Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lucy as a Work of Art

Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824–1904), Pygmalion and Galatea, Oil on canvas, 35 x 27 in., ca. 1890, Metropolitan Museum of Art


Below is an excerpt from E. M. Forster's (1879-1970) novel, A Room with a View (1908). In this scene, Lucy Honeychurch breaks off her engagement with her fiancé, Cecil Vyse:

""Don't open the window; and you'd better draw the curtain too; Freddy or any one might be outside." He obeyed. "I really think we had better go to bed, if you don't mind. I shall only say things that will make me unhappy afterwards. As you say it is all too horrible, and it is no good talking."

But to Cecil, now that he was about to lose her, she seemed each moment more desirable. He looked at her, instead of through her, for the first time since they were engaged. From a Leonardo she had become a living woman, with mysteries and forces of her own, with qualities that even eluded art. His brain recovered from the shock, and in a burst of genuine devotion, he cried: "But I love you, and I did think you loved me!"

"I did not," she said. "I thought I did at first. I am sorry, and ought to have refused you this last time, too."

He began to walk up and down the room, and she grew more and more vexed at his dignified behaviour. She had counted on his being petty. It would have made things easier for her. By a cruel irony she was drawing out all that was finest in his disposition.

"You don't love me, evidently. I dare say you are right not to. But it would hurt a little less if I knew why."

"Because"--a phrase came to her, and she accepted it--"you're the sort who can't know any one intimately."

A horrified look came into his eyes.

"I don't mean exactly that. But you will question me, though I beg you not to, and I must say something. It is that, more or less. When we were only acquaintances, you let me be myself, but now you're always protecting me." Her voice swelled. "I won't be protected. I will choose for myself what is ladylike and right. To shield me is an insult. Can't I be trusted to face the truth but I must get it second-hand through you? A woman's place! You despise my mother--I know you do--because she's conventional and bothers over puddings; but, oh goodness!" --she rose to her feet--"conventional, Cecil, you're that, for you may understand beautiful things, but you don't know how to use them; and you wrap yourself up in art and books and music, and would try to wrap up me. I won't be stifled, not by the most glorious music, for people are more glorious, and you hide them from me. That's why I break off my engagement. You were all right as long as you kept to things, but when you came to people--" she stopped.

There was a pause. Then Cecil said with great emotion:

"It is true."

"True on the whole," she corrected, full of some vague shame.

"True, every word. It is a revelation. It is --I."

"Anyhow, those are my reasons for not being your wife.""

(source for quote: A Room With A View - Howards End - Maurice by E. M. Forster, published by Quality Paperback Book Club, New York, NY)

No comments:

Post a Comment