Lord Arthur Savile's Crime
bizarrevictoria
It's short story Wednesday! Let's have some Oscar Wilde, shall we?

Today I’m recapping an Oscar Wilde 1891 short story called Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. You can read it here, if you wish. It contains a character in it named Lady Windermere, who, as far as I can tell, is completely unconnected to the character of the same name in Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan. He apparently just really wanted to use that name.

Anything with a page number next to it is a direct quotation from the text.

Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (Triggers for swearing, if that needs a trigger warning)

Lady Windermere is throwing a big swanky bash in London and it is spectacular. If it were the 1990s, everyone would have glow sticks and be tripping on E and dancing to the Spice Girls, and Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jonathan Taylor Thomas would be there. But since this is the 1890s, all they really have is sparkling conversation and the odd foreign princess or two.

Lady Windermere, being the society grand dame that she is, likes to play patron to people who can provide her with entertainment. One such person is Mr. Podgers, a gross, boring little man, who reads palms and is kept as a pet by Lady Windermere. One of her friends is like, “Why the fuck do you keep a palm reader on retainer?

And Lady Windermere is like, “Oh, I have him read my palm once per month so he can tell me what to do and warn me if any disasters are impending.” Then she says, verbatim from the text, “New year, for instance, I am in great danger, both by land and sea, so I am going to live in a balloon, and draw up my dinner in a basket every evening. It is all written down on my little finger, or on the palm of my hand, I forget which” (4).

Yeah, Mr. Podgers sounds totally legit.

Question: how will she go to the bathroom? Although I suppose she could just poo over the side of the basket. It’s been done before.

Anyway, Mr. Podgers goes around the party and reads people’s hands with astonishing accuracy, sometimes revealing embarrassing secrets about them in front of the rest of the guests. Pretty soon, no one wants him to come anywhere near their hands.

Lord Arthur Savile (he of the probable crime) comes in late and goes, “Oooh, a palm reader! Fun!” Lady Windermere says, “I know you’re engaged to be married to my friend Sybil, who is the most beautiful woman in London, so if you’re hiding a wife somewhere a la Bertha Mason, Mr. Podgers will definitely find out and I will be forced to tell Sybil.”

Mr. Podgers takes one look at Lord Arthur Savile’s hand and breaks out into a cold sweat. He’s very, “Nothing to see here, folks, nothing to see here!” When he is finally pressured into telling what he saw in Lord Arthur's hand, he gives a very watered down version and says that Lord Arthur Savile is about to go on a long voyage and will lose a distant relative. Everyone goes, “Yeah, he’s about to go on his honeymoon, and also who gives a crap about distant relatives? LET’S PARTAAAAY!” and all is forgotten.

Actually, the way in which they party is by going to eat some soup, but this is a stuffy crowd. You can’t expect anything too crazy.

Lord Arthur Savile stays behind while the rest of them go buck wild eating their soup. He’s lived a life of decadence, foppery, and luxury, without a care in the world. What he is feeling, and not comprehending, for the first time in his life is stress. Mr. Podgers comes into the room and Lord Arthur Savile demands he tell him what he saw on his palm.

Mr. Podgers only agrees to do it for 100 pounds. Ten minutes later, Lord Arthur Savile runs from the house in panic and madness, having been told of MURRRDERRRR.

He runs around London for a while, staggering in back alleys like a drunk person, going on and on about murder like it’s helping anything. If ANYTHING, acting unpredictable and vulnerable in Crime Spree Alley is going to make murder more likely in your future. Jeez, guy. And then some prostitutes laugh at him. You know, just to round off the good night he’s having.

The next morning, he wakes up in the lap of luxury and realizes that nothing, not even murder, can be that bad when he lives in such opulent digs. He drinks some hot chocolate, and gets fussed over by his valet, and smokes a cigarette, and pervs on a photograph of his super hot fiancée, and laughs at how silly he was the previous night. Because dark fate and impending felonies are nothing compared to creature comforts.

But the longer he pervs on that picture of Sybil, the longer he starts to worry about one day shaming her in the public eye. “I know what to do!” he thinks. “I will postpone, or even call off our marriage! Because it is the noble thing to do.”

