Littell's Living Age/Volume 131/Issue 1690/Quiet Girls

From the Liberal Review.


It would be affectation to pretend that admiration when it is openly expressed is not very sweet to girls. Extremely few people are above the influence of vanity, and maidens, as a class, are certainly not among those who are. There is no valid reason why they should be condemned upon this account. To wish to be thought well of is a perfectly laudable ambition; indeed it is to be feared that if most persons did not desire to be held in favorable estimation the world would be a very much worse place than it is. The misfortune is that many well-meaning individuals mistake notoriety for admiration, and in so doing are naturally led to indulge in excesses and follies of various kinds. It is to be regretted that this is particularly true so far as regards a number of girls who, lacking knowledge of the world and an insight into human nature, are contaminated when they are thrown into association with young men and women of a certain order. You will see them, in their desire to attract notice, unsteadily balancing themselves upon the line which separates the polite from the unpolite, and coquetting with what public opinion has decided to be naughty. No doubt, their intentions are in most cases perfectly innocent, and if they were not applauded by unprincipled flatterers, who being tinged with badness themselves like to make others the same, they would not continue to indulge in their little indiscretions. Unhappily, they are encouraged to believe that they are favorably distinguishing themselves when they are outraging good taste. There are men who like a girl who talks at a great rate and indulges in those descriptions of sneering and backbiting which are often mistaken for wit. There are conceited snobs who love a young woman ten times as much as they would otherwise do if they see that she treats those whom she does not deem it politic to conciliate with something very much resembling insolence. There are beaux who appreciate the creature who is everlastingly giggling, smirking, posing herself in what she deems picturesque attitudes, and shouting utter nonsense at the top of her voice. Quiet girls see this. They perceive, further, that because they lack what seem to be supposed to be accomplishments, but which are really social vices, they are ignored. Over and over again are the sweetest-natured as well as the cleverest women stigmatized as dull, stupid, and prim, because they are disinclined to shriek and to show all the teeth in their head to the first male who philanthropically condescends to indicate that he is disposed to look with favor upon them.

Quiet girls may feel the manner in which they are often treated or they may not. It is to be hoped, however, that they have the good sense to perceive that they will gain nothing by attempting to imitate their faster and more gushing sisters. The chances are that if they have the inclination they lack the peculiar talent which will enable them to do so successfully. Thus if they do attempt to be noisy, flippant, and publicly spiteful at the expense of their neighbors the probability is that they will make a bungle of the whole business and end by feeling thoroughly ashamed of themselves. To try to do a discreditable thing and fail is, perhaps, the most bitter of all failures, and this is a fact which should speak emphatically to those quiet girls who are contemplating some audacious step in order to escape from the obscurity in which they hopelessly languish. It may as well be stated that to be a noisy, forward, self-assured member of society it is necessary that a girl shall have no deep feelings upon any subject, that she shall not think upon matters outside the special sphere of her operations, and that she shall have no person's welfare so much at heart as her own. In a word she must neither possess a squeamish taste nor a tender conscience. Now, hosts of quiet girls are burdened with those encumbrances; hence, perhaps, their constant humiliation. If you want to find a girl who is a treasure in the home in which she lives; who does real, honest, substantial work; who possesses the strongest affection of those who thoroughly know and understand her; and who is endowed with as noble a soul as she has a pure mind, look for a quiet girl. It is from the ranks of the quiet girls that the best wives, and the truest friends, and the hardest workers come. Of the women who really distinguish themselves by their intellectual achievements the majority are subdued and modest — yet lively and pleasant enough if properly approached — in company. Often treasures, the existence of which has been unsuspected, have been revealed in quiet girls. It always will be so; for a genuine woman will never show the sterling stuff of which she is made to the first impertinent inquisitor, who may be unworthy alike of her confidence and her regard. She will continue to astonish those who pretend to understand her by rising to heights, when she is summoned thither, which are unapproachable to her complacent and courted critics. Yet, in spite of all this, it may happen that quiet girls of the best type may lack the wit, the adaptability to that with which they have no sympathy, the glibness, and that unlimited faith in themselves which must be possessed by those who desire to attract the notice of the more shallow portion of society. The truth is that the noisy girl is as much the product of education and training as anything else, and it may as well be frankly admitted that in her own horrible way she is unapproachable.

We do not wish to be misunderstood. We have no desire to imply that all quiet girls are endowed with genius and the virtues, for some are simply fools who would be noisy enough if they could find anything to say. What we do protest against is the habit which prevails of slighting quiet girls and speaking ill of them before they have been fairly tried, and of paying sickening homage to the conceited chatterboxes of little moral sense and principle. What we would indicate is that while noisy damsels will often turn out to be gaudy impostors, many quiet ones will amply repay the time, trouble, and love which any one may bestow upon them.