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There are two classes of human beings at whose expense the residue of the world are much disposed to be marvellously merry
-we mean Bachelors and Old Maids. With the first class we have no fellow feeling. We luxuriate in seeing them held up to the merited scorn of the world, and have ourselves once and again assisted in the praiseworthy work of so exhibiting them. One of the articles of our creed is, that all bachelors who cannot render an admissible reason for dragging out their existence “ by themselves," in opposition to the injunctions of revelation and the dictates of nature, ought to be abandoned by all good married people as persons with whom it were a crime to hold companionship.
Our sentiments touching old maids are of a quite different complexion. Our hypothesis for a long time past-indeed ever since our reasoning faculties reached their maturity—has been, that in the infinite majority of cases an old maid is an object of commiseration rather than of blame. If inen are bachelors it is by choice, not by any necessity imposed upon them. With the fair sex the case is the reverse. In almost every instance a single life is with them matter of unavoidable necessity.
There is a danger of our being misunderstood here. We have too many of our acquaintances in the garret-in fact, we are not certain whether, owing to circumstances, a majority of them be not in that section of the house—not to be aware that the far greater portion of these antiquated virgins might have been married if they had thought fit. She must be a rare mortal who has never had the offer of a husband, good, bad, or indifferent. When we speak of an old maid's being so by necessity, our meaning is, that she has never had the good fortune of having a tender made to her of the hand of him she loved. And here lies the difference between her and those animals ycleped bachelors they, generally speaking, never love at all, never solicit the fist of the fair; but she invariably loves, and dare not, unless she would be considered a transgressor of all the approved rules and regulations of the world in such matters, disclose her regards even to the beloved object himself; far less make proposals of marriage to him. Now, it were assuredly the essence of injustice to blame a woman for not marrying a man who proposes wedlock to her when she never felt a fraction of affection towards him. Her rejection of his overtures is, on the contrary, to our apprehension, meritorious beyond all computation.
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We wish we could correct the errors of the world on this score. Were there such a thing in this age of societies as an association for the purpose of propagating orthodox notions on the subject of old maidship, we would willingly and most devotedly engage to compass sea and land-to traverse every point of the terraqueous globe in the character of one of its missionaries to assist in the noble work.
Most strenuously do we maintain that antiquated virgins are in general more to be pitied than blamed for remaining in a single state ; and yet they are frowned upon and trodden under by all classes of their fellow-beings. Place us in a mixed company where all are perfect strangers to us, and we will tell you how many old maids there are in it, and single their ladyships out to you simply by observing the demeanour of the residue of the party towards them; so marked is the coldness of manner, if not positive insult, with which the world has been taught to regard these members of society. Hence we can easily account for that peevishness of temper which is the almost invariable appurtenance of old maidship.
It will, perhaps, be inquired how does it consist with our hypothesis that almost every woman has, at one time or other of her life, had an offer of marriage, when there are so many bachelors who have never paid their addresses to any of the sex, and when it is an incontrovertible fact in the statistics of population, that the women are much more numerous than the men. We account for it after this fashion—to wit, that though in civilized countries the practice of polygamy is prohibited by law, and that consequently a man can only have one wife at a time, every man has not been sufficiently fortunate to get the object of his first love. We have been making a calculation as to the number of our matrimonial acquaintances with whose history we are more intimately conversant, who have not succeeded in procuring the first young lady's hand they solicited. The result of our investigation is that, out of every seven suitors, two have been unsuccessful, and been under the necessity of rusticating in a state of misnamed single blessedness, or making a tender application to a second, if not a third or fourth party. Nay, we have known some poor fellows who have been doomed to endure the mortification of six or seven rejections in as many quarters, and yet succeeded in “joining hands” with a spouse of invaluable worth at the end of the chapter. We mention the latter fact for the encouragement of those of weak nerves, who may be apt to sink under a succession of the shocks consequent on such refusals.
But in the midst of our vindication of old maids, we are obliged in common candour to admit, that many of them have rejected most valuable offers. Women are too much-more so than men—the creatures of passion. In affairs of the heart, and in
matters of matrimony, reason in most cases is held in abeyance. If there be not an undefined something about the candidate for a woman's hand, which completely rivets her affections, his addresses are rejected, while the fact may have been that he possessed all the qualities necessary to constitute a good husband. We know the sentiment will be questioned by some, but we are not on that account less satisfied of its truth, that whenever a woman recognises certain good qualities of temper and conduct in the person who pays his addresses to her, she should accept his hand, even although at the time she felt no peculiar affection for him; for such qualities cannot fail ultimately to render him the object of her regards, and secure the happiness of the married state; while, on the other hand, there is little chance of felicity in the married state to the woman who accepted the hand of her lover without being able to specify one quality of mind or conduct in him as having been the means of attracting her regards.
