In Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park, Fanny's sailor brother visits while on shore leave and regales the family with the rigors of life at sea. Henry Crawford, a wealthy loafer, reflects as he listens...
He longed to have been at sea, and seen and done and suffered as much. His heart was warmed, his fancy fired, and he felt the highest respect for a lad who, before he was twenty, had gone through such bodily hardships and given such proofs of mind. The glory of heroism, of usefulness, of exertion, of endurance, made his own habits of selfish indulgence appear in shameful contrast; and he wished he had been a William Price, distinguishing himself and working his way to fortune and consequence with so much self-respect and happy ardour, instead of what he was!
He toys with these fantasies for a few minutes, before someone mentions hunting, and he finds is "as well to be a man of fortune"!
Per Austen's delicate genius, she tucks deeper meaning into the syntax of her sentences than the nouns or verbs: savor the careful past-perfects in this paragraph. Henry Crawford doesn't actually want to experience privations or work hard or prove his mettle; he wants to "have done" so! In the past. He doesn't want to build character, he wants to be on the other side of that building project, looking back with self-congratulation at what a fine man he's made of himself.
When it comes to mending, I can be a Henry Crawford. I don't want to mend, but I do want to "have mended"! There's such satisfaction in restoring a garment to the closet, wearable once more. There's pride in putting something on, and noticing the neat hand-stitching inside, and knowing it's been made right by you, and no-one else can tell there was ever a problem. It's so nice to be on the right side of that work!
But the wrong side of that work is where I usually am. I have a mending pile, all "easy fixes"... this strap needs shortened, that hole needs darning, that hem is falling... each thing might take ten minutes, but I start thinking about how I'd have to get a needle, and find the right color thread, and the next thing I know, I'm ignoring the mending pile.
Lately, the pile has grown, along with various UFO's, and I finally got on a kick and did a bunch of stuff. I shortened the straps of a garter belt, appliqued a bit of lace on a very strappy "cage bra", tacked down the part of an exercise skort that always rode up, tightened several loose buttons, and hemmed a pair of jodpurs.
It's nice to "have done" the mending! Now for the UFO pile....
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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