Hello everyone, and welcome back to LLP. There was pretty universal support in the threads for Yams' History Corner, so I'll definitely keep it up! Luckily for all my fellow nerds, there's a good bit to discuss this update.
Our stats are all getting pretty up there. Lavinia's scene will bump some of our maxed ones back down, though.
Even though it is only
a print and not an original painting, I keep her on my wall to serve as my inspiration.
She is the quintessential English rose, you see. Not the daring and fashionable Gibson Girl, but a more traditional beauty, delicate and fair.
You see how white her skin is, with only the faintest touch of rose at her cheeks and lips? And her hair, that light ash, brown, so unassuming and untouched by artifice?
Do you see how she reclines, how she sighs, modest and tender as a petal? That is true beauty.
It's likely that Lavinia's dialogue is meant to reference an actual painting, but given the enormous amount of Victorian-era portraiture that exists and the vague description, I can't source it with any confidence. Below are some portraits from the time period that match the description, but if anyone more familiar with art has a guess on what the actual picture may be, let me know!
Unpacking the rest of the dialogue, "English rose" is a phrase that generally refers to a pale, light-haired, beautiful young English woman. A "Gibson girl", meanwhile, refers to a woman trying to emulate the appearance of women in popular sketches by Charles Gibson. Both of these phrases are anachronistic-- Gibson's sketches wouldn't arrive until the 1890s (not to mention that "Gibson girl" generally refers to American women), and the phrase "English rose" wasn't coined until 1902.
Victorian standards of beauty were, uh, something. To give you an idea, the goal was more or less to emulate the appearance of someone dying of tuberculosis-- translucently pale, slim, with big, watery eyes. Makeup was very much frowned upon, and considered the realm of actresses, dancers, and prostitutes (which were regarded as interchangeable professions at the time). Many women still cheated by applying subtle cosmetics in secret, or doing things like pinching their cheeks and biting their lips to give them color naturally. To achieve the big watery eyes, some would drip drops of perfume or belladonna (poison) into their eyes.
(Neither will you. I am not fair-haired or soft or rosy-cheeked, but your hair is as straight and black as mine, and your skin is darker.)
However, you could certainly make some improvements. Your clothing is so queer and old-fashioned.
What makes the difference between ’old’fashioned’ and ’traditional'?
One is better than the other.
(That's not an answer!)
I find this exchange slightly funny, honestly. It really shows how much Lavinia is just a little girl parroting back things that she's picked up, and that she really doesn't know much more than Sara does. It's the kind of thing I used to do as a kid, pick up bits and pieces, coalesce them into an idea, and then repeat it with complete confidence, even though it was largely nonsense.
Since we're speaking about clothes, it's worth noting briefly that the outfits in the game really don't bear much resemblance to historical fashions or garments. Bernadette Banner (whose YouTube channel you should check out if you're interested in historical fashion) would weep to see them, I'm sure. The fashionable young lady in 1888 would have more likely been wearing something like this or this at home and at school, and something like this when about town or for traveling.
My mother is dead.
Very little ever seemed to make Lavinia uncomfortable; this subject, however, shook her composure.
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be... I didn’t know.
It's all right. I never knew her, so it doesn’t make me sad. She died when I was born.
Well, anyway, it's just not done to talk about the... departed. And especially not to criticise them. That is a piece of English manners which you should learn.
So — I ask that you forgive me for what I said.
Of course I forgive you.
(I wonder if her mother is dead, too? But if she says it's rude to talk about it, she would probably be upset if I asked.)
Perhaps you will develop your own style when you are older. What do you think, Miss Crewe — will you become a 'New Woman'?
I do not know what a New Woman is. Is there an Old Woman? What is the difference? I suppose every woman will become an old woman, eventually... but every girl must become a new woman at some point, first.
How you do tie yourself in knots! If you aren't careful, you will become known as a bluestocking.
Sara looked down at her stockings, which were quite clearly white with blue embroidery. Lavinia sighed noisily.
An overly intellectual
She turned back to regard her 'inspirational' print.
The ideal English lady is accomplished and well-read, but only enough to make polite conversation. Not enough to be challenging.
(I think Lavinia will always be a challenge.)
Big yikes with the gender roles. A "New woman" is a term that describes a somewhat or completely independent woman-- she may be more forceful and assertive in manner than a typical woman, have her own career and income apart from her husband, or avoid being married altogether. The archetype popped up in the late 19th century and influenced feminism long into the 20th-- some "new women" were even so audacious as to enter lesbian relationships.
