Separation “by mutual consent”

JOHNSON: Sir, there is no such thing.  There is not and never has been a separation by mutual consent.  I am an old man now, and have known something of the conjugal difficulties of many couples.  I have known them separated by all manner of things; I have known them separated by jealousy and levity and lust, by poverty and by wealth, by sin and self-righteousness.  But I never knew a couple separated by mutual consent.  There is always one who divorces and the other who endures the divorce.  There is always one who succeeds and one who suffers.  You asked me if I believed in a supernatural fire on the hearth that would burn for ever.  Let me ask you a question in return.  Did you ever know two natural fires that went out at exactly the same moment?
SWIFT [frowning]: I confess that is a fair point.
JOHNSON [with energy]: And now, Sir, for your new philosophical morality, as it compares with the old.  There is always a faithless and a faithful partner in such a case.  But your new morality means that it shall be always the faithful who suffers, and only the faithless shall always be happy, that he or she only needs to be faithless in order to be happy.  Suffer me to retain my prejudice in favour of a more primitive philosophy.  I am not yet converted to a creed which systematically rewards people for breaking their word, and punishes them for keeping it.

— “The Judgement of Dr. Johnson” (1927).

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 8:48 am  Comments (1)