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to look round a large circle of in- of being exceptional, is universal. timate acquaintance without being Their marriages produce scarcely able to point out one example of it. any children. Here discussion is This assertion may seem absurd and needless ; here differences of opinion false to that large group of English cannot exist; here prejudices cannot people, which, though in total ig- apply,—for the fact is proved by norance of the facts, grows up, lives, their own official returns. Before and dies in the contrary conviction the revolution of 1789 the popula
- but the assertion is strictly, liter- tion of France amounted to about ally true. The marriage-tie is vig- 24,000,000, and the annual number orously felt in France : husbands of births was about 970,000. At and wives cleave there to each this moment the population is about other, and do not now seek for 37,000,000, and the average numillicit joys, whatever some of them ber of births is only 950,000 per may have done in days gone by. annum. In other words, though Indeed, they point to England at the population is one-half larger this moment as the country which than it was a hundred years ago, it produces palpably the largest amount begets absolutely fewer children of conjugal irregularity, and quote now than then. The present yearly in proof, with bitter justice, the birth-rate in France is the lowest shameless details of the Divorce in the world. In Germany it repreCourt which are given in our news- sents 1 in 25 of the entire populapapers. We have grown accus- tion, in England it is 1 in 30, in tomed to this odious publicity ; France it is only 1 in 39. And it habit blinds us to its dangers and must be borne in mind that this its indecency; but if we could hear diminution does not result from any foreigners talk about it—if we knew falling off in the proportionate rate the impression of disgust which it of marriage, which, as has been creates in France, where the rare stated, keeps up its place in comcases of co-respondency are treated parison with other countries. It is criminally, and are always pleaded solely brought about by the wilful with closed doors; where husbands refusal of married people to become do not receive money-damages for fathers and anothers, as married their wife's dishonour—we should people do elsewhere. A topic of perhaps be led to recognise that such a nature is awkward to dissect, in this question, we do not offer a but it constitutes one of the salient satisfying spectacle to Europe, and facts of the subject, and it could that we have lost all right to throw not be omitted without leaving a stones at others. We are unable to great gap in the discussion; it judge ourselves on such a subject; forms one of its striking features, we must submit to the verdict of and it necessarily exercises an imlookers-on ; and a very painful one portant influence on the opinion it is for us to support.
to be formed. The rejection of paBut if the French are less at- ternity is a consequence of the tackable than we are on this ele. excessive prudence with which the ment of the workings-out of mar- entire subject is handled by the riage, they are open in another French ; they do not marry unless direction to a founded imputation, they think they can afford it; they to which allusion has been already do not have children unless they made, and which is almost graver think they can provide for them. still, because its application, instead It in no way affects the attachment between man and wife; it in no simple critics of the results of marway diminishes their affection for ried life in their natural and habitual their children, when they have them. form, may be allowed to view the On the contrary, their family ten- matter otherwise. Abstract theories derness is demonstrative and exces- about movements of population, and sive, as has been repeated many about proportions between demand times throughout these sketches and supply, can never be got into of their home-life. But the mere the heads of people who regard marexistence of this resolute unwilling- riage as we all do, not only as an ness to have children, places France institution destined to give personal in a low position before Europe, contentment to those who profit by and suggests grave doubts as to the it, but, quite as much, as a link bemoral value and efficacy of a system tween successive generations. How, which, whatever be its merits and then, can we help recoiling, with a its qualities, whatever be the hap- good deal of really felt disgust, from piness which it produces, results in the insufficient use of marriage which so flagrant a negation of the first is so evident in France ? And yet, object and first duty of marriage. strong as this feeling may be in us, It may perhaps be denied that it it must not lead us to exaggeration. forms an inherent part of the entire The rule is proved by the figures scheme; it may perhaps be argued which have been quoted; there is that it is an accident, a temporary no doubt about its application in the tendency ; it may perhaps be urged majority of cases; but there are exthat the general organisation of ceptions in abundance; the whole married life in France should not nation is not infected; there are still be held responsible for it; but to in France a good many people who such objections it may be fairly trust in God, and not in Mr Malthus. answered, that the tendency in That too intelligent Englishman is question, instead of assuming a not, however, the inspirer of French temporary aspect, has gone on peasants in the matter; scarcely any steadily gaining strength for a hun- of them have ever heard his name; dred years; that during the present they execute what he advised; they generation its development has coin- work out his teaching, but without cided with an increase of wealth, knowing what he taught. Their which ought, apparently, to have notive is individual, not national; brought about an exactly opposite they have no idea that they are praceffect; and that it is, consequently, tising political philosophy when they quite reasonable to regard it as a tell you, as they do, that “il faut definitely adopted policy.
