Rousseau’s creation of Sophy (Emile: Book5)

I cannot repeat too often that I am not dealing with prodigies.
Emile is no prodigy, neither is Sophy. He is a man and she is a
woman; this is all they have to boast of. In the present confusion
between the sexes it is almost a miracle to belong to one’s own
sex. Sophy is well born and she has a good disposition; she is
very warm-hearted, and this warmth of heart sometimes makes her
imagination run away with her. Her mind is keen rather than accurate,
her temper is pleasant but variable, her person pleasing though
nothing out of the common, her countenance bespeaks a soul and it
speaks true; you may meet her with indifference, but you will not
leave her without emotion. Others possess good qualities which
she lacks; others possess her good qualities in a higher degree,
but in no one are these qualities better blended to form a happy
disposition. She knows how to make the best of her very faults,
and if she were more perfect she would be less pleasing.

Sophy is not beautiful; but in her presence men forget the fairer
women, and the latter are dissatisfied with themselves. At first
sight she is hardly pretty; but the more we see her the prettier
she is; she wins where so many lose, and what she wins she keeps.
Her eyes might be finer, her mouth more beautiful, her stature more
imposing; but no one could have a more graceful figure, a finer
complexion, a whiter hand, a daintier foot, a sweeter look, and
a more expressive countenance. She does not dazzle; she arouses
interest; she delights us, we know not why.

Sophy is fond of dress, and she knows how to dress; her mother has
no other maid; she has taste enough to dress herself well; but she
hates rich clothes; her own are always simple but elegant. She does
not like showy but becoming things. She does not know what colours
are fashionable, but she makes no mistake about those that suit
her. No girl seems more simply dressed, but no one could take
more pains over her toilet; no article is selected at random, and
yet there is no trace of artificiality. Her dress is very modest
in appearance and very coquettish in reality; she does not display
her charms, she conceals them, but in such a way as to enhance
them. When you see her you say, “That is a good modest girl,” but
while you are with her, you cannot take your eyes or your thoughts
off her and one might say that this very simple adornment is only
put on to be removed bit by bit by the imagination.

Sophy has natural gifts; she is aware of them, and they have not
been neglected; but never having had a chance of much training she
is content to use her pretty voice to sing tastefully and truly;
her little feet step lightly, easily, and gracefully, she can always
make an easy graceful courtesy. She has had no singing master but
her father, no dancing mistress but her mother; a neighbouring
organist has given her a few lessons in playing accompaniments
on the spinet, and she has improved herself by practice. At first
she only wished to show off her hand on the dark keys; then she
discovered that the thin clear tone of the spinet made her voice
sound sweeter; little by little she recognised the charms of
harmony; as she grew older she at last began to enjoy the charms
of expression, to love music for its own sake. But she has taste
rather than talent; she cannot read a simple air from notes.

Needlework is what Sophy likes best; and the feminine arts have
been taught her most carefully, even those you would not expect,
such as cutting out and dressmaking. There is nothing she cannot
do with her needle, and nothing that she does not take a delight in
doing; but lace-making is her favourite occupation, because there
is nothing which requires such a pleasing attitude, nothing which
calls for such grace and dexterity of finger. She has also studied
all the details of housekeeping; she understands cooking and
cleaning; she knows the prices of food, and also how to choose it;
she can keep accounts accurately, she is her mother’s housekeeper.
Some day she will be the mother of a family; by managing her father’s
house she is preparing to manage her own; she can take the place
of any of the servants and she is always ready to do so. You cannot
give orders unless you can do the work yourself; that is why her
mother sets her to do it. Sophy does not think of that; her first
duty is to be a good daughter, and that is all she thinks about for
the present. Her one idea is to help her mother and relieve her of
some of her anxieties. However, she does not like them all equally
well. For instance, she likes dainty food, but she does not like
cooking; the details of cookery offend her, and things are never
clean enough for her. She is extremely sensitive in this respect
and carries her sensitiveness to a fault; she would let the whole
dinner boil over into the fire rather than soil her cuffs. She has
always disliked inspecting the kitchen-garden for the same reason.
The soil is dirty, and as soon as she sees the manure heap she
fancies there is a disagreeable smell.

