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wrong opinions are entertained, that they mutually destroy each other, and leave the mind open to
“ I did not expect, answered the princess, to hear that imputed to falsehood which is the consequence only of frailty. To the mind, as to the eye, it is difficult to compare with exactness objects vast in their extent, and various in their parts. Where we see or conceive the whole at once, we readily note the discriminations, and decide the preference: but of two systems, of which neither can be surveyed by any human being in its full compass of magnitude and multiplicity of complication, where is the wonder, that judging of the whole by parts, I am alternately affected by one and the other as either preffes on my memory or fancy? We differ from ourselves just as we differ from each other, when we see only part of the question, as in the multifarious relations of politicks and morality; but when we perceive the whole at once, as in numerical computations, all agree in one judgment, and none ever varies his opinion.”
“ Let us not add, said the prince, to the other evils of life, the bitterness of controversy, nor endeavour to vie with each other in subtilties of argument. We are employed in a search, of which both are equally to enjoy the success, or suffer by the miscarriage. It is therefore fit that we assist each other. You surely conclude too hastily from the infelicity of marriage against its institution : will not the misery of life prove equally that life cannot be the gift of heaven? The world must be peopled by marriage, or peopled without it.”
« How the world is to be peopled, returned Nekayah, is not my care, and needs not be yours. I see no danger that the present generation should omit to leave successors behind them: we are not now inquiring for the world, but for ourselves.”
CH A P. XXVIII.
THE DIDATE OF MARRIAGE
he good of the whole, says Rasselas, is the same with the good of all its
its parts. If marriage be best for mankind, it must be evidently best for individuals, or a permanent and necessary duty must be the cause of evil, and some must be inevitably sacrificed to the convenience of others. In the estimate which you have made of the two states, it appears that the incommodities of a single life are, in a great measure, necessary and certain, but hose of the conjugal state accidental and avoidable.
“ I cannot forbear to flatter myself, that prudence and benevolence will inake marriage happy. The general folly of mankind is the cause of general complaint. What can be expected but disappointment and repentance from a choice made in the immaturity of youth, in the ardour of desire, without judgment, without foresight, without inquiry after conformity of opinions, similarity of manners, rectitude of judgment, or purity of sentiment ?
“ Such is the common process of marriage. A youth or maiden meeting by chance, or brought together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go home, and dream of one another.
Having little to divert attention, or diversify thought, they find themselves uneasy when they are apart, and therefore conclude that they shall be happy together. They marry, and discover what nothing but voluntary blindness before had concealed; they wear out life in altercations, and charge nature with cruelty.
“ From those early marriages proceeds likewise the rivalry of parents and children: the son is eager to enjoy the world before the father is willing to forfake it, and there is hardly room at once for two generations. The daughter begins to bloom before the mother can be content to fade, and neither can forbear to wish for the absence of the other.
Surely all these evils may be avoided by that deliberation and delay which prudence prescribes to irrevocable choice. In the variety and jollity of youthful pleasures life may be well enough fup. ported without the help of a partner. Longer time will increase experience, and wider views will allow better opportunities of inquiry and selection : one advantage, at least, will be certain ; the parents will be visibly older than their children.”
“ What reason cannot collect, said Nekayah, and what experiment has not yet taught, can be known only from the report of others. I have been told that late marriages are not eminently happy. This is a question too important to be neglected, and I have often proposed it to those, whose accuracy of remark, and comprehensiveness of knowledge, made their suffrages worthy of regard. They have generally determined, that it is dangerous for a man and woman to suspend their fate upon each Vol. XI.
other, at a time when opinions are fixed, and habits are established; when friendships have been contracted on both sides, when life has been planned into method, and the mind has long enjoyed the contemplation of its own prospects.
“ It is scarcely possible that two travelling through the world under the conduct of chance, should have been both directed to the same path, and it will not often happen that either will quit the track which custom has made pleasing. When the delultory levity of youth has settled into regularity, it is foon succeeded by pride ashamed to yield, or obstinacy delighting to contend. And even though mutual esteem produces mutual desire to please, time itself, as it modifies unchangeably the external mien, determines likewise the direction of the passions, and gives an inflexible rigidity to the manners. Long customs are not easily broken : he that attempts to change the course of his own life, very often labours in vain ; and how shall we do that for others, which we are seldom able to do for ourselves ?
« But surely, interposed the prince, you suppose the chief motive of choice forgotten or neglected. Whenever I shall seek a wise, it shall be my first question, whether the be willing to be led by reafon?"
“ Thus it is, said Nekayah, that philosophers are deceived. There are a thousand familiar disputes which reason never can decide; questions that elude investigation, and make logick ridiculous; cases where something must be done, and where little can be said. Consider the state of mankind, and inquire how fcw can be supposed to act upon any
occasions, whether small or great, with all the rea. fons of action present to their minds. Wretched would be the pair above all names of wretchedness, who should be doomed to adjust by reason, every morning, all the minute detail of a domestick day.
“ Those who marry at an advanced age, will probably escape the encroachments of their children; bur, in diminution of this advantage, they will be likely to leave them, ignorant and helpless, to a guardian's mercy: or, if that should not happen, they must at least go out of the world before they see those whom they love beft either wise or great.
“ From their children, if they have less to fear, they have less also to hope, and they lose, without equivalent, the joys of early love, and the convenience of uniting with manners pliant, and minds susceptible of new impresions, which might wear away their dissimilitudes by long cohabitation, as foft bodies, by continual attrition, conform their surfaces to each other.
" I believe it will be found that those who marry Jate are best pleased with their children, and those who marry early with their partners.”
“ The union of these two affections, said Rasselas, would produce all that could be wished. Perhaps there is a time when marriage might unite thein, a time neither too early for the father, nor too late for the husband.”
“ Every hour, answered the princess, confirms my prejudice in favour of the position so often uttered by the mouth of Imlac, “That nature sets her gifts on the right hand and on the left.' Those conditions, which flatter hope and attract desire, are so constiG2