment, does not exist until the instinct of sex has been

    [Footnote 2: Schopenhauer’s _Metaphysics of Love_.]

   *   *   *

_Marriages of Convenience_ are of two kinds, the wholly sordid, when
money, social position, or some personal aggrandisement has been the
motive on one or both sides, without any basis of affection; and the
partially-sordid, when these reasons are modified by some existing
affection or liking. In this category come the people who marry
principally in the interests of their business or profession, such as
the barrister who weds the solicitor’s daughter, or the young doctor who
marries into the old doctor’s family. In this connection one recalls the
father who advised his sons not to marry for money, but to love where
money was. No doubt the possession of a little money or ‘influence’ is
an added attraction to a maiden’s charm in the eyes of the go-ahead
young man of to-day; and considering how hard it appears to be to earn a
living nowadays one cannot altogether blame them--distressing as it
seems from the sentimental point of view. I don’t believe, however, that
there are so many wholly sordid marriages outside the confines of the
set generally prefixed as ‘smart.’ People who are not members of this
glittering circle are already sufficiently shy of matrimony nowadays,
and are afraid of the enormous additional handicap such a match would
carry. Of course these unions are almost inevitably miserable failures,
and one wonders what else the victims could have expected.

   *   *   *

We now come to the third division, _Marriage for a Purpose_. These
matches are distantly allied with the partially-sordid, but there is
nothing sordid about them, as they are frequently undertaken from the
highest motives. In this class are the widowers who wed for the sake of
their children, the spinsters whose motive is their desire for
motherhood, the men and women who marry to possess a home, or for the
sake of companionship. All these reasons are justifiable enough, and
people who embark on matrimony with a set purpose generally take it very
seriously, and determine to make a success of it. Such marriages often
prove extremely happy, perhaps for the very reason that so little is
asked. The spirit of contentment is an excellent influence in married
life, since love is often killed by its own excessive demands, as I
shall endeavour to show later.

   *   *   *

_Haphazard Marriages_ seem to me the best way to describe those unions
into which men drift without any special reason, sometimes almost
against their own wish. Nature does not care how the young people come
together as long as they do come, and sometimes a man finds himself
drifting into matrimony almost before he is aware. I write a ‘man’
advisedly as women never _drift_ into wifehood. In these cases it is
generally their set and deliberate purpose that has steered the man into
the conjugal harbour unknown to him. He has merely followed the line of
least resistance and found to his surprise that it leads to the altar.
Mr Bernard Shaw has given a very amusing, and, in spite of itself,
convincing, picture of this manœuvring in _Man and Superman_, where he
also expresses his conviction that ‘men, to protect themselves . . .
have set up a feeble, romantic conviction that the initiative in sex
business must always come from the man . . . but the pretence is so
shallow, so unreal that even in the theatre, that last sanctuary of
unreality, it imposes only on the inexperienced. In Shakespeare’s plays
the woman always takes the initiative. In his problem plays and his
popular plays alike the love interest is the interest of seeing the
woman hunt the man down. . . . The pretence that women do not take the
initiative is part of the farce. Why, the whole world is strewn with
snares, traps, gins, and pitfalls for the capture of men by women. It is
assumed that the woman must wait motionless to be wooed. Nay, she often
does wait motionless. That is how the spider waits for the fly. The
spider spins her web. And if the fly, like my hero, shows a strength
that promises to extricate him, how swiftly does she abandon her
pretence of passiveness, and openly fling coil after coil about him
until he is secured for ever!’

   *   *   *

_The Marriage of Affection._--‘Do you know any thoroughly happy
couples?’ says one of the characters in _Double Harness_.

‘Very hard to say. Oh, ecstasies aren’t for this world, you know--not
permanent ecstasies. You might as well have permanent hysterics. And, as
you’re aware, there are no marriages in heaven. So perhaps there’s no
heaven in marriages either.’

These sentiments are of a nature to disgust and irritate the ignorant
girl of twenty by their callous unreality in her eyes, and to delight
the experienced woman of, say, thirty, by their profound truth in
hers--so utterly do one’s ideas about life change in the course of ten
years or so!

Sixty years ago George Sand wrote: ‘You ask me whether you will be happy
thro’ love and marriage. You will not, I am fully convinced, be so in
either the one or the other. Love, fidelity, maternity are nevertheless
the most important, the most necessary things in the life of a woman.’

To the same effect writes R. L. Stevenson when he says: ‘I suspect Love
is rather too violent a passion to make in all cases a good domestic
character.’ Of course no very young people will believe this, but it is
a horrid sordid truth that, as a rule, the happiest marriages are those
in which the couple do not love too intensely. I am speaking of solid,
workaday happiness, not of ecstasies and raptures. The excessive claims
made by passionate love and the fevered state of mind it produces are
often the cause of its shipwreck. ‘If I am horrid, darling,’ a girl once
said to her lover, when trying to make up a quarrel she herself had
brought about, ‘it’s only because I love you so intensely.’ ‘Then, for
God’s sake, love me less, and treat me better,’ snapped the outraged
lover, and we can but sympathise with him.

I have purposely used the word _Affection_ in this division, in place of
one signifying a greater degree of feeling, and I unhesitatingly state
that generally speaking, the most successful marriages are those
which--‘when the first sweet sting of love be past, the sweet that
almost venom is,’ develop into the temperate, unexacting, peaceful and
harmonious unions which come under this heading. To the ardent youths
and maidens--restless seekers after the elusive joy of life--who will
have none of this prosaic and inglorious counsel, and who are prepared
to stake their all on the belief that the first sweet sting of love is
going to last for ever, I say: Get your roses-and-raptures over some
other way; don’t look for romance in marriage or, unless your case prove
the exception to the rule, you will inevitably make a terrible
mistake! . . . Oh, don’t ask _me_ how it is to be done, but remember
what I say, and don’t marry until the quiet, sober, beautiful and
restful affection you now scorn becomes in your eyes a haven of peace
from the storm and stress of life, and the highest good it contains.

Another reason why the Marriage of Affection is the most likely to prove
a success is because mutual respect enters so largely into its
composition, and how enormously important this is in the holy estate,
none can realise until they marry. I shall have more to say later about
the urgent necessity for respect in married life.



  ‘And yet when all has been said, the man who should hold back from
  marriage is in the same case with him who runs away from battle.’
    --R. L. STEVENSON.

We have discussed those types of marriage more or less doomed to failure
from the outset, and now come to the reason why so many matches prove
unhappy when apparently every circumstance has been favourable.

It was Socrates, I think, who said: ‘Whether you marry or whether you
remain unmarried, you will repent it.’ The people who assert that
marriage is a failure seem to lose sight of the fact that the estate was
not ordained for the purpose of happiness, but to meet the necessities
of society, and so long as these necessities are fulfilled by marriage,
then the institution must be pronounced successful, however unhappy
married people may be.

If the reasons ‘why we fell out, my wife and I,’ were to be considered
exhaustively, the subject would overflow the bounds of this modest
volume and run into several hundred giant tomes; indeed I believe an
entire library could be filled with books on this matter alone. Ever
since Adam and Eve had a few words over their dessert, husbands and
wives have gone on quarrelling continuously and the humble philosopher
who said that certain people quarrelled ‘bitter and reg’lar, like man
and wife,’ was merely describing a condition that habit had made
familiar to him.

As with the rest of life, in matrimony it is the little things that
count, and the frail barque of married happiness founders principally on
the insignificant, half-perceived rocks--the little jealousies, little
denials, little irritations, little tempers, little biting words, which
by degrees wear so many little holes in the stern that at last an
irreparable leak is sprung and the ship goes down in the next storm. The
big obstacles make a worse crash when they _do_ get in the way, but they
can be seen from afar and steered clear of.

A miserable husband who had come to the parting of the ways (having
started in the madly-in-love section), once confided in me that the
bitter and terrible quarrels between him and his wife always began for
some utterly trivial reason, generally because he did not admire her
clothes! Could anything be more pitifully absurd? ‘Then why,’ I asked,
‘as you’re so anxious to keep the peace, do you volunteer any criticism
at all?’ ‘Oh, I never do,’ was the answer. ‘She asks me my opinion of a
new gown, say, and gets angry when it’s unfavourable. Then of course I
get angry too, I’m no saint, and presently we come to curses and words
that sting like blows. Then I clear out for a couple of days, and of
course there’s the devil to pay when I go back, and it begins all over
again. Why, this present row has lasted five weeks or so, and in the
beginning it was simply because I said I didn’t like the ostrich feather
in her hat!’

Again: I once met at a race-meeting a school-friend, long lost sight of,
whom I had last seen as a newly-wedded wife, loving and beloved. She was
now very much changed, hard and haggard of face. I asked after the man I
remembered as a radiant bridegroom.

‘Oh, he’s gone the way of all husbands,’ she said, with a sigh; ‘liver,
my dear.’

‘Do you mean he’s dead?’ I asked, shocked and pained.

‘Oh, dear, no, he’s alive enough, but he’s developed liver and that’s
killed our love,’ was the cynical reply.

It had. Devotion and dyspepsia are hard to reconcile and my friend’s
husband had developed a nasty knack of throwing his dinner in the fire
whenever it displeased him, a habit hardly conducive to home happiness.

Food, as a fact, is one of the chief sources of friction in married
life. It sounds farcical, but I am perfectly serious. Food, the ordering
and cooking of it and the subsequent paying for it, is one of the great
tragedies of a wife’s existence. Time, the great healer, mercifully
deadens the intensity of this anguish, and matrons of fifty or so can
face the daily burden of food-ordering with something like indifference.
But to a woman who has not yet reached the fatal landmark aptly
described as ‘the same age as everybody else, namely, thirty-five,’ it
is the greatest cross, whilst many a bride has had her early married
life totally ruined by the horrid and ever recurring necessity of
finding food for her partner. Men make fun of women because their
dinner, when alone, so often consists of an egg for tea, but women have
such a constitutional hatred of food-ordering, inherited, no doubt, from
a long line of suffering female ancestry, that the majority of them
would gladly live on tea and bread-and-butter for the rest of their
lives sooner than face the necessity of daily meditating on a menu. For
this reason I believe vegetarian husbands are particularly desirable,
since the whole principle of food-reform is simplicity. Those who go in
for it acquire an entirely fresh set of ideas on the importance of food,
and become quite pathetically easily pleased. I know a woman whose
husband is a vegetarian and she declared that the food question, so
disturbing a factor in most homes, had never caused her a single tear,
or frown, or angry word, or added wrinkle. She assured me that her
husband would cheerfully breakfast off a banana, lunch off a lettuce,
dine on a date and sup on a salted almond. When the house was upset on
the occasion of a large evening party and there were no conveniences for
the ordinary family dinner, the creature actually ate cheese sandwiches
in the bathroom, by way of a dinner, and was quite pleased to do so,
moreover! I could scarcely credit it at first, but it was really true.

Of the many paltry little causes for friction in married life
incompatibility of temperature has doubtless been a very fruitful source
of dissension. If one shivers when the window is opened and the other is
a fresh-air faddist and can’t breathe with it shut, an endless vista of
possibilities of unhappiness is opened out. It was, I believe,
Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise, who always got rid of her husband
when she wished to, by merely keeping her apartments cold. The great man
was only comfortable in a very hot room with a blazing fire.

That grievous deficiency, no sense of humour, is another of the tiny
little rocks on which married happiness often splits. This is natural
enough, since an absence of this priceless quality is about the worst
deprivation a traveller on life’s journey can suffer from. Among men the
conviction is rife that women invariably suffer thus, but I think we can
afford to leave them this delusion, since it affords them so much
satisfaction. At one time I had a journalist friend of a painfully
stodgy and unusually depressing literary habit. This poor soul fancied
his vein was humour, and from him I have often endured the reading aloud
of the dreariest laboured pages of japes and jests, which to his
thinking were sparkling with wit. My patient, long-suffering listening
only brought bitter derision for my alleged lack of humorous perception,
but my criticism inspired the young man to write a cynical article on
‘Women and Humour,’ of the kind that editors--being men--delight in,
and for which he consequently got well paid.

As a fact, the things that amuse men frequently fail to amuse women and
_vice versâ_ but it is surely illogical to deduce from this that women’s
humorous sense is inferior to men’s--or non-existent. As, however, this
apparently insignificant question is of such importance in life
generally, whether it be in a palace, a convent, a villa or a
workhouse--I think a wife would be well-advised to assume amusement if
she feels it not, laugh with her lord even when she doesn’t see the
point, and cultivate indifference when he fails to laugh with her.

Writers on marriage seem to have paid very little attention to this
important point. Stevenson is one of the exceptions: ‘That people should
laugh over the same sort of jest,’ he says, ‘and have many an old joke
between them which time cannot wither or custom stale is a better
preparation for life, by your leave, than many other things higher and
better-sounding in the world’s ears. You could read Kant by yourself,
if you wanted; but you must share a joke with someone else.’

In a beautiful poem, Stephen Phillips describes how a bereaved lover can
think calmly of his dead, when he looked at her possessions, the things
she had worn, even when he read her letters; and her saddest words had
no power to pain him, but when he came to--

  ‘A hurried, happy line!
  A little jest too slight for one so dead:
  This did I not endure--
  Then with a shuddering heart no more I read,’

In truth, the little joke shared, the old allusion at which both are
accustomed to laugh, is a more potent bond than many a deeper feeling.
One can recall these trifles long after one has forgotten the poignant
moments of passion, the breathless heartbeats, the wild embraces which
at the time seemed to promise such deathless memories. All, all are
forgotten, but the silly little joke has still the power to bring tears
to our eyes if the one with whom we shared it is lost to us.

   *   *   *

A great many people are wretched who would have been perfectly happy
with another partner. ‘In the inequalities of temperament lies the main
cause of unhappiness in marriage. Want of harmony in tastes counts for
much, but a misfit in temperament for more.’ So ludicrously mismated are
some couples that one wonders how they could ever have dreamed of
finding happiness together. This again is frequently the fault of our
absurd conventions, which make it so difficult for single young men and
women to really get to know each other. However, things have improved so
much in this direction during the last decade or two that we ought not
to grumble, but, even now, if a man show a decided preference for a
girl’s company his name is at once coupled with hers in a manner which
can but alarm a youth devoid of matrimonial intentions. That relic of
the dark ages, the intention-asking parent, is by no means extinct, and
many a promising friendship that might have ended in a happy marriage is
spoilt by the clumsy intervention of this barbaric relative.

A young barrister friend of mine--we will call him Anthony--once tried,
for reasons of professional policy, to make himself agreeable to a
solicitor with a very large family of daughters. Being a shrewd man,
he selected one of the girls still in the schoolroom to pay particular
attention to, and thus escaped the necessity of showing special interest
in her elder and marriageable sisters. His intimacy with the family
prospered, and the father became a very useful patron. However, as time
went on, he discovered to his dismay that his little friend, Amaryllis,
had grown up and that he was regarded in the family as her special
property. Speedily he transferred his attachment to Aphrodite, the
youngest girl then in the schoolroom, and by this means saved himself
from an entanglement with Amaryllis, whilst at the same time preserving
the valuable friendship of her father. In an incredibly short time,
however, Aphrodite was nubile, and the family once more expectant of
securing Anthony as a permanent member. Once again he executed the same
manœuvre, choosing this time the little Andromeda, a plain child still
in the nursery. The family, though disappointed, remained hopeful, and
the years passed peacefully on, bringing a few sons-in-law in their
train, and innumerable boxes of sweets to the unprepossessing Andromeda.
When, however, Andromeda too grew up, the wily Anthony feared his
fruitful friendship must inevitably come to an end, since the only
remaining daughter had already reached the dangerous age of fifteen,
and bore moreover the improper name of Anactoria!

A long friendship and a short engagement is perhaps the best
combination. A prolonged engagement is the most trying relationship
between the sexes possible to conceive. For the woman it means the
drawbacks of matrimony without its charm of restful finality, or any of
its solid worldly advantages. On the man’s side it means the irksomeness
of the marriage yoke without any of its satisfactions and comforts. On
the man, indeed, a long engagement is especially hard, as at least the
woman is spared the burden of ordering his food and coping with his
servants. Many a sincere affection has been killed by the restraints and
irritations of a long engagement. Many a genuine passion has waned
during its dreary course, until but a feeble spark of the great flame is
left to light the wedded life, and both man and woman carry the mark of
that suppressed ardour which, under happier circumstances, might have
come to a joyous fruition. Their children, too, sometimes lack vitality,
and show the need of the fire that died before they were begotten.

   *   *   *

I don’t know who it was who first coined the phrase ‘the appalling
intimacy of married life’; certainly it is an apt expression, and one
wonders at what period in the world’s history men and women began to
find that intimacy ‘appalling.’ It sounds a modern enough complaint, and
somehow one feels sure it was never indulged in by our grandmothers, who
looked upon their husbands as a kind of visible embodiment of the Lord’s
Will, and respected them accordingly. They would never have dreamed of
finding irksome what Mrs Lynn Linton called the ‘_chair-à-chair_
closeness of the English home.’

Much has been written of the degradation of love by habit, and Alexandre
Dumas expresses the whole question to perfection in one crystal
sentence: ‘In marriage when love exists habit kills it; when love does
not exist habit calls it into being.’ This is profoundly true, and for
every passion habit has killed it must certainly have created more
genuine affections.

The Spartan plan of allowing husband and wife to meet only by stealth
shows an acute understanding of human nature and has much to recommend
it, if the object in view is to prolong the period of passion. But we
are not now dealing with passion, but with the ordinary affection
between people who have to live together under the trying conditions of
modern marriage, and in these circumstances one must agree with Dumas as
to the wonders worked by habit.

Indeed, if people only realised it, habit is the cement which holds the
edifice of matrimony together. With the passing of years, given the
slightest basis of mutual harmony, one’s partner becomes
indispensable--not by reason of her charms or the love we bear him, but
simply because she or he is a part of our lives. That is why I think the
policy of constant separation foolish. It is based presumably on the
erroneous supposition that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Where
the basis of mutual harmony does _not_ exist, it may be true; and if a
couple dislike each other and get on badly, a short separation may serve
to relieve the tension, and to send them back each resolved to try and
make things smoother in future. But where affection exists, it is a
mistake. One learns to do without the other; that linking chain of
little daily intimacies, oft-repeated jests, endearing customs, is
temporarily snapped, and it is not easily put together again. My friend
Miranda said to me not long ago: ‘If Lysander’s been away from me a day
I’ve heaps to talk about when he returns--if we’ve been parted a month,
I’ve nothing on earth to say.’