Here’s the thing, though: Podgers hadn’t told him who he was going to kill, or how, or when, or why. Just that he would kill someone, sometime. So, rather than thinking, “Well, that is deeply unlikely, but just in case, I will make sure to control my temper and never participate in any activity that could even vaguely be construed as violent,” he has  a much different thought.

He thinks, “Well, it’s inevitable, because a man I met last night told me so. Let’s sit down and decide who to kill. Get it over with.”

Let’s just revisit this for a second.

A palm reader is brought out for entertainment at a society party. You’ve never met or heard of this man before, and you didn’t even arrive in time to see him read the palms of other guests; in fact, you have zero experience or proof of the veracity of his skills. He says you will kill someone. You not only don’t question this, but you actively TRY TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

You need a sassy gay friend to articulate some questions about your life choices.

He has a long think about it and decides to bestow some murder upon his mother’s second cousin, Lady Clementina Beauchamp.

His reasons for selecting her are this: 1.) He’s very fond of her, and 2.) he will gain absolutely nothing (monetarily) by her death. I don’t know if he’s trying to erase motive, or what, but couldn’t you pick some random criminal to bump off? If you HAVE to kill someone, why pick the sweet old dearie who’s never done anyone a bad turn in her life?

He has a weird confusion of motives, as well. He wants to keep the murder as quiet as possible, which is understandable. But he also seems to know that he will get caught and doesn’t want to tell Sybil or her parents of his motives in breaking up with her, since they might see it as a selfless act and will maybe even let Sybil remain engaged to him.

Which is it, guy? Are you definitely going to get caught, in which case why bother trying so hard o hide it? Or are you trying not to get caught, in which case, why implode your social circle by murdering a relative and calling off your engagement?

He decides to poison dear old Clementina, but knows precisely zero about poisons, so he goes to the library and has a pre-emptive murder montage. He discovers a poison called aconitine, which is flavorless when put in a capsule, immediate, and painless.

A few things on aconitine, which I just looked up. Colloquially, it’s called devil’s helmet or monkshood. It USED to be undetectable in the mid-1800s and earlier, but forensics had improved by the 1880s. Lord Arthur Savile, if you’re going to murder someone and you’re researching poisons, don’t pick the old pharmacology book that’s decades out of date. That is just sloppy murder preparation.

In tiny doses, aconitine can be used as a painkiller. In slightly larger doses, it makes humans have uncontrollable diarrhea. In my heart of hearts, I hope to god that’s where Oscar Wilde is going with this story: Lord Arthur Savile gives a dose that’s slightly too small to Clementina, and she just poops for the rest of the story. He comes to his senses, maybe gets her some medical help, and everyone has a big old laugh about it.

So he goes right to the local pharmacist to the aristocracy, a guy who knows everyone in their social circles, and asks directly for a lethal dose of aconitine. That's right, Lord Arthur: stealth. The guy says that he kind of needs a prescription or something, but Lord Arthur Savile is all like, “Nah, dude, it’s cool, I just have to kill a giant dog that has rabies.”

Instead of saying, “I believe a bullet, or rat poison, or literally any other general method of death would probably be cheaper and less suspicious,” the pharmacist goes, “Oh, well, if you’re a Lord, and you say it’s for a dog, I guess that should be just fine! One batch of poison, coming up!”

He puts the single pill in a pretty box and drives straight for Clementina’s house. You sure about this? This is all pretty off the cuff. You don’t want to maybe work out an alibi for the time of death, or . . .  No? Okay, then.

He goes to see Clementina for the first time in ages (nothing suspicious there) and learns that she has terrible heartburn that her doctors can’t cure (how convenient!). And he just happens to have a fantastic heartburn remedy at hand (seems legit). She tries to take the heartburn pill right then, but he says she must wait until she a giant attack of heartburn. He says (verbatim), “You will be astonished at the result.” (28).

Ho ho ho, Arthur. You’re such a card.

1.) What if she WAS suffering from heartburn right then? 2.) Surely it would be best to have her take it that very second, die right in front of you, and then call for the maid, saying that she had collapsed. You could tidy away the box, and there would be no suspicion of foul play. But if you wait until she actually has heartburn, then you’ll have to leave the box behind, which is traceable evidence, and she’ll likely call for her maid to bring her "that wonderful, miracle drug that Lord Arthur left behind, oh, shoot, now I’m dead."

