Women

My father may have had problems with the post about same-sex marriage, but my mother, Ellen, who was born on this day in 1923, would appreciate H. L. Mencken’s view of marriage (minus the cocktails):

Every man, I daresay, has his own notion of what constitutes perfect peace and contentment, but all of those notions, despite the fundamental conflict of the sexes, revolve around women. As for me — and I hope I may be pardoned, at this late stage in my inquiry, for intruding my own personality–I reject the two commonest of them: passion, at least in its more adventurous and melodramatic aspects, is too exciting and alarming for so indolent a man, and I am too egoistic to have much desire to be mothered. What, then, remains for me? Let me try to describe it to you.

It is the close of a busy and vexatious day–say half past five or six o’clock of a winter afternoon. I have had a cocktail or two, and am stretched out on a divan in front of a fire, smoking. At the edge of the divan, close enough for me to reach her with my hand, sits a woman not too young, but still good-looking and well-dressed–above all, a woman with a soft, low-pitched, agreeable voice. As I snooze she talks–of anything, everything, all the things that women talk of: books, music, the play, men, other women. No politics. No business. No religion. No metaphysics. Nothing challenging and vexatious–but remember, she is intelligent; what she says is clearly expressed, and often picturesquely. I observe the fine sheen of her hair, the pretty cut of her frock, the glint of her white teeth, the arch of her eye-brow, the graceful curve of her arm. I listen to the exquisite murmur of her voice. Gradually I fall asleep–but only for an instant. At once, observing it, she raises her voice ever so little, and I am awake. Then to sleep again–slowly and charmingly down that slippery hill of dreams. And then awake again, and then asleep again, and so on.

I ask you seriously: could anything be more unutterably beautiful? (In Defense of Women, 207-208)

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51 thoughts on “Women

  1. “If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.”

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  2. Ok funny , sortof

    but ‘observing this’ statement, “Every man, I daresay, has his own notion of what constitutes perfect peace and contentment,”

    ‘she may raise her voice ever so little’ and say “but the truth is, true contentment is not circumstance-dependence and is “ an inward, quiet spirit that joyfully submits to God’s providence”

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  3. “…Then to sleep again–slowly and charmingly down that slippery hill of dreams.”

    Love it – the man certainly had a wonderful way of expressing things.

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  4. a period, Mencken captures it and you botch it. I thought the gospel was supposed to have the opposite effect?

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  5. Also, he identifies the age-old struggle of men: to not always talk about politics, business, religion, and metaphysics.

    No politics. No business. No religion. No metaphysics

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  6. Was he the one who (sort of said) the reason a man remains a bachelor, although eligible, is that no woman who is passably attractive to him has made it a priority in her life to marry him??

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  7. Muddy,

    That man was one for the ages.

    Actually found a few sermons of his online and listened to them recently.

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  8. He actually was really good at giving Scriptural arguments against Catholicism. His revivalism was a bit out of whack, though, at least for my taste.

    Him and Doug around at the same time was a bit much.

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  9. But we read Richard and Doug.

    Ignoring the three that take up about 95% of the volume on here doesn’t make it better.

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  10. Funny that HLM wrote that 5 years before he met Sara Haardt whom he would later marry. While some of the observations are typically penetrating, it is still a somewhat naive view – the voice of one approaching late bachelordom who has had limited romantic interaction with real women. But that’s Mencken in general – a keen observer, not a participant. This may sound like an odd comparison, but in this way he reminds me of Henry James.

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  11. Actually, most of the comments have been fairly positive and upbeat. After reading the Menchen paragraph I had expected to see quotes from Robert Burns, either his “Epitaph on a Henpecked Country Squire” or “The Henpecked Husband.” Y’all done right good.

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  12. Menken is to be lauded for his eloquence, but I am more of the Pat Benetar school – Love is a Battlefield… Ironically so is OldLife

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  13. Zrim: “a period, I thought the gospel was supposed to have the opposite effect?”

    It sounds like maybe you do agree that ‘the gospel’ ought help sort things out ?

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  14. So, the comment thread reads: Jed Paschall on Women. Is this a primer? Is it a T.V. offer for $19.95/mo.? Is your wife aware of the situation? Does it come with a money back guarantee? Is it video from college? Dirk Paschall would be a better name.

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  15. (Erik silently agreeing that wives are awesome except when they learn that you’ve gotten back on Old Life and have to pay a fine…)

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  16. sean,

    I’m just lucky there weren’t camera phones and YouTube when I was in college, it was hard enough tricking my wife into marrying me.

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  17. Erik, I’ve got the feeling that your wife is soon to be quite rich unless you can renegotiate the fine system.

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  18. I’m appreciating little a’s occasional attempts to be light-hearted and collegial. He’s still turrible at it, but he’s trying. But I think he just sinned by calling Muddy a fool.

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  19. cw, if I really liked Broadchurch, what should I watch next? Luther, Wallander, Happy Valley, or The Killing?

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  20. Luther is a bit modern for me. I love all the Wallanders — I’d say go straight to the Swedish version. You’ll figure out quickly if it’s for you. I’d recommend Bron-Broen, the Swedish-Danish ‘The Bridge’ over The Killing. Haven’t done Happy Valley yet. French cop shows ‘Engrenages’ (Spiral) and Braquo are good but intense, a bit strong for some.

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  21. Walton,

    Seasons 1& 2 of “The Killing” (really just one season) rock. The magic is gone by season 3.

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  22. Ignore Chortles. He’s overcompensating for his bad breeding. Rumor has it his ancestors used to fight skunks.

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  23. Zrim: a period, have you ever heard of sarcasm (speaking of Mencken)?

    sarcasm, don’t know, Zrim, maybe more like passive aggressive, depends I guess

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  24. CW: a., “passive-aggressive” is a secular psychological term. I’m shocked, shocked that you would stoop to such.”

    ok cw…..you’re right… Jesus ‘splained it to us using a different word here, and long before any psychologist

    Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, “Was I not joking?” Proverbs 26: 18-19

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  25. Erik :Jesus wrote Proverbs?

    for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1: 21

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  26. Hey now, someone is going to hurt my feelings one of these days………….. Ok, so, I won’t get my feelings hurt but it’s still not right ‘cuz a. isn’t funny. And I know funny. Funny-ha ha, not Caitlyn funny. Though there was some moments in Jr. Seminary where I slept lightly if at all. “Whrrr, whrrr, whrrr, screech, clunk, whrrr, whrrr. Robert, Robert are you there? He’s coming! Sheet.” Plus, it’s sometimes necessary to take roll call of the prudes.

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  27. a, first you deny the law/gospel distinction and now you deny intra-trinitarian distinctions. Does your theology consist of 1) believe in God, and 2) be good?

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