Saturday, February 26, 2011

Betty and the Real World

The Awakened Heart:

Heloise, girlfriend, he's just not that into you.
Sophie asks Rijk if he believes in an Abelard and Heloise kind of love.  I've read enough references to have thought I understood what it was all about (actually I thought they might be mythical lovers like Cressida and Troylis) but here's the considerably less romantic wiki authorities on the subject:
Abélard, a 40-ish medieval French scholastic philosopher, sought a place in Fulbert's house, and then seduced 19-year-old Héloïse. The affair interfered with his career, and Abélard himself boasted of his conquest. Once Fulbert found out, they were separated, but met in secret. Héloïse became pregnant and was sent by Abélard to Brittany, where she gave birth to a son she named Astrolabe after the scientific instrument. To appease Fulbert, Abélard proposed a secret marriage in order not to mar his career prospects. Héloïse initially opposed it, but the couple married. When Fulbert publicly disclosed the marriage, and Héloïse denied it, she went to a convent at Abélard's urging. Fulbert, believing that Abélard wanted to be rid of Héloïse, had him castrated, effectively ending Abélard's career. Héloïse was forced to become a nun. Héloïse sent letters to Abélard, questioning why she must submit to a religious life for which she had no calling...Ultimately, after telling Héloïse of instances where he had abused her and forced sex, Abélard insisted he had never truly loved her, but only lusted after her, and their relationship was a sin against God.  Some scholars consider Abélard was attempting to spare her feelings (or his feelings, altered from disrupted hormones) and others point to the damage of his hormones and psyche, but from this point on, their correspondence focused on professional subjects rather than their romantic history.
Sooooo, let me see if I've got this right.  These lovers are famous because he was a prat and seduced a female in his own patron's home, boasted about it, had a kid, and ruined everyone's lives?  What am I missing here?  I fear I am going to have to take a tedious bourgeois knee on this one and abstain from comment.

P.S. That is not the Betty way.  I must comment.  Maybe he really loved her--who am I to judge?  But we're basing the birth of medieval romantic love on a story that sounds like something you might hear on the police scanner?  (But, Betty Keira, they were both super smart!  Yeah....)

Sophie observes that the day looks wintery and like a Bruegel painting.  Pieter Bruegel was known for his peasant scenes and landscapes.  On his deathbed he reportedly ordered his wife to burn the most subversive of his drawings to protect his family from political persecution.

Not Once But Twice:
One of Christina's nurse friends is going on a date to see Private Lives a play written by Noel Coward.  Coward was in the midst of an extensive Asian tour when he contracted influenza  in Shanghai. He spent the better part of his two-week convalescence period sketching out the play's three acts and then completed the actual writing of the piece in only four days.  The play contains one of Coward's most popular songs, "Some Day I'll Find You".  

Duert takes her out to tea at the Ritz, lunch at Claridges and another lunch in Holland at Le Bistroquet.  The Ritz...I think a bare picture suffices.  Doesn't that look heavenly?


  1. From what I understand,that wiki article is less than complete. The reason their story is so famous is because they did love one another so deeply, and were so well matched intellectually and physically. And though they were separated for 20 years before they finally met again, they knew that their love had lasted. Changed, perhaps, but still very strong.

    There's some mention of a law that would keep them from marrying. Because of the age difference? It would ruin him for them to be together?

    And I'm sure I've never known a man who'd been castrated, but there seems to be in implication that he lost his edge of some such afterward. His teaching career was over - or was that because of the humiliation?

    Anyway, though a bit sordid, it is a story of love that lasts, despite separation and all the other stuff that they went through.

    Other sources mention that they continued to exchange love letters, not just intellectual ones.

    Anyway, I think the idea of love that survives no matter what comes between them is what is so idealized.