I think it is de la Rochfoucauld who says: ‘Absence deepens great
passions and lessens little ones just as the wind puts out the candle
and heightens the fire.’ This is fine from the literary point of view,
but is it true? My experience says No. Yet _during_ the absence this
aphorism seems true enough. Disillusion comes with reunion. Who does not
remember that first departure of the Beloved--the innumerable letters,
the endless meditation, the ceaseless yearning and the everlasting
planning for the glorious return? What a meeting that is going to be!
How one dwells in thought on that first goodly satisfaction of the
desire of the eyes; goodlier still that joyous clasping of the hands;
goodliest of all that glorious locking of the lips, that unending
embrace in the ecstasy of which all the wretched hours of absence are to
be forgotten--and, oh! laughter of the gods! how different it really
proves! What a hideous disappointment the meeting is! How different the
Beloved looks from our passionate dream; his hair wants cutting; we
don’t like his boots; his tie is not of our choosing; his speech does
not please us; his kiss has no thrill; his remarks bore; his presence
irritates: in short, _we have learnt to do without him_, so nothing he
does seems right. Poor Beloved! and did you think the same of us? Are
you disappointed too? Did you say to yourself: ‘How fagged she looks!
By Jove! she’s getting a double chin. I thought pink used to suit her.
What’s she done to her hair? Her voice seems sharper. Why does she laugh
like that? I don’t like her teeth. Good heavens, the woman’s hideous!’
In short, _he has learnt to do without us_. When husbands and wives
learn this lesson, the good ship ‘Wedded Bliss’ is getting into perilous
waters where danger of utter wreck looms large.

But it is equally fatal to go to the other extreme, and I entirely agree
with that authoress (who was she?) who said that no house could be
expected to go on properly unless the male members of the family are out
of it for at least six hours daily, Sundays excepted. The woman whose
husband’s occupation, or lack of it, keeps him at home all day has my
profound sympathy. Merely to have to think out and order a man’s lunch
as well as his breakfast and dinner must be a bitter trial. For this
reason among others women should never marry a man who does not work at
_something_. If he has no bread-winning business to remove him from his
wife’s sphere of action for several hours daily, then he must have a
hobby, or a game mania, or engrossing duties which serve the same
purpose. Otherwise the wife must be constituted on a plane of inhuman
goodness and possess infinite love, tact, and patience if the two are to
live happily together.

The same principle applies to women, though it is not generally
recognised. I am convinced that a great number of middle-class marriages
prove unhappy merely because the woman has not enough to do. Possessed
of sufficient servants, her household duties occupy a very small portion
of her leisure, and if her children are at school (or perhaps she has
none) she has nothing more engrossing to do than read novels and pay
visits. The result is that one type of woman cultivates nerves and
becomes a neurasthenic semi-invalid; another cultivates the opposite sex
and fills her leisure hours with undesirable philandering; another
develops temper or melancholy or jealous fancies; and so on--all of them
spoilt as companions merely for want of sufficient occupation.



  ‘To me the extraordinary thing is not that so many people remain
  unmarried, but that so many rush into marriage, as they might rush
  into a station to catch a train. And if you catch the wrong train,
  what then? All you have to comfort you is the fact that you have
  travelled.’  --ROBERT HICHENS.

A great many unhappy unions might be prevented if people could find
their right age for marrying. As it differs with the individual, it is
impossible to lay down any exact rule. Some men are capable of making a
good choice at twenty-two; others don’t know their own minds at double
that age. Some girls are fit for wifehood and maternity in their teens;
others never.

In the interests of abstract morality early marriages are desirable,
and in England everything the law can do is done to encourage them. In
France the preservation of family authority is considered all-important,
and the law apparently tries to check early unions by every means in its
power, regardless of the high percentage of illegitimate births which is
the direct consequence.[3]

    [Footnote 3: In 1903 one tenth of all the children born in France
    were illegitimate. In Paris alone the percentage was higher
    still--about one in every four.]

Broadly speaking, no woman should wed until she understands something of
life, has met a good many men, has acquired a certain knowledge of
physiology and eugenics and a clear understanding of what marriage
really means. No woman should marry until she has learnt the value of
money, and how to manage a household--until she has had plenty of
girlish fun and gaiety, and is thus ready for the more serious things of
life. Not until then is she likely to be happy in the monotony of
wedlock or capable of attuning her mind to the necessity of being
faithful to one man only, in thought as well as in deed. Broadly
speaking, also, no man is likely to marry happily until he has seen life
and plenty of it, has hammered out for himself something of a philosophy
and obtained considerable knowledge of women and a consequent
understanding of how to make one happy.

This is not so easily done as men suppose, and it takes time to learn.
Few men under thirty are fit to have the care of a wife, and Heaven
preserve a girl from a young husband who is still a cub! No doubt she
will have glorious moments, for there is something intoxicating about
the ardour of a very young heart, and that is why we find boy and girl
marriages so charming--in theory. Sometimes in the case of an
exceptional couple, well suited to each other, they really are charming,
and then it is the most beautiful marriage conceivable--two young
things, starting off hand in hand on life’s journey, brave-hearted,
loving, full of high hopes. But as a rule the glory is limited to
moments only; young girls are mostly shallow and frivolous; very young
men are often madly selfish and reckless. They are so proud of being the
sole possessor of an attractive woman that their conceit, always
immense, swells into monstrous proportions and they grow wholly
unbearable. If dark days should come to the young couple, the
boy-husband has no philosophy to support him, no knowledge of women to
enable him to understand his wife and live happily with her, and little
self-control for his help; she has the same defects of youth, and the
result is failure. Stevenson puts it perfectly thus: ‘You may safely go
to school with hope, but before you marry you should have learned the
mingled lesson of the world.’ On the other hand, Grant Allen says that
‘the best of men are, so to speak, born married,’ and that it is only
the selfish, mean, and calculating man who waits till he can afford to
marry. ‘That vile phrase scarcely veils hidden depths of depravity,’ he
continues. ‘The right sort of man doesn’t argue with himself at all on
these matters. He doesn’t say, with selfish coldness: “I can’t afford a
wife”; or “If I marry now I shall ruin my prospects.” He feels and acts.
He mates like the birds, because he can’t help himself.’

I must say that these young men who do not think, but merely feel and
act, scarcely seem of the highest type in my opinion, and if mating like
the birds were to be generally accepted as a sign of a noble
nature--well, nobility would be decidedly less rare than at present!



  ‘Nothing that is worth saying is proper.’ --G. BERNARD SHAW.

  ‘I don’t believe in the existence of Puritan women. I don’t think
  there is a woman in the world who would not be a little flattered
  if one made love to her. It is that which makes woman so
  irresistibly adorable.’ --OSCAR WILDE.

If there be any readers whose susceptibilities are shocked by this
headline, they are respectfully requested--nay, commanded--to read no
further. If there be any whose susceptibilities waver without as yet
experiencing any actual shock, they are affectionately asked--nay,
implored--to re-read several times the above quotation from Mr Shaw’s
immortal _Candida_, to thereupon pull themselves together and take the
plunge. I can promise them it won’t be anything like as terrible as they
half hope--in fact its essential propriety will probably disappoint them

Curiously enough, though women are more anxious to marry than men,
and do everything in their power to achieve what men often strive to
resist--after marriage it is generally the woman who is most
discontented. Of late years a spirit of strange unrest has come over
married women, and they frequently rebel against conditions which our
grandmothers would never have dreamed of murmuring at. There are a
variety of causes for this: one that marriage falls short of women’s
expectations, as I said in the opening chapter, another that they have
had no _feminine_ wild oats. Please note the qualifying adjective, duly
italicised, and do not attempt to misunderstand me. I am no advocate of
the licence generally accorded to men being extended to women.

‘Wild oats’ of this nature, otherwise an ante-hymeneal ‘fling,’ was
certainly not a necessity of our grandmothers, but a certain (fairly
numerous) type of modern women seem to make better wives when they have
reaped this harvest. Take for example the cases of Yvonne and Yvette
which are personally known to me. Yvette was engaged at eighteen and
married at twenty-one. At the age of twenty-six she was the mother of
four children. She had scarcely time to realise what youth meant and
begin to enjoy it before her girlhood was stifled under the
responsibilities of marriage and maternity. She had accepted her first
offer, and he was practically the only man she knew anything of. Beyond
him she had seen nothing of men, or of the world; certainly she had
never flirted or had men friends or enjoyed any admiration but that of
her _fiancé_.

At twenty-six Yvette began to realise that she had been cheated out of a
very precious part of life and an invaluable experience. Though a fairly
happy wife and a devoted mother, she felt that she might have had those
lost delights as well as the domestic joys, and the knowledge enraged

A dangerous spirit of curiosity entered her heart, and a still more
dangerous longing for adventure and excitement. She realised that there
were other men in the world who admired her besides her Marcus, and that
she was pretty and still quite a young woman. At thirty Yvette was a
mistress of the art of intrigue--had engineered several dangerous
_affaires_, and might have come to serious grief had not Marcus been a
singularly wise, tender, and understanding husband.

‘It isn’t that I don’t love him dearly,’ she confided in me when
resolving to turn over a new leaf. ‘I wouldn’t exchange him for anyone
in the world, and you know what the children are to me--but somehow I
want something else as well--some excitement. I feel I’ve had no _fun_
in my life, and I wanted to have a fling before it was too late. When I
was engaged I scarcely ever even danced with anyone but Marcus, and for
the first four years of my married life I had a baby every eighteen
months--it was nothing but babies, nursing the old one and getting ready
for the new one! Not that I didn’t love it, but the reaction was bound
to come, and it did. If only I could have had the excitement and the
gaiety and the glamour first, and then married when I was about
twenty-five, I should have been perfectly satisfied then, like Yvonne!’

Yvonne certainly managed her affairs better. Fate saved her from the
misfortune of falling in love too soon. She always had a train of
admirers, and was enabled to enjoy the power of her womanhood to the
full; she travelled, made delightful friendships with both sexes, learnt
to know the world and acquired a philosophy of life. When she married,
at twenty-nine, she had seen enough of other men to know exactly the
kind of husband she wanted, and had had enough excitement to make her
appreciate the peace and calm of matrimony.

The secrets of many wives lie heavily on my soul as I write, and more
than one woman, with some real reason for remorse, has confided in me
that it was only that fatal desire for excitement that primarily caused
her undoing. I shall instruct my son to be sure to marry a woman who has
got her wild oats safely over, or select a wife of the more
old-fashioned type who does not require them. With the modern
temperament they must almost inevitably come sooner or later, and to
what extent the modern temperament will have evolved by the time the Boy
of Boys is marriageable, the ironical gods alone know!

Bachelors take note! A woman--new style--who has knocked about over half
the world and sown a mild crop of the delectable cereal will prove a far
better wife, a more cheery friend and faithful comrade than the girl _of
more or less the same type_ whose first experience you are, and who will
make enormous claims on your love and patience by reason of her utter
ignorance of men. You will possibly even have to live up to an ideal
founded on novel-reading, and that you will find very wearing, my
friend! The experienced woman knows men so thoroughly, she will expect
nothing more of you than you can give her, and will appreciate your
virtues to the utmost and make the best of your vices. ‘But she has
flirted so outrageously,’ you say? Well, so much the better, she is less
likely to do it after marriage. ‘But, hang it all, she has been kissed
by other men,’ you say? Well then, she has no need for further
experiences of this kind and is not likely ever to give her lips again
to others once she is yours. . . . How can you be sure? That is one of
the innumerable risks of marriage. How can _she_ be sure that _your_
last crop is sown, still less reaped? . . . Oh, my dear man, you really
make me very angry--do for heaven’s sake try and get away from
conventional ideas of right and wrong! Judge things _for yourself_, and
as they would seem, say, at the edge of an active volcano! . . . All the
things we fuss so much about would doubtless quickly assume their real
value if viewed from this perilous situation.

And even in the sad cases where a woman has sown real wild oats in the
man’s sense of the word, how different the little moral rules and
regulations which we keep for these occasions would appear in the face
of an immediate and violent death. I heard not long ago of a very sad
story which bears this out. A man very narrowly escaped death from
drowning, shortly after he had broken his engagement with a girl he
genuinely loved, on her confessing to him that, many years before, she
had once yielded to the importunities of a passionate lover. I do not
know what were his emotions in the awful moment when the waters closed
over him, and he was experiencing that horrible fight for breath which
those who have known it describe as the most terrible sensation
conceivable. Apparently his hairbreadth escape from death tore from his
eyes the swathings of conventional opinion with which he had been
blinded. Instead of regarding himself as a deeply wronged man he
realised that he had behaved horribly to the unfortunate girl, who had
thus been doubly outraged by his sex. He sought her at once and begged
to be taken back again, but she happened to be a woman of some spirit,
and she refused to trust herself to a man of such narrow views, and
given to such harsh judgment.

Of course this treatment increased his love a thousandfold. It obsessed
him to a painful degree, and in the end his desperate entreaties
prevailed on her deep affection for him and she relented. Their marriage
was not very happy, as may be imagined; they both loved to madness and
the ghost of that dead passion stood ever between them, an invisible,
poisonous presence that killed their joy in each other. After a time a
deep melancholy settled on the woman, and she allowed some trifling
illness to take such a hold on her that it caused her death.

When she was dying, I am told, she said to her faithful friend: ‘If ever
you meet another woman who has made one little slip--a thing which at
the time seemed so natural and inevitable as not to be sin at all--tell
her never _never_ to confess it to the man she is going to marry, least
of all if she loves him. If that confession doesn’t part them
altogether, it will always be between them. One does it wishing to be
straight, but it’s the most dreadful mistake a woman can make.’

Her wish to be straight had cost this poor woman not only her whole
life’s happiness, and her very life itself, but the happiness of the man
she loved, in whose interests she had made the confession that wrought
the harm. ‘How dearly I have paid! how dearly I have paid!’ she used to
say over and over again in her last illness.

This is an absolutely true story, and it seems to me a burning injustice
that a woman should suffer so bitterly for what would be absolutely
disregarded in a man. I have no doubt there are many similar cases, and
emphatically I say that such confessions are ill-advised. The ordinary
conventional-thinking man placed in these circumstances would either
throw a woman over, or marry her against his convictions. The
extraordinary masculine code, for some reason beyond my feminine powers
of comprehension, will not admit that a spinster who has had a lover, or
even made one ‘false step,’ is a fit person to wed, though no man would
object to marrying a widow, and many men take respondent _divorcées_ to

Even in the case of a rarely generous-minded, tolerant and understanding
man, who judged the offence at its true computation, such knowledge
would only prove disturbing and a source of insecurity to conjugal
happiness. No good purpose of any kind can be served, and the ease which
confession is proverbially supposed to gain for the sinner would be
bought at a very heavy price.

‘But two wrongs don’t make a right, and surely it can’t be proper for a
woman to deceive a man on such a vital point,’ the stern moralist may
exclaim. Possibly not, according to the strictly ideal standard of
ethics; but, viewed from the larger standpoints of life and of
commonsense, this ‘deceit’ would appear to be advisable. And be assured,
my unpleasant moralist (I’m sure you are an unpleasant person), that the
sinner will not get off ‘scot free,’ as you seem to fear. Many and many
a stab will be her portion, for memory is a potent poison, and every
expression of love and trust from her husband will most likely carry its
own special sting, whilst the round, innocent eyes of adoring little
children, to whom she is a being that can do no wrong, will be a meet
punishment for an infinitely greater fault. Meanwhile the man is _in all
probability_ in every way a gainer by the woman’s silence, for doubtless
he is doubly dear to her for the very fact that the first man treated
her badly, and she may perhaps be a better wife, a stronger and sweeter
woman, a more capable mother, by reason of the suffering she has

Now let no maliciously obtuse person attribute to me the pernicious
doctrine that a woman with a past is the best wife for a man. I merely
say that a good woman who has surrendered herself to an ardent lover and
been afterwards deserted by him must necessarily have gone through such
intense suffering that her character is probably deepened thereby and
her capacity for love and faithfulness increased. It is another truism
that suffering is necessary to bring out the best qualities in women.

Men too should keep the details of their wild oats severely to
themselves. In married life there are bound to be secrets and the
happiest couples are those who know how to keep them, each to him or her
self. A very good motto for the newly betrothed would be that of Tom
Broadbent in _John Bull’s Other Island_--‘Let us have no
tellings--perfect confidence, but no tellings: that’s the way to avoid



If girls were more reasonably trained with regard to matters of sex,
there would be far fewer miserable wives in the world, and fewer
husbands would be driven to seek happiness outside their home circle.
If, when girls reach years of discretion, they were systematically
taught some rudimentary outline of the fundamental principles of
existence, instead of being left in utter ignorance as at present, the
extraordinarily false notions of sex which they now pick up would cease
to obtain, and a great deal of harm would thus be avoided. As it is,
maidens are now given tacitly to understand that the subject of sex is a
repulsive one, wholly unfit for their consideration, and the functions
of sex are loathsome, though necessary. I write tacitly with intention,
for little if anything is ever said to a girl on this subject; indeed,
it is extraordinary how the ideas are conveyed to her without words, but
inculcated somehow they certainly are, and it is difficult to understand
how mothers manage to reconcile this teaching with their evident wish
that their girls should marry. The ideal held up to girls nowadays is
apparently the sexless sort of Diana one--not merely chastity, but

Most girls are aware from a very early age of the social advantages and
importance of marriage, and grow up with a keen desire to accomplish it
in due course, although secretly dreading it, because of their absurd
perverted ideas of its physical side. Why cannot girls--and boys too,
for that matter--be taught the plain truth (in suitable language of
course) that sex is the pivot on which the world turns, that the
instincts and emotions of sex are common to humanity, and in themselves
not base or degrading, nor is there any cause for shame in possessing
them, although it is necessary that they should be strenuously
controlled. Why cannot girls be taught that _all love_, even the
romantic love which occupies so large a portion of their dreams,
_springs from the instinct of sex_?[4] This may be thought a dangerous
lesson, but the present policy of silence on this subject is far more
dangerous, inducing as it does a tendency to brood over the forbidden

    [Footnote 4: Schopenhauer’s _Metaphysics of Love_.]