Lavinia is of course right about how at the time it was thought that women should be educated, but in a way that was not challenging to men. While most upper-class girls went to school by the late 19th century, their education was focused on domestic activities (cooking, cleaning, sewing, etc.) and "accomplishments" (singing, playing instruments, languages, etc.). These skills were to help her attract a husband and entertain him during their marriage. Women's brains were thought to be fundamentally different during the era-- they were less capable of logic and reason than men, of course , and straining too much in those areas was believed to be bad for a woman's health.
Still, there will always be a benefit in looking one's best. That Lottie, with her little golden curls, is likely to become something of a beauty when she is older.
If she ever ceases to be an irritatingly spoiled brat.
(I suppose none of us see ourselves as we see others. I am sure I have quite obvious flaws that I completely overlook.)
Is it all right, then, to call her 'Lottie' and not ’Miss Leigh’?
Hmm? Oh. Yes. She's a child.
And really, it is
tiresome being so formal all the time. We are all practically family here, aren't we? We live under the same roof. We share with each other, like sisters.
Therefore, you may call me Lavinia.
Thank you, Lavinia.
Lavinia nodded earnestly.
Yes, that's just so. Failing to reciprocate would be impolite.
If you want to show more enthusiasm, you can be more insistent. 'You must
call me Sara.’
However, too much enthusiasm seems clumsy, fawning. It cloys.
I will remember that.
(She does put a good deal of thought into how a lady should behave. But if she must play a part, why not choose a more enjoyable one to play?)
Progress! We are now on a first-name basis with Lavinia. Am I the only one that finds it...weirdly endearing that Lavinia, despite being super smug about it, is actually trying to teach Sara? She's doing it partly because it makes her feel superior, sure, but she's taking it seriously. I admit that I was super spoiled and full of myself as a kid, and I see a lot of little me in Lavinia. I may have a soft spot for her because of that.
Oh, I don't think so. Not by the mirror.
You see, it is nice to sit and think while you run the brush through my hair. Sometimes, I remember
stories, or think of things I want to say to someone else. Other times, it helps me relax. It must be like that for Tybalt, when someone is petting him.
But if I were looking into the mirror, then the Sara in the mirror would be looking back at me, and we should have to pay attention to each other or else we might be thought impolite.
Mariette laughed in the back of her throat.
That is as you wish. I had thought of doing something different with your hair, and if you could see, then you would know more quickly if you thought yes or no, and I could change it if you did not like it.
Well, I think that it's better to look at it when it's finished. If you stop reading a book in the middle, you might have the wrong idea of what it's all about.
Then I will show you when I am done.
I, personally, am a big proponent of not slogging through media you don't enjoy simply because it might get better. I give things a fair shake, but if I'm a good third into a book and it still hasn't grabbed my interest, I feel no shame in giving up on it. Same with TV shows, movies, or whatever else.
...But yeah, it's a good philosophy for hairstyles, I guess.
(This school is full of other girls, but they are, like me, guests of Miss Minchin. We live in the same house, but they are not part of my household. Mariette is the only person who belongs to me.)
nice to sit and think while she brushes my hair, and she has a better way with it than my old Ayah did, but... I do miss my Papa so!)
(If he were here, if he were coming to visit me as some girls' parents do, how happy my life would be!)
I wonder where my Papa is now...
No, it is good, mademoiselle, you should speak your thoughts. Your father sailed many weeks ago. By now, he is in India, yes? Home and safe, and thinking how different the house seems without your footsteps.
Oh, I don't want to think of him sad and lonely...
It is right that he misses you, and that you miss him. That is how things should be. But that does not mean your life is nothing but sadness, does it?
No — I do not think I am 'melancholy'. I would not wish to be. I enjoy my books and my friends.
So, you see? Your papa, he will be lonely, but he will also feel other things. He will live his life, but he will also think of you. I believe you will hear from him soon.
Oh, I hope you are right!
No, you must be right. My papa will write me letters, as soon as the ships can carry them, and I will treasure his words.
(And I hope — I do
hope — that my papa has a friend to care for him, as Mariette cares for me.)
A sweet scene, other than that one bit about 'owning' your servants. I don't think Sara meant for it to come off that way, but...yeah. Servants were entirely at the mercy of their employers in the Victorian era. They worked excruciatingly long days (12 or more hours), had time off only at the whim of their master or mistress, and usually lived in the household, meaning they depended on their employer for food and shelter and were isolated from their family and friends. They also made jack fucking squat, naturally. A lady's maid like Mariette would typically make 20 pounds a year, or about $3k today. Given that Captain Crewe is insanely rich, she may very well be payed more, but that's the average I found.
