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In the Times the other day, I read among the deaths, " At Paris, in her ninety-seventh year, Sarah, Viscountess Fantyre.” Gone at last, poor old woman, under the sod, where shrewdness and trickery and rouge and trump cards are of no avail to her, though she held by them to the last. She died as she had lived, I hear, sitting at her whist-table, be-wigged and be-rouged, gathering her dirty, costly lace about her, quoting George Selwyn, dealing herself two honours and six trumps, picking up the guineas with a cunning twinkle of her monkeyish eyes, when Death tapped her on the brain, and old Fantyre was carried off the scene in an apoplectic fit; while her partner, the Comte de Beaujeu, murmured over his tabatière, “Peste! Death is horridly ill bred; he should have let us played the conqueror !”
What memoirs the old woman might have left us-dirty ones, sans doute, but what memoirs of intrigues, plots, scandals, schemes—what rich glimpses behind the cards, what amusing peeps beneath the purple! A great many people, though, are glad, I dare say, that the Fantyre experiences are not down in black and white, and no publisher, perhaps, would have been courageous enough to risk their issue. They would have blackened plenty of fair reputations had their gunpowder burst; they would have offended a world which loves to prate of its morals, cackle of its purity, and double-lock its chamber-doors; they would have given us keys to many skeleton cupboards, which we should have opened to turn away from more heart-sick than before !
Her protégée, the Trefusis, has in no wise gone off the scene, nor did she consent to drop down into a valet's wife. Her exposée at Morehampton's villa had been the most bitter thing life could have brought her, for she had read enough of Rochefoucauld to think with him, “le ridicule déshonore plus que le déshonneur.” She sought the friendly shadow of Notre-Dame de Lorette. Fearing her husband no longer, she bribed him no more ; and if you like to see her any day, walk down the Rue Bréda, or look out in the Pre Catalan for a carriage with lapis-lazuli liveries, dashing as the Montespan's, and you will have painted to you in a moment the full-blown magnificence (now certainly coarse, and I dare say only got up at infinite trouble from Blanc de Perle and Bulli's best rouge) of the quasi-milliner of Frestonhills. She has at present, en proie, a Russian prince, and thrives, à ravir, upon roubles. Her imperial sables are the envy of the Quartier; and as women who range under the Piratical Flag don't trouble their heads with a Future, the Trefusis does not stop to think that she may end in le Maison Dieu, with a bowl of soupe maigre, when her beauty shall utterly have lost all that superb and sensual bloom that lured De Vigne in his hot youth to such deadly cost.
“ A young man married is a man that's marred.”
The stag with the grip of the stag-hound ever at his throat; the antelope with the fangs of the tigress ever tearing his reeking flanks; the racer yoked in the heavy galling shafts that he must drag behind him over stony roads till he faints and dies, still with his burden harnessed on him ; these unions were not worse than many of those marriages that are the bitter fruit of no sin, no fault, no error, but merely of a mistake ! -those marriages that are a bondage more cruel, more eternal, more unpitied than the captivity of Israel in Egypt!
“ A young man married is a man that's marred.” One wrote that
who was more deeply skilled in the intricacies of the human heart, who saw more profoundly into the manifold varieties, the wayward and conflicting instincts of human life, than any by whom the world has since let itself be led and moulded.“ Marred ?" How can the man fail to be so who chooses his yoke-fellow for life in all the blind haste, the crude taste of his earlier years, when taste in all things alters so utterly from youth to manhood? In what the youth of five-and-twenty thinks so wise, fair, excellent, half a score or a score years later on he sees but little beauty. In study, sport, literature, his preference changes much in the interval that parts his early from his matured years ; I have heard young fellows in their college terms utterly recant in June all they swore by religiously in January, equally earnest and sincere, moreover, in their recantation and their adoration! Taste, bias, opinion, judgment, all alter as their judgment widens, their taste ripens, and their sight grows keener from longer mixing amidst the world, and longer studying its varied views. God help, then, the man who has taken to his heart and into his life a wife who, fair in his eyes in all the glamour of love, all the “purpureal light of youth,” is as insufficient to him in his maturer years as are the weaker thoughts, the cruder studies, the unformed judgment, the boyish revelries of his youth. The thoughts might be well in their way, the studies beneficial, the judgment generous and just, the revels harmless, but he has outgrown them-gone beyond them-left them far behind him; and he can no more return to them and find them sufficient for him than he can return to the Gradus ad Parnassum of his first school-days. So the wife, too, may be good in her way: he may strive to be faithful to her and to cleave to her as he has sworn to do; he may seek with all his might to come to her side, to bring back the old feeling, to join the broken chain, to find her all he needs and all he used to think her; he may strive with all his might to do this, but it is Sysiphus-labour; she does not satisfy his manhood, the scales have fallen from his eyes, he loves her no longer! It is not his fault; she belongs to the things of his youth that pleased a crude taste, an immature judgment; he sees her now as she is, and she is far below him, far behind him; if he progress he must go on alone, if he fall back to her level his mind deteriorates with every day that dawns! Would he bring to the Commons no arguments riper than the crude debates that were his glory at the Union; would he condemn himself in science never to discard the unsound theories that were the delight of his early speculations; would he deny himself the right to Aing aside the moonshine philosophies, the cobweb metaphysics that he wove in his youth, and forbid himself title to advance beyond them? Surely not! Yet he would chain himself through his lifelong to a yoke-fellow as unfit and insufficient to his older years as ever the theories and thoughts of his youth can be ; as fatal to his peace while he is bound to her, as they, could he be bound to them, would be fatal to the mind they dwarfed, to the brain they crammed into a prison-cell !
In youth Rosaline seems very fair,
Ñone else being by,
Herself poised with herself in either eye. A young man meets a young girl in society, or at the sea-side, or on the deck of a Rhine steamer; she has nice fresh colouring, bright blue eyes, or black ones, as the case may be, very nice ankles, and a charming voice. She is a pretty girl to everybody; to him, thrown across her by chance, she is beautiful-divine! He thinks, over his pipe, that she is just his ideal of Enone, or Gretchen, or airy fairy Lilian, if he be of a poetic turn, and rank with German idealism; or meditates that she's “ a clipper of a girl, and, by Jupiter! what lovely scarlet lips, and what a pretty foot !" if of a material disposition. He falls in love with her, as the phrase goes; he Airts with her at water-parties, and pays her a few morning calls; he sees her trifling with a bit of fancy-work, and hears her pretty voice say a few things about the weather. A few æcillades, a few waltzes, a few têtes-à-têtes; when looking at the rosebud lips he never criticises what they utter, and he proposes-he is accepted; they are both dreadfully in love, of course, and marry. It is a pretty dream for a few months; an easy yoke, perhaps, for a few years; then gradually the illusions drop one by one, as the leaves drop from a shaken rose, loth, yet forced to fall. He finds her mind narrowed, bigoted, ill-stored, with no single thought in it akin to his own. What could he learn of it in those few morning calls, those few ball-room têtes-à-têtes, when the glamour was on him, and he would have cared nothing though she could not have spelled his name? Or he finds her a bad temper (when does temper ever show in suciety, and how could he see her without society's controlling eye upon her ?), snarling at her servants, her dogs, the soup, the east winds; meeting him with petulant acerbity, revenging on him her milliner's neglect, her maid's stupidity, her migraine, or her torn Mechlin. Or-he finds her a heartless coquette, cheapening his honour, holding his name as carelessly as a child holds a mirror, forgetting, like the child, that a breath on it is a stain ; turning a deaf ear to his remonstrance; flinging at him, with a sneer, some died-out folly " before I knew you, sir !"—that she has ferreted out; goading him to words that he knows, for his own dignity, were best unsaid, then turning to hysteria and se posent en martyre.Or-and this, I take it, is the worst case for both the wife is a good wife, as many (ladies say most) wives are; he knows it, he feels it, he honours her for it, but she is a bitter disappointment to him. He comes home worn-out with the day's labour, but successful from it; he sits down to a tête-à-tête dinner; he tells her of the hardwon election, the hot-worded debate in the House, the issue of a great law case that he has brought off victorious, of his conquest over death by the bedside of a sinking patient, of the compliment to his corps from the commander-in-chief, of the one thing that is the essence of his life and the end of his ambition; she listens with a vague, amiable, absent smile, but her heart is not with him, nor her ear. “ Yes, dear-indeed how very nice! But cook has ruined that splendid haunch. Do look! it is really burnt to a cinder!" She never gives him any more than that! She cannot help it; she is a good, patient, domestic, quiet woman, who would not do wrong for the world, but her sphere is the nursery, her thoughts centre on the misdemeanours of her household, her mission is emphatically to " suckle fools and chronicle small-beer." The perpetual drop, drop, of her small worries, her puerile pleasures, is like the ceaseless dropping of water on his brain; try how he might, he could never waken this woman's mind to one pulse in unison with his in the closest relationship of human life; she is less capable of understanding him in his defeats, his victories, his struggles, than the senseless writing-paper, which, though it cannot respond to them, at least lets him score his thoughts on its blank pages, and will bear them upobliterated! Yet this disunion in union is common enough in this world : when a man marries early it is too generally certain.
