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provement in their prospect. Nor did I find greater comfort in regard to my other married friend, Bostock, in a letter I received from him on my arrival at Oxford, telling me that all the suitors having taken their leave, he had thought it best to put off the reforms he meditated with Lady Cherubina till some other opportunity."
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED, IN WHICH SOMETHING OF
THE EXCLUSIVES IS DISCUSSED.
HERE my tutor's manuscript closed, and I regretted there was no more of it ;—for the narratives which I have set forth were only some of several which had been drawn up by this observing man, whose disposition and general practice, it seems, was to note down any thing and every thing he met with remarkable in the characters and conduct of men in their progress through life.
These notes he had formed into a volume, which he called his book of human nature, and told me I should probably one day find myself portrayed there in glowing colours, under the head of Enthusiast.
Well! and why not? What great act, or great conception, but owes its rise to enthusiasm? What youth of twenty ought ever to be without it? To be sure, it is for the most part a plunging, prancing steed, which sometimes throws his rider, and often gets him into scrapes, from which he does not always recover ; but after a little training, and when got into the beaten road, he goes the better for it in the end.
Much as I respected Fothergill's judgment, particularly in the philosophy of man, of which I had had excellent proofs, I was by no means naturally inclined to take things on mere authority, where I had any doubts of my own to be cleared ; and I had many on this very subject. I could not therefore help, on re-delivering his manuscript, requesting a few explanations on the general question of unequal alliances. What was or was not equality on the whole, and not partial disproportions, ought, I thought, to be always settled before we came to a general conclusion.
“ You are right,” said he," and I am far from being so dogmatical as to refuse a full investigation of parts, in order to make up our minds to a whole. In poor Bostock's case, the inequality was not confined to birth and rank. If it had, £150,000, liberal education, and liberal manners, superior sense, and superior character, would not only have balanced, but weighed down, a mere woman of quality, though backed by a whole army of birth and fashion, and all the weight of St. James's itself.
“ But I fear the inequality here was in the minds and genius, aggravating that of the rank of the parties; and you will please to observe my theory respects inequality of any and every kind, whether of years, temper, character, or education, and is not confined to mere birth or fortune. In this instance, Lady Cherubina knew all her advantages in resolution and vigour over her husband's modesty, and had
not generosity enough to abstain from using them to the utmost. She was a Catherine; had be been a Petruchio, the suitors would never have intruded, and the sister of a poor earl, not withstanding her coronet, might have condescended to be happy to receive comfort and independence at the hand of a plebeian.
“ I have myself seen aristocrats, of both sexes, whose high heads, have stoopt to the vale,' where pecuniary advantages, or even a dinner, have been in question. They have reminded me of the illustrious Hidalgo, Captain Chinchilla, in Gil Blas, « d'une taille gigantesque' (which I suppose Le Sage puts for pride), et d'une maigreur extraordinare,' which I suppose he puts for poverty. This great personage, you know, though literally half starved, and forced to shut himself up, that nobody might witness his dinner of pumpkins and onions, forced the good-natured Santillana to entreaties, at first, before he would partake of his dinner ; but in the end, he came round very comfortably. “Il voulut d'abord faire des façons; mais enfin il se rendit à mes instances. Après quoi devenant insensiblement plus hardi, il m'aida de lui-même à rendre mon plat net, et à vuider ma bouteille.'
“ 'Thus, as the captain felt bis condescensions well repaid by accepting a dinner from the petit sécretaire, so many a high dame has kindly and graciously submitted to the disgrace of a shower of gold, poured into her lap by some rich and strong-minded merchant or manufacturer (who knew how to assert the privileges which nature and the law gave him), without a thought of rebelling. It is only where the submission is not gracious on the one side, or the mind not strong on the other, that the leaven appears; for, after all, leaven there always is, and it will sometimes shew itself, though it may be kept from dangerous fermentation, by a decided superiority of mind in the husband. Where that is uncontested, the equilibrium is restored ; but for one instance of this happy balance, there are thousands of perpetual and unceasing struggles, till poor love is frightened out of doors, never to return."
I was strongly impressed with this, but asked whether the balance might not be struck, even without supposing the inequality of mind. “ I mean,” said I, “ where the actual condition of the parties is concerned, in respect to other points, besides rank or fortune, --for example, as to age.”
“ That is a nice point,” replied he, “nor perhaps has my experience yet settled it. But, though where the seniority is of the man to the woman, the question has been determined different ways, there can be no doubt, where it is on the side of the woman to the man. I think it is Rousseau who says, that the love of a wife to her husband has always the best chance of happiness when it partakes in some degree of that of a daughter to a father. Here, therefore, a disparity of age does not necessarily infer the mischiefs of a mésalliance; but no instance has ever occurred to my observation, in which the union of a young husband with an old wife has not made both parties ridiculous. Prudence, however, is a great leveller.”
I asked what that meant.