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Ere time unfolds its beauties to the day,
And hope illusive smiles but to betray ;
Once redolent of bliss without alloy,
Mingling its notes with sweets that never cloy.
O'er widow'd hearts diffuse a brighter sun;
Destroys each beauteous form it gazes op;
Deatli's solemn requiem to the sons of care.
W. C. SELHY.
TIIE PHILOSOPHY OF PROPOSALS OF MARRIAGE. Mr. Inspector.—You who are a very grave and well-read person, may remember that there were certain subjects in nature and life, which excited both wonder and humility in that wise monarch of old, whose prowess the Queen of Sheba journeyed personally to contemplate. The way of an eagle in the air, and the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, probably impressed his mind with a more lively sense of the brevity of his own information; they were undoubtedly objects of greater mystery and depth than they would have been, had he enjoyed the scientific beauties of Selby's Ornithology, and known the use and construction of the mariner's compass, and Hadley's quadrant. There are some things, however, in life, which I, who am not, nor pretend to be, any way allied in wisdom to Sulomon, can never contemplate unimpressed by the most active curiosity and wonder.
One of these subjects of astonishment to me, is the nature and character of maiden aunts. A genuine maiden aunt, is unlike any other natural object that I know of-terrestrial-aquatic or amplibious. Her habits and manners, differ altogether from others of her sex and race.---A contradiction to Providence---a lusus naturæ. Her life is a long interminable warfare; at peace, neither with sentiment nor action ; requiring respect, yet showing uone; self-confident in virtue; intolerant to infirmity. She sits enshrined in fancied security, and lives in society as in a wilderness ; solitary, unattached, angry, and alone. I know something of your maiden aunts, as I shall presently state; and the most singular part of the phenomenon is this, there is no man living, but has one of the species in bis family, at the least.
After this, as a subject of enquiry and sad reflection, there is another mystery which I, who albeit have ever been of a thoughtful and meditative turn, have never been able to account for or explain.
Why should the subject of marriage, the gravest, most solemn, and irremediable act of our lives, be treated, as it always is, with so much levity, and, to me, horrifying laughter and mirth? If we happen in society sometimes to be at all rational and contemplative, to a degree wbich is thought to produce dullness and depression, it is only necessary for some blaspheming witling to turn the subject to the unredeemable bonds, the implacable fetters, of marriage-he has only to discourse of offers rejected or accepted, to create smiles, to produce general vivacity and gaiety.
Nay, more: even the horrors of matrimonial infelicities are thought suitable objects of laughter and derision. If a man is known to live on, what is pleasantly called, bad terms with his wife, and both to have their passions mutually exasperated, until at last the neighbours and watchmen interfere, and magisterial authority is necessary to pr ent bloodshed and petty treason, this truly is a subject for young men's wit, and old maid's laughter, for jests and jocularity! To a man of reflection, like myself, nothing which ever appears in the newspapers is one half so petrifying as some of these accounts of wedded rage and hostility. And these iriserted for the express purpose of pleasantry and mirth. A woman scraping her infant to death with an oyster shell; a man falling from the fifth story, impaled on the spikes of the iron railings below; smashings, slashings, ulcers, pestilence and plague, are pleasing imaginations, positively oriental luxuries, compared with such accounts. Yet there are fiends who can listen and smile. I once ceased to love a young lady, because I saw her smile at the black eye of a gentleman, when the scandal was, that it had not been given him out of his own house. What, said I to myself, have I to expect?
The whole subject, from first to last, requires amendment and philosophical investigation. The affair of marriage is more undefined, more laxly considered, than the meanest and most trumpery affair of life. I never knew any living soul who could explain to me, or make clear to my apprehension, even in a very loose manner, what, in fact, constitutes an offer of marriage; much less, which must be considered as the most effectual and approved method of making one. The awful fact remains, that you may stand committed when you least expect it, you may undo every thing, lavish every care and kindness in vain, destroy every ray of hope, merely through awkwardness and indecision in the form of introducing the business. Which, then, I ask, is the best, which the surest and least liable to failure, of all the allowed methods of making proposals of marriage? A more momentous or spirit-stirring question, after the immortality of the soul and the effects of vaccination are disposed of, there is not.
