UNTIL arriving at the age of twenty-five the girl of sentimental mood is only a quiet uninteresting maiden, with a strong bias for poetry, chiefly of the modern school, that will not scan or construe. She has an album, and collects autographs; she writes verses, and has drafted the plot of a three-volume novel, not written; she despises this age of money. One day she wakes up and reflects that woman was not made to live alone. Many of her old school-friends are already wives and mothers; and in the numerous novels from Mudie's which she peruses she notices a tendency to depreciate the matrimonial chances of virgins who have reached her time of life. Her poetical instinct warns her that there is no romance in old maids.
So she rouses for the fray and puts on war-paint. A fine figure and carriage, a well-trained intellect, a strictly conventional manner, a good family connection, a few art-treasures as heirlooms, a domestic taste underlying her keen poetical sympathy with wives of the Guinevere pattern - all these things might combine to make her an excellent wife for a man of easy temper, not addicted to claim autocratic powers in the home circle.
But Lavinia - as we may call her - is beset by difficulties caused by her peculiar temperament, nourished on Tennyson and Browning, and fortified by Swinburne. An average man will not do for a damsel who feels a deep contempt for men who have not, like herself, set their faces against a mercenary age. Lavima's husband must be in some twenty respects superior to all other women's husbands. He need not be rich or noble; she would, on the whole, prefer that he should be neither, so that he might not dwarf her with his superiority. But he must have every sort of physical and intellectual advantage, cooperating to make him a glorious compound of mind and matter. He must be handsome and modest, fascinating and faithful; able to knock down an ox one minute, and tenderly to fasten a fallen earring to his wife's ear the next. He must be peaceful, yet firm; an artist, orator, sportsman, statesman; a hero of land, sea, or balloons, yet never bored by small-talk; a savant, without being a pedant; well dressed, but not extravagant such a man as never was, even in books, and, alas, never can be.
But Lavinia believes in his existence, in her power to find him, in her ability to discover merit which before was hidden. So she draws out, examines, and criticizes all her male friends. Of female friends she has only one, and into her ears she pours her plaint. The poet is sickly, the dragoon fast, the divine slow, the merchant ignoble, the baronet a roué. Not one may marry her; and at last, by dint of disenchantments, she grows sour, except to her canary, and hates men almost as much as she detests married women. But she sketches miniatures with pen and pencil of the man she could have loved, and these much resemble the wax presentments in barbers' windows.
The Sentimental Flirt, after a period of misanthropic retirement, often takes to literature, and flirts with authors. She submits a copy of her verses to the Laureate, and, getting a polite reply, is emboldened to try a work in prose. While the book is going through the press she has an exciting time correcting proofs; but disillusions await her when the critics fall to flouting her heroes and heroines with ridicule. Her second attempt is not so trashy as the first. She aims determinedly at success by a story of conjugal impropriety, which strikes one of the most sensitive chords in the breasts of habitual readers of novels; and though this second book gets a lavish share of abuse, it elevates its authoress to a distinct position in the world of letters.
Then she begins literary and epistolary flirtations with publishers, editors of magazines, brother-authors, and foreign translators. She defends the moral scope of her works in letters to the reviews, and develops a thesis of her own as to a recondite meaning of the Seventh Commandment. She mocks at British prudery, and says to herself that genius was ever venturesome. She puts a bust of Byron in her study. Surprise is created among the public when it becomes known that the authoress of so much 'spice' is not an experienced widow, nor a lady living on a pension earned by long service in the 'half-world,' but a lady of good connections, still young, and strictly virtuous. Strictly virtuous women of a sentimental turn often astonish the world by the depth and range of their knowledge.
But perhaps the Sentimental Flirt has taken to charity, instead of literature. In this case she becomes a distinguished member of the Society for the Protection of Animals. She busies herself about the grievances of dogs, cattle, and cats; she founds a home for motherless kittens; she bans the barbarity of foxhunting and game-shooting, and has serious ideas of inquiring whether the owners of racehorses cannot be brought to punishment for causing their nags to be unduly flogged. For men she does not care - at least, not for Englishmen; but she will gladly start a fund to relieve Turks, Bulgarians, or Cossacks, because she conceives them to be animated with sentiments more romantic than she has met with in her own country. After all, our highly cultured Lavinia is not proof against the blandishments of heroes of the Corsair type, and she becomes less and less proof against them as she grows older. Towards her thirty-second year she starts on a tour for Italy, and nearly leaves her reputation in the hands of a seductive Sicilian brigand, with a sugarloaf hat. She takes to painting, and gets Neapolitan lazzaroni to pose for her. One of this set becomes her servant, a strapping dark-eyed fellow, with merry white teeth, whom she calls Beppo, and who answers her in a fondling, whine, addressing her as 'Eccellenza.' She, perhaps, marries this creature, and soon after has to advertise in the papers that she will not be responsible for any debts which he may contract in her name.
Or, instead of marrying, Lavinia falls into anxiety about her soul, and embarks in spiritual flirtations with monks and plump Italian priests. She goes to Rome, and signalises herself by dropping on her knees in the streets when religious processions pass; she kisses the toe of St. Peter's statue; she requests an audience of the Pope, and has a fit of hysterics in the Holy Father's presence. Her rotund monkish friends and still more rotund priestly advisers encourage her to give largely of her substance to conventual establishments; and during a week or two she wonders how she would herself look in a nun's habit. If it were possible to dress in white, with a scarlet cross and cape, she thinks she would take the vow; but the white-and-scarlet Carmelites happen to be a rigidly cloistered order, whose regulations would not suit Lavinia's taste. She would like to walk about the streets in nun's attire; but, seeing that the nuns who walk about are robed in hideous blacks and grays, she eventually gives up the idea.
Possibly Lavinia's impulses towards religion and self-sacrifice one day branch off in a Mahometan direction, and lead her into an Egyptian or Turkish seraglio. Lady Ellenborough is not the only Englishwoman by many who has discovered that romance, though banished from the rest of the world, still finds a refuge in the breasts of Mussulman cheiks; nor does the polygamous system rebuff, for a cheik who takes one gushing English spouse soon finds that he has got as many wives as he can manage.
|About Flirts||Flirt's Power||Season Flirt||Example And Precept|
|Plain Sisters||Ecclesiastical Flirt||Home Regimental Flirts||Foreign Regimental Flirt|
|Seaside Flirt||Tourist Flirt||Country-Town-House Flirts||Sentimental Flirt|
|Taken from original text, as written. May contain OCR errors.|