HOW TO GET ON IN THE WORLD; or, A LADDER TO PRACTICAL SUCCESS.
by MAJOR A. R. CALHOUN.
As To Marriage
Mention has been made of the great influence on character of the right kind of a home, in childhood and youth. The right kind of a home depends almost entirely on the right kind of a wife or mother.
The old saying, "Marry in haste and repent at leisure," will never lose its force. "Worse than the man whose selfishness keeps him a bachelor till death, is the young man, who, under an impulse he imagines to be an undying love, marries a girl as poor, weak, and selfish as himself. There have been cases where marriage under such circumstances has aroused the man to effort and made him, particularly if his wife were of the same character, but these are so exceptional as to form no guide for people of average common sense.
Again, there have been men, good men, whose lives measured by the ordinary standards were successful, who never married; but those who hear or read of them, have the feeling that such careers were incomplete.
The most important voluntary act of every man and woman's life, is marriage, and God has so ordained it. Hence it is an act which should be love-prompted on both sides, and only entered into after the most careful and prayerful deliberation.
It is natural for young people of the opposite sex, who are much thrown together, and so become in a way essential to each other's happiness, to end by falling in love. It is said that "love is blind," and the ancients so painted their mythological god, Cupid. It is very certain that the fascination is not dependent on the will; it is a divine, natural impulse, which has for its purpose the continuance of the race.
Here, then, in all its force, we see the influence of association, which has been already treated of. The young man whose associations are of the right kind is sure to be brought into contact with the good daughters of good mothers. With such association, love and marriage should add to life's success and happiness, provided, always, that the husband's circumstances warrant him in establishing and maintaining a home.
Granting, then, the right kind of a wife, and the ability to make a home, the young man, with the right kind of stuff in him, takes a great stride in the direction of success when he marries.
No wise person will marry for beauty mainly. It may exercise a powerful attraction in the first place, but it is found to be of comparatively little consequence afterward. Not that beauty of person is to be underestimated, for, other things being equal, handsomeness of form and beauty of features are the outward manifestations of health. But to marry a handsome figure without character, fine features unbeautified by sentiment or good nature, is the most deplorable of mistakes.
As even the finest landscape, seen daily, becomes monotonous, so does the most beautiful face, unless a beautiful nature shines through it. The beauty of to-day becomes commonplace to-morrow; whereas goodness, displayed through the most ordinary features, is perennially lovely. Moreover, this kind of beauty improves with age, and time ripens rather than destroys it. After the first year, married people rarely think of each other's features, whether they be classically beautiful or otherwise. But they never fail to be cognizant of each other's temper. "When I see a man," says Addison, "with a sour, riveted face, I can not forbear pitying his wife; and when I meet with an open, ingenuous countenance, I think of the happiness of his friends, his family, and his relations."
Edmund Burke, the greatest of English statesmen, was especially happy in his marriage. He never ceased to be a lover, and long years after the wedding he thus describes his wife: "She is handsome; but it is a beauty not arising from features, from complexion, or from shape. She has all three in a high degree, but it is not by these she touches the heart; it is all that sweetness of temper, benevolence, innocence, and sensibility, which a face can express, that forms her beauty. She has a face that just raises your attention at first sight; it grows on you every moment, and you wonder it did no more than raise your attention at first.
"Her eyes have a mild light, but they awe when she pleases; they command, like a good man out of office, not by authority, but by virtue.
"Her stature is not tall; she is not made to be the admiration of everybody, but the happiness of one.
"She has all the firmness that does not exclude delicacy; she has all the softness that does not imply weakness.
"Her voice is a soft, low music--not formed to rule in public assemblies, but to charm those who can distinguish a company from a crowd; it has this advantage--you must come close to her to hear it.
"To describe her body describes her mind--one is the transcript of the other; her understanding is not shown in the variety of matters it exerts itself on, but in the goodness of the choice she makes.
"She does not display it so much in saying or doing striking things, as in avoiding such as she ought not to say or do.