This defect is the result of her mother’s teaching. According to
her, cleanliness is one of the most necessary of a woman’s duties,
a special duty, of the highest importance and a duty imposed by
nature. Nothing could be more revolting than a dirty woman, and a
husband who tires of her is not to blame. She insisted so strongly
on this duty when Sophy was little, she required such absolute
cleanliness in her person, clothing, room, work, and toilet, that
use has become habit, till it absorbs one half of her time and
controls the other; so that she thinks less of how to do a thing
than of how to do it without getting dirty.

Yet this has not degenerated into mere affectation and softness;
there is none of the over refinement of luxury. Nothing but clean
water enters her room; she knows no perfumes but the scent of
flowers, and her husband will never find anything sweeter than her
breath. In conclusion, the attention she pays to the outside does
not blind her to the fact that time and strength are meant for greater
tasks; either she does not know or she despises that exaggerated
cleanliness of body which degrades the soul. Sophy is more than
clean, she is pure.

I said that Sophy was fond of good things. She was so by nature; but
she became temperate by habit and now she is temperate by virtue.
Little girls are not to be controlled, as little boys are, to
some extent, through their greediness. This tendency may have ill
effects on women and it is too dangerous to be left unchecked.
When Sophy was little, she did not always return empty handed if
she was sent to her mother’s cupboard, and she was not quite to be
trusted with sweets and sugar-almonds. Her mother caught her, took
them from her, punished her, and made her go without her dinner.
At last she managed to persuade her that sweets were bad for the
teeth, and that over-eating spoiled the figure. Thus Sophy overcame
her faults; and when she grew older other tastes distracted her from
this low kind of self-indulgence. With awakening feeling greediness
ceases to be the ruling passion, both with men and women. Sophy
has preserved her feminine tastes; she likes milk and sweets; she
likes pastry and made-dishes, but not much meat. She has never
tasted wine or spirits; moreover, she eats sparingly; women, who do
not work so hard as men, have less waste to repair. In all things
she likes what is good, and knows how to appreciate it; but she
can also put up with what is not so good, or can go without it.

Sophy’s mind is pleasing but not brilliant, and thorough but not
deep; it is the sort of mind which calls for no remark, as she
never seems cleverer or stupider than oneself. When people talk to
her they always find what she says attractive, though it may not be
highly ornamental according to modern ideas of an educated woman;
her mind has been formed not only by reading, but by conversation
with her father and mother, by her own reflections, and by her
own observations in the little world in which she has lived. Sophy
is naturally merry; as a child she was even giddy; but her mother
cured her of her silly ways, little by little, lest too sudden a
change should make her self-conscious. Thus she became modest and
retiring while still a child, and now that she is a child no longer,
she finds it easier to continue this conduct than it would have
been to acquire it without knowing why. It is amusing to see her
occasionally return to her old ways and indulge in childish mirth
and then suddenly check herself, with silent lips, downcast eyes,
and rosy blushes; neither child nor woman, she may well partake of

Sophy is too sensitive to be always good humoured, but too gentle
to let this be really disagreeable to other people; it is only
herself who suffers. If you say anything that hurts her she does
not sulk, but her heart swells; she tries to run away and cry. In
the midst of her tears, at a word from her father or mother she
returns at once laughing and playing, secretly wiping her eyes and
trying to stifle her sobs.

Yet she has her whims; if her temper is too much indulged
it degenerates into rebellion, and then she forgets herself. But
give her time to come round and her way of making you forget her
wrong-doing is almost a virtue. If you punish her she is gentle
and submissive, and you see that she is more ashamed of the fault
than the punishment. If you say nothing, she never fails to make
amends, and she does it so frankly and so readily that you cannot
be angry with her. She would kiss the ground before the lowest servant
and would make no fuss about it; and as soon as she is forgiven,
you can see by her delight and her caresses that a load is taken
off her heart. In a word, she endures patiently the wrong-doing of
others, and she is eager to atone for her own. This amiability is
natural to her sex when unspoiled. Woman is made to submit to man
and to endure even injustice at his hands. You will never bring
young lads to this; their feelings rise in revolt against injustice;
nature has not fitted them to put up with it.

“Gravem Pelidae stomachum cedere nescii.”
HORACE, lib. i. ode vi.

