Imagination or Affectation” comes to conclusions surprising for 19th-century works, as a woman whose delicacy is the wonder of her peers, either is or is not unmasked as a fraud. The Youth’s Companion—or any early 19th-century American magazine for children—didn’t often conclude that overreacting to a perceived threat was justifiable; more often, readers were reminded of the virtues of repressing automatic reactions.
“Imagination or Affectation” (from The Youth’s Companion, July 13, 1865; p. 111)

A lady, possessing exceedingly delicate nerves, was relating to some friends, who were making her an afternoon call, the unpleasant effects which she experienced from the perfume of roses. “The odor of that flower,” said she, “is very offensive, and gives me the vertigo, and sometimes deprives me of all sensation.” She was interrupted by the entrance of a young lady, an acquaintance, [sic] who wore in her bosom a beautiful moss rose. As she advanced toward the fair mistress of the house, that lady turned pale, appeared to be in much distress, raised her hands imploringly, and fell fainting on an ottoman.

“What wonderful nervous sensibility!” exclaimed one of her friends.

“What a delicate organization!” said another.

“Do, my dear madam, be so good as to leave the room, for you have, undoubtedly, caused this sudden indisposition.”

“I!” replied the young lady, much astonished. “ What have I done?”

“Done! Nothing. But it is the powerful odor from that moss rose you wear in your breast which has caused this misfortune.”

“Indeed! If that is the case, I will hand over to you the culprit for punishment; but I only ask you to judge the case impartially before you condemn my poor flower.” She then took the rose from her bosom, and handed it to the ladies who were present. Their inquietude soon gave place to surprise. It was an artificial rose!

Young readers will be amused with this, and think the lady either false or foolish. But there are persons who cannot smell the fragrance of a rose without suffering afterwards; and therefore the sight or even thought of one is painful. Imagination is very powerful, and often produces the same effects as reality. No one should therefore accuse the lady of acting a part, unless assured that her conduct was purely affectation. If a child really thought a tiger was in the room, he would be frightened and scream, and go frantic, even though the occasion of his alarm might be only a stuffed skin.

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