Thursday, February 27, 2014

The way women think men see women

This is from Leonora by Maria Edgeworth. Let me set it up for you. It is an epistolary novel and the letter in question is from General B ____ to his friend Mr. L_____. Mr. L is Leonora's husband and he has fallen in love with Olivia. Olivia is the house guest of Leonora who has, out of purest charity, set about helping Olivia restore her reputation, which reputation, we have come to realize she thoroughly deserved to have lost.

It's all sooo loaded that it would take a heart of stone not to hope that Olivia and Mr. L have a wonderful erotic affair that leads Leonora to throw herself off a cliff and that they are both so blissfully happy they don't even notice she is missing.

Anyway, in the middle of this, Edgeworth has Mr. L's friend General B write him a series of letters in which he tries to convince Mr. L to see the many virtues of Leonora. This is so wide of the mark as to seem crazy:
If you cannot believe in love without sacrifices, you must have them, to be sure. And now, in sober sadness, what do you think your heroine would sacrifice for you? Her reputation? that, pardon me, is out of her power. Her virtue? I have no doubt she would. But before I can estimate the value of this sacrifice, I must know whether she makes it to you or to her pleasure. Would she give up in any instance her pleasure for your happiness? This is not an easy matter to ascertain with respect to a mistress: but your wife has put it beyond a doubt, that she prefers your happiness not only to her pleasure, but to her pride, and to everything that the sex usually prefer to a husband.
If a man wanted to manipulate another man into having cheating on his wife, he couldn't do it better than that.

I'm only part way through the novel, but let's imagine that the portrait of Leonora above is accurate, as it may turn out to be. It would be pure hell to be married to such a woman. You couldn't please her because she'd always be sacrificing her pleasure to what she imagined was your happiness. The horror, the horror.

No comments:

Post a Comment