Wednesday, June 18, 2014


A faithful reader has sent me a couple of literary morsels that are beautifully descriptive of what we now call a Female Led Relationship. I was reminded that my very first blog posting back in January of 2007 (“RLS and the Enchanted Isle”) dealt with a similarly provocative passage in a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson:

“...Harry was transferred to the feminine department, where his life was little short of heavenly. He was always dressed with uncommon nicety, wore delicate flowers in his button-hole, and could entertain a visitor with tact and pleasantry. He took a pride in servility to a beautiful woman; received Lady Vandeleur's commands as so many marks of favour; and was pleased to exhibit himself before other men in his character of male lady's-maid and man milliner. Nor could he think enough of his existence from a moral point of view. Wickedness seemed to him an essentially male attribute, and to pass one's days with a delicate woman, and principally occupied about trimmings, was to inhabit an enchanted isle among the storms of life.” (From New Arabian Nights, "Story of the Bandbox")

I didn’t stop with RLS. Three months later I featured a passage from Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit (“A Bit of Dickens”), describing Dorrit’s vain and lovely older sister, Miss Fanny, who ensnares the luckless Sparkler:

“…Mr. Sparkler entered on an evening of agony. .. But he had two consolations at the close of the performance. [Miss Fanny] gave him her fan to hold while she adjusted her cloak, and it was his blessed privilege to give her his arm down-stairs again. These crumbs of encouragement, Mr. Sparkler thought, would just keep him going; and it is not impossible that [Miss Fanny] thought so too... Mr. Sparkler put on another heavy set of fetters over his former set, as he watched her radiant feet twinkling down the stairs beside him.”

To be sure, whole shelves of period literature, English and European, celebrate the ideals of courtly love, and we need look no farther than Shakespeare. Sonnet 57:

“Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?”

Unmentioned by me, until now, are the worshipful sexual predilections of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Here is an oft-cited passage from his autobiographical Confessions:

“To fall at the feet of an imperious mistress,
obey her mandates, or implore pardon, were for me the most exquisite enjoyments, and the more my blood was inflamed by the efforts of a lively imagination the more I acquired the appearance of a whining lover.”

And now to the selections of my anonymous and highly literate reader. He begins with John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies (from Lecture II—“Lilies of Queens’ Gardens”):

"… In all Christian ages which have been remarkable for their purity or progress, there has been absolute yielding of obedient devotion, by the lover, to his mistress. I say OBEDIENT;—not merely enthusiastic and worshipping in imagination, but entirely subject, receiving from the beloved woman, however young, not only the encouragement, the praise, and the reward of all toil, but, so far as any choice is open, or any question difficult of decision, the DIRECTION of all toil.

"That chivalry, to the abuse and dishonour of which are attributable primarily whatever is cruel in war, unjust in peace, or corrupt and ignoble in domestic relations; and to the original purity and power of which we owe the defence alike of faith, of law, and of love; that chivalry, I say, in its very first conception of honourable life, assumes the subjection of the young knight to the command— should it even be the command in caprice—of his lady. It assumes this, because its masters knew that the first and necessary impulse of every truly taught and knightly heart is this of blind service to its lady: that where that true faith and captivity are not, all wayward and wicked passion must be; and that in this rapturous obedience to the single love of his youth, is the sanctification of all man’s strength, and the continuance of all his purposes. And this, not because such obedience would be safe, or honourable, were it ever rendered to the unworthy; but because it ought to be impossible for every noble youth—it IS impossible for every one rightly trained—to love any one whose gentle counsel he cannot trust, or whose prayerful command he can hesitate to obey.

“I do not insist by any farther argument on this, for I think it should commend itself at once to your knowledge of what has been and to your feeling of what should be. You cannot think that the buckling on of the knight’s armour by his lady’s hand was a mere caprice of romantic fashion. It is the type of an eternal truth— that the soul’s armour is never well set to the heart unless a woman’s hand has braced it; and it is only when she braces it loosely that the honour of manhood fails…”

Amen, Mr. Ruskin, and thank you, my Anonymous friend. But he followed up with an inflammatory sentence from a Medieval poem by Bernard de Ventadorn:

"She would do a wrong if she did not invite me to come to the place where she undresses, so that I may be at her command, next to her, at the edge of the bed, and I would take off her graceful slippers, on my knees and humble, if it pleased her to extend to me her feet.”

And, voilĂ , we are full circle, back at Robert Louis Stevenson’s celebration of “servility to a beautiful woman…”



Anonymous said...

Encore! Bravo!

Thank you for sharing these delights with us.


Anonymous said...

What a great post. I miss the Female written posts too.

Mark Remond said...

Omhapki & Alex, you're most welcome. A lot of the credit for this post goes to the anonymous commenter; he or she inspired me to dig out the other quotes, and maybe other readers will supplement.

Anonymous said...

dear sir
really looking forward to read second part of of the best novel I ever read