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Chapter 11

OF THE TRADESMAN'S MARRYING TOO SOON


It was a prudent provision which our ancestors made in the indenture of tradesmen's apprentices, that they should not contract matrimony during their apprenticeship; and they bound it with a penalty that was then thought sufficient. However, custom has taken off the edge of it since; namely, that they who did thus contract matrimony should forfeit their indentures, that is to say, should lose the benefit of their whole service, and not be made free.

Doubtless our forefathers were better acquainted with the advantages of frugality than we are, and saw farther into the desperate consequences of expensive living in the beginning of a tradesman's setting out into the world than we do; at least, it is evident they studied more and practised more of the prudential part in those cases, than we do.

Hence we find them very careful to bind their youth under the strongest obligations they could, to temperance, modesty, and good husbandry, as the grand foundations of their prosperity in trade, and to prescribe to them such rules and methods of frugality and good husbandry, as they thought would best conduce to their prosperity.

Among these rules this was one of the chief--namely, 'that they should not wed before they had sped?' It is an old homely rule, and coarsely expressed, but the meaning is evident, that a young beginner should never marry too soon. While he was a servant, he was bound from it as above; and when he had his liberty, he was persuaded against it by all the arguments which indeed ought to prevail with a considering man--namely, the expenses that a family necessarily would bring with it, and the care he ought to take to be able to support the expense before he brought it upon himself.

On this account it is, I say, our ancestors took more of their youth than we now do; at least, I think, they studied well the best methods of thriving, and were better acquainted with the steps by which a young tradesman ought to be introduced into the world than we are, and of the difficulties which those people would necessarily involve themselves in, who, despising those rules and methods of frugality, involved themselves in the expense of a family before they were in a way of gaining sufficient to support it.

A married apprentice will always make a repenting tradesman; and those stolen matches, a very few excepted, are generally attended with infinite broils and troubles, difficulties, and cross events, to carry them on at first by way of intrigue, to conceal them afterwards under fear of superiors, to manage after that to keep off scandal, and preserve the character as well of the wife as of the husband; and all this necessarily attended with a heavy expense, even before the young man is out of his time; before he has set a foot forward, or gotten a shilling in the world; so that all this expense is out of his original stock, even before he gets it, and is a sad drawback upon him when it comes.

Nay, this unhappy and dirty part is often attended with worse consequences still; for this expense coming upon him while he is but a servant, and while his portion, or whatever it is to be called, is not yet come into his hand, he is driven to terrible exigencies to supply this expense. If his circumstances are mean, and his trade mean, he is frequently driven to wrong his master, and rob his shop or his till for money, if he can come at it: and this, as it begins in madness, generally ends in destruction; for often he is discovered, exposed, and perhaps punished, and so the man is undone before he begins. If his circumstances are good, and he has friends that are able, and expectations that are considerable, then his expense is still the greater, and ways and means are found out, or at least looked for, to supply the expense, and conceal the fact, that his friends may not know it, till he has gotten the blessing he expects into his hands, and is put in a way to stand upon his own legs; and then it comes out, with a great many grieving aggravations to a parent to find himself tricked and defeated in the expectations of his son's marrying handsomely, and to his advantage; instead of which, he is obliged to receive a dish-clout for a daughter-in-law, and see his family propagated by a race of beggars, and yet perhaps as haughty, as insolent, and as expensive, as if she had blessed the family with a lady of fortune, and brought a fund with her to have supported the charge of her posterity.

When this happens, the poor young man's case is really deplorable. Before he is out of his time, he is obliged to borrow of friends, if he has any, on pretence his father does not make him a sufficient allowance, or he trenches upon his master's cash, which perhaps, he being the eldest apprentice, is in his hands; and this he does, depending, that when he is out of his time, and his father gives him wherewith to set up, he will make good the deficiency; and all this happens accordingly so that his reputation as to his master is preserved, and he comes off clear as to dishonesty in his trust.

