it would be stepping off your pedestal, you’ve got other things to do
She has no business to grow ugly; and as to sickness, it would be stepping off your pedestal to be puttering round, inquiring whether your wife’s gruel was furnished at the right time or not ; you’ve got other things to do...
— “Fanny Fern on Husbands,” chapter 83 in The Life and Beauties of Fanny Fern (New York: H. Long and Brother, 1855) : 322
Fanny Fern may not have had any participation in publication of this volume, whose preface states: “We have infringed on no one’s copy-right; the sketches having been copied, in every instance, from the papers to which they were originally contributed. A large proportion of them have never before appeared within the covers of a book...”
the entire sketch transcribed below —
“Husbands should by all means assist their wives in making home happy, and strive to preserve the hearts they have won. When you return from your daily avocations, meet your beloved with a smile of joy and satisfaction — take her by the hand — imprint an affectionate kiss upon her lips.”
Isn’t that antimonial? Don’t you do any such thing! If you’ve made a married woman of her, I’d like to know if that isn’t an honor that she might spend a life-time trying to repay you for; and come out at the little end of the horn at that?
“Land of love! there’s many a woman dies of ‘hope deferred.’ Put that in her ear. Ask her what in mercy she thinks would have become of her, if you hadn't taken pity on her. Make her sensible of her beatified condition. Just tell her that any ‘little favor’ you do for her now, is an extra touch of philanthropy; that you may possibly go whole days without noticing her at all except to stow away the food she prepares for you; — that, as to thanking her for every button she sews on, Caesar! the boot is on the other foot! and should she lose her beauty or get sickly, of course she can’t expect you’ll care as much for her as when she was bran-new — the idea is absurd. She has no business to grow ugly; and as to sickness, it would be stepping off your pedestal to be puttering round, inquiring whether your wife’s gruel was furnished at the right time or not; you’ve got other things to do, of more importance; such as betting on elections, peeping into concerts and theatres, and so forth.
“He might take me, too. You nonsensical little nuisance! In the first place-he-he-he-well, the upshot of it is, he don’t want you! it would spoil all his fun. So just sit down in your rocking-chair and contemplate your stocking-basket; and if your spirits droop for change of scene, for a kind word, or a loving glance—that's nothing! You can die any time you get ready; he will stop mourning for you long before the weed on his hat gets rusty. Besides, the world is full of women — a real crowd of ’em; he knows that well enough; dare say he’d be obliged to you to pop off. ‘Variety is the spire of life.’
“So there’s the map before you, my dear. That’s all there is of Life. If you’ve got married, you’ve climbed to the top of the hill—so now you can do as the rest of the wives do—stand still and crow a little while; and then commence your descent. No new discoveries to be made that I know of. Cry, if you feel like it—pocket handkerchiefs are only ninepence a-piece now.”
can find the sketch elsewhere only at Family Herald (“A domestic magazine of useful information and amusement”) (May 1, 1858) : 13
Fanny Fern, the pen name of Sarah Payson Willis (1811-72)
See also — and even first — Joanna Scutts, “Feminize Your Canon: Fanny Fern”, The Paris Review (May 14, 2020)