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Chronicles of Gretna Green
Chapter XXI


Advice to Young Ladies.

Adieu, good reader, now adieu ;
Adieu to ink and paper;
Adieu to pens, and penknives, too,
Adieu our midnight taper.

We have now passed through the history of Gretna Green "from the most remote times to the present day." We have not only liberally set forth every broad fact with unreserve—not only freely revealed all the valuable information which the most arduous scrutiny could discover in the most rare, ancient, and authentic chronicles—not only transcribed with infinite care, all the important passages that served for illustration, as existing in the archives of this interesting place itself, (and especially everything which was founded on the unerring testimony of tradition, which, as we have always said, is ever the truest part of history—but we have also, we trust, omitted no opportunity, as a moral philosopher, of giving what wholesome, sage, fitting, or goodly advice to our amorous young readers, which it might have been in our power to give for their benefit.

It may have been seen that we are not one of the pupils of that modern Agafyp's, the chief tenet of which is, to advocate universal celibacy; because we know that such a tenet would be based in absurdity, and would be contrary to reason and contrary to nature. Man is a gregarious animal—he cannot be alone—and it is not well that he should. His own frailties and his inherent infirmities, make him dependent on his fellow-creatures for his food, his raiment, and for succour in sickness. He cannot exist in a stern solitude, like the condor of the mountain, or the wild beast of the measureless desert. The faculty of speech, alone, is enough to argue that he was always predestined for a social and communicative state of society. If there are evils in matrimony, pray are there not also evils attendant on single life, such as sometimes make bachelors and maidens call it single cursedness? The fact is, there is no unalloyed happiness to be found in the world, in any condition whatsoever; and therefore it is futile to lay the charges against the married state, which, in nine cases out of ten, ought rather to be laid to our own unaccommodating dispositions, on our own bad tempers, and our own vile passions.

Neither are we one of those who uphold, without exception, the unapproachable superiority of the male sex over the female ; but readily allow to the latter, all the freedom—all the liberty—all the equality— and even all the superiority wherever it is manifest, to which this much-enduring sex is entitled. Several lady-champions have of late years started up, and fought' hard for the rights of their own sex ; and if they have achieved any good to themselves by so doing, of a truth we give them hearty congratulations there anent. We only regret that they should ever have had to fight at all; for this fact, if allowed to be, and to have been, the case, strongly implies that something has been withheld from them by their "masters," as Lady Morgan calls them, for which they longed, and which they could not obtain without the ungentle process of thus fighting. This is a grievous hit at the lords of the creation. The times, however, are now changed; and henceforth and for evermore, the ladies in all things, and on all occasions, are unquestionably to do just as they please.

Leap-year brings them their plenitude of power, and their enjoyment of every possible privilege whatsoever ; and the intermediate years constitute the only exception to their now fully established, uncontrolled, and universal sway. If ladies are intent on marrying, (which, pardon us, we think they are,) let them do so by all means, for it is natural: let them only do it deliberately and advisedly.

We were one day in company with a matron of fifty or so, and two or three young damsels just emerging from their teens, all beauty, blushes, and love. And the said well-meaning matron commenced a very long and very impressive lecture, setting forth in most terrific language, the weakness of ever giving way to that childish passion which boys and girls sometimes betray for each other, and the foolishness of women ever giving up their hearts and liberties to the keeping of such tyrannical animals as men are. She advised her fair listeners never to think of matrimony if they valued their happiness;—that it was a most perilous step for anybody to take, so it was; —that it was attended with infinite anxieties of which the single had no idea, positively ; —1 and that it brought a great many troubles for certain, from which there was no maimer of escape, not any how at all.

During the continuance of this harangue, which was carried to a considerable length, and poured forth in most appalling eloquence, every person kept a profound silence. When it had come to a pause— an awful pause too—one of the dear ducks raised her eyes from a large rose in the pattern of the carpet, on which they had been fixed, and looking archly in the matron's face, put a simple question to her.

"Mrs. Singleton," said she, "it is very easy to preach, but it is amusing to see how entirely we often run contrary to our own advice. You counsel us to remain single; and yet you yourself are married —pray how did that happen?"

"Oh," returned the dowager, "because I was a fool I suppose."

"Then," answered the damsel with great gravity, "I believe we are all fools: and even as we have been since the beginning of the world, so shall we be to the end of it."

"Hey-day, hey-day ! Much use my talking."

"On this subject, no one will ever live by the experience of others: therefore, we good Mrs. S., will not live on your experience.11 And then all the little loves laughed like fun.

"If," resumed the young lady, "we are not happy as we are—and we confess that we are not—why, surely, we cannot be worse off than unhappy by a change :—and who knows but we may be better V'

To this last idea all the girls assented immediately.

"The chances are against you," observed the matron.

"The world is full of chances," said the maiden.