Sophy’s religion is reasonable and simple, with few doctrines and
fewer observances; or rather as she knows no course of conduct but
the right her whole life is devoted to the service of God and to
doing good. In all her parents’ teaching of religion she has been
trained to a reverent submission; they have often said, “My little
girl, this is too hard for you; your husband will teach you when
you are grown up.” Instead of long sermons about piety, they have
been content to preach by their example, and this example is engraved
on her heart.

Sophy loves virtue; this love has come to be her ruling passion;
she loves virtue because there is nothing fairer in itself, she
loves it because it is a woman’s glory and because a virtuous woman
is little lower than the angels; she loves virtue as the only road
to real happiness, because she sees nothing but poverty, neglect,
unhappiness, shame, and disgrace in the life of a bad woman; she
loves virtue because it is dear to her revered father and to her
tender and worthy mother; they are not content to be happy in their
own virtue, they desire hers; and she finds her chief happiness
in the hope of making them happy. All these feelings inspire an
enthusiasm which stirs her heart and keeps all its budding passions
in subjection to this noble enthusiasm. Sophy will be chaste and
good till her dying day; she has vowed it in her secret heart, and
not before she knew how hard it would be to keep her vow; she made
this vow at a time when she would have revoked it had she been the
slave of her senses.

Sophy is not so fortunate as to be a charming French woman,
cold-hearted and vain, who would rather attract attention than
give pleasure, who seeks amusement rather than delight. She suffers
from a consuming desire for love; it even disturbs and troubles
her heart in the midst of festivities; she has lost her former
liveliness, and her taste for merry games; far from being afraid of
the tedium of solitude she desires it. Her thoughts go out to him
who will make solitude sweet to her. She finds strangers tedious,
she wants a lover, not a circle of admirers. She would rather give
pleasure to one good man than be a general favourite, or win that
applause of society which lasts but a day and to-morrow is turned
to scorn.

A woman’s judgment develops sooner than a man’s; being on the
defensive from her childhood up, and intrusted with a treasure so
hard to keep, she is earlier acquainted with good and evil. Sophy
is precocious by temperament in everything, and her judgment is
more formed than that of most girls of her age. There is nothing
strange in that, maturity is not always reached at the same age.

Sophy has been taught the duties and rights of her own sex and
of ours. She knows men’s faults and women’s vices; she also knows
their corresponding good qualities and virtues, and has them
by heart. No one can have a higher ideal of a virtuous woman, but
she would rather think of a virtuous man, a man of true worth; she
knows that she is made for such a man, that she is worthy of him,
that she can make him as happy as he will make her; she is sure
she will know him when she sees him; the difficulty is to find him.

Women are by nature judges of a man’s worth, as he is of theirs;
this right is reciprocal, and it is recognised as such both by men
and women. Sophy recognises this right and exercises it, but with
the modesty becoming her youth, her inexperience, and her position;
she confines her judgment to what she knows, and she only forms an
opinion when it may help to illustrate some useful precept. She
is extremely careful what she says about those who are absent,
particularly if they are women. She thinks that talking about each
other makes women spiteful and satirical; so long as they only talk
about men they are merely just. So Sophy stops there. As to women
she never says anything at all about them, except to tell the good
she knows; she thinks this is only fair to her sex; and if she
knows no good of any woman, she says nothing, and that is enough.

Sophy has little knowledge of society, but she is observant and
obliging, and all that she does is full of grace. A happy disposition
does more for her than much art. She has a certain courtesy of her
own, which is not dependent on fashion, and does not change with
its changes; it is not a matter of custom, but it arises from a
feminine desire to please. She is unacquainted with the language
of empty compliment, nor does she invent more elaborate compliments
of her own; she does not say that she is greatly obliged, that you
do her too much honour, that you should not take so much trouble,
etc. Still less does she try to make phrases of her own. She responds
to an attention or a customary piece of politeness by a courtesy or
a mere “Thank you;” but this phrase in her mouth is quite enough.
If you do her a real service, she lets her heart speak, and its
words are no empty compliment. She has never allowed French manners
to make her a slave to appearances; when she goes from one room
to another she does not take the arm of an old gentleman, whom she
would much rather help. When a scented fop offers her this empty
attention, she leaves him on the staircase and rushes into the
room saying that she is not lame. Indeed, she will never wear high
heels though she is not tall; her feet are small enough to dispense
with them.