There is, to me, who am now in the autumn of life, no sight more impressive and affecting than that of a young man of honor and generous feeling enamoured of a lovely and accomplished girl, but uncertain if his affection be at all mutual or returned. There is something irresistibly touching in his anxieties. Who does not sym
. pathize with his cares, the alternate excitations of his sensitive spirit,
the icy chilliness of bis fears and forebodings, the uncertainty of the future embittering all present enjoyment, and interpreting even the tokens of hope as the easy unconcern of indifference and insensibility! What upon earth, I ask, then, is to be his course; or which way is he to proceed to have these distracting doubts removed, his joy or bis condemnation signed or sealed ? Put the question to her father, and it is long odds but he answer, the best way is to tie up your parchments in a neat parcel, convince me of your worth (in money), and then talk about the matter-make it a prudent affair of pounds and pence. But what says the young lady? She will certainly feel, and probably express, her disgustful abhorrence of such a cold blooded and usurious proceeding; her most approved parchment would be a copy of tender verses; her irresistible rent-roll, perhaps, a long drawn sigh; her best estate, the possession of the heart. How will you decide? I will give my own experience in these matters.
It was my misfortune to be born rich and modest, remnants of the fall of man; two things, which I venture to say, never fail, when united to make a man the most miserable of his race, to expose him to the scoff of a merciless and unthinking world. A poor and modest man may pass, his poverty assorts with his diffidence ; it is a habit which fits him. But a man entitled to carry weight, the best of all weight, a heavy purse, to be unpresuming and retiring! A parson drinking too much punch at a christening, cannot create one half of the infidel merriment that such an object excites. I lost my parents by death before I knew how to estimate the greatness of the loss, and I was left to the care of a maiden aunt. Ah, aunt Rebecca ! you, of all my kindred, will at least be impressed on my memory. I think I sometimes see in other faces, some resemblance to thine, something like thy twinkling grey eye, sharp nose, and compressed lips; other forms remind me of thy thin, worn, and extenuated figure, the promptness and decision of thy action and motion. But who can ever come up to thee, who can ever typify one shade of thy merit as a most consummate, artful, and successful match-maker? Thou at once delight and terror of thy friends, thou sometimes scourge, sometimes ministering angel of thy acquaintance !
The first and most subtle and refined method of making proposals, is through the interposition of a friend. My aunt lived upon a handsome annuity, and her whole soul was devoted to making her friends happy, but happy only in one way. Her remedy for all the ills of life, happening to single people, was to get married. Had she been a philosopher, this would have been the starting point of her theories, the basis of all her hypotheses. What a strange unclassified animal, as I have said, is a maiden aunt! She felt the miseries, not of her peculiar life, but of human nature; the solitude of her condition sometimes preyed upon her; she felt no uneasiness, no depression, but what she immediately traced it to her single and unprotected loneliness. Then it was she renewed her vows and wishes to minister consolation and relief, to abate that sorrow and discomfort which she dreaded that others should ever know, as she knew them,
by bitter experience. I was her near relation, and for whoin should she care if not for me? If her benevolence, founded on principle, led her to an universal wish to remedy or prevent the wretchedness of others, what must have been the intensity of her anxiety on this. account for me? I shall never forget, Heaven grant I may forgive, her affection!
I had been educated in a private manner. My aunt dreaded the turbulence and immorality of public schools—the dissipations of a college life absolutely terriñed her. “Pretty husbands,” said she, " these collegians must make.” The extremity of her condemnation could not go beyond this censure. I remember on one occasion visiting her; it was just before I came of age. Marriage, I solemnly declare, had never entered my thoughts, at least my own marriage never had, but it was a subject which had often engaged my aunt's meditation for me; she cared for one, as she afterwards pathetically exclaimed, who cared not for himself. She had, in fact, gone the length of saving me all trouble of choice, and had selected from her own acquaintance, what she thought a suitable match for me; and to this point her undivided energy, the whole force of her diplomatic agency, was then directed. I had known Fanny R- from boy. hood; we had seen, however, but little of each other, and I viewed her only in the light of a distant, and perhaps an agreeable, acquaintance.