But what a sad chasm does it make in his fortune! I knew a certain young tradesman, whose father, knowing nothing of his son's measures, gave him 2000 to set up with, straining himself to the utmost for the well introducing his son into the world; but who, when he came to set up, having near a year before married the servant-maid of the house where he lodged, and kept her privately at a great expense, had above 600 of his stock already wasted and sunk, before he began for himself; the consequence of which was, that going in partner with another young man, who had likewise 2000 to begin with, he was, instead of half of the profits, obliged to make a private article to accept of a third of the trade; and the beggar-wife proving more expensive, by far, than the partner's wife (who married afterwards, and doubled his fortune), the first young man was obliged to quit the trade, and with his remaining stock set up by himself; in which case his expenses continuing, and his stock being insufficient, he sank gradually, and then broke, and died poor. In a word, he broke the heart of his father, wasted what he had, and could never recover it, and at last it broke his own heart too.

But I shall bring it a little farther. Suppose the youth not to act so grossly neither; not to marry in his apprenticeship, not to be forced to keep a wife privately, and eat the bread he never got; but suppose him to be entered upon the world, that he has set up, opened shop, or fitted up his warehouse, and is ready to trade, the next thing, in the ordinary course of the world, at this time is a wife; nay, I have met with some parents, who have been indiscreet enough themselves to prompt their sons to marry as soon as they are set up; and the reason they give for it is, the wickedness of the age, that youth are drawn in a hundred ways to ruinous matches or debaucheries, and are so easily ruined by the mere looseness of their circumstances, that it is needful to marry them to keep them at home, and to preserve them diligent, and bind them close to their business.

This, be it just or not, is a bad cure of an ill disease; it is ruining the young man to make him sober, and making him a slave for life to make him diligent. Be it that the wife he shall marry is a sober, frugal, housewifely woman, and that nothing is to be laid to her charge but the mere necessary addition of a family expense, and that with the utmost moderation, yet, at the best, he cripples his fortune, stock-starves his business, and brings a great expense upon himself at first, before, by his success in trade, he had laid up stock enough to support the charge.

First, it is reasonable to suppose, that at his beginning in the world he cannot expect to get so good a portion with a wife, as he might after he had been set up a few years, and by his diligence and frugality, joined to a small expense in house-keeping, had increased both his stock in trade and the trade itself; then he would be able to look forward boldly, and would have some pretence for insisting on a fortune, when he could make out his improvements in trade, and show that he was both able to maintain a wife, and able to live without her. When a young tradesman in Holland or Germany goes a-courting, I am told the first question the young woman asks of him, or perhaps her friends for her, is, 'Are you able to pay the charges?' that is to say, in English, 'Are you able to keep a wife when you have got her?' The question is a little Gothic indeed, and would be but a kind of gross way of receiving a lover here, according to our English good breeding; but there is a great deal of reason in the inquiry, that must be confessed; and he that is not able to pay the charges, should never begin the journey; for, be the wife what she will, the very state of life that naturally attends the marrying a woman, brings with it an expense so very considerable, that a tradesman ought to consider very well of it before he engages.

But it is to be observed, too, that abundance of young tradesmen, especially in England, not only marry early, but by the so marrying they are obliged to take up with much less fortunes in their haste, than when they allow themselves longer time of consideration. As it stands now, generally speaking, the wife and the shop make their first show together; but how few of these early marriages succeed--how hard such a tradesman finds it to stand, and support the weight that attends it--I appeal to the experience of those, who having taken this wrong step, and being with difficulty got over it, are yet good judges of that particular circumstance in others that come after them.[22]

I know it is a common cry that is raised against the woman, when her husband fails in business, namely, that it is the wife has ruined him; it is true, in some particular cases it may be so, but in general it is wrong placed--they may say marrying has ruined the man, when they cannot say his wife has done it, for the woman was not in fault, but her husband.