But it must be recollected that the same qualities in a husband that would make one wife happy would not do so to another. There are great diversities of temperament in the female world. A woman, for example, who is constitutionally of a lively and gay disposition, fond of company, and of jaunting about, errs most egregiously if she calculates on matrimonial bliss from a union with one who is “ habit and repute” of a melancholy, staid temperament, and who abhors promiscuous society. The most unexceptionable criterion we know of by which a woman, in a case of this kind, should regulate her choice, would, in the first instance, be, to learn as much as possible of the peculiar prejudices, predilections, habits, and so forth of the person who solicits her hand, and then accept or reject the proffer just as she finds these correspond or not correspond to a certain extent with her own.
Although, however, no rules can be laid down which, in the important matter of forming a matrimonial connection, are of universal application, such rules can be adduced as will suit the majority of cases. The following are the positive and negative mental and personal qualifications which a lady, some time ago deceased, considered indispensable in the person who solicited her hand previous to her accepting his offer. The unmarried portion of our female readers can individually adopt, as sine qua nons, as many of them as are suited to their respective notions on the subject; and regulate their decision accordingly in every after case of proposed marriage :
“ Great piety, good sense, and good nature.
“He must look like a gentleman, and behave like one. He must have a fresh complexion, and be rather tall; short, by no means whatever; middle-sized, passable.
“ With respect to fortune, he must be rich, very rich if possible; poor by no means, in spirit.
“ A decent share of love, just tinctured with a little jealousy, sufficiently to make the wife believe he sets some value upon her; but no suspicion—no suspicion, I say again and again, of any kind whatever, nor upon any provocation whatever.
“Well, but not critically skilled in the ways of women.
“In spelling very correct, that he may be the better able to instruct me, if I should want it.
“In some parts of arithmetic very able—especially addition and multiplication, but no skill of division or subtraction.
“He must be able to play tolerably well on the fiddlc, and have more than a tolerable share of patience; in short, he must be willing to play as long as I think proper to dance ; but no particular intimacy with Italian scrapers or singers, especially women.
“Skilful in the use of the sword, but not of a quarrelsome temper.
“Ready to accept a challenge, but backward to give one. “No enemy to wit and humour. “Not always good-natured abroad, and ill-natured at home.
“ More skilful in the theoretic, than in the practical part of wife governing.
“To wine and snuff no objection, but no chewing of tobacco or smoking, at any rate.
“No enthusiasm for whist, and no gambler or drunkard.
“A thorough knowledge of his own failings, and a willingness to acknowledge them ; but no particular or minute acquaintance with mine.
“Generous, but not extravagant.
“ An admirer of the fine arts, but not too profuse in the purchase of pictures, &c.
“A lover of poetry, both ancient and modern, and capable of relishing the beauties of each.
“ As much learning, Greek and Latin, as he pleases ; but not to think me his inferior because I have no knowledge in dead languages.
“Not to deny me a coach if he can afford it, or allow me one if he can't.
“In conversation affable and entertaining, willing to hear (me) as we speak, just to all the world, and affectionate to me."
The above is a catalogue of the qualifications which the lady referred to considered absolutely necessary in the person who would propose to conduct her to the hymeneal altar prior to her compliance with his wishes. But in the plenitude of our regards for the fairest of creation's works, and our anxiety to promote their bliss, we must not altogether forget single gentlemen; and, therefore, we shall conclude this speculation, as an essay writer of the early part of the last century would have said, by a few rules and
regulations which may be of use to the majority of them when meditating the perpetration of marriage. The subjoined were drawn up by a young gentleman :
“Great good-nature and a prudent generosity. “A lively look, a proper spirit, and a cheerful disposition. “ A good person, but not perfectly beautiful. “Of moderate height. “ With regard to complexion, not quite fair, but a little brown. “ Young by all means, though there are exceptions.
“ A decent share of common-sense, just tinctured with a little seasonable repartee, and a small modicum of wit; some learning, enough to make leisure hours agreeable, but not to interrupt domestic duties.
“Well, but not critically skilled in her own tongue.
“No deficiency in spelling or pointing, and a good legible hand.
“ A proper knowledge of accounts and arithmetic, but no skill of vulgar fractions.
“A more than tolerably good voice, and a little ear for music, and a capability for singing a canzonet or a song in company; but no peculiar and intimate acquaintance with minims, crotchets, quavers, &c.
“No enthusiasm for the harpsichord, harp, or guitar. “ Ready at her needle, but more devoted to plain work than
“ No enemy to knitting or mending.
“More skilled in the theoretic than in the practical part of cookery.
“ To tea and coffee no objection. “Fonder of country dances than minuets. “ An acquaintance with domestic news, but no acquaintance with
“ Not entirely fond of quadrille, nor an absolute bigot to whist.
“In conversation a little of the lisp, but not of the stammer. “Decently, but not affectedly silent.”
A. B. C.