No. 490. Monday, September 22, 1712. Steele.

Domus et placens Uxor.'

I have very long entertain'd an Ambition to make the Word Wife the most agreeable and delightful Name in Nature. If it be not so in it self, all the wiser Part of Mankind from the Beginning of the World to this Day has consented in an Error: But our Unhappiness in England has been, that a few loose Men of Genius for Pleasure, have turn'd it all to the Gratification of ungovern'd Desires, in spite of good Sense, Form and Order; when, in truth, any Satisfaction beyond the Boundaries of Reason, is but a Step towards Madness and Folly. But is the Sense of Joy and Accomplishment of Desire no way to be indulged or attain'd? and have we Appetites given us not to be at all gratify'd? Yes certainly. Marriage is an Institution calculated for a constant Scene of as much Delight as our Being is capable of. Two Persons who have chosen each other out of all the Species, with design to be each other's mutual Comfort and Entertainment, have in that Action bound themselves to be good-humour'd, affable, discreet, forgiving, patient and joyful, with respect to each other's Frailties and Perfections, to the End of their Lives. The wiser of the two (and it always happens one of them is such) will for her or his own sake, keep things from Outrage with the utmost Sanctity. When this Union is thus preserved (as I have often said) the most indifferent Circumstance administers Delight. Their Condition is an endless Source of new Gratifications. The married Man can say, If I am unacceptable to all the World beside, there is one whom I entirely love, that will receive me with Joy and Transport, and think herself obliged to double her Kindness and Caresses of me from the Gloom with which she sees me overcast. I need not dissemble the Sorrow of my Heart to be agreeable there, that very Sorrow quickens her Affection.

This Passion towards each other, when once well fixed, enters into the very Constitution, and the Kindness flows as easily and silently as the Blood in the Veins. When this Affection is enjoy'd in the most sublime Degree, unskilful Eyes see nothing of it; but when it is subject to be chang'd, and has an Allay in it that may make it end in Distaste, it is apt to break into Rage, or overflow into Fondness, before the rest of the World.

Uxander and Viramira are amorous and young, and have been married these two Years; yet do they so much distinguish each other in Company, that in your Conversation with the Dear Things you are still put to a Sort of Cross-Purposes. Whenever you address your self in ordinary Discourse to Viramira, she turns her Head another way, and the Answer is made to the dear Uxander: If you tell a merry Tale, the Application is still directed to her Dear; and when she should commend you, she says to him, as if he had spoke it, That is, my Dear, so pretty--This puts me in mind of what I have somewhere read in the admired Memoirs of the famous Cervantes, where, while honest Sancho Pança is putting some necessary humble Question concerning Rozinante, his Supper, or his Lodgings, the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance is ever improving the harmless lowly Hints of his Squire to the poetical Conceit, Rapture and Flight, in Contemplation of the dear Dulcinea of his Affections.

On the other side, Dictamnus and Moria are ever squabbling, and you may observe them all the time they are in Company in a State of Impatience. As Uxander and Viramira wish you all gone, that they may be at freedom for Dalliance; Dictamnus and Moria wait your Absence, that they may speak their harsh Interpretations on each other's Words and Actions during the time you were with them.

It is certain that the greater Part of the Evils attending this Condition of Life, arises from Fashion. Prejudice in this Case is turn'd the wrong way, and instead of expecting more Happiness than we shall meet with in it, we are laugh'd into a Prepossession, that we shall be disappointed if we hope for lasting Satisfactions.

With all Persons who have made good Sense the Rule of Action, Marriage is describ'd as the State capable of the highest human Felicity. Tully has Epistles full of affectionate Pleasure, when he writes to his Wife, or speaks of his Children. But above all the Hints of this kind I have met with in Writers of ancient date, I am pleas'd with an Epigram of Martial [1] in honour of the Beauty of his Wife Cleopatra. Commentators say it was written the day after his Wedding-Night. When his Spouse was retir'd to the Bathing-room in the Heat of the Day, he, it seems, came in upon her when she was just going into the Water. To her Beauty and Carriage on this occasion we owe the following Epigram, which I shew'd my Friend WILL. HONEYCOMB in French, who has translated it as follows, without understanding the Original. I expect it will please the English better than the Latin Reader.

'When my bright Consort, now nor Wife nor Maid, Asham'd and wanton, of Embrace afraid, Fled to the Streams, the Streams my Fair betray'd; To my fond Eyes she all transparent stood, She blush'd, I smil'd at the slight covering Flood. Thus thro' the Glass the Lovely Lilly glows, Thus thro' the ambient Gem shines forth the Rose. I saw new Charms, and plung'd to seize my Store, Kisses I snatch'd, the Waves prevented more.'

My Friend would not allow that this luscious Account could be given of a Wife, and therefore used the Word Consort; which, he learnedly said, would serve for a Mistress as well, and give a more Gentlemanly Turn to the Epigram. But, under favour of him and all other such fine Gentlemen, I cannot be persuaded but that the Passion a Bridegroom has for a virtuous young Woman, will, by little and little, grow into Friendship, and then it is ascended to [a [2]] higher Pleasure than it was in its first Fervour. Without this happens, he is a very unfortunate Man who has enter'd into this State, and left the Habitudes of Life he might have enjoy'd with a faithful Friend. But when the Wife proves capable of filling serious as well as joyous Hours, she brings Happiness unknown to Friendship itself. Spencer speaks of each kind of Love with great Justice, and attributes the highest Praise to Friendship; and indeed there is no disputing that Point, but by making that Friendship take [Place [3]] between two married Persons.

'Hard is the Doubt, and difficult to deem, When all three kinds of Love together meet, And to dispart the Heart with Power extreme, Whether shall weigh the Ballance down; to wit, The dear Affection unto Kindred sweet, Or raging Fire of Love to Womenkind, Or Zeal of Friends combin'd by Virtues meet. But, of them all, the Band of virtuous Mind Methinks the gentle Heart should most assured bind.

For natural Affection soon doth cease, And quenched is with_ Cupid's _greater Flame; But faithful Friendship doth them both suppress, And them with mastering Discipline does tame, Through Thoughts aspiring to eternal Fame. For as the Soul doth rule the Earthly Mass, And all the Service of the Body frame; So Love of Soul doth Love of Body pass, No less than perfect Gold surmounts the meanest Brass.'


[Footnote 1: Lib. iv. ep. 22.]

[Footnote 2: an]

[Footnote 3: its Place]

Translation of motto:
HOR. 2 Od. xiv. 21.
'Thy house and pleasing wife.'