I remember when in my early teens a schoolfellow of about fifteen
confided in me that ‘a man’--he was a harmless boy of about twenty--had
kissed her hand when passing her a tennis racquet. She drew her hand
indignantly away, and said: ‘How dare you insult me!’ then left the
tennis court and refused to play any more. I do not think many girls are
so silly as this, but the incident illustrates the general tone
inculcated at that school. And it shows what an emphasis on sex matters
the girl’s mind had received, when she saw an insult in a perfectly
innocent and courteous act of admiring homage. What a harmful
preparation for life such training must be! This is the kind of teaching
that results in those wretched honeymoons which one occasionally hears
of in secret, and which produces unwilling wives whose disdainful
coldness is their husbands’ despair. This lack of feeling and lack of
comprehension of the needs of stronger, warmer natures is one of the
deepest and most incurable causes of married misery.

Let us teach our girls to regard sex as a _natural_ and _ordinary_ fact,
and the infinite evils which spring from regarding it as extraordinary
and repulsive will thus be avoided. Let us bring them up to think that
loving wifehood, passionate motherhood are the proper expression of a
woman’s nature and the best possible life for her.

In a very interesting book called _Woman in Transition_, recently
published, this view of woman’s destiny is repeatedly scoffed at. The
writer, Annette B. Meakin, is a fellow of the Anthropological Institute,
and evidently widely read and travelled. I will give a few quotations:
‘In the happy future when higher womanly ideals have spread around us we
shall all realise, no matter to which sex we belong, that to hold
unqualified motherhood before every girl’s eyes as her highest ideal is
to play the traitor to our race and to humanity.’ . . . ‘English Head
Mistresses--though often unmarried themselves--still consider it their
pious duty to tell their pupils that motherhood is woman’s highest
destiny, and the pupils . . . make marriage their first aim, and other
success in life has consequently to take a second place.’ . . . ‘Some
very good women in England are still telling our young girls that
motherhood is, for every woman, the worthiest goal, without suspecting
that the doctrine they preach is dangerously conducive to that legal
prostitution euphemistically known as loveless marriage, if not to
greater evils.’ . . . ‘How can any girl who has been taught that
maternity is woman’s only destiny dare to run the risk of losing it?’

In answer to these objections: of course no sane person would hold
_unqualified_ motherhood up to girls as their noblest ideal. Nor does
any thoughtful individual believe that maternity is woman’s _only_
destiny. But as to _highest_ (_i.e._ most noble) destiny--if worthy
motherhood (and by the word worthy I wish to imply all the fine
qualities of body and mind that go to produce healthy, intelligent, and
well-trained children) does not fulfil it, I should like to know what
does? In answer to this question that naturally springs to the mind of
every reader, Miss Meakin contents herself with the statement: ‘In
Finland and Australia, as in America and Norway, the young girl is
taught that woman’s highest destiny is within the reach of every woman;
that her highest destiny and her highest ideals depend, not on some man
who may or may not come her way, but on herself; and that the highest
ideal of womanhood is to be a true woman.’ This is well enough, but it
is far too vague to be held up as woman’s standard. We want a more
definite ideal than this to aim at. What, for instance, _is_ a ‘true
woman’ specifically? I should have thought the most essential part of
such a one’s outfit was her potentialities for wifehood and motherhood.

Miss Meakin blames teachers for inculcating the importance of motherhood
into their pupils’ minds with the result that ‘other success in life has
to take a second place.’ What then does this writer consider ought to
take the first place? Does she seriously think the success of women in
business or politics, as municipal councillors, as writers, artists,
thinkers, is of more importance than the success of women as mothers?
_Is it possible?_ . . . I recall a poem of W. E. Henley’s on the woman
question, one line of which runs ‘God in the garden laughed outright.’
Surely there must often be uproarious laughter in heaven nowadays when
the woman question is being discussed on earth!

So much for abstract ideals, but when we come to facts I must admit the
lady’s argument is sound. ‘In a country where there are a million and a
half more women than men,’ she pertinently states, ‘it is worse than
foolish to teach young girls that motherhood is their highest destiny.
Such teaching, if persisted in, will lead to greater evils than we care
to contemplate even at a distance.’ But what greater evil could there
possibly be than the existence of 30,000 prostitutes in London alone,
as is the case to-day? If every one of these unfortunate women had been
made to believe firmly, as an article of faith, that worthy motherhood
was her highest destiny, there might be a good many less noughts to this

Miss Meakin continues: ‘Besides the sacred duties of motherhood, there
are the equally sacred duties of fatherhood, yet man does not allow
these latter to interfere with his mental growth.’ Nor is there any need
that woman should do so; the idea that a woman, to be a good wife and
mother, must necessarily stunt her mental growth and forego all culture
has long since been discarded.

To my mind the whole trouble arises from the practice of teaching one
set of catchwords to girls and another to boys, as Stevenson says. Since
women cannot be mothers by themselves, it is useless to teach girls that
motherhood is their highest destiny when we do not also teach boys that
fatherhood is theirs, but--quite the contrary--give them to understand
that marriage is something to be avoided, in early manhood at least.

If we were to instruct all young people of _both_ sexes that worthy
marriage and parenthood are the highest destiny for average mortals,
and they acted on this precept, many of the problems of the day would be
solved, the numbers of superfluous women would be greatly reduced, the
social evil would perceptibly diminish, the physique of the race would
improve, and the birth-rate would quickly rise. In short, there would be
less ironical laughter in heaven, and a great deal more honest happiness
and health on earth! I shall have more to say of parenthood as an ideal
in Part IV.



  ‘We make gods of men and they leave us; others make brutes of them
  and they fawn and are faithful!’ --OSCAR WILDE.

  ‘It is part of the curse of nature that a man ceases after a time
  to worship the body of a woman, and when after that there is nothing
  his mind and soul can revere--who shall remain true, as it is
  called?’ --MARY L. PENDERED.

‘And keep thee only to her as long as ye both shall live.’ How many men
have solemnly undertaken this exacting vow sincerely meaning to abide by
it? I have no data for answering this question, but I have sufficient
belief in the essential good in human nature to believe that most people
start their married life meaning to be faithful. This belief was not
even shattered by the shock of hearing a very modern bride remark the
other day: ‘Max says he can’t promise to be faithful but he’ll do his
best.’ The amazing complacency of the young woman was a thing to marvel
at, though hardly to admire.

Schopenhauer asserts that ‘Conjugal fidelity is artificial with men, but
natural to women.’ Judging by the Divorce Court returns, it would seem
that this natural feminine trait has weakened somewhat, since this view
was expressed some sixty years ago. According to the Society
chroniclers--self-appointed--it certainly has in ‘London’s West End,
littered with broken vows.’

It is dangerous to generalise on such a topic, but since people resist
temptation far less often than moralists suppose, it is perhaps safe to
state that when men are faithful, it is principally from lack of
opportunity, or disinclination to be otherwise. This may disgust those
of my feminine readers who refuse to acknowledge, with Professor Lester
Ward, that man is essentially a polygamous animal, but the more
experienced in the sorrowful facts of life will own the truth of this

On the other hand, when women break their marriage vow, it is seldom for
any merely frivolous or sordid reason (of course excepting the
essentially wanton type, whom no man should be fool enough to marry),
but nearly always either because they are under the spell of infatuation
for the other man, or because they are utterly miserable in their
marriage and seek to drug themselves to forgetfulness or indifference by
means of the poison of some intrigue. Perhaps the Judge who is more
merciful than men will count both these reasons as excuses and will
pardon the sinners who have greatly loved or greatly sorrowed.

A doctor who is interested in the study of social questions once showed
me some interesting statistics on this subject. From seventy-six men
selected at random from his list of acquaintances, fourteen were
childless, and all but two of these were much happier than most men, and
gave their wives no cause for jealousy. This high percentage of happy
though childless marriages is rather curious--I cannot account for it.
Of the remaining sixty-two, all had families: five were fond of their
wives, but not faithful; two lived apart with other women; three others
were unhappily married, quarrelling bitterly and constantly. Of two
others, my friend was doubtful. One other disliked his wife, but was too
busy to bother about other women. The remaining forty-nine were
comparatively happy and devoted: ‘Most of them are kept free from any
great temptation by busy lives and regular hours,’ the doctor added,
‘and those who are especially appreciative or susceptible in regard to
the fair sex have had enough love-making, and want no more outside their
homes.’ I suspect this latter cause is applicable to a great many
so-called ‘model’ husbands!

This list, however, can scarcely be considered representative, as it
contained only two actors, three soldiers, one sailor, and no
stockbrokers--four classes in which inconstant husbands are particularly
numerous. The conditions of an actor’s life obviously tend towards
infidelity; the unhealthy excitement and alternating depression of a
stockbroker’s existence may have the same effect. Members of the
services are popularly supposed to be less faithful than the rest of
husbands, but possibly if the business and professional men had the same
amount of opportunities and temptation, a similar excess of leisure and
equally long intervals of separation from their wives, they would prove
as inconstant as the country’s defenders are supposed to be. My doctor’s
list also contains no members of the ‘Smart Set,’ a class containing
practically no faithful husbands, according to Father Vaughan!

Although it is the little things that spoil conjugal happiness, it is
the big things which separate husband and wife, and of these undoubtedly
infidelity is the most frequent cause. It might truly be called the crux
of marriage. Personally I think only three faults are bad enough to make
it socially worth while for a woman to leave her husband: drunkenness
with violence; misconduct with members of the household, temporary or
permanent; and introducing a mistress under a wife’s roof. In the case
of a woman with children, even these are not enough if she cannot take
the children with her. For the last-named act alone a wife could obtain
a divorce under the code of Justinian.

Lapses from the marriage vow on the part of one’s spouse are best
treated, like all other troubles, in a philosophical spirit. It is,
however, ‘easy to talk!’--one often hears that sexual jealousy is the
most frightful of mental tortures: Men are more keenly affected by it
than women, and the man whose wife has been unfaithful seems to suffer
more acutely, even when he does not care for her, than the woman in the
reverse circumstances. That is because his passions are stronger, a man
will tell you, or because he looks up to the mother of his children as a
being above the sins of the flesh. Probably the real reason is that man
has generally had his own way since the _ménage_ in Eden, and he resents
having his belongings taken from him. Woman, however, can bear this
deprivation better, being more accustomed to share her lord from the
time when her sex began to multiply in excess of his--or is it that
women have no instinctive antagonism to polygamy?

The world has become well accustomed to man’s polygamous instinct by
now, and even its laws are framed accordingly. In novels, the discovery
of a husband’s infidelity always causes a perfect cataclysm; the reader
is treated to page after page of frenzied scenes; the wife almost loses
her reason; her friends and relatives sit in gloomy council deciding
‘what is to be done’; the news is shouted from the housetops; and
everybody cuts the man dead.

But in real life, women keep these tragedies to themselves, sometimes
bearing them with a strange calmness and philosophy. Fortunately a man
is seldom so lacking in worldly wisdom as to let his wife discover his
misconduct, and, as a rule, a woman would rather die than reveal such a
wound to the world. The burden of a husband’s infidelity is borne for
years in silence with smiling face and head held high, by many a wife
too proud to own herself incapable of keeping a man faithful. Only when
years have accustomed her to the humiliation, and dulled the sharp edge
of her grief, does she permit herself the relief of confidences.

Few women can understand why a husband, though fond of and devoted to
his wife, should nevertheless seek elsewhere that which she has ceased
to possess for him. She whose knowledge of the springs of life is deep
enough to enable her to understand this, knows also that hers is the
better part, that she represents to her husband the centre and
mainspring of his existence, which remains steadfast long after his
temporary amorous madnesses have burned away to ashes.

Nevertheless, after ‘Alone’--‘_Unfaithful_’ is perhaps the saddest and
most awful word in human speech. One can imagine it written innumerable
times, in flaming letters, across the confines of Hell. . . .



  ‘For me the only remedy to the mortal injustices, to the endless
  miseries, to the often incurable passions which disturb the union of
  the sexes, is the liberty of breaking up conjugal ties and forming
  them again.’  --GEORGE SAND.

  ‘Until the marriage tie is made more flexible, marriage will always
  be a risk, which men particularly will undertake with misgiving.’



  ‘Twenty years of Romance make a woman look like a wreck; twenty
  years of Marriage make her look like a public building.’

Leasehold marriage was one of the customs of early Roman society.
Nowadays it has a revolutionary savour, and is so apparently
impracticable that it would be hardly necessary to do more than touch
upon it here, but for the fact that its most recent and most
distinguished advocate in modern times is Mr George Meredith. Any
suggestion from such a source must necessarily receive careful
consideration. It was also advanced by the great philosopher Locke,
and was considered by Milton.

It is scarcely three years since our veteran novelist cast this
bombshell into a delighted, albeit disapproving Press; but as memories
are so short nowadays, perhaps a brief recapitulation of the
circumstances might not be amiss.

The beginning of the business was a letter to _The Times_ by Mr
Cloudesly Brereton complaining of the ‘growing handicap of marriage’
and, according to invariable custom, attacking women as the cause of it.
He stated that in the middle classes ‘the exigences of modern wives are
steadily undermining the attractions of matrimony; in her ever-growing
demands on her husband’s time, energy, and money the modern married
woman constitutes a very serious drag, and in the lower classes of
society, marriage even seriously militates against a man’s finding
work.’ How women can be held responsible for this last injustice was
wisely not stated. It would have been difficult to prove the indictment,
I think.

This document’s chief claim to interest was the discussion in _The Daily
Mail_ that followed it, and the curious fact that the writer was married
a few weeks after its publication! The usual abuse on marriage in
general and women in particular followed, until the late Mrs Craigie
joined the discussion, and brought to bear on it that peculiar quality
of tender understanding, that wonderful insight into women’s hearts,
which were among the most striking characteristics of her brilliant
work. It would be a pity to quote from such a letter, so I reproduce it
in full.

‘Women, where their feelings are in question, are not selfish enough:
they appraise themselves not too dearly, but too cheaply: it is the
suicidal unselfishness of modern women which makes the selfishness of
modern bachelors possible. Bachelors are not all misogynists, and the
fact that a man remains unmarried is no proof that he is insensible to
the charm of woman’s companionship, or that he does not have such
companionship, on irresponsible terms, to a most considerable degree.
Why should the average vain young man, egoistic by organism and
education, work hard or make sacrifices for the sake of any particular
woman, while so many are too willing to share his life without joining
it, and so many more wait eagerly on his steps to destroy any chivalry
or tenderness he may have been born with? Modern women give bachelors no
time to miss them and no opportunity to need them. Their devotion is
undisciplined and it becomes a curse rather than a blessing to its
object. Why? Because women have this strange power of concentration and
self-abnegation in their love; they cannot do enough to prove their
kindness; and when they have done all and been at no pains to secure
their own position, they realise they have erred through excess of
generosity and the desire to please. This is the unselfishness shown
towards bachelors.’

In answer to this letter, another woman novelist, Miss Florence Warden,
challenged Mrs Craigie as to the existence of such women, but elicited
no further reply. _The Daily Mail_ commented on it thus: ‘Hundreds of
thousands of our readers can give an answer to this remarkable statement
out of their own experience, and we have little doubt as to what the
tenor of that answer will be.’ One can imagine that this was written
with a view to being read at the breakfast-tables of Villadom; but men
and women of the world, whose experience is not confined to Villadom,
nor their opinions of life coloured by the requirements of the Young
Person, will recognise the undoubted truth of Mrs Craigie’s statements.
Whilst agreeing that the state of things between the sexes which she
describes is a true one, I venture respectfully to differ as to women’s
motive for this ‘excess of generosity.’ There is an enormous amount of
wonderful unselfishness among women, but it does not expend itself in
this direction, in my opinion. Rather is the motive a passionate desire
for their own enjoyment, the gratification of their own vanity by
pleasing the opposite sex, often at the cost of their own self-respect.
H. B. Marriott-Watson takes the same view in a subsequent letter, where
he says: ‘Women’s unselfishness does not extend to the region of love.
The sex attraction is practically inconsistent with altruism, and the
measure of renunciation is inversely the measure of affection. This is
the order which Nature has established, and it is no use trying to expel
her. A woman may lay down her life for the man she loves, but she will
not surrender him to a rival.’

Another letter of interest came from Miss Helen Mathers, who stated that
‘all women should marry, but no men!’--the advantages of the conjugal
state being, in her opinion, entirely on the woman’s side.

At this point appeared Mr Meredith’s contribution to the discussion in
the less authoritative form of an interview--not a letter or article,
as, after this lapse of time, so many people seem to imagine. On
re-reading this interview recently, I was struck with Mr Meredith’s
peculiarly old-fashioned ideas about women. Where the woman question
was concerned the clock of his observation seems to have stopped many
decades ago.

‘The fault at the bottom of the business,’ he affirms, ‘is that women
are so uneducated, so unready. Men too often want a slave, and
frequently think they have got one, not because the woman has not often
got more sense than her husband, but because she is so inarticulate, not
educated enough to give expression to her real ideas and feelings.’

This was before the vogue of the suffragettes, but it is a sufficiently
surprising statement for 1904. He continues: ‘It is a question to my
mind whether a young girl, married, say, at eighteen, utterly ignorant
of life, knowing little of the man she is marrying, or of any other man
in the world at all, should be condemned to live with him for the rest
of her life. She falls out of sympathy with him, say, has no common
taste with him, nothing to share with him, no real communion except a
physical one. The life is nearly intolerable, yet many women go on with
it from habit, or because the world terrorises them.’

This is true enough, but Mr Meredith speaks as if it were still the
rule, as in our grandmothers’ day, for a girl to marry in the teens,
whereas it is now quite the exception. Every year the marrying age seems
to advance, and blushing brides decked in orange blossoms are led to the
altar at an age when, fifty years ago, they would be resigned old maids
in cap and mittens. If a girl is foolish enough to marry immediately she
is out of the schoolroom, she must be prepared to take the enormous risk
which the choice of a husband at such an immature age must entail.

Elsewhere Mr Meredith says: ‘Marriage is so difficult, its modern
conditions are so difficult, that when two educated people want it,
nothing should be put in their way. . . . Certainly one day the present
conditions of marriage will be changed. It will be allowed for a certain
period, say ten years, or--well, I do not want to specify any particular
period. The State will see sufficient money is put by to provide for and
educate the children. Perhaps the State will take charge of this fund.
There will be a devil of an uproar before such a change can be made. It
will be a great shock, but look back and see what shocks there have been
and what changes have nevertheless taken place in this marriage business
in the past.’

