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Advice to Young Men

Editorial Note: This essay originally appeared in the November 1886 issue of The Social Circle Journal. The Chesnutt Archive was unable to obtain images of the original publication.

Advice to Young Men

Marriages are getting to be such common, every-year affairs in Cleveland, that I think it might be well to lay down a few rules for the guidance of young men who may be contemplating matrimony. These rules are based on experience,—the experience of other people. I made up my mind to get married some years ago, but haven't had time yet. Every man ought to get married. It is a duty which he owes to himself and to humanity. A married man is a happier man and a very much better citizen than the lonely and selfish bachelor who has nobody to care for, and nobody to care for him. But as marriage is a serious matter, one should be careful to avoid mistakes, and a careful observance of the following rules will prevent a great many serious blunders:

1. Marry early and often. The wisest man that ever lived was perhaps the most striking example of the application of this rule that history affords. Brigham Young and the Mormon elders are far behind him, though they have done the best they could under the circumstances, and deserve credit. In fact it is difficult to see how they could support their families without credit.

There may be difficulties in the practical application of this rule at the present day, but by a frequent change of name and residence, and an occasional resort to the divorce courts, an energetic person can accomplish a good deal.

2. But though early marriages are advisable, it is never too late to marry. M. de Lesseps, the distinguished French engineer, married a blushing school-girl after he had reached the mature age of sixty-eight. This industrious young woman has since presented this vigorous old man with six pledges to their affection. (This item will be news to you if you have not read it before.)

3. Always marry for money. If you cannot find a woman with hard cash, at any rate be sure and pick out one who can make money if occasion should require it. If you should feel a call to preach, if you should adopt literature for a profession, or if a patriotic zeal should draw you into politics, your heart will be lighter, and you can attend to your public duties better when you know that you will get your regular meals, and that the money necessary to keep up the family will be provided by your thrifty spouse. Some men find music teachers, a good investment, others have been successful with milliners and dressmakers; but perhaps the safest thing for a prudent man is a good laundress. The man who marries a first-class laundress need never want bread. In fact I am now hesitating between a Euclid Avenue heir and a washerwoman with a large business.

4. Beware of widows—including grass widows. Knowledge is power.5 Women who know too much are not apt to make good wives. If you marry a tender young creature, whose heart is full of the illusions of youth, and who regards all men as angels, it will be easy to form her to your tastes, and she will get accustomed to your habits without difficulty. You can convince her of the inestimable advantages which you derive from Freemasonry, and she will then be willing to sit up till two o'clock on lodge nights without a murmur. She can be taught to like tobacco smoke, and to believe that you eat cloves for your health.

5. If possible, always marry an orphan. The laws of this country are still crude and imperfect, and in spite of all our boasted nineteeth century civilization, it is still a crime to murder a mother-in-law. By marrying an orphan you will be spared this temptation.

6. If you find it difficult to follow all or any of these rules, you can keep on the safe side by remaining single. Most of our young men seem anxious to keep on the safe side.