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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 99, September 6, 1890

by Various

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The race of daughters is large, but their characteristics, vocations, and aptitudes, are but little understood by the general public. It is expected of them by their mothers that they should be a comfort, by their fathers that they should be inexpensive and unlike their brothers, and by their brothers that they should be as slaves, submissively attached to the fraternal car of triumph. The outside public, the mothers and fathers, that is to say, of other daughters, look upon them vaguely, as mild and colourless beings, destitute alike of character, of desires and of aspirations. And it must be said that daughters themselves, before matrimony absorbs their daughterhood and relieves them of their mothers, seem to be in the main content with the calm and limited existence which their relations and the voice of tradition assign to them. Most of them after they have passed through the flashing brilliance of their first season, and the less radiant glow of their second, are happy enough to spend the time that must elapse ere the destined knight shall sound the trumpet of release at the gates of the fortress, in an atmosphere of quiet domestic usefulness. One becomes known to fame, and her friends, as being above all others, "such a comfort to her mother." She interviews the cook, she arranges the dinners, she devises light and favourite dishes to blunt the edge of paternal irritability by tickling the paternal palate, she writes out invitations, presides at the afternoon tea-table, and, in short, takes upon herself many of those smaller duties which are as last straws to the maternal back. Another becomes the sworn friend and ally of her brothers, whom she assists in their scrapes with a sympathy which is balm to the scraped soul, and with a wisdom in counsel, which can only spring from a deep regret at not having been herself born a boy, and capable of scrapes.


But there is often in families another and an Undomestic Daughter, who aspires to be in all things unlike the usual run of common or domestic daughters. From an early age she will have been noted in the family circle for romantic tendencies, which are a mockery to her Philistine brothers, and a reproach to her commonplace sisters. She will have elevated her father to a lofty pinnacle of imaginative and immaculate excellence, from which a tendency to shortness of temper in matters of domestic finance resulting in petty squabbles with her mother, and an irresistible desire for after-dinner somnolence, will have gradually displaced him. One after another her brothers will have been to her Knights of the Round Table of her fancy, armed by her enthusiasm for impossible conflicts, of which they themselves, absorbed as they are in the examination and pocket-money struggles of boyhood, have no conception whatever. The effort to plant the tree of romance in an ordinary middle-class household was predestined to failure. Her disappointments are constant and crushing....