The Ideal Miss Trent

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 at 8:57 am

A frequent charge leveled against romance novels is that they make you discontent with the husband you’ve got by setting up a paragon of a hero.

This may well be true, but I think I’m just as likely (or more so) to fall in love with the heroines.

Take Miss Trent from Georgette Heyer’s The Nonesuch:

“She was always very simply attired; but she wore the inexpensive muslins and cambrics which she fashioned for herself with an air of elegance; and never had he seen her, even on the hottest day, presenting anything but a cool and uncrumpled appearance.”

She was a self-sufficient woman, becoming first a schoolteacher and then a private governess-companion rather than live beholden to her brother. She was, of course, accomplished in the female arts that make one suited for such a post – but above that, she had that certain something that made her universally respected.

The daughter of the house worshipped her as a heroine, yes – but she also won over the low-born mother who had been determined to keep the governess in her place:

“She had been too much delighted to regain possession of her niece to raise any objection to the proviso that Miss Trent must accompany Tiffany; but she had deeply resented it, and had privately resolved to make it plain to Miss Trent that however many Generals might be members of her family any attempt on her part to come the lady of Quality over them at Staples would be severely snubbed. But as Miss Trent, far from doing any such thing, treated her with a civil deference not usually accorded to her by her children Mrs. Underhill’s repressive haughtiness was abandoned within a week; and it was not long before she was telling her acquaintance that they wouldn’t believe what a comfort to her was the despised governess.”

What’s more, Miss Trent was so above-reproach that she even won the respect of the self-absorbed heiress under her care:

“Tiffany took an instant fancy to the new teacher, who was only eight years older than herself, and in whose clear gray eyes she was swift to detect a twinkle. It did not take her long to discover that however straitened her circumstances might be Ancilla came of a good family, and had been used to move in unquestionably genteel circles. She recognized, and was a little awed by, a certain elegance which owed nothing to Ancilla’s simple dresses; and bit by bit she began to lend an ear to such scraps of worldly advice as Ancilla let fall at seasonable moments.”

Miss Trent is just the sort of person I could wish to be: always elegant, always genteel, universally liked, and capable of saying and doing just the right things at the right times.

But, alas, I am myself. And while I can work to stay cool and uncrumpled even on the hottest days, can work towards being genteel without being haughty, can seek to live in such a way as to be above reproach – I am still myself. I sweat and stress, I can be common, I fail.

The important part is not that I be the ideal Miss Trent (which I am not), but that God be seen as Perfect (which He is.)

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