When a tradesman marries, there are necessary consequences, I mean of expenses, which the wife ought not be charged with, and cannot be made accountable for--such as, first, furnishing the house; and let this be done with the utmost plainness, so as to be decent; yet it must be done, and this calls for ready money, and that ready money by so much diminishes his stock in trade; nor is the wife at all to be charged in this case, unless she either put him to more charge than was needful, or showed herself dissatisfied with things needful, and required extravagant gaiety and expense. Secondly, servants, if the man was frugal before, it may be he shifted with a shop, and a servant in it, an apprentice, or journeyman, or perhaps without one at first, and a lodging for himself, where he kept no other servant, and so his expenses went on small and easy; or if he was obliged to take a house because of his business and the situation of his shop, he then either let part of the house out to lodgers, keeping himself a chamber in it, or at the worst left it unfurnished, and without any one but a maid-servant to dress his victuals, and keep the house clean; and thus he goes on when a bachelor, with a middling expense at most.

But when he brings home a wife, besides the furnishing his house, he must have a formal house-keeping, even at the very first; and as children come on, more servants, that is, maids, or nurses, that are as necessary as the bread he eats--especially if he multiplies apace, as he ought to suppose he may--in this case let the wife be frugal and managing, let her be unexceptionable in her expense, yet the man finds his charge mount high, and perhaps too high for his gettings, notwithstanding the additional stock obtained by her portion. And what is the end of this but inevitable decay, and at last poverty and ruin?

Nay, the more the woman is blameless, the more certain is his overthrow, for if it was an expense that was extravagant and unnecessary, and that his wife ran him out by her high living and gaiety, he might find ways to retrench, to take up in time, and prevent the mischief that is in view. A woman may, with kindness and just reasoning, be easily convinced, that her husband cannot maintain such an expense as she now lives at; and let tradesmen say what they will, and endeavour to excuse themselves as much as they will, by loading their wives with the blame of their miscarriage, as I have known some do, and as old father Adam, though in another case, did before them, I must say so much in the woman's behalf at a venture. It will be very hard to make me believe that any woman, that was not fit for Bedlam, if her husband truly and timely represented his case to her, and how far he was or was not able to maintain the expense of their way of living, would not comply with her husband's circumstances, and retrench her expenses, rather than go on for a while, and come to poverty and misery. Let, then, the tradesman lay it early and seriously before his wife, and with kindness and plainness tell her his circumstances, or never let him pretend to charge her with being the cause of his ruin. Let him tell her how great his annual expense is; for a woman who receives what she wants as she wants it, that only takes it with one hand, and lays it out with another, does not, and perhaps cannot, always keep an account, or cast up how much it comes to by the year. Let her husband, therefore, I say, tell her honestly how much his expense for her and himself amounts to yearly; and tell her as honestly, that it is too much for him, that his income in trade will not answer it; that he goes backward, and the last year his family expenses amounted to so much, say 400--for that is but an ordinary sum now for a tradesman to spend, whatever it has been esteemed formerly--and that his whole trade, though he made no bad debts, and had no losses, brought him in but 320 the whole year, so that he was 80 that year a worse man than he was before, that this coming year he had met with a heavy loss already, having had a shopkeeper in the country broke in his debt 200, and that he offered but eight shillings in the pound, so that he should lose 120 by him, and that this, added to the 80 run out last year, came to 200, and that if they went on thus, they should be soon reduced.

What could the woman say to so reasonable a discourse, if she was a woman of any sense, but to reply, she would do any thing that lay in her to assist him, and if her way of living was too great for him to support, she would lessen it as he should direct, or as much as he thought was reasonable?--and thus, going hand in hand, she and he together abating what reason required, they might bring their expenses within the compass of their gettings, and be able to go on again comfortably.