Also, I really hate to see her die, because she’s a fantastic lady who reads dirty French books and is bored to tears by people who won’t gossip with her, and basically tells Lord Arthur, “Thanks for the medicine, now fuck off.”

ILU, Clementina. I hope you only get some nasty poops.

He next goes to Sybil’s house and breaks up with her, and then flees for Venice. Yep. These are the actions of an innocent man.

He parties wild in Venice, but keeps checking English obituaries for news of Clementina’s death. Finally he gets a telegram saying that she’s died, and recently made her will leaving him a little house and some pictures and things. He’s touched that she was so fond of him, and curses Mr. Podgers.

That’s right. He curses Mr. Podgers for forcing him to poison his favorite relative. No, no, that’s even too strong. He curses Mr. Podgers for revealing to him that he would one day murder some general person. I have never seen anyone pass the buck so hard in my life.

He also goes, “Well, the murder is accomplished. I guess I can marry Sybil now.” So he goes back to England, and the wedding is back on, and everything is happy! Except when he clears out Clementina’s house, he finds the pill box WITH THE PILL STILL INSIDE IT! He hasn’t killed anyone after all! Nooooooooooooo! (or . . . yaaaay?)

So he postpones their wedding again. And once again, he starts planning murder. “He accordingly looked again over the list of his friends and relatives, and, after careful consideration, determined to blow up his uncle, the Dean of Chichester” (34).

Okay, maybe this is a comedy after all. It rides a very weird line where, mostly, Lord Arthur just whines and is emo and philosophical, and there is nothing even remotely funny about it. And then there are absolute howlers like that last quotation. Which is why I’m complaining so much about how stupid Lord Arthur’s murder plots are—they’re just ridiculous enough for me to go, “You didn’t think this through,” without being so absurd that they seem intentionally funny.

Lord Arthur plans to put a bomb in one of the clocks in his uncle’s clock collection. How he’s going to explain that one away, I’m sure I don’t know. While aconitine may not have left much of a trace, a bomb most definitely would. Lord Arthur, of course, knows even less about explosives than he did about poison, and he isn’t having any luck looking it up in the London directory. Then he remembers that he knows a Russian anarchist named Rouvaloff, who most definitely knows how to blow stuff up.

 Rouvaloff is all like, “Oooh, are you getting into politics?” but Lord Arthur says he needs “the explosive machine for a purely family matter” (36). That shit is hilarious. This story has turned on a dime from being an admittedly witty drama, to a straight-up comedy. Keep it up, Oscar Wilde, you’re better at comedy.

Rouvaloff knows a guy (as all the best anarchists do), and Lord Arthur gets the exploding clock made, and set to go off at exactly Friday at noon, when he knows the Dean will be home.

Friday comes and goes and he hears nothing about the Dean. Outraged, he demands an explanation from the bomb-maker, who says that you just can’t find good explosives anymore, and offers to make him another bomb free of charge. Lord Arthur refuses, having lost faith in explosives, and goes home depressed.

He eventually finds out that the Dean received the clock, which he assumed to be an anonymous present from an admirer, and that it had some sort of sensational alarm clock built in, since it released a small pop and a bit of smoke at 12 o’clock on Friday. He and his family were very charmed by the novelty, and took it apart to understand the mechanism, and they learned how to re-fill it with gun-powder, and the children brought it up to the school room, and make the "alarm" go off all day long, to everyone’s intense amusement. They even wonder if they should buy Lord Arthur one of those clocks as a wedding present.

And Lord Arthur goes, “God fucking damn it.”

He gets super emo, and considers calling off the wedding entirely. He mopes around London for hours, until, late at night, he sees a man standing on a bridge, looking at the Thames. Upon closer inspection, he notices that it’s Mr. Podgers. Without thinking twice, he runs up, grabs Mr. Podgers by the ankles, and flips him over the bridge.

Soon thereafter, he reads in the paper that the body of Mr. Podgers had been found and it was deemed a suicide. He runs over to Sybil and asks her to marry him tomorrow. Nothing gets a man in the mood for commitment quite like the falsely-reported suicide of a palm reader.