  2. I'm not really trying to over-analyze here. I'm also not trying very hard to prevent myself from projecting my modern sensiblilities on the subject. I see flaws here:
    They're wonderful because they were smart! (News at 11, ordinary people with ordinary intellect and ordinary devotion can have pretty epic love stories.)
    Or, they loved each other because of the romantic letters! (Many of which detail her frustrations at his neglect...Also, having been in a long-distance relationship prompts me to observe that florid and romantic letters are the easy part.)
    I am probably wrong (seriously, I am probably wrong) but Heloise sounds like several smart women I know who project unrealistically romantic motives onto their jerky male counterparts because believing they choose poorly is untenable--in short, they push all their chips into the center of the table and cross their fingers.

    P.S. It also would have shown a lot of care and concern on his part if he'd just left her alone, if he knew marriage wasn't in the cards for them. Instead, she got the dubious joy of living life without her child.

    To sum up, I don't like this story.

  3. 19 year old often want to have a "dramatic" love affair, not realizing how much work they are for so little reward. She probably got caught up in the excitment of it all, which can mask a lover's arse-ishness for some time.
    What happened to that poor child, though? Where do you go when Mommy is put into a nunnery and Dad is castrated and unemployed? I imagine Children's Aid doesn't deal with that conundrum very often.

  4. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty Cindy--you kinda beat me to it, but here's my take:
    Betty Keira, the Great Romance goes like this--
    Older dude (Abelard) falls for beautiful, brainy daughter(Heloise) of his boss. They have love affair, she gets pregnant. Father/family go ballistic-ship her off to convent, have him castrated (ick!). They correspond for years, etc. And their relationship continues strong, in spite of separation. And yes, love letters survived, otherwise we probably would not have heard about them!
    Betty Cindy--Abelard was probably in minor holy orders (in other words, not yet a priest, but definitely under church rules). Pretty much required to be a university teacher, clerk, etc. Dispensations were at the discretion of the bishop, etc, etc. This also explains the end of his official teaching career-- Not so much that they had a child (the number of men in minor orders who had families and didn't suffer is legion), but that her father had clout and used it! No more support, no more patronage, and so on....

    Sharan Newman wrote a great series of historical mysteries, the first of which Death Comes as Epiphany, features Heloise. We get to meet Astrolabe in a later book. Fascinating look at 12th century France.
    And of course there are oodles of books (some more academic than others) on the couple.

    Now, if you want to talk over-rated--we can do Romeo and Juliet(snerk!)........

  5. I'm afraid I'm going to go all Betty-JoDee-mulish-about-Reilof on this one...

  6. Let me be clear...I'm personally not moved by their story. But for a couple's love to be regarded through the ages as one of the most dramatic and poignant of all times, well, there had to be more than that Wiki piece was saying. That's all I'm saying.

    Furtive love is always kind of icky, really. If you can't share and celebrate your love with those who love you, what IS it?


  7. As could have been predicted, I have a similar story in my voluminous family tree. (Like you couldn't see that coming...)

    Seriously, people, just tell me when I get boring. It's the Internet; I can't see when your eyes glaze over and you start yawning delicately behind your hands. You have to come right out and tell me to shut up already. :-)

    So Betty Henry and I are distant cousins (y'all knew that, right?) and we share some ancestors. Supposedly one of these shared early 19th century English ancestors had some sort of scholarly position. A fellowship or something. But the funding was weird: he got a stipend as long as he was single. The thinking was, if he could afford to wed he could afford to keep a wife and thus didn't need the university's money.


    So of course he had a bit on the side. Which I realize is a very disrespectful way to describe my mother's mother's mother's mother's something or other, but it's true. And the ancestor couldn't let his sponsors know about her, so he told all his mates that she was . . .

    . . . something. We're not sure what. A gypsy is what my mother was told. (I grew up believing we were descended from a gypsy, hence our fortune-telling abilities. I'm very good with Tarot cards!) Betty Henry says he'd heard that the woman in question had a dark complexion so the ancestor told people she was Jewish.

    Now, that's an interesting theory, 200 years later. I have a cousin, John, who married his wife Rena 15 years ago. At the time, they faced a lot of objection from her family because John's the son of an Episcopal priest and Rena is Jewish. Not only that, but she's one of three girls, so there's no one to carry on her father's surname. In order to get her parents to sign off on this mixed marriage, they agreed that any children John (who'd had three sons by a prior marriage to a very deeply unsuitable woman you would all hate if I told you that story) and Rena had would have her surname.