But now, when the man, finding his expenses greater than his income, and yet, when he looks into those expenses, finds that his wife is frugal too, and industrious, and applies diligently to the managing her family, and bringing up her children, spends nothing idly, saves every thing that can be saved; that instead of keeping too many servants, is a servant to every body herself; and that, in short, when he makes the strictest examination, finds she lays out nothing but what is absolutely necessary, what now must this man do? He is ruined inevitably--for all his expense is necessary; there is no retrenching, no abating any thing.

This, I say, is the worst case of the two indeed; and this man, though he may say he is undone by marrying, yet cannot blame the woman, and say he is undone by his wife. This is the very case I am speaking of; the man should not have married so soon; he should have staid till he had, by pushing on his trade, and living close in his expense, increased his stock, and been what we call beforehand in the world; and had he done thus, he had not been undone by marrying.

It is a little hard to say it, but in this respect it is very true, there is many a young tradesman ruined by marrying a good wife--in which, pray take notice that I observe my own just distinction: I do not say they are ruined or undone by a good wife, or by their wives being good, but by their marrying--their unseasonable, early, and hasty marrying--before they had cast up the cost of one, or the income of the other--before they had inquired into the necessary charge of a wife and a family, or seen the profits of their business, whether it would maintain them or no; and whether, as above, they could pay the charges, the increasing necessary charge, of a large and growing family. How to persuade young men to consider this in time, and beware and avoid the mischief of it, that is a question by itself.

Let no man, then, when he is brought to distress by this early rashness, turn short upon his wife, and reproach her with being the cause of his ruin, unless, at the same time, he can charge her with extravagant living, needless expense, squandering away his money, spending it in trifles and toys, and running him out till the shop could not maintain the kitchen, much less the parlour; nor even then, unless he had given her timely notice of it, and warned her that he was not able to maintain so large a family, or so great an expense, and that, therefore, she would do well to consider of it, and manage with a straiter hand, and the like. If, indeed, he had done so, and she had not complied with him, then she had been guilty, and without excuse too; but as the woman cannot judge of his affairs, and he sees and bears a share in the riotous way of their living, and does not either show his dislike of it, or let her know, by some means or other, that he cannot support it, the woman cannot be charged with being his ruin--no, though her way of extravagant expensive living were really the cause of it. I met with a short dialogue, the other day, between a tradesman and his wife, upon such a subject as this, some part of which may be instructing in the case before us.

The tradesman was very melancholy for two or three days, and had appeared all that time to be pensive and sad, and his wife, with all her arts, entreaties, anger, and tears, could not get it out of him; only now and then she heard him fetch a deep sigh, and at another time say, he wished he was dead, and the like expressions. At last, she began the discourse with him in a respectful, obliging manner, but with the utmost importunity to get it out of him, thus:--

Wife.--My dear, what is the matter with you?

Husb.--Nothing.

Wife.--Nay, don't put me off with an answer that signifies nothing; tell me what is the matter, for I am sure something extraordinary is the case--tell me, I say, do tell me. [Then she kisses him.]

Husb.--Prithee, don't trouble me.

Wife.--I will know what is the matter

Husb.--I tell you nothing is the matter--what should be the matter?

Wife.--Come, my dear, I must not be put off so; I am sure, if it be any thing ill, I must have my share of it; and why should I not be worthy to know it, whatever it is, before it comes upon me.

Husb.--Poor woman! [He kisses her.]

Wife.--Well, but let me know what it is; come, don't distract yourself alone; let me bear a share of your grief, as well as I have shared in your joy.

Husb.--My dear, let me alone, you trouble me now, indeed.

[Still he keeps her off.]

Wife.--Then you will not trust your wife with knowing what touches you so sensibly?

Husb.--I tell you, it is nothing, it is a trifle, it is not worth talking of.

Wife.--Don't put me off with such stuff as that; I tell you, it is not for nothing that you have been so concerned, and that so long too; I have seen it plain enough; why, you have drooped upon it for this fortnight past, and above.

Husb.--Ay, this twelvemonth, and more.

Wife.--Very well, and yet it is nothing.

Husb.--It is nothing that you can help me in.