A few years later, he and Sybil are happily married with two children. Lady Windermere comes to visit and talks about how bored she is, and how none of her ‘pets’ can keep her interested for very long. She says, “Remember that horrible Mr. Podgers? He turned out to be a charlatan who just wanted to borrow money off of me and get into my pants.”

Sybil says that Lady Windermere must not bad-mouth palm reading in this household, since Lord Arthur is deadly serious about it. Lady Windermere asks why, and he says that he owes his entire happiness and his marriage to Sybil to palm reading.

Lady Windermere says, “You’re an idiot.”

The End.

THOUGHTS:

This would have been a great deal stronger if it were clearer from the beginning how farcical it was going to be. I had a difficult time discerning if it was a straight drama or a black comedy. It ultimately turned out to be neither, instead being a silly romp much along the lines of Kind Hearts and Coronets. That said, once it got going, it was absolutely hysterical.

I suppose the moral of the story is: if you're going to murder someone, don't plan anything, ever. Impromptu murders are always successful, and they always lead to happiness.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment
bizarrevictoria
The original source for this story was the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough from July 13, 1893.

"A young man and a young woman were contesting possession of a piece of property, the one claiming under an old lease, and the other claiming under an old will.

"'It strikes me,' said the justice, 'that there is a pleasant and easy way to terminate this law suit. The plaintiff seems to be a very respectable young man, and this is a very nice young woman. They can get married and live upon the farm. If they go on with the law proceedings, the property will be frittered away among the lawyers, who, I am sure, are not ungallant enough to wish this marriage should not take place.'

"The lady blushed and the young man stammered that they 'liked each other a little bit,' so a verdict was rendered for the plaintiff on the condition of his promise to marry the defendant within two months - a stay of execution being put to the verdict till the marriage ceremony should be completed."

Guys. This is how the 1989 movie The War of the Roses starts. The moral of the story is: don't force people into co-habitating just because they both really, really want a house. Make a damn decision, or they'll end up both be killed by a falling chandelier.

Ode to a Divorcee
bizarrevictoria
I found this story on Futility Closet here. The original source was The Pleasures of a Single Life, or, The Miseries of Matrimony (1709).

Woman, thou worst of all Church-plagues, farewel;
Bad at the best, but at the worst a Hell;
Thou truss of wormwood, bitter Teaz of Life,
Thou Nursery of humane cares a wife.
Thou Apple-Eating Trayt’riss who began
The Wrath of Heav’n, and Miseries of Man,
And hast with never-failing diligence,
Improv’d the Curse to humane Race e’er since.
Farewel Church-juggle that enslav’d my Life,
But bless that Pow’r that rid me of my Wife.
And now the Laws once more have set me free,
If Woman can again prevail with me,
My Flesh and Bones shall make my Wedding-Feast,
And none shall be Invited as my Guest,
T’ attend my Bride, but th’ Devil and a Priest.

Guys . . . what is a Church-juggle?

Femme Fatale
bizarrevictoria
It's time for the Wednesday Recap! I've started summarizing 19th-century short stories I've read, beginning with Guy de Maupassant's 1881 phallic story of phallic phalluses, "Cockcrow". I'm going to do another Guy de Maupassant 1881 short story today (because he wrote a lot of them).

This one is called "Femme Fatale", and it is a remarkably candid and lovely depiction of lesbians, considering its time. I was actually shocked when I read it, because we don't get well-rounded and dignified depictions of lesbians often like this TODAY, 135 years later. All cited quotations are directly from the text. You can read the story yourself here.

Femme Fatale

At a fashionable boating party, Paul and his main squeeze, Madeleine, are canoodling. This is clearly a high society party that gradually gets more and more rowdy as the evening goes on and vulgar people and women of ill-repute start showing up. It’s all fun and games until the moneyed bourgeois arrive.

A boat goes by filled only with women, and with a female oarsman. The crowd notices and starts chanting “Lesbos!” over and over again. The women in the boat wave, and it’s all good-natured heckling. Except for Paul, who breaks out a whistle and starts creating a serious scene. Everyone knows the best way to scare away lesbians is through shrill noises. It’s like warding off bears, I guess.

Madeleine keeps trying to get him to put down the whistle because he’s acting like he done lost his fool mind, but “he was beside himself with male jealousy and a deep, instinctive ungovernable rage. His lips trembling with indignation he stammered: ‘Shouldn’t be allowed! They should be drowned like puppies with stones round their necks!’” (15).