Not only does she adopt a silent and respectful attitude towards
women, but also towards married men, or those who are much older
than herself; she will never take her place above them, unless
compelled to do so; and she will return to her own lower place as
soon as she can; for she knows that the rights of age take precedence
of those of sex, as age is presumably wiser than youth, and wisdom
should be held in the greatest honour.

With young folks of her own age it is another matter; she requires a
different manner to gain their respect, and she knows how to adopt
it without dropping the modest ways which become her. If they
themselves are shy and modest, she will gladly preserve the friendly
familiarity of youth; their innocent conversation will be merry but
suitable; if they become serious they must say something useful;
if they become silly, she soon puts a stop to it, for she has an
utter contempt for the jargon of gallantry, which she considers an
insult to her sex. She feels sure that the man she seeks does not
speak that jargon, and she will never permit in another what would
be displeasing to her in him whose character is engraved on her
heart. Her high opinion of the rights of women, her pride in the
purity of her feelings, that active virtue which is the basis of
her self-respect, make her indignant at the sentimental speeches
intended for her amusement. She does not receive them with open
anger, but with a disconcerting irony or an unexpected iciness.
If a fair Apollo displays his charms, and makes use of his wit in
the praise of her wit, her beauty, and her grace; at the risk of
offending him she is quite capable of saying politely, “Sir, I am
afraid I know that better than you; if we have nothing more interesting
to talk about, I think we may put an end to this conversation.” To
say this with a deep courtesy, and then to withdraw to a considerable
distance, is the work of a moment. Ask your lady-killers if it is
easy to continue to babble to such, an unsympathetic ear.

It is not that she is not fond of praise if it is really sincere,
and if she thinks you believe what you say. You must show that you
appreciate her merit if you would have her believe you. Her proud
spirit may take pleasure in homage which is based upon esteem,
but empty compliments are always rejected; Sophy was not meant to
practise the small arts of the dancing-girl.

With a judgment so mature, and a mind like that of a woman of
twenty, Sophy, at fifteen, is no longer treated as a child by her
parents. No sooner do they perceive the first signs of youthful
disquiet than they hasten to anticipate its development, their
conversations with her are wise and tender. These wise and tender
conversations are in keeping with her age and disposition. If her
disposition is what I fancy why should not her father speak to her
somewhat after this fashion?

“You are a big girl now, Sophy, you will soon be a woman. We
want you to be happy, for our own sakes as well as yours, for our
happiness depends on yours. A good girl finds her own happiness
in the happiness of a good man, so we must consider your marriage;
we must think of it in good time, for marriage makes or mars our
whole life, and we cannot have too much time to consider it.

“There is nothing so hard to choose as a good husband, unless it
is a good wife. You will be that rare creature, Sophy, you will
be the crown of our life and the blessing of our declining years;
but however worthy you are, there are worthier people upon earth.
There is no one who would not do himself honour by marriage with
you; there are many who would do you even greater honour than
themselves. Among these we must try to find one who suits you, we
must get to know him and introduce you to him.

“The greatest possible happiness in marriage depends on so many
points of agreement that it is folly to expect to secure them all.
We must first consider the more important matters; if others are
to be found along with them, so much the better; if not we must do
without them. Perfect happiness is not to be found in this world,
but we can, at least, avoid the worst form of unhappiness, that
for which ourselves are to blame.

“There is a natural suitability, there is a suitability of established
usage, and a suitability which is merely conventional. Parents
should decide as to the two latters, and the children themselves
should decide as to the former. Marriages arranged by parents only
depend on a suitability of custom and convention; it is not two
people who are united, but two positions and two properties; but
these things may change, the people remain, they are always there;
and in spite of fortune it is the personal relation that makes a
happy or an unhappy marriage.