faire la soupe avant de faire l'enfant." Now, whatever be the value, in The exceptions are, happily, suffipolitical economy, of the principle ciently numerous to give some little of " circumspection in marriage brightness to a picture which would with which Malthus has associated otherwise be so dark. his name, there are but few of us here and there, large families in who can look at it with approbation France, and nowhere can more adfrom a moral or a social point of mirable illustrations of pure
homeview; and though he himself, if he life be found than those they offer. were still alive, might be immensely It is, perhaps, especially in the gratified to find that an entire nation upper sections of society that those is realising his ideas on the largest examples are to be found; the tradscale, we, who in this case are but ing and working classes have, ordi
narily, so little religion and so little maintenance of family connections elevation of moral convictions that afterwards. The French do not rethey abound the other way; and, gard marriage as a state in which two as they constitute the mass, it is people are to be tied up by themthey, almost alone, who have brought selves; they view it as an associaabout the decline in the progress of tion, which should in no way affect population. It is, therefore, not the habitual contact between the unjust to say, in principle, subject parties to it and the rest of the of course to reservations on both world outside. Of course, in pracsides, that the higher ranks are now tice, everybody remains free to select multiplying in France more rapidly his or her own system of existence. than the lower strata. This progress There are examples, and a good is of course imperceptible materially, many too, of married people who but, in its degree, it certainly exists. stop at home, "qui vivent en sau
Another, but a very different vages," as their neighbours say of question, which it is worth while to them; but they constitute the exceplook at, is the influence of society, tions—the rule is the other way. The or, more exactly, of social relations facility of making visits, and walkon the results of marriage. Evi- ing about alone, and going to parties dence upon it is very plentiful and without a chaperon, is proper to all easy to collect; for we have but to girls who marry, whatever be their listen to the talk when half-a-dozen country ; the French have no monopeople are together. Whatever be poly of it. It is not therefore as an the class which we observe, we find act of freedom that newly-married on this head a general similarity of Frenchwomen go into society; they action and effects. Notwithstanding do it because they like it, because their great love of honie, French- their husbands like it, because it is women live a good deal with each the habit of their nation. The idea other and with men : their form of that marriage confers any special life is so free from the restrictions liberty on Frenchwomen is most and the obstacles which we impose erroneous ; they have neither more upon ourselves—there is generally so nor less of it than women possess much liberty and facility of visiting elsewhere; it is, however, compreat all hours of the day and evening hensible that the contrast between —that the contact between acquaint- that degree of liberty and the exances attains a frequency of which treme reserve in which the girls are we have no idea. In the higher kept (which we perhaps should do classes some few husbands go to well to imitate) should have proclubs, or live somewhat in their own voked amongst us the false impresrooms; but such cases are excep- sion that a French wife acquires a tions; with them, as in the middle greater emancipation than other groups, husbands are ordinarily European wives enjoy.
She rewith their wives, accompany them mains bound by the universal laws wherever they can, and share their which regulate the conduct and the friendships and their distractions. attitude of women ; she obtains no With so eminently sociable a race peculiar rights; she shakes off no it is natural that this should be so, chains ; she does but gain the posiand the disposition is confirmed tion and the power which enable by the original conditions of mar- her to discharge the new duties riage, which always—as much as which devolve upon her. Forepossible, at least-provide for the most amongst those duties is the obligation to maintain her social generally intimate enough for each place. She likes the obligation; it of them to find satisfaction in the costs her no effort to discharge it; other's glories, even if they take and, in most cases, she would annoy only the tiny form of a successful and disappoint her husband if she gown. So, if they can afford it, neglected it. So they go about to- the additional outlay which is gether and amuse themselves, as a induced by much going out, does right and proper thing to do; it is not become a source of difficulty one of the objects for which they between them. Whether it does married.
