The Letters of William Cullen Bryant - Vol. 1

By William Cullen Bryant II; Thomas G. Voss et al. | Go to book overview

Hail wedded love mysterious law true Source Of human offspring sole propriety. 2

Marriage is a lottery--and little does one know when he chuses the number of his ticket whether it draw a blank or a prize. He may have some particular partiality for the number--he may have dreamed about it. I will not disturb your felicity on this occasion with many unlucky reflections of my own upon the subject of marriage. Though I have always felt a secret horrour at the idea of connecting my future fortunes with those of any woman on earth yet I reverence the institution which had its origin in paradise, and without which Eden was not happy. 3

You, I suppose, with your accustomed judgement, have made choice of the future companion of your life rather for solid than showy qualities, you have wisely reflected that woman was formed for domestic life that her husband's fireside is the only place where she should be ambitious to shine--that home is her province--and that, in proportion to her usefulness, there is the real value of her character-- May God bless your union & crown it with an offspring who shall be a blessing to the world.--

[unsigned]

MANUSCRIPT: NYPL-GR (draft).

1.
It is evident that this letter and the one dated April 17, 1818, are intended for the same recipient. He is identified conjecturally as George Downes, because of Bryant's comment, "Your claims are superiour to those of any other," and because they had in all probability met at Cummington or Worthington the previous October.
2.
Paradise Lost IV.750-751.
3.
Bryant's first letter to his future wife, Frances Fairchild, two weeks later (Letter 38) suggests he may himself have been contemplating marriage just then.

37. To John E. Howard1

Great Barrington 25 March 1817

My dear Sir

Yours of the 27 of Dec. I received and read with great pleasure. It was the the first letter that has reached me from Bridgewater since I left it--a period of nearly two years. Yet there was one part of it which, while it equally excited and disappointed my curiosity, gave me some alarm. You inform me that you are------. How shall I understand this------? What meaning shall I give this blank? It made my blood run cold in every vein and my hair rise "like quills upon the fretful porcupine"2 when I reflected that the word "married" might complete the sentence, and possibly give the meaning so mysteriously withheld-- Dii omen avertant! 3 Yet, if there was no special enormity behind the curtain, it seems to me that you might have spoken out--and you would do me great injustice to suppose that I should not be very much gratified to know any circumstance relating to your present situation, In your next I shall ex

-67-

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