The art of taking a wife
The union of two races equallysuperior, generally gives an inferiorproduct, but a product different fromthe two types who have fused theirblood in the crucible of love.
The union of a mediocre and elevated[Pg 119]race, produces very differenteffects, according to conditions.These, however, are as yet littleknown, and must be studied bydegrees.
If, however, you will never marrya negress, nor a redskin, and veryprobably neither a Chinese nor Japanese,it is easy enough for you tobecome enamoured of an English,German, or Spanish woman: and inthe present day, when railways andtelegraphs bring nations so near together,and break down barriers;marriage is preparing the way for thefuture United States of Europe, whichwill certainly become the keystone ofa cosmic republic, that of the CivilizedStates of the World.
The differences of type and sympathy[Pg 120]between opposite natures easilyprompt to a warm love between darkand fair nations. More than oneItalian has been obliged to fly fromScandinavia on account of the excessivesympathy which he awakened inthose fair innocent daughters of theEdda; and if a fair-haired son ofArminius goes into Spain or SouthAmerica, it is very seldom that hereturns to his mother country withouta wife, or without great spoilswon in the mighty victories oflove.
Is this a good? Is it an evil?
For the children it is nearly alwaysa benefit; for married people it is oftenan evil. The felicity of husband andwife is sacrificed to the species, and itis your duty to set these different, but[Pg 121]probable, consequences of union in thebalance and weigh them.
The differences which we sum upunder the word nationality, are notas marked as race differences, but theyapproach them; nationality is alwaysand in every way the complex sumof infinite physical, moral, and intellectualelements which make an Englishmanso different from a Spaniard,and an Italian so unlike a Norwegian.
To be of a different country fromthat of our companion implies not onlythe speaking of a different language butthe loving different things, the feeling,thinking, hating, and desiring thingsunlike. We are all living fragmentsof a long history of many centuries,and to unite and make two beingsagree who were born under separate[Pg 122]skies, educated with diversity of taste,with different ideals of religion, morality,politics, and customs, is possible,but difficult and uncommon. Lookaround, and you will find that the mostfrequent motive of these mésalliancesis nearly always some pecuniary interest,or else one of rank, unless anall-powerful love has submerged theother incitements toward a reasonablemarriage in its tumultuous and furiouswaves. Amongst other marriagesthose of American girl millionaires,who come to Europe to exchange theirdollars for shields bearing the armsof our counts, marquises, and princes,are very well known.
The difference of nationality in twomarried people is just one point lesseningthe probability of their happiness,[Pg 123]and it is aggravated a hundredtimes if a difference in religion isadded to the scale.
There is no great love without greatfaith, and he who loves much finds thespeaking of another language, thefollowing of dissimilar customs, thepraying in a church or mosque, butinsignificant obstacles. But great love,however long it may last, calms downand becomes a tender and fond habit;and when the sea of passion is calmedone looks through the water, nowgrown so clear and transparent, andsees at the bottom the points of diversityof faith, taste, and habits, standingup ruggedly, the rocks rising and comingto the surface, and rendering navigationdifficult and full of perils. Thehoneymoon is then hidden behind the[Pg 124]dense stormy clouds, and the marinersrun into the shallows of indifference, ordash the vessel against the waves ofincompatibility and domestic discord.
The calkers may come with theirgold and their coats of arms to patchup the wreckage, but it will always bepatched badly, and the holy concordof bodies and souls will be lost forever.
THE HARMONY OF FEELINGS.
Fish, birds, and mammals, whenthey feel themselves fit for love andwish to win it, develop new organs,new songs, the newest seductions,and with æsthetic or musical fascinationengage in the pleasant warfareof voluptuousness. They show thefemale all they have of the best, allthat is most irresistible, and thus obtainthe prize of victory. So do menand women. They adorn themselves,hide their defects, and make a showof their beauty, but as the battlebetween them is fought on a higher[Pg 126]plane, each one polishes up rustyvirtues, invents new ones, and sendshis vices or moral weaknesses toprison or into exile.
Painters, carpenters, artists areabout the house from morning toevening, in order to make everythingclean and bright, as if in expectationof an illustrious guest or a greatpersonage.
And they are right, for the guestthey expect is no less than love.
The fish, birds, and mammalscease to sing and shed their hornswhen the breeding season is over,and become lowly and ordinary, evenas they were before the marriage.And the companion, who has beenenticed by the representation nowrealized, finds no room for odious[Pg 127]comparisons or regrets, for she andher mate are already separated andneither thinks of the other.
With man, however, when once thevictory is gained, the curtain of thecomedy of love falls. But the marriageremains.
It remains with the defects whichreturn to view, with the vices whichspring afresh from the pollard boughs;and with the little sins, returning fromtheir exile and creeping home, oneafter the other.
This is one of the most fruitfulsources of the deceptions of matrimony,and it must be prevented. Weought to discover the real truth,under all the coquetry of the sex,and to know what metal lies beneaththe varnish and polish. This artificial[Pg 128]beautifying of man and woman whowoo is not hypocrisy, but a naturaland irresistible desire of showing ourbest to the person we love, and hidingfrom him our worst. But from thisinnocent desire we mount a flight ofmany steps, until we come to theblackest hypocrisy, which transmutesbrass into gold, glass into diamond,demon into angel.
Exceedingly few see clearly whenthey have the spectacles of love beforetheir eyes, and love has, not unjustly,been painted from the remotestantiquity with his eyes bandaged.
The lover is so blind, or, perhapsone would rather say, is so afflictedwith altruism as to mistake colours,and, under such an hallucination, tosee virtues where there are vices, to[Pg 129]find weakness of character agreeable,a lie a jest, and treachery a game.
The most acute spirit of observation,the most profound knowledgeof the human heart, do not sufficeto protect us from these seductions,which make us see the loved onethrough a rose-coloured glass.
Yet discord of character is thegravest peril, and unfortunately thecommonest to marriage, and it mayreach such a degree as to oblige husbandand wife to separate. Wherethe law permits divorce, it becomesthe terrible situation which, in officialand legal language, is called incompatibilityof temper.
And what does this dreadful word[Pg 130]mean? What monster is this, thatcan divide what love has joined, thatcan transform sensual pleasure to torture,honey to gall, heaven to hell?
When I write my book, I caratteriumani, which I have been meditatingand working at for so manyyears, perhaps I may be able to getmore light upon this obscure pointof individual and national psychology.But at present I am satisfied to treatthe problem on wide lines, and only asfar as it contributes to the happinessof marriage. In the mean time let mestate the terrible fact, once and for all,that among the many discords whichare possible between the man andthe woman, none exercises a moreweighty influence than that whicharises from want of union in character.
There may be happiness betweena rich man and a poor woman; betweena poor man and a rich woman;an elderly woman and a young man;an old man and a young woman;between two different intellects andeducations; we have rare but well-confirmedexamples of harmony betweenall these contemporaneousdiscords. But when characters cryout against and strike one another,Lasciate ogni speranza o voiche entrate; then desperation will bethe habitual state of the dual existence.
Incompatibility of character doesnot mean a difference of taste, affections,aspirations; for differences are[Pg 132]necessary to perfect harmony, andthe man and woman (we haverepeated it a hundred times) loveeach other better and better themore the man is a man and thewoman a woman—which is as muchas to say the more different theyare.
In common language incompatibilityof character means, for example,to harness an ox and a horse ofArab breed to the same carriage;to put a tortoise and a deer to walktogether; to tie a goose and a swallowto the same cord, and condemnthem to fly together; and if thesecomparisons fall short of the reality,it is because their enormity does notreach by a very long way the psychicaldiscords of men and women.
In that monstrous pairing of thedeer with the tortoise, the horse withthe ox, the swallow with the goose,only locomotion is treated of; butfor the race that a man and a womanmust take through life it is a matternot only of velocity, but of environmentand measure; of all thatcan modify senses, sentiments, andthoughts. To find a comparisonwhich at all suits or pictures truthfullythe tortures of two badlymatched individuals who must livetogether, I can only take that of afish and a bird condemned to livetogether. But this comparison is noteven good, for either the fish or thebird would die surely and quickly,but of the man or woman neitherdies, but live a death in life, feeling[Pg 134]nothing of life but disgust, pain, andwrong.
Convicts also are paired with achain without any regard to theirsympathies, but they have at leastthe psychical relationship of crime,and often vice, which brings themnear each other, and also that othercommon hope of escape that makesthem allies and even brethren; butin that other galley of a badlyassorted marriage there is not onechain alone, but a hundred and athousand, all invisible, with as manynerves connecting two existences condemnedto the sad communion of acommon torture which is doubled foreach by the suffering of the other.
There is the chain of the heart,the chains of taste and sympathy, the[Pg 135]chains of antipathy, habits, desires,and regrets; and along the lengthof these chains there run currents ofspite, hatred, rancour, malediction,vengeance, and retaliation.
The slightest movement on oneside is communicated to the other bythe chains, and makes that other feelhis pain, which he returns doubled byits own force and rendered cruellerby the desire of revenge. So eachwrong has an echo, and the echo isdoubled and increased a hundredfold,until the whole life becomes a torment,as if every nerve had tetanus,and every organ of body and soulwas transformed into a tooth sufferingspasms of pain. When a long-forgottenwound is cicatrised, and arougher movement than usual re-opens[Pg 136]the wound anew, in that martyredframe there is not a memberwhich does not suffer nor a singlefeeling that is not pain.
This is the meaning of incompatibilityof character, which has beenadjudged with reason by legislatorsas a sufficient cause for divorce, andit is, and ought to be, more so thanimpotence, bad treatment, or anyother cause of separation.
This want of harmony in sentimenthas only too many and too variedforms, but at the foundation thereis always this skeleton:
That which I like you dislike; thatwhich makes you happy makes mesuffer.
Woman is an ermine, who allowsherself to be killed rather than crossa field of snow soiled by mud.
Man, on the contrary, is like achimpanzee, who loves dirt and soilshimself with it. There is no partof his body or soul which does notlove this mud.
How can two such creatures livetogether?
He is an optimist even to cynicism,an egoist even