We also know of a person, friend reader,' who hazarded a sum of money to procure a ticket in the lottery.

"Well, what of him V is the question.

Why, to tell the truth, we are obliged to answer that he lost it.

"Ha! Then that person was a fool for his pains."

Be it so, we say.—But we know another person who ventured the same hazard for a ticket.

"And what of him, pray: I suppose he lost too?"

No : — he got a prize of 10,0001. Now was he a fool or not?

Mum :—not a word in reply. So it is with matrimony :—all a chance and a lottery.

Thus terminate all arguments and discussions on this topic. They do nothing in the way of conviction, and they win over no proselytes, because they go against nature; and whatever ills we may be bringing upon ourselves by the step, these ills must be considered as a part of the catalogue of vexations which belong inseparably to our very existence, as pre-ordained,' that we should endure along with a host of other trials. They certainly come sometimes so much the more acutely, because we had set our hearts upon being happy; and hence, when we discover our mistake, the disappointment is so much the more severe. All this, however, is nothing: we must run the risk. We must proceed as wisely as we can—hope for the best—and leave the remainder to good luck and providence.

We are decidedly of opinion that ladies run greater hazards than gentlemen do ; in so far that they have not so likely a chance of discovering the tempers, or past times, or turn of mind, amongst their lovers, as gentlemen have amongst theirs: and also, that if they make an unhappy match, they have not after marriage, the same opportunities of killing their troubles that men have. In the first place a man has the best opportunity of finding out the disposition of his lady-love, because, as it is his province to go and seek her, and not her to seek him, he can do so at such time when he is in his most amiable humour, and consequently set himself off to the best advantage ; whereas, he may call on her unexpectedly, when something, perchance, may have occurred to ruffle her placidity, or try her equanimity, or put her out of sorts for a moment,—a circumstance which may lead him to fear that she is habitually ill-tempered. If she had expected him, she would have put on her best looks; but as it happened, he either takes her at a disadvantage and fancies her worse than she is, or else, by this chance, he really discovers that she is not the angel he had believed her to be. Did she only possess the same privilege of calling on him now and then, she also, might soon alter her resolution of making this "charming man" her husband.

After marriage too, if he has no delight in the society of his partner, he can kill his misfortunes in many ways to which she can have no recourse. If his home is unhappy, he can leave all day, and amuse himself with hunting, fishing, shooting, or any other sportsmanlike pastime: he can go to the billiard-table, gossip with other discontented husbands at his club, go to men's parties, or be entirely independent of his home in a thousand ways. The natural and acknowledged independence of his sex, entitles him to do this, alone and unattended: but she—how is it with her if her household gives no pleasure? Who is she to look to but her husband if she is unhappy?—If he is a tyrant, and her home is miserable, she cannot go out and dispel all this by running about from house to house amongst her neighbours, or forget her troubles by seeking out-door recreations. Nothing is left her but to brood over them at home. Hence her risks are infinitely greater than his; and hence the reason why she should summon all her wisdom to assist him in the venture.

We do not wish to frighten you ladies:—we only wish to maker you careful of a blind precipitation.

All of us are doomed to carry our burden, whether it be in single life or whether it be in the married state : and peradventure, after all, except in extreme cases there is not much difference in the weight of it, dither in the one condition, or the other. The truth is, the burden is charged with troubles of a different nature, according to the change of circumstances. The unmarried person's lamentation centres in this,—that he or she desires to obtain that which he or she has not got: whereas, the lamentation of the unhappily wedded person is this;—that he or she desires to get rid o/*that which he or she has got.

The lady champions to whom we have above alluded, argue as if single folks were all perfectly happy and contented, quite forgetting that they themselves took husbands to their bosoms, because they were neither the one nor the other. They should think of this. What is more, we verily believe, that if all-wives were all widows to-morrow, they would all be setting their weeds to the getting of other husbands the day after!

So, young ladies, you perceive that there is nothing left but to pursue the course chalked out for you ; you are discontented and miserable as you are—you can' not surely be much worse off than that by a change. Remember our excellent motto on the title-page, and let it be a warning. Study your sweethearts as much as you have opportunities for so doing, albeit we fear that those opportunities will be but few, since men are sad hypocrites in these affairs. Do not always depend on your own vision, "for love is blind and cannot see aright"; but have respect to the counsels of relations and of approved friends. Go wisely to work, and if things do not turn out so thoroughly well as you had hoped, still, there is always a comforting satisfaction in reflecting, that you acted to the best of your judgment.

Lastly, do not be decoyed to rush madly to Gretna Green; for, as we have heretofore remarked, it is more desirable, more decent, more comely, more respectable, and more sacred, to be married before the altar in Mother Church with friends and neighbours around you, than to submit to a mockery in a country tavern performed by an innkeeper, or else by a weaver or toll-gate keeper, behind the hedge or under a haystack.

THE END.


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