them any good, whether it aids In limits such as these it can them to really love each other better, scarcely be alleged that the habit whether it elevates their views, may of social intercourse, highly devel- certainly be doubted; but as it oped though it be in France, con- amuses and contents them—as it stitutes a danger for home peace. gives them a common object in life, There are crowds of married people such as it is—we may admit that, there who never stop at home, with their ideas, they are right whose life is almost exclusively to hold to it. passed with others : but if they all Even in the trading classes there like it, there is no harm in that; it is a good deal of this seeking for is only when one side is discontented society, in a small way. There, with the practice, while the other however, the wife usually assumes wilfully continues it, that it grows a position of a pecular kind. She into an obstacle. This case exists, of does not visit so much with her course, but it is rare : most French husband at night, but she is his men and women like society too companion throughout the day, much for either of them to shrink wherever the nature of bis occupaaway from it.
tion makes it possible that she should This constant contact with other remain with him; she participates people has, however, the inconve- in his life, she shares his cares, she nience of provoking vanities and helps him in his work. At the top envies, and consequently of leading of the scale, the French wife is a women to expense. There lies, per- woman of the world ; at the bottom haps, the only serious objection to of it she is a drudge, as is the case it which can be urged as regards its in other lands; but in the lower influence on married life. It cannot middle strata she takes a special be seriously said, by any one who place by her husband's side,-80 knows the French, that it at all sympathetic, so cordially real, that affects their regular attention to to many of us she presents a high their home duties, especially towards realisation of the idea of what a their children, who are thought of wife should be. It is only in and cared for before all else; but. the central ranks of population it is not possible to deny that it that we find fair average national tempts the women on to dress, and examples ; above and below those to the other rivalries which drawing- ranks, both wealth and poverty rooms provoke. But most French come into play, and introduce conhusbands rather like their wives to ditions of existence which diminish shine, and look on complacently at the teaching value of the classes the effect which they produce, and which they influence. But in the at the triumphs which they achieve. bourgeoisie, which constitutes in its The association between them is various degrees so large an element
VOL. CXIV.NO. DCXCIII.
of the French nation, we find the theory but desirable in practice. unadulterated type of France. It is Surely a true appreciation of the there that we should look for the relative values of the different serspeaking signs of a general state; vices which a wife can render, of and if these signs are cheering, if they the different joys which she can indicate success, if they testify that provoke, can be more surely reached satisfactory ends are reached, we may by the husband himself than by surely conclude that good causes are distant lookers - on, who, unconat work; and we may, consequently sciously perhaps, bring all their and fairly, arrive at the opinion that, own prejudices into the discussion. whatever be its faults, the system is If, then, we find, as we distinctly not all bad, and that, on the contrary, do, that the French themselves proit renders possible a form of home claim the merit of the adjunction of unity which is peculiar to the race. the wife to her husband's labours;
It is not by mere comparison with if we see that the association which the results obtained elsewhere that is entailed by marriage is regarded we can safely judge this question. by them as applicable not only to Each people has its own special sentimental ends, but to the practineeds, its own special means of sat- cal details of life as well ; if woisfying them. A great many of us men, as a consequence of this view, are disposed to positively deny that sit by the side of men in offices and the thorough oneness of existence, shops, instead of leaving them to which is so distinctive a character- work through the day alone,-we istic of married life in the French ought, in justice, to acknowledge not middle and trading classes, is, in re- only that the persons directly inality, a merit. The subject has been terested must be better able to demany times discussed from the Eng- cide than we are, but, furthermore, lish point of view, and it has been that such constant presence, such generally alleged that the absorption constant sympathy of object and of of women into the hourly details of thought, must tend to strengthen their husbands' lives involves more the bond between them, and must disadvantages than advantages. It augment their friendship. On this has been argued frequently that it point, therefore, we may admit that leaves no time for the discharge of the French habit is a wise one. the duties which specially devolve As regards intellectual progress, on women ; that it diverts their marriage ordinarily leads the French thoughts to subjects which are for- to nothing. The notion that wife eign to their natures; that it leads and husband may usefully help each them to neglect their children. But other on such a road seems not to are these objections founded? Are enter their heads, unless, in special they not mainly, if not entirely, a cases, where the acquirement of product of the widely different hab- knowledge, or its distribution to its under which we live? And, even others, constitutes the occupation if they are based on fact, do they ex- of life. When once they have left press a just and serious criticism of off schooling, the French cease to conditions of home life, which, from study; they continue what they the widely opposite practices in call their “education, but they which we grow up, we are unable give up “instruction." The two to appreciate with fairness ? Surely words are here employed in the it may be urged that every act sense which is peculiar to Francewhich fortifies the tie between man the former meaning moral and social and wife is not only respectable in teaching only, the latter implying