Well, that escalated quickly.

Madeleine quickly becomes my hero by yelling, “Mind your own business, will you! They’ve got a perfect right to do whatever they want. They’re not doing any harm to anyone. Why don’t you just shut up and leave them alone.” (15).

He rants about getting the women locked up and forbids Madeleine from ever having anything to do with them. She gets all “Haaaaale no” and says, “I shall do exactly as I please. If you don’t like it you know what you can do. Get the hell out. Now. I’m not your wife, so shut up.” (15).

She is my spirit animal. Holy butthole, guys, are you sure this story wasn’t written yesterday? Because we’re still debating this crap, and her perspective is incredibly modern. I have used those arguments myself, and recently.

The women in the boat land at the party, again to the good-natured heckling of all the other party goers. Apparently it is an open secret that all four of the ‘Lesbos’ live together, as two couples, in a single house. Some douchebag neighbors had previously been scandalized and tried to get the police involved, but the police were like, “What exactly do you want us to charge them with?” and the neighbors were like, “Uh . . .” and the police were like, “Uh . . .” and nobody could think of anything, and everyone had to drink a big tall glass of Shut The Fuck Up.

The women strut their stuff through the party, like the queens they are, and they come right up to Madeline, and it turns out she knows the woman who was rowing the boat. They hug and greet each other, and Paul is terribly threatened, because, bless him, his masculinity is a fragile, fragile thing. He’s threatened not least of all because the woman’s name is Pauline.

He gets territorial and says that Madeleine is under strict orders not to talk to those women, so Pauline unleashes upon him a torrent of cussing so bad it makes me sound like a nun. Everyone stops to listen. He is too shocked for words, and it stops the party dead. *mic drop*

Paul runs away, crying, and becomes all emo staring out at the water. He’s upset not because he got righteously served by some lesbians, but more because he was a poetic soul who was desperate to fall in love with some gorgeous woman and have a passionate love affair, but instead he had fallen head over heels in love with Madeleine, who was ugly and ‘bad tempered’ and had that horrible thing that men hate, self-respect. Ugh, the worst.

He and Madeleine leave the party, but he’s distressed to find out she’s going to another party the other women are throwing at their house that night. You see, Madeleine, unlike the rest of us, can actually escape his nauseating fuckwittery. He keeps trying to manipulate her and guilt-trip her into not going, and she keeps reading him the riot act: you’re free to leave, but if you stay, you have no right to control my actions.

I wonder how many times she’s going to have to say this before it sinks in.

He ends up going to the party with her, and it sounds fucking fabulous. Everyone is doing the can-can or some other sort of acrobatic dance, and drinks are flowing, and I want to start my own belle époque lesbian party shack, because it’s clearly all fun, all the time.

Madeleine disappears at the party and his first thought is, “She is most definitely banging a chick”. He barrels around the grounds like the world’s worst secret agent, trying to spy, but crying too hard to be discreet. Finally he hears her voice coming from some bushes (pun intended?) and hears Madeleine in the throes of passion. Awwwww yeaaaaaaaaah. Sho nuff, she is in flagrante de Sappho with Pauline.

He screams “MADELEIIIIIIINE”, a la Marlon Brando in Streetcar, and throws himself into the river, committing suicide. It’s like he was allocated a certain number of diva moments at birth and had to use them all up before he died.

His body is found not long after, and Madeleine is kind of sad, but Pauline says, “Hey, he made his own choices. And you’re not responsible for those choices. Wanna have a sleepover at our party palace?

And Madeleine goes, “Okay.”

THE END

A Fight in the Abyss
bizarrevictoria
I just started reading Jack London's 1902 work of immersive journalism, The People of the Abyss. You can read it in full here. He goes undercover as a working-class citizen in London's horrific East End, simply because the class divide is so great that no one knows anything of the East End--the police don't go there, cabs don't go there, middle-class people don't associate with with people of this class AT ALL, etc. etc.

To some extent, it's exploitative, in that he appropriates their culture and class in order to pass as 'one of them' and get them to talk and provide material for his book. On the other hand, he actually cares about the people he comes into contact with, which few others of his class seem to, and wants to reveal and thereby find a way to lessen the extreme squalor in which they live. Part of the problem is that while most of the book depicts unbelievable hardships and is written in a grave tone, he is occasionally amused by events there. His amusement at the culture shock he experiences in some instances makes him feel like a bit of a tourist.