    So imagine their surprise a couple years after they marry when Betty Henry comes along and says, in effect, oh, but you all may be Jewish through the matrilineal line. (Henry isn't because his connection to this line is through his father.) Seriously -- John, despite his connection to the Episcopal church, might have gotten his in-laws' approval a lot quicker with that version of the story.

    Anyhoo, unlike Abelard, our ancestor *did* marry his ladylove and as far as I know no one was named Astrolabe (a surefire way to get beaten up at the schoolyard...) and it's even possible all their children were legitimate. Because while he clearly had a ladylove and he clearly lied to people about why he couldn't marry her (we just don't know which was the lie and what was the truth), we do not know that he ever took her to Brighton!

  8. Betty Keira--
    Yeah, it's always a downer when you find out the gritty details behind one of history's Great Love Stories, especially if you come on it cold (as you did). All those warts sure aren't pretty!!
    And I always felt sorry for Astrolabe: one, his parents stick him with a really weird name, and two, he was basically the child of celebrities/notorious people. Poor dude had A LOT to cope with!
    Betty Barbara

  9. Poor Astrolabe. I can just imagine every time he got introduced to someone, that someone would go, "Astrolabe? That's an unusual name...I've only ever heard of it once - you know, the illegitimate son of....oops, my bad."

  10. Has anyone actually had to read any Heloise and whathisname? Well, I had to--graduate-level History of the Medieval Age--ugh. Stick with Betty (even Nasty Reilof).

  11. Betty JoDee
    LOL!! I read some in one of my upper level undergrad classes. Yeah, you are so right--it does not flow sweetly or smoothly. Now, granted, I was reading in translation, but still.....
    Betty Barbara

  12. Betty Barbara here--
    For a total change of topic:
    So that's what the Ritz tea room looks like. It would be quite at home in any of the Newport, RI Gilded Age "cottages".
    Seriously, fellow Bettys, you must treat yourself to such sights as this charming, intimate Dining Room at the Breakers.
    Or you could go to Biltmore, in Asheville, NC. Those Vanderbilts sure knew how to build.

  13. Betty Magdalen, re:Betty Barbara's link above--now you know what my house looks like.

  14. We had a dog named Ritz. And our house looks more like this

    And the onliest really fancy place I've ever been was a year ago Valentine's Weekend for my nephew's wedding at the Cental Park Boathouse.
    And my very generous sister foot the bill.
    My BFF/SIL still laugh at the fact that we tipped the porters to transport our cloth bags and polish suitcases into the Waldorf from our beat-up minivans in the drive though garage parking. We truly looked like a caravan of Michibillies on our first trip to the Big City!

  15. Here's our house. (For reals, although we've redone the deck on the left...)

  16. Oh, and here are more photos. We call our place "Harmony." (We live on North Harmony Road.)

  17. Harmony after a township ? (Harmony, PA?) If so, then you are, indeed, deep in Mormon historical country...

  18. Oh, and Betty Magdalen, I love the house. My husband said, 'Her house looks like the real version of what our house is trying to be...'


  19. No, we're not in Harmony Township, but we're not far. Trust me, if you visit, it's a twenty minute drive to the Joseph Smith shrine!

  20. Very nice, Betty Keira! We've had the landscapers in (with that new deck), so when it's spring and things are neat & tidy, I'll take more pictures so you can see.

    Our house is 200+ years old, but it was moved to its present location in 1978, so it has all new wiring and plumbing. Oh, and 70s era porcelain fixtures, but we're getting rid of those...

  21. I'm giggling over the word 'shrine'. Think of it more as a 'historical marker'.

    I would post a picture of my house, but since it's nothing special, I won't.

  22. Hey, here it is -- that looks like a shrine to me, but it's not my religion, so if you say it's not, then it's not.

    (See? I can be reasonable on occasion, and for a couple bucks extra, I can even manage "gracious.")