‘The difficulty,’ he continues, ‘is to make English people face such a
problem. They want to live under discipline more than any other nation
in the world. They won’t look ahead, especially the governing people.
And you must have philosophy, though it is more than you can hope to get
English people to admit the bare name of philosophy into their
discussion of such a question. Again and again, notably in their
criticism of America, you see how English people will persist in
regarding any new trait as a sign of disease. Yet it is a sign of

It will be seen that Mr Meredith puts forward the ten-year limit merely
as a suggestion. I recall in one of Stevenson’s essays an allusion to a
lady who said: ‘After ten years one’s husband is at least an old
friend,’ and her answer was: ‘Yes, and one would like him to be that and
nothing more.’ The decade seems to have a special significance in
marriage. After the trying first year is over, most couples settle down
comfortably enough until nearing the tenth year. The president of the
Divorce Court has called this the danger zone of married life. One of
the subsequent letters in _The Daily Mail_, approving Mr Meredith’s
suggestion, alluded to the present form of marriage as ‘the
life-sentence,’ and suggested a still shorter time limit, five years for
choice, since during that time a couple would have found happiness or
the reverse, and in the latter case ten years was too long to wait for

A writer in another paper cited America as an example of terminable
marriage in full working order. ‘It appears from the statement of an
American bishop that the people of the United States are actually living
under Mr Meredith’s conditions already. Last year (1903) as many as
600,000 American marriages were dissolved. This means that there was one
divorce to every four marriages. In some districts the proportion was
more like one to two. And the most frequent cause of divorce was a
desire for change!’

It seems to me that the establishment of a leasehold marriage system
would only result in wholesale wretchedness and confusion, beside which
the present sum of marital misery would be but a drop in the ocean. If
our marriage laws must be modified, let us trust it will not be in this
direction, though it is obvious enough that such a change would come as
a boon to thousands of men and women, who from one cause or another have
come to loathe the tie that binds them. Whether it would not also
disturb the prosaic content that passes for happiness with millions more
is too big a question to be more than mentioned here.

The fate of those who are tied for life to lunatics, criminals, and
drunkards is pitiable indeed, but an extension of the laws of divorce
would meet their exceptional case, without disturbing the marriage bond
of normal people. I have endeavoured to indicate some of the many
difficulties of leasehold marriage in the following dialogue.



  ‘There is one thing that women dread more than celibacy--it is
  repudiation.’ --MARCEL PRÉVOST.

_Katharine and Margaret, both attractive women on the borderland of
forty, are lunching together. They are old friends and have not met for

_Margaret._ ‘How nice it is to be together again, but I’m sorry to find
you so changed; you don’t look happy, what is the trouble?’

_Katharine._ ‘I ought to look happy, I’ve had wonderful luck, but the
truth is, I’m utterly tired. The conditions of marriage nowadays are
horribly wearing, don’t you think?’

_M._ ‘Well, of course, we miss that feeling of peace and security that
our mothers talked of, but then we also miss that ghastly monotony.
Think of living year after year, thirty, forty, fifty years, with the
same man! How tired one would get of his tempers.’

_K._ ‘I’m not so sure of that. Monotony of tempers is better than
variety. All people have them, anyway. Besides, I’ve a notion that our
fathers were nothing like so difficult to live with as our husbands are.
You see, in the old days they knew they were fixed up for life, and that
acted as a curb. We seem to miss that curb nowadays.’

_M._ ‘Yes, there’s something in that. I remember my grandmother, who was
married at the end of the last century, used to say that her husband was
her Sheet Anchor, and he called her his Haven of Rest.’

_K._ ‘Oh, I envy them! That’s what I want so badly--a haven, an anchor!
How peaceful life must have been then before this horrible new system
came in.’

_M._ ‘People evidently didn’t seem to think so, or why should they have
altered it? But what’s your quarrel with the system? You’ve had four
husbands and changed the first two almost as quickly as the law

_K._ ‘Yes, and I’m only forty-one. I began too young--at eighteen--but
one naturally takes marriage lightly when one knows it’s only for five
years. One enters upon it as thoughtlessly as our happy mothers used to
start their flirtations.’

_M._ ‘The consequences are rather more serious though; we are
disillusioned women at the age when they were still light-hearted

_K._ ‘It’s the families that make it so difficult. Fatherhood is quite a
cult nowadays. All my husbands have been of a philoprogenitive turn, and
I have eight children.’

_M._ ‘Eight children! No wonder you look worried.’

_K._ ‘Exactly! my mother would have been horrified. Two or three was the
correct number in her days, four at the utmost, and five a fatality and
very rare.’

_M._ ‘Well, my dear, you needn’t have had so many; you should have
curbed that cult of Fatherhood. No woman is compelled to bear children
nowadays, as our unfortunate grandmothers were. Have you got all eight
with you?’

_K._ ‘No, that’s just the trouble. I didn’t want to have so many, but of
course now I’ve got them I want them with me, and of course their
fathers want them too.’

_M._ ‘Oh dear! how tiresome; that’s the worst of having children in
these times. I’m sometimes glad I have none.’

_K._ ‘Then perhaps you don’t know the law about the children of our
present marriage system? A sum of money has to be invested annually for
each child, in the great State Infant Trust; when the marriage is
dissolved the mother has the sole custody of them, unless the father
wishes to share it; in the latter case they spend half the year with
each parent.’

_M._ ‘It’s fair.’

_K._ ‘I suppose so, but oh! so terribly hard on a mother! My two elder
girls are almost grown up, they’ve been at a boarding school for some
time, and it was easy and natural enough for George and I to share them
in the holidays, but now, I can’t keep them at the school any longer,
and they will have to spend half the year with him. Thank heaven, he
hasn’t been married for some time, and isn’t likely to again, so I
haven’t the horror of a strange woman influencing them, but how can I
guide them? how have any real control or influence over them in such

_M._ ‘Yes, that must be very sad for you.’

_K._ ‘It’s awful, but there’s much worse than that. My second husband,
Gordon, the father of Arthur and Maggie, is married again, and his wife
is jealous of his eldest children, and hates the time when they come to
stay. And my little Arthur is so delicate, he requires ceaseless care
and studying--I never have a happy moment when he is with them; he
doesn’t get on well with the other children either, and always returns
from the visits looking ill and wretched. I couldn’t tell you all I have
suffered on account of Arthur! Oh! when I think of him, I could curse
this infamous marriage system--it is a sin against nature!’

_M._ ‘But, my dear, it’s no use abusing the laws. Why didn’t you stay
with Gordon, or in the first instance with George? It’s often done, even

_K._ ‘I know, I know, but George and I were utterly unsuited--we married
as boy and girl. Under the old system prudent parents generally
intervened, and the young couple were obliged to wait until they were
sure of their own minds. But you know how things are now; in one’s first
young infatuation, one is sure of five years ahead at least, and one
doesn’t need to look beyond that.’

_M._ ‘Well, you were twenty-four when you married Gordon; why didn’t you
choose him more carefully?’

_K._ ‘That was largely “a matter of economics” as I read in an old play
called _Votes for Women_, not long ago--so quaint their ideas were in
those days!--and there was something in it too about “twenty-four used
not to be so young, but it’s become so!” Still, I was old enough to know
better, but I was light-hearted and luxury-loving, and I couldn’t live
on that pittance, which was all the law compelled George to allow me.
I don’t blame him, it was all he could do to save the necessary tax for
the children. So I married Gordon for a home, and of course it was

_M._ ‘And your third husband died?’

_K._ ‘Yes; the one who should have lived generally dies. I lost him
after two years only, but I can’t talk of him, dear; he was just my Man
of Men.’

_M._ ‘Ah! I’m glad you have had that.’

_K._ ‘Oh! I have been lucky with all my troubles, as I told you. I was
alone for four years after I lost my Best, and I should like to have
been faithful to him for ever. But I wasn’t strong enough; in spite of
the dear children I was very lonely, as the elder ones were always at

_M._ ‘Yes, and one wants a man, somehow, to fuss round one.’

_K._ ‘True, it’s a fatal weakness. So at last I married my good little
Duncan, just for companionship. I chose _him_ carefully enough.
Experience has taught me a lot, and I didn’t mean to be left in the
lurch at forty as so many are.’

_M._ ‘I’m glad he’s good to you. Yes; it’s fearful how many women get
left alone just when they need care and love most, when their looks and
freshness are gone, and their energy weakened. But, as you haven’t got
that to fear, why should you be so worried now?’

_K._ ‘It isn’t exactly that I’m worried--I’m used up! Twenty years of
uncertain domestic arrangements is enough to wear out anyone. I’ve never
been able to feel settled in any house, or let myself get attached to a
place, or plant out a garden even. One’s set of friends is always
breaking up; people never seem to buy houses and estates now, or to get
rooted anywhere. In the novels of fifty years ago, how they used to
complain about being in a groove! They little knew how miserable life
could be for want of a permanent groove.’

_M._ ‘I dislike monotony, but it certainly has its advantages. You
remember my first husband, Dick?--such a good-looking boy--he was crazy
about golf and outdoor games. I got quite into his way of living, and it
was a great trial when I married Cecil Innes, who hated the open air,
and cared only for books and grubbing about in museums.’

_K._ ‘Why did you leave Dick?’

_M._ ‘I didn’t really want to, we were very comfy together, but he fell
in love with another woman. He was mad about her, and asked me to
release him. As I had no children, I thought it only fair to agree.
Cecil interested me very much at first, and he adored me, but I had a
very dreary time with him. You know I’m not a bit literary, and he was
so “precious” and bookish, he bored me to death. I was glad to leave him
for Jack, my present husband, but Cecil’s grief at parting was so
frightful I shall never forget it, and when he died soon after I felt
like a murderess.’

_K._ ‘It must have been a painful experience, but one gets accustomed to
these tragedies, one hears of so many. There is always one who wants to
be free, and one to remain bound.’

_M._ ‘Yes; and the unwritten tradition that it is a matter of honour
never to seek to hold an unwilling partner quite negatives the law that
a marriage can only terminate when both parties desire it.’

_K._ ‘I’m sure the tragedies of parting one hears of nowadays are far
worse than the occasional tragedies in the old days, caused by being
bound, and ever so much more frequent.’

_M._ ‘It wouldn’t be such an irony if _anyone_ were benefited, but as
far as I can see the men suffer nearly as much as the women, especially
when they are old. According to our early century newspapers, an old
bachelor or widower could always get a young and charming wife, but now
nobody will marry an elderly man, except the old ladies, and the men
don’t want them.’

_K._ ‘It’s a pity they don’t, that would solve a lot of the unhappiness
one sees around. It must be awful to be deserted in one’s old age.’

_M._ ‘Talking about the old newspapers, it’s very amusing to read them
in the British Museum, and see what wonderful things were expected of
the leasehold marriage system when it was first legalised. All the
abuses of the old system were to disappear: divorce, adultery,
prostitution, and seduction--all the social evils were to go in one
clean sweep.’

_K._ ‘How absurdly shortsighted people were then. Divorce is abolished,
it’s true, but the scandals and misery, broken hearts and broken homes
that it caused are now multiplied a thousand times. Infidelity may be
less frequent, but if people have the wish and the opportunity for it
they’re not likely to wait for a certain number of years, until it
ceases to be technically a sin. The same with the other evils. There
will always be a large number of men who postpone marriage for financial
or other reasons, and a large number of women who can only earn a living
in one way--the oldest profession in the world will always be kept
going! Seduction, too, is not likely to cease as long as the law is so
lenient to it. There will always be ignorant, silly, unprotected girls
and always men to take advantage of them.’

_M._ ‘There seem to be just as many elderly spinsters, too, as before;
the women who don’t attract men remain the same under any system, and
often they are the best women.’

_K._ ‘How strange it must be _never to have had a husband!_’

_M._ ‘It must be peaceful, at anyrate; but spinsters don’t look any
happier than married women.’

_K._ ‘I can only see one good result of the leasehold system--that women
are as anxious for motherhood now as in the early century they were
anxious to avoid it. We grow old with the fear of almost certain
desertion and loneliness before us, and the one hope for our old age is
our children----Oh! I am sorry, I forgot you had none.’

_M._ ‘Never mind, I often think of it, and whenever Jack admires or pays
attention to another woman, I am in terror for fear he has found a fresh
attraction and may want to leave me. What stuff they used to write
formerly about the necessity for love being free. As if freedom were
such a glorious thing! Why, we are all slaves to some convention or
passion or theory; none of us are free, really free, and we wouldn’t
like it if we were. It may be all very well for the fantastic love of
novels to be free, but that strange _need of each other_, which we call
“love” in real life, for want of a better term--_that_ must be forged
into a bond, or what help is it to us poor vacillating mortals? Love
must be an Anchor in real life--nothing else is any use!’



  ‘The ultimate standards by which all men judge of behaviour is the
  resulting happiness or misery.’

  ‘Conduct whose total results, immediate and remote, are injurious
  is bad conduct.’ --HERBERT SPENCER.

Free love has been called the most dangerous and delusive of all
marriage schemes. It is based on a wholly impossible standard of ethics.
Theoretically, it is the ideal union between the sexes, but it will only
become practical when men and women have morally advanced out of all
recognition. When people are all faithful, constant, pure-minded, and
utterly unselfish, free marriage may be worth considering. Even then,
there would be no chance for the ill-favoured and unattractive.

Under present conditions no couple living _openly_ in free love is known
to have made a success of it--a solid, permanent success, that is.
I believe there are couples who live happily together without any more
durable bond than their mutual affection, but they wisely assume the
respectable shelter of the wedding ring, and call themselves Mr and Mrs.
Thus their little fledgling of free love is not required to battle
against the overwhelming force of social ostracism. And moreover one has
no means of knowing how long these unions stand the supreme test of
time. The two notable modern instances of free love that naturally rise
to the mind are George Eliot and Mary Godwin. But both the men with whom
they mated were already married. As soon as Harriet was dead, Mary
Godwin married Shelley, and when George Lewes had passed away, George
Eliot married another man--an act which most people consider far less
pardonable in the circumstances than her irregular union with Lewes.
Even the famous Perfectionists of Oneida relapsed into ordinary marriage
on the death of their leader, Noyes, and by his own wish.

As an institution, free love seems widely practised in the East End of
London, but judging by the evidence of the police courts its results are
certainly not encouraging. I am told that the practice is common among
the cotton operatives of Lancashire. The _collage_ system is also very
prevalent in France among the working classes, and seems to answer well
enough. But only when women have the ability and the opportunity to
support themselves is free marriage at all feasible from the economic
standpoint, and even then there remains the serious question of
illegitimacy. All right-minded persons must acknowledge that the
attitude of society towards the illegitimate is unjust and cruel in the
extreme, resulting as it does in punishing the perfectly innocent. But
every grown man and woman is aware of this attitude, and those who act
in defiance of it, to please themselves or to satisfy some whim of
experiment, do so in the full knowledge that on their child will fall a
certain burden of lifelong disadvantage. Many perhaps are deterred from
breaking the moral law by this knowledge, but the number of
illegitimates born in England and Wales in 1905 was 37,300; and, in the
interests of these unfortunate victims of others’ selfishness, I think
it is high time a more kindly and broad-minded attitude towards their
social disability was adopted.

I remember as a young girl going to see a play called _A Bunch of
Violets_. The heroine discovers that her husband’s previous wife is
alive and that her child is therefore illegitimate. She tells her
daughter to choose between the parents, explaining the worldly
advantages of staying with her rich, influential father. The harangue
concludes with words to the effect: ‘With me you will be poor and
shamed, and _you can never marry_.’ Doubtless this ridiculous point of
view was adopted solely for the benefit of the young girls in the
audience, but its unreasonableness disgusted me for one. Even to the
limited intelligence of seventeen it is obvious that, since a name is of
so much importance in life, an illegitimate girl had better marry as
quickly as she possibly can, in order to obtain one!

Free love has recently been much discussed in connection with socialism,
and, thanks no doubt to the misrepresentations of certain newspapers,
the idea seems to have gained ground that the abolition of marriage and
the substitution of free love was part of the socialist programme.
No more untrue charge could possibly be made, as inquiries at the
headquarters of the various socialist bodies will quickly prove.

The people who advocate free love are very fond of arguing that so
personal a matter only concerns themselves. All who think thus should
have had a grave warning in a recent _cause célèbre_, in which murder,
attempted suicide, permanent maiming, and a tangle of misery involving
innocent children down to the third generation, were proved to have
resulted from a ‘free’ union entered on nearly thirty years before. This
and the many other tragedies of free love, which appear in the
newspapers from time to time, seem to prove the mistake of imagining
that we are accountable to none for our actions. A relationship which
affects the future generation can never be a private and personal
matter. E. R. Chapman in a very interesting essay on marriage published
some years ago says: ‘To exchange legal marriage for mere voluntary
unions, mere temporary partnerships, would be not to set love free,
but to give love its death blow by divorcing it from that higher human
element which is the note of marriage, rightly understood, and which
places regard for order, regard for the common weal above personal
interest and the mere self-gratification of the moment.’



  ‘Last and hardest of all to eradicate in our midst, comes the
  monopoly of the human heart which is known as marriage . . . this
  ugly and barbaric form of serfdom has come in our own time by some
  strange caprice to be regarded as of positively divine origin.’

We call it the polite dinner-table, because we never hesitate to be
extremely rude to each other, when necessary for the purposes of
argument. On this particular occasion, the inevitable marriage
discussion, which is always to be found in one or other of the
newspapers, was the subject of conversation, and the Good Stockbroker
(unmarried) was vigorously defending the Holy Estate. His moral attitude
is certainly somewhat boring, but nevertheless the Good Stockbroker is
one of those people to whom one really is polite. Although obvious
irritation was visible on the face of the Family Egotist we listened
respectfully, with the exception of the Wicked Stockbroker, whose dinner
was far too important in his scheme of life to be trifled with by moral

Whatever the Good Stockbroker says the Weary Roué is of course bound to
contradict as a matter of honour. I may mention that the Weary Roué is a
man of the highest virtue and a model husband and father. His pose of
evil experience has gained him his sarcastic nickname, but in no way has
he earned it by his conduct. ‘You forget,’ he interposed languidly, when
the Good Stockbroker paused, ‘that no less a philosopher than
Schopenhauer said that the natural tendency of man is towards polygamy,
and of woman towards monogamy.’

