In my assiduous attempt to provide my intellect with quality lectures favoring the breeding of uncountable thoughts I genuinely consider a chief condition for one’s happiness to achieve substance, I rarely came across spiritual themed books. Mysticism’s not really my cup of tea and reading its adepts has yet to attract me, you should know, but while relishing a dose of Borges’ oral speeches the other day (Borges being quite a brilliant modern mind, if you’d ask my opinion) I became unexpectedly intrigued by the man he was talking about, a certain Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

Swedenborg who? Apparently, the guy was the proud possessor of a brilliant mind which Kant took some time in studying with expressed  regrets he could never meet its owner, dead a decade earlier. Reputed scientist for the first half of one of those lives uncommonly long in the not so healthy 18th century (he managed to survive the age of 80), obedient student and offspring of a wealthy Lutheran bishop quite respected by the Swedish King, he was much appreciated himself for researches (truly ahead of his times) on human brain (developing the “neuron” concept barely occurred as an important matter to Swedenborg’s contemporaries), psychology and complex anatomy, although international recognition came with a treaty on similarities between metallurgy and philosophy. Later, he even took some time in designing a flight machine, reaching the sky otherwise than through death being a dream he had in common with da Vinci.

Great variety in preoccupations, do observe.

But not sufficient to conquer historic immortality.

Until Providence generously opened the gates of a new domain Swedenborg could usefully study in a wholly eccentric perspective: theology. Now, how he came to have the transcendent visions on which his following works were heavily based one may effortlessly find on omniscient Wikipedia without my mentioning it, yet I’d like sketching their content as it explains my decision of boring you with this particular Swede.

Upon experiencing an elevating journey of the type Dante made famous worldwide at the end of a swift adjustment, Swedenborg established a few marvelously novel religious ideas definitely surpassing, in context, Rudolph Steiner’s esoteric movement centuries later.

According to him, our souls are directly responsible for their entry in either hell or Paradise since, here goes the surprise, each man is let to decide where to spend his afterlife. Swedenborg explains that, after an interval spent hanging in a neutral zone where angels and demons could freely pass, we are put to chose the place of our eternity, the only space in which we’re able to find happiness. Shockingly, some actually desire to reside in the fiery depths of infernal terror, which he doesn’t interpret as punishment.

“The life of any one can by no means be changed after death; an evil life can in no wise be converted into a good life, or an infernal into an angelic life: because every spirit, from head to foot, is of the character of his love, and therefore, of his life; and to convert this life into its opposite, would be to destroy the spirit utterly.” Explained, it means a predominantly mischievous spirit, without being damned, can never pass Heaven’s doors because it would condemn him to tremendous misery; it’s not his nature to stay among those essentially good or graceful for he’s destined to hate, spite, breath in torturing vices alongside those assembling his temper, a theory most sophisticated in comparison with Bible’s old-fashioned variant -reminiscent, though, of Shaw’s “Man and Superman” third act.

Evidently, there’s much more to say about Swedenborg regarding his concepts and the authenticity of his mystical connections; I promise to incorporate sometime in a longer post if interested, probably subsequent to reading the “Heaven & Hell” work which won him posterity.

For now, what do you think about his rather strange philosophy? Heresy? Madness? A wild but nevertheless genuine hunch?

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41 Antinous The ancient world saw the birth of pantheons and singular gods who emerged as icons to be piously worshiped and duly feared (like the Greek word “thambos” suggests) but was particularly the heyday of mortals deified  by deeds of such audacious character or so astounding a trait people could not refrain eventually granting them supernatural statute. From the much-revered Osiris to the now less popular Asclepius,  faith elevated the extraordinary to heights unparalleled ever since and Antinous, reputedly the most handsome creature to have pleased the eyes of men, perhaps best exemplifies these hasty canonizations that were ultimately ensued by the plethora of mythological figures currently known.

But what did this ostensibly  common youth, whose  pulchritude seemed his sole distinctive  feature, to deserve being an object of veneration for a cult even our contemporaries perpetuate?

What they all do: make themselves fervently loved.

Apparently, Antinous, a Bithynian Greek of no aristocratic breed, stirred a most unlikely passion in the eminent Roman Emperor Hadrian that would not cease to consume him the whole span of his lengthy life, which turns the case quite similar to Alexander and Hephaestion‘s. Thus the story goes that the named Augustus from Nervan-Antonine dynasty, being a declared philhellene who took a liking to the old Greek habits, penchant for homosexuality included, so ardently cherished the boy that when he was found drowned in the Nile river a whole sophisticated mechanism of propaganda ensured his place between the immortals. Countless statues bearing his marvelously beauteous features were consequently produced, sanctuaries erected to commemorate him and at one point Hadrian had coins struck with Antinous’ profile, a prerogative previously resumed to the gods or their earthly representatives, the Imperial family.

Across time, this most handsome lover of royalty secretly inspired all the gay intellectuals and J.J. Winckelmann, reputedly the father of art history, is said to have more ore less been influenced by Antinous in his pursuit of Greek and Roman culture.