Wife.--Well, but how do you know that? Let me see, and judge whether I can, or no.

Husb.--I tell you, you cannot.

Wife.--Sure it is some terrible thing then. Why must not I know it? What! are you going to break? Come, tell me the worst of it.

Husb.--Break! no, no, I hope not--Break! no, I'll never break.

Wife.--As good as you have broke; don't presume; no man in trade can say he won't break.

Husb.--Yes, yes; I can say I won't break.

Wife.--I am glad to hear it; I hope you have a knack, then, beyond other tradesmen.

Husb.--No, I have not neither; any man may say so as well as I; and no man need break, if he will act the part of an honest man.

Wife.--How is that, pray?

Husb.--Why, give up all faithfully to his creditors, as soon as he finds there is a deficiency in his stock, and yet that there is enough left to pay them.

Wife.--Well, I don't understand those things, but I desire you would tell me what it is troubles you now; and if it be any thing of that kind, yet I think you should let me know it.

Husb.--Why should I trouble you with it?

Wife.--It would be very unkind to let me know nothing till it comes and swallows you up and me too, all on a sudden; I must know it, then; pray tell it me now.

Husb.--Why, then, I will tell you; indeed, I am not going to break, and I hope I am in no danger of it, at least not yet.

Wife.--I thank you, my dear, for that; but still, though it is some satisfaction to me to be assured of so much, yet I find there is something in it; and your way of speaking is ambiguous and doubtful. I entreat you, be plain and free with me. What is at the bottom of it?--why won't you tell me?--what have I done, that I am not to be trusted with a thing that so nearly concerns me?

Husb.--I have told you, my dear; pray be easy; I am not going to break, I tell you.

Wife.--Well, but let us talk a little more seriously of it; you are not going to break, that is, not just now, not yet, you said; but, my dear, if it is then not just at hand, but may happen, or is in view at some distance, may not some steps be taken to prevent it for the present, and to save us from it at last too.

Husb.--What steps could you think of, if that were the case?

Wife.--Indeed it is not much that is in a wife's power, but I am ready to do what lies in me, and what becomes me; and first, pray let us live lower. Do you think I would live as I do, if I thought your income would not bear it? No, indeed.

Husb.--You have touched me in the most sensible part, my dear; you have found out what has been my grief; you need make no further inquiries.

Wife.--Was that your grief?--and would you never be so kind to your wife as to let her know it?

Husb.--How could I mention so unkind a thing to you?

Wife.--Would it not have been more unkind to have let things run on to destruction, and left your wife to the reproach of the world, as having ruined you by her expensive living?

Husb.--That's true, my dear; and it may be I might have spoke to you at last, but I could not do it now; it looks so cruel and so hard to lower your figure, and make you look little in the eyes of the world, for you know they judge all by outsides, that I could not bear it.

Wife.--It would be a great deal more cruel to let me run on, and be really an instrument to ruin, my husband, when, God knows, I thought I was within the compass of your gettings, and that a great way; and you know you always prompted me to go fine, to treat handsomely, to keep more servants, and every thing of that kind. Could I doubt but that you could afford it very well?

Husb.--That's true, but I see it is otherwise now; and though I cannot help it, I could not mention it to you, nor, for ought I know, should I ever have done it.

Wife.--Why! you said just now you should have done it.

Husb.--Ay, at last, perhaps, I might, when things had been past recovery.

Wife.--That is to say, when you were ruined and undone, and could not show your head, I should know it; or when a statute of bankrupt had come out, and the creditors had come and turned us out of doors, then I should have known it--that would have been a barbarous sort of kindness.

Husb.--What could I do? I could not help it.

Wife.--Just so our old acquaintance G--W--did; his poor wife knew not one word of it, nor so much as suspected it, but thought him in as flourishing circumstances as ever; till on a sudden he was arrested in an action for a great sum, so great that he could not find bail, and the next day an execution on another action was served in the house, and swept away the very bed from under her; and the poor lady, that brought him 3000 portion, was turned into the street with five small children to take care of.

