21 OctRegency Romance Heroines

She must be, à plaisir, tall and slender in person, or of humbler stature, but never inclining to stoutness, since the en bon point savours (at least in romance) of vulgarity. Her complexion may be light or dark, according to fancy; but her interesting pallidness may occasionally be relieved by a hectic flush, yet more interesting. She must possess small alabaster hands, coral or ruby lips, encasing a double row of pearls; a neck rivaling ivory or driven snow, (yes, even if our heroine be a brunette, for incongruity is the very essence of romance); velvet cheeks, golden or jet black hair, diamond eyes, marvelous delicate feet, shrouded at all times in bas-de-soie, and defended by the most enchanting slippers imaginable; her figure must be a model for the statuary, and at all seasons, and in every situation, arrayed in muslins or silks, which, wondrous to relate, resist the injuries of time, weather, and wear in a manner perfectly astounding. What heroine had ever an hiatus in her stocking, or a fracture in her gown of finest woof? Ye gods! what an insult to suppose her repairing such!

The lady’s mental accomplishments and qualifications are as follow:—She sings divinely, plays on the harp (and piano too in modern days) à merveille; occasionally condescends to fascinate on the guitar, and the lute also, should that instrument, now rather antiquated, fall in her way. She takes portraits, and sketches from nature; she understands all languages, or rather that desideratum, an universal tongue, since in the most foreign lands she is never at a loss to render herself understood, nor to comprehend that which is addressed to her; she is of a melancholy cast of mind, and carries sal-volatile in her reticule, and fountains of tears in her eyes, for use on the most public occasions; she likes gloomy apartments, looking upon the sea, mountains, or black forests, and leading into endless corridors; she has an Æolian lyre ever at her casement, writes verses and weeps by moonlight, for—effect, or— nothing; and is enamored with a being, who, in the common course of nature, could not exist; he possessing, amongst other fine qualities, that of omnipresence in an impious degree. Should the heroine reside in a town, and especially London, she must have dwelt previously in some isolated mansion, seldom visited by beings superior in intellect to the foxes they hunt; an idiot mother, vulgar aunt, a father, an uncle, or a guardian in his dotage, must have superintended her education; and when, at the age of sixteen, some fortunate chance throws her into society, her accomplishments and manners are found more fitting for it and finished, than those of persons who have from their cradles associated with families of the highest distinction, and possessed all the advantages of a polished and liberal education.

The heroine has, in all situations, an abundant store of money, jewels, and clothes, supplied no one knows when, how, or by whom; and these, with her musical instruments, drawing materials, &c. accompany her into every reverse of situation, in a manner perfectly incomprehensible, but highly amusing and edifying. A miniature portrait of some mysterious relative or friend, seldom or ever seen, nay, indeed, a sacred memento of the dead, is highly scenic and effective in a romance. The heroine ought, by all means, to possess such; it may do good, and it can do no harm. Finally, the lady must frequently faint, be twice or thrice on the brink of the grave, undergo exquisite varieties of suffering, run all hazards, but retain her beauty and reputation unblemished to the last, i.e. to her marriage; after which, this wondrous and superlative creature, and her partner in perfection, are never heard of more. Why?


Teresa Thomas Bohannon
Author of the Old-Fashioned Regency Romance novel, A Very Merry Chase
Now available in ebook and oversized, large-print editions..

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