Jars concealed are half reconciled; which if generally known, tis a double task to stop the breach at home and mens mouths abroad. To this end, a good husband never publicly reproves his wife. An open reproof puts her to do penance before all that are present; after which, many study revenge rather than reformation.
If love be any refinement, conjugal love must be certainly so in a much higher degree. There is no comparison between the frivolous affectations of attracting the eye of women with whom you are only captivated by way of amusement, and of whom perhaps you know nothing more than their features, and a regular and uniform endeavour to make yourself valuable, both as a friend and a lover, to one whom you have chosen to be the companion of your life. The first is the spring of a thousand fopperies, silly artifices, falsehoods, and perhaps barbarities, or at best rises no higher than a kind of dancing-school breeding, to give the person a more sparkling air. The latter is the parent of substantial virtues and agreeable qualities, and cultivates the mind while it improves the behaviour.
Of the like turn are all your marriage-haters, who rail at the noose, at the words for ever and aye, and at the same time are secretly pining for some young thing or other that makes their hearts ache by her refusal. The next to these are such as pretend to govern their wives, and boast how ill they use them; when at the same time, go to their houses, and you shall see them step as if they feared making a noise, and as fond as an alderman.
These are the toils in which I am taken, and I carry off my servitude as well as most men; but my application to you is in behalf of the hen-pecked in general, and I desire a dissertation from you in defence of us. You have, as I am informed, very good authorities in our favour, and hope you will not omit the mention of the renowned Socrates, and his philosophic resignation to his wife Xantippe. This would be a very good office to the world in general, for the hen-pecked are powerful in their quality and numbers, not only in cities, but in courts; in the latter they are ever the most obsequious, in the former the most wealthy, of all men.
It is possible you may not believe there are such tyrants in the world; but, alas, I can tell you of a man who is ever out of humour in his wifes company, and the pleasantest man in the world everywhere else; the greatest sloven at home when he appears to none but his family, and most exactly well dressed in all other places. Alas, sir, is it of course, that to deliver ones self wholly into a mans power without possibility of appeal to any other jurisdiction but his own reflections, is so little an obligation to a gentleman, that he can be offended and fall into a rage, because my heart swells tears into my eyes when I see him in a cloudy mood?
I have hardly ever observed the married condition unhappy, but from want of judgment or temper in the man. The truth is, we generally make love in a style and with sentiments very unfit for ordinary life: they are half theatrical, half romantic. By this means we raise our imaginations to what is not to be expected in human life; and because we did not beforehand think of the creature we are enamoured of, as subject to dishumour, age, sickness, impatience, or sullenness, but altogether considered her as the object of joy, human nature itself is often imputed to her as her particular imperfection, or defect.
Socrates, who is by all accounts the undoubted head of the sect of the hen-pecked, owned and acknowledged that he owed great part of his virtue to the exercise which his useful wife constantly gave it. There are several good instructions may be drawn from his wise answers to the people of less fortitude than himself on her subject. A friend, with indignation, asked him how so good a man could live with so violent a creature? He observed to him, that they who learn to keep a good seat on horseback mount the least manageable they can get; and when they have mastered them, they are sure never to be discomposed on the backs of steeds less restive. At several times, to different persons, on the same subject, he has said, My dear friend, you are beholden to Xantippe that I bear so well your flying out in a dispute.
There is a sort of man of wit and sense that can reflect upon his own make and that of his partner with eyes of reason and honour, and who believes he offends against both these if he does not look upon the woman who chose him to be under his protection in sickness and health with the utmost gratitude, whether from that moment she is shining or defective in person or mind: I say there are those who think themselves bound to supply with good-nature the failings of those who love them, and who always think those the objects of love and pity who came to their arms the objects of joy and admiration.
I am sure it is not to exalt the commerce with an ingenious companion too high, to say that every new accident or object which comes into such a gentlemans way gives his wife new pleasures and satisfactions. The approbation of his words and actions is a continual new feast to her; nor can she enough applaud her good fortune in having her life varied every hour, her mind more improved, and her heart more glad, from every circumstance which they meet with. He will lay out his invention in forming new pleasures and amusements, and make the fortune she has brought him subservient to the honour and reputation of her and hers. A man of sense who is thus obliged is ever contriving the happiness of her who did him so great a distinction; while the fool is ungrateful without vice, and never returns a favour because he is not sensible of it.
Marcus Aurelius said, that a wise man ought often to admonish his wife, to reprove her seldom, but never to lay his hands upon her . Etiam vipera virus ob nuptiarum venerationem evomit, The viper casts all his poison when he marries his female. He is worse than a viper who for the reverence of this sacred union will not abstain from such a poisonous bitterness . No man can tell but he that loves his children, how many delicious accents make a mans heart dance in the pretty conversation of those dear pledges; their childishness, their stammering, their little angers, their innocence, their imperfections, their necessities, are so many little emanations of joy and comfort to him that delights in their persons and society; but he that loves not his wife and children feeds a lioness at home and broods a nest of sorrows.
Jeremy Taylor: Twenty-five Sermons preached at Golden Grove: XVIII., The Marriage.