Monday, August 06, 2007

The Business of Being Beautiful

July, 1852
Godey's Lady's Book
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Vol XLV Page 105


We commend the following notes on the "business of being beautiful" to the attention of our younger ladies, who are just commencing a self-forming process of character. We know it is rather a new doctrine; that the world, as a general thing, will cry it down under the name of vanity; but we separate the consciousness of giving pleasure by grace or delicacy from the vulgar pride in physical advantages, to which, and their display, the name more properly belongs. It is not a selfish motive, that of giving pleasure to others, and every one knows that "a thing of beauty is a joy forever." The "Quarterly" is a good authority, moreover, and we quote from the "Quarterly;" so, ladies, it is your duty to be beautiful, whether you like it or no.

"Man's face is bound to be clean, and may be allowed to be picturesque; but it is a woman's business to be beautiful. Beauty of some kind is so much the attribute of the sex, that a woman can hardly be said to feel herself a woman who has not, at one time of her life, at all events, felt herself to be fair. Beauty confers an education of its own, and that always a feminine one. Most celebrated beauties have owed their highest charms to the refining education which their native ones have given them. It was the wisdom as well as the poetry of the age of chivalry that it supposed all women to be beautiful, and treated them as such.

"What can be more false or cruel than the common plan of forcing upon a young girl the withering conviction of her own plainness? If this be only a foolish sham to counteract the supposed demoralizing consciousness of beauty, the world will soon counteract that; but, if the victim have really but a scanty supply of charms, it will, in addition to incalculable anguish of mind, only diminish those further still. To such a system alone can we ascribe an unhappy anomalous style of young woman, occasionally met with, who seems to have taken on herself the vows of voluntary ugliness— who neither eats enough to keep her complexion clear, nor smiles enough to set her pleasing muscles in action— who prides herself on a skinny parsimony of attire which she calls neatness— thinks that alone respectable which is most unbecoming— is always thin, and seldom well, and passes through the society of the lovely, the graceful, and the happy, with the vanity that apes humility on her poor disappointed countenance, as if to say, 'Stand back, I am uncomelier than thou!"