Thursday, March 13, 2008

Contentment

I finished reading Persuasion by Jane Austen tonight. Once again I am humbled by the outlook on life of another. A friend of Anne, our heroine, is in very dire straights (especially for a women in that day and time) never allows the situation to dampen her spirits. Mrs. Clay remains industrious with her hands, since she cannot travel as a cripple; and she also remains positive. (For those of you who have read the book, will realize what a stark difference this makes with most of the other characters that surround Anne, particularly her sister Mary.) Even more telling to me is that God is attributed as the giver of this most desired gift, a positive and happy, even a contented spirit.

It makes me quite ashamed when I lamment being ever so far from home, and allow such seemingly mild physical ailments, in comparison with Mrs. Clay, bring me down. I cannot believe the good patience of my husband in dealing with me. But please, rather read what Miss Austen has to say (in Volume II, Chapter V, or Chapter 17 depending on your volume)...

"She was a widow, and poor. Her husband had been extravagant; and at his death, about two years before, had left his affairs dreadfully involved. She had had difficulties of every sort to contend with, and in addition to these distresses, had been afflicted with a severe rheumatic fever, which finally settling in her legs, had made her for the present a cripple. She had come to Bath on that account, and was now in lodgings near the hot-baths, living in a very humble way, unable even to afford herself the comfort of a servant, and of course almost excluded from society.

...

Anne found in Mrs. Smith the good sense and agreeable manners which she had almost ventured to depend on, and a disposition to converse and be cheerful beyond her expectation. Neither the dissipations of the past--and she had lived very much in the world, nor the restrictions of the present; neither sickness nor sorrow seemed to have closed her heart or ruined her spirits.

In the course of a second visit she talked with great openness, and Anne's astonishment increased. She could scarcely imagine a more cheerless situation in itself than Mrs. Smith's. She had been very fond of her husband,--she had buried him. She had been used to affluence,--it was gone. She had no child to connect her with life and happiness again, no relations to assist in the arrangement of perplexed affairs, no health to make all the rest supportable. Her accommodations were limited to a noisy parlour, and a dark bed-room behind, with no possibility of moving from one to the other without assistance, which there was only one servant in the house to afford, and she never quitted the house but to be conveyed into the warm bath.--Yet, in spite of all this, Anne had reason to believe that she had moments only of languor and depression, to hours of occupation and enjoyment. How could it be?--She watched--observed--reflected--and finally determined that this was not a case of fortitude or of resignation only.--A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more; here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from Nature alone. It was the choicest gift of Heaven; and Anne viewed her friend as one of those instances in which, by a merciful appointment, it seems designed to counterbalance almost every other want."

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