I follow my last of this date by command. I mentioned in my former my mother’s opinion of the merit you would have, if you could oblige your friends against your own inclination. Our conference upon this subject was introduced by the conversation we had had with Sir Harry Downeton; and my mother thinks it of so much importance, that she enjoins me to give you the particulars of it. I the rather comply, as I was unable in my last to tell what to advise you to; and as you will in this recital have my mother’s opinion at least, and, perhaps, in hers what the world’s would be, were it only to know what she knows, and not so much as I know.
My mother argues upon this case in a most discouraging manner for all such of our sex as look forward for happiness in marriage with the man of their choice.
Only, that I know, she has a side-view of her daughter; who, at the same time that she now prefers no one to another, values not the man her mother most regards, of one farthing; or I should lay it more to heart.
What is there in it, says she, that all this bustle is about? Is it such a mighty matter for a young woman to give up her inclinations to oblige her friends?
Very well, my mamma, thought I! Now, may you ask this—at FORTY, you may. But what would you have said at EIGHTEEN, is the question?
Either, said she, the lady must be thought to have very violent inclinations [And what nice young creature would have that supposed?] which she could not give up; or a very stubborn will, which she would not; or, thirdly, have parents she was indifferent about obliging.
You know my mother now-and-then argues very notably; always very warmly at least. I happen often to differ from her; and we both think so well of our own arguments, that we very seldom are so happy as to convince one another. A pretty common case, I believe, in all vehement debatings. She says, I am too witty; Angelice, too pert: I, That she is too wise; that is to say, being likewise put into English, not so young as she has been: in short, is grown so much into mother, that she has forgotten she ever was a daughter. So, generally, we call another cause by consent—yet fall into the old one half a dozen times over, without consent—quitting and resuming, with half-angry faces, forced into a smile, that there might be some room to piece together again: but go a-bed, if bedtime, a little sullen nevertheless: or, if we speak, her silence is broken with an Ah! Nancy! You are so lively! so quick! I wish you were less like your papa, child!
I pay it off with thinking, that my mother has no reason to disclaim her share in her Nancy: and if the matter go off with greater severity on her side than I wish for, then her favourite Hickman fares the worse for it next day.
I know I am a saucy creature. I know, if I do not say so, you will think so. So no more of this just now. What I mention it for, is to tell you, that on this serious occasion I will omit, if I can, all that passed between us, that had an air of flippancy on my part, or quickness on my mother’s, to let you into the cool and cogent of the conversation.
‘Look through the families, said she, which we both know, where the man and the woman have been said to marry for love; which (at the time it is so called) is perhaps no more than a passion begun in folly or thoughtlessness, and carried on from a spirit of perverseness and opposition [here we had a parenthetical debate, which I omit]; and see, if they appear to be happier than those whose principal inducement to marry has been convenience, or to oblige their friends; or ever whether they are generally so happy: for convenience and duty, where observed, will afford a permanent and even an increasing satisfaction (as well at the time, as upon the reflection) which seldom fail to reward themselves: while love, if love be the motive, is an idle passion’ [idle in ONE SENSE my mother cannot say; for love is as busy as a monkey, and as mischievous as a school-boy]—’it is a fervour, that, like all other fervours, lasts but a little while after marriage; a bow overstrained, that soon returns to its natural bent.
‘As it is founded generally upon mere notional excellencies, which were unknown to the persons themselves till attributed to either by the other; one, two, or three months, usually sets all right on both sides; and then with opened eyes they think of each other—just as every body else thought of them before.
‘The lovers imaginaries [her own notable word!] are by that time gone off; nature and old habits (painfully dispensed with or concealed) return: disguises thrown aside, all the moles, freckles, and defects in the minds of each discover themselves; and ’tis well if each do not sink in the opinion of the other, as much below the common standard, as the blinded imagination of both had set them above it. And now, said she, the fond pair, who knew no felicity out of each other’s company, are so far from finding the never-ending variety each had proposed in an unrestrained conversation with the other (when they seldom were together; and always parted with something to say; or, on recollection, when parted, wishing they had said); that they are continually on the wing in pursuit of amusements out of themselves; and those, concluded my sage mamma, [Did you think her wisdom so very modern?] will perhaps be the livelier to each, in which the other has no share.’