The following Letter and my Answer shall take up the present Speculation.
'I am the young Widow of a Country Gentleman who has left me Entire Mistress of a large Fortune, which he agreed to as an Equivalent for the Difference in our Years. In these Circumstances it is not extraordinary to have a Crowd of Admirers; which I have abridged in my own Thoughts, and reduced to a couple of Candidates only, both young, and neither of them disagreeable in their Persons; according to the common way of computing, in one the Estate more than deserves my Fortune, and in the other my Fortune more than deserves the Estate. When I consider the first, I own I am so far a Woman I cannot avoid being delighted with the Thoughts of living great; but then he seems to receive such a Degree of Courage from the Knowledge of what he has, he looks as if he was going to confer an Obligation on me; and the Readiness he accosts me with, makes me jealous I am only hearing a Repetition of the same things he has said to a hundred Women before. When I consider the other, I see myself approached with so much Modesty and Respect, and such a Doubt of himself, as betrays methinks an Affection within, and a Belief at the same time that he himself would be the only Gainer by my Consent. What an unexceptionable Husband could I make out of both! but since that's impossible, I beg to be concluded by your Opinion; it is absolutely in your Power to dispose of
Your most Obedient Servant, Sylvia.
You do me great Honour in your Application to me on this important Occasion; I shall therefore talk to you with the Tenderness of a Father, in Gratitude for your giving me the Authority of one. You do not seem to make any great Distinction between these Gentlemen as to their Persons; the whole Question lies upon their Circumstances and Behaviour; If the one is less respectful because he is rich, and the other more obsequious because he is not so, they are in that Point moved by the same Principle, the Consideration of Fortune, and you must place them in each others Circumstances before you can judge of their Inclination. To avoid Confusion in discussing this Point, I will call the richer Man Strephon, and the other Florio. If you believe Florio with Strephon's Estate would behave himself as he does now, Florio is certainly your Man; but if you think Strephon, were he in Florio's Condition, would be as obsequious as Florio is now, you ought for your own sake to choose Strephon; for where the Men are equal, there is no doubt Riches ought to be a Reason for Preference. After this manner, my dear Child, I would have you abstract them from their Circumstances; for you are to take it for granted, that he who is very humble only because he is poor, is the very same Man in Nature with him who is haughty because he is rich.
When you have gone thus far, as to consider the Figure they make towards you; you will please, my Dear, next to consider the Appearance you make towards them. If they are Men of Discerning, they can observe the Motives of your Heart; and Florio can see when he is disregarded only upon your Account of Fortune, which makes you to him a mercenary Creature: and you are still the same thing to Strephon, in taking him for his Wealth only: You are therefore to consider whether you had rather oblige, than receive an Obligation.
The Marriage-Life is always an insipid, a vexatious, or an happy Condition. The first is, when two People of no Genius or Taste for themselves meet together, upon such a Settlement as has been thought reasonable by Parents and Conveyancers from an exact Valuation of the Land and Cash of both Parties: In this Case the young Lady's Person is no more regarded, than the House and Improvements in Purchase of an Estate: but she goes with her Fortune, rather than her Fortune with her. These make up the Crowd or Vulgar of the Rich, and fill up the Lumber of human Race, without Beneficence towards those below them, or Respect towards those above them; and lead a despicable, independent and useless Life, without Sense of the Laws of Kindness, Good-nature, mutual Offices, and the elegant Satisfactions which flow from Reason and Virtue.
The vexatious Life arises from a Conjunction of two People of quick Taste and Resentment, put together for Reasons well known to their Friends, in which especial Care is taken to avoid (what they think the chief of Evils) Poverty, and insure to them Riches, with every Evil besides. These good People live in a constant Constraint before Company, and too great Familiarity alone; when they are within Observation they fret at each other's Carriage and Behaviour; when alone they revile each other's Person and Conduct: In Company they are in a Purgatory, when only together in an Hell.
The happy Marriage is, where two Persons meet and voluntarily make Choice of each other, without principally regarding or neglecting the Circumstances of Fortune or Beauty. These may still love in spite of Adversity or Sickness: The former we may in some measure defend our selves from, the other is the Portion of our very Make. When you have a true Notion of this sort of Passion, your Humour of living great will vanish out of your Imagination, and you will find Love has nothing to do with State. Solitude, with the Person beloved, has a Pleasure, even in a Woman's Mind, beyond Show or Pomp. You are therefore to consider which of your Lovers will like you best undressed, which will bear with you most when out of Humour? and your way to this is to ask your self, which of them you value most for his own sake? and by that judge which gives the greater Instances of his valuing you for your self only.
After you have expressed some Sense of the humble Approach of Florio, and a little Disdain at Strephon's Assurance in his Address, you cry out, What an unexceptionable Husband could I make out of both? It would therefore methinks be a good way to determine your self: Take him in whom what you like is not transferable to another; for if you choose otherwise, there is no Hopes your Husband will ever have what you liked in his Rival; but intrinsick Qualities in one Man may very probably purchase every thing that is adventitious in [another.] In plainer Terms: he whom you take for his personal Perfections will sooner arrive at the Gifts of Fortune, than he whom you take for the sake of his Fortune attain to Personal Perfections. If Strephon is not as accomplished and agreeable as Florio, Marriage to you will never make him so; but Marriage to you may make Florio as rich as Strephon? Therefore to make a sure Purchase, employ Fortune upon Certainties, but do not sacrifice Certainties to Fortune.
I am, Your most Obedient, Humble Servant.
[Footnote 1: any other.]Translation of motto: