Francis Bacon

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What is an explanation of the line “But the most ordinary cause of a single life, is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters, to be bonds and shackles” from “Of Marriage and Single Life”?

An explanation of this line from “Of Marriage and Single Life” is that Francis Bacon believes that the most common justification for remaining single relates to liberty. Single men accustomed to pursuing their pleasures and moods become dramatically sensitive to anything that might impede their freedom.

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In “Of Marriage and Single Life,” Francis Bacon assesses the pros and cons of living as a single man and as a married man with a family. Bacon argues that marriage stifles genius and “mischief.” On the other hand, Bacon believes that married people with children tend to care more...

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In “Of Marriage and Single Life,” Francis Bacon assesses the pros and cons of living as a single man and as a married man with a family. Bacon argues that marriage stifles genius and “mischief.” On the other hand, Bacon believes that married people with children tend to care more about the future. Bacon then delves into reasons why men stay single. He uses the example of a rich man boasting about how much more money he has since he doesn’t have to spend any of it on children. Bacon then says,

But the most ordinary cause of a single life is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles.

An explanation of this line can be achieved by unpacking the complex sentence clause by clause. The first clause says that the most common reason why men stay single is not money, but freedom (“liberty”). Single men will often focus on satisfying their own pleasure (“self-pleasing”) and acting in accordance with whatever mood or frame of mind they happen to be in.

Accustomed to independence, single men are exceptionally sensitive to anything that might impede their ability to do what they want. There are single men who guard their freedom so closely that they’ll view garters and girdles, or bands or belts one wears to hold up clothing, as imprisonment. For the uncompromisingly autonomous single man, these ostensibly innocuous products are tantamount to bondage.

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