How do you feel about it, though? to learn it’s outrageously easy to ascend a heavenly reputation through a very humane sovereign’s obsessive infatuation?

39 Antinous

My, that’s love to shape destinies. Wonder what Freud would comment.

Voltaire’s Nude

July 6, 2013

Voltaire by Jean Baptiste Pigalle, Louvre

“There was a statue made not long since of Voltaire, which the sculptor, not having that respect for the prejudices of mankind which he ought to have, has made entirely naked and as meagre and emaciated as the original is said to be. The consequence is what might be expected; it has remained in the sculptor’s shop, though it was intended as a public ornament and a public honor to Voltaire, as it was procured at the expense of his contemporary wits and admirers.”

(Reynolds, “Seven Discourses on Art“)

Fortunately, since Pigalle’s Voltaire now neighbors Michelangelo’s Slaves in the Louvre with the blessing of a reputed curator, Reynold’s valuation of the peace doesn’t prove equitable enough to concur immediately. Indeed, the great philosopher’s nude realistically depicts the atrophied, skeletal physique of a septuagenarian crooked by age, secular and spiritual difficulties to an admirably small degree. No attempt to idealization being made, François-Marie Arouet‘s body appears feeble, humane in what may seem a depreciating way, as the English portraitist put it. Besides these features of decay, though, one can find that the sagacious expression on his face, together with a dynamic pose, redeem the decrepit members so as to convey the “triumph of mind over matter”.

And it was this victory Jean Baptiste Pigalle wanted to illustrate when “a literary society whose members included Diderot and d’Alembert (the authors of the Encyclopédie) decided to pay tribute to Voltaire” by commissioning a “marble statue in his likeness”.

Drawing inspiration from the majestic masterpieces of Greek and Roman art, Pigalle’s idea was to sculpt his model “entirely naked except for the flowing drapery that crosses his left shoulder and covers his loins. Such a portrayal, unprecedented in the modern period, caused a scandal and prompted a multitude of sarcastic comments, King Gustavus III of Sweden offering to contribute to the cost of a coat. Fearing ridicule, Voltaire attempted to dissuade the sculptor, but finally agreed to his project in the name of artistic freedom.”

But there’s no surprise such an “overly naturalist portrayal of the patriarch philosopher prompted unanimous disgust and rejection” since only “Jean-Antoine Houdon approach to the problem with a statue of Voltaire Seated, his whole body wrapped in swathes of timeless cloth”  met with general approval and was finally displayed in the foyer of  the Comédie Française.

It remained with the notorious sitter who eventually “bequeathed the work to his grand-nephew”, reaching the Louvre due to a donation at the beginning of the 19th century.

(Incidentally, the Louvre has an extended version of this article on its public site, from which descend all quotes here employed, plus a few more.)

So, what’s your personal opinion of it?

Mere tasteless representation of an old Voltaire or an image that rightfully invites to ponder on the triumph of mind over matter?

A Finished Art Project

December 19, 2012

Remember the slightly eerie art project I’ve embarked upon a few months ago?

That’s the outcome, slightly unclear with the bad quality of the above photo and the pink tint imposed by the blog’s theme. Not exactly the most astonishingly great result we’ve been expecting to produce after a 4 months labor but, giving the time we spent on its bottom half (or rather the lack of it) I’m not as embarrassed as I should be for the blatant faults here visible. After all, I’m contented enough to post it and pack it a gift to my mentor.

Do you believe he’ll least appreciate our strive?

blog

Splendiferous subtext, if you ask me, and, concomitantly, one of the greatest biblical metaphors ever to be taken from the patrimony of  ancient civilizations without other alteration except that concerning the context.

I strongly recommend to muse about it, let it settle gently on your membrane of intellectual sensibility, allow it to make connections with previous thoughts and ruminate until the tangency it has with several impossible-not-to-relate-to issues least comes to reveal a path towards full understanding.

Can the blind lead the blind?

NO?

If so, why does our magnificently well- structured society permit such immense a mistake and to which effect, really? How do we still fall under the influence of utterly false gurus, all information to prevent it being internationally available?

To which extent to we plunge in that pit?

Lunardi’s flying Folly

October 10, 2012

Shallow as it may sound, the ‘beauty comes first’ criteria to which my visual senses respond made me stop at this man’s intriguing story only after dropping an eye on  his rather handsome portrait preceding it. One inexorably desires more information about charming characters; it tends to enhance their attractiveness and draw them to spheres of humanity easier to empathize with, still stressing the physical gorgeousness first to catch one’s attention. But I’m missing the point (thing I’m terribly good at).

The lad depicted above, a very flamboyant Italian named Vincenzo Lunardi,  makes this very October 225 years since he first flew over Edinburgh in a hydrogen-filled balloon, stunning the curious mob gathered on the grounds of George Heriot’s School to watch the big event which The Scots Magazine  later described with appreciatory words:

‘The beauty and grandeur of the spectacle could only be exceeded by the cool, intrepid manner in which the adventurer conducted himself; and indeed he seemed infinitely more at ease than the greater part of his spectators.’

A day to remember, really.

But the charismatic Vincezo had orchestrated numerous such occasions to leave his contemporaries in utter awe long before that October 1785 and could, at the mere age of 26, boast with the several aeronautic adventures alongside the famous James Tytler, whom he had met around the 1780’s during a diplomatic voyage. Because yes, the courageous Lunardi started up as a minor Neapolitan nobleman engaged in diplomatic missions to France and, elected Secretary to Prince Caramanico (a well respected Ambassador), to England. Let us not forget envoys in the Revolutionary epoch were people characterized by the most acute sense of action, having traveled enough to discover different habits and mentalities. Not to mention their varied education. In all sort of ways.

In London, Lunardi’s appetite for fame and the dandy allure so appealing to the English public facilitated his ascension as a ‘Daredevil Aeronaut’, the first to successfully experience the perilous balloon flight after de Morel’s failure in a time when the conquest of air was a hot topic. The novelty was there, waiting for a valiant one to affirm it, and the world stared impatiently. Easy times to become hero for audacious hearts.

So, eager to conquer a certain prestige, Vincenzo, native showman, immediately planned an ascension with a balloon designed by his partner, George Biggin, over the 200,000 heads of riveted Londoners among whom stood aristocratic figures such as the Prince of Wales. To make thing even more peculiar, Lunardi decided to give a cat, a dog and a pigeon the honor of traveling alongside himself, although with the cat’s airsickness one could contest it was indeed a good idea.

Setting off from the Artillery Ground to a northerly direction towards Hertfordshire, without poor Biggin, he eventually put the balloon to rest in Standon Green End which, to this day, bears the name of ‘Balloon Corner’ to commemorate the historical event.

This first balloon flight in Great Britain turned Lunardi into the hero of the hour, his main desire, and brought him before the ‘Mad King’ George III.

“At his command, a monument was erected on the spot where Lunardi landed for the second time; its popular name is Long Mead, and it is still there. Lunardi went on to build larger and better balloons and ascended once more from Moorfields. On this occasion his balloon was decorated with a huge Union Jack, in which manner he ‘wished to express his respects and devotion to everything which the word ‘British’ stands for’. His faithful friend Biggin and a Mrs Letitia Sage, an actress, were to have accompanied him on this trip, but once more the lifting capacity of the balloon was poor, so Lunardi started alone on 13 May 1785. Soon afterwards he had to come down again, near Tottenham Court Road, because the envelope turned out to be leaking. The well-tried patience of Biggin was finally rewarded later that year when, on 29 June, he was able to ascend himself, accompanied by Mrs Sage.’

”This trip lasted an hour and had the distinction of being the first time ‘a British female air travelers’ had gone aloft. This was the term by which Mrs Sage henceforth liked to be described. She was a beautiful lady, but from a ballooning point of view she unfortunately tipped the scales at 2001b. Lunardi made several more balloon ascents in Great Britain during 1785, but in August 1786 one of his young assistants lost his life in a tragic accident. During the preparations for an ascent at Newcastle upon Tyne, Ralph Heron was pulled aloft as one arm got entangled in the anchor rope when the balloon took off prematurely. The rope broke and the hapless youngster plunged to his death. Lunardi was not to blame, yet, after the incident, everywhere he went in Great Britain he was now persecuted as intensely as he had previously been acclaimed. He left the country for good, but continued his balloon ascents in Italy, Spain and Portugal. His health later failed, and he died in Portugal on 31 July 1806.”

I think him quite a curious human specimen. And Sir Laurence Olivier thought him so too when playing Lunardi in the 1936 film ‘Conquest of the Air’.

Any other opinions?

Liebster Lauds

October 6, 2012

Blogging’s not quite the most rewarding thing one could do in one’s own free time since, ok, your posts get easier to a varied  international audience and their writing could be done from virtually everywhere, but the feedback’s not always sufficient for infusing a true sense of either motivation or inner satisfaction to the working-bee. I often find myself  relinquishing a new subject with thoughts of uselessness preventing me from blogging it here, mainly because I’m not sure it would really interest someone (secondly because I’m congenitally lazy although we’ll not talk about it). Now, whether it’s good or just a shameful insecure act I can’t decide.

That’s where blogging awards intervene and I’m flattered to have been nominated for the “Liebster Lauds”, a nice occasion to designate your favorite fellow bloggers and the sites which usually draw your attention in a solidary attempt to contribute to their development.

Thank you, Liz, the keen owner of the Pragmatic Costumer (a chronicle of period garbs and adornments most vivid and complex you’ll definitely fall in love with) for considering my blog entertaining enough to nominate.

We should have a toast: may we grow and evolve with our work, bla bla, and have some damn great fun!

And, to get over with formalizations:  the Liebster Laws…

1. Add the award icon to your blog!
2. Link to your nominator to say “thank you”
3. Nominate 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers.
4. (optional) Post 11 facts about yourself/answer 11 questions
If you have already received a Liebster, you’re not required to participate again!

So, my choice of cracking 5 blogs:

1-the Empress Chronicles

2-Saints, Sisters and Sluts

3-Good Gentlewoman

4-Pamela Schoenewaldt

5-Sifting the Past

     ♠

Keep up the good blogging!

Art Project

June 4, 2012

As I have acquainted you with my sort of art in the former post which, thank you, has recorded quite a nice number in audience, proud little me resolved to inform you all of the most recent project undertaken , in a premiere partnership with my declared muse, Diana T., a 1-meters-tall-some-50-centimeters-wide drawn replica of Laurie Lipton‘s “Santa Muerte” (which, since I’m reticent at a possible comparison, won’t appear here, facing our petty variants).

With no further introduction, in a lugubrious atmosphere, I present you the obviously unfinished sketch depicting Mr. Death at the beginning of his highly detailed majesty:

The sympathetic skull with damaged teeth and an oddly rich hair exhibiting a volume vying the girls’ who advertise shampoos was delineated by Diana, while I chose, having a great attraction to jewels of any kind, to humbly resume at the bony crown…

…bony indeed…

The Earth is also her merit…

…and let us not forget the complicated head-piece made of terribly minute lace which shall be Diana’s dramatizing subjects for the next month (“Damned points! They’ll have my fingers bleed over them, not to mention my eyes blinding in the process of staring!”). In exchange for letting her do it, I’ll be forced to torment my poor right hand with some thousand small skeletons printed on Death’s now-not-quite-visible robe, just so you’re informed of my future martyrdom.

Thoughts?

Less Brains than Beauty

March 5, 2012

madame grande

Catherine Noele Verlée (or Worlée) practically assembled all the standard qualities which made a women of her age (we’re speaking about the late 1700’s and Napoleon’s Empire) if not maîtresse-en-titre  for the plump, slightly obtuse King Louis XVI (yes, Marie Antoinette’s cuckold) least a celebrated courtesan rivaling the reputations of Madame de Pompadour and Madame de Montespan through her genuine beauty so fitted in the canons by which women were considered good-catches. As you can independently judge in the portrait positioned above, Catherine had the allure galore, a sylph grace and quite an experience with sensual games, counting the vixen expression on her apparently saintly face, features that impel one to the higher echelons. Alas, she lacked the sole characteristic unanimously met in successful mistresses: a sharp mind ambitiously set on ascension. In fact, her contemporaries say, Catherine was your average goose, anecdotes underlining her stupidity circling around Parisian society with great speed; Louise Vigée Le Brun, the very painter who did the work previously seen, registered a rather awkward moment when Catherine, then wife of respectable M. Talleyrand, giving a dinner for reputed traveler Vivant Denon, was asked by her husband to take a certain book from his library and read extracts from their guest’s adventures in Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. Surely the pathetic goof could do nothing but grab the wrong volume, embarrassingly reciting a “lengthy portion of the adventures of Robinson Crusoe” and, to top it properly, state such aberration like: “Ah! monsieur, with what pleasure I have just read about your trip! How interesting it is, especially when you meet poor Friday!”… epic fail. God knows how pitiful Talleyrand reacted or if the story was even true… We’re all familiar with the incorrect words put in Marie Antoinette’s mouth (“let them eat cake”, seriously?!) so we can’t fully believe Catherine was dumb enough to identify Denon with Robinson Crusoe or, as often attributed to our silly girl, declare “je suis d’Inde” (I am from India), a phrase easily construed as “je suis dinde” (I am a turkey). She might’ve been uneducated and thick, yet it’s nearly impossible for a statesman like Talleyrand to marry a complete imbecile, thus, most likely, all the negative rumors aimed to diminish his esteem than chronicle the funny mistakes of a vain beauty (nasty French gossipers!).

Either way, Catherine never reached her maximum potential, fame.

Born November 21, 1761, at Karikal Indies Danes in a small French enclave which was about seven miles from the Danish colony of Tranquebar. Daughter of Pierre Werlée, captain of the port not far from Pondicherry and Chandernagore Chevalier de Saint-Louis (his mother, Laurence Allamay, was originally from the Dutch Flanders, and belonged to the gentry) Catherine was obliged to brush a bit the dates in her birth certificate, requested at the time of marriage with Talleyrand under the Consulate, rejuvenating with two years and Christianizing  “Nancy” (her original name)  in “Noëlle”, while the “Verlée” became “Worlée”.  She was smart enough to do that, credit it, please.

At fourteen, “Kate” as she was fondly called, is noted in the local high society garden parties, particularly in M. Chevalier’s, the Governor of Chandernagore. Deemed to be the “most beautiful woman of Calcutta”, tall, blond, like a nymph, our girl was stately and had infinite grace to compensate her naivete,  inspiring the painter John Zoffani to pack her in a blue-green sari and make a portrait which dates back to 1780, probably being completed on the eve of her departure for Europe. She quite seemed the equivalent of Scarlett O’Hara at the beginning of “Gone with the Wind”, the young shrewd maid flaunting her generously endowed body under the wrinkled noses of rich bourgeois. Ghyretti House, the residence of M. Chevalier, was apparently her favorite scene because there she met  her first hubby in the person of M. Georges-Francois Grand, belonging to a family of Vaudois Lausanne, born in Surrey by a mother of Norman origin ( to make him a profile). He had arrived in India in 1776 as an employee of the East India Company (which turned him in an acceptable match), had little time enough to be at ease, leading a life in luxury and idleness  with his friend Sir Waren Hastings, governor of Calcutta (friend with good positions, see where she aimed?). The young man asked the hand of Kate, which was granted without problems, after his appointment as Secretary of the Committee of salts (note: not a minute before). The couple married in Hoogly House July 10, 1777 and settled in a large villa near Halipore, with many servants and a garden paradise, a second Hanging Gardens of Babylon for the picky belle.

kate

And courtesy to M. Grand’s English habits of spending his private time in Clubs without worrying about Kate’s home-alone state, she had enough spare time to do what women love most after jewels: cheat, the oldest hobby in the world.

She had her overly potent lover, Sir Phillip Francis, director of the Government of Bengal, enter her rooms through a rope ladder, quite Renaissance style, and ride our beauty till dawn, when Grand (who ironically wasn’t at all that “grand”), very drunk, sleepy and amazingly gullible, came home to rest in the conjugal bed generously kept warm by their little games, suspecting nothing, like the sympathetic, naive guy he was. The arrangement went unexpectedly well for some good months but, alas, one of those accidental happenings depicted in the best Greek comedies unraveled the whole business with a tam-tam specific to Hollywood soap operas, irremediably compromising Catherine’s reputation of faithful broad.

On the evening of Tuesday, December 8, 1778, while he dined at the tavern “Le Gallais,” a nosy fellow burst in to caution that Sir Francis had been seen climbing a rope ladder to his wife’s chamber and was allegedly still there doing…things.

The perfect set for a funny scene containing a Tom&Jerry chase blended with fine quality adulterous affairs.

M. Grand angrily arose from the table, took him as witness, and went straight home just to find three men, firmly tied to a chair, the servants explaining they were mounting guards at the time when M. Philip Francis tried to get out of Catherine’s place and attempted to detain him by force to prove his crime. Madame Grand, however, frightened, opened the window and hysterically shouted “For God’s sake, help, they want to assassinate him!” Coincidentally, a friend of Philip, Mr. George Shee, was in the vicinity of the villa and, assisted by two guests at the manor near by,lords Archdekin and Shore, came to lend support to his desperate pal. Sir Philip was able to evaporate while the three men came to the rescue were tied to chairs in his place.

An agitated night full of false hopes as Philip didn’t actually prevailed but was summoned to trial by the fuming cuckold. Despite accusing M. Grand to have mounted a trap to his political injury, in fact bluffing,  justice has been truly made and he was sentenced to pay a not-so-insignificant fine of 50,000 rupees, the fair price for being negligent in such dangerous liaisons.

Naturally, the two husbands never saw each other, though she wasn’t legally divorced until 1798.

Kate lived for several months on her parent’s domain at Chandernagore but the life there became so monotonous and dull she jumped at the first opportunity to move with Philip, though, amusingly, he continued stating they were sharing nothing but platonic love which fooled his credulous wife to a certain extent (she always pleaded his innocence…) but was obviously mocked by society. This pleasant intimacy lasted no more than a year, to November 1780, Catherine deciding India was no longer a sufficient playground and embarking for Europe together with a Mackintosh.No strings attached.

After living for some weeks in London, during the Season, of course she couldn’t refrain visiting the fashionable Paris with Caroline, the young Indian woman who served her, an obligatory accessory for the chic woman of 18th century, and, mesmerized by the vivid city with its numerous promising distractions, she settled there, evidently sustained by a pretty alimony her darling husband never ceased to provide.

She rented a smart house in Rue Sentier from an idle M. de Presle and shorty became the convenient crush of many rich neighbors like soon to be Minister of the Legislative, M. Valdec de Lessart, a stockbroker’s attorney with a suggestive name, Rilliet- Plantamour and Louis Monneron, banker and deputy. They contributed to her expensive tastes and records show she relished every bit of the French experience, buying tons of silk ribbons, fox furs, shoes, ostrich feathers and sparkly jewels, owning a carriage lead by white horses to make constant trips to Versailles, renting an Opera box where people could admire her brand new gowns and even giving a ball the papers discussed about for weeks. The satin and silver symphony of a dress was, needless to say, bought by her enthusiastic wooer, M. Lessart.

Not long before, Marie Antoinette’s favorite painter, Mme. Le Brun, who lived at the Hotel de Lubert when in town, not far from her Rue Sentier residence, had done her fabulous portrait and, most likely, the party was arranged majorly to publicly display it, after which she sent it to the biennial exhibition of painting and sculpture in 1783, where it enjoyed great appreciation.

Meanwhile, Kate was leading a comfortable life, in 1782, Valdec de Lessart securing, for his beloved, an annual pension of 800 pounds, which she supplied the capital, amounting to 8,800 pounds. Those funds were undoubtedly intended to give her the chance to wait for the first proceeds of dividends as a shareholder of the East India Company, obtained after separation by mutual agreement with her husband in 1778. Madame Grand had many suitors that were buzzing around like the Count of Chabrillan, son of Madame des Verdeilhan Forniels, and Nicolas de Lessart, only son of Mme de Valdec Lessart who seemed unfaithful to his official mistress, Mme de Flaghac, born O ‘ Morphy, formerly known at the Parc aux Cerfs by the nickname of Morphise Mlle.

