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( Originally Published Mid 1800s )
Even virtue is more fair when it appears in a beautiful person. -Virgil.
In her own mind, at least, no woman is ever just what she wants to be. If she be pretty, she is striving to be prettier. If she be plain, she is struggling to be less plain, to approach comeliness by one path or other. When one considers the amount of time, and patience, and money, and heartache a woman consecrates to the task has she set herself, the situation becomes well-nigh pathetic.
Almost from babyhood the secret aim of every little girl is to be beautiful. She wants to be good, too, but she feels that, first of all, she must be beautiful. Idle at her books, listless and indolent where every other aim and object of life is concerned, you will find your daughter, your mother's daughter and mine, your laundress's daughter, the daughter of your clergyman, or the daughter of your hero, equally alert, eager, untiring, and faithful in the pursuit of good looks.
I doubt if any woman ever stops, ever calls a halt, in the pursuit of outward loveliness. As a young maiden she is intent upon the creation of beautiful womanhood. She watches the deepening color of her eyes, notes the increasing symmetry of her form, the cunning beauties that reveal themselves in the arch and curves of a mobility lately come to moist red lips.
She knows that she is each day the handmaid of a work of creative loveliness, and she never tires-never grows weary of watching the mirrored result.
Finally she rejoices in a superb fulfillment of rosebud promises; she realizes the blossoming of the flower, but her charms are hardly mature ere she suddenly becomes aware that they begin to show signs of fading.
Then she begins to defend her precious possessions. Care, anxiety, maternity, rob her of the rose-leaf color in her cheek, imprint little lines upon her smooth brow, steal away the elasticity of her girlish figure.
By every means in her power, often by every so-called power within her means, she fights inch by inch for the crown of her life's happiness ; her pretty face, her lithe, graceful form. She fights valiantly, too, and even in the defeat of her Hebe-like grace of youth, she manages to win our admiration by an opulent and splendid maturity.
The pursuit of beauty in woman has been aided and abetted by man, if, indeed, it does not owe its origin to the male. The best man in the world, the worst man in the universe and all the others in between, succumb to the charm of beauty in woman. Incidentally it may be stated that he usually says he prefers a plain, good woman to a pretty, vain one. It is very impressive to listen to a man's dissertations upon woman's vanity and her love of admiration.
Recently a man told me that nothing to him was so hopeless as a woman striving to be better looking than the Lord intended she should be.
"Why," he said, "can't a woman be satisfied with Nature? "
And I feebly replied that Nature had been extremely skimpy in dealing out personal attributes to some of us, and a Nature that gave a girl crooked teeth, pink eyelashes, freckles, and knock-knees, was not deserving of the undying gratitude of her victim.
" I should think," he retorted with much vigor, " a thousand times more of a girl who is content to abide by the looks she was born with than of one who tries to improve on Nature." The night following I saw this young man at the theatre. He was escorting a young woman with auburn hair and beautiful blue eyes.
The next morning he asked me if I saw the "sweet little girl who was with him," and if I didn't think her "awfully pretty."
And I behaved like a perfect angel and said I saw her and thought her lovely. There was something else I might have said, for I remembered that same "sweet little girl" when she had white eyelashes and eyebrows, and the ugliest carrot-red hair ever inflicted upon a child, I know when and how that hair was made a pretty auburn, and those eyelashes and eyebrows stained a shade darker. And I also know that the man who finds her so charming now would never have looked twice at her with her white eyebrows and lashes.
Some of these days I hope this little girl will have the courage to tell my friend, who is head over heels in love with her, about her eyebrows. That will be the time for testing this man's affection. Because he raves over this maiden's exquisite soul, which he assures me is a fit companion for her face, ten to one he will declare he has been deceived by a designing girl villain. And who knows what the consequences will be?
But if every man who asks a sweet young girl to join her life with his own is not concealing from her something rather more discreditable than a stained eyebrow, then, I say, let us all stop work and sing psalms of rejoicing, for the millennium is upon us.
The pursuit of beauty is as old as the world-as old as the love of beauty. Do not let us blame the women who have learned, some of them in the saddest of all ways, that beauty is the supreme power of our sex. Rather let us realize that perpetual beauty and virtue are synonymous, because it has been proved that even physical beauty, if maintained in its proper sense, after maturity, means purity and temperance, and without these two attributes no power on earth can preserve a woman's loveliness beyond the early thirties.