One such instance was a catfight he witnessed, which, of course, reads as entertaining to us today, mostly because of his priggish reaction to the fact that women are capable of getting drunk and fighting.

He writes, "When the first sounds reached me I took it for the barking and snarling of dogs, and some minutes were required to convince me that human beings, and women at that, could produce such a fearful clamour.

"Drunken women fighting! It is not nice to think of; it is far worse to listen to. Something like this it runs--

"Incoherent babble, shrieked at the top of the lungs of several women; a lull, in which is heard a child crying and a young girl's voice pleading tearfully, a woman's voice rises, harsh and grating, 'You 'it me! Jest you 'it me!' then, swat! challenge accepted and fight rages afresh.

"The back windows of the hosues commanding the scene are lined with enthusiastic spectators, and the sound of blows, and of oaths that make one's blood run cold, are borne to my ears. Happily, I cannot see the combatants.

"A lull; 'You let that child alone!' child, evidently of few years, screaming in downright terror. 'Awright,' repeated insistently and at top pitch twenty times straight running; 'you'll git this rock on the 'head!' and then rock evidently on the head from the shriek that goes up.

"A lull; apparently one combatant temporarily disabled and being resuscitated; child's voice audible again, but now sunk to a lower note of terror and growing exhaustion.

"Voices being to go up the scale, something like this:-

"'Yes?'
"'Yes!'
"'Yes?'
"'Yes!'
"'Yes?'
"'Yes!'
"'Yes?'
"'Yes!'


"Sufficient affirmation on both sides, conflict again precipitated. One combatant gets overwhelming advantage, and follows it up from teh way the other combatant screams bloody murder. Bloody murder gurgles and dies out, undoubtedly throttled by a strangle hold.

"Entrance of new voices; a flank attack; strangle hold suddenly broken from the way bloody murder goes up half an octave higher than before; general hullaballoo, everybody fighting.

"Lull; new voice, young girl's, 'I'm goin' ter tyke [take] my mother's part;' dialogue, repeated abotu five times, 'I'll do as I like, blankety, blank, blank [i.e. swearing]' 'I'd like ter see yer, blankety, blank, blank!' renewed conflict, mothers, daughters, everybody, during which my landlady calls her young daughter in from the back steps, while I wonder what will be the effect of all that she has heard upon her moral fibre." (pp. 22-23).

It is very revealing to me that despite his goals to see and hear everything the East End had to offer, he purposefully does not want to see this fight--it's bad enough to hear it. He won't even report in full what the women say, by cutting out their swearing entirely. His sensitively about gender is remarkable, considering his willingness to dive through the depths of class.

Johann Beringer and the Lying Stones
bizarrevictoria
I found this story on Futility Closet's blog here.

"The trouble with arrogance is that you never know when to turn it off. By all accounts Johann Beringer was insufferable, so two of his colleagues on the University of Würtzburg faculty of medicine decided to teach him a lesson.

"They carved lizards, frogs, and spiders from limestone, inscribed them with the Hebrew name of God, and planted them on Mount Eibelstadt, where Beringer frequently went to find fossils."

250px-WürzburgerLügensteine

"It worked — and, like Drake’s Plate of Brass, it worked a little too well. Beringer found the figures, took them seriously, and, to his colleagues’ horror, actually published a book about them. When critics pointed out visible chisel marks, he claimed they’d been left by the hand of God. When the hoaxers tried to talk him out of it, he sued them as 'a pair of antagonists who tried to discredit the stones.'

"When the truth came out, it ruined them all, haunting Beringer most of all. Legend tells that actually he went bankrupt trying to buy up all the books, and there was a final irony. He died in 1740 — and a second printing of his book was produced in 1767."


Cockcrow
bizarrevictoria
I've decided to start doing a weekly recap of a short story this summer. Every Wednesday will be short story day on this blog, until I get bored of it.

Today we are going to look at a Guy de Maupassant 1881 short story that is ALLLL ABOUT DICKS, called, aptly, "Cockcrow". It can be read here.

