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Happy Marriages
by [?]

Although a strong modern school of writers care only to talk of misery and gloom and frustration, I retain a taste for joy and sweetness and kindliness. Life has so many sharp crosses, so many inexplicable sorrows for us all, that I hold it good to snatch at every moment of gladness, and to keep my eyes on beautiful things whenever they can be seen. During the days when I was pondering the subject of tragic marriages, I read the letters of the great Lord Chatham. The mighty statesman was not distinguished as a letter-writer; like Themistocles, he might have boasted that, though he was inapt where small accomplishments were concerned, he converted a small state into a great empire. John Wilkes called our great man “the worst letter-writer of his age.” Yet to my mind the correspondence of Chatham with his wife is among the most charming work that we know. Here is one fragment which is delightful enough in its way. He had been out riding with his son William, who afterwards ruled England, becoming Prime Minister at an age when other lads are leaving the University. His elder son stayed at home to study, and this is the fashion in which Chatham writes about his boys–“It is a delight to let William see nature in her free and wild compositions, and I tell myself, as we go, that the General Mother is not ashamed of her child. The particular loved mother of our promising tribe has sent the sweetest and most encouraging of letters to the young Vauban. His assiduous application to his profession did not allow him to accompany us in learning to defend the happy land we were enjoying. Indeed, my life, the promise of our dear children does me more good than the purest of pure air.” Observe how this pompous and formal statement is framed so as to please the mother. The writer does not say much about himself; but he knows that his wife is longing to hear of her darlings, and he tells her the news in his high-flown manner. He was not often apart from the lady whom he loved so well; but I am glad that they were sometimes separated, since the separations give us the delicate and tender letters every phrase of which tells a long story of love and confidence and mutual pride. That unequalled man who had made England practically the mistress of the world, the man who gained for us Canada and India, the man whom the King of Prussia regarded as our strongest and noblest, could spend his time in writing pretty babble about a couple of youngsters in order to delight their mother. If he had gone to London, the people would have taken the horses out of his carriage, and dragged him to his destination. He was far more powerful than the king, and he was almost worshipped by every officer and man in the Army and Navy. Excepting the Duke of Wellington, it is probable that no subject ever was the object of such fervent enthusiasm; and many men would have lived amidst the whirl of adulation. But Chatham liked best to remain in the sweet quiet country; and the story of his life at Lyme Regis is in reality a beautiful poem.

Why did this imperial, overbearing, all-powerful man love to stay in retirement when all Europe was waiting for his word? Why did he spend days in sauntering in country lanes, and chatting during quiet evenings with one loved friend alone? That question goes to the root of my subject. Chatham was happily married; when he was torn by bitter rage and disappointment, when his sovereign repulsed him, and when not even the passionate love of an entire nation availed to further the ends on which the Titan had set his heart, he carried his sorrow with him, and drew comfort from the goodness of the sweet soul who was his true mate. It is a very sweet picture; and we see in history how the softening home influence finally converted the, awful, imposing, tyrannical Chatham into a yielding, fascinating man.