Tired by the small house on Rue Sentier, Mme Grand moved on Rue d’Artois n. 13, in a rented building with a garden at 4,200 pounds a year, which suggests that its revenues had increased considerably and her beautiful eyes kept deceivingly charming the unfortunate suitors, which kind of gained her a courtesan’s reputation. Born in an anglophone family, to correct her grammatical mistakes and prevent being laughed at (which she couldn’t stop, in the end), Catherine hired a master teacher. And to complete her cultivated facade, she spread Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau volumes across her rooms, surely without reading them.

Revolution almost didn’t touch her as she was very flexible and instantly adopted the tricolor cockade but the massacre she attended to, a poor Swiss slaughtered by the heated mob exiting from Tuilleries before her dazzled stare, scared Kate enough to run to Dover where she seduced a young naval cadet, Nathaniel Belcher, to recuperate her things from Paris.

She remained in London a while, yet the English traditionalist society didn’t welcome her and, after the fall of Robespierre , she returned to the French capital, now peaceful, although her name still figured on the list of emigres, at the arm of her Genoese lover, M. Spinola. The two were arrested, he was deported, and Mme Grand remained under close police scrutiny. At a point indicted of espionage, Madame de Stael’s protege, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (1754-1838), an old acquaintance from the Versailles court, freshly made Minister of Foreign Affairs,came to her assistance and wrote to a member of the Directoire, Barras: “She is Indian, very beautiful, very lazy, the most frivolous woman I have ever known. I ask for your interest on her behalf.”

talleyrand

Naturally, having him fight for her cause with all diplomatic means, the Government dropped Kate’s charges and she was able to stay in Talleyrand’s bed at the official Minister of Foreign Affairs house, which, if we judge by the indignant complains the concubinary couple received from their guests, was a very uninspired idea. The jealous wives of more Ambassadors felt offended a woman of Catherine’s “morals” should live in such a formal place, making a public figure like Talleyrand lapse in her sins, and reported them at the First Consul.

But Kate, however silly and indolent, had her tricks to play: she practically stormed at Josephine, who was pretty fond of her, and made one of those scenes which either leave one senseless or incite him to react in your favor. For the irresistible Kate it was nothing to convince the reasonable Josephine plead her case as Talleyrand had become her only supporter and the sole key to her success.

Josephine

Luckily, the benevolent Empress did even more, obtaining the crying Mme. Grand an audience with Bonaparte, where she was forced to accept legalizing their relationship or beak up, an ultimatum Talleyrand didn’t think twice, hasting to chain himself with the restrains of marriage by taking a woman who was not only reckless but also badly reputed and almost forty. Everything was in his disatvantage, yet he agreed.

A divorce was obtained, and Grand (remember him?) received a handsome stipend and was packed off on a permanent mission to the Cape of Good Hope.

The couple was then free to join their destinies and didn’t hesitate:on September 9, 1802, the nuptials were celebrated in the presence of the First Consul and Mme Bonaparte with Count Pierre Louis Roederer (1754-1835) as witness. She thus gained the title of Grand Princess Mme de Talleyrand, and, when in 1806 Napoleon appointed her husband Prince of Benevento, Kate moved to Valençay, the castle her sweet hubby purchased to celebrate.

By forcing the aristocratic Talleyrand, a former Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, to marry a divorced woman, a previously suspected spy, and a courtesan, Bonaparte thought he was insuring the loyalty of his opportunistic Minister. And, indeed, with this marriage, Talleyrand lost all his political ambitions, in addition annihilating the last remnants of affection he had shared with his ex-mistress. It was far from being a win-win situation.

Kate could not reach Mme Récamier’s status and was, complementary, growing exceedingly stout, threatening to age disgracefully to Talleyrand’s displeasure, who began searching satisfaction in the arms of younger companions.He sought to distance her from ceremonials and bureaucratic issues to avoid gossips but she loved luxury and openly dwelt in it so the whole Paris talked of her follies.

Nevertheless, when the Empire fell, in part because of Talleyrand’s scheming, she was still performing her duties as wife of the Minister and this state of affairs lasted until her husband went off to the Congress of Vienna with his beautiful niece in tow. It was the ultimate sign her charms had faded so, humiliated,  outraged, she left Paris for London, then went to Brussels before settling again to the north of Paris, at Pont-de-Sains. With the passage of time, she became devoutly religious and a fanatic royalist just to trouble her stressed husband more. Talleyrand obliged her to hide her convictions in London for a brief perieod, needless to add on his expense, but she couldn’t refrain returning to the city she most preferred.

kate

He must’ve breathed a sigh of relief when, on December 10, 1834, at her Rue de Lille residence, Kate, aged 73, finally died.