Husb.--Her case was very sad, indeed.

Wife.--But was not he a barbarous wretch to her, to let her know nothing of her circumstances? She was at the ball but the day before, in her velvet suit, and with her jewels on, and they reproach her with it every day.

Husb.--She did go too fine, indeed.

Wife.--Do you think she would have done so, if she had known any thing of his circumstances?

Husb.--It may be not.

Wife.--No, no; she is a lady of too much sense, to allow us to suggest it.

Husb.--And why did he not let her have some notice of it?

Wife.--Why, he makes the same dull excuse you speak of; he could not bear to speak to her of it, and it looked so unkind to do any thing to straiten her, he could not do it, it would break his heart, and the like; and now he has broke her heart.

Husb.--I know it is hard to break in upon one's wife in such a manner, where there is any true kindness and affection; but--

Wife.--But! but what? Were there really a true kindness and affection, as is the pretence, it would be quite otherwise; he would not break his own heart, forsooth, but chose rather to break his wife's heart! he could not be so cruel to tell her of it, and therefore left her to be cruelly and villanously insulted, as she was, by the bailiffs and creditors. Was that his kindness to her?

Husb.--Well, my dear, I have not brought you to that, I hope.

Wife.--No, my dear, and I hope you will not; however, you shall not say I will not do every thing I can to prevent it; and, if it lies on my side, you are safe.

Husb.--What will you do to prevent it? Come, let's see, what can you do?

Wife.--Why, first, I keep five maids, you see, and a footman; I shall immediately give three of my maids warning, and the fellow also, and save you that part of the expense.

Husb.--How can you do that?--you can't do your business.

Wife.--Yes, yes, there's nobody knows what they can do till they are tried; two maids may do all my house-business, and I'll look after my children myself; and if I live to see them grown a little bigger, I'll make them help one another, and keep but one maid; I hope that will be one step towards helping it.

Husb.--And what will all your friends and acquaintance, and the world, say to it?

Wife.--Not half so much as they would to see you break, and the world believe it be by my high living, keeping a house full of servants, and do nothing myself.

Husb.--They will say I am going to break upon your doing thus, and that's the way to make it so.

Wife.--I had rather a hundred should say you were going to break, than one could say you were really broke already.

Husb.--But it is dangerous to have it talked of, I say.

Wife.--No, no; they will say we are taking effectual ways to prevent breaking.

Husb.--But it will put a slur upon yourself too. I cannot bear any mortifications upon you, any more than I can upon myself.

Wife.--Don't tell me of mortifications; it would be a worse mortification, a thousand times over, to have you ruined, and have your creditors insult me with being the occasion of it.

Husb.--It is very kind in you, my dear, and I must always acknowledge it; but, however, I would not have you straiten yourself too much neither.

Wife.--Nay, this will not be so much a mortification as the natural consequence of other things; for, in order to abate the expense of our living, I resolve to keep less company. I assure you I will lay down all the state of living, as well as the expense of it; and, first, I will keep no visiting days; secondly, I'll drop the greatest part of the acquaintance I have; thirdly, I will lay down our treats and entertainments, and the like needless occasions of expense, and then I shall have no occasion for so many maids.

Husb.--But this, my dear, I say, will make as much noise almost, as if I were actually broke.

Wife.--No, no; leave that part to me.

Husb.--But you may tell me how you will manage it then.

Wife.--Why, I'll go into the country.

Husb.--That will but bring them after you, as it used to do.

Wife.--But I'll put off our usual lodgings at Hampstead, and give out that I am gone to spend the summer in Bedfordshire, at my aunt's, where every body knows I used to go sometimes; they can't come after me thither.

Husb.--But when you return, they will all visit you.

Wife.--Yes, and I will make no return to all those I have a mind to drop, and there's an end of all their acquaintance at once.

Husb.--And what must I do?