‘I deny the first statement,’ said the Good Stockbroker heatedly. He was
always heated where questions of morality were concerned, and was
proceeding to give chapter and verse for what promised to become a
somewhat dull discussion when the Bluestocking firmly interposed in her
small staccato pipe:

‘To hear you, one would suppose monogamic marriage was a divine

‘Absurd, isn’t it?’ grinned the Weary Roué. The Good Stockbroker looked
pained and cleared his throat. At this formidable signal, the Family
Egotist--whose irritation had been increasing like the alleged
circulation of a newspaper--showed every sign of hurling the boomerang
of his opinion into the fray. This would have meant the death of all
liveliness for some hours to come, and a general sigh had begun to
heave, when once more our brave Bluestocking stemmed the tide.

‘You make rather a cult of the Bible,’ she quacked scornfully, directing
her remarks principally at the Good Stockbroker; ‘but you don’t seem
very conversant with the Old Testament. You will find there ample proof
that monogamic marriage is no more divine than--than polygamy or free
love. Nor has it any celestial origin, since it varies with race and
climate. It is simply an indispensable social safeguard.’

‘I’ll have a shilling each way on it,’ murmured the Ass (an incorrigible
youth, quite the Winston Churchill of our family cabinet), using his
customary formula. Unheeding, the Bluestocking chirruped on severely:
‘You must know, if you have ever studied sociology, that marriage is
essentially a _social contract_, primarily based on selfishness. At
present it still retains its semi-barbarous form, and those who preach
without reason of its alleged sacredness would be better employed in
suggesting how the savage code now in vogue can be modified to meet the
necessities of modern civilisation.’

She paused for breath. The Good Stockbroker was pale, but faced her
manfully. ‘Well done, Bluestocking!’ said the Weary Roué. ‘Wonderful
woman, our Quacker,’ said the Ass, ‘I’ll have a shilling each way on
her.’ The Wicked Stockbroker took a second helping of salad, and ate on
unheeding, whilst the Gentle Lady at the head of the table anxiously
watched the Family Egotist, who looked apoplectic and was toying
truculently with a wineglass with evident danger of shortening its
career of usefulness.

‘I was taught,’ said the Good Stockbroker slowly, ‘to regard marriage as
a sacred institution--a holy mystery.’

‘Then you were taught rot,’ snapped the Bluestocking, thus living up to
the worst traditions of the polite dinner-table, and quivering with
intellectual fury.

‘Recrimination--’ began the Good Stockbroker.

(‘Good word that, I’ll have a shilling each way on it,’ murmured the

‘--is not argument,’ continued the Good Stockbroker.

‘It may not be, but what you said was _rot_,’ replied the Bluestocking,
‘“a holy mystery, instituted in the time of man’s innocency”--I
recognise the quotation! And when was that time, pray? Are you referring
to the Garden of Eden, or to what part of the Bible? The chosen people,
the Hebrews, were polygamists from the time of Lamech, evidently with
the approval of the Deity. Even the immaculate David had thirteen wives,
and the saintly Solomon a clear thousand. Not much of a holy mystery in
those days, eh?’

‘Dear Bluestocking, you really _are_--’ murmured the Gentle Lady.

‘Not at all; she’s perfectly sound,’ interposed the Weary Roué, gloating
with ghoulish joy over the Good Stockbroker’s apparent discomfort.

‘I give in,’ said the latter, and a yell of joy burst from the Ass and
the Weary Roué. ‘I really cannot argue against a lady of such
overwhelming eloquence,’ he continued, bowing in his delightful courtly
way. ‘All the same, I shall always believe that marriage is a holy

‘My dear old chap,’ said the Weary Roué, hastily, with one eye on the
Family Egotist, who was certainly being treated badly that evening:
‘your high-mindedness is admirable, quite admirable, but it won’t work;
it doesn’t fit into modern conditions. Theoretically, Marriage is a Holy
Mystery no doubt--in practice it’s apt to be an Unholy Muddle, sometimes
a Mess. Personally I believe in polygamy.’

Roars of laughter were stifled in their birth, as we thought of the
Weary Roué’s circumspect spouse, and his several circumspect children,
discreet from birth upwards.

‘So do I--a shilling each way,’ said the Ass, inevitably.

‘Not for myself, of course,’ continued the Weary Roué, without a trace
of a smile, ‘that is to say, not--er--not now, but speaking for the
majority and--er, in the abstract, polygamy would be a sensible
institution. Just think how it would simplify all our modern
complications, how it would mend our two worst social evils.’

‘Yes, _think_, please--thinking will do,’ interposed the Gentle Lady,

‘How it would solve the superfluous woman question,’ continued the Weary
Roué, enthusiastically. ‘Think of the enormous number of miserable
spinsters who would be happily provided for.’ An indignant quack came
from the Bluestocking.

‘Think of the expense,’ remarked the Good Stockbroker, dryly, and the
Weary Roué collapsed like a pricked gas-bag.

‘Herbert Spencer says,’ continued the Good Stockbroker, ‘that the
tendency to monogamy is innate, and all the other forms of marriage have
been temporary deviations, each bringing their own retributive evils.
After all, monogamous marriage was instituted for the protection of
women, and has been held sacred in the great and noble ages of the
world. Quite apart from the moral point of view, however, polygamy could
only be possible in a tropical climate, where the necessities of life
were reduced to a minimum, and one could live on dates and rice, but as
the average man in our glorious Free Trade country can’t afford to keep
one wife, in decent comfort, let alone several--I ask, how in the name
of the bank rate--?’

‘You stockbroking chaps are so devilish sordid,’ returned the Weary
Roué. ‘Didn’t I say _in the abstract_? Of course I know it wouldn’t do
practically, not yet anyway, but honestly I believe it would go far to
solve the whole sex problem.’

‘You neither of you seem to take the woman into consideration at all,’
piped the Bluestocking. ‘Do you suppose we modern women with our
resources and our education would consider such an idea for a moment?’

‘Well, what do you think?’ asked the Weary Roué, with diplomatic

To our surprise the Bluestocking began to blush, and her blush is not
the coy, irresponsible flushing of an ordinary girl, but a painful rush
of blood to the face under stress of deep earnestness, the kind of blush
which forces one to look away.

‘Well,’ she said, with a gulp, ‘I think, perhaps--they might.’ It was
obvious the admission had cost her something. We were all dumfounded.
The Family Egotist forgot his burning desire for speech and ceased to
threaten his wineglass; the Gentle Lady was quite excited; the Weary
Roué became almost alert, and the Good Stockbroker looked as if he were
about to burst into tears.

‘I think women might not be averse from polygamy--as a choice of evils,’
continued the little Bluestocking bravely, ‘for the present waste of
womanhood in this country is a very serious evil. Of course the
financial conditions make it impossible, as the Good Stockbroker says,
but if it _were_ possible, if it were instituted for highest motives,
and in an entirely honourable, open manner authorised and sanctioned by
the--er--the proper people--I think women could concur in it without any
loss of self-respect, especially if the first ardent love of youth were
over. After that, and when a woman forgets herself, having truly found
herself, in the love and care of her children and a larger view of life
and its duties--then I think most women could be happy in such
circumstances. I think a great deal of utterly untrue stuff is talked
about the agony of sexual jealousy, and women’s jealousy especially.
Men may suffer thus, I can’t say, but I’m sure women don’t. It’s the
humiliation, the unkindness, the _being deceived_ and supplanted that
hurts so when a man is unfaithful. But if it were all fair and
above-board, if it were grasped that polygamy is more suited to men’s
nature, and more likely to make for the happiness of the greatest number
of women--their numerical strength being so far in advance of men that
they couldn’t possibly expect to have a mate each--then I really think,
after women had had time to readjust their ideas to this new
condition--it may take a generation or more--I think they would accept
it gladly, and find peace and contentment in it.’

The Bluestocking paused and looked round the circle of interested faces.
Even the Ass was intent on her words, but the Good Stockbroker’s eyes
were averted and the Bluestocking was quite pale as she continued:

‘Of course the word at once recalls the harem, the zenana, but nothing
of that kind would do. The wives would have to live separately, as the
Mormons do, each in her own home, with her own circle of interests and
duties, her own lifework. No one ought to live in idleness, which is the
cause of all sorts of discord and trouble. Every woman should work at
something, and to help someone. I’m not thinking now, of course, of
happily married and contented women, but of the thousands leading
miserable, dull, and lonely lives, who would be infinitely happier if
they had a certain week to look forward to, at regular recurring
intervals, when their husbands would be living with them. It would bring
love and human interest and, what is most important of all, a _motive_
into their existence. I know it sounds dreadfully immoral,’ she went on,
blushing again painfully, ‘but, oh! I don’t mean it like _that_. After
all, the chief reason why people marry is for companionship, and it is
companionship that unmarried women, past the gaiety of first youth,
chiefly lack. The natural companion of woman is man; therefore, as there
aren’t enough husbands to go round, it follows that one might do worse
than share them. I don’t say it would be as satisfactory as having a
devoted husband all to oneself, but it might be for the greatest good of
the greatest number, and it would surely solve to a certain extent
the--the social evils.’

They all clapped when she had finished somewhat breathlessly. It was
obvious that the brave Bluestocking so far lacked the courage of her
opinions as to be agonisingly embarrassed at this public expression of
them. The Gentle Lady, who is the most tactful creature in existence,
accordingly rose before anyone had time to speak, and the two women left
the room together.

A babble of talk arose from the men, under cover of which the Good
Stockbroker also slipped quietly away.

‘Pass the port,’ said the Wicked Stockbroker, briskly. ‘She’s a deuced
bright little woman, but how even the brainy ones can be so ignorant of
life beats me, and how you chaps can be such hypocrites. . . . !’

‘Hypocrites! what d’you mean?’ blustered the Family Egotist, who was by
now almost bursting with suppressed talk.

‘Not you, old chap, but the Weary Roué and the Good Stockbroker, jawing
away as if they really thought monogamy was in the majority in this
country, and polygamy was something new! Of course one expects it from
the G. S., but you, W. R., really ought to know better--by the way,
where is the G. S?’

‘I think he must have gone to propose to the Bluestocking--to save her
from polygamy and her own opinions,’ drawled the Weary Roué, lighting
his cigarette.

‘Stout fella! I believe he has!’ cried the Ass, excitedly. ‘I’ll have a
shilling each way on it with any of you--I mean it, really!’

‘Oh! what if he has?’ said the Family Egotist, irritably. ‘What does one
fool more in the world matter? Do stop rotting, you fellows, and pass
the port.’



In Mr W. Somerset Maugham’s very interesting psychological study, _Mrs
Craddock_, he makes one of his characters say: ‘The fact is that few
women can be happy with only one husband. I believe that the only
solution of the marriage question is legalised polyandry.’

This is the kind of statement which it is only respectable to receive
with horror, but if the secrets of feminine hearts could be known it
might prove that a goodly amount of this horror is assumed. I decline to
commit my sex either way. Mr Maugham is evidently a gentleman very
deeply experienced in feminine hearts, and I daresay he knows what he is
talking of. He is, moreover, safely unmarried, but even he entrenches
himself behind one of the characters in his novel, and who am I that a
greater courage should be expected of me?

There is, of course, a marvellous virtue in the word ‘legalised.’ The
most unholy and horrible marriages between fair young girls and rich or
titled dotards, drunkards, or _cretins_ are considered perfectly proper
and respectable because ‘legalised.’ Yet the people who countenance
these abominations would probably be unutterably shocked by the very
whisper of polyandry--an infinitely more decent relation, because
regulated by honest sex attraction, and free presumably from mercenary
considerations. But whether legalised polyandry is THE solution to the
marriage question or not, it is clearly an impossible one for
women-ridden England, and though of late years women have made startling
strides, and shown themselves possessed of unsuspected vitality, it
seems unlikely that their superfluous energies will be expended in this



  ‘God made you, but you marry yourself.’ --R. L. STEVENSON.

The day after the polite dinner-party, Isolda, Miranda, and Amoret came
in to tea, and I retailed to them the discussion of the previous evening
on polygamy.

‘I see the Bluestocking’s point,’ said Isolda, thoughtfully: ‘polygamy
might be acceptable to the superfluous woman who can’t marry under
present conditions--the discontented spinster to whom the single state
is so detestable that even polygamy would be preferable--but it would
never be acceptable to the woman who can and does marry.’

‘Yet how many married women put up with it nowadays?’ said Miranda;
‘aren’t there ever so many wives who condone their husband’s infidelity,
and endure it as best they can, for the sake of the children, or for
social reasons, or because they’re sufficiently attached to the man to
prefer a share of him to life alone without him? And what is that but
countenancing polygyny?’

‘Ah! but then the other women are only mistresses,’ exclaimed Isolda.
‘One might tolerate that unwillingly, but another legal wife, with
rights equal to one’s own or, worse, with children to compete with one’s

‘Well, perhaps not,’ agreed Miranda; ‘I suppose a legal and permanent
rival would be somewhat different, but, after all, it’s only the middle
class in England who can be termed strictly monogamous--the upper and
lowest are as polygynous as can be. It’s only our British hypocrisy that
makes us pretend monogamy is our rule!’

‘Don’t quarrel with British hypocrisy,’ said Amoret, lazily, ‘it’s our
most valuable national asset. Hypocrisy simply holds the fabric of
society together.’

‘Agreed,’ said Isolda, ‘we must pretend to believe monogamy is the rule,
for peace sake, and for the ideal’s sake. Of course everybody knows
there are plenty of polygynous husbands about, and, for the matter of
that, polyandrous wives, but hypocrisy is a great aid to decency, and a
nation must have decency of _theory_ at least, if not of practice, or we
should--er--h’m--decline like the Romans.’

‘I was waiting for one of you to mention the Romans,’ interposed Amoret,
who for all her frivolity has a certain humorous shrewdness of her own.
‘It’s an invariable feature of all discussions on marriage. Directly one
so much as breathes a suggestion that the marriage tie should be made
more flexible to suit modern conditions, everyone present, except the
unhappily married, pulls a long face and quotes the awful example of the
Romans. Now I’ve got a gorgeous idea for solving the marriage problem.’

‘Tell us,’ cried three voices in unison.

‘Not yet, let’s get rid of the Romans first. I confided my idea to a man
the other day, and when he had floored me with the Romans as usual,
I went and looked up Gibbon.’

Laughter interrupted her: the idea of our butterfly Amoret poring over

‘Yes, I did,’ she continued, ‘and, as far as I could make out, it wasn’t
their easy ideas about marriage that caused their decline, but
their--what shall I say?--their general moral slackness. . . .’

‘I know,’ said Isolda, coming to the rescue. ‘I was reading a
frightfully interesting book about it the other day, _Imperial Purple_.
It was the relaxing of all ideals, the giving way entirely to carnal
appetites, the utter lack of moral backbone consequent on excess of
luxury and prosperity that smashed up the Romans. But if a strenuous,
cold-blooded nation like ourselves chose to relax the stringent
conditions of marriage, and kept strictly to the innovation, well, it’s
absurd to say all our ideals would deteriorate and the Empire collapse
in consequence!’

‘Hear, hear! Worthy of the Bluestocking herself!’

‘Very well,’ said Miranda. ‘I’ll give in about the Romans if you like,
just so as to get on with the conversation. Now let’s have your gorgeous
idea, Amoret.’

‘It’s just this,’ said Amoret. ‘_Duogamy._’


‘Exactly--two partners apiece. We’re all so complex nowadays that one
can’t possibly satisfy us. Two would just do it. Two would serve to
relax the tension of married life, and yet would not lead to what the
newspapers call licence. Everyone would have another chance, and what
the first partner lacked would be supplied by the second.’

‘It’s not such a bad idea,’ said Isolda, musingly. ‘Launcelot could
choose a good walker and bridge player for his alternative wife, and I’d
try to find a man who hated cards and never walked a step when he could
possibly ride.’

‘I think it’s a grand idea,’ cried Miranda, enthusiastically. ‘Lysander
could find a woman who’d play his accompaniments and love musical
comedies, and I’d look out for a man who made a cult of the higher drama
and had two permanent stalls at the Vedrenne-Barker Theatre.’

‘It would simply solve everything,’ cried Amoret, ecstatically.
‘Whenever Theodore was disagreeable, off I’d go to my other one--and yet
without feeling I was neglecting him, as he could go to _his_ other one.
She would probably be a worthy, stolid, stayless lady with none of my
faults, and when he was fed up with her stolid staylessness he could
come back to me, and my very faults, you see, would be pleasing to him
by reason of their contrast to hers, and _vice versa_.’

‘It’s really a wonderful idea,’ said Isolda, thoughtfully, ‘I wonder no
one thought of it before. There would be fewer old maids, as men
wouldn’t be so terribly shy of matrimony when they knew there would
always be that second chance. They wouldn’t expect so much from one wife
as they do now. And think what a good effect it would have on our
manners, too--how kind and polite and self-controlled we would be, under
fear of being compared unfavourably with the other one.’

‘Yes, it would certainly keep us all up to the mark,’ reflected Miranda,
‘slovenly wives would make an effort to be smart, and shrewish ones
would put a curb on their tongues. Husbands would be quite loverlike and
attentive, in their anxiety to outdo the other fellow.’

‘It would smooth out the tangles all round,’ declared Amoret; ‘now just
take the cases known to us personally. The Fred Smiths, for instance,
haven’t spoken to each other for three years, just because Fred fell in
love with Miss Brown and spends nearly all his time with her. Mrs Smith
is broken-hearted, Fred looks miserable enough--a home where no one
speaks to you must be simply Hades--and the Brown girl is always
threatening to commit suicide. The affair has quite spoilt her life, and
it must be very hard luck on the Smith children, growing up in such an
atmosphere. My plan would have done away with all this misery: Fred
could have married Miss Brown, and gone on living happily at intervals
with Mrs Smith.’

‘But what would Mrs Smith do in the intervals? She happens to have found
no counter attraction.’

‘Well, perhaps if duogamy had been the custom, she would have looked out
for one,’ said Amoret, ‘most married women could find one alternative,
I’m sure. But, any way, no plan is perfect, and there are lots of wives
who wouldn’t want a second husband at all, and who would be only too
glad of a restful period, when no dinners need be ordered. Then take the
case of the Robinsons: Dick Jones adores Mrs Robinson and is utterly
wretched because he can only be a friend to her. She is very fond of
him, and fond of her husband too; she could make them both very happy if
they would share her.’

‘I have often felt I could make two men happy,’ said Isolda. ‘Some of my
best points are wasted on Launcelot. Then, too, he never tires of the
country and his beloved golf, but I do, and when one of my fits of
London-longing were to come over me I’d just run up to town and have a
ripping time with my London husband.’

