Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance

happy couple

You make me laugh

“Had she merely dined with him, she might only have discovered whether he had a good appetite; but you must remember that four evenings have been also spent together – and four evenings may do a great deal.”

“Yes; these four evenings have enabled them to ascertain that they both like Vingt-un better than Commerce; but with respect to any other leading characteristic, I do not imagine that much has been unfolded.”

“Well,” said Charlotte, “I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always contrive to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”

“You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it is not sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself.”

by Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817)
from Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Chapter VI
image – Eduardo Deboni


In case you wondered, Vingt-un and Commerce are both card games. I wondered, so I googled them. Commerce sounds like it may have been a six-card version of Five Card Stud. Vingt-un is like Blackjack. The name “Vingt-un” is an anglicized version of the French word for “twenty one.” Jane Austen fans may be imagining Bingley and Jane saying “hit me,” or “stand.” I don’t know if 200 years ago they used the same lingo for Vingt-un that we do in today’s Blackjack, but the idea of Pride and Prejudice characters taking turns saying “hit me” is good for a giggle.

Relationships are, well, interesting. One of my college professors joked that “it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life,” or something close. He said he couldn’t afford to know his wife as well as the neighbors. A classmate thought he had sad, lonely eyes. At about the same time – the late 70’s? – I read an editorial that said single women were living longer than married women, but the reverse was true for men. The conclusion and punch line was that women should stay single and men should marry each other. Women thought this was hilarious. The men I shared it with were not amused.

Austen herself never married.


For those who are like Jane Austin’s leading characters, and prefer to dream and scheme towards romantic ideals, here are a few quotes loosely related to what we hope for, when putting aside cynicism and taking a chance on love.

When we love, we always strive to become better than we are
by Paulo Coelho

Love, with little hands, comes and touches you with a thousand memories, and asks you beautiful, unanswerable questions
by Carl Sandburg

One marries many times at many levels within a marriage
by Ruby Dee

Nothing, it seems to me, is more beautiful than the love that has weathered the storms of life
by Jerome Kapla Jerome

Even when they were two worn-out people they kept on blooming like little children
by Gabriel García Márquez

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed
by Carl Jung

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2 Responses to “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance”

  1. Yura Says:

    I am not amused as well.


  2. E. A. Able Says:

    Not even a little? 😉