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On Falling In Love Post by :Stan45 Category :Essays Author :A. G. Gardiner Date :October 2011 Read :1946

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On Falling In Love

Do not, if you please, imagine that this title foreshadows some piquant personal revelation. "Story! God bless you, I have none to tell, sir." I have not fallen in love for quite a long time, and, looking in the glass and observing what Holmes calls "Time's visiting cards" on my face and hair, I come to the conclusion that I shall never enjoy the experience again. I may say with Mr. Kipling's soldier that

That's all shuv be'ind me
Long ago and fur away.

But just as poetry, according to Wordsworth, is emotion recalled in tranquillity, so it is only when you have left the experience of falling in love behind that you are really competent to describe it or talk about it with the necessary philosophic detachment.

Now of course there is no difficulty about falling in love. Any one can do that. The difficulty is to know when the symptoms are true or false. So many people mistake the symptoms, and only discover when it is too late that they have never really had the true experience. Hence the overtime in the Divorce Court. Hence, too, the importance of "calf love," which serves as a sort of apprenticeship to the mystery, and enables you to discriminate between the substance and the shadow.

And in "calf love" I do not include the adumbrations of extreme childhood like those immortalised in Annabel Lee:--

I was a child and she was a child
In that kingdom by the sea.

* * * * *

But we loved with a love that was more than love,
I and my Annabel Lee.

I know that love. I had it when I was eight. "She" was also eight, and she had just come from India. She was frightfully plain, but then--well, she had come from India. She had all the romance of India's coral strand about her, and it was India's coral strand that I was in love with. Moreover, she was a soldier's daughter, and to be a soldier's daughter was, next to being a soldier, the noblest thing in the world. For that was about the time when, under the inspiration of The Story of the Hundred Days, I had set out with a bag containing a nightshirt and a toothbrush to enlist in the Black Watch. (It was a forlorn adventure that went no further than the railway station.) Finally she had given me, as a token of her love, Poor Little Gaspard's Drum, wherein I read of Napoleon and the Egyptian desert, and, above all, of the Mamelukes. How that word thrilled me! "The Mamelukes!" What could one do but fall in love with a girl who used such incantations?

But this is not the true calf love. That comes with the down upon the lip. People laugh at "calf love," but one might as well laugh at the wonder of dawn or the coming of spring. When David Copperfield fell in love with the eldest Miss Larkins, he was really in love with the opening universe, and the eldest Miss Larkins happened to be the only available lightning conductor for his emotion.

The important thing is that you should contract "calf love" while you are young. It is like the measles, which is harmless enough in childhood, but apt to be dangerous when you are grown up. The "calf love" of an elderly man is always a disaster. Hence the saying, "There's no fool like an old fool." An elderly man should not fall in love. He should walk into it. He should survey the ground carefully as Mr. Barkis did. That admirable man took the business of falling in love seriously:

"'So she makes,' said Mr. Barkis, after a long interval of reflection, 'all the apple parsties, and does all the cooking, do she?'

"I replied that such was the fact.

"'Well, I'll tell you what,' said Mr. Barkis. 'P'raps you might be writin' to her?'

"'I shall certainly write to her,' I rejoined.

"'Ah!' he said, slowly turning his eyes towards me. 'Well! If you was writin' to her, p'raps you'd recollect to say that Barkis was willin', would you?'"

This is a model of caution in the art of middle-aged love-making. The mistake of the "Northern Farmer" was that he applied the same middle-aged caution to youth. "Doaent thou marry for munny; but goae wheer munny is," he said to his son Sammy, who wanted to marry the poor parson's daughter. And he held up his own love-making as an inspiration for Sammy:

And I went wheer munny wor, and thy moother coom to and
Wi' lots o' munny laaeid by, and a nicetish bit o' land.
Maybe she worn'd a beauty: I nivver giv' it a thowt;
But worn'd she as good to cuddle and kiss as a lass as an't nowt?

I have always hoped that Sammy rejected his father's counsel and stuck to the poor parson's daughter.

There is no harm of course in marrying money. George Borrow said that there were worse ways of making a fortune than marrying one. And perhaps it is true, though I don't think Borrow's experience was very convincing. I have known people who "have gone where money was" and have fallen honestly and rapturously into love, but you have got to be very sure that money in such a case is not the motive. If it is the penalty never fails to follow. Mr. Bumble married Mrs. Corney for "six teaspoons, a pair of sugar tongs, and a milk-pot, with a small quantity of secondhand furniture and twenty pounds in money." And in two months he regretted his bargain and admitted that he had gone "dirt cheap." "Only two months to-morrow," he said. "It seems a age."

Those who believe in "love at first sight" take the view that marriages are made in heaven and that we only come to earth to fulfil our destiny. Johnson, who was an excellent husband to the elderly Mrs. Porter, scoffed at that view and held that love is only the accident of circumstance. But though that is the sensible view, there are cases like those of Dante and Beatrice and Abelard and Heloise, in which the passion does seem to touch the skies. In those cases, however, it rarely ends happily. A more hum-drum way of falling in love seems better fitted to earthly conditions. The method of Sir Thomas More was perhaps the most original on record. He preferred the second of three sisters and was about to marry her when it occurred to him--But let me quote the words in which Roper, his son-in-law, records the incident:

"And all beit his mynde most served him to the seconde daughter, for that he thoughte her the fayrest and best favoured, yet when he considered that it woulde be bothe great griefe and some shame alsoe to the eldest to see her yonger sister in mariage preferred before her, he then of a certeyn pittye framed his fancye towardes her, and soon after maryed her."

It was love to order, yet there was never a more beautiful home life than that of which this most perfect flower of the English race was the centre.

In short, there is no formula for falling in love. Each one does it as the spirit moves.

(The end)
A. G. Gardiner's essay: On Falling In Love

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