A man early married, moreover, is prematurely aged. While he is yet young his wife is old ; while he is in the fullest vigour of his man. hood, she is grey, and faded, and ageing ; youth has long gone from her, while in him it is still fresh; and while away from her he is young, by her side he feels old. Married-in youth he takes upon himself burdens that should never weigh save upon middle age; in middle age he plays the part that should be reserved for age alone. I read the other day in an essay a remark of the writer's relative to the marriage of Milverton, in the last series of Friends in Council, with a girl of twenty-two, in which he said that he could well conceive what a delight it might be to a man at or past middle age, who had believed his youth lost for ever, to have it restored to him in a love which gives him the rich and subtle gladness that brings back the “greenness to the grass, and the glory to the flower." It is true; and it is this later love which can satisfy him and not fade and disappoint him; since it is in later years alone that his own character will have become no longer mutable, his own tastes have ripened, and his own judgment grown secure. Yet to the man who has married early this resurrection of his youth can never come, or, if it come, can only come in bitterness, like the bitterness of the prisoner who catches one glimpse of the fair laughing earth lying beyond in the sunlight, and knows that the bars of his cell are fixed, and that on his limbs are the weight of irons.
And, to take it in a more practical sense, scarcely the less inevitably from every point is “a young man married a man that's marred.” If to men of fortune, like Sabretasche and De Vigne, with every opiate of pleasure and excitement to drown the gall and fret of uncongenial or unhappy union, early marriage blots and mars life as it does, how much more bitter still to those who are poor and struggling men, with the burden of work, hardly done and scantily paid, upon their shoulders, is its fatal error! A young man starts in life with no capital, but a good education and a profession, that, like all professions, cannot be lucrative to him till time has mellowed his reputation, and experience made him, more or less, a name in it. It brings him quite enough for his garçon wants; he lives comfortably enough in his chambers or his lodgings, with no weightier daily outlay than his Cavendish and his chop; study comes easy to him, with a brain that has no care gnawing on it; society is cheap, for his chums come contentedly for a pipe, and some punch, or some beer, and think none the worse of him because he does not give them turtle and Vin Mosseux. He can live for little if he like; if he want change and travel, he can take his knapsack and a walking tour; nobody is dependent on him; if he be straitened by poverty, the strain is on him alone; he is not tortured by the cry of those who look to him for daily bread, the world is before him, to choose at least where he will work in it; in a word, he is free! But, if he marries, his up-hill career is fettered by a clog that draws him backward every step he sets ; his profession is inadequate to meet the expenses that crowd in on him; if he keep manfully and honestly out of debt, economy and privation eat his very life away, as, say what romancists may, they ever must; if he live beyond his income, as too many professional men are almost driven to do in our day, there is a pressure on him like the weights they laid upon offenders in the old Newgate press-yards. He toils, he struggles, he works, as brainworkers must, feverishly and at express speed to keep in the van at all; he is old, while by right of years he should yet be young, in the constant harassing rack and strain to “keep up appearances," and seem well off while every shilling is of consequence; he writes for his bread with the bray of brawling children above his head; he goes to his office turning over and over in wretched arithmetic the sums he owes to the baker and the butcher; he smiles courteously upon his patients or his clients with the iron in his soul and county-court summonses hanging over his head. He goes back from his rounds or his office, or comes out of his study after a long day, jaded, fagged, worn out; comes, not to quiet, to peace, to solitude, with an Havaunah and a book, to anything that would soothe the fagged nerves and ease the strain for an hour at least, but only for some miserable petty worry, some fresh small care; to hear his wife going into mortal agonies because her youngest son has the measles, or bear the leer of the servants when they say " the tax-gatherer's called again, and, please, must he go away?”.
Corregio literally dying in the heat and burden of the day, of the weary weight, the torturing rack of home-cares, his family and his poverty dragging him downward and clogging his genius as the drenching rains upon its wings clog the flight of a bird, is but sample of the death-in-life, the age-in-youth, the self-begotten curse, the self-elected doom, that almost inevitably dog the steps of a man who has married early, be his station what it may, be his choice what it will.
This Spring of Love resembleth
And by-and-by a cloud takes all away! Such is love, rarely anything better, scarcely ever anything more durable. Such are all early loves, invariably, inevitably. God help, then, though we may count them by the myriad, those who in and for that one brief " April day,” which, warm and shadowless at morning, sees the frost down long before night, pay rashly as Esau paid in the moment of eager delight, when no price was counted, and no value asked; pay, with headstrong thoughtlessness, in madman's haste, the one priceless birthright upon earth-Freedom!
“A young man married is a man that's marred!"