by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Well, the great dinner-bell rang, and we all assembled in the little drawing-room where my Lady Crawley sits. She is the second Lady Crawley, and mother of the young ladies. She was an ironmonger's daughter, and her marriage was thought a great match. She looks as if she had been handsome once, and her eyes are always weeping for the loss of her beauty. She is pale and meagre and high-shouldered, and has not a word to say for herself, evidently [...] "I hope you will be kind to my girls," said Lady Crawley, with her pink eyes always full of tears.
"Law, Ma, of course she will," said the eldest: and I saw at a glance that I need not be afraid of THAT woman. (8.22-26)
Keep in mind that this is Becky's voice – this is the letter she writes to Amelia about Queen's Crawley. She has already learned how to value not just the outward qualities of women (ooh, Lady Crawley with the fancy title!) but their actual social position (no wait, she is the second Lady Crawley and was not born an aristocrat, and besides that her daughters treat her like dirt).
Now, love was Miss Amelia Sedley's last tutoress, and it was amazing what progress our young lady made under that popular teacher. In the course of fifteen or eighteen months' daily and constant attention to this eminent finishing governess, what a deal of secrets Amelia learned, which Miss Wirt and the black-eyed young ladies over the way, which old Miss Pinkerton of Chiswick herself, had no cognizance of! As, indeed, how should any of those prim and reputable virgins? With Misses P. and W. the tender passion is out of the question: I would not dare to breathe such an idea regarding them. Miss Maria Osborne, it is true, was "attached" to Mr. Frederick Augustus Bullock, of the firm of Hulker, Bullock & Bullock; but hers was a most respectable attachment, and she would have taken Bullock Senior just the same, her mind being fixed--as that of a well-bred young woman should be--upon a house in Park Lane, a country house at Wimbledon, a handsome chariot, and two prodigious tall horses and footmen, and a fourth of the annual profits of the eminent firm of Hulker & Bullock, all of which advantages were represented in the person of Frederick Augustus. [...] Miss Maria, I say, would have assumed the spotless wreath, and stepped into the travelling carriage by the side of gouty, old, bald-headed, bottle-nosed Bullock Senior; and devoted her beautiful existence to his happiness with perfect modesty--only the old gentleman was married already; so she bestowed her young affections on the junior partner. [...] This was not the sort of love that finished Amelia's education; and in the course of a year turned a good young girl into a good young woman--to be a good wife presently, when the happy time should come. (12.19-20)
If all marriages were arranged by parents, then young women would be expected to just take anyone who's a good business proposition. This is illustrated nicely by Maria here, who doesn't really care which Bullock she ends up married to; she's marrying the money, not the person. This was a time when the idea of marriage as a purely financial and legal institution was starting to come into conflict with the notion of marriage as a love-based union between companions.
Amelia took the news very palely and calmly. It was only the confirmation of the dark presages which had long gone before. It was the mere reading of the sentence--of the crime she had long ago been guilty--the crime of loving wrongly, too violently, against reason. She told no more of her thoughts now than she had before. She seemed scarcely more unhappy now when convinced all hope was over, than before when she felt but dared not confess that it was gone. So she changed from the large house to the small one without any mark or difference; remained in her little room for the most part; pined silently; and died away day by day. I do not mean to say that all females are so. My dear Miss Bullock, I do not think your heart would break in this way. You are a strong-minded young woman with proper principles. I do not venture to say that mine would; it has suffered, and, it must be confessed, survived. But there are some souls thus gently constituted, thus frail, and delicate, and tender. (18.18)
Amelia sure takes passivity to a whole new level here. The narrator is feeling like it's a bit extreme too, we think – that's why he busts out the imaginary reader who scoffs at Amelia's nonsense. The reader "Miss Bullock" is meant to be funny, but the joke feels like it's meant to prevent us from questioning Amelia and her half-dead affect too closely.