“Your mother had rank, I had wealth; this was all that our parents
considered in arranging our marriage. I lost my money, she lost
her position; forgotten by her family, what good did it do her to
be a lady born? In the midst of our misfortunes, the union of our
hearts has outweighed them all; the similarity of our tastes led
us to choose this retreat; we live happily in our poverty, we are
all in all to each other. Sophy is a treasure we hold in common,
and we thank Heaven which has bestowed this treasure and deprived
us of all others. You see, my child, whither we have been led
by Providence; the conventional motives which brought about our
marriage no longer exist, our happiness consists in that natural
suitability which was held of no account.

“Husband and wife should choose each other. A mutual liking should
be the first bond between them. They should follow the guidance of
their own eyes and hearts; when they are married their first duty
will be to love one another, and as love and hatred do not depend
on ourselves, this duty brings another with it, and they must begin
to love each other before marriage. That is the law of nature, and
no power can abrogate it; those who have fettered it by so many
legal restrictions have given heed rather to the outward show of
order than to the happiness of marriage or the morals of the citizen.
You see, my dear Sophy, we do not preach a harsh morality. It tends
to make you your own mistress and to make us leave the choice of
your husband to yourself.

“When we have told you our reasons for giving you full liberty, it
is only fair to speak of your reasons for making a wise use of that
liberty. My child, you are good and sensible, upright and pious, you
have the accomplishments of a good woman and you are not altogether
without charms; but you are poor; you have the gifts most worthy
of esteem, but not those which are most esteemed. Do not seek what
is beyond your reach, and let your ambition be controlled, not by
your ideas or ours, but by the opinion of others. If it were merely
a question of equal merits, I know not what limits to impose on
your hopes; but do not let your ambitions outrun your fortune, and
remember it is very small. Although a man worthy of you would not
consider this inequality an obstacle, you must do what he would not
do; Sophy must follow her mother’s example and only enter a family
which counts it an honour to receive her. You never saw our wealth,
you were born in our poverty; you make it sweet for us, and you
share it without hardship. Believe me, Sophy, do not seek those
good things we indeed thank heaven for having taken from us; we
did not know what happiness was till we lost our money.

“You are so amiable that you will win affection, and you are not
go poor as to be a burden. You will be sought in marriage, it may
be by those who are unworthy of you. If they showed themselves in
their true colours, you would rate them at their real value; all
their outward show would not long deceive you; but though your
judgment is good and you know what merit is when you see it, you
are inexperienced and you do not know how people can conceal their
real selves. A skilful knave might study your tastes in order to
seduce you, and make a pretence of those virtues which he does not
possess. You would be ruined, Sophy, before you knew what you were
doing, and you would only perceive your error when you had cause to
lament it. The most dangerous snare, the only snare which reason
cannot avoid, is that of the senses; if ever you have the misfortune
to fall into its toils, you will perceive nothing but fancies and
illusions; your eyes will be fascinated, your judgment troubled,
your will corrupted, your very error will be dear to you, and even
if you were able to perceive it you would not be willing to escape
from it. My child, I trust you to Sophy’s own reason; I do not
trust you to the fancies of your own heart. Judge for yourself so
long as your heart is untouched, but when you love betake yourself
to your mother’s care.

“I propose a treaty between us which shows our esteem for you, and
restores the order of nature between us. Parents choose a husband
for their daughter and she is only consulted as a matter of form;
that is the custom. We shall do just the opposite; you will choose,
and we shall be consulted. Use your right, Sophy, use it freely
and wisely. The husband suitable for you should be chosen by you
not us. But it is for us to judge whether he is really suitable,
or whether, without knowing it, you are only following your own
wishes. Birth, wealth, position, conventional opinions will count
for nothing with us. Choose a good man whose person and character
suit you; whatever he may be in other respects, we will accept
him as our son-in-law. He will be rich enough if he has bodily
strength, a good character, and family affection. His position will
be good enough if it is ennobled by virtue. If everybody blames
us, we do not care. We do not seek the approbation of men, but your

I cannot tell my readers what effect such words would have upon
girls brought up in their fashion. As for Sophy, she will have no
words to reply; shame and emotion will not permit her to express
herself easily; but I am sure that what was said will remain engraved
upon her heart as long as she lives, and that if any human resolution
may be trusted, we may rely on her determination to deserve her
parent’s esteem.

