The original Good Woman, though not given to much speaking,
was remarkable for always speaking to the purpose, and never betraying
any inconsistency or inconsecutiveness in conversation. In reply to the
question. Why? Or Wherefore? She was accustomed either to give a reason,
or to confess that she had none to give. Her conduct, moreover, was singularly
rational, and not dictated by whim, caprice, or the blind impulse of the
moment. On the other hand albeit she was not by any means insensible to
praise or admiration, yet the desire of attracting it was not always uppermost
in her mind, and did not constitute her chief and main consideration.
In brief, reasonableness and freedom from vanity, were
the distinctive features of her character; for the rest she was endowed
with the good qualities which are peculiarly feminine. Be it observed
that her understanding was of a particular nature; she was no metaphysician
or mathematician: she gave her mind to the study of her part in life,
and consequently she acted it well; and engrossed in its performance with
the business of the scene, she was not always curtseying and smirking
at the spectators.
He expenditure on dress, whilst she was single, was proportionate
to the means of her family; when she became a wife, to those of her husband.
She was never known to be discontented to unhappy for the want of some
piece of finery which she could not afford. Her attire was regulated by
her own taste, without any further reference to fashion than was necessary
to avoid being conspicuous. When, at one time, she was getting rather
plump, instead of pinching her waist, she reduced her diet; and one of
the few persons that she ever treated with contempt was a modish acquaintance
who recommended her to “lace a little.” Another was a relation
who counselled her to wear ear-rings. Her infancy was remarkable for an
early abandonment of her doll, and for the moderation of her delight in
new frocks. All her instructors were proud of their pupil; but the least
loud in her commendation was her dancing-master.
She was much more solicitous about her health than her
complexion: and for the sake of exercise would walk bravely forth in all
weathers, dressed rather with reference to the day and season, than with
respect to the eyes of beholders. Thus she spoiled very few bonnets and
other apparel by being caught in showers, and such like accidents. Hence,
too, perhaps it was that she enjoyed such an immunity from illness: for
the Original Good Woman was uncommonly fortunate in this particular. She
was never known to faint, or be troubled with hysterics; and was wonderfully
free from all sinkings, swimmings, dartings, shootings, drawings, spasms,
and all-over-ishness. Her ailments, when she had any, were plain, downright,
unequivocal maladies; as fevers, inflammations, quinsies*, colds in the
head – strange to say, they were all such as are recognized by the
medical faculty. Otherwise a most elegant creature, she was never elegantly
indisposed; nor did she ever encourage herself in the persuasion that
she was unwell, still less affect to be so. And on no occasion did she
ever declare that she was dying except once, when it was almost the last
word she ever spoke.
Her conversation was distinguished by a freedom from
needless interjections; from appeals to her goodness! And her gracious!
And from declarations that she never! It seldom related to clothes, unless
she was about to purchase them; it never tended to the prejudice of her
acquaintances, nor turned on their petty doing and affairs. They might
add to their wardrobes without her noticing the circumstances; they might
display bad taste in so doing without exciting any other comment on her
part but a smile. She was more interested in the discourse than in the
costume of her friends; and when she came away from church, she better
remembered what was said than what was worn there.
The parents of the Original Good Woman, who lived before
the American Revolution, were anxious that she should marry nothing under
a title. She disappointed them, though her husband possessed the highest,
that of a wise and honest man; and he ultimately became a great one, even
in the world’s eye. Circumstances compelled him to take a part in
public affairs. Through the successful advocacy of right, he became famous
in his day. A high office was within his grasp; but its acceptance would
have compromised his principles. Wavering, as the best will for a moment
waver, he asked counsel of his wife, as to what course, in this conjecture,
he should pursue. She exhorted him to resist the temptation; to trample
the bribe under foot; and told him that she felt prouder of him for his
moral position than she should be were he a President. “The thing,”
said the Original Good Woman, “not the glory, for us!”
His ascent, however, to eminence was a struggle. In this
she did not embarrass, but comforted him; she was a wife, but not an encumbrance.
Never did she once strive to divert him from the true and good path for
the sake of luxury of ostentation. No desire to outvie her neighbors in
show, style and mode of living, ever prompted her to endeavor to influence
his proceedings. He received no hints from her of an inclination for carriages
and a livery; she was content with his aiming and comfortable subsistence
and provision for themselves and family. She was wont to consult with
him on their common affairs, and to give and take advice thereon in good
As a mother, she was careful and tender of her offspring;
but she did not spoil or pet them; nor was she possessed with a notion
that there were no such other children in existence. In their management,
during infancy, she was guided by her physician, and not be her monthly
nurse; having, in fact, a profound contempt for the sayings and practices
of all gossips and goodies. Hence, on no pretext was she afflicted by
a craving for inaccessible rarities, and fancies of that description.
She had her weaknesses; but she despised them and strove to be rid of
them. Except for strong cause the Original Good Woman never wept.
I youth she was beautiful; and her charms as she advanced
in age, were not destroyed, but only changed. She wore her own hair after
it had become grey, and was at no pains to tinker up her face. Thus she
grew old, without growing ridiculous; and when she could no longer be
handsome she was venerable.
*Quinsies "Quinsy - if the infection
spreads into the tissue around the tonsils an abscess in the throat can
form, also known as a peri-tonsillar abscess. This causes severe pain
and can interfere with swallowing and even breathing."