Of Marriage and Single Life by Francis Bacon Summary & Analysis

In this essay, Bacon draws a comparison between marriage and single life. He gives an account of merits and demerits of a married and a bachelor’s life. Bacon starts with a sudden statement,

“He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortunes”.

The statement clearly depicts that marriage is an impediment to great fortune and luck. Bacon supports his argument by telling a fact that the most of the best work that helps society at a greater scale is done by non-married or childless men. In response, these bachelors married public and endowed their affections and life to it.

On the flipside of the coin, those who are married, have greater care of future of their family. Their minds always revolve around the economic stability of their home. They usually spend their time by making both ends meet. If one has a stable frugal position, he cares to make his and his family’s life as luxurious as he can.

Sparing these two kinds, there is another kind of men. Those who are unmarried yet, they spend their lives caring about themselves. They are not apprehensive of future time; they are not even meticulous about it.

There is another kind that thinks that their wife and children are just bills of charges. They consider them as sources of expenses. On the contrary, there are some greedy and covetous men that take pride in having no children. They think that they are rich because of the absence of the children. For example, if they hear a talk about two persons, one is rich and other is not, they consider the presence of children as abatement in richness of the second person.

Bacon then, describes the chief aftermath of a single life, which is liberty. Single life is suitable for those who are self-pleasing and humorous minds. For those who consider their girdles and garters as bonds and shackles, single life is the only suitable choice.

Furthermore, Bacon declares,

“Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects”.

The very reason behind their loyalty as best friend is that they have experience of being loyal to their family. Moreover, they are the best masters because , they have already been commanding their family. They are not good subjects because usually, they donot have any major subject to discuss with others except their family’s problems.

The Bachelors are good in perspectives of charity because they have less expenses. Whereas, married men have to fill their own pool first, then, they move towards charity. It is indifferent for judges and magistrates because of their corruption. They shall have a servant, five times worse than a wife.

Bacon says that there are generals among military, who with their hortatives(speeches made for encouragement) put disdain about marriage in the minds of the soldiers. According to Bacon, this is the reason behind the Turks soldiers that they are base. The writer also supports the fact that ‘wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity’. On the other hand, single men are cruel and hard hearted because in jobs’ perspectives they don’t care about their tenderness.

The husbands who are grave natured led by customs are mostly loving husbands. On the contrary, the wives who are chaste are often proud as presuming upon the merit of their chastity. As ‘Of Marriage and Single Life’ depicts,

“Chaste women are often proud and forward”.

However, in Bacon’s view, the best wife is the one who has the blend of chastity and obedience. Bacon pays tribute to wives by saying,“Wives are young men’s mistresses; companions for middle age; and old men’s nurses”.

In the last few verses of the essay, in a humorous way, the writer answers the question of the men who are ambiguous that when they should marry ? He says,

“A young man not yet, an elder man not at all”.

At the end of the essay, Bacon tells a fact that bad husbands, usually, have very good wives. These wives have a high price of their husband’s kindness because it comes seldom. Moreover, these wives take pride in their patience upon their husbands’ bad behavior. However, if these bad husbands were given choice of their own selection in marriage, they would make themselves fool because they would select a wife who would match their own behavior.