History! Glorious History!
opening and summary done in three words and two exclamation marks.
need more than that? Do I have to sell it?
yes I take your point that a lot of is not only bloody but also
elitist, deferential to the aristocracy and if not that then to a
person's individual wealth, professional standing or position of
power. The earlier ages come across as very masculine as in who can
we conquer, how do we keep people in their rightful places, and what
do we gain, and yet despite the decorum with which this was
displayed, illicit conduct by both sexes was rife and known: to the
parties it concerned, to the relatives and friends of, and to those
on the social periphery. Of course, concealment was attempted, but
the whispers that circulated often contained more truth than denial,
and the irony is that you when read now of such affairs it all seems
so common and what's more accepted. Almost a badge of honour, for the
men anyway, though the women, if unmarried, could be shamed, but if
you had a husband (or a wife) it was not only convenient it was
should this interest me? Because it makes me reassess our perspective
in more recent years to marriage and disloyalty, so that I now need
to be convinced that the progression of time has a) been kind and b)
marriage changed so much that we actually like it? And I guess when I
say 'we' I'm referring primarily to women, although homosexual men
then were also in a tricky position where marriage wasn't desired but
was expected. Women out and of marriageable age were rarely asked
their feelings on the matter; it was a rite of passage, with little
heed paid to whether they wanted to, and besides most had no idea
what kind of creatures men were as they weren't out for very long
before once more being trapped.
question I'm asking may seem strange, but you'd think with this
history known more women would break that chain and claim total
independence, rather than feel inadequate if they refuse or choose
not to marry. Do we now marry for love and not for financial
security? Is the future really so bleak alone? The answer to the
former might appear obvious, but if we are marrying for love and from
choice, then surely extramarital affairs would take a downward scale.
We should be happier, shouldn't we? Perhaps we continue to marry due
to a selfish fear of loneliness which we think this ultimate
commitment displaces, and then disappointingly find it can't and
has certainly evolved in line with the societal values we hold i.e.
it's more willingly entered into by partners who consider themselves
on a more equal footing, but in my opinion the same uncertainties
still abound because nothing in life is fixed, not even after vows
are exchanged. There are still duplicities, despite our high regard
for transparency in every area of society including between spouses
and that's with the added freedom of pre-wedding intimacy and
co-habitation. And yet in spite of this liberated openness,
relationships can often seem more closeted: confined to the one
person, to the notion of everlasting love.
make it clear, I'm not advocating for a repeat of the seventies, just
pointing out that perhaps we're not as 21st
century people as emancipated as we like to think, and that those
before us were almost as equally unconventional albeit in a different
what's so compelling about history. The more you find out, the more
it makes you think and consider, and relate it to the times you're
living through. It's not always pretty, it's not always kind, it can
be barbaric and limiting or at least give the appearance of being so
to modern brains and eyes, and it's always a surprise to realise that
we haven't learned: circumstances differ yet the same fundamental
mistakes keep being made, as do our ideals of virtue and
surrounds us: in writings, in statues, in buildings and yesterdays
which some of you, I imagine, won't yet be of an age to care for.
Suddenly, one day you will.
Picture credit: The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy, 1771-72, oil on canvas. The Royal Collection by Johan Zoffany.