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October 29, 2020

1891 Advice on How and Why (Not) to Marry

“Don’t Marry” – This fun book, which offered young lovers advice on wise courtship, was one of a series of dime novels printed and sold cheaply in New York City by the J.S. Ogilvie Publishing Company in the late 19th century. It’s recently been digitized by Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library.

The advices including some gems as “Don’t marry a foreigner”, “Don’t marry odd sizes”,  and “Don’t marry a drunkard”...


Here are some highlights:

Don’t marry for beauty merely. Very few have a supply that would last a full dozen years in a married life that should continue for three decades. And, more than that, beauty is not the only requisite to happiness. Very handsome people are almost always vain, often exacting, and generally live on their form, paying little or no attention to the rarer qualities of manhood or womanhood. If one seek beauty alone, he will find it in the fields and flowers and gardens, in paintings, art works, and things of nature; while the real pleasures of life may be found in a thousand ways outside of the worship of beauty.

Don’t marry a man for money. If money is your real object, the older and uglier he is, the better; for nothing should come between you and the chosen idol of your affection. If you marry one for his money, he will find it out shortly.


Don’t marry a very small man—a little fellow far below all proportion; try to get some form to admire, something to shape things to, and some one who is not lost in a crowd completely, who is too little to admire and too small for beauty. You may need strong arms and brave hands to protect you. You will need hands to provide for and maintain you, and a good form is a fine beginning of manhood or womanhood.

Don’t marry a villain. Many a girl is ripe for an adventure, and in appearance nothing more resembles an angel than a keen and designing villain—a thoroughbred; not a gambler merely, but worse, a wreck! Such men may be wary, artful, deceitful, attractive. They are crafty; their trade compels it. They may be handsome, often so; they may be oily and slick—most of them are. They may live rich and expensive lives for a season; ill-gotten gains are not lasting. Heaven pity the girl that marries one of these adventurers, for the end is bitterness!

Don’t marry a hypocrite. Of all things get sincerity. Get the genuine article. If you get a hypocrite, he is brass jewelry, and will easily tarnish. Make careful inquiry, see that he is all that he pretends to be, or never trust him. The habit of deceit is one of a lifetime.

Don’t marry a woman for her money. These people are tenacious to a minute degree. They long to remind you of my house, my property, my farm, my lots on Lincoln Avenue, my furniture, my bank account, and the like—making one a pensioner all his life for his board and clothing. If there is any difference, it should be with the man. He is expected to control property. He is the master of his house, or the manager of his expenses. Very naturally he says “my” store or “my” lots, but it will sound far more fair and considerate even if he says “our” in lieu of “my” sometimes.

Don’t marry a drunkard. He will promise, by all that’s good, great, and holy, to reform. How many more like him have made just such promises? He can’t keep such a promise if he would. Make him reform a couple of years at least, on trial, before you marry him. It will be time enough then to risk a life-partnership, to chain your hopes to an unfortunate creature whose sense and judgment are corrupted, not by will, perhaps, but by habit stronger than reason. With most men this habit becomes a desire. They are bound to feed the fire that burns them. They have no voice in the matter, and cannot, if they would, break the strong fetters that bind them in irons, like the prison bars confine their victims.


Don’t marry a foreigner,—one who comes from a far-away country and returns to it. It is very uncertain; think ahead carefully. The new and strange customs of his country may and may not be congenial. They may be a dreary dream of home and early separation. Think of the ties of friendship, the cords of affection twined and woven around your nature; ties that are not severed without many pangs of sorrow. Life is a short, strange journey, and, make it when we will or where we will, it is pleasant to be made with company. Those who know us best will love us most if we deserve it, and few will continue on in friendship long after we go to strange and unknown countries. A stranger neighbor soon comes nearer than a long-absent friend whom we never hear from.

Don’t marry your cousin. It may be very tempting; relatives are often warmly attached to each other from long and intimate acquaintance. Remember that constantly thrown in each other’s society will often create such attachments. With many persons, marriage of blood relations will more or less lead to deafness, blindness, or deformity. It may skip one generation and find another. It may result in disease and weakness. It may be all right, but seven to eight it is risky and uncertain, and you can’t afford to be uncertain in such matters.

Don’t marry a doubly divorced man or woman: it’s risky. Something is wrong surely. One divorce should cure any one. Two is a profusion. It may be that the doubly divorced is innocent,—he will claim to be; but if he seeks a new party to a possible divorce case (it will be a habit by this time), tell him to wait a little longer. Grass widows may be very lovable creatures, but unless their other halves were clearly blamable, beyond reasonable question, give them a wide road and avoid them entirely. It is a very bad sign, possibly a habit, that a man and woman mate and divide soon after; the fault may belong to either, and most likely relates to both, in similar proportions.


Don’t marry a miser. Of all the old “curmudgeons” on earth, deliver me from crabbed, narrow-minded, pinch-penny, miserable misers. They begrudge you your meals and clothing. They count your shillings and control your pin purchases; they make life a burden, by owning much and using little, and eternally twit you of every quarter used ever so sparingly.

Don’t marry odd sizes. A tall man with a little woman looks awkward enough; but a tall woman with a little, tiny man is a misfit, surely. 

Don’t marry a clown. A silly fellow that jokes on every subject never did amount to anything, and never will. All he says may be very funny, very; but how many times can he be funny?


Don’t marry a man of even doubtful character. No matter how handsome or brilliant, a bad man has in him elements that are always repulsive; they are poison to his blood and his surroundings, and the only safe guide is his character.

Don’t marry a man too poor. It is the height of folly to mate, and attempt to raise seven children on what will bring up three indifferently. Have a little discretion. Think that eating, dressing, etc., cost something, and no one can live happily without some of these common comforts. If they cannot buy them single, it is folly to double one’s misery by marrying in the jaws of starvation. It is suicide: it is worse,—it is double suicide, and may lead to pauperism and crime and disgrace.

Don’t marry a crank. This class of men will be wordy and persuasive. They tell all sorts of stories of life,—how the world is mismade; how they could improve upon this thing or that; how marriages should be made between blondes and brunettes; how, with their philosophy, society would reach perfection.


Don’t marry without love. It will be plain enough after a while. You will not mind it at first, perhaps, but the time will come when, by a song, or a face, or a voice, or a form, you will awake as from a dream, to find you have chosen carelessly. It will be too late then. A loveless marriage may stand throughout a honeymoon. It may last in youth, but not when storms and trials come in after-years. It lacks that something which words do not well express,—continuity, heart-bound devotion, and endurance.

Don’t marry a stingy man; of all narrow, mean men, he is worst who has money, and has no will to do good with it. A “dog-in-the-manger” man, who can improve his town, his church, his neighborhood, and does not, is a drone in life’s hive and deserves no success.

Don’t marry a silly girl. It’s something of an art to select a sensible person, but many are captivated by frivolous sayings and coquettish acts of simpering school-girls and marry them. They make better playmates than wives. They are generally shallow, nonsensical, and superficial. They seldom learn anything; a tittering girl is wearisome in real life. They are ever unstable as water and changeable as wind; get some one that you can rely upon in confidence.

Do marry a President. That is the correct form now. It’s so romantic. Waive all the hints of other objections,—age, love, spite, money, and the like. Get a President,—just for the position, you know!





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