Recently, while studying the notes of Charles Darwin for an essay that I am working on, I came across this excellent argument that he waged with himself over the merits of marriage. To read the notes of so great a scientist making a list of the pros and cons of something so personal as marriage is a revealing insight into his most private thoughts. I particularly enjoy the conclusion: “Never mind my boy— Cheer up… There is many a happy slave.”
The argument against marriage:
Freedom to go where one liked— choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs— Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle.— to have the expense & anxiety of children—perhaps quarelling— Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings— fatness & idleness— Anxiety & responsibility— less money for books &c— if many children forced to gain one’s bread.— (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much) Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool—
Children—(if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one,—object to be beloved & played with.— —better than a dog anyhow.— Home, & someone to take care of house— Charms of music & female chit-chat.— These things good for one’s health.— but terrible loss of time. — My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all.— No, no won’t do.— Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House.— Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps— Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.
But if so, then when?
The Governor says soon for otherwise bad if one has children— one’s character is more flexible—one’s feelings more lively & if one does not marry soon, one misses so much good pure happiness.—
But then if I married tomorrow: there would be an infinity of trouble & expense in getting & furnishing a house,—fighting about no Society—morning calls—awkwardness—loss of time every day. (without one’s wife was an angel, & made one keep industrious). Then how should I manage all my business if I were obliged to go every day walking with my wife.— Eheu!! I never should know French,—or see the Continent—or go to America, or go up in a Balloon, or take solitary trip in Wales—poor slave.—you will be worse than a negro— And then horrid poverty, (without one’s wife was better than an angel & had money)— Never mind my boy— Cheer up— One cannot live this solitary life, with groggy old age, friendless & cold, & childless staring one in ones face, already beginning to wrinkle.— Never mind, trust to chance—keep a sharp look out— There is many a happy slave.
Text copied from The Darwin Project