Of course, she had to incite a concluding incident that occurred at her bedside. Paris papers didn’t give it importance yet the story was published by the English newspapers which say the Princess de Talleyrand, during her terrible agony, had given the archbishop of Paris for a sealed box for the Countess Esclignac.He attempted to deliver the mandate but then came an officer of the Prince who claimed it. A violent quarrel arose on the spot and justice had to intervene.

Juicy. What was in that case if the incident recounted is true? Could it be papers the Prince de Talleyrand wanted to destroy, perchance documents relating to Elisa-Alix-Sara, said Charlotte, who was born in London October 4, 1799, of unknown parents, supposed to be Talleyrand’s daughter with Kate, born before its time? We may never know. The instance decided the Countess of Esclignac was to receive 200,000 francs in exchange for the mysterious box and, since then, it completely vanished.

Catherine was buried on December 12, 1834 at the Montparnasse Cemetery, her funeral conducted in the presence of Pierre-Mathieu and Charles Goussot Demon (Talleyrand’s agent), friends of the dead, quite poorly.

She had been living quite resplendently, brazen,lavishly, ingenuous and abundantly, satisfied with what she got but we can only wonder: would’ve she done more if she hadn’t had less brains than beauty?

Contemporary voices called her “la Belle et la Bête réunies en une seule personne”…

Few days ago, watching a remarkably accurate Oscar Wilde biographical film (inventively entitled “Wilde”, if you wondered) , I developed yet another spontaneous and futile crush on a man who’s been well dead for the past 67 years. And to those of you who’ll imply that my heart throbs just because this character’s played by popularly considered hot Jude Law, hide your heads in the sand like the ostrich does for you are embarrassingly wrong.

Jude Law as Bosie

Superficially judging by appearance or sex-appeal, I find the actor (no offense to his fans) less attractive than the historic original. Eyes deeper, hair fairer (though his photos are mostly monochrome…), more enigmatic, fascinating and playful, not to say incredibly talented, the old he’s-better-due-to-my-infatuation story. An ivory Dorian Gray brought to life from the pages of his lover’s novel (I did some accidental alliteration here…), whom Wilde himself described “quite like a narcissus – so white and gold… he lies like a hyacinth on the sofa and I worship him.”

Bosie

But let’s not be shallow and reduce the poor boy at his mere looks (certainly not inconsequential themselves). He has a name and a dynamism increasingly adding to the mottles of his charisma which he anyway had galore by my humble opinion: say hello to poet/author/ translator/ spoiled Brit aristocrat Lord Alfred Douglas, suggestively nicknamed Bosie.

Born at Ham Hill House, in picturesque Worcestershire, as the third son of  John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, and wife Sybil (née Montgomery), on a fine 22 October, 1870, Alfred experienced a rather unconventional childhood in the gloomy atmosphere of the Douglas house which seemed to have had a real propensity for dubious deaths, suicides, manias and unfortunate career decisions nicely illustrated by the profiles of his uncle James, Archibald or Francis.

Despite being Sybil’s favorite offspring, the one she fondly called Bosie (note, meaningful and also fitted derivation of Boysie), he never had a proper relationship with his rigid father whose interests in boxing and sports were polar opposites to Alfred’s bohemian personality. This would lead to many inconveniences later in their lives, much regretted by both parties.

Bosie

Bosie received a traditional education at Winchester College between 1884 and 1888, continued by the typical Oxford Magdalen College he attended for another 4 years period and left before obtaining a degree, which was obviously an extra causeto his increasing conflicts with the Marquess. On top of that, it was in this time young Bosie, escaping the rigorous parental supervision, unleashed his predilections for same-sex partners, engaging in promiscuous adventures with the luring creatures of vice, or the homosexuals as we presently label them. Subsequent poems will make allusions at the all boys schools and their underground happenings of less innocent nature. Bet the old John Douglas was fuming at that too and, frankly, I don’t even know why they kept sending their heirs to those ‘corruption” nests.

Bosie

Odd common sense to let your son mingle with dodgy rental boys yet scold  him for the stable love of Oscar Wilde, which occurred in 1891, while the latter was happily married and father of two, don’t you think? I mean, would you lend your kid money to pay male prostitutes for evidently doing things you condemn yet call him “miserable”, “crazy” or “demented” if he dares to involve in romantic love?! I understand he lost his future successor, Lord Francis, who had had a dangerous liaison with Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, and planned a brighter destiny for Alfred, still,  bipolar much?

No wonder Bosie (whose nickname means “a cricket ball bowled as if to break one way, actually breaking in the opposite side”)  was distinctly temperamental- the family trait!

And that’s an actual plus on my list of why I like him so much: his flaws were perfectly explainable through the psychological pressure constantly put on him by Lord John, rising juicy contrasts between Bosie’s lewd image and genuine sensibility, passionate adoration and cruelty, gentleness and outbursts which stressed his forced duality. Don’t you believe it’s both sweet and sexy to watch his interiorised frustration projected in such variable sins?