At worst let us suppose her endowed with an ardent disposition
which will make her impatient of long delays; I maintain that her
judgment, her knowledge, her taste, her refinement, and, above all,
the sentiments in which she has been brought up from childhood, will
outweigh the impetuosity of the senses, and enable her to offer a
prolonged resistance, if not to overcome them altogether. She would
rather die a virgin martyr than distress her parents by marrying
a worthless man and exposing herself to the unhappiness of an
ill-assorted marriage. Ardent as an Italian and sentimental as an
Englishwoman, she has a curb upon heart and sense in the pride of
a Spaniard, who even when she seeks a lover does not easily discover
one worthy of her.

Not every one can realise the motive power to be found in a love of
what is right, nor the inner strength which results from a genuine
love of virtue. There are men who think that all greatness is a
figment of the brain, men who with their vile and degraded reason
will never recognise the power over human passions which is wielded
by the very madness of virtue. You can only teach such men by
examples; if they persist in denying their existence, so much the
worse for them. If I told them that Sophy is no imaginary person,
that her name alone is my invention, that her education, her conduct,
her character, her very features, really existed, and that her loss
is still mourned by a very worthy family, they would, no doubt,
refuse to believe me; but indeed why should I not venture to relate
word for word the story of a girl so like Sophy that this story
might be hers without surprising any one. Believe it or no, it is
all the same to me; call my history fiction if you will; in any
case I have explained my method and furthered my purpose.

This young girl with the temperament which I have attributed to
Sophy was so like her in other respects that she was worthy of the
name, and so we will continue to use it. After the conversation
related above, her father and mother thought that suitable husbands
would not be likely to offer themselves in the hamlet where they
lived; so they decided to send her to spend the winter in town,
under the care of an aunt who was privately acquainted with the
object of the journey; for Sophy’s heart throbbed with noble pride
at the thought of her self-control; and however much she might
want to marry, she would rather have died a maid than have brought
herself to go in search of a husband.

In response to her parents’ wishes her aunt introduced her to her
friends, took her into company, both private and public, showed
her society, or rather showed her in society, for Sophy paid little
heed to its bustle. Yet it was plain that she did not shrink from
young men of pleasing appearance and modest seemly behaviour.
Her very shyness had a charm of its own, which was very much like
coquetry; but after talking to them once or twice she repulsed them.
She soon exchanged that air of authority which seems to accept men’s
homage for a humbler bearing and a still more chilling politeness.
Always watchful over her conduct, she gave them no chance of doing
her the least service; it was perfectly plain that she was determined
not to accept any one of them.

Never did sensitive heart take pleasure in noisy amusements, the
empty and barren delights of those who have no feelings, those who
think that a merry life is a happy life. Sophy did not find what
she sought, and she felt sure she never would, so she got tired
of the town. She loved her parents dearly and nothing made up for
their absence, nothing could make her forget them; she went home
long before the time fixed for the end of her visit.

Scarcely had she resumed her home duties when they perceived that
her temper had changed though her conduct was unaltered, she was
forgetful, impatient, sad, and dreamy; she wept in secret. At first
they thought she was in love and was ashamed to own it; they spoke
to her, but she repudiated the idea. She protested she had seen no
one who could touch her heart, and Sophy always spoke the truth.

Yet her languor steadily increased, and her health began to give
way. Her mother was anxious about her, and determined to know the
reason for this change. She took her aside, and with the winning
speech and the irresistible caresses which only a mother can employ,
she said, “My child, whom I have borne beneath my heart, whom I bear
ever in my affection, confide your secret to your mother’s bosom.
What secrets are these which a mother may not know? Who pities
your sufferings, who shares them, who would gladly relieve them,
if not your father and myself? Ah, my child! would you have me die
of grief for your sorrow without letting me share it?”

Far from hiding her griefs from her mother, the young girl asked
nothing better than to have her as friend and comforter; but she
could not speak for shame, her modesty could find no words to describe
a condition so unworthy of her, as the emotion which disturbed her
senses in spite of all her efforts. At length her very shame gave
her mother a clue to her difficulty, and she drew from her the
humiliating confession. Far from distressing her with reproaches
or unjust blame, she consoled her, pitied her, wept over her; she
was too wise to make a crime of an evil which virtue alone made so
cruel. But why put up with such an evil when there was no necessity
to do so, when the remedy was so easy and so legitimate? Why did
she not use the freedom they had granted her? Why did she not take
a husband? Why did she not make her choice? Did she not know that
she was perfectly independent in this matter, that whatever her
choice, it would be approved, for it was sure to be good? They had
sent her to town, but she would not stay; many suitors had offered
themselves, but she would have none of them. What did she expect?
What did she want? What an inexplicable contradiction?

