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the very ground on which the other treads. You would very likely give mortal offence to either of them if you ventured to whisper a hint that the other was anything short of perfection, and perhaps you have been bored almost to death by the confidential enumeration by one of them of the other's excellences. We should like to know what the young lady's brothers think of her. Is it altogether improbable that they may say, with all their brotherly love, “It's very well he thinks so much about her, but she might with advantage be in many respects a great deal better”? And her mother, with all her partiality for her daughter, has found her sometimes, to put the thing mildly, a little short of perfection. “Now," we can imagine some one saying, “that's dreadfully cynical.” We hope not. At all events, we don't mean it to be so. We only say it that we may offer the counsel, Keep as wide awake as you can; exercise in this matter, as well as in every other, good common sense, and don't look for angels or imagine them where there is nothing but ordinary flesh and blood. Albeit it is only right to say that, whilst too many have experienced a woeful disenchantment, there are hundreds who, though they have missed some things about which they had dreamt, have found a substantial worth of character which is unspeakably better, and have blessed God, times without number, both in sorrow and in joy, that they were ever made one.
Punch once headed one of his sage counsels with the words, “ Advice to parties intending to marry.” And what do you think the advice was ? It was put in staring capitals, and it was summed up in one word—“Don't.” We can scarcely endorse Punch's advice. As a rule, we believe people are happier and better for the influences of matrimonial and especially of parental life. “A rusty old bachelor” and a “crabbed old maid " are terms in only too frequent use. We don't like to speak disrespectfully of either gentlemen or ladies; still, admitting all the while that there are some very honourable exceptions, we are inclined to let that description of the old bachelor stand. Old bachelors are often very rusty and very selfish; and I have this especially against them, that the blame of a great many of the maiden ladies continuing such rests entirely on their shoulders. We don't find, as a rule, that bachelors, with all their leisure, and with all their freedom from domestic cares, and with all the money they save by remaining single, do more good in the world than men who are married ; nay, we do not think that, taking them as a body, they do nearly so much. We don't find that bachelor ministers are the most useful; nor that bachelor deacons, as a body, are in any sense model deacons ; nor that bachelor church members do more to help forward the cause of Christ than married ones. Of course we do not mean by bachelors those young men who are looking up to the higher estate with the hope of entering on it as soon as it is prudent; but those who are confirmed in their celibacy. It may be a matter of prejudice, but we are inclined to think that, if we wanted a specially marked example of a man living entirely for himself, we should have to single out a bachelor. Still, there are signal exceptions to the rule; and it is only just to say that we have known some of this order whose lonely life was not a matter of choice, but a sacrifice laid
nobly on the altar of duty; and further, that there could not be more self-denying, earnest men than some who are thus alone in the world. It would be scarcely right, however, to speak of the single sisterhood exactly as we speak of the bachelors. It may be that there are angularities about some of them which would have been rounded off if they bad been married ; but really we don't know what we should do without them. How useful and indispensable is the maiden aunt of a family! It may be she is the comfort of a widowed parent; in those periodical additions which occur in the families of married brothers or sisters she is looked to as the guide of the house during the temporary seclusion of its rightful ruler; in case of sickness she is the first thought of; and if not sent for, ten to one she finds her way to the house to see what help she can render; and it is needless to say she is ever wel. come. Our unmarried females are our best district visitors, our best Sunday-school teachers, our best workers on behalf of all kinds of benevolent institutions ; nay, in certain lines of literature, they are our best writers. If, moreover, we knew the reasons why some of them have remained unmarried, and took into account their self-denying virtues and the good they have accomplished, we should be very chary in our use of the term “old maid," as it is too frequently used slightingly and disrespectfully. And may I say to my unmarried female friends, don't deem it absolutely necessary to be married, as though life were otherwise a blank, and as though that term “single blessedness" were a lie. Far better be single to the end of the chapter-lonely as it often is to be sothan marry, as some people do, to repent ever after. I would have every female whose parents cannot leave her a competency to learn some occupation by which she may win for herself an honourable livelihood. It is to be regretted that hitherto the range of female occupations has been so limited. So jealously have some occupations, at which women might have worked just as well as men, been guarded by “ the lords of the creation," lest there should not be enough to do for themselves, that, in small towns especially, nothing is left for women but dressmaking, or teaching, or domestic service, or attendance in shops, or similar employment. Laudable efforts, however, are being made to extend the sphere of woman's work, and we wish them all success.
It is a matter which can scarcely be considered too seriously that the marriage bond is for life, and life is a long time,-at least, there is every probability and hope that it will be,-perhaps twenty, thirty, forty, and even fifty years; for life, with whatever changes of health and fortune it may bring; for life, with all kinds of tests which may try both principle, and character, and temper too. If you were going on a journey for a single month you would be very careful what kind of travelling companion you chose; if you had the choice of a fellow-servant with whom you would serve the same master for a year, you would be more careful still not to select a bad-tempered or an unprincipled one; and, if it were possible, you would exercise still greater care were you forming a partnership in business which should continue for years. Are we wrong in saying that engagements for life are often formed with
far less thought than it would be wise to exercise respecting any of the less important ties of which we have been speaking? And are we not right in saying that there should be unspeakably more? We do not for a moment depreciate the beautiful. God made fair countenances, and beaming eyes, and graceful forms to be admired ; and who that has any pretension to taste can help admiring them? Nor are we insensible to the charm of pleasant, lively, winning manners, and of witty, piquant speech. Still, these are only surface qualities, which furnish no guarantee for solid excellence, and which too often cover what is really vapid and worthless. "Fine feathers make fine birds ;” but gay, bright plumage is apt to be sadly ruffled by the storms of life. Take care lest you get nothing but plumage. Make sure that there is a solid basis of excellence in your proposed companion for life-truth, kindness, rectitude, honour, a gentle, forbearing temper, and last, though by no means least, sound common sense. We do not say that you are to wait till you find one absolutely perfect; but we do say, Seek for husband or wife one who sincerely desires to be everything that is right and true. Here is a beautiful little Scotch song, which we found in one of Miss Muloch's books, and which expresses much that we have said. We suppose it is her own, though we don't know:
“ When ye're my ain gudewife, lassie,
What'll ye bring to me?
