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consider causes without effects. We distinctly see. And, even then, we look, instinctively, from one to the have to reconcile bitter contradicother, and, half-unconsciously, esti- tions, to group together the most mate the value of the commence- opposite results, to institute a comment by the value of the end. But parison of causes. how are the results of marriage to But before we consider the evibe correctly measured ? We all dence thus obtainable as to the know how difficult it is to make a moral results of marriage in France, definite opinion for ourselves on the it may be useful to cast a glance at point even in the case of the friends the material comparison which it. with whom we live in constant is possible to make between the intimacy, whose interiors we know quantity of marrying which takes in detail, whose quarrels, whose place amongst the French, and the special sympathies, whose qualities corresponding figures on the same and defects, we have had some means subject which other nations offer. of testing. How then, if it be so In his Eléments de Statistique,' hard a task to reach a conviction M. Moreau de Jonnès gives a table in the few cases round us, can we of the number of marriages which hope to form a judgment fairly are effected annually in the princiapplicable to an entire nation ? pal countries of Europe. Ireland Vague ideas are of no use here; comes first with one marriage for prejudices mislead; facts are im- each ninety inhabitants ; France is. possible to collect on so large a sixteenth with 1 for 122; England scale. And yet there is a guide, an twenty-seventh with 1 in 137, Tusincomplete and insufficient one, but cany twenty-eighth and last, with 1 still a safe one so far as it can lead in 143. Now if this be true-and us ; that guide is the impression the well-known name of M. Moreau which a nation entertains about de Jonnès may be accepted as a. itself. If we consult it carefully we guarantee for the exactness of the get the accumulated experience of numbers—it seems to follow that, the mass in the only form in which notwithstanding our headstrong imit manifests itself on such a subject prudence, we English actually marry as this. There are no returns, no less, proportionately, than the prureports, no statistics to refer to; but dent, calculating French, who look there are drawing-room talks, and before they leap. This is an unhalf-confidences, and village rumours, expected fact to start with, but, and the gossip of the market-place, if it be a fact, it indicates, with and the wise head-shakings of the tolerable distinctness, that the hesiold people ; and with their aid, if tations which precede all marriages we listen closely, we can compose in France do not really stop mara tolerably approximate picture of riage, for the French stand in the what all these indications describe. middle of the table which has just But we can only do it fairly on been quoted, below the Northern condition of being scrupulously exact, races, which (excepting England) of effacing from our memory all pre- head the list, but above all the disposition towards special shades Southern States, which close it. and special forms, of marking down The position thus indicated for absolutely nothing of what our own France is the very one which would imagination so easily suggests, and appear to be the most desirable to of strictly limiting our colouring to occupy ; it is a fair average, showing what we are quite certain that we neither too little nor too much. And France retains the same ap- to the more interesting study of proximate position if we look back- opinions, impressions, and personal wards and carry the comparison into experiences. the eighteenth century. A hundred The French are certainly conyears ago, marriages were every- vinced that they are a happy people. where more frequent than they are And so they are, if gaiety and cheerinow: subsistence was more easy to ness and mutual good-will can be obtain, it was not so difficult to pro- taken as satisfactory and sufficient vide for children, and we conse- evidence on the point. No nation quently find that the number of an- has more laughter; neither Irishnual marriages, relatively to the then men nor Negroes surpass them there; population, was, throughout Europe, and it is generally good, honest about ten per cent above its present laughter, resulting from a motive, rate. But the diminution which not mere senseless giggling. But has since occurred has been univer- happiness and laughter are not sal; it is not special to France or to synonymous; the latter is not necesany other land.
The French con- sarily a symptom of the existence tinue to take wives in the same pro- of the former; the saddest of us portion as they have always prac- may laugh sometimes, while the tised towards their neighbours; most thoroughly contented may be they have diminished matrimony constitutionally inclined to gravity. only as it has been diminished all It is not, then, on this one outward around them.