Bosie and Oscar

Yes, he was definitely a jerk; yes, he perverted morally sane Oscar Wilde with uncountable orgies in the shabby male brothels of London, sexual promiscuity which was to enhance their love, he claimed; yes, he wasted large sums on noxious gambling and fought everyone who rightly dared criticizing it; yes, he was the ultimate ass (with a presumably pretty ass) when, after falling ill with influenza and being nursed back to health by faithful Oscar, refused to return the favor, making a scene and moving to another Hotel instead (on Wilde’s 40th birthday, he sent him the bill…) . He took advantage of Oscar, who wrote that “I cannot see you, so Greek and gracious, distorted with passion. I cannot listen to your curved lips saying hideous things to me. You are the divine thing I want, the thing of grace and beauty!”. He even cheated, as these letters, sent to Maurice Schwabe, in 1893, confess:

letter of bosie

“I went to the Savoy Hotel with Oscar for two nights; and I was sentimental enough to go down to the old room 123 next to the restaurant where we used to sleep together.My darling pretty boy, I do love you so much & miss you every minute… I really love you far more than any other boy in the world, & shall always be your loving boy-wife, or your ‘little bitch’ if you prefer it.” (notice the bawdy teasing tone? in translation gives “I’m fully dedicated to you but, sorry, I screw another!” Freud would have had a sheer delight in analyzing the mental complexes revealed by these words…)

“Goodbye now my dear darling beautiful Maurice; I send you all my love and millions of kisses all over your beautiful body. I am your loving boy-wife, Bosie.” (again the “boy-wife” supplement- what a shrew!)

So YES, he was heartless sometimes and lead to Wilde’s downfall. You have all reasons to detest him! Isn’t it riveting?!

bosie and oscar

Bosie incorporated the colors which inspire writers with their torrid power and those who soothe them with their flimsiness: contrastive, capricious, delectable, of an ephemeral handsomeness that disarmed true aesthetes, like Oscar, who felt his “only hope of again doing beautiful work in art is being with” him. Begin to see why Bosie caught my attention?

In 18945, Wilde, harassed by the insistent Marquess and badly influenced by the avid Alfred, sued Lord John for an offensive card which accused him of sodomy (or buggery, in old-fashioned Victorian slang) . The following trials had a disastrous conclusion, sentencing Oscar with 2 years of incarceration.

the card

Again, you can blame Bosie for manipulating his lover into doing what he wanted, but considering the despicable things his father wrote (that he divorced Sybil not to “run the risk of bringing more creatures into the world like yourself”; “I cried over you the bitterest tears a man ever shed” at Alfred’s birth). Indeed, he was no angel, yet had he deserved such degrading words? An object of stimulation, like him? No wonder Bosie had replied with an “I detest you” line and persuaded Oscar to apply the charges which ruined both their lives.

Bosie and Oscar

Coming back to the main story, Wilde got 2 years of prison, plague to his existence. Bosie met him once more, for a brief period in Naples (1897), but definitively broke up as they had no support (financially…).

At Oscar’s funeral, in 1900, he fiercely disputed the role of the chief mourner with the writer’s former love, jealous Robert Ross. Keep this in mind.

On March, 1902, our Bosie married rich poet Olive Eleanor Constance, of 28, and their only son, Raymond Wilfred Sholto Douglas ( 1902-1964), obeying the family tradition, was diagnosed a schizo, rotting between the white walls of Saint Andrew’s mental hospital. Poor guy!

At this point, we don’t have records to attest why, Bosie concluded that he scorns Wilde, thus beginning to lead an ironically homophobic campaign of discrediting his persona. He refused,no, denied the association of their names in whatever situation and erased himself from any biography dedicated to the infamous writer. This from the man who insisted to be the chief mourner…

However, Providence successfully found its way to make them even and, in 1923, Alfred won his own ticket to prison by doing bad chinwag about Winston Churchill being-part-of-a-Jewish-conspiracy crap. Practically, the ordeal shook his sleeping conscience and Bosie remembered… he was the one who wanted to be the chief mourner! Oh, the dichotomy, the dichotomy!

bosie and his brother

He turned 180 degrees, converted to Roman Catholicism, as Wilde did, fortified his “most unlikely friendship” with Bernard Shaw and slowly subsided into oblivion, as his beauty began to perish.

At 78, he died of congestive heart failure, leaving a heritage of many poems, non-fictions and even a memoir which revolved around Oscar.

auobiography of lord alfred douglas

Lover of men, lover of women, lover of art, is it a marvel that “those red-roseleaf lips of” his “should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing”?

I’m madly bewitched by Bosie’s counterpoints; I fantasize about his thoughts, the tone of his voice according to the circumstances, the softness of his ivory skin, his source of cleverness and ingenuity.

While I was watching the movie (download it, really- it worth the two hours it’ll consume from your free time) , I leaped of excitement whenever Jude Law/Bosie screamed or shouted, as girls nowadays do whenever Edward Cullen gaily sparkles.  I even managed to fit in a “well, nobody’s perfect” line at his melodramatic “oh, Oscar, I was the bad influence on you!” jail scene…

Jail scene

Anyway, what do you think now you’ve heard the full version of Bosie’s life? Is he as dislikable as he sounded in the beginning?

You answer.

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