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 Of Marriage and Single Life 

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He that hath wife and children hath given hostages hostages to fortune, for they are impediments impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue virtue or mischief. mischief. Certainly Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded proceeded from the unmarried or childless men, which both in affection affection and means means have married and endowed endowed the public. Yet it were great reason that those that have children should have greatest care of future times, unto which they know they must transmit transmit their dearest pledges. pledges. Some there are who, though they lead a single life, yet their thoughts do end with end with themselves, and account future times impertinences. Nay, there are some others that account wife and children but as bills of charges. Nay more, there are some foolish, rich, covetous men, that take a pride in having no children, because they may be thought so much the richer. For perhaps perhaps they have heard some talk, "Such an one is a great rich man"; and another another except except to it, "Yea, but he hath a great charge of children," as if it were an abatement abatement to his riches. But the most ordinary cause of a single life is liberty, liberty, especially especially in certain certain self pleasing pleasing and humorous humorous minds, which are so sensible sensible of every restraint restraint as they will go near to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles. shackles. Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants, but not always best subjects, subjects, for they are light to run away, and almost all fugitives fugitives are of that condition. A single life doth well with churchmen, for charity charity will hardly hardly water the ground where it must first fill a pool. It is indifferent indifferent for judges and magistrates, for if they be facile facile and corrupt, you shall have a servant five times worse than a wife. For soldiers, I find the generals commonly in their hortatives put men in mind of their wives and children; and I think the despising despising of marriage amongst the Turks maketh the vulgar vulgar soldier more base. Certainly Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means means are less exhaust, exhaust, yet on the other side they are more cruel and hard hearted (good to make severe severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so often often called upon. Grave Grave natures, led by custom, custom, and therefore constant, are commonly loving husbands; as was said of Ulysses, "Vetulam suam praetulit immortalitati."* Chaste Chaste women are often often proud and forward, as presuming presuming upon the merit of their chastity. It is one of the best bonds both of chastity and obedience obedience in the wife if she think her husband wise, which she will never do if she find him jealous. jealous. Wives are young men's mistresses, companions companions for middle age, and old men's nurses; so as a man may have a quarrel quarrel to marry when he will. But yet he was reputed one of the wise men that made answer to the question, when a man should marry: "A young man not yet, an elder man not at all." It is often often seen that bad husbands have very good wives, whether it be that it raiseth the price of their hushand's kindness when it comes, or that the wives take a pride in their patience. But this never fails if the bad husbands were of their own choosing, against their friends' consent, consent, for then they will be sure to make good their own folly.


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