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Some American Husbands
by [?]

Until the beginning of this century men played the beau rôle in life’s comedy. As in the rest of the animal world, our males were the brilliant members of the community, flaunting their gaudy plumage at home and abroad, while the women-folk remained in seclusion, tending their children, directing the servants, or ministering to their lords’ comfort.

In those happy days the husband ruled supreme at his own fireside, receiving the homage of the family, who bent to his will and obeyed his orders.

During the last century, however, the “part” of better half has become less and less attractive in America, one prerogative after another having been whisked away by enterprising wives. Modern Delilahs have yearly snipped off more and more of Samson’s luxuriant curls, and added those ornaments to their own coiffures, until in the majority of families the husband finds himself reduced to a state of bondage compared with which the biblical hero enjoyed a pampered idleness. Times have indeed changed in America since the native chief sat in dignified repose bedizened with all the finery at hand, while the ladies of the family waited tremblingly upon him. To-day it is the American husband who turns the grindstone all the year round, and it is his pretty tyrant who enjoys the elegant leisure that a century ago was considered a masculine luxury.

To America must be given the credit of having produced the model husband, a new species, as it were, of the genus homo.

In no rôle does a compatriot appear to such advantage as in that of Benedict. As a boy he is often too advanced for his years or his information; in youth he is conspicuous neither for his culture nor his unselfishness. But once in matrimonial harness this untrained animal becomes bridle-wise with surprising rapidity, and will for the rest of life go through his paces, waltzing, kneeing, and saluting with hardly a touch of the whip. Whether this is the result of superior horse-womanship on the part of American wives or a trait peculiar to sons of “Uncle Sam,” is hard to say, but the fact is self-evident to any observer that our fair equestrians rarely meet with a rebellious mount.

Any one who has studied marital ways in other lands will realize that in no country have the men effaced themselves so gracefully as with us. In this respect no foreign production can compare for a moment with the domestic article. In English, French, and German families the husband is still all-powerful. The house is mounted, guests are asked, and the year planned out to suit his occupations and pleasure. Here papa is rarely consulted until such matters have been decided upon by the ladies, when the head of the house is called in to sign the checks.

I have had occasion more than once to bewail the shortcomings of the American man, and so take pleasure in pointing out the modesty and good temper with which he fills this role. He is trained from the beginning to give all and expect nothing in return, an American girl rarely bringing any dot to her husband, no matter how wealthy her family may be. If, as occasionally happens, an income is allowed a bride by her parents, she expects to spend it on her toilets or pleasures. This condition of the matrimonial market exists in no other country; even in England, where mariages de convenance are rare, “settlements” form an inevitable prelude to conjugal bliss.

The fact that she contributes little or nothing to the common income in no way embarrasses an American wife; her pretensions are usually in an inverse proportion to her personal means. A man I knew some years ago deliberately chose his bride from an impecunious family (in the hope that her simple surroundings had inculcated homely taste), and announced to an incredulous circle of friends, at his last bachelor dinner, that he intended, in future, to pass his evenings at his fireside, between his book and his pretty spouse. Poor, innocent, confiding mortal! The wife quickly became a belle of the fastest set in town. Having had more than she wanted of firesides and quiet evenings before her marriage, her idea was to go about as much as possible, and, when not so occupied, to fill her house with company. It may be laid down as a maxim in this connection that a man marries to obtain a home, and a girl to get away from one; hence disappointment on both sides.