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Chapter 4
PITY, and the forlorn seriousness of adversity, have both been considered as
dispositions favourable to love, while satirical writers have attributed the
propensity to the relaxing effect of idleness; what chance then had Maria of
escaping, when pity, sorrow, and solitude all conspired to soften her mind, and
nourish romantic wishes, and, from a natural progress, romantic expectations?
Maria was six-and-twenty. But, such was the native soundness of her
constitution, that time had only given to her countenance the character of her
mind. Revolving thought, and exercised affections had banished some of the
playful graces of innocence, producing insensibly that irregularity of features
which the struggles of the understanding to trace or govern the strong emotions
of the heart, are wont to imprint on the yielding mass. Grief and care had
mellowed, without obscuring, the bright tints of youth, and the thoughtfulness
which resided on her brow did not take from the feminine softness of her
features; nay, such was the sensibility which often mantled over it, that she
frequently appeared, like a large proportion of her sex, only born to feel; and the
activity of her well-proportioned, and even almost voluptuous figure, inspired the
idea of strength of mind, rather than of body. There was a simplicity sometimes
indeed in her manner, which bordered on infantine ingenuousness, that led
people of common discernment to underrate her talents, and smile at the flights
of her imagination. But those who could not comprehend the delicacy of her
sentiments, were attached by her unfailing sympathy, so that she was very
generally beloved by characters of very different descriptions; still, she was too
much under the influence of an ardent imagination to adhere to common rules.
There are mistakes of conduct which at five-and-twenty prove the strength of
the mind, that, ten or fifteen years after, would demonstrate its weakness, its
incapacity to acquire a sane judgment. The youths who are satisfied with the
ordinary pleasures of life, and do not sigh after ideal phantoms of love and
friendship, will never arrive at great maturity of understanding; but if these
reveries are cherished, as is too frequently the case with women, when
experience ought to have taught them in what human happiness consists, they
become as useless as they are wretched. Besides, their pains and pleasures are
so dependent on outward circumstances, on the objects of their affections, that
they seldom act from the impulse of a nerved mind, able to choose its own
Having had to struggle incessantly with the vices of mankind, Maria's
imagination found repose in pourtraying the possible virtues the world might
contain. Pygmalion formed an ivory maid, and longed for an informing soul. She,
on the contrary, combined all the qualities of a hero's mind, and fate presented a
statue in which she might enshrine them.
We mean not to trace the progress of this passion, or recount how often
Darnford and Maria were obliged to part in the midst of an interesting
conversation. Jemima ever watched on the tip-toe of fear, and frequently