Anthony Trollope: The Belton Estate


Clara, when she left her accepted lover in the drawing-room and went up to her own chamber, had two hours for consideration before she would see him again and she had two hours for enjoyment. She was very happy. She thoroughly believed in the man who was to be her husband, feeling confident that he possessed those qualities which she thought to be most necessary for her married happiness. She had quizzed him at times, pretending to make it matter of accusation against him that his life was not in truth all that his aunt believed it to be but had it been more what Mrs Winterfield would have wished, it would have been less to Clara's taste. She liked his position in the world; she liked the feeling that he was a man of influence; perhaps she liked to think that to some extent he was a man of fashion. He was not handsome, but he looked always like a gentleman. He was well educated, given to reading, prudent, steady in his habits, a man likely to rise in the world; and she loved him. I fear the reader by this time may have begun to think that her love should never have been given to such a man. To this accusation I will make no plea at present, but I will ask the complainant whether such men are not always loved. Much is said of the rashness of women in giving away their hearts wildly; but the charge when made generally is, I think, an unjust one. I am more often astonished by the prudence of girls than by their recklessness. A woman of thirty will often love well and not wisely; but the girls of twenty seem to me to like propriety of demeanour, decency of outward life, and a competence. It is, of course, good that it should be so; but if it is so, they should not also claim a general character for generous and passionate indiscretion, asserting as their motto that Love shall still be Lord of All. Clara was more than twenty; but she was not yet so far advanced in age as to have lost her taste for decency of demeanour and propriety of life. A Member of Parliament, with a small house near Eaton Square, with a moderate income, and a liking for committees, who would write a pamphlet once every two years, and read Dante critically during the recess, was, to her, the model for a husband. For such a one she would read his blue books, copy his pamphlets, and learn his translations by heart. She would be safe in the hands of such a man, and would know nothing of the miseries which her brother bad encountered. Her model may not appear, when thus described, to be a very noble one; but I think it is the model most approved among ladies of her class in England.

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