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Excerpt of Orra's Letter Describing the Ideal Wife

Orra wrote to congratulate her friend, Lucy Douglas Fowler, on her recent marriage. Hearing that Lucy admired a particular poem of marital advice, she copied the poem into her letter. Its advice to wives gives insight into what was expected of a good wife during this period. It is a reminder, leavened with a little wit ("It is but seldom husbands bring / a lighter yoke to bear"), that marriage requires respect and love, and that a marriage permeated with God and religion has the best chance of success.

The poem appeared in Godey's Lady's Book, the Christian Nation, the London Tee-Total and Magazine, and Literary Miscellany, and other publications many decades apart through the 19th and into the 20th centuries, but only in one place do the initials "M.S." appear below the title, the only hint of the author's name.

NB: The full text of the poem is included below audio transcription.

Let not dear Lucy now a wife

    Bid all her cares adieu,

    There’s comfort in a married life,

    And those are crosses too.

    I do not wish to mar your mirth

    With an ungrateful sound,

    Yet still remember, bliss on earth

    No mortal ever found.

 

    It is but seldom husbands bring

    A lighter yoke to bear.


    They have their humours & their faults

    So mutable is man-

    Excuse his failings in your thoughts,

    And hide them if you can.

    No anger, no resentment keep,

    Whatever is amiss;

    Be reconciled before you sleep,

    And seal it with a kiss.


    Or if there’s cause to reprimand,

    Do it with mild address;

    Remember he’s thy dearest friend,

    And love him ne’er the less.

   ‘Tis not the way to scold at large,

    Whate’er proud passions boast-

    For those their duty best discharge

    Who condescend the most.


    Since you must both resign your breath,

    And God alone knows when,

    To live that you may part in death

    To meet with joy again,

    So may the Lord your ways approve,

    And grant you both a share

    In his redeeming, saving love,

    And providential care.


(the poem's full text)
Let not dear Lucy now a wife
    Bid all her cares adieu,
    There’s comfort in a married life,
    And those are crosses too.
    I do not wish to mar your mirth
    With an ungrateful sound,
    Yet still remember, bliss on earth
    No mortal ever found.
 
   Your prospects and your hopes are great,
    May God those hopes fulfill–
    But you will find in every state
    Some difficulties still.

    The rite which late has joined your hand
     Cannot insure content,
     Religion forms the strongest band,
     And Love’s the best cement.
     A friendship founded on esteem,
     Life’s battering blasts endures,
     It will not vanish like a dream;
    And such, I hope, is yours.

    But yet, God’s daily blessings crave,
    Nor trust your youthful heart,
    You must divine assistance have
    To act a prudent part.
    Tho’ you have lost a parent’s
    Nor longer ask his care,
    It is but seldom husbands bring
    A lighter yoke to bear.

    They have their humours & their faults
    So mutable is man-
    Excuse his failings in your thoughts,
    And hide them if you can.
    No anger, no resentment keep,
    Whatever is amiss;
    Be reconciled before you sleep,
    And seal it with a kiss.

    Or if there’s cause to reprimand,
    Do it with mild address;
    Remember he’s thy dearest friend,
    And love him ne’er the less.
   ‘Tis not the way to scold at large,
    Whate’er proud passions boast-
    For those their duty best discharge
    Who condescend the most.

    Mutual attempts to serve & please
    Each other will endear,
    Thus you may draw the yoke with ease,
    Nor discord interfere.
    Thus give your tender passions scope,
    Yet better things pursue-
    Be heaven the object of your choice,
    And lead him hither too.

    Since you must both resign your breath,
    And God alone knows when,
    To live that you may part in death
    To meet with joy again,
    So may the Lord your ways approve,
    And grant you both a share
    In his redeeming, saving love,
    And providential care.