Advice to a Lady
Seek to be good, but aim not to be great,
A woman’s noblest station is retreat,
Her fairest virtues fly from public sight,
Domestic worth, that shuns too strong a light.
In my latest release, Lady Faith Takes a Leap, The Baxendale Sisters, Lady Faith’s father gives her similar advice.
In his study, Lord Baxendale stood before Faith, his hands behind his back. “You have had a splendid Season, Faith.” His ruddy face creased in a troubled frown. “Although you did little to make it so.”
“I did try, Father.”
“You do understand the reason for this great expense. Eh? To marry?”
“Yes, of course I do, Father.”
“A suitor–and there were several–obviously found your reluctance somewhat quelling.”
Faith sat bolt upright on a damask chair, her hands in her lap. “I wasn’t aware of it, Father.” She glanced away from his concerned face. She’d always found the dark furnishings in this room oppressive, even more so at this moment. Suddenly cold, she wished she could draw closer to the small patch of late afternoon sunlight warming the Carmelite-brown carpet.
“You were not aware of beaus turning to other ladies of a warmer disposition?”
“At least Fitzgibbon has remained loyal.”
“He’s most agreeable in his attentions to you. And his family is top of the tree.”
“Lord Fitzgibbon has been charming.”
“He seems to care for you.”
Faith nodded. “It seems so.”
“Then, of course, you will accept him.”
Faith met her father’s puzzled gaze. When she was younger, he’d been far more lenient, ignoring her tomboy antics. But before her first Season, he had sat her down in this study and explained how a woman should always be as sweet and pleasing to her husband as she was to her father. She must behave in a manner suited to her station in life. Faith loved her father and wished to please him. She tried to smile, but her face felt stiff, and although she wanted to reassure him, she must have a few days more; it was surely unfair to expect her to choose a man she hardly knew. “Might I have more time to decide?”
“More time?” he asked with a pained expression. “You have been in his company often these last weeks. He dined here with us only last week.”
In desperation, Faith brought Lord Fitzgibbon’s visage to mind, hoping for a sign that he was the one. The earnestness in his brown eyes. How tenderly he held her on the dance floor. Her father had recovered much of his equilibrium along with his investments, but she suspected his patience would soon wear thin.
The feminine ideal of Georgian womanhood may best be defined as a combination of moral perfection and intellectual deficiency. She was required to be above all things a ‘womanly woman’ meek, timid, trustful, clinging, yielding, unselfish, helpless and dependent, and robust in neither body nor mind. She was also expected to be a thoroughly practical domestic sort of person, not educated except in how to run a domestic establishment with good sense of judgment. An upper class young lady might receive a good education, but the only career open to her was marriage, and she would have considered a loveless marriage infinitely more respectable than the pursuit of a profession. If a suitor presented himself, it was her duty to love him, or at any rate marry him. Because masculine idealists of the time felt “The soul of the true woman finds its supreme satisfaction in self-sacrifice,” the woman who rejected this must renounce all claims to womanliness. She must treat her men-folk with respectful admiration and accept their judgments in a spirit of childlike faith, and obey them with unquestioning submission.
The education and training of the ideal woman was completely subordinated to the tastes and demands of men. In the words of Jean Jacques, “Woman was created to give way to man, and to suffer his injustice …. To please us, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us when young and take care of us when grown up, to admire and console us, to render our lives easy and agreeable.”
Jane Austen made mention of the prejudice with sweet-tempered sarcasm in a passage in Northanger Abbey. “… in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their natural charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well-informed themselves to desire anything more in a woman than-ignorance.”
Although Lady Faith is aware of this, it doesn’t prevent her from wanting much more from life. Her doubts about her father’s choice of suitor increases to fever pitch, when the subject of her schoolroom crush, neighbor, Lord Vaughn Winborne, comes home. The black sheep of the Brandreth family, her father would never consider Lord Vaughn for her hand.
Blurb: Dutiful daughter Faith Baxendale just wants to please. Faith isn’t as adventurous as her younger sister, Hope, gadding about the Continent with their aunt, nor as rebellious as her elder sister, Honor, who planned to become a card sharp. And Faith couldn’t lose herself in her art like sixteen-year-old, Charity. Even Mercy, at fourteen, shows more backbone!
After Faith’s first Season ends, her father urges her to marry the man of his choice. But when Lord Vaughn Winborne, a neighbor Faith had a crush on while still in the schoolroom, arrives home for the Brandreth’s hunt ball, surprising even to herself, Faith is drawn again towards a man her father would never consider.
The youngest Brandreth male, Vaughn, is the black sheep of the family. His elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, still looks upon him as a reckless youth, and Vaughn is determined to prove him wrong.
A chance comes in the form of a scandal not of Vaughn’s making, and he must learn to trust Faith, who, when all’s said and done, has always known her own mind.
Side-Lights On The Georgian Period by George Paston
Behind Closed Doors At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery