Charles Darwin on Marriage


On Facebook, the Paris Review noted that “Prior to proposing to Emma Wedgwood, Charles Darwin did a cost-benefit analysis of marriage, with one of the deficits listed as “less money for books.” I went looking for the original quote and since the webpage that they linked to has an atrocious typeface, I’m moving it over to here. So my eyes can stop bleeding.
This is the question
Children—(if it Please God)—Constant companion (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one—object to be beloved and played with—better than a dog anyhow. Home, & someone to take care of house—Charms of music and 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 solitary 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’ Street.
Not Marry
Freedom to go where one liked—choice of Society and little of it. —Conversation of clever men at clubs—Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. —to have the expense and anxiety of children—perhaps quarreling—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 won’t like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool.
Marry—Marry—Marry Q.E.D.
It being proved necessary to Marry When? Soon or late?
— Charles Darwin
Notes on Marriage, July 1838. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1837-1843 (1986), Vol. 2, 444.

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Filed under Quotes, Relationships

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