The reply was simple. If it were only a question of the partner of
her youth, her choice would soon be made; but a master for life is
not so easily chosen; and since the two cannot be separated, people
must often wait and sacrifice their youth before they find the man
with whom they could spend their life. Such was Sophy’s case; she
wanted a lover, but this lover must be her husband; and to discover
a heart such as she required, a lover and husband were equally
difficult to find. All these dashing young men were only her equals
in age, in everything else they were found lacking; their empty
wit, their vanity, their affectations of speech, their ill-regulated
conduct, their frivolous imitations alike disgusted her. She sought
a man and she found monkeys; she sought a soul and there was none
to be found.

“How unhappy I am!” said she to her mother; “I am compelled to love
and yet I am dissatisfied with every one. My heart rejects every
one who appeals to my senses. Every one of them stirs my passions
and all alike revolt them; a liking unaccompanied by respect cannot
last. That is not the sort of man for your Sophy; the delightful
image of her ideal is too deeply graven in her heart. She can love
no other; she can make no one happy but him, and she cannot be
happy without him. She would rather consume herself in ceaseless
conflicts, she would rather die free and wretched, than driven
desperate by the company of a man she did not love, a man she
would make as unhappy as herself; she would rather die than live
to suffer.”

Amazed at these strange ideas, her mother found them so peculiar
that she could not fail to suspect some mystery. Sophy was neither
affected nor absurd. How could such exaggerated delicacy exist in
one who had been so carefully taught from her childhood to adapt
herself to those with whom she must live, and to make a virtue
of necessity? This ideal of the delightful man with which she was
so enchanted, who appeared so often in her conversation, made her
mother suspect that there was some foundation for her caprices
which was still unknown to her, and that Sophy had not told her
all. The unhappy girl, overwhelmed with her secret grief, was only
too eager to confide it to another. Her mother urged her to speak;
she hesitated, she yielded, and leaving the room without a word,
she presently returned with a book in her hand. “Have pity on your
unhappy daughter, there is no remedy for her grief, her tears cannot
be dried. You would know the cause: well, here it is,” said she,
flinging the book on the table. Her mother took the book and opened
it; it was The Adventures of Telemachus. At first she could make
nothing of this riddle; by dint of questions and vague replies, she
discovered to her great surprise that her daughter was the rival
of Eucharis.

Sophy was in love with Telemachus, and loved him with a passion
which nothing could cure. When her father and mother became aware
of her infatuation, they laughed at it and tried to cure her by
reasoning with her. They were mistaken, reason was not altogether
on their side; Sophy had her own reason and knew how to use it.
Many a time did she reduce them to silence by turning their own
arguments against them, by showing them that it was all their own
fault for not having trained her to suit the men of that century;
that she would be compelled to adopt her husband’s way of thinking
or he must adopt hers, that they had made the former course impossible
by the way she had been brought up, and that the latter was just
what she wanted. “Give me,” said she, “a man who holds the same
opinions as I do, or one who will be willing to learn them from me,
and I will marry him; but until then, why do you scold me? Pity me;
I am miserable, but not mad. Is the heart controlled by the will?
Did my father not ask that very question? Is it my fault if I love
what has no existence? I am no visionary; I desire no prince, I
seek no Telemachus, I know he is only an imaginary person; I seek
some one like him. And why should there be no such person, since
there is such a person as I, I who feel that my heart is like his?
No, let us not wrong humanity so greatly, let us not think that
an amiable and virtuous man is a figment of the imagination. He
exists, he lives, perhaps he is seeking me; he is seeking a soul
which is capable of love for him. But who is he, where is he? I
know not; he is not among those I have seen; and no doubt I shall
never see him. Oh! mother, why did you make virtue too attractive?
If I can love nothing less, you are more to blame than I.”

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