Dear Jane Austen Advice Column,
My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes. (That’s a sentence I read in a book once, and I say it over to comfort myself whenever I’m disappointed in anything.) The one good thing that happened to me is that now I live at Green Gables, and I try to be happy and good. But dear Jane Austen Advice Columnist, can anybody be happy and good if they have red hair and no pretty dresses? My hair is bright red – it looks like boiled lobsters – and I have some good dresses that Marilla made for me, but they are all plain and serviceable, not at all pretty. And I would really love some puffed sleeves, but Marilla thinks that they’re ridiculous and a waste of fabric. But all the other girls have them and I’d rather be ridiculous like everybody else than sensible by myself. Dear Jane Austen Advice Columnist, what should I do? Please don’t think I’m silly.
Prince Edward Island
You seem to need advantages of mind and person. Let me recommend to you Miss Bertram as an example. I know she is very beautiful, and my mother agrees with me. But I am not so sure about the puffed sleeves. My dear Miss Bertram and her friends are having a play, and I am to be Count Cassel, and am to come in first with a blue dress and a pink satin cloak, and afterwards am to have another fine fancy suit, by way of a shooting-dress. I do not know how I shall like it. You should think the same way in regard to the puffed sleeves. If your Marilla said they were absolutely essential, then you must of course wear them, but as she thinks they are ridiculous, do not. I am sure I would refuse to wear the blue dress with the pink satin cloak, if Miss Bertram thought it was ridiculous, but on the contrary, she seems to think it very necessary. I am to come in three times, and have forty-two speeches. That’s something, isn’t it? But I do not much like the idea of being so fine. I will hardly know myself in a blue dress and a pink satin cloak.
Do come over to Sotherton and see the improvements I am making on it. The avenue of trees, I think, is almost taken down. You will think it greatly improved.
I am, dear Madam, yours truly,
Upon my word, you give your opinion on appearance very decidedly for so young a person. – Pray, what is your age? But you do not need to trouble yourself about your apparel. Put on whatever is superior to the rest. I am sure your acquaintances prefer the distinction of rank to be preserved, as I do.
And is the abuse of red hair meant to be a slight upon my daughter? If so, I will not take it. A report of a most alarming nature reached me, saying that Miss de Bourgh has red hair. I know it is a scandalous falsehood; Anne’s hair is very dark, and not at all red. When I heard it, I instantly resolved on writing this letter, that I might make my sentiments known to you.
I take no leave of you, Miss Shirley. I send no compliments, to your mother, if you even have one. I am most seriously displeased.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh