Florence Nightingale, eager to console the sick at heart, and hernconfessed to her all his failures, weaknesses, and self-doubts.rnHe was neck-and-neck with his rival until Gargantua announcedrnthat his father had died. My friend resigned the field,rndeclaring one night in the graduate seminar room, “I can’t toprnthat.”rnI am not sure I know what it means when so many womenrnmarry men they want to take care of. In a general way, the eligibilityrnof bachelors is a sign of social esteem. In a warrior society,rnstrength and courage are the qualities that women look forrnin a husband; in a plutocracy, it is wealth; and in the most degeneraternages of the world girls go mad for gladiators or filmrnstars with greasy hair and steroid-inflated pectorals. Of course,rnin more sober times it does not matter too much what womenrnmay think they want, because the standards of eligibility arernset, not by Hollywood PR men, but by the fathers who wantrntheir daughters to produce successful grandchildren.rnIn higher civilizations, which are universally patriarchal, therngirls and boys may have little say in the matter. Why shouldrnthey? If my genetic future is in the hands of my grandchildren,rnthen I cannot allow the character of my posterity to be determinedrnby a teenager’s whim. Marriage is not a sexual romp inrna motel room; it is real life, full of disappointments, pain, sickness,rnfailure, and death. Good looks, divorced from other morernsolid qualities, are mere sex appeal, the quality of film stars andrnother prostitutes. The sort of husband or wife that parentsrnwant for their children would be good-looking, of course, becauserngood looks are an indication of health and an omen ofrnsuccess. But there are other important qualities: the idealrnspouse would himself be healthy and come from a healthyrnstock; he should be as intelligent as his social position demandsrnbut no more, since intelligence, when unrewarded, turnsrnto envy and mischief. A potential husband should displayrncourage, self-restraint, but why go on reciting the list of virtuesrnthat Aristotle catalogued in the Nicomachean Ethics? The obviousrnpoint is that since young people cannot possibly make arnwell-informed marital choice, their parents or guardiansrnshould have some say in the matter, if only the power to vetorntheir children’s decisions.rnIn our civilization, before it was Christianized, marriage wasrna contract between families, not between individuals. Greekrnsons had some say in selecting their brides, and even daughtersrnknew how to manipulate daddy—as the young Nausicaa doesrnin the Odyssey. Roman law was more severe: no unemancipatedrnchild could marry or divorce without the father’s permission.rnBut even in Rome it was up to the father to enforce hisrnrights. Cicero gritted his teeth and allowed his daughter tornchoose a (third) husband he did not particularly like.rnWhen Romans began converting to the Christian faith,rnthey did not jettison, all at once, either the ceremonies or rulesrnof marriage. Early Christian weddings were solemnized withrnthe same pagan ceremonies we use today—the vows, the rings,rnand many of our customs are Roman—and eventually priestsrnwere invited in to bless (but not marrv) the couple. The importantrnchange was Christ’s insistence upon marriage as an indissolublernunion. Although the concept of the married couplernas united in flesh was known both to pagans (e.g., Lucretius)rnand Jews, it required Christ to repudiate divorce and St. Paul tornexplain the deeper meaning of marriage. Since Christiansrnconceived of marriage as a mystical union, they could not, inrnprinciple, compel their children to marry. On the other hand,rnthe Christian understanding of the duties of parents and childrenrndid not include the right to contract a marriage againstrnparental wishes, although the Church did, eventually, step inrnto validate elopements.rnIt was not until the Reformation that secular princes beganrnto assume the power to regulate marriage, and since that timernparents have gradually abandoned their pretensions to select orrneven veto the children’s selection. It is easy to blame Christianityrnor the Reformation for the secularization of marriagernand the decay of parental responsibility, but the moral andrnpolitical problems of modern marriage do not admit of facilernanalysis or glib solutions.rnTroUope’s novel Lady Anna presents the spectacle of arnmother and daughter in conflict over a marriage. Thernmother had married a wicked Earl, who subsequently repudiatedrnthe validity of the marriage and the legitimacy of hisrndaughter. After his death, the Countess and her daughter livernon the charity of a radical tailor and his son as they attempt tornprosecute their claim to the late Earl’s personal estate. Arnyoung and honorable cousin, who has succeeded to the title,rnnaturally contests their claim until his lawyer, the Solicitor-rnGeneral, becomes convinced of the justice of the ladies’ claimsrnand proposes a marriage scheme as a tidy arrangement forrnuniting the title with the money. The new Eari is handsomernand noble, the Countess’s daughter lovely and charming. ThernCountess, embittered by her sufferings, now begins to hope forrna happy issue of all her afflictions, when the daughter, LadyrnAnna, discloses that she is betrothed to the tailor’s son. To arnRomantic sensibility, this might be a tale of true love thwartedrnby ambition and class snobbery, but Trollope takes the case tornan aging radical romantic—obviously Wordsworth—who explainsrnto the young man that class distinctions have a purpose.rnComparing the old nobility to hothouse plants and the tailorrnto a “blade of corn out of the open field,” the poet concedesrnthat neither species is “higher in God’s sight than the other, orrnbetter, or of a nobler use.” However, they are different, “andrnthough the differences may verge together without evil whenrnthe limits are near, I do not believe in graftings so violent asrnthis.”rnThe poet’s first response, when he has heard the tailor’s accountrnof the affair, goes to the heart of the matter: “When yournspoke to the girl of love, should you not have spoken to thernmother also?” But conscious of the mother’s social ambition,rnhe concealed the betrothal, and Lady Anna, though temptedrnby the beauty of the Earl’s person and by the pleasant dignityrnof his life, is as tough and persistent as her mother. Herrnmother’s happiness, the fortunes of the family she has learnedrnto admire—all depend upon her decision, but she is true to thernradical tailor.rnA lesser novelist might have painted the Ead and his familyrnas degenerate aristocrats or given the Countess a more appealingrncharacter, but Trollope sees the situation as a conflict notrnbetween good and evil but between different kinds of good.rnWhen a friend tells her, in a muddled way, that it is her Christianrnduty to live in the state to which God Almighty has calledrnher, “the nobly born young lady did not in heart deny the truthrnof the lesson;—but she had learned another lesson, and didrnnot know how to make the two compatible. That other lessonrntaught her to believe that she ought to be true to her word;—rnthat she especially ought to be true to one what had ever beenrnspecially true to her.”rnIt is only the Solicitor-General—like Trollope a conservativernMAY 1995/13rnrnrn