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The Endearing Conceit of Young Men

The Endearing Conceit of Young Men

I wonder if you have ever thought about the kind of courage—but also the kind of conceit—it takes for a young man to ask a father for the hand of his daughter. De Witt Talmage once considered this in a discourse on marriage and, frankly, his thoughts are hilarious. I trust you’ll enjoy reading about the very “sublimity of impudence” as he highlights it here.

I charge you realize your responsibility in having taken her from the custody and care and homestead in which she was once sheltered. What courage you must have had and what confidence in yourself to say to her, practically: “I will be to you more than your father and mother, and more than all the friends you ever had or ever can have. Give up everything and take me. I feel competent to see you through life in safety. You are an immortal being, but I am competent to defend you and make you happy. However bright and comfortable a home you have now, and though in one of the rooms is the armchair in which you were rocked, and in the garret is the cradle in which you were hushed and the trundle-bed in which you slept, and in the sitting-room are the father and mother who have got wrinkle-faced and stoop-shouldered and dim-eyesighted in taking care of you, yet you will do better to come with me.” I am amazed that any one of us ever had the sublimity of impudence to ask such a transfer from a home assured to a home conjectured and unbuilt.

You would think me a very daring and hazardous adventurer if I should go down to one of the piers on the North River, and at a time when there was a great lack of ship captains, and I should, with no knowledge of navigation, propose to take a steamer across to Glasgow or Havre, and say: “All aboard! Haul in the planks and swing out,” and, passing out into the sea, plunge through darkness and storm. If I succeeded in getting charge of a ship, it would be one that would never be heard of again.

But that is the boldness of every man that proffers marriage. He says: “I will navigate you through the storms, the cyclones, the fogs of a lifetime. I will run clear of rocks and icebergs. I have no experience and I have no seaport, but all aboard for the voyage of a lifetime! I admit that there have been ten thousand shipwrecks on this very route, but don’t hesitate! Tut! Tut! There now! Don’t cry! Brides must not cry at the wedding.”


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