BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
15. Chapter Xv - Father and Daughter (continued)
'Really, my dear,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'it is difficult to answer
your question - '
'Difficult to answer it, Yes or No, father?
'Certainly, my dear. Because;' here was something to demonstrate,
and it set him up again; 'because the reply depends so materially,
Louisa, on the sense in which we use the expression. Now, Mr.
Bounderby does not do you the injustice, and does not do himself
the injustice, of pretending to anything fanciful, fantastic, or (I
am using synonymous terms) sentimental. Mr. Bounderby would have
seen you grow up under his eyes, to very little purpose, if he
could so far forget what is due to your good sense, not to say to
his, as to address you from any such ground. Therefore, perhaps
the expression itself - I merely suggest this to you, my dear - may
be a little misplaced.'
'What would you advise me to use in its stead, father?'
'Why, my dear Louisa,' said Mr. Gradgrind, completely recovered by
this time, 'I would advise you (since you ask me) to consider this
question, as you have been accustomed to consider every other
question, simply as one of tangible Fact. The ignorant and the
giddy may embarrass such subjects with irrelevant fancies, and
other absurdities that have no existence, properly viewed - really
no existence - but it is no compliment to you to say, that you know
better. Now, what are the Facts of this case? You are, we will
say in round numbers, twenty years of age; Mr. Bounderby is, we
will say in round numbers, fifty. There is some disparity in your
respective years, but in your means and positions there is none; on
the contrary, there is a great suitability. Then the question
arises, Is this one disparity sufficient to operate as a bar to
such a marriage? In considering this question, it is not
unimportant to take into account the statistics of marriage, so far
as they have yet been obtained, in England and Wales. I find, on
reference to the figures, that a large proportion of these
marriages are contracted between parties of very unequal ages, and
that the elder of these contracting parties is, in rather more than
three-fourths of these instances, the bridegroom. It is remarkable
as showing the wide prevalence of this law, that among the natives
of the British possessions in India, also in a considerable part of
China, and among the Calmucks of Tartary, the best means of
computation yet furnished us by travellers, yield similar results.
The disparity I have mentioned, therefore, almost ceases to be
disparity, and (virtually) all but disappears.'