‘Without feeling you were doing anything wrong,’ supplemented Amoret,
whose apparent experience of the qualms of conscience struck me as being
rather suspicious.

‘It’s no good, girls,’ said Miranda, suddenly. ‘It’s no good--duogamy’s
off! Think of the servants!’

‘Horrors, the servants!’ said Isolda, blankly.

‘Yes, I was afraid you would soon find out the one weak spot,’ said
Amoret, regretfully. ‘Of course it would be awful having to cope with
two lots of servants. One husband could afford to keep four or five,
say, and the other only one or two, and each lot would get out of hand
during the wife’s absence.’

‘So instead of having a perfectly deevy time with two husbands vying
with each other in pleasing one, one would have a fearsome existence
constantly breaking-in minions. Directly one had got A.’s servants into
order, it would be time to go back to B. and do the same there.’

‘No; thank you,’ said Isolda, firmly, ‘one lot is enough for me. I’ve
said dozens of times, for the servant reason alone, that I wish I had
never married. It would be madness to actually double one’s burden.
You can strike me off the list of duogamists, Amoret, until the Servant
Question is solved by some new invention of machinery, or the
importation of Chinese.’

‘Perhaps,’ Amoret suggested hopefully, ‘your alternative might consent
to live in a hotel.’

‘No such luck,’ said Isolda, mournfully, ‘when a man marries it’s mostly
for a home--why else should he marry unless it’s for the children? Good
gracious! I’d forgotten all about the children. Of course that
settles it.’

‘The _cul-de-sac_ of all reforms!’ said Amoret, tragically. ‘It’s
impossible to suggest any revision in the marriage system that isn’t
instantly quashed by the children complication.’

We all sat silent, busy with our thoughts, and then Isolda shuddered.

‘Duogamy’s no good,’ she said emphatically, ‘and I _am_ so



  ‘Marriage is terrifying, but so is a cold and forlorn old age.’
    --R. L. STEVENSON.

Of all the revolutionary suggestions for improving the present marriage
system, the most sensible and feasible seems to me marriage ‘on
approval’--in other words, a ‘preliminary canter.’ The procedure would
be somewhat as follows: a couple on deciding to marry would go through a
legal form of contract, agreeing to take each other as husband and wife
for a limited term of years--say three. This period would allow two
years for a fair trial, after the abnormal and exceptionally trying
first year was over. Any shorter time would be insufficient. At the
conclusion of the three years, the contracting parties would have the
option of dissolving the marriage--the dissolution not to become
absolute for another six months, so as to allow every opportunity of
testing the genuineness of the desire to part. If no dissolution were
desired, the marriage would then be ratified by a religious or final
legal ceremony, and become permanently binding.

In the case of a marriage dissolved, each party would be free to wed
again; but the second essay must be final and permanent from the start.
This restriction would be absolutely necessary if the preliminary canter
plan is not to degenerate into a species of legalised free love, as
there are many men, and some women, who would ‘always go on cantering,’
as Amoret expressed it once--and the upshot would be nothing less than
leasehold marriage for the short term of three years.

It might be urged against this plan that many couples who come to grief
in the danger zone of married life--_i.e._ nearing the tenth year--are
perfectly happy in the early years. But human love being as mutable as
it is, and people and conditions being so liable to change, it is
impossible to arrive at any permanent marriage system which allows for
this. It must, however, be remembered that, in the majority of unhappy
unions, it is not the system, but the individuals who are to blame. The
institution of the conjugal novitiate would, however, reduce the number
of divorces considerably, by making less possible the miserable misfits
in temperament now so prevalent. It would give a second chance to those
who had made a mistake, yet without resulting in that promiscuity of
intercourse which is a danger to society and fatal to the best interests
of the race. Of what other scheme can the same be said?

For married women in the novitiate period a new prefix would have to be
invented, which they would retain if the union were dissolved. _Mrs_
would be the distinguishing prefix of women who had entered on the final
and permanent state of matrimony. Whether the wife would take the
husband’s surname during the probationary term would be another question
for decision by the majority; I should incline to her retaining her
maiden name with the aforesaid prefix, and only assuming that of the
husband with the Mrs of finality. But these are mere details.

As regards the important question of the children, the issue of a
probationary union would, of course, be legitimate, but I think wise
people would see to it that no children were born to them until the
marriage had been finally ratified. Certainly children would be the
exception rather than the rule, but the question of their custody in the
case of dissolved marriages would be one requiring the most thoughtful
legislation. To divide the child’s time between the parents is an
undesirable expedient, and one that must to a certain extent be harmful,
since a settled existence and routine is so essential for children’s
well-being. Yet to deprive the father of them altogether is equally

The conjugal novitiate is not a new scheme. It was practised prior to
the Reformation in Scotland under the name of ‘hand-fasting.’ The
parties met at the annual fairs, and by the ceremony of joining hands
declared themselves man and wife for a year. On the anniversary of this
function they were legally married by a priest--if all had gone well
with them. If they had found the union a failure they parted.



  ‘An early result, partly of her sex, partly of her passive strain
  is the founding, through the instrumentality of the first savage
  Mother, of a new and beautiful social state--Domesticity. . . . One
  day there appears in this roofless room that which is to teach the
  teachers of the world--a Little Child.’ --HENRY DRUMMOND.

  ‘Every good woman is by nature a mother, and finds best in
  maternity her social and moral salvation. She shall be saved in
  child-bearing.’ --GRANT ALLEN.

  ‘Children are a man’s power and his honour.’ --HOBBES.



  ‘Marriage is therefore rooted in family rather than family in
  marriage.’ --WESTERMARCK.

If we could leave children out of the question, the readjustment of the
conjugal conditions would be simple enough. But Amoret has truly called
this problem ‘the _cul-de-sac_ of all reforms.’ Any system, whatever its
form, whether leasehold marriage, free love, polygamy, polyandry, or
duogamy--any scheme that tends to confuse the fatherhood of the child,
or deprive the child of the solid advantages of a permanent home--is
hopeless from the start. This, however, obviously applies only to the
couples who have children. Formerly those who married expected to have a
family, and were disappointed if this hope were not fulfilled. That it
was possible to limit the number of their offspring, or even to avoid
parenthood entirely, was of course unknown to them. Nowadays all this is
changed, and the doctrines of Malthus obtain everywhere.

Bernard Shaw says: ‘The artificial sterilisation of matrimony is the
most revolutionary discovery of the nineteenth century.’ It certainly
makes possible the revolutionary suggestions about marriage, or rather
_would_ make them more feasible if the ‘discovery’ were universally put
into practice.

Let us take it then, that where children are desired no relaxation of
our present marriage system is advisable, and that people who wish to
experiment in new matrimonial schemes must resolutely avoid the
‘_cul-de-sac_ of all reforms,’ and remain childless.

To beget or not to beget--that is the question nowadays, and a very
vexed question it is. There is hardly a subject on which opinions are
more diversified. Some people regard parenthood as the most horrible
disaster; others think that to die without creating is to have lived
uselessly. I heard a woman say once: ‘I hate children; it’s much better
to keep a few dear dogs,’ and she was not an ignorant or devitalised
girl, but a healthy, sensible, fully developed young woman of
six-and-twenty. Not long ago another woman, in announcing her engagement
to me, added in the same breath that she didn’t mean to have children on
any account. Mr George Moore, in that sinister and repulsive book, _The
Confessions of a Young Man_ says: ‘That I may die childless, that when
my hour comes I may turn my face to the wall, saying, I have not
increased the great evil of human life--then, though I were murderer,
fornicator, thief, and liar, my sins shall melt even as a cloud. But he
who dies with children about him, though his life were in all else an
excellent deed, shall be held accursed by the truly wise, and the stain
upon him shall endure for ever.’ (One wonders on reading this why Mr
Moore continues to perpetuate the great evil of human life in his own
person, when he could so easily end his existence without paining

But I have heard many people, both men and women, married and single,
say that without children marriage is meaningless, in which opinion I
heartily concur. More than one young woman dowered with generous blood,
vitality, and courage has confided in me that whether she should marry
or not she wished to be a mother at all costs. It is one of the
disastrous results of men’s shrinking from matrimony that fine women
like these must deliberately stifle this glorious passion of motherhood,
or pay a terrible price for expressing it--a price exacted not only from
themselves but from the child to whom they have given life. Such women,
however, are not often met with.

And now we come to the reason why people do not want children. ‘We can’t
afford it’ is the plea most frequently heard, and a despicably selfish
one it is. I have said previously that every man can afford to
marry--when he meets the right woman. To this I add that every man who
can afford a wife can also afford a child. People who are too selfish to
afford a couple of children (or at least one, sad though it be for the
youngster to have neither brother nor sister) ought not to marry at all.
Some people say they are happy enough without little ones. A good many
women deliberately forgo their prospect of motherhood because it would
interrupt their pleasures, spoil the hunting season, interfere with
their desire to travel or their craze for games. Perhaps some day they
may think too high a price was paid for indulgence in these hobbies.
Others honestly dislike children, and would be entirely at a loss in
possessing them. It is as well that such people should have none: the
poor little unwanted ones can always be recognised.

‘Delicacy’ is another plea put forward by neurotic women who are not one
whit too delicate to bear a child. Where the ill-health is genuine, or
some constitutional weakness or disorder is present, of course this plea
is sensible enough. An apparently sane woman once told me quite
seriously that she would have liked a child, only she often had a bad
cough in the winter, and would not risk the possibility of ‘handing it
on.’ Her lungs were perfectly sound, it was merely a temporary cough
that troubled her. On the same occasion another woman present remarked
that she too would have liked a child, only ‘there wouldn’t be room in
our flat, and it is so convenient, we shouldn’t like to leave it.’ My
state of mind on hearing these remarks could only have been adequately
expressed by knocking these two ladies down and trampling on them, and
as this course would not have found favour with our hostess, I had to
content myself with merely being rather rude to them.

I believe the root of the whole matter is that the maternal instinct is
not so general as formerly. The causes for this I am not wise enough to
determine. It may be due to the greater enfranchisement of women, the
widening of women’s lives and ambitions, the new occupations, the new
interests which have so transformed feminine existence. Maternity and
the grievous and irksome processes of its accomplishment are apt to
interfere with all this. The instinct of motherhood is still doubtless
innate in the majority; when the babies come, often unwelcome, the
instinct reasserts itself as a rule, but it is certainly not general for
the average woman of to-day to feel it stirring before marriage or
actual motherhood, and I honestly believe that the number of women who,
like the female bee, are utterly without this instinct is yearly
increasing. It has often occurred to me that men are really fonder of
children than are women. In my own experience, I hardly know a man who
does not love them, whereas I know many women who positively detest
children, and many others who only endure their own because they must.
I have also observed that quite devoted mothers dislike all other
children, whereas men, if fond of the little ones at all, seem fond of
every child. Note the attention men will pay a not particularly
attractive child in a railway carriage, whilst the women present are
entirely indifferent to it. A lady who has kept a girls’ school for many
years told me recently that in her opinion the very nature of girls
seems changing, and love of dolls and babies is apparently decaying.
Can this be generally true? Is it possible that the higher education of
women has such grave drawbacks?

Fortunately for the honour and ideals of our country, the
philoprogenitive element is still in an overwhelming majority and many
people who for various reasons do not actually want children are ready
enough to welcome the Stork if he does elect to pay them a visit. In
after years they will tell one that they can’t imagine what life would
have been like without the noise of little feet throughout the house,
the clamour of little voices, the tender faces of little children.



  ‘The child--Heaven’s gift.’ --TENNYSON.

On the other hand, though I think it the greatest possible mistake for
legally married people to intentionally remain childless, for any reason
other than mental or physical degeneration, I am strongly against the
Lutheran doctrine of unlimited families. Times have changed since
Luther’s day, and the necessity for small families is fairly obvious in
the twentieth century for all but very wealthy people. Where money is no
object, and the parents are thoroughly robust, the great luxury of a
large family may be indulged in. And it _is_ a luxury, let cynics sneer
as they choose. We modern parents with our two and three children, or
our one ewe lamb who can scarcely be trusted out of our sight because he
is our unique creative effort--we miss much of the real domestic joy
that our mothers and fathers must have known, with their baker’s dozen
or so of lusty boys and girls. Our children can’t even get up a set of
tennis among themselves without borrowing one or more from another
household. Much of the anxiety and worry we suffer over our rare
offspring was unknown in the days when blessings were numerous, and
families ran into two figures as a matter of course.

Nowadays these joys are the luxuries of the wealthy, who, however,
rarely avail themselves of this special privilege of riches. With the
necessities of life getting dearer every year, a continual panic in the
money market, and the pressure of competition assuming nightmare
proportions--a small family of two or three children is all the man of
moderate income can allow himself. Four is an outside number, but it is
worth making some sacrifices to attain it. Professor E. A. Ross has
recently stated in _The American Journal of Sociology_ that although
restriction ‘results in diffusion of economic well-being; lessens infant
mortality; ceases population pressure, which is the principal cause of
war, mass poverty, wolfish competition and class conflict,’ yet there
are ‘disquieting effects, and in one-child or two-child families both
parents and children miss many of the best lessons of life; the type to
be standardised is not the family of one to three but the family of four
to six.’ The German scientist, Möbius, has also stated his opinion that
the general adoption of the two-children system would lead to
deterioration of the race.

But whether the family numbers one or six, it is all one to Father
Bernard Vaughan, who in his violent attack on modern parents draws no
distinction between the rich man who has but one child and the
hard-working professional man who has several. To limit one’s family at
all is in his eyes a heinous and revolting sin, ‘a vile practice,’ and
people who do it are ‘traitors to an all-important clause in the sacred
contract which they called upon God to witness they meant to keep.’ This
last is hardly logical--none of us are responsible for the wording of
the marriage service, and we cannot very well interrupt the recital of
its barbaric formulæ to explain that there are limitations to our desire
for multiplication.

Father Vaughan also says that this disinclination to multiply means ‘the
extinction of Christian morality,’ and constitutes ‘defiance of God.’ It
is not clear to me why a respectable middle-class couple who decide that
three children is a more suitable number than twelve or fourteen for an
income of, say, £300 a year, should be accused of defying God by this
exercise of common-sense and self-control. Is the idea that the children
will only be sent if the Almighty wishes us to have them, and it is
therefore impious to regulate the number? It would be just as fair to
accuse a young woman who refuses several offers of marriage of defying
God, since He clearly wishes her to marry. Bodily ills and accidents
presumably come from the same divine agency, yet no one thinks it sinful
to seek to remedy these with the means science has provided for the
purpose. Why are the means of regulating families made known to us if we
are not to use them when population-pressure becomes acute? The doctrine
of Free-will becomes a positive farce if Father Vaughan is right. If he
confined his remarks to people who deliberately refuse to have _any_
children, he would have found many adherents, but he alienates our
sympathy by the very excess of his denunciation. He even brands as
immoral the practice of regulating the time between the births of
children, which is so essential to the mother’s health. Apparently he
would think it right for a woman to have a baby every eleven months or
so, irrespective of her husband’s limited income, until she became an
ailing wreck or died of over-production, leaving her family in the
plight of being motherless. His remarks are of course directed
principally at ‘smart’ society people, but as Father Vaughan considers
lack of means no excuse for ‘deliberate regulation of the marriage
state,’ his strictures must be taken as applying to all alike. One feels
inclined to echo with a character in _The Merry-Go-Round_: ‘In this
world it is the good people who do all the harm.’

I learn that as long ago as 1872, before there was any perceptible fall
in the birth-rate to consider, an article by Mr Montagu Crackenthorpe,
Q.C., appeared in _The Fortnightly Review_, contending that small
families were a sign of progress rather than of retrogression. This
article was recently republished in a book entitled _Population and
Progress_. There are many other books on the subject, and to them I must
refer those of my readers who desire further knowledge of this very
important problem. I have no space for an exhaustive consideration of it
here. It is a subject essentially considered by the majority from a
narrow, personal point of view, for it is impossible to expect people
struggling for existence to ‘think imperially,’ and put the needs of the
Empire before the limitations of their income. The question from the
economic standpoint has been exhaustively dealt with by that master of
political economy, Mr Sidney Webb in a pamphlet entitled _The Decline of
the Birth Rate_, published by the Fabian Society at 1d.

   *   *   *

I wish I could convince people, however, of the mistake of having only
one child. The loss to the parents is heavy and to the child
incalculable. All parents who have tried it know what disadvantages they
experience in their early attempts at training, when there is ‘no one to
play with,’ and no one to give up to--perhaps the most important of
life’s lessons. Two or more children growing up together are twice as
easy to manage and to teach as is one alone, and infinitely happier in
every way. Later on, schoolfellows to a certain extent supply the
deficiency, but the only child is still no less an object for
commiseration, as are his parents. All their hopes are centred in the
one, and, as the circumstances almost inevitably combine to spoil the
one, their hopes are more or less handicapped. Parents find out too late
that they have made a mistake.

I was at a children’s party not long ago where ‘sole hopes’ were greatly
in the majority. A lovely little family trio consisting of a boy and two
tiny girls was much admired and the mother openly envied. Several of the
mothers present said they often wished that Joan or Tommy had a brother
or sister. As few of the children mentioned were over five, the
difficulty did not seem insuperable, but opinions were unanimous among
the ladies that it was ‘too late to start the nursery again’; ‘it was no
good unless the two could grow up together, five years was too great a
gap,’ and so on. No doubt they will one day bitterly regret their
timidity, as many women to my personal knowledge have already done. Joan
or Tommy may be taken from them, or what is worse may turn out unloving
and undutiful, and in that sad day they will have no other children to
turn to.

If the facile writers of those endless newspaper articles on the
degeneracy of modern women really wish to make good their case, they had
better abandon their foolish complaints as to women’s inability to
manage the spinning-wheel or preserve pickles, and other tasks which the
progress of machinery have rendered unnecessary. Let them instead turn
their attention for proof of degeneracy to the strange helplessness of
middle-class mothers in training their children, and their dread of
nursery complications. I know many a woman whose financial ability and
capacity for organising almost amounts to genius, who would doubtless
not be at a loss in dealing with a burglar, yet who would on no account
face the terrors of a longish railway journey in sole charge of her
two-year-old child, whilst to ‘take the baby at night’ once in a way
during the nurse’s absence from home is a nerve-shattering experience
which necessitates at least one day’s complete rest in bed afterwards.

