Pride and Precedence: How to Have a Cold


First in a series by Persuasion’s Mary Musgrove

My sister, Anne, is fond of saying this: “Into each life, a little rain must fall.”

I know.

As if Lady Russell weren’t enough, I must have Anne prosing at me. Was there ever a more annoying sister?

I’ll have you know that in my life, rain simply pelts down! But does anyone care? Gentle reader, this is a hard and cruel world. No one knows what I suffer.

At this time of year I am often laid low by a cold. And yet I have learned the gentlewoman’s art of making the best of sicknesses. Allow me to explain.

No illness is trifling. Anne nobly soldiers on, determined to do her duty no matter how poorly she feels. And what, I ask you, is the result? The infection of an entire household! Get this straight: Gentlewomen are delicate creatures. When you are ill, for goodness’ sake, lie down and be ill. You owe it to yourself and your family.

Discomfort is to be made much of. When you cough, do it thoroughly. When you sneeze, say, “Bless me!” Use your suffering to elicit pity. Is this a crime? Certainly not! Look, if you do not call attention to your sorry state, no one will notice.

Your family is longing for a chance to serve you. Everyone will stand about acting helpless, so give them something to do. Trust me, they will happily fetch and carry. The more they are inconvenienced, the better they will like it. It has to do with guilt for the way they ignore you the rest of the time. Guilt is your friend. Use it.

Most people—especially husbands—are dense. They need reminders. Send your husband to the bookseller’s to procure the latest novels. Tell him that chocolate, a proven mood-lifter, is excellent for the constitution. It is even more so when presented in a beautiful ribbon-topped box. A bouquet of hothouse flowers—not a handful of weeds from the hedgerow! —is another lovely gesture.

Your household staff is paid to work. So let them. See here, how will your servants learn to do anything if you are always supervising them? Of course they will fail. Then you will have the pleasure of correcting them. Repeatedly.

Invalids are supposed to be crabby. You really needn’t guard your tongue. Besides, isn’t forgiveness a virtue? You will thus be giving others the opportunity to demonstrate character.

I trust my insights will make this year’s cold season more tolerable for you.

Most cordially,

Mary Elliot Musgrove
Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.
Future Mistress of Uppercross

Mary’s “cover art” is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini

Anne quotes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Rainy Day,
…which wasn’t written until 1861.


12 thoughts on “Pride and Precedence: How to Have a Cold

  1. Robin Helm

    I love, “Was there ever a more annoying sister?” She was the most annoying of the three, and she has no clue. Isn’t that always the way? Ha!

    Your above comment about forgiveness reminds me of the people who used Romans 5:20 as a justification for sinning. If God’s grace abounds when we sin, we should sin more so that grace will be more abundantly bestowed.

    Love the convoluted reasoning.


      1. Robin Helm

        I have to admit that sometimes what I do doesn’t make sense to me later – or even when the words are coming out of my mouth or I’m hitting the “send” or “post” button. I know I shouldn’t say it or do it, but I go ahead anyway. Stupid, huh?


    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Thanks for the props, Sophia. Posting this reminded me that I ought to bring Mary’s column out of hiatus. Advice from dear Mary every week or two will improve the quality of our lives, right? Ha.

      I struggle for ideas to blog about, until I unleash my inner Mary.


    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Ah, Anne. She and Elizabeth Bennet stand as the ideal for most of us. And yet, Mary is the one who pushes and gets her way.

      And Mary would get published (one way or another), don’t you think? Because she doesn’t fret about quality. If it comes from her pen, it’s already a masterpiece!

      I can learn a thing or two from her about delusional perseverance.



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