Edith Crawley: Ask Lydia



Everyone always seems to expect growing up with sisters to be like Little Women, all sweet games and playing in the attic.

I do believe Mama was hoping it would be like that as she read it to us several times as girls. Subtlety is not one of her strong points.

Louisa May Alcott evidently didn’t have “Tess” for a sister. Growing up it was always “Tess is so beautiful.” “Tess is such an excellent big sister to ‘Belle’!” “Tess’s eyebrows are so perfectly shaped!” Even as a girl I felt like screaming when Mama and Papa would go on and on about her. They never did, and still don’t, see her vicious evil tendencies. She was a little bitch even as a child, stealing my favorite dolls and giving them to Belle and then telling Nanny it was because I wasn’t sharing just to spite me. I learned then to never say anything then, no one ever believed me over Tess.

Tess was the perfect little girl, poised and beautiful, Belle, my younger sister, was the sweet, intelligent one who would say clever things and be petted and spoiled. They were always so close, the two of them, sharing secrets and special tête-à-têtes together. While Belle never treated me poorly, I knew I was never welcome in their little group; that much was clear. Me, well, I was the invisible, constantly overlooked child; the only thing I’ve ever been complimented on was my “helpfulness.” I don’t count. No one has ever called me lovely. I highly doubt any man is going to notice much less marry an invisible woman who, at best, can be called “helpful” As Tess so cruelly puts it, I am “fishing with no bait.”

I never said anything when she was engaged to the man I’d loved since I was a girl. I couldn’t! It was an arranged marriage. What wounds the most was that she didn’t care for him at all; she didn’t even mourn him as a fiancée when he died because she hates wearing black. While I, who would have taken widow’s weeds for him, was left to pour out my hidden grief in private, like I’ve always done. Since then I’ve tried twice to move on and find someone to love me. It has failed miserably, thanks to Tess. Yesterday was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve been being courted by a pleasant and amiable man. “Sir Tony” is quite a bit older than I am but when I’m with him I don’t feel invisible. I believe he cares for me, and most importantly he would give me a life away from Tess. He was going to ask for my hand but Tess sabotaged it, and now I’ll never see him again. Not because she wants him for herself, goodness no, she calls him an “Old Booby.” Several months ago I got disgusted with her getting away with everything. So in a moment of malevolence I exposed her for who she really is, an action I believe also affected her relationship with her prospective fiancée, who is also never to be seen again. I suppose revenge is not as sweet as the ominous “they” make it out to be.

So, as of now I am fated to spend the rest of my lonely, miserable existence attending family dinners, arranging the presents into pretty positions at various weddings and listening to my family simper over inconsequential things while blending in with the furniture.

Will my turn ever come?

Lady E.C.

Dear Lady E.

Let me get this straight: as it stands now both you and your sister are single and both of you played a major role in assuring the other one stayed that way.

No wonder everyone is miserable and taking out their feelings on others. This whole cycle of childhood grievances and parental favoritism has gotten completely out of hand.

I don’t mean to be harsh but the two of you brought this on yourselves.  I really do feel very sympathetic towards you; sisters can be one of life’s greatest trials. It’s both lovely and wonderful and you’re each other’s best friends or all cat fights, hurtful remarks, and subtle back stabbing, often in the same day. Especially when love is involved, things can get vicious, personal and low quickly.

Unfortunately as women we don’t have the luxury of a satisfying round of fisticuffs to settle our disagreements.

I couldn’t help but notice how the entirety of your letter revolves around Tess; she seems to be the pillar of your life as well as the bane of it. It’s as if you’re caught between envying and hating her. I’m sure it’s a seemingly impossible situation and difficult to resolve as it’s so deeply rooted in your philosophy. My advice would be to change your situation and philosophy as much as you can. I know your options might be limited but I firmly believe there’s always a choice, and that starts with your attitude and general outlook on life. By that I don’t mean marry the first man who pays attention to you. While I’m sure Sir Tony was quite nice, pardon me if I say that you deserve someone who you truly love, not someone who is “pleasant.” Don’t give up yet on a life with someone who shares your youth and passion.

Don’t put yourself in a box by labeling yourself this or that; you’re what, all of twenty years of age? You’ve just begun your life; there’s a world of possibility. You won’t always be invisible unless you make yourself so. Just because you’re not as classically beautiful as your sisters doesn’t mean you’re not lovely in your own way. In fact, if you think about it, her beauty and vanity seems to have caused quite a few of Tess’s problems. Don’t try to be her or measure yourself against her, or live up to the expectations of your parents and family. Don’t allow bitterness to dim the beauty in your heart. Perfect brows

aren’t everything!

You write a fine clear hand, my dear, and have a lyrical way of expressing your thoughts, as well as a clever mind, an observant eye, and great knowledge of literature. Have you ever considered taking up the pen? You don’t have to be stuck in a life of choosing clothes, paying calls, and doing charity work while husband hunting. I’m not suggesting you adopt radical opinions, or make any rash decisions, but you don’t have to be clever or outwardly beautiful to be important and valued. It you stop trying to be either of those, and try to be your own lovely self, others will notice. A keen eye and compassionate heart are undervalued qualities.

Don’t put yourself down. Yes, you made mistakes, and now feel the consequences of them, so learn from them and move on. Your worth isn’t in your looks, men’s affection, or the opinions of others, especially Tess’s.

They don’t define you, you define you. Don’t worry, your turn will come.

Sincerely,  Lady Lydia

P.S. Perhaps you could learn to drive? That would be an adventure, and you never know when it could prove useful. ♥



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