Agnes Grey HTML version

AS I am in the way of confessions I may as well acknowledge that, about this
time, I paid more attention to dress than ever I had done before. This is not
saying much - for hitherto I had been a little neglectful in that particular; but now,
also, it was no uncommon thing to spend as much as two minutes in the
contemplation of my own image in the glass; though I never could derive any
consolation from such a study. I could discover no beauty in those marked
features, that pale hollow cheek, and ordinary dark brown hair; there might be
intellect in the forehead, there might be expression in the dark grey eyes, but
what of that? - a low Grecian brow, and large black eyes devoid of sentiment
would be esteemed far preferable. It is foolish to wish for beauty. Sensible people
never either desire it for themselves or care about it in others. If the mind be but
well cultivated, and the heart well disposed, no one ever cares for the exterior.
So said the teachers of our childhood; and so say we to the children of the
present day. All very judicious and proper, no doubt; but are such assertions
supported by actual experience?
We are naturally disposed to love what gives us pleasure, and what more
pleasing than a beautiful face - when we know no harm of the possessor at
least? A little girl loves her bird - Why? Because it lives and feels; because it is
helpless and harmless? A toad, likewise, lives and feels, and is equally helpless
and harmless; but though she would not hurt a toad, she cannot love it like the
bird, with its graceful form, soft feathers, and bright, speaking eyes. If a woman is
fair and amiable, she is praised for both qualities, but especially the former, by
the bulk of mankind: if, on the other hand, she is disagreeable in person and
character, her plainness is commonly inveighed against as her greatest crime,
because, to common observers, it gives the greatest offence; while, if she is plain
and good, provided she is a person of retired manners and secluded life, no one
ever knows of her goodness, except her immediate connections. Others, on the
contrary, are disposed to form unfavourable opinions of her mind, and
disposition, if it be but to excuse themselves for their instinctive dislike of one so
unfavoured by nature; and visa versa with her whose angel form conceals a
vicious heart, or sheds a false, deceitful charm over defects and foibles that
would not be tolerated in another. They that have beauty, let them be thankful for
it, and make a good use of it, like any other talent; they that have it not, let them
console themselves, and do the best they can without it: certainly, though liable
to be over-estimated, it is a gift of God, and not to be despised. Many will feel this
who have felt that they could love, and whose hearts tell them that they are
worthy to be loved again; while yet they are debarred, by the lack of this or some
such seeming trifle, from giving and receiving that happiness they seem almost
made to feel and to impart. As well might the humble glowworm despise that
power of giving light without which the roving fly might pass her and repass her a
thousand times, and never rest beside her: she might hear her winged darling