The Wedding of Jenny Distaff

Felices ter, et amplius,
    Quos irrupta tenet copula; nec malis
Divulsus querimoniis,
    Suprema citius solvet amor die.
       —Hor. Od. i. 13, 17.

My sister Jenny’s lover, the honest Tranquillus, for that shall be his name, has been impatient with me to despatch the necessary direction for his marriage; that while I am taken up with imaginary schemes, as he calls them, he might not burn with real desire, and the torture of expectation. When I had reprimanded him for the ardour wherein he expressed himself, which I thought had not enough of that veneration with which the marriage-bed is to be ascended, I told him, “the day of his nuptials should be on the Saturday following, which was the eighth instant.” On the seventh in the evening, poor Jenny came into my chamber, and, having her heart full of the great change of life from a virgin condition to that of a wife, she long sat silent. I saw she expected me to entertain her on this important subject, which was too delicate a circumstance for herself to touch upon; whereupon I relieved her modesty in the following manner: “Sister,” said I, “you are now going from me: and be contented, that you leave the company of a talkative old man, for that of a sober young one: but take this along with you, that there is no mean in the state you are entering into, but you are to be exquisitely happy or miserable, and your fortune in this way of life will be wholly of your own making. In all the marriages I have ever seen, most of which have been unhappy ones, the great cause of evil has proceeded from slight occasions; but I take it to be the first maxim in a married condition, that you are to be trifles. When two persons have so good an opinion of each other as to come together for life, they will not differ in matters of importance, because they think of each other with respect, in regard to all things of consideration that may affect them, and are prepared for mutual assistance and relief in such occurrences; but for less occasions, they have formed no resolutions, but leave their minds unprepared.

“This, dear Jenny, is the reason that the quarrel between Sir Harry Willit and his lady, which began about her squirrel, is irreconcilable. Sir Harry was reading a grave author; she runs into his study, and in a playing humour, claps the squirrel upon the folio: he threw the animal in a rage upon the floor; she snatches it up again, calls Sir Harry a sour pedant, without good nature or good manners. This cast him into such a rage, that he threw down the table before him, kicked the book round the room; then recollected himself: ‘Lord, madam,’ said he, ‘why did you run into such expressions? I was,’ said he, ‘in the highest delight with that author, when you clapped your squirrel upon my book’; and, smiling, added upon recollection, ‘I have a great respect for your favourite, and pray let us all be friends.’ My lady was so far from accepting this apology, that she immediately conceived a resolution to keep him under for ever: and with a serious air replied, ‘There is no regard to be had to what a man says, who can fall into so indecent a rage, and such an abject submission, in the same moment, for which I absolutely despise you.’ Upon which she rushed out of the room. Sir Harry staid some minutes behind, to think and command himself; after which he followed her into her bed-chamber, where she was prostrate upon the bed, tearing her hair, and naming twenty coxcombs who would have used her otherwise. This provoked him to so high a degree, that he forbore nothing but beating her; and all the servants in their family were at their several stations listening, whilst the best man and woman, the best master and mistress, defamed each other in a way that is not to be repeated even at Billingsgate. You know this ended in an immediate separation: she longs to return home, but knows not how to do it: he invites her home every day. Her husband requires no submission of her; but she thinks her very return will argue she is to blame, which she is resolved to be for ever, rather than acknowledge it. Thus, dear Jenny, my great advice to you is, be guarded against giving or receiving little provocations. Great matters of offence I have not reason to fear either from you or your husband.”

After this, we turned our discourse into a more gay style, and parted: but before we did so, I made her resign her snuff-box1

for ever, and half-drown herself with washing away the stench of the musty.2

But the wedding morning arrived, and our family being very numerous, there was no avoiding the inconvenience of making the ceremony and festival more public, than the modern way of celebrating them makes me approve of. The bride next morning came out of her chamber, dressed with all the art and care that Mrs. Toilet, the tire-woman, could bestow on her. She was on her wedding-day three-and-twenty; her person is far from what we call a regular beauty; but a certain sweetness in her countenance, an ease in

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