Tuesday 14 August 2018

Read in 2018 - 11: Happiness and Marriage

This was another free ebook I downloaded years ago - I am reading the books on my kindle largely in the order I downloaded them, unless it is a seasonal read (around Christmas time) or a new book I am particularly keen on.

"Happiness and Marriage" was originally published in 1904. Therefore, you may be forgiven to expect a conservative approach to the subject, based on the classic role models for husbands and wives.

Well, this one comes as a surprise, as it is rather modern, portraying men and women as completely and absolutely equal. Marriage is seen as not the only way to happiness (or the only way to exist for a woman at that time, for that matter), and it can be just as well based on reason or friendship as on love. More than once, the author states that husband and wife can be good friends and live happily together without being lovers, as long as there is mutual respect.
And if nothing will work, or if either of the two love someone else, they should be reasonable and set their unhappy spouse free by leaving - after a period of testing their own feelings for the person they believe they love.

Wikipedia says that Elizabeth Towne, who lived to be 95 years old (from 1865 to 1960), was an influential writer, editor and publisher in the New Thought and self-help movements.
She certainly had plenty to say about marriage from her own experience, having first married at the age of 14! She had two children with her first husband, divorced him later on and married a man who was also of the New Thought Alliance. You can read more about her here on Wikipedia.

I had not heard of her before, and sometimes found her writing a little condescending. But she always makes clear that her advice (given in the book based on letters she received from men and women who apparently saw her as an Agony Aunt) is meant for both sexes.

I am not at all familiar with the New Thought movement, and personally, am a little skeptical about some of the beliefs in the wikipedia entry about "New Thought". But I can not see any harm in the ideas Elizabeth Towne shared in this book, and it is short enough not to be considered a waste of time. It did offer an interesting glimpse into what must have felt rather revolutionary ideas at the very beginning of the 20th century.


  1. That's really interesting! I'll look for Elizabeth Towne and her books on the Gutenberg site. There are tons and tons of free literature from around that time period. How surprising that she had so many "modern" ideas about marriage!

    1. It was all the New Thought, Jennifer - it really WAS new back then.
      Yes, I have so many free ebooks from about 1850 to the early 1900s, and I often prefer their "old-fashioned" language.

  2. I have a lot of time for women who embraced new ideas at that time. Some of the ideas might seem a bit cranky now, (I haven't read about New Thought) but the research I have done in to the lives of women just a bit earlier than her, does make it sound so dreadfully limited and depressing. It must have been wonderful for women to see the chance of new horizons

    1. That's true about the dreadfully limited lives - and still is the same in many places all over the world, really.
      As for the cranky ideas, that made me chuckle; even if we read women's magazines from the not-so-distant past, like the 1950s or 60s, a lot of the ideas seem cranky to us today, and it will probably be the same if someone reads a typical women's magazine of the year 2018 in, say, 2048!

  3. And, very interesting that you have read this book. I'll read up more about it myself.