Chapter 5


“I have already made you acquainted with my name, and I have only to add, that it is one of the most noble in Sicily, and that there are few families who possess such large estates. My father was a man who had no pleasure in the pursuits of most young men of his age; he was of a weakly constitution, and was with difficulty reared to manhood. When his studies were completed he retired to his country-seat, belonging to our family, which is about twenty miles from Palermo, and shutting himself up, devoted himself wholly to literary pursuits.

“As he was an only son, his parents were naturally very anxious that he should marry; the more so as his health did not promise him a very extended existence. Had he consulted his own inclinations he would have declined, but he felt that it was his duty to comply with their wishes; but he did not trouble himself with the choice, leaving it wholly to them. They selected a young lady of high family, and certainly of most exquisite beauty. I only wish I could say more in her favour, for she was my mother; but it is impossible to narrate the history without exposing her conduct. The marriage took place, and my father, having woke up as it were at the celebration, again returned to his closet, to occupy himself with abstruse studies; the results of which have been published, and have fully established his reputation as a man of superior talent and deep research. But however much the public may appreciate the works of a man of genius, whether they be written to instruct or to amuse, certain it is, that a literary man requires, in his wife, either a mind congenial to his own, or that pride in her husband’s talents which induces her to sacrifice much of her own domestic enjoyment to the satisfaction of having his name extolled abroad. I mention this point as some extenuation of my mother’s conduct. She was neglected most certainly, but not neglected for frivolous amusements, or because another form had more captivated his fancy; but, in his desire to instruct others, and I may add, his ambition for renown, he applied himself to his literary pursuits, became abstracted, answered without hearing, and left his wife to amuse herself in any way she might please. A literary husband is, without exception, although always at home, the least domestic husband in the world, and must try the best of tempers, not by unkindness, for my father was kind and indulgent to excess, but by that state of perfect abstraction and indifference which he showed to everything except the favourite pursuit which absorbed him. My mother had but to speak, and every wish was granted —a refusal was unknown. You may say, what could she want more? I reply, that anything to a woman is preferable to indifference. The immediate consent to every wish took away, in her opinion, all merit in the grant; the value of everything is only relative, and in proportion to the difficulty of obtaining it. The immediate assent to every opinion was tantamount to insult; it implied that he did not choose to argue with her.

“It is true, that women like to have their own way; but they like, at the same time, to have difficulties to surmount and to conquer; otherwise, half the gratification is lost. Although tempests are to be deplored, still a certain degree of oscillation and motion are requisite to keep fresh and clear the lake of matrimony, the waters of which otherwise soon stagnate and become foul, and without some contrary currents of opinion between a married couple such a stagnation must take place.

“A woman permitted always and invariably to have her own way without control, is much in the same situation as the child who insists upon a whole instead of half a holiday, and before the evening closes is tired of himself and everything about him. In short, a little contradiction, like salt at dinner, seasons and appetizes the repast; but too much, like the condiment in question, spoils the whole, and it becomes unpalatable in proportion to its excess.

“My mother was a vain woman in every sense of the word—vain of her birth and of her beauty, and accustomed to receive that homage to which she considered herself entitled. She had been spoiled in her infancy, and as she grew up had learnt nothing, because she was permitted to do as she pleased; she was therefore frivolous, and could not appreciate what she could not comprehend. There never was a more ill-assorted union.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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