Read To Miss Jessie Harcourt of A Woman of the World, free online book, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, on

Regarding Her Marriage with a Poor Young Man

And so there is trouble in the house of Harcourt, my dear Jessie.  You want to marry your intellectual young lover, who has only his pen between him and poverty, and your cruel father, who owns the town, says it is an act of madness on your part, and of presumption on his.

And you are thinking of going to the nearest clergyman and defying parental authority.

You have even looked at rooms where you believe you and Ernest could be ideally happy.  And you want me to act as matron-of-honour at that very informal little wedding.

Now, my dear girl, before you take this important step, give the matter careful study.

Your impulses are beautiful, and your ideal natural and lovely.  God intended men and women to choose their mates in this very way, with no consideration of a worldly nature to mar their happiness.

But civilized young ladies are a far call from God’s primitive woman.  You have lived for twenty-three years in the lap of modern luxury.  Your father prides himself upon the fact that, although your mother died when you were very young, he has carefully shielded you from everything which could cast a shadow upon your name or nature.  Your lover is fascinated with your absolute purity and innocence.  Yet he does not realize that a young woman who has so long “sat in the lap of Luxury,” is unfit to be a poor man’s wife.

Some girl who might know much more than you of the dark and vulgar side of life, would make him a better companion if he could love her enough to ask her hand in marriage.

The girl who has received the addresses of this fascinating old fellow “Luxury,” never quite forgets him, or ceases to bemoan him if she throws him over for a poor man.

To look at two rooms and a bath is one thing, to live in them another, after having all your life occupied a suite which a queen might envy, with retinues of servitors at call.

You tell me you could die for your lover.

But can you bathe from a wash-bowl and pitcher, and can you take your meals at cheap restaurants, and make coffee and toast on an oil-stove or a chafing-dish?

Can you wear cheap clothing and ride in trolleys, and economize on laundry bills to prove your love for this man?

You never have known one single hardship in your life; you never have faced poverty, or even experienced the ordinary economies of well-to-do people.

You are an only daughter of wealth-American wealth.  That sentence conveys a world of meaning. It means that you are spoiled for anything but comfort in this life.

For a few weeks you might believe yourself in a fairy-land of romance if you married your lover and went to live in the two rooms.  But at the end of that period you would begin to realize that you were in a very actual land of poverty and discomfort.

Discomfort is relative.  Those rooms to the shop-girl who had toiled for years, and lived in a fourth-flight-back tenement, would represent luxury.  To you, after a few months, they would mean absolute penury.

You would begin to miss your beautiful home, and your maids, and your carriages.  Your husband would know you were missing them, and he would be miserable.  Unless your father came to your rescue, your dream of romantic love would end in a nightmare of regret and sorrow.

Your father knows you,-the creature of refined tastes and luxurious habits that he has made you,-and your lover does not.  Neither do you know yourself.

It requires a woman in ten thousand, one possessed of absolute heroism, like the old martyrs who sang at the stake while dying, to do what you contemplate, and to be happy in the doing.

Nothing like a life of self-indulgence disintegrates great qualities.  You are romantically and feverishly in love with a handsome and gifted young man.  But do not rush into a marriage with him until you can bring your father to settle a competence upon you, or until your lover has spanned the abyss of poverty with a bridge of comfort.  You have had no training in self-denial or self-dependence.  The altar is a bad place to begin your first lesson.

Wait awhile.  I know my advice seems worldly and cold, but it is the result of wide observation.

If you cannot sit in your gold and white boudoir, and be true to Ernest while he battles a few more years with destiny, then you could not remain loyal in thought while you held your numb fingers over a chilly radiator in an uncomfortable flat, or omitted dessert from your dinner menu to cut down expenses.

Your brain-cells have been developed in opulence.

You could not train your mind to inexorable economy, even at the command of Cupid.

Take the advice of a woman of the world, my dear girl, and do not attempt the impossible and so spoil two lives.

Again I say, wait awhile.

There are girls who could be perfectly happy in the position you picture for yourself with Ernest, but not you.

Better hide your ideal in your heart than shatter it on the unswept hearthstone of the commonplace.

Better be in your lover’s life the unattained joy, than ruin his happiness by discontent.

It is less of a tragedy for a man to hear a woman say “I cannot go with you,” than to hear her say “I cannot stay with you.”