Of Marriage and Single Life by Francis Bacon
Of Marriage and Single Life Summary
In many respects a life of single blessedness is better than a life of marriage: wife and children. Wife and children often prove a drag on a man in the performance of great enterprises whether they may be that of virtue or mischief. Those who have chosen to lead a single life have no impediments and checks on their liberty and freedom and since they have no offspring of their own to look after, they have care for the public and the children of others.
Thus unmarried men or childless men have the greatest solicitude for the public welfare. But it is not always so. There are some married men who have great care for the future. They bring up their children in such a way that they may be of greatest use to the future. There are some men who lead a single life but who do not have any thought of the future or the welfare of others. They are happy with their own thoughts and their end.
Thus single men prefer to have no children, because they feel that in the case of children, they shall have many liabilities to bear and much expenses to incur. They fear that by spending money on wives and children they will be reduced in their wealth. Hence many young men like to lead a life of single blessedness, considering wife and children as bills of charges on their wealth. But the most important reason why a man seeks to lead a single life is the love for liberty. These lovers of liberty consider family responsibilities as a great burden and fortress to bind them. Hence they will not like to be troubled by ties of married love, nor shall they like to bear the responsibilities of bringing up children.
Unmarried men generally prove to be best friends, best masters, best servants, but not always best subjects, because they cannot stick to one place and are likely to run away.
Clergymen should lead a single life because in case they are married, they will think of filling their own pool rather than do good to others by watering the ground for them. It is a matter of indifference for judges and magistrates, for if they intend to be corrupt, they will prove worse than those who have wives.
Wife and children need not completely be despised. By bringing up family, a man learns lessons of sympathy, tenderness and charity. A family is a great discipline in humanising a man’s feelings. A married man is generally tender. Unmarried men who have no occasion for the exercise of tender feelings are generally cruel and hard-hearted.
Persons of sober and serious nature generally prove to be good husbands. Ulysses was a good husband. He preferred his old wife to immortality.
Chaste women are often proud of their chastity.
Wives serve as sweet-hearts in the period of youth, companions in the period of middle age and prove to be the best nurses in old age. The real utility of a wife is in the old age.
What is the best time for marriage? The answer was given by a wise man, who said, “A young man not yet, an elder man not at all.”
It is often seen that bad husbands have good wives. Wives take pride in their patience. Sometimes women choose their husbands. Later on when their husbands turn to be bad, they have to tolerate them for they are of their free choice.
Of Marriage and Single Life Analysis
Arguments against marriage
(1) By increasing risk it deters from ‘great enterprises’.
(2) Some ‘account wife and children but as bills of charges’.
(3) Single life secures more liberty.
(4) Friends, masters, servants, clergymen, are best unmarried, perhaps, however, not so with soldiers.
Argument for marriage
viz., that it is a ‘discipline of humanity’.
Probable issue of marriage
(surmising that there is always a pretext for it)
- Grave men make loving husbands.
- Chaste women often make proud wives.
- A jealous husband forfeits his wife’s respect.
- Bad husbands often have very good wives.