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Poor Miss Finch

A Cage of Finches
LARGE families are--as my experience goes--of two sorts. We have the families whose
members all admire each other. And we have the families whose members all detest each
other. For myself, I prefer the second sort. Their quarrels are their own affair; and they
have a merit which the first sort are never known to possess--the merit of being
sometimes able to see the good qualities of persons who do not possess the advantage of
being related to them by blood. The families whose members all admire each other, are
families saturated with insufferable conceit. You happen to speak of Shakespeare, among
these people, as a type of supreme intellectual capacity. A female member of the family
will not fail to convey to you that you would have illustrated your meaning far more
completely if you had referred her to "dear Papa." You are out walking with a male
member of the household; and you say of a woman who passes, "What a charming
creature!" Your companion smiles at your simplicity, and wonders whether you have ever
seen his sister when she is dressed for a ball. These are the families who cannot be
separated without corresponding with each other every day. They read you extracts from
their letters, and say, "Where is the writer by profession who can equal this?" They talk
of their private affairs, in your presence--and appear to think that you ought to be
interested too. They enjoy their own jokes across you at table--and wonder how it is that
you are not amused. In domestic circles of this sort the sisters sit habitually on the
brothers' knees; and the husbands inquire into the wives' ailments, in public, as
unconcernedly as if they were closeted in their own room. When we arrive at a more
advanced stage of civilization, the State will supply cages for these intolerable people;
and notices will be posted at the corners of streets, "Beware of Number Twelve: a family
in a state of mutual admiration is hung up there!"
I gathered from Lucilla that the Finches were of the second order of large families, as
mentioned above. Hardly one of the members of this domestic group was on speaking
terms with the other. And some of them had been separated for years, without once
troubling Her Majesty's Post Office to convey even the slightest expression of sentiment
from one to the other.
The first wife of Reverend Finch was a Miss Batchford. The members of her family
(limited at the time of the marriage to her brother and her sister) strongly disapproved of
her choice of a husband. The rank of a Finch (I laugh at these contemptible distinctions!)
was decided, in this case, to be not equal to the rank of a Batchford. Nevertheless, Miss
married. Her brother and sister declined to be present at the ceremony. First quarrel.
Lucilla was born. Reverend Finch's elder brother (on speaking terms with no other
member of the family) interfered with a Christian proposal--namely--to shake hands
across the baby's cradle. Adopted by the magnanimous Batchfords. First reconciliation.
Time passed. Reverend Finch--then officiating in a poor curacy near a great
manufacturing town--felt a want (the want of money); and took a liberty (the liberty of
attempting to borrow of his brother-in-law). Mr. Batchford, being a rich man, regarded
this overture, it is needless to say, in the light of an insult. Miss Batchford sided with her
brother. Second quarrel.
Time passed, as before. Mrs. Finch the first died. Reverend Finch's elder brother (still at
daggers drawn with the other members of the family) made a second Christian proposal--