The scene: Miss Nickleby is applying for the position of companion to the delicate Mrs. Wititterly of Cadogan Place, Sloane Street. Mr. Wititterly explains:
‘Oh!’ he said, turning round, ‘yes. This is a most important matter. Mrs Wititterly is of a very excitable nature; very delicate, very fragile; a hothouse plant, an exotic.’
‘Oh! Henry, my dear,’ interposed Mrs Wititterly.
‘You are, my love, you know you are; one breath—’ said Mr W., blowing an imaginary feather away. ‘Pho! you’re gone!’
The lady sighed.
‘Your soul is too large for your body,’ said Mr Wititterly. ‘Your intellect wears you out; all the medical men say so; you know that there is not a physician who is not proud of being called in to you. What is their unanimous declaration? “My dear doctor,” said I to Sir Tumley Snuffim, in this very room, the very last time he came. “My dear doctor, what is my wife’s complaint? Tell me all. I can bear it. Is it nerves?” “My dear fellow,” he said, “be proud of that woman; make much of her; she is an ornament to the fashionable world, and to you. Her complaint is soul. It swells, expands, dilates—the blood fires, the pulse quickens, the excitement increases—Whew!”‘…
‘… She forms and expresses an immense variety of opinions on an immense variety of subjects. If some people in public life were acquainted with Mrs Wititterly’s real opinion of them, they would not hold their heads, perhaps, quite as high as they do.’
‘Hush, Henry,’ said the lady; ‘this is scarcely fair.’
‘I mention no names, Julia,’ replied Mr Wititterly; ‘and nobody is injured. I merely mention the circumstance to show that you are no ordinary person, that there is a constant friction perpetually going on between your mind and your body; and that you must be soothed and tended….
—Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
Hmm, maybe this is my problem? I’ll have to run it by my doctor. Perhaps my health plan has a provision for a lady’s companion.