On Falling in
Love by Amelia
An Extract From
~ Maids Wives
Something there is moves me to love; and I
Do know I love, but know not how, or why.
There is in love no wherefore; and we scarcely expect it. The
working-world around must indeed give us an account of their actions,
but lovers are not worth much in the way of rendering a reason; for
half the charm of love-making lies in the defiance of everything that
is reasonable, in asserting the incredible, and in believing the
impossible. And surely we may afford ourselves this little bit of
glamour in an age judging everything by the unconditional and the
positive; we may make little escapades into love-land, when all the old
wonder-lands, from the equator to the pole, are being mapped out, and
dotted over with railway depots, and ports of entry.
Falling in love is an eminently impractical piece of business, and
yet Naturewho is no blunderergenerally introduces the boy and girl
into active adult life by this very door. In the depths of this
delicious foolishness the boyish heart grows to the measure of manhood;
bats and boats and fellows are forever deposed, and lovely woman
reigns in their stead. To boys, first love is, perhaps, more of an
event than to girls, for the latter have become familiar with the
routine of love-making long before they are seriously in love. They
sing about it in connection with flowers and angels and the moon; they
read Moore and Tennyson; they have perhaps been the confidants of elder
sisters. They are waiting for their lover, and even inclined to be
critical; but the first love of a boy is generally a surprisehe is
taken unawares, and surrenders at discretion.
Perhaps it is a good stimulant to faith in general, that in the very
outset of it we should believe in such an unreasonable and wonderful
thing as first love. Tertullian held some portions of his faith simply
because they were impossible. It is no bad thing for a man to begin
life with a grand passion,to imagine that no one ever loved before
him, and that no one who comes after him will ever love to the same
degree that he does.
This absolute passion, however, is not nearly so common as it might
well be; and Rochefoucauld was not far wrong when he compared it to the
ghosts that every one talks about, but very few see. It generally
arises out of extreme conditions of circumstances or feelings; its food
is contradiction and despair. It is doubtful if Romeo and Juliet would
have cared much for each other if the Montagues and Capulets had been
friends and allies, and the marriage of their children a necessary
State arrangement; and Byron is supported by all reasonable evidence
when he doubtfully inquires:
If Laura, think you, had been Petrarch's wife,
Would he have written sonnets all his life?
This excessive passion does not thrive well either in a high state
of civilization. King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid is the ballad of
an age when love really ruled the court, the camp, the grove. The
nineteenth century is not such an age. At the very best, King Cophetua
would now do pretty much as the judge did with regard to Maud Muller.
Still no one durst say that even in such a case it was not better to
have loved and relinquished than never to have loved at all.
Better for all that some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes.
How can love be the be-all and the end-all of life with us, when
steam-looms and litigation, railway shares and big bonanzas, cotton and
corn, literature and art, politics and dry goods, and a thousand other
interests share our affections and attentions? It is impossible that
our life should be the mere machinery of a love plot; it is rather a
drama in which love is simply one of the dramatis personæ.
This fact is well understood, even if not acknowledged in words; the
sighs and the fevers, the hoarding of flowers and gloves, the broken
hearts and shattered lives, all for the sake of one sweet face, still
exist in literature, but not much in life. Lovers of to-day are more
given to considering how to make housekeeping as easy as matrimony than
to writing sonnets to their mistresses' eyebrows. The very devotion of
ancient times would now be tedious, its long protestations a bore, and
we lovers of the nineteenth century would be very apt to yawn in the
very face of a sixteenth-century Cupid. Let the modern lover try one of
Amadis' long speeches to his lady, and she would likely answer, Don't
be tiresome, Jack; let us go to Thomas' and hear the music and eat an
Is love, then, in a state of decay? By no meansit has merely
accommodated itself to the spirit of the age; and this spirit demands
that the lives of men shall be more affected by Hymen than by Cupid.
Lovers interest society now solely as possible husbands and wives,
fathers and mothers of the republic. Lord Lytton points out this fact
as forcibly exemplified in our national dramas. Every one feels the
love scenes in a play, the sentimental dialogues of the lovers,
fatiguing; but a matrimonial quarrel excites the whole audience, and it
sheds its pleasantest tears over their reconciliation. For few persons
in any audience ever have made, or ever will make, love as poets do;
but the majority have had, or will have, quarrels and reconciliations
with their wives.
Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten thembut not
for love; and if this was true of Shakespeare's times, it is doubly so
of ours. If there ever was any merit in dying for love, we fail to see
it; occasionally a man will wildly admit that he is making a fool of
himself for this or that woman, but though we may pity him, we don't
respect him for such a course. Women, still more rarely than men, make
fools of themselves on this score; and in spite of all poets assert to
the contrary, they are eminently reasonable, and their affections bear
In other respects we quite ignore the inflation of old love terms.
Our fate, our destiny, etc., resolve themselves into the simplest
and most natural of events; a chat on a rainy afternoon, a walk home in
the moonlight, mere contiguity for a season, are the agents which often
decide our love affairs. And yet, below all this, lies that
inexplicable something which seems to place this bit of our lives
beyond our wisest thoughts. We can't fall in love to order, and all our
reasoning on the subject resolves itself into a conviction that under
certain inexplicable conditions, it is possible for anybody to fall in
love with anybody else.
Perhaps this is a part of what Artemus Ward calls the cussedness
of things in general; but at any rate we must admit that if like
attracts like, it attracts unlike too. The scholar marries the foolish
beauty; the beauty marries an ugly man, and admires him. Poverty
intensifies itself by marrying poverty; plenty grows plethoric by
marrying wealth. But how far love is to blame for these strange
attractions, who can tell? Probably a great deal that passes for love
is only reflected self-love, the passion to acquire what is generally
admired or desired. Thus beautiful women are often married as the most
decorous way of gratifying male vanity. A pleasant anecdote, as the
Scotch say, anent this view, is told of the Duc de Guise, who
after a long courtship prevailed on a celebrated beauty to grant him
her hand. The lady observing him very restless, asked what ailed him.
Ah, madame, answered the lover, I ought to have been off long ago to
communicate my good fortune to all my friends.
But the motives and influences that go to make up so highly complex
an emotion as love are beyond even indication, though the subject has
been a tempting one to most philosophical writers. Even Comte descends
from the positive and unconditional to deify the charmingly erratic
feminine principle; Michelet, after forty volumes of history, rests and
restores himself by penning a book on love; the pale, religious Pascal,
terrified at the vastness of his own questions, comforts himself by an
analysis of the same passion; and Herbert Spencer has gone con amore
into the same subject. But love laughs at philosophy, and delights in
making fools of the wise for its sake.
It is easy to construct a theory, but the first touch of a white
hand may demolish it; easy to make resolutions, but the first glance of
a pair of bright eyes may send them packing. It is easy for men to be
philosophers, when they are not lovers; but when once they fall in love
there is no distinction then between the fool and the wise man.
However, we can be thankful that love no longer demands such outward
and visible tokens of slavery as she used to. In this day lovers
address their mistresses as womennot goddesses. Indeed we should say
now of men who serve women on their knees, When they get up, they