Of Marriage and Single Life by Francis Bacon | Summary & Analysis

In Of Marriage and Single Life, Bacon highlights the differences between the married life and the single’s life and the various advantages or disadvantages of the same. The burden of a married life According to Bacon a married man has a family to raise and take care of.

He is totally committed to providing security to them. But such commitment leaves him unable to take up any enterprise whether good or bad, noble or wicked. He loses his freedom to go after what his heart longs for.

Table of Contents

Of Marriage and Single Life Summary

  • The Liberty of An Unmarried Life

He feels that the unmarried men are unrestricted and free to make bold moves that can produce important changes in culture and society.

According to him, human history is a testament to the fact that the greatest achievements in the different spheres of science, art, literature etc. have been made by men and women who were single and uninhibited by the constraints of marriage.

Wealthy singles can be generous with their money are therefore sought after by churches. Unlike married men who are responsible to provide for their family members, the bachelors are less encumbered by such worries.

However, he also states the fact that married men who have children have an incentive to think about the future and posterity. They take matters of such importance with gravity and seriousness.

This empowers them with a commitment to make efforts for improvement. This also drives them to explore the future consequences of action or inaction in the present. It can lead to a need to make a better tomorrow for their children and their children

In the same vein, Bacon points at various single people who are lethargic, unmotivated and wasteful with their time and energy. They abuse their bachelorhood and often lack sensitivity to various problems of the present and dangers in the future.

They exhibit a level of callousness to the opportunities that they have and have no regrets about their self-indulgence, inaction, wastefulness and shameless disregard.

Then there are a few who are married but consider their wives and children as a burden in their own freedom and selfish desires. There are also some wealthy people, who wittingly decide to not reproduce or have children in fear of losing their riches to their heirs.

To them, procreation will lead to more number of claimants to their wealth and property. They refuse to see the need and benefits of a family and leaving a legacy beyond their material possessions.

They are influenced by the fears of losing their wealth in the upkeep of a large family. Their greed clouds their better judgment and they are swayed by such notions of not having a progeny.

  • The Unreliability of the Bachelor

Bacon then points out people who stay single because they believe that marriage only leads to more fetters, restrictions, responsibilities and obligations.

They have strange convictions that single life can protect them from ever having such burden of obligations, duties and stresses that bother married people.

They are consumed by a self-created illusion of a blissful and fulfilling single life that does not suffer from the bondage and shackles of marriage. They are forever on the run from the prison of marital responsibilities and commitments

Therefore, unmarried men are always a flight risk, prone to just run away and desertion. They are often good employees, better friends, as they have ample time for their employees and friends.

Their ambitions, desires and jobs are their only considerations. However, it is their volatile existence without any anchors of the family that make them unreliable. They float without any roots to ground them.

  • A Discipline in Humanity

Bacon then described the need for men of justice like judges and magistrates to espouse the qualities of honesty, reasoning and fairness.

While an unrestrained and unanchored bachelor can be unpredictable, reckless and discretionary in his thought and judgment, a married man is more suited for the responsibility of a judge.

He has the necessary understanding and regard for commitment and responsibility as he has a wife and family to keep secure. He is more likely to be careful and patient with his decision and less vulnerable to making rash judgments and errors in this thinking.

In military organizations, the generals use the whole premise of ‘a family to protect’ when they address their soldiers. The married soldiers are committed to ensuring security if their wives and children.

The lofty ideals of virtues and chivalry, patriotism and duty are praised and encouraged when soldiers take to the battlefield.

Bacon observes that in the army of Turks, it is the unmarried soldiers who are prone to debase, perverse and the vilest behaviour when it comes to conducting with the defeated opposition army and prisoners of war.

Thus, in a way having a wife and children are necessary restraints on the animalistic and baser side of men and humanity. It curtails the Freudian basic and animal instincts and desires.

Marriage has a way of establishing a loving home. Single men may be richer and more capable of making massive charitable donations but they clack the empathetic and sensitive side that comes from genuine companionship.

It is one’s wife and children that provide them with a moral understanding of their limits of conduct and behaviour. Bachelors lack these terms of engagement and often consumed by moral corruption, vulgar thoughts and cruel intentions.

They lack the need and ability to evaluate the moral significance and correctness of their thoughts and action.

  • The Good Husband and Wife

Men with ethics and morals are good husbands. They are not tempted by the pleasures of infidelity and remain honest and loyal to their wives and marriage.

Here, Bacon gives the example of Ulysses who valued his wife more than an immortal life. In the same vein, the woman also courts and regarding chastity. They preserve it as their sense of purity.

They have greater self-respect and value their body as sacred and not just means of carnal pleasures of the flesh. Therefore, a woman of chastity is proud of her worth and the worth of his loyal husband.

Their relationship is strong, durable and enriched with mutual respect. The vice of jealousy can weaken this bond as the wife will not feel the trust of her husband if he is envious and susceptible to doubt and suspicion.

  • The Apt Time for Marriage

Bacon points out the different roles a wife plays in a man’s life. When he is young and passionate, she becomes his lover. She pleasures him sensually and her love and devotion make him feel more virile and strong.

In his middle age, she is his companion in weal and woe, good or bad and triumph or disaster. She becomes his constant, a pillar of strength. As he enters old age and becomes weak and weary, his becomes a nurse and a caregiver. She nourishes him at his most vulnerable.

Bacon says that deciding the correct time for marriage can be tricky for young and desirous men. For them, it is the pleasures of the body that are most pressing. Therefore, he suggests that young men should be patient and not rush into important decisions.

Marriage demands commitment and total devotion and thus men must wait for the opportune time. On the flipside, when a man is old and suffering, he must not rush to get a wife even if there are beautiful young women who are available to marry.

Old age brings its share of problems and issues and may lead to unwanted situations. Bacon beautifully uses a philosopher’s quote to answer the question about the correct age and time to marry, “a young man not yet, an elder man not at all” 

  • The Failed Husbands

Bacon feels that we often see some the most tyrannical and cruellest men with the noblest and most generous wives. These women endure great hardships and are happy with even the smallest gestures of affection from their mean husbands.

They are devoted and committed to securing their marriage even if they suffer many sacrifices and pains during the process. But, it is the husbands who do not value such great and loving wives, who are the biggest losers of all.

Their inability to value the affection and care of their wives makes them a failure both as husbands and human beings. Bacon advises such husbands to mend their errant ways and duly regard and honour their doting wives.

Of Marriage and Single Life: Key Thoughts

In Of Marriage and Single Life, Bacon is able to compare single life and married life through different lenses. He puts forward the pros and cons of marriage in terms of how it is viewed by society and how it affects an individual.

Even though he enlists the burdens and limitation of marriage, he extols the benefits of marriage and how it shapes a person.

Bacon insists that having a family can make a man generous and merciful. It teaches a form of discipline that single men, lack and thus are more cruel and reckless.

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