sign that either practically or logiIf, however, they have held their cally the French can base their own in the rate of marrying, they claim to be regarded as a really have diminished largely, since the happy nation. If the claim be. Revolution, in the fecundity of mar- founded, the grounds on which it riage. In 1770 the children born rests must be looked for elsewherein France were in proportion to the in deeper, less superficial, and less whole population, 1 in 25; now apparent proofs. It is especially in they have come down to 1 in 35; their use of married life that the the falling off has consequently evidence, if really it exists, should reached the enormous figure of forty be looked for and be found. And
Here lies the real expla- here it is that we must take up the nation of the strange fact which has testimonies alluded to just now and so astonished Europe after each try to measure what they reveal to census recently taken in France; us. If marriage, as a rule, is found the fact that the French have almost to produce success—if the men and ceased to increase in numbers. It women that it brings together geneis not, however, as a statistical cu- rally assert that they are satisfied riosity that the subject is referred to with what they have extracted from here, but because it is most inti- it-if lookers-on, all round them,conmately connected with the entire firm their declarations, and tell us question of French marriages, be- that their married friends so far cause it bears closely on their mo- as they can judge them—have no ral organisation, because it opens home difficulties and no home rethe door to considerations which grets, then we may, without imwould be almost incomprehensible prudence, recognise that the French if it were omitted. We will pre- are really a happy people, and that sently come back to it. Meanwhile the marriage system on which their we can leave dry figures and return home life is based, is proved to be well adapted to their character and attained. What pleases us at their needs, for the simple reason twenty, begins to lose its charm at that it leads them on to joy. thirty, and wearies us at forty.
It may be said at once, subject And if this be true of men, it is to exceptions, explanations, and truer still of women, who, as a reservations, that this result is gen- natural result of the home-life they erally attained by the French, that lead, are fatally condemned to aspire they really are, in-doors, a happy after variety of indoor emotions, benation, and that their marriages, as cause they can find none outside. a whole, present enviable results. The husband who has studied the
It may be as well, however, be- philosophy of home happiness, who fore going further, to attempt to has entered marriage with a true give a definition of married happi- sense of its dangers and its powers, ness as it is sometimes comprehend- will not wait for his wife to manied and pursued in its highest form fest fatigue ; from the first hour of across the Channel. It is not al- their common existence he will begin ways quite the same condition. It to teach her that the tie between not unfrequently implies, amongst man and woman cannot preserve the educated classes, a ceaseless its vigour and its first eager truth employment of intelligence and unless the elements which compose skill, such as we rarely know of it are skilfully replaced and thoughthere. The mass in France, of fully renewed as they successively course, acts like the mass elsewhere; wear out and gradually cease to it takes life as it finds it; it “lets produce their old effect: he will try it rip," as the Americans say. It to show to her, while she is stiil seeks no improvement; it crawls in the enthusiasm of early wedded on with what it has. But there is joy, that happiness, like all other a theory of marriage which some states—and perhaps even more than French men and women understand all the rest—is, by its very nature, and realise -- a theory which not but a passing, transitory condition; only leads them to distinguish the that what gave it to us yesterday may highest uses to which the married fail to create it for us to-day; that state may tend, but which enables the sympathies which seem to us so them to detect the means by which ardent and so durable in the inexthose uses can be reached. In cases perience of our beginnings, will be such as these, the life which two but fading brightnesses if we do not lead together becomes a constant, watch over each fluctuation of their ever-growing pursuit of forms and aspects, each faint symptom of their shades of happiness which are be- change. Young wives may hesitate yond the thought, and even beyond when first such theories as these are the faculty of comprehension, of the laid before their astonished eyes : it crowd. The basis of their practice causes pain to their earnest fondness rests on the wise precept, that as of the moment to be assured that, our longings, our necessities, and according to the laws of probability, our fancies, change with time and that fondness will not last unless new age, and with position too, the nourishment, new starting points, attempts we make to satisfy those new stimulants be provided for it as longings and those fancies should years pass on. But when once they vary their nature and their character have grown accustomed to the arguin sympathy with the modifications ment—when once they have been 'which occur in the object to be led to an appreciation of its unvarying and universal application—then, the future to take care of itself, and if they do love their husband truly, to allow the early rush of mutual they become his active aid, his con- satisfaction to struggle to its end, vinced co-operator in the delicate without providently preparing, in but inestimable labour of maintain- good time, the elements of the ing, in all its strength of origin, of second act of married life, then he developing to its fullest growth of reaches the usual emptiness and perfectness, the first object of their disappointment in ignorance of the united life-joint happiness. causes which have produced them,
