The Female Philosopher

A young woman recounts a visit from a family friend.

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Your friend Mr Millar called upon us yesterday in his way to Bath, whither he is going for his health; two of his daughters were with him, but the eldest and the three boys are with their mother in Sussex. Though you have often told me that Miss Millar was remarkably handsome, you never mentioned anything of her sisters’ beauty; yet they are certainly extremely pretty. I’ll give you their description.

Julia is eighteen; with a countenance in which modesty, sense and dignity are happily blended, she has a form which at once presents you with grace, elegance and symmetry. Charlotte, who is just sixteen, is shorter than her sister, and though her figure cannot boast the easy dignity of Julia’s, yet it has a pleasing plumpness which is in a different way as estimable. She is fair and her face is expressive sometimes of softness the most bewitching, and at others of Vivacity the most striking. She appears to have infinite wit and a good humour unalterable; her conversation during the half hour they set with us, was replete with humorous sallies, bonmots and repartees; while the sensible, the amiable Julia uttered sentiments of morality worthy of a heart like her own.

Mr Millar appeared to answer the character I had always received of him. My father met him with that look of love, that social shake, and cordial kiss which marked his gladness at beholding an old and valued friend from whom through various circumstances he had been separated nearly twenty years. Mr Millar observed (and very justly too) that many events had befallen each during that interval of time, which gave occasion to the lovely Julia for making most sensible reflections on the many changes in their situation which so long a period had occasioned, on the advantages of some, and the disadvantages of others. From this subject she made a short digression to the instability of human pleasures and the uncertainty of their duration, which led her to observe that all earthly Joys must be imperfect. She was proceeding to illustrate this doctrine by examples from the lives of great men when the carriage came to the door and the amiable moralist with her father and sister was obliged to depart; but not without a promise of spending five or six months with us on their return.

We of course mentioned you, and I assure you that ample justice was done to your merits by all.

“Louisa Clarke,” said I, “is in general a very pleasant girl, yet sometimes her good humour is clouded by peevishness, envy and spite. She neither wants understanding or is without some pretensions to beauty, but these are so very trifling, that the value she sets on her personal charms, and the adoration she expects them to be offered are at once a striking example of her vanity, her pride, and her folly.” So said I, and to my opinion everyone added weight by the concurrence of their own.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was a writer. She was best known for her novels including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma.

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