As usual, I swear and am flippant in my recaps. Possible triggers for issues of sexual consent.

Cockcrow

Baron Joseph de Croissard is avidly pursuing the exceptionally beautiful Madame Berthe d’Avancelles, and she had refused his sexual advances so firmly that he has no choice but to mope and throw hunting parties in her honor. I assume Guy de Maupassant means that the Baron hosts these parties and she’s the guest of honor, not that he got a bunch of friends together to go hunting and, with every shot he took, went “This one’s for Berthe!” That would be morbid as shit.

Anyway, her husband has no choice but to overlook these advances because 1.) The dude’s a baron, and 2.) Monsieur d’Avancelles feels bad because he’s got a teeny tiny penis that cannot satisfy his wife:

“It was rumoured that they lived separate lives on account of a physical shortcoming of his which Madame could not overlook. He was a fat little man with short arms, short legs, a short neck, short nose, short everything in fact” (1). God, I love French literature for saying things so frankly.

The Baron is like, “I’m tall, better endowed, handsome, and spending a fortune on entertaining you. What gives, lady? I clearly have purchasing power over your hoo-haw. That’s how desire with men works: I put in enough coins until sexual consent falls out.”

She says, “I’m too busy this summer to have an affair. I’m not going to fall until the leaves do.” So now that it’s autumn, he’s just biding his time, because they have a verbal contract that she MUST fulfill.

Finally, they go out to hunt a boar. She tells him that if he manages to kill the boar, she has something to give to him, nudge nudge, wink wink. Wow, Parisian high society is nothing but cavemen in waistcoats. “Kill the big animal and you will be proved worthy of mating!” So of course he gets all alpha male and is raring to go, except Madame goes on the hunt with him and is not going to make things easy. She demands that he stay at her side, while she walks her horse idly down a gentle path.

In the words of Christian Grey (probably), his penis started shouting obscenities at her, and we must always appease the penis! The hunt was moving farther and farther away, and she’s leading him slowly away from it, only she says she won’t ‘give him something’ unless he kills the beast with his own hand in front of her eyes, and then she chides him for paying more attention to the sounds of the hunt than he is to her conversation.

He’s like, “Baby, of course I care about what you’re saying, but not as much as I care about finally getting to have sex with you.”

Then they make out on horseback for a few minutes, which is the preferred mode of making out for the aristocracy. In case you didn’t know. She gets embarrassed by their smooch and rides off to catch up with the hunt. As they do, the boar runs by them. The Baron jumps at the opportunity, and follows it. By the time Madame catches up with him, he’s covered in blood, with his knife rammed up to the hilt in the dead boar, which is not a metaphor for sex AT ALL.

A party rages on that night to celebrate the hunt, and Madame is really turned on and the Baron is really turned on, and they go for a walk in the park and start making out again, and Guy de Maupassant says basically that they almost start humping right there under the trees. Under-tree-sex: the preferred mode of sex for the aristocracy. Anything outdoorsy, really. The aristocracy love their outdoor exertions.

They go back to the house and she says she’s exhausted and going to bed, but he can join her if he wants. He sneaks up to her room later when everyone is asleep. He comes in and starts kissing her nightgown (which is 19th-century code for kissing her naughty places). She goes to slip into something more comfortable and tells him to get into bed.

He waits and waits and waits for her, but is so tired from the hunt that he falls asleep and sleeps until dawn. When he wakes up at the sound of a rooster crowing, she is in bed next to him, still unsexed, and PISSED OFF.

He asks what the noise is, and she says, “Nothing . . . it’s a cock. Go back to sleep, Monsieur. It’s nothing to do with you.” (6).

THE END

OUCH.

A few morals for the story:

1.) If you are super hot and spend enough money on a woman, she will eventually have sex with you.

2.) If you actually WANT sex from a man, but he needs to prove his worth before you do it, make sure he proves his worth with something not physically exhausting. Make him solve math problems or go fishing or something.

3.) Buy a vibrator. It will solve all your problems AND you won't have to deal with the Baron's entitlement bullshit.

More Wedding Drama
bizarrevictoria
I posted the other day about a hideous wedding that went about as wrong as weddings could go, in terms of family drama. I found another one just as good. The original source for this article was the Edinburgh Evening News from May 28, 1886.