And yet examples seem to indi- and ends by regarding them as a cate that frequently women do not natural consequence of matrimony. possess the faculty of understanding But if he is a thinking man, if he the profound utility of this crafty has given some of his attention to handling of their lives ; when once a calculation of the conditions nethey have rcally grasped it they are cessary for the conservation of home capable of contributing to the result delight, then he does indeed sufwith even more power than men ; fer if he finds himself tied for all but their appreciation of the neces- life to a woman who is incapable of sity of the effort isoften sluggish, and, helping him to attain, by mutual as a rule, they have to be dragged labour and mutual watchfulness, to it either by entreaty or necessity. that rare but admirable result-per
The general tendency of wives manent and increasing joy in marin France as elsewhere-is to regard riage. happiness as a vested right, as a In France there are certainly a natural fact, as a permanent condi- good many people who rise to these tion, as a self-sufficing, self-main- higher views—who look on martaining state, which ought to go on riage as a serious occupation, which and last because it has once begun. requires absorbing thought-who Most of them violently revolt the ceaselessly endeavour to improve its first time they are asked to own form, and to lift its consequences that married happiness may be, on and its products above the level of the contrary, and by its very es- humdrum existences. And often sence, the most ephemeral of all they succeed. Now success, in such short-lived creations. They take a case, implies that they distil, from man's love as a property and a due; contact with each other, a degree, they fancy that it is the husband's an elevation, a thoroughness, a perduty to keep up that love without petuity, and a reality of happiness any special aid from themselves; which less able and less careful they let themselves be loved, but manipulators of home-life are incathey do not help love to last; as pable of producing. They show us Johnson said, “they know how to what skill and science can elaborate make nets, but not how to make from ordinary sources; they show cages.” In cases such as these—and, us the height of satisfaction to unfortunately, they constitute the which we are capable of climbing, majority of experiences in all lands in the relation between man and wife, —there is small hope of permanent if we will but regard that relation as contentment: if the husband is ig- a plant to be sedulously cultivated, norant enough — as indeed the and not as a weed to be left to comgreater part of husbands are — to bat unaided for existence. Many view the case exactly as the wife an example might be given in supdoes—to imagine that he can leave port of this rough indication of what marriage may be when it is affectionate as the men ordinarily rightly understood. In the higher are, there are some among them who ranks of French society there are are absolutely intolerable at home. men who merit to be called profes- Luckily they form an infinitely sors of the art of happiness; who small minority; otherwise it would have analysed its ingredients with be nonsense to pretend that French careful fingers and scrutinising eyes; marriages, on the whole, are happy. who have consummated their expe- The evidence which can be collected rience of means and ends; who, by listening to opinions, including like able doctors, can apply an ill-natured scandal in all its forms, immediate remedy to the daily tends certainly to show that, accorddifficulties of home - life; whose ing to their impressions of each practice is worthy of their theory, other, most Frenchmen are singuand who prove it by maintaining in larly forbearing towards their wives; their wives' hearts and in their own they do not make the most of them a perennial never-weakening senti- _that effort is limited to the rare ment of gratitude and love. But, examples which were alluded to alas! these cases are exceptions. just now—but their habit is to treat Most French people content them- them with much softness, with selves, like their neighbours in constant consideration, with deferother countries, with rumbling care- ence and courtesy. They generally lessly through marriage, making no come together, in the origin, withattempt to improve it, and not even out much passion, or, indeed, much suspecting that it is capable of love; the conditions under which improvement. And yet, thanks to their marriages are arranged make their light, laughing natures, they that fact easily comprehensible; generally keep clear of gloom. but love does grow up between They bring into married life the them in nearly every case, and they bright cheeriness which is so fre- end by feeling for each other an quently an attribute of their race; attachment quite as real, as thothey stave off worry by insouciance; rough, and as deep, as we find in they support annoyances with a countries where other systems are coolness, which in their case is not in use. It is far from easy to disindifference, but which, to an un- cover really unhappy marriages in practised foreign eye, looks so sin- France ; here and there are isolated gularly like it, that it is difficult at instances, evident to every one, for first to fix the point where calm they have terminated in voluntary patience appears to end, and indif- separation ; but the testimony of ference seems to begin.
society, and particularly of the There are, however, contradictions women, who are not more charitable in abundance to this rule of quietly towards each other in France than supporting cares. Frenchmen have they are in other lands, in no way sometimes in their character so indicates any multiplicity of failures. many of the faults which elsewhere The impossibility of divorce creates are supposed to be the property of a strong motive for mutual conceswomen only, that they are capable sions, with the object of soothing of growing fidgety and nervous to a away asperities, and of rendering scarcely credible degree; and woe to obligatory companionship supportthe unlucky wife who stumbles on able, if not agreeable. As for absoa husband of that species !—he wears lute infidelity, on either side, it is her out with teazing. Gentle and now so rare that it is often possible