Ministering angel

Gerty thinks of herself as a virtuous and helpful wife-to-be: "A sterling good daughter was Gerty just like a second mother in the house, a ministering angel too with a little heart worth its weight in gold." The phrase "ministering angel" comes ultimately from Shakespeare's Hamlet, but the sentiment was a commonplace of Victorian gender ideals, just as "sterling" and "worth its weight in gold" were proverbial figures for value of any kind. Various literary works might be cited as possible sources for Gerty's language of angelic womanhood. One of them, Coventry Patmore's The Angel in the House, does not seem to have received sufficient attention.

John Hunt 2023

The Angel's Message, 1905 painting by George Hillyard Swinstead. Source:

Gerty Flint kneeling at the feet of her beloved adoptive uncle.

1894 oil portrait of Coventry Patmore by John Singer Sargent, held in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

1851 oil portrait of Mrs. Coventry Patmore by John Everett Millais, held in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Woman's Mission: Companion of Manhood, 1863 oil painting by George Elgar Hicks held in the Tate Gallery, London. Source: