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.”
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.
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.