I had, however, grown older, and my aunt thought it time seriously to think, if ever I were to think of marriage. With my aunt, a young man of one-and-twenty, without a fixed resolution of immediately marrying, was lost and undone. No pen or tongue can describe her deep-laid plots to bring us together; her vigilant care in observing us when together, how earnestly and eloquently she praised her to me; then the list of her virtues and accomplishments. Above all, she hoped the poor girl had not thought too much of me; she thought her more pale and sedate than usual ; she trusted she had prudence, and would control her affection; but she had always been of an open and undisguised temper. These, and a thousand suitable artifices, were, as I afterwards found, played on the other party. I never, for my own part, dreamed to what these sentimental conversations of my aunt tended. I dreamed not of her deeply laid designs; I always found myself placed, I knew not how or why, next Fanny at cards; my aunt always with a sly and sinister expression to others of the party, contrived that we should walk together; there was always a great draft of air, and danger of cold, where I sat, if I sat not next to her; we sang duets, and my aunt was happy and prospering.
The overwhelming, the damning truth at last burst upon me ! I was about to return to the care of the good Dr. O, “Will you “ not,” said my aunt, “explain your intentions, or say something “ more precise with regard to Fanny R - before you go?” “what do you refer?" said I; her answer almost annihilated me: the sudden terrors of a thunder storm among the Andes, of a snow
drift in the Highlands, a sirocco in the desert, of flood, of fire, never could furnish an image of my astonishment and despair. I hurst from her with an exclamation which left no doubt on her mind of my unalterable decision. I never saw Fanny R—again. This was nearly the last performance of my aunt in her profession. Shall I ever forget her incoherent ravings of the injury I had wrought to the feelings of an innocent girl? what did I mean by all my atten. tions? what sense of manliness or honor would be left me in thus exposing her to slight or contempt? In vain, I felt myself untouched by her pathos : love abhors the artifices of maiden aunts. My ingratitude hastened her death : from others she could have borne the injury, but from me!-I hope she will be forgiven the heavy and injurious sins of match-making, where “ none are married, or given in * marriage;" but what can ever efface from my mind the impressive emotions of grief and indignation which I suffered ? and perhaps Fanny R- can as innocently say the same.
I was now left free to chcose: I was not, however, without a kind adviser in my tutor; and experience added to my caution. Dr. 0-- used sometimes, when we were alone, to inculcate the necessity of a prudential care in these matters. Alluding to the irrevocable nature of such engagements, he more than once turned to a text, which he read with appropriate solemnity and emphasis, and which impressed my mind in a very peculiar manner. “And I find more “ bitter than death, the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and “ her hands as bands; whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her.” Plainly teaching us how vain it is to look to men or magistrates to aid our escape from these snares and bands, when once brought into play. My resolution was fixed not to employ, ror suffer to be employed, any middle-man or middle-woman in such an affair. It was not long before I found my heart irrevocably engaged to one of the loveliest compounds of body and soul, of mind and matter, which I ever knew. Waves of years have rolled over, but not obliterated the impression of her loveliness. I can recal her form and manner; would I had the power of recalling all my agreeable past emotions, with the same fidelity and freshness: this power would indeed be a heaven on earth! I had reason to believe I was not indifferent to her. I determined to make an avowal of my affection. I sought and enjoyed a hundred opportunities, but never could I summon courage and eloquence at the same time. I once endeavoured to shut my eyes and dive into the matter-all utterance forsook me-I groaned and travailled, and while struggling to express my emotion, the gay and worthless S-entered, laughed in my face, and they were married in a month.
Why should I detail my misfortunes, the horrors of my disappointment and blighted hopes, but to draw some useful moral. My friends very often, out of real kindness, would touch upon the subject and offer advice. My nature, gentle and unruffled upon all other occasions would sometimes assume a new and repulsive character : I grew fierce, energetic, and unkind : the image of my aunt arose distinctly before me: I both dreaded and scorned