I ba'e na a bawbee.
And sit at my fireside,
Na, ye'll no get a bonnie bride.
Mine for gude and ill,
My empty home to fill ?
A heart baith warm and free?
And lo'e ye till I dee.” Get to know, if you can. something of the stock from which the party springs with whom you have any idea of linking your fate for life. A gardener would tell you that if there were any defect inherent in a tree, though a slip cut from it might appear quite perfect, there was every likelihood that when the slip became a tree the defect would be reproduced. So, too, a medical man would tell you that the child of parents labouring under certain forms of disease, though at its birth to all appearance perfectly healthy, would most likely have the seeds of the parental disease sown in his frame. So we believe it is, to a greater extent than is often supposed, with moral qualities. Dirty, slatternly, termagant mothers have sometimes cleanly, tidy, gentle daughters ; but we are afraid it is too often the contrary. And so, on the other side, if a young man's parents are unprincipled, ill-tempered, disorderly, the chances are sadly against the young man himself being different when he
comes to bear the brunt of life's battle. Now and then, it may be admitted, we see a man breaking completely away from all the evil influences of his childhood and youth, and in striking contrast with the family from which he sprung, becoming everything that is pure, and upright, and kind; but very frequently it is otherwise.
“Oh, but,” you perhaps say, “ that is very hard to condemn people for the defects and vices of their parents.” Perhaps it is; but we are speaking in your interest now, and expounding what we believe to be the law of ordinary transmission-a law not without exceptions, but still the law. So look to the stock from which your intended husband or wife has sprung with only less care than you would consider the dispositions and principles of the parties themselves; and do not presume too confidently that your influence is the only thing that is needed to link them to everything that is right and good. Strong as you deem it, you may find it altogether powerless.
Do not think us cold and calculating, or lacking in sympathy with young, and warm, and pure affections, if we say, Don't form engagements too early. Wait till you know what you are likely to be, and what kind of helpmeet you are likely to want; wait till your judgment is formed and your taste matured; and, we would add, wait till you see a reasonable prospect, at no great distance of time, of settling in life. It is quite true that very early engagements have sometimes turned out well. For long years, and perhaps with the additional test of wide local separation, the hearts which had early plighted their faith remained true as the needle to the pole, neither of them for a single moment thinking of change. But we are bound to say that we have often seen it otherwise. The lapse of time bas matured the views of at least one of the parties ; his mind has been expanded by intercourse with society; fortune has smiled on him; and besides he has seen fresh, perhaps fairer, faces ; and so the thought has arisen, “ How much better I might have done;" and then the resolve has been formed, “ I will do better ;" and that resolve has been fulfilled by all manner of miserable shifts and evasions, and often with heartless cruelty. Or, held to his engagement, as he ought to be, by a sense of high-minded honour, he has gone to the altar, feeling something like a victim about to be sacrificed, and there has been felt throughout life a sense of secret, though sometimes ill-concealed, disappointment. Another evil is that parties thus early engaged very frequently rush into an imprudently early marriage. Now we don't object at all to early marriages; we object only when they are imprudently early, and we will tell you when we think they are so. When a young man only just out of his apprenticeship rushes into matrimony, that is imprudently early; and when a young couple marry with a house scarcely half furnished, hoping to furnish it afterwards, although their income is barely sufficient to meet the claims of subsistence; or when if furnished whether wholly or in part, it is furnished on credit, that is imprudently early. We wish we could instil into your minds, if it be not already there, a dread, an utter horror of debt. We are not now speaking of credit given and taken in the ordinary course of business, although it would be well if there were a great deal
less of that, but of debt which there is very little probability of paying, or which, if paid at all, cannot be paid without sore strait and struggle. It deadens the conscience; it is the parent of all kinds of shuffling, and falsehood, and trickery ; it mars domestic peace, and very often it presses the subject of it down to the earth in humiliation and tears. Whatever you do, don't begin life in debt. Wait two, three, half-a-dozen years rather than begin in debt. No doubt there are some energetic spirits who, gifted with strong health and indomitable perseverance, can rise superior to the disadvantages of such a start and retrieve themselves; but we do not believe that one in twenty does so, and in any case it is a hazardous venture. As a rule, if a married couple begin in debt, they will feel the grinding influence of it for long years if not even for life. Cowper has a humorous piece entitled, “ Pairing Time Anticipated." He represents the birds, on one of those days in winter which are so bright and warm that it seems as though old Father Winter had stretched forth his icy hand and stolen a day right out of the middle of the coming spring, as meeting in copse and grove to discuss affairs of love. A grave old bullfinch gave them warning :
“My friends, be cautious how ye treat
The subject upon which we meet :
But a pert young finch, a last year's bird, “who ne'er had tried what marriage means," replied :
“ She thinks the gentleman, quoth he,
Dick, tweedling, ogling, bridling, signifies his approval, and they express their sentiments about it so smartly that they are greeted with a chorus of general approbation, and all at once pair off and build their nests.
“But though the birds were thus in haste,
The leaves came on not quite so fast;
Not altogether smiled on theirs." The wind shifted into the east, and then into the biting north; rain came and snow; their nests were soaked; the birds themselves were chilled; their eggs were addled.
“Soon every father bird and mother,