No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard – and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence besides two good livings – and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, nd, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on – lived to have six children more – to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair, and strong features – so much for her person; and not less unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind. She was fond of all boy’s plays, and greatly preferred cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush. Indeed she had no taste for a garden; and if she gathered flowers at all, it was chiefly for the pleasure of mischief – at least so it was conjectured from her always preferring those which she was forbidden to take. Such were her propensities – her abilities were quite as extraordinary. She never could learn or understand anything before she was taught; and sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive, and occasionally stupid. Her mother was three months in teaching her only to repeat the “Beggar’s Petition”; and after all, her next sister, Sally, could say it better than she did. Not that Catherine was always stupid – by no means; she learnt the fable of “The Hare and Many Friends” as quickly as any girl in England. Her mother wished her to learn music; and Catherine was sure she should like it, for she was very fond of tinkling the keys of the old forlorn spinner; so, at eight years old she began. She learnt a year, and could not bear it; and Mrs. Morland, who did not insist on her daughters being accomplished in spite of incapacity or distaste, allowed her to leave off. The day which dismissed the music-master was one of the happiest of Catherine’s life. Her taste for drawing was not superior; though whenever she could obtain the outside of a letter from her mother or seize upon any other odd piece of paper, she did what she could in that way, by drawing houses and trees, hens and chickens, all very much like one another. Writing and accounts she was taught by her father; French by her mother: her proficiency in either was not remarkable, and she shirked her lessons in both whenever she could. What a strange, unaccountable character! – for with all these symptoms of profligacy at ten years old, she had neither a bad heart nor a bad temper, was seldom stubborn, scarcely ever quarrelsome, and very kind to the little ones, with few interruptions of tyranny; she was moreover noisy and wild, hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house.
Such was Catherine Morland at ten. At fifteen, appearances were mending; she began to curl her hair and long for balls; her complexion improved, her features were softened by plumpness and colour, her eyes gained more animation, and her figure more consequence. Her love of dirt gave way to an inclination for finery, and she grew clean as she grew smart; she had now the pleasure of sometimes hearing her father and mother remark on her personal improvement. “Catherine grows quite a good-looking girl – she is almost pretty today,” were words which caught her ears now and then; and how welcome were the sounds! To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.
Mrs. Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children everything they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books – or at least books of information – for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all. But from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.
From Pope, she learnt to censure those who
“bear about the mockery of woe.”
From Gray, that “Many a flower is born to blush unseen,
“And waste its fragrance on the desert air.”
From Thompson, that – “It is a delightful task
“To teach the young idea how to shoot.”
And from Shakespeare she gained a great store of information – amongst the rest, that
– “Trifles light as air,
“Are, to the jealous, confirmation strong,
“As proofs of Holy Writ.”
“The poor beetle, which we tread upon,
“In corporal sufferance feels a pang as great “As when a giant dies.”
And that a young woman in love always looks
– “like Patience on a monument
“Smiling at Grief.”
So far her improvement was sufficient – and in many other points she came on exceedingly well; for though she could not write sonnets, she brought herself to read them; and though there seemed no chance of her throwing a whole party into raptures by a prelude on the pianoforte, of her own composition, she could listen to other people’s performance with very little fatigue. Her greatest deficiency was in the pencil – she had no notion of drawing – not enough even to attempt a sketch of her lover’s profile, that she might be detected in the design. There she fell miserably short of the true heroic height. At present she did not know her own poverty, for she had no lover to portray. She had reached the age of seventeen, without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility, without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. This was strange indeed! But strange things may be generally accounted for if their cause be fairly searched out. There was not one lord in the neighbourhood; no – not even a baronet. There was not one family among their acquaintance who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at their door – not one young man whose origin was unknown. Her father had no ward, and the squire of the parish no children.
But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.
Mr. Allen, who owned the chief of the property about Fullerton, the village in Wiltshire where the Morlands lived, was ordered to Bath for the benefit of a gouty constitution – and his lady, a good-humoured woman, fond of Miss Morland, and probably aware that if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad, invited her to go with them. Mr. and Mrs. Morland were all compliance, and Catherine all happiness.
clergyman ˈklɜːʤɪmən n A person ordained for service in a Christian church: preacher, priest
neglect nɪˈglɛkt v To fail to care for or attend to properly.
living ˈlɪvɪŋ n A benefice, income-producing property, held by a clergyman.
not in the least ⇒ Not at all.
addict əˈdɪkt n To occupy oneself with or involve oneself in something habitually.
to lock up ⇒ To confine and not let out.
