The woman who charms is not necessarily young. History is full of accounts of women who have been fascinating when beyond middle life. The truest and strongest love is not always inspired by the beauty of twenty. The enthusiasm over sweet sixteen is not supported by the old experience which teaches that the highest beauty is not found in immaturity.
Louis XIV wedded Mme. Maintenon when she was forty-three years old. Catherine II of Russia was thirty-three years when she seized the Empire of Russia and captivated the dashing young Gen. Orloff. Even up to the time of her death – at sixty-seven – she seemed to have retained the same bewitching power, for the lamentations were heartfelt among all those who had ever known her personally.
Cleopatra was considerably over thirty when Antony fell under her spell, which never lessened until her death, nearly ten years later.
Livia was thirty-three when she won the heart of Augustus, over whom she maintained her ascendancy until the last. Aspasia did not wed Pericles until she was thirty-seven, and for more than thirty years after she was regarded as one of the most fascinating women of her time. Ninon de l’Enclos, the most celebrated wit of her day, was the idol of three generations of the golden youth of France, and she was seventy-two when the Abbe de Berais fell in love with her.
Helen of Troy, the celebrated Greek beauty, was over forty-five when she took part in the most famous elopement in history; and as the siege of Troy lasted ten years, she must have been at least fifty-five when the ill-fortune of Paris restored her to her husband, who is reported to have received her with unquestioned love and gratitude.
Mlle. Mars, the celebrated actress, was most attractive at forty-five, and Mme. Recamier was at the zenith of her good looks and of her power to please when between thirty-five and fifty-five.
Diana de Poitiers was over thirty-six when Henry II, then Duke of Orleans, and just half her age, became attached to her, and she was regarded as the first lady and the most beautiful woman at court up to the time of the monarch’s death and the accession to power of Catherine de Medici.
The common idea that the mature beauty of forty is less fascinating than that of the girl of seventeen or eighteen is without foundation. By beauty is not meant merely well-formed features and a fresh complexion – these things even dolls possess. In spite of the rosy, fresh complexion bestowed upon youth by nature, a woman’s best and richest age is really between thirty-five and forty-five, and sometimes considerably beyond that period.
No one would dare say how old Madame Patti is. Everyone who meets her exclaims at her marvelous youthfulness and vivacity. Patti’s explanation of her bright eyes, smooth skin and happy expression is given in a few words: “I have kept my temper. No woman can remain young who often loses her temper.”
As a woman grows older, she ought to become more attractive in certain ways than she could be in her youth. One of the most needful things for attaining this result is good health. Fine muscles, a healthy, glowing skin, eyes bright with energy and ambition – these make a valuable foundation for the woman who would be attractive.
The woman who, at a certain age, considers herself passé , commits a great error. If she so regards herself; if she believes she has passed the time when she can be interesting, others are quite likely to find her unattractive.
Surely a woman should be more interesting after she leaves the period of girlhood. She ought to be able to converse better. She should possess more wisdom, greater tact, and broader knowledge of human nature. She should have more repose and more grace of manner. Indeed, she should have all her accomplishments well in hand, and be more facile in their use for the pleasure of others.
And she will be able to use them to better advantage if she has cultivated placidity of temper, human sympathy and generosity, and is not careless of her personal appearance.
— from The Man Who Pleases and The Woman Who Charms (1904) by John Cone