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Agnes Grey

5. The Uncle
BESIDES the old lady, there was another relative of the family, whose visits were
a great annoyance to me - this was 'Uncle Robson,' Mrs. Bloomfield's brother; a
tall, self-sufficient fellow, with dark hair and sallow complexion like his sister, a
nose that seemed to disdain the earth, and little grey eyes, frequently half-
closed, with a mixture of real stupidity and affected contempt of all surrounding
objects. He was a thick-set, strongly-built man, but he had found some means of
compressing his waist into a remarkably small compass; and that, together with
the unnatural stillness of his form, showed that the lofty-minded, manly Mr.
Robson, the scorner of the female sex, was not above the foppery of stays. He
seldom deigned to notice me; and, when he did, it was with a certain supercilious
insolence of tone and manner that convinced me he was no gentleman: though it
was intended to have a contrary effect. But it was not for that I disliked his
coming, so much as for the harm he did the children - encouraging all their evil
propensities, and undoing in a few minutes the little good it had taken me months
of labour to achieve.
Fanny and little Harriet he seldom condescended to notice; but Mary Ann was
something of a favourite. He was continually encouraging her tendency to
affectation (which I had done my utmost to crush), talking about her pretty face,
and filling her head with all manner of conceited notions concerning her personal
appearance (which I had instructed her to regard as dust in the balance
compared with the cultivation of her mind and manners); and I never saw a child
so susceptible of flattery as she was. Whatever was wrong, in either her or her
brother, he would encourage by laughing at, if not by actually praising: people
little know the injury they do to children by laughing at their faults, and making a
pleasant jest of what their true friends have endeavoured to teach them to hold in
grave abhorrence.
Though not a positive drunkard, Mr. Robson habitually swallowed great
quantities of wine, and took with relish an occasional glass of brandy and water.
He taught his nephew to imitate him in this to the utmost of his ability, and to
believe that the more wine and spirits he could take, and the better he liked them,
the more he manifested his bold, and manly spirit, and rose superior to his
sisters. Mr. Bloomfield had not much to say against it, for his favourite beverage
was gin and water; of which he took a considerable portion every day, by dint of
constant sipping - and to that I chiefly attributed his dingy complexion and
waspish temper.
Mr. Robson likewise encouraged Tom's propensity to persecute the lower
creation, both by precept and example. As he frequently came to course or shoot
over his brother-in-law's grounds, he would bring his favourite dogs with him; and
he treated them so brutally that, poor as I was, I would have given a sovereign