man/woman of sense ⇒ A reasonable person.
temper ˈtɛmpə n A characteristic state of feeling: mood, humour, attitude, disposition
constitution ˌkɒnstɪˈtjuːʃən n The physical makeup of a person, general physical structure and condition of a person’s body: structure
to bring into the world ⇒ To give birth to.
awkward ˈɔːkwəd adj Hard to handle; inconvenient to use, uncomfortable: amateurish, rude, stiff
sallow ˈsæləʊ adj Unhealthy looking of a sickly yellowish complexion.
lank læŋk adj Straight and lying limp or flat.
unpropitious ˌʌnprəˈpɪʃəs adj Not presenting favourable circumstances: unfavourable; inauspicious
to be fond of ⇒ To have a strong inclination or affection for.
dormouse ˈdɔːmaʊs n (pl dormice) Any of various small, squirrel-like Old World rodents.
canary kəˈneəri n Popular usually yellow cage bird noted for its song.
to have a taste for ⇒ To like, to be interested in.
at all ⇒ In any way; for any reason; to any extent; whatever.
mischief ˈmɪsʧɪf n A tendency to tease or annoy.
at least ⇒ If nothing else. Not less than.
conjecture kənˈʤɛkʧə v To believe on the basis of inconclusive evidence or insufficient information: suppose, guess
propensity prəˈpɛnsɪti n An innate inclination: tendency
“Beggar’s Petition” ⇒ A poem written by Thomas Moss and published anonymously in 1769. The poem is referenced here as an example of a poem commonly memorized by young women of the day.
after all ⇒ In spite of all.
by no means ⇒ In no sense; certainly not.
fable ˈfeɪbl n A short moral story, esp one with animals as characters
“The Hare and Many Friends” ⇒ The final fable in John Gay’s first collection of 1727. It concerns the inconstancy of friendship as exemplified by a hare that lives on friendly terms with the farm animals; hare heə n Rodent-like mammal having long ears: rabbit
tinkle ˈtɪŋkl v To cause to make light metallic sounds.
forlorn fəˈlɔːn adj Uncared for: forsaken
spinner ˈspɪnə n Old type of keyboard instrument like a harpsichord.
bear beə v Put up with something or somebody unpleasant: endure, tolerate, stand, suffer
in spite of ⇒ Without worrying about; although.
allow əˈlaʊ v Admit, agree.
to leave off ⇒ To stop doing.
hen hɛn n The female of any bird, esp the adult female of the domestic fowl.
proficiency prəˈfɪʃənsi n Natural or acquired facility in a specific activity: ability, skill, command, mastery, expertness
shirk ʃɜːk v To avoid one’s assigned duties; try to escape: neglect, disregard
unaccountable ˌʌnəˈkaʊntəbl adj Allowing of no explanation: inexplicable, puzzling, extraordinary
profligacy ˈprɒflɪgəsi n An inclination towards being recklessly wasteful, wildly extravagant, or unrestrained by convention or morality: recklessness, extravagancy
stubborn ˈstʌbən adj Tenaciously unwilling to yield: disobedient
scarcely ˈskeəsli adv Not quite, almost not: barely, hardly
quarrelsome ˈkwɒrəlsəm adj Given to arguing or having an eagerness to fight: argumentative, combative
tyranny ˈtɪrəni n Dominance through threat of punishment and violence: absolutism, despotism
confinement kənˈfaɪnmənt n The act of limiting or condition of being limited: limitation, restriction, constraint
cleanliness ˈklɛnlɪnɪs n Diligence in keeping clean.
mend mɛnd v To reform or correct; to improve in condition: ameliorate, restore, better
curl ˈkɜːl v To form into coils or ringlets, as the hair: coil, curve, twirl
long lɒŋ v To desire strongly or persistently: hanker, yearn, pant
ball lɒŋ n A formal gathering for social dancing.
complexion kəmˈplɛkʃən n The colouring of a person’s skin.
plumpness plʌmp n The bodily property of being well rounded and full in form: chubbiness, bulk, fatness, overweight
to give way ⇒ To retreat or withdraw.
inclination ˌɪnklɪˈneɪʃən n A tendency toward a certain condition or character: disposition, tendency
finery ˈfaɪnəri n Elaborate or showy attire and accessories.
now and than ⇒ From time to time; occasionally.
from the cradle ˈkreɪdl ⇒ From the birth/infancy; cradle ˈkreɪdl n A small bed for a baby, especially one that rocks from side to side.
lying-in ⇒ Undergoing the process of giving birth to someone or something.
