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MRS. L. — After all the principles we may lay down on this important subject, it requires considerable firmness to adhere to them. I have known intimacies contracted in opposition to the dictates of the judgment, merely for want of the spirit of resistance to petty influences and circumstances; which is, I think, frequently the reason that trifles turn the scale against judgment. But I will now request you to tell me how far you approve of friendships formed between married women and the opposite sex?
MRS. B. To mark the degree of intimacy which may subsist with the male sex, where there is no near relationship, propriety has formed a boundary which no woman, who places a proper value on her own good report, will attempt to pass. It is true, she may pique herself on her innocence and purity of thought, and commence an imprudent war against appearances; but she ought to be aware that the knowledge alone of acting against appearances must, inevitably, injure that very purity of thought which she prides herself in possessing. If female intimacies are sometimes objectionable to the husband, those with the other sex cannot but be peculiarly so, because there is a danger in them, which tends to deprive him of the exclusive preference he has a right to expect from his wife. Such intimacies, then, duty and propriety both forbid; and many, originally well-intentioned women, would have been spared degradation from happiness and honour, had they reposed with less confidence on themselves, and not ventured beyond the limits
sanctioned by the world; experience having often demonstrated that their extension is productive of misery to individuals, and of mischief to society.
MRS. L. But are all previous intimacies with the other sex to be finally dropped, the moment a woman bestows her hand at the altar?
Certainly not. But all communications with the other sex must be carried on with the confidence and full approbation of the husband. A married lady may even continue a correspondence with an unmarried gentleman, provided her husband be a tacit party to all the communications of such an intercourse. But unless a peculiar tie render it desirable to continue such a correspondence, commenced before marriage, I cannot but recommend that it should be given up after marriage, lest its continuance should engender unpleasant suspicions in the husband's mind, which seldom fail to create serious inconveniences, and mortify and degrade a woman even in her own eyes. Perhaps the character of the individual with whom she corresponds, and the circumstances which gave rise to the friendship which subsists between him and herself, may render it difficult to adopt more distant conduct towards him. In this case, her husband should also become intimately acquainted with the causes of the intimacy, that his mind may be fortified against the inroads of jealousy by entire approbation of the line of conduct she pursues.
MRS. L.-Well! there is more liberality in these sentiments than I was led to expect; and, as such is the case, surely there can be no objection to
the continuance of the closest correspondence with her own family-connections?
MRS. B. Marriage affords no reason why the correspondence between family-connections should be suffered to languish.
MRS. L.- But, if a newly-married lady happens to be at a great distance from her family-connections, how far is it proper, or essential in reference to her new character, to maintain with them an extensive epistolary correspondence? Would it not very much interfere with her domestic duties?
MRS. B. After marriage various may be the impediments in the way of personal intercourse with relations and friends, and but for the communication which writing affords, we should lose a source of happiness arising from keeping up an interest in their welfare. Still, an extensive correspondence cannot be continued after marriage, consistently with the increased duties in which domestic concerns and good neighbourhood involve many married women. The constant locomotion these require tends to destroy also the relish for such tacit conversation, and for the still life which, in idea, an absent spot presents, and which are opposed to the active scenes and employments in which the married woman finds herself called upon to take her share. It may, therefore, seem needless to guard her against the attempt to carry on an extensive correspondence; a few months may, perhaps, see it gradually diminished, and her letters become, "like "angel visits, few and far between," until they cease altogether. As it is not, however, pleasant to incur the charge of "changeableness" and
"forgetfulness," to which this natural death of her correspondence would render her liable, the young married woman should select a chosen few from amongst those friends, whom sterling qualities render valuable, and whose friendship she may hope to retain to the end of her life.
In a pecuniary point of view, also, an extensive correspondence may prove a serious evil in the marriage-state. It is one of those enjoyments which, however agreeable, is not essential; and a wife is not less responsible for squandering money, under certain circumstances, on the trifling gossiping of an extensive epistolary correspondence, than in the purchase of superfluous ornaments. No postage can be regarded as extravagant, when it is the means of conveying intelligence of the welfare of our relations and friends; but to a man of limited income the expense of daily packets addressed to his wife, which contain nothing but common-place remarks, or every-day news, is both an oppressive and injurious tax.
Is it necessary that a married woman should permit her letters to be opened by her husband?
MRS. B. A sensible man, who has confidence in the prudence of his wife, will have no desire to assume that privilege, which his situation as a husband confers upon him; nor to infringe on the sacredness of her correspondence. The slightest tincture of suspicion is incompatible with the mutual happiness of a husband and wife. A married woman, therefore, although her husband may not desire it, should voluntarily place her letters in his hands,
feeling that in so doing she is merely sharing with him the pleasure they may bestow, or alleviating the poignancy of grief their intelligence may impart to her. It is always preferable, however, for both parties to hold the correspondence of the other sacred, and not even to desire to become a party in it.
MRS. L.-But I should suppose it impossible for a married woman to have a correspondence which should be concealed, under any circumstances, from her husband?
MRS. B. It is certainly more advisable to have none which he cannot inspect; but circumstances may arise, in the progress of life, to involve the married woman in a correspondence in which it might not be proper to make her husband a party. A letter may convey to her communications relative to an early friend or acquaintance, which are confidentially imparted to her. Under these circumstances, though she might not be willing to betray the confidence of her friend, she ought to satisfy the mind of her husband, with sufficient reasons for not being more explicit towards him. If she can convince him that the correspondence has no reference to herself, but relates to the private concerns of her friend, it will scarcely be sufficient to excite any interest in his mind, or to create the slightest suspicion unfavourable towards his wife.
MRS. L.-But should a husband desire to read a confidential letter, would a woman be justified in refusing it?