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Getting Married

Preface
The Revolt Against Marriage
There is no subject on which more dangerous nonsense is talked and thought
than marriage. If the mischief stopped at talking and thinking it would be bad
enough; but it goes further, into disastrous anarchical action. Because our
marriage law is inhuman and unreasonable to the point of downright
abomination, the bolder and more rebellious spirits form illicit unions, defiantly
sending cards round to their friends announcing what they have done. Young
women come to me and ask me whether I think they ought to consent to marry
the man they have decided to live with; and they are perplexed and astonished
when I, who am supposed (heaven knows why!) to have the most advanced
views attainable on the subject, urge them on no account to compromize
themselves without the security of an authentic wedding ring. They cite the
example of George Eliot, who formed an illicit union with Lewes. They quote a
saying attributed to Nietzsche, that a married philosopher is ridiculous, though
the men of their choice are not philosophers. When they finally give up the idea
of reforming our marriage institutions by private enterprise and personal
righteousness, and consent to be led to the Registry or even to the altar, they
insist on first arriving at an explicit understanding that both parties are to be
perfectly free to sip every flower and change every hour, as their fancy may
dictate, in spite of the legal bond. I do not observe that their unions prove less
monogamic than other people's: rather the contrary, in fact; consequently, I do
not know whether they make less fuss than ordinary people when either party
claims the benefit of the treaty; but the existence of the treaty shews the same
anarchical notion that the law can be set aside by any two private persons by the
simple process of promising one another to ignore it.
Marriage Nevertheless Inevitable
Now most laws are, and all laws ought to be, stronger than the strongest
individual. Certainly the marriage law is. The only people who successfully evade
it are those who actually avail themselves of its shelter by pretending to be
married when they are not, and by Bohemians who have no position to lose and
no career to be closed. In every other case open violation of the marriage laws
means either downright ruin or such inconvenience and disablement as a
prudent man or woman would get married ten times over rather than face. And
these disablements and inconveniences are not even the price of freedom; for,
as Brieux has shewn so convincingly in Les Hannetons, an avowedly illicit union
is often found in practice to be as tyrannical and as hard to escape from as the
worst legal one.
 
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