It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
A “truth universally acknowledged”—not, then, pertaining only to gentlemen of Georgian England, but to men of all classes, in all societies, in all time periods. His “fortune,” his wealth, the material manifestation of his burgeoning sexual capital, is the currency of courtship.
As is usually the case with capital, sexual capital does no good sitting on the sidelines. At rest, it atrophies through time. It demands to be spent, invested, transacted in the sexual economy, creating wealth of love. It demands to be risked. Since fortune is fickle, prudence demands timely investment.
Possessing a fortune or not, inscribed on man’s soul is the desire to make some woman his wife. There is no stronger impulse than to risk his sexual capital, large or small, for marriage, except perhaps the impulse to avoid that risk, to cling to himself rather than to his wife.
Why is this so? To what common denominator of male nature does marriage appeal? Is it his desire for respectability in his social circle? Is it his desire for children, an heir to pass his fortune to?
No, no. These material ends are insufficient reasons to get married, much less stay married. Respectability the single man can do without. Children are benefits, sometimes accidents, of marriage, whose creation is more at his wife’s discretion than his. As for his fortune, he’d much rather spend it on himself in his twilit years.
Unless he changed. Unless a spirit, as timeless and rooted in nature as gravity, took hold of him and caused him to rethink everything. Love. Not lust to be quenched at the price of marriage, but love.
The contradiction of his life answered. The gaping ache in his side, from whence God made woman, filled. The breach between himself and his wild, passionate nature, bound up in his wilting body, healed by commitment unto death.
A lifemate, a partner, a wife.
Further reading: “Marriage promise.”