‘To start the nursery again,’ with all its complicated machinery, when
the sole hope has got over its teething torments, can walk, feed itself,
and generally be companionable, is a prospect before which modern
mothers seem to quail. The remedy is to multiply the number of hopes
before the nursery has time to be outgrown by Hope No. 1, in fact to
keep the nursery going a good many years longer than is nowadays
fashionable--though by no means for the unlimited period advised by
Father Vaughan and other celibate priests entirely ignorant of nurseries
and their exigences!



  ‘O happy husband! happy wife!
  The rarest blessing Heaven drops down
  The sweetest treasure in spring’s crown,
  Starts in the furrow of your life.’

Perhaps I may be accused of dealing with marriage in a too flippant
manner. Most of the treatises that I have read have erred in the
opposite direction and have treated the subject from a tediously
transcendental point of view. I have purposely tried to deal with
realities, with facts, with matrimony as it really is--I mean as it
really appears to me--in this very workaday world, and not as it might
be in a glorious ideal world of noble spirits.

In truth, marriage, as it is carried out by the large majority does not
seem to me to possess much of a sacred element. What is there holy in
the fact of two human beings agreeing to live together to suit their own
convenience, for purely social and domestic reasons, and very often with
a strong commercial motive? There is, of course, a certain sanctity
about all love, but, of the various kinds of human love, the sexual
variety seems the least holy in itself. Family love, where the tie of
blood exists, the love between friends--purest of all affections--is
often more essentially sacred than the so-called holy love between
husband and wife. Marriage, the mere social and physical union of men
and women, _apart from parenthood_, is simply a partnership--resulting,
if you like, in an enormous increase of happiness and good to the
contracting parties--essentially an excellent contract, but a mere
mundane contract for all that. But when the children come, when the
divine and wonderful miracle is accomplished, then, indeed, is marriage
placed on a wholly different basis, and in dealing with it, I willingly
take my shoes from off my feet, for it is holy ground.

On the birth of a child the union that produced it acquires an immortal
significance. Formerly of importance only to the two people concerned,
the union is now of importance to the State and to posterity, and
consequently a truly awful responsibility devolves on the parents. On
the physique, the character, the intelligence of each child the fate of
future generations may depend. If we do not feed our child properly he
may be rickety, and a future generation may be deformed for our
carelessness. If we do not teach him thoroughly the duty of self-control
he may become a drunkard or a libertine, and a thousand subsequent evils
may curse our grandchildren. ‘The responsibilities of perpetuating the
existence of a race, with all its immeasurable possibilities of sin and
suffering, is one from which the boldest might recoil. But the only
effective way of improving the lot of man is to rear up a new generation
of better stock. For the reflecting to shirk parentage is to make over
the future to the spawn of unreflecting indulgence. In the world’s great
field of battle no duty is higher than to keep the ranks of the forces
of Light well filled with recruits. It is to no holiday that our
offspring are called--rather it is to a combat long and stern, ending in
inevitable death.’[5]

    [Footnote 5: W. T. Stead, _Review of Reviews_, January 1908.]

It has been truly said that children are the wealth of nations: if we
were to take our parenthood very seriously indeed--far, far more
seriously than we now do, surely this would prove the strongest defence
against the moral and physical decay of which we hear so much. I would
like to see parenthood elevated to the dignity of a great spiritual
ideal. Not that I advocate the ultra-glorification of mere procreation
in itself, though to bring fine and healthy children into the world is
an excellent service, and one that men and women ought to take the
highest pride in, but ‘to summon an immortal soul into being--what act
is comparable to this?’ To train the new-born spirit to grow towards the
sun, striving to develop in it the nobler possibilities of the complex
human organism and make of it an ‘upright, heaven-facing speaker’--what
better lifework can a man or woman hope to achieve, what greater
monument to leave behind?

If parenthood were to become a great ideal, in time public opinion--that
mighty weapon--would grow so strong that unworthy parenthood would be
regarded with disfavour by all decent people. The unfit would not dare
to commit the crime of perpetuating their kind, and the stigma attached
to this sin against the community might eventually even equal the stigma
attached nowadays to the awful crime of cheating at cards!

Inspired by the ideal of noble parenthood, maidens would look for the
father’s heart in their lovers; men would seek the beautiful maternal
qualities in the girls they were wooing, and the material considerations
that now so largely influence both would obtain less and less. The bond
of marriage would be strengthened a hundredfold. Infidelity would be
rarer, for the husband and wife who had been blessed with children would
feel that their union had been dignified, made truly indissoluble. The
father and mother who had embraced for the first time over the form of
their first-born could never forget that ineffable moment. The man and
woman who had shared a baby between them, taught it to talk and to play
and guided its first faltering steps, could never lightly set aside the
vows that bound them. The soft hands of little children were made to
link men and women’s hearts together, and wonderfully they fulfil the

‘Only when we become fathers and mothers do we realise all that our
fathers and mothers have done for us’--and what a revelation it is! What
a new heaven and a new earth are opened to us by the magic of a little
child’s presence in our home--the little body that has been mysteriously
fashioned in our image, the little soul given into our keeping.

But for the children, marriage would indeed be a universal failure. In
their interest it was instituted and it is they who make it possible.
Children make a happy union perfect and an indifferent one happy. Very
often they patch up an utter failure into at least an endurable
partnership. When a childless marriage proves happy--really happy--it is
generally because the man and woman are particularly attached to each
other, or are people of unusual character.

One knows of rare instances where husband and wife have grown dearer and
more closely knit by reason of having no other object to divide their
affection. The wife, with lesser cares, not needing to merge the
sweetheart in the mother, remains more youthful in her husband’s eyes
than would otherwise be possible, whilst on the man is lavished her
maternal as well as her wifely devotion, and he is at once husband and
child to her. In such a union one can see the sacred element, although
it has produced no children; a couple of this kind does not seem to miss
the little ones that never come. The same is sometimes the case with
artists, whose whole interest and creative energies are absorbed in
their work.

With all my heart I despise those married people in full possession of
health and strength who deliberately elect to remain childless. With all
my heart I pity the celibate and those to whom children are denied. Yet
they have compensations--though they lose the rapture, they miss also
the infinite anxieties, the innumerable worries, the constant
self-denial, the often bitter disappointments. Children bring many other
pains than those of birth. Tennyson says, ‘the saddest soul in all the
world is she that has a child and sees him err.’ Yet by some subtle
alchemy of nature, the strings of mother hearts are sometimes attuned
even more tenderly to the children who err. I think one of the most
beautiful lines ever written occurs in Stephen Philips’ _Marpessa_. When
the maid Marpessa rejects the god in favour of the humble mortal lover,
of the latter she says:

  ‘And he shall give me passionate children, not
  Some radiant god that will despise me quite,
  But clamouring limbs, and little hearts that err.’

But the clamouring limbs soon wax great, alas! out of all recognition;
the little hearts become wise and worldly and err in a less pleasing
manner--our passionate children outgrow us quickly nowadays. That is the
real tragedy of motherhood--_to be outgrown_.



  ‘To dwell happily together they should be versed in the niceties of
  the heart and born with a faculty for willing compromise.’

  ‘Goodness in marriage is a more intricate problem than mere single
  virtue, for in marriage there are two ideals to be realised.’
    --R. L. STEVENSON.



Within the last twenty-five years the worst injustices of our marriage
laws have been rectified, and compared with them the remaining
grievances appear relatively mild. It is scarcely credible in these days
of advanced women that only a few years ago a husband could take
possession of his wife’s property and spend it as he liked, or, what is
still more monstrous, could appoint a stranger as sole guardian to his
children after his death, entirely ignoring the natural rights of the

The most serious injustice remaining is that the relief of divorce is
more accessible to men than to women. This obviously is a law made by
men for their own advantage, but its existence is a blot on the fair
fame of English justice, and also of English morality, that a husband’s
infidelity should be so lightly regarded. Let us hope the day is not far
off when the conditions of divorce will be exactly the same for both

The opinion is almost universally held nowadays that a dissolution of
marriage should be obtainable if either party be a confirmed drunkard,
or a lunatic, or be sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. How
degrading it is to the best instincts of our sex that a woman can get a
decree of nullity of marriage by proving certain physical disabilities
on the part of the husband, which in no way affect her happiness,
health, or self-respect, yet can only obtain the partial relief of
separation if her husband be a drunkard, an adulterer, and a
criminal--so long as she cannot additionally prove cruelty or desertion!
It is also an injustice that divorce should be so expensive that only
people with money or the very poor (by means of proceedings _in forma
pauperis_) can afford it.

   *   *   *

Perhaps the most necessary reform of all is that the marriage of the
mentally and physically unfit be legally prevented, or rather that they
should be prevented from having children, which is all that really
matters. It would be perfectly feasible to ensure the sterilisation of
the unfit, though a law to this effect would require the most delicate
handling, and one can hardly imagine a parliament of men blundering
through it with any degree of success. Perhaps it may come to pass in
the day when we have the ideal Government that represents both sexes and
all classes. A health certificate signed by doctors in the service of
the State should certainly be compulsory before any marriage could be
ratified. When cancer, tubercle, insanity, and all the attendant ills of
alcoholism and of riotous living have infected every family in the land,
our far-seeing lawgivers may begin to realise the necessity for some
restriction of this kind. At present, the liberty of the subject is
preserved at too heavy a cost to the race.

Another much-needed reform is that children born out of wedlock should
be legitimised by subsequent marriage of the parents, as in many other
countries. This would hurt no one, could not possibly encourage vice,
and would enable many grievous wrongs to be righted. The present
regulation is unreasonable in the extreme.

England is almost the only European country where no attempt is made to
provide a dowry for the daughters, except among the wealthy classes.
Quite well-to-do Englishmen think it unnecessary to give their daughters
anything during their lifetime, though they are willing to seriously
inconvenience themselves to start their sons well in life. English
fathers give everything to their sons; in many of the Continental
countries the daughters are rightly considered first, and among all
classes, rich and poor alike, the parents strive to provide some kind of
a dowry for them, beginning to save from the day of the child’s birth.

I feel sure that if _dots_ for daughters became the custom in this
country an enormous impetus would be given to marriage, and much trouble
between husband and wife would be avoided if the woman had some means of
her own, however small. It is surely most humiliating and unpleasant for
a well-bred woman to be dependent on her husband for every omnibus fare
and packet of hairpins!

English people, however, are apt to pride themselves on their faults,
and are moreover so incurably sentimental that they take credit to
themselves for being the exception in this respect to other countries,
and boast that there is no inducement but love for them to marry. In the
same absurd and improvident spirit is the customary disinclination to
ask for settlements on our daughters. Only of very rich men is this
expected, whereas it is but right that every man should make a
settlement on his wife, if only of the furniture and the policy of life

A chapter on marriage reforms would not be complete without some
reference to our barbarous marriage service. Is it any good complaining
about it, though? Ever since I learnt to read I have been reading
attacks on it; apparently no one has a good word to say for it, not even
clergymen, yet still it remains in use, unamended, just as it was
written in the days of James I. If ever a man-made religious formula
required revising to suit the progress of ideas it is this one. How can
the Church expect us to regard marriage as a sacrament when its
conditions are expressed in such coarse language and from so false a
standpoint. Is it not false to glorify by inference those persons who
have ‘the gift of continency,’ a ‘gift’ which, if common to the
majority, would soon result in the extinction of the human race? This
special clause is a horrible insult to a pure-minded, innocent bride,
and is wholly unnecessary. Surely if no other improvement is made, this
opening explanation of the ‘causes’ for which marriage was ordained
might well be omitted, if only for the fact that it places last the
principal reason for marrying--_i.e._ ‘for the mutual society, help and
comfort.’ The Church of England might well take a lesson from the
Quakers or from the New Jerusalem Church, a religious community founded
on the writings of that great mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg. In the case of
the Society of Friends, the procedure is simple in the extreme. After a
time spent in silent prayer, the parties stand and, holding hands, say
solemnly in turn: ‘Friends, I take this my friend, A. B., to be my
_wife_, promising, through divine assistance, to be unto _her_ a loving
and faithful _husband_, until it shall please the Lord by death to
separate us.’ The New Church formula is longer, but equally beautiful
and free from objectionable matter.



  ‘One doesn’t want a lot of fine sentiments in married life--they
  don’t work.’ --W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM.

The most valuable piece of advice it is possible to give a couple
starting on the ‘long and straight and dusty road’ of matrimony is:
‘Blessed are they who expect little.’ The next best is ‘Strive to
realise your ideal, but accept defeat philosophically.’ It is difficult
to live happily with a person who has a very high ideal of us; somehow
it creates in us an unholy longing to do our worst. Miranda often says
to me: ‘The reason Lysander and I are so perfectly happy is because we
never mind showing our worst side to each other, we never feel we need
pretend to be better than we are.’ Mark this, Bride and Bridegroom;
remember a pedestal is a very uncomfortable place to settle on, and
don’t assign this uncomfortable elevation to your life’s partner. More
marriages have been ruined by one expecting too much of the other than
by any vice or failing.

On the other hand, at the risk of being tedious, I must repeat that the
most essential thing in Marriage is respect. It is above love, above
compatibility, above even the priceless sense of humour. Respect will
hold the tottering edifice of matrimony together when passion is dead
and even love has faded. Respect will make even the ‘appalling intimacy’
endurable, and will bring one through the most trying disagreements,
with no bruise on the soul, whatever wounds there may be in the heart.
Therefore, Bride and Bridegroom, cultivate respect between you at all
costs and, men and women, never _never_ marry anyone you don’t really
respect, however passionately you may love. I believe one can be fairly
happy in marriage without love, once the ardours and madness of extreme
youth have passed. Without respect one can never be anything but

   *   *   *

‘There is always one who loves and one who is beloved.’ If you find you
are the one who loves, remember--_it is the better part_, especially for
a woman. Don’t weary your companion with constant claims, with scenes
and reproaches, tears and prayers, it will serve you no purpose, and
probably only alienate the beloved from you. And, while on the subject
of tears, let me urgently warn all wives against giving way to this
natural feminine weakness. The sensible, hard-headed, athletic girls of
to-day as a rule scorn to do so; but after marriage occasions for
weeping occur that these self-reliant young spinsters never dream of.
But the old idea that tears prevailed against a man, and served to
soften the harder male heart, is entirely exploded; and, if women only
realised it, tears distil a poison that acts as a fateful irritant to
love and often causes its death. Just at first, when he is quite young
and in the height of his ardour, tears may influence a man, but not for
long, and very seldom after marriage. They frequently gain their end,
however, as exceptionally tender-hearted men often so dread tears that
they immediately concede the point at issue on the appearance of this
danger-signal. But their irritation is none the less, and they often end
in disliking the woman who has traded on their gentleness, and taken
what they consider is an unfair advantage of them. The wife who weeps
perpetually, whenever things go wrong, does not command anyone’s respect
or sympathy, and generally drives her husband to seek the society of
other women. Men detest a sad face in their home--other than their own,
that is. If they are ever miserable, they feel entitled to let
themselves go, but their wives must not, or when they do, it must
certainly not take the form of tears. The brilliant anonymous author of
_The Truth about Man_ advises women to remember that men ‘must never be
contradicted, reproached, or censured.’ To this I would add emphatically
that he must never on any account be cried at.

   *   *   *

Is it necessary to advocate the cultivation of the most perfect courtesy
between you? Not at first possibly, but it certainly will be. The time
may even come when Perseus may raise his voice and roar out his
disapproval of Persephone. A certain type of man always shouts when
annoyed, not at his friends or clients of course; merely to his clerks
and his servants and his wife and the people who are afraid of him. This
was a nasty habit of our grandfathers--modern wives are hardly meek
enough to stand much of it. However, if Perseus by some freak of atavism
ever should so far forget himself in this way, Persephone will find the
Biblical soft answer more efficacious than the loudest returning volume
of sound. To speak in an exaggeratedly gentle voice always shames the
shouter of either sex into silence.

Courtesy is more necessary between husband and wife than in any other
relation in life. A great deal of bitterness would be saved if this were
studiously remembered. Nothing is more painful than to hear a married
couple _being rude_ to one another, and the claims of courtesy would
prevent all sorts of remarks that belong to the category of the
better-left-unsaid. Women, especially, have sometimes a most
objectionable habit of hurling home-truths at their husband’s head
whenever temper runs a little high; and most men are sensitive enough
under their shield of cultivated indifference to resent this acutely,
and remember stinging sentences of this kind for years. The fact that
they are generally pointedly true does not make them less objectionable.
Some wives who are in reality devoted to their husbands, nevertheless
make a point of invariably belittling them in private and public, and,
though he would rarely admit it, this takes the heart out of a man more
than one unversed in the hearts of men could possibly believe. The truth
is, men like admiration and praise just as much as women do, though it
is part of their strange code to conceal this. They resent a snub just
as bitterly as a woman does; why shouldn’t they?

And while we are on this subject, let me whisper to Persephone what a
wonderfully soothing effect a little judicious flattery has on the race
of husbands, and how smoothly it makes the marital wheels go round.
I don’t mean false, blatant, absurd flattery, such as men often bestow
on us when desirous to please, not realising that compliments laid on
with a trowel are an insult to one’s intelligence. Nothing of that kind,
of course, but delicate, subtle, loving flattery. An attitude of gentle
admiration toward your Perseus, subdued a little possibly for public
use, but none the less markedly appreciative, will not only endear you
more to him than any protestation of your love could do, but will have
an excellent effect on him mentally and morally. Just as you always feel
dazzling when in company of people who admire you and always talk
brilliantly when with those who think you clever, similarly Perseus will
be spurred on by your admiration (real or assumed) to try to justify it.

The same thing applies to you, gallant Perseus. A compliment to your
Persephone’s bright eyes, a word of awed adulation for her new hat, or
of praise for her conduct as a hostess will not only make her absurdly
happy but will materially increase your capital in Love’s Bank, by
laying up treasure for you in Persephone’s heart.

By way of illustration, I will quote two real conversations I heard not
long ago. The first was between a young couple, Pelleas and Nicolette,
who had recently started housekeeping on a small income. They had been
giving an afternoon party, and all the guests had left but me. (I am a
privileged person, as you must have noticed; nobody minds being natural
before me.)

Nicolette heaved a sigh of relief as the front door shut for the last
time, and turned with sparkling eyes to Pelleas.

‘_Hasn’t_ it been a success?’ she said enthusiastically.

‘Not bad,’ said Pelleas.