Wife.--Nay, my dear, it is not for me to direct that part; you know how to cure the evil which you sensibly feel the mischief of. If I do my part, I don't doubt you know how to do yours.

Husb.--Yes, I know, but it is hard, very hard.

Wife.--Nay, I hope it is no harder for you than it is for your wife.

Husb.--That is true, indeed, but I'll see.

Wife.--The question to me is not whether it is hard, but whether it is necessary.

Husb.--Nay, it is necessary, that is certain.

Wife.--Then I hope it is as necessary to you as to your wife.

Husb.--I know not where to begin.

Wife.--Why, you keep two horses and a groom, you keep rich high company, and you sit long at the Fleece every evening. I need say no more; you know where to begin well enough.

Husb.--It is very hard; I have not your spirit, my dear.

Wife.--I hope you are not more ashamed to retrench, than you would be to have your name in the Gazette.

Husb.--It is sad work to come down hill thus.

Wife.--It would be worse to fall down at one blow from the top; better slide gently and voluntarily down the smooth part, than to be pushed down the precipice, and be dashed all in pieces.

There was more of this dialogue, but I give the part which I think most to the present purpose; and as I strive to shorten the doctrine, so I will abridge the application also; the substance of the case lies in a few particulars, thus:--

I. The man was melancholy, and oppressed with the thoughts of his declining circumstances, and yet had not any thought of letting his wife know it, whose way of living was high and expensive, and more than he could support; but though it must have ended in ruin, he would rather let it have gone on till she was surprised in it, than to tell her the danger that was before her.

His wife very well argues the injustice and unkindness of such usage, and how hard it was to a wife, who, being of necessity to suffer in the fall, ought certainly to have the most early notice of it--that, if possible, she might prevent it, or, at least, that she might not be overwhelmed with the suddenness and the terror of it.

II. Upon discovering it to his wife, or rather her drawing the discovery from him by her importunity, she immediately, and most readily and cheerfully, enters into measures to retrench her expenses, and, as far as she was able, to prevent the blow, which was otherwise apparent and unavoidable.

Hence it is apparent, that the expensive living of most tradesmen in their families, is for want of a serious acquainting their wives with their circumstances, and acquainting them also in time; for there are very few ladies so unreasonable, who, if their husbands seriously informed them how things stood with them, and that they could not support their way of living, would not willingly come into measures to prevent their own destruction.

III. That it is in vain, as well as unequal, for a tradesman to preach frugality to his wife, and to bring his wife to a retrenching of her expenses, and not at the same time to retrench his own; seeing that keeping horses and high company is every way as great and expensive, and as necessary to be abated, as any of the family extravagances, let them be which they will.

All this relates to the duty of a tradesman in preventing his family expenses being ruinous to his business; but the true method to prevent all this, and never to let it come so far, is still, as I said before, not to marry too soon; not to marry, till by a frugal industrious management of his trade in the beginning, he has laid a foundation for maintaining a wife, and bringing up a family, and has made an essay by which he knows what he can and cannot do, and also before he has laid up and increased his stock, that he may not cripple his fortune at first, and be ruined before he has begun to thrive.

FOOTNOTES:

[22] [Defoe's views on the subject of the too early marrying of young tradesmen, are in every particular sound. Though there are instances of premature marriages followed by no evil result, but rather the contrary, there can be no doubt, that the only prudent course is to wait till a settlement in life, and a regular income, have been secured. A young man, anxious for other reasons to marry, is sometimes heard to express his conviction that he might live more cheaply married than single. There could be no assertion more inconsistent with all common experience. Even if no positively ruinous consequences arise from an over-early marriage, it almost always occasions much hardship. It saddens a period of life which nature has designed to be peculiarly cheerful. The whole life of such a man becomes like a year in which there has been no May or June. The grave cares of matrimony do not appear to be naturally suitable to the human character, till the man has approached his thirtieth, and the woman her twenty-fourth year.]


Daniel Defoe

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