The Best Linen And Cambric For Her Underclothing

Middlemarch by George Eliot (or rather by Mary Ann Evans writing under that pseudonym) was published in 1871/2 and is about the lives of characters in a fictional English Midlands town. There’s a lot of focus on marriage, family, courtship, hypocrisy and disgrace, and it’s generally considered her best work, but today I’m just going to talk about knickers.

Rosamond Vincy is a young woman who is well educated and stunningly beautiful, but is ambitious and therefore certainly not the heroine of our tale. She can also be described as vain and shallow, far more interested in social niceties and improving her standard of living than actual emotions.

She decides that she is going to marry the handsome town doctor – and he falls in love with her, of course, and proposes.

But there’s a problem – despite his initial agreement, Rosamond’s father decides to revoke his consent to the marriage. At that time, fathers had the power to stop their daughters getting married if they weren’t happy with the situation for whatever reason, so this could seriously scupper her plans.

Her mum is on her side though and puts forward some arguments to try and persuade her husband to let Rosamond have her wedding. For my money, I think the most convincing is this:

“Why, my dear,” said Mrs. Vincy, “you seemed as pleased as could be about […] the engagement. And she has begun to buy in the best linen and cambric for her underclothing.”

Yep, she’s started getting fabric for her new knickers so we can’t cancel the wedding now.

It’s a good argument, right? Not that Rosamond needed any help.

Apart from his dinners and his coursing, Mr. Vincy, blustering as he was, had as little of his own way as if he had been a prime minister: the force of circumstances was easily too much for him, as it is for most pleasure-loving florid men; and the circumstance called Rosamond was particularly forcible by means of that mild persistence which, as we know, enables a white soft living substance to make its way in spite of opposing rock. Papa was not a rock[.]

I won’t say whether or not they all lived happily ever after, but Rosamond was given permission to get married to the man she wanted.

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8 thoughts on “The Best Linen And Cambric For Her Underclothing

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