"A grocer named Mariner, of Lake ROad, Portsmouth, who had recently retired and passed the business to his son, lost his wife last March (two months previously). On Wednesday the man, who is between 50 and 60, married a Miss Lock, who was 16 years old last Christmas, andwas formerly a domestic servant in his employment."

Ooooh, a marriage of unseemly haste after your wife's death? A creepy May-December romance, along the lines of Courtney Stodden and Doug Hutchison? MARRYING THE HELP?

BRB, going to grab some popcorn.

"To show their contempt for his conduct the neighbours put up mourning shutters and hung out bows of crape [black fabric used for mourning decoration on clothing and in the home]. A crowd collected, and when two wedding acrriages with postillions [drivers] drove up to take away the couple, damaged fruit, onions, and other missiles were freely thrown. The man's son also put up mourning shutters, and just before the wedding party left, he drove off with a handsome wreath to place upon the grave of his mother."

I gotta say, if my mother died and two months later my father runs off with a girl a third of his age, I'd probably throw some rotten fruit at him, too.

Kids Say the Darndest Things, Part 2
bizarrevictoria
I found this story on Futility Closet's blog here. I've done one of these posts before, which can be found here. The original source for these quotations are all taken from Mark Twain's English as She Is Taught: Being Genuine Answers to Examination Questions in Our Public Schools (1887).

-“Lord Byron was the son of an heiress and a drunken man.” [Not wrong, I suppose.]

-“Gibbon wrote a history of his travels in Italy. This was original.” [In case you don't know, Gibbon wrote The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Sincerely doubt this was a first-hand experience on his vacation to Italy.]

-“George Eliot left a wife and children who mourned greatly for his genius.” [You might want to reassess that pronoun.]

-“George Eliot Miss Mary Evans Mrs. Cross Mrs. Lewis was the greatest female poet unless George Sands is made an exception of.”

-“Sir Walter Scott Charles Bronte Alfred the Great and Johnson were the first great novelists.” [Alfred the Great. Burning cakes, repelling the Vikings, and writing books since 849.]

-“Thomas Babington Makorlay graduated at Harvard and then studied law, he was raised to the peerage as baron in 1557 and died in 1776.” [And was probably glad to be dead after almost 300 years of life, I suspect.]

-“Homer’s writings are Homer’s Essays Virgil the Aenid and Paradise lost some people say that these poems were not written by Homer but by another man of the same name.” [Guys. Virgil's The Aeneid has the author's name in the damn title.]

-“A sort of sadness kind of shone in Bryant’s poems.” [I'm horrified how many of my university-level students still write this stuff. 'The poems of Poe are sort of, like, kind of creepy', etc.]

-“Holmes is a very profligate and amusing writer.” [I assume they are referring to Edmond Holmes, and not Sherlock Holmes, who only first appeared in print the year this book came out. This is hilarious, because Edmond Holmes would eventually write a number of books on religious matters.]

Errors of the Press
bizarrevictoria
I found this story on Futility Closet's blog here. The original source was the Salem Register, 1827, quoted in The Olden Time Series, Vol. 6: Literary Curiosities: Gleanings Chiefly from Old Newspapers of Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, 1886.

The below are excerpts from newspapers in which, through the accidental omission of a single letter in a single word (seen here in italics), the entire meaning of the sentence was changed. Quite unfortunately.

-“The conflict was dreadful, and the enemy was repulsed with considerable laughter.” [meant to be "slaughter".]

-“Robert Jones was yesterday brought before the sitting Magistrate, on a charge of having spoken reason at the Barleymow public-house.” [meant to be "treason".]

-“In consequence of the numerous accidents occasioned by skaiting on the Serpentine River, measures are taking to put a top to it.” [meant to be "stop"].

-“When Miss Leserve, late of Covent Garden Theatre, visited the ‘Hecla,’ she was politely drawn up the ship’s side by means of a hair.” [meant to be "chair".]

-“At the Guildhall dinner, none of the poultry was eatable except the owls.” [meant to be "fowls".]

-“A gentleman was yesterday brought up to answer a charge of having eaten a hackney-coachman for having demanded more than his fare; and another was accused of having stolen a small ox out of the Bath mail; the stolen property was found in his waistcoat pocket.” [meant to be "beaten" and "box".]

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