The Modern Griselda, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 11.

“Short is the period of insulting power,

Offended Cupid finds his vengeful hour.”

Finding it impossible to regain his fair one’s favour, Mr. Bolingbroke absented himself from her presence. He amused himself for some days with his friend Mr. Granby, in attending to a plantation which he was laying out in his grounds. Griselda was vexed to perceive that her husband could find any amusement independent of her; and she never failed, upon his return, to mark her displeasure.

One morning the gentlemen had been so much occupied with their plantation, that they did not attend the breakfast-table precisely in due time: the contrast in the looks of the two ladies when their husbands entered the room was striking. Griselda was provoked with Mrs. Granby for being so good-humoured.

“Lord bless me! Mrs. Granby, how you spoil these men,” cried she.

All the time the gentlemen were at breakfast, Mrs. Bolingbroke played with her tea-spoon, and did not deign to utter a syllable; and when the gentlemen left the breakfast-table, and returned to their business, Griselda, who was, as our readers may have observed, one of the fashionable lollers by profession, established herself upon a couch, and began an attack upon Emma, for spoiling her husband in such a sad manner. Emma defended herself in a playful way, by answering that she could not venture to give unnecessary pain, because she was not so sure as some of her friends might be of their power of giving pleasure. Mrs. Bolingbroke proceeded to descant upon the difference between friendship and love: with some vanity, and some malice, she touched upon the difference between the sorts of sentiments which different women excited. Passion, she argued, could be kept alive only by a certain happy mixture of caprice and grace, coldness and ill-humour. She confessed that, for her part, she never could be content with the friendship of a husband. Emma, without claiming or disclaiming her pretensions to love, quoted the saying of a French gentleman:

“L’Amitié est l’Amour sans ailes.”

“Friendship is Love deprived of his wings.”

Griselda had no apprehension that love could ever fly from her, and she declared she could not endure him without his wings.

Our heroine did not imagine that any of the little vexations which she habitually inflicted upon her husband could really diminish his regard. She, never had calculated the prodigious effects which can be produced by petty causes constantly acting. Indeed this is a consideration, to which the pride or short-sightedness of human nature is not prone.

Who in contemplating one of Raphael’s finest pictures, fresh from the master’s hand, ever bestowed a thought upon the wretched little worm which works its destruction? Who that beholds the gilded vessel gliding in gallant trim —“youth at the prow, and pleasure at the helm;” ever at that instant thought of — barnacles? The imagination is disgusted by the anti-climax; and of all species of the bathos, the sinking from visionary happiness to sober reality is that from which human nature is most averse. The wings of the imagination, accustomed to ascend, resist the downward flight.

Confident of her charms, heedless of danger, accustomed to think her empire absolute and eternal; our heroine, to amuse herself, and to display her power to Emma, persisted in her practice of tormenting. The ingenuity with which she varied her tortures was certainly admirable. After exhausting old ones, she invented new; and when the new lost their efficacy, she recurred to the old. She had often observed, that the blunt method of contradicting, which some bosom friends practise in conversation, is of sovereign power to provoke; and this consequently, though unpolite, she disdained not to imitate. It had the greater effect, as it was in diametrical opposition to the style of Mrs. Granby’s conversation; who, in discussions with her husband, or her intimate friends, was peculiarly and habitually attentive to politeness.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37