‘Aren’t the flowers lovely, and haven’t I made the rooms look sweet?
Don’t you think it was all done very nicely, dear? I did work so hard!’
she added, longing for a word of praise.

‘Pooh! d’you call cutting up a few cakes work?’ was the answer.

Nicolette happens to be a discreet woman who knows when to be silent,
but she looked sad, and all her natural pleasure in her little
entertainment was spoiled. How delighted she would have been if Pelleas
had kissed her, and told her she had made a charming hostess, and all
her arrangements had been perfection. The annoying part of it is that
this is what he really _did_ think. He was bursting with pride of his
home and his wife, and inclined to think himself a very fine fellow for
having won such a charming and clever woman. Only it wasn’t his way to
say so!

The second instance was when I had been trying to reconcile Geraint and
his wife. I was always very fond of dear old Geraint, and the utter
misery of his married life was a source of great trouble to me. On this
occasion we talked freely, and from the depths of his sore heart he
brought up woe upon woe. ‘Here’s another instance,’ he said at length.
‘It’s rather ridiculous, but you won’t laugh at me, I know. Of course
it’s absurd of me to have remembered it, but--well, I have. She was
sitting up in bed brushing her hair, I came into the room to ask if
there was anything I could bring her from town, and I happened to stand
at her dressing-table and straighten my tie. We were both reflected in
the mirror and she said, suddenly, with a little laugh: “What an ugly
brute you are!” . . . that’s all, she said it quite politely, but--well,
it hurt me absurdly, it was so devilish unnecessary. And I suppose it’s
true, too, I’d never thought of it before, but I often have
since. . . .’

Yet another example of how not to do it: ‘If I’m shabby,’ a despairing
wife told me once, ‘he says: “Why can’t you look decent.” When I’m
smart, it’s “More new clothes! I don’t know who’s going to pay for
them.” If the _menu_ is exceptional he says: “This extravagance will
ruin me,” and when it’s ordinary he asks: “Is that all?”’

   *   *   *

I have previously referred to men’s clubs as a boon to wives, and so
they have always appeared to me. But evidently this opinion is not
generally held, as a number of women have recently expressed in print
their intention--when they get the vote--of agitating for complete
abolition, or at least compulsorily early closing, of all men’s clubs.
It seems sadly ridiculous that women should want their husbands
compelled by Act of Parliament to return to them at a fixed hour. Let me
endeavour to convert these misguided wives, if any of them should deign
to read this book.

Dear ladies, almost everything your husbands cannot get at home they can
get at the club--the more completely their wants are satisfied the more
pleasant they are to live with, and consequently your home is the
happier! If they have a hobby, they generally join a club connected with
it, or where they can meet other men similarly enslaved. Be it politics,
sport, horses, cards, music, golf, or the theatre--if it is in their
blood, it must come out, and sensible wives allow it to do so. A hobby
suppressed means a hubby embittered. At the club they can have their
rubber, or their rage against the Government; they can put
half-a-sovereign in the sweep-stake, and compare notes about last
night’s grand slam and their latest bunker, or whatever the term may be.
At the club they can meet other men, and have a complete change both
from office and home, consequently returning to both work and wife
refreshed and stimulated thereby.

When your cook has managed, by that occult secret of her own, to get the
locked tantalus open and it isn’t consequently convenient or possible to
have any dinner at home, you remain calm, and break it to your lord on
the telephone, for can he not feast royally--yet economically--at the
club? And when you are away on a holiday he can do the same, and spend a
pleasant evening there afterward, instead of moping about alone in the
empty house. When you indulge in disagreements of a disturbing nature,
if ever you do, the same friendly haven is open to him, surely a more
comfortable thing for you than to have him maledicting about the house
while the little difference is cooling off. In short, there is no end to
the blessings and benefits of a man’s club, and why in the world you
want to abolish them, dear ladies, I for one cannot imagine.

Of course the necessary moderation should be observed, as with all other
good things, and club nights once or twice a week should suffice. On
these occasions the wife can have a picnic dinner--always a joy to a
woman--with a book propped up before her, can let herself go and let her
cook go out. Or if she be of a strenuous turn she can utilise the free
evening to get her accounts and correspondence up to date. Or be her
habit gay she can go out on her own account and do a little dinner and
theatre with a discreet admirer, or even with a friend of her own sex.
Look at it how you will, a club, provided a man does not abuse it, is an
unalloyed blessing in married life.

But perhaps it is the tragic fate of the wives in question not to be
able to trust their husbands, and with cause. Perhaps their hearts hold
sorrowful knowledge of betrayal, and they fear that the club may be used
to shield an evening spent in company less desirable from the wifely
point of view. Even so, the club is a blessing, for at least a woman can
_hope_ and try to believe her husband _is_ really there, whilst if he
has no club to go to, the transparency of his alternative excuse must
give colour to her worst suspicions. If a man is resolved to do this
sort of thing, nothing can stop him; should one pretext to spend his
time away from home fail, he will put forward another, and the less
chance his wife has of discovering the real state of affairs the better
for her peace of mind.

That ignorance is bliss is a profound truth in married life and wives
should strive to be guided by it. I believe women exist who actually
make a practice of going through their husbands’ pockets when
opportunity offers, presumably in the expectation of finding some
incriminating letter or bill. What they expect to gain in the event of
an unpleasant discovery, heaven alone knows! Nothing but a more or less
hateful scene, and a consequent loss of all peace between them, without
the real source of the trouble being affected in the least. Fortunately
few husbands are fools enough to carry compromising documents on their
persons. In any case this surveillance is revolting, and where mutual
respect exists, for which I have so strongly urged the necessity, these
lapses of taste could not occur.

In justice to those unhappy women who suffer the terrible affliction of
a husband given to excessive drink or gambling, I must add that, when
this is the case, a wife is right to try by every means in her power to
keep her husband away from his club, which offers greater opportunities
than the home circle for indulging in these vices.

   *   *   *

And now for a special word to men. On a foregoing page I mentioned the
possibility of a married woman going out to dinner and the theatre with
a man friend. In London life this is so usual an occurrence that any
explanation of it would seem homely and a little absurd to the
initiated. But the initiated are a very small section of the community,
and as this book is humbly put forward for anyone interested in marriage
to read--in short, for everyone who _will_ read it--I propose therefore
to enlarge somewhat on this theme for the benefit of the uninitiated
majority. A great many men would never dream of allowing their wives to
go out at night alone with other men; why, I cannot pretend to know,
since they surely cannot insult their wives and their friends by the
idea of any impropriety in connection with them. Possibly it is due to
the survival of some primitive masculine feeling that they cannot
explain. (In former times husbands were even more exacting, and under
the Justinian code a man could divorce his wife merely for going to a
circus without his consent, or for going to baths and banquets with
other men!) To me it seems equally as unreasonable as women’s
disapproval of men’s clubs. Just as a sensible wife makes no objection
to her husband’s club, so a wise husband allows his wife to be taken out
by another man, if she desire it. If he knows anything of the feminine
temperament--and no man should marry till he does--he realises that the
admiration of other men is pleasing to his wife, and a little gaiety has
a wonderful effect on her spirits.

I remember the time when Theodore and Amoret used to disagree violently
on this point, but eventually Theodore gave way. ‘He used to think it so
wrong of me to like having other men a tiny bit in love with me,’ Amoret
said, ‘but I explained to him that I liked it because it gave me such a
nice powerful feeling and was a kind of added zest in life. Then he
always said it was very dangerous for a married woman to have any zest
in life apart from her husband, and I used to answer that _he_ had no
end of zests apart from me, and what was I to do during the long
evenings when he was eternally playing bridge. Finally I promised it
would make me more contented and able to bear the monotony of marriage
better, if only he would let me go. He thought it was awfully wicked of
me to call marriage monotonous, and said his mother would have been
horrified at such a remark. I told him it was no good expecting a young
wife to behave like one’s mother, and he said he’d rather I didn’t. Then
we laughed, and the dear old boy gave in, and said that Everard was a
white sort of man, and might take me out once as a trial trip. Since
then I’ve gone to theatres with them all, and I’m fonder of Theodore the
more I see of other men, and ever so much more peaceful and contented.’

Which testimony speaks for itself.

Few seem to realise the many advantages of marrying a man of a silent
habit. The ideal husband rarely talks; he realises that women prefer to
do this themselves, and that there is not room for two talking people in
one happy family. The loquacious man had better look out for a
silence-loving woman, and marry her immediately he finds her. Such
creatures are as rare as comets, and as a rule they are generally
married already to equally silent husbands--another of Nature’s painful
bungles. Nothing is more appalling than to have to entertain one of
these speechless couples; an over-talkative pair is infinitely
preferable, as at least one can listen peacefully and let them run on.

   *   *   *

An endless source of trouble between married couples is the money
question. Wives are often extravagant and generally sinfully ignorant of
financial matters at the start. Undoubtedly, as Isolda says: ‘Money (and
Menials) mar Matrimony.’ Of the second I cannot trust myself to write,
but I know that money--the want of it, the withholding of it, and the
mis-spending of it--is responsible for a great deal of conjugal
conflict. Some men seem to imagine their wives ought to be able to keep
house without means, and these unfortunate women have to coax and beg
and make quite a favour of it before they can obtain their due
allowance. Even then they are treated like children, and their use of
the money is inquired into in a most insulting manner, as if there was
such a royal margin for extravagance.

I remember the case of poor little Hildebrand. He was a very young
husband, and had been brought up in a very old-fashioned way. One of his
quaintly mediæval notions was that woman had no financial capacity and
could on no account be trusted with cash. If he had had time, I really
think he would have done all the housekeeping himself. Fortunately for
the peace of that family this was impossible. However, he exercised as
much supervision over the _ménage_ as was possible, even to the extent
of looking over the tradesmen’s books. Of course he did not understand
their cryptic symbols in the least, and it was a funny sight to see
little Hildebrand poring over the small red books, and puckering his
conscientious brows in an agony of puzzlement. Every now and then he
would turn for enlightenment to his wife, who happily possessed a very
robust sense of humour.

‘What’s this, Valeria, “3 m’lade, 11½d.”?’

‘Three pounds of marmalade, dear, it’s cheap enough, surely.’

‘Too cheap to be good, I’m sure, you’d better get a superior quality.’

‘But, my dear boy, it _is_ the best!’

‘Oh!’ Slightly discomfited Hildebrand would resume his study of the
grocer’s hieroglyphics and presently a deep sigh would burst forth from

‘What’s the matter, darling? Are those wretched accounts annoying you?’
Valeria would ask sympathetically, suppressing her desire to laugh.

‘These fellows keep their books so deucedly queerly. What does this mean
“1 primrose, 7½d., and 12 foreign safety, 1½d.”?’

‘One pound of Primrose candles and a dozen boxes of matches; we must
have them, and it’s only 9d. anyway.’

‘That’s not the point. What’s this, “2 sunlight, 1s. 2d.”?’

‘Two boxes of Sunlight Soap for cook--it’ll last ages.’

‘And this, “one brooks, 3d.”?’

‘Why, Brookes’ Soap, of course.’

‘Is that what we use? . . . Really I don’t see anything to laugh at.’

‘Excuse me, dear, I really couldn’t help it, the idea of _us_ washing
with Monkey Brand is too excruciatingly funny. Of course it’s for the
pots and pans and sinks!’

‘You seem to use a great deal of soap in the house.’

‘No, dear, quite a little, as any _housekeeper_ would tell you’ (Valeria
could not resist this thrust), ‘and I don’t think you would like the
result if we economised in soap. But why worry so, since the total is
reasonable? You’ll find nothing there but absolute necessities. Why
won’t you leave it all to me?’

In the end he was compelled to, but few wives would have shown Valeria’s
patience under this very unnecessary infliction.

Of course this is an extreme case, but a great many men do interfere in
their wives’ department to a most irritating extent. To my mind the
perfect way is for the whole financial budget of the house to be left to
the wife, just as the whole budget of the office or estate is left to
the husband. I am now dealing of course with people of limited means.
As a rule, a man has quite enough money worry during his day’s work and
does not want any more of it when he gets home. To have to sit down to
write cheques in the evening is a task that seems to bring out all the
worst qualities in a husband. He may enter the house a devoted lover,
and heap evening papers, flowers, and chocolates on his wife’s knee.
During dinner he may be genial, witty, affectionate, delightful--but
present him with a bundle of bills at ten P.M. with the remark that
really these ought to be seen to--and at once he becomes a fierce,
snarling, primitive, repulsive, and blasphemous creature. No matter if
his balance at the bank be ever so satisfactory, no matter if every bill
be for something he has personally required, and no single one incurred
by his wife--these facts weigh not at all with him. Bills are bills,
and at the sight of them husbands become savages. If I should call on
Miranda one morning about the seventh or eighth of the month, I am sure
to find her red-eyed and worn and to be told: ‘Last night Lysander said
he’d do the bills and of course he’s been damning and blasting ever
since, though they’re ridiculously small this month.’ Exactly the same
with Isolda. ‘Launcelot wrote the month’s cheques last night,’ she will
say, ‘and handling bills always has a terrible effect on him; it’s a
kind of disease with him, poor dear, and I never can sleep after it.’
Yet both Launcelot and Lysander are in every other respect ideal

My advice to wives therefore is: Firstly, do away with all weekly or
cash payments, which are a weariness to the wifely brain. Check all
books once a week, examine the items with whatever degree of care your
tradesmen’s moral standard requires. Enter these sums in an
account-book. At the end of the month, when all the bills are in,
prepare a monthly balance-sheet for your husband. He will assuredly
glance first at the total and should it be satisfactory he will look no
further if he be wise. Let him then write one cheque to cover the whole
amount, pay it into your bank, and you do the rest. When the bills
arrive for rates, and whatever else is sent in quarterly, include them
in your monthly list, and thus your husband will only have to write
twelve cheques a year on behalf of his home instead of scores. The
fearful frenzies that beset him monthly will thus be reduced to a
minimum. If you have stables or an extensive wine-cellar give orders
that the bills for these and any other item which belongs to the man’s
department should be sent to his office or club, together with his
tailor’s and other personal bills. Thus you will not suffer when their
settlement becomes necessary. It is a strange fact that a man sits down
like a lamb to write cheques at his office, although at home the same
business would cause him to raise the roof and shake the foundations.

   *   *   *

Volumes could be written on how to be happy though married, but my last
page is at hand. To sum up therefore. Wives: if you would be happy,
remember, make much of your husband, flatter him discreetly, laugh at
his jokes, don’t attempt to put down his club, never tell him home
truths, and _never_ cry.

Husbands: praise and admire your wife and let other men admire her too;
don’t interfere in her department; write your monthly cheque with a
cheerful mien; be reasonable about money even if you cannot be generous,
and be not overfond of your own voice.

And, both of you: be very tolerant, expect little, give gladly, put
respect before everything, cultivate courtesy and love each other all
you can. If you do all this you are sure to be happy, though married.
Hear also what Robert Burton says in his wonderful book, _The Anatomy of
Melancholy_. ‘Hast thou means? Thou hast none, if unmarried, to keep and
increase them. Hast none? Thou hast one, if married, to help and get
them. Art in prosperity? Thine happiness is doubled with a wife. Art in
adversity? She’ll comfort and assist thee. Art at home? She’ll drive
away melancholy. Art abroad? She’ll wish for thee in thy absence and
joyfully welcome thy return. There’s nothing delightsome without
society, and no society as sweet as matrimony!’



       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

Errors and Inconsistencies

The inconsistent hyphenization of “re-adjust(ment)” and the variable
spelling of “vice versâ” (with or without circumflex) are unchanged.
The term “anyrate” is always written as a single word.

  Part I
  The Subject of Marriage is kept too much in the dark.  [. missing]
  ridiculing and contemning
    [_archaic spelling unchanged; elsewhere “condemn”_]
  ... and most of them negative.’[1]  [_footnote tag missing_]

  but when it is a very unhappy married life must inevitably follow.
    [_punctuation unchanged: may need comma after “is”_]
  ‘Real friendship,’ founded on harmony of sentiment
    [_close quote missing_]
  You ask me whether you will be happy thro’ love and marriage.  [hapy]
  I think it is de la Rochfoucauld who says  [_spelling unchanged_]

  Part III
  He continues: ‘It is a question to my mind whether  [“ for ‘]
  They are old friends and have not met for years.  [. missing]
  except the old ladies, and the men don’t want them.’ [” for ’]
  ‘Not at all; she’s perfectly sound,’  [opening “ for ‘]
  ‘_Duo_--two?’ [closing ” for ’]

  To speak in an exaggeratedly gentle voice  [exaggerately]
  ... did not understand their cryptic symbols in the least  [crytic]
  ‘Two boxes of Sunlight Soap for cook--it’ll last ages.’  [. missing]

Missing Text

The edges of some preliminary pages, mainly advertising, were damaged.
Reconstructed text is shown here in {braces}, with the original line






  {s}erious subject.”

    +Standard.+--“A good deal of sound thinking has gone to the
  book’s composition and it is also illumined by a very kind and
  {t}ender spirit.”

    +Bystander.+--“A clever and most entertaining volume . . . the
  {re}ader may be assured of much that is sage and sound, and much
  {th}at is witty.”

    +Black & White.+--“No one has gone so fully and vigorously
  {into} the various problems connected with marriage as Mrs Braby
  {in he}r extremely readable book . . . one of the most vivid and
  {origin}al contributions to the discussion of a great problem that have
  {appea}red for a long time.”

    +{Lit}erary World.+--“Very brightly written, and even when
  {most a}udacious is full of good feeling and good sense . . . amusing
  {and shre}wd . . . clever and stimulating.”



  ... Maud Churton Braby, author of that vivacious an{d}
  daring book, “Modern Marriage and How to Bear it.{”}
  As might be expected, some of the serious problems o{f}
  women are dealt with in its pages. The story concern{s}
  the fortunes of brilliant and undisciplined Dolly who, o{n}
  the death of her mother, an actress, is compelled by t{he}
  decree of a mysterious trustee to go first to a conve{nt-}
  school and afterwards become a hospital nurse. H{er}
  temptations and adventures at the Wimpole Street Nurs{ing}
  Home--(in which environment other characters of {much}
  interest appear)--her tragic love affair, and the dep{ths to}
  which it brings her, together with her subse{quent}
  redemption, are related in a manner which ma{kes a}
  special appeal to the heart.

[The word given as “much” (interest) could also be “some”, taking up
the same amount of space.]

[Title Page]


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