"Cows Are My Passion"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Mr. Dombey, the wealthy London merchant, is at Leamington for a holiday. His hanger-on, Major Joseph Bagstock, has taken him under his wing to acquaint him with the town and to inform him about the current scandals. As they walk down the street, they meet a wheeled chair, in which reclines a faded ancient coquette named Mrs. Skewton. Beside her walks her scornful but beautiful daughter, Mrs. Edith Granger. Mrs. Skewton, who could very well be walking, as there is nothing wrong with her health, invariably rides in one fixed position. Fifty years earlier, when she was a beauty of about twenty years of age, a fashionable artist had sketched her picture as she sat in this posture in a barouche; he had labeled the work "Cleopatra," because the Egyptian queen had taken the same position in her galley. The beauty and the carriage had both disappeared, but the attitude persisted. Mrs. Skewton asks Mr. Dombey if he is fond of nature and explains that she has a passion for seclusion, but society will not permit her to indulge it. She is really an Arcadian at heart, with a burning desire for rural solitude; she is thrown away on society and cows are her passion. What she would like to do is retire to a Swiss farm where she could live entirely surrounded by cows–and china.

". . . There is only one change, Mr. Dombey," observed Mrs. Skewton, with a mincing sigh, "for which I really care, and that I fear I shall never be permitted to enjoy. People cannot spare one. But seclusion and contemplation are my what's-his-name–"
"If you mean Paradise, mamma, you had better say so, to render yourself intelligible," said the younger lady.
"My dearest Edith," returned Mrs. Skewton, "you know that I am wholly dependent upon you for those odious names. I assure you, Mr. Dombey, Nature intended me for an Arcadian. I am thrown away in society. Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for, has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."
This curious association of objects, suggesting a remembrance of the celebrated bull who got by mistake into a crockery shop, was received with perfect gravity by Mr. Dombey, who intimated his opinion that Nature was, no doubt, a very respectable institution.