"No person of so few years can know the world better; no person was ever less corrupted by the knowledge of it."
A man's real character will always be more visible in his household than anywhere else; and his practical wisdom will be better exhibited by the manner in which he bears rule there than even in the larger affairs of business or public life. His whole mind may be in his business; but, if he would be happy, his whole heart must be in his home. It is there that his genuine qualities most surely display themselves--there that he shows his truthfulness, his love, his sympathy, his consideration for others, his uprightness, his manliness--in a word, his character. If affection be not the governing principle in a household, domestic life may be the most intolerable of despotisms. Without justice, also, there can be neither love, confidence, nor respect, on which all true domestic rule is founded.
It is by the regimen of domestic affection that the heart of man is best composed and regulated. The home is the woman's kingdom, her state, her world--where she governs by affection, by kindness, by the power of gentleness. There is nothing which so settles the turbulence of a man's nature as his union in life with a high-minded woman. There he finds rest, contentment, and happiness--rest of brain and peace of spirit. He will also often find in her his best counselor, for her instinctive tact will usually lead him right when his own unaided reason might be apt to go wrong. The true wife is a staff to lean upon in times of trial and difficulty; and she is never wanting in sympathy and solace when distress occurs or fortune frowns. In the time of youth, she is a comfort and an ornament of man's life; and she remains a faithful helpmate in maturer years, when life has ceased to be an anticipation, and we live in its realities.
Luther, a man full of human affection, speaking of his wife, said, "I would not exchange my poverty with her for all the riches of Croesus without her." Of marriage he observed: "The utmost blessing that God can confer on a man is the possession of a good and pious wife, with whom he may live in peace and tranquility--to whom he may confide his whole possessions, even his life and welfare." And again he said, "To rise betimes, and to marry young, are what no man ever repents of doing."
Some persons are disappointed in marriage, because they expect too much from it; but many more because they do not bring into the co- partnership their fair share of cheerfulness, kindliness, forbearance, and common sense. Their imagination has perhaps pictured a condition never experienced on this side of heaven; and when real life comes, with its troubles and cares, there is a sudden waking-up as from a dream.
We have spoken of the influence of a wife upon a man's character. There are few men strong enough to resist the influence of a lower character in a wife. If she do not sustain and elevate what is highest in his nature, she will speedily reduce him to her own level. Thus a wife may be the making or the unmaking of the best of men. An illustration of this power is furnished in the life of Bunyan, the profligate tinker, who had the good fortune to marry, in early life, a worthy young woman, of good parentage.
On hearing of the death of his wife, the great explorer, Dr. Livingstone, wrote to a friend: "I must confess that this heavy stroke quite takes the heart out of me. Every thing else that has happened only made me more determined to overcome all difficulties; but after this sad stroke I feel crushed and void of strength. Only three short months of her society, after four years' separation! I married her for love, and the longer I lived with her I loved her the more. A good wife, and a good, brave, kind-hearted mother was she, deserving all the praises you bestowed upon her at our parting dinner, for teaching her own and the native children, too, at Kolobeng. I try to bow to the blow as from our Heavenly Father, who orders all things for us...I shall do my duty still, but it is with a darkened horizon that I again set about it."
Besides being a helper, woman is emphatically a consoler. Her sympathy is unfailing. She soothes, cheers, and comforts. Never was this more true than in the case of the wife of Tom Hood, whose tender devotion to him, during a life that was a prolonged illness, is one of the most affecting things in biography. A woman of excellent good sense, she appreciated her husband's genius, and, by encouragement and sympathy, cheered and heartened him to renewed effort in many a weary struggle for life. She created about him an atmosphere of hope and cheerfulness, and nowhere did the sunshine of her love seem so bright as when lighting up the couch of her invalid husband.
Scott wrote beautifully and truthfully:
"Oh, woman, in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light, quivering aspen made,
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou."
A Review of "How to Get On in Life"
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Chapter VIII - Education as Distnguished from Learning
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