The first high-pitched shriek made her startle, concerned that one of the younger girls might have injured herself. Sara was a quiet and solemn girl herself, but made no judgment against those whose temperaments led them to cry out loudly when they were in pain. However, the wailing went on and on, more angry than miserable, and the voice was recognisably Lottie's. Sara came closer, and began to make out the accompaniment of frustrated adult that had been drowned out by childish tantrum.
What ARE you crying for? There is nothing wrong with you!
Oh — oh — oh!! I haven't got any mam—maaa!
Stop crying, for heaven’s sake.
Uwaaaaahahaaa-aaa! Haven't — got — any — maa—maaaa!
You ought to be whipped. You SHALL be whipped if you do not hush, you naughty child!
Lottie wailed more loudly than ever.
Seems like a super fun and productive conversation they're having.
Oh! Dear Sara.
Miss Minchin's attempt at producing a friendly smile was not at all convincing. Lottie's roars continued unabated, and each burst of sound made Miss Minchin's shoulders twitch.
I stopped because I knew it was Lottie — and I thought, perhaps — just perhaps, I could make her be quiet. May I try, Miss Minchin?
If you can quiet that
, you are
a clever child. Dreadful thing — we may not be able to keep her.
But you are clever in everything, my dear. I dare say you can manage her. Go in.
Uuwwaaaaahaahaahaaa-aaaa! Ah! Ah! Hnaaaaaaaah!
Sara stood by the howling furious child for a few moments, and looked down at her without saying anything. Then she sat down flat on the floor beside her and waited. Except for Lottie's angry screams, the room was quite quiet.
This was a new state of affairs for Lottie, who was accustomed to hearing other people protest and implore and command and coax her by turns. To find that the only person near her did not seem to mind in the least how she kicked and screamed was unusual, and made it necessary for her to pause her sobbing in order to see what was going on. She opened her tight-shut streaming eyes to see who this person was, and found that it was only another little girl — but it was the one who owned Emily and all the nice things. Sara looked at Lottie quite curiously, but said nothing. Lottie sucked in a gulp of air, but the noise she made sounded rather half-hearted.
I — I haven't any maa-maaa!
Lottie blinked rapidly at this unexpected answer. Her legs and arms ceased their kicking and lay flat against the floor.
Where — where is your mamma?
She went to heaven. But I am sure she comes out sometimes to see me — though I don't see her. So does yours. Perhaps
they can both see us now. Perhaps they are both in this room.
Lottie sat bolt upright and looked around. Seeing nothing, her face began to scrunch up again.
We can't see the people who live in heaven, even when they come to visit us.
Their land is full of lilies, fields and fields of lilies — and when the soft wind blows over them, it wafts the scent of them into the air.
And everybody always breathes it, because that soft wind is always blowing. Wind, and sunlight, and the streets are always shining. And little children run about in the lily fields and gather armfuls of them, and laugh and make little wreaths to wear on their heads, or spin cloaks and dresses of soft lily petals. The petals never go dry or brown, but when the children grow tired of them they toss the petals into the air and they turn into clouds.
Lottie had by now quite forgotten to cry, and was leaning forward, hanging on every word that Sara spoke.
In that shining city, people are never tired, however far they walk. They can float anywhere they like. And there are walls made of pearl and gold all round the city, but they are low enough for the people to go and lean on them, and look down onto the earth and smile. From those walls, sometimes, they dance down to visit us. Other times, they whisper beautiful messages into the wind and hope that someday we will hear them.
I couldn't find any good sources on what the Victorian ideal of heaven was, other than a couple of books that I didn't want to buy just for this one blurb in the LP. It's mentioned in the novel that Sara's ideas are considered fanciful and strange. As an atheist who was raised in a nominally Christian household but never went to church, it sounds more or less in line, if much more detailed, with the vague descriptions I've heard. I'm pretty sure the gold and pearl and all that is actually in the bible, though.
I — I haven't any mamma here.
Sara saw the danger signal, and took hold of Lottie's hand with a coaxing little laugh.
I will be your mamma in this school. We will play that you are my little girl. And Emily shall be your sister.
Yes. Let us go and tell her. And then I will wash your face and brush your hair, and both of us shall have — a little bit more family.
Sara seems to have found herself a single mother at the tender age of 10(?). It's sweet, though, and Lottie could use someone looking after her other than Miss Minchin, whose first response to most things seems to be yelling.
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