to shift for oneself ⇒ To provide for one’s own needs: get along, get by, manage, fend
country ˈkʌntri n An area outside of cities and towns.
provided prəˈvaɪdɪd cj On condition that or with the understanding that: if
objection əbˈʤɛkʃən n The act of expressing strong or reasoned opposition: protest, challenge, remonstrance
quotation kwəʊˈteɪʃən n A passage cited for illustration or proof.
serviceable ˈsɜːvɪsəbl adj Capable of being put to good use: usable, beneficial, convenient
soothing ˈsuːðɪŋ v Affording physical relief: allaying, comforting
vicissitude vɪˈsɪsɪtjuːd n Something that obstructs progress and requires great effort to overcome: difficulty, hardship
eventful ɪˈvɛntfʊl adj Full of events or incidents: exciting, active, busy, dramatic, remarkable,
Pope, Alexander ⇒ (1688–1744) English writer best remembered for his satirical mock-epic poems The Rape of the Lock ⇒ (1712) and The Dunciad (1728).
censure ˈsɛnʃə v To feel or express strong disapproval of: condemn, reprobate, reprehend
mockery ˈmɒkəri n A specific act of ridicule; words intended to direct contemptuous laughter at a person or thing: taunt, derision, ridicule
woe wəʊ n Intense mournfulness: sorrow, grief, distress, trouble
Grey, Thomas ⇒ (1716–1771) English poet.
blush blʌʃ v Become rosy or reddish: bloom, blossom
fragrance ˈfreɪgrəns n A sweet or pleasant odour: perfume, scent, aroma
Thomas, Francis ⇒ (1859–1907) English poet.
delightful dɪˈlaɪtfʊl adj Giving great pleasure: charming, heavenly, delectable
trifle ˈtraɪfl n Something of little importance: trivia, minutiae
jealous ˈʤɛləs adj Suspicious or unduly suspicious or fearful of being displaced by a rival: green-eyed
Holy Writ ⇒ The Bible.
beetle ˈbiːtl n Insect having biting mouthparts and front wings modified to form horny covers overlying the membranous rear wings: bug
tread trɛd v To step, walk, or trample so as to press, crush, or injure something: squashm, step on, trample
corporal ˈkɔːpərəl adj Of or relating to the body.
pang pæŋ n A sudden sharp feeling of pain or emotional distress: agony, anguish, spasm
to come on ⇒ To develop, to advance.
sonnet ˈsɒnɪt n A verse form consisting of 14 lines with a fixed rhyme scheme.
rapture ˈræpʧə n A state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion or elated bliss: ecstasy
prelude ˈprɛljuːd n An introductory performance preceding a more important one.
piano-forte pɪˈænəʊ-fɔːt n = piano ⇒ An instrument with a manual keyboard, producing sounds that may be softened or sustained by means of pedals.
fatigue fəˈtiːg n The condition of being extremely tired: weariness, exhaustion, lassitude
deficiency dɪˈfɪʃənsi n The state or condition of lacking something: weakness, imperfection
notion ˈnəʊʃən n Something believed or accepted as true by a person: idea, position, view, opinion
sketch skɛʧ n A hastily executed drawing, especially a preliminary one, giving the essential features without the details.
to fall short of ⇒ To fail to achieve.
amiable ˈeɪmiəb(ə)l adj Pleasant and friendly: cordial, good-natured
to call forth ⇒ To bring, to cause.
transient ˈtrænzɪənt adj Lasting for a short time only: brief
to account for ⇒ To provide an explanation or a justification.
baronet ˈbærənɪt n A member of the British order of honour; ranks below a baron but above a knight.
accidentally ˌæksɪˈdɛntəli Without advance planning: unintentionally, unwittingly
ward wɔːd n A person under the protection or care of another.
squire ˈskwaɪə n The chief landowner in a country parish.
perverseness pəˈvɜːsnəs n Deliberately deviating from what is good.
the chief of ⇒ The biggest part of.
Wiltshire ˈwɪltʃə n A county in South West England.
for the benefit of ⇒ Because of.
gouty ˈgaʊti adj Suffering from a gout, a disturbance of uric-acid metabolism, characterized by painful inflammation of the joints, especially of the feet and hands, with arthritic attacks.
good-humoured ˈgʊdˈhjuːməd adj Cheerful, amiable.
befall (befell,befallen) bɪˈfɔːl n Occur or be the case in the course of events or by chance: happen
compliance kəmˈplaɪəns n A disposition or tendency to yield to the will of others: complaisance, compliancy, obligingness, deference