Tag Archives: Romance

Anatomy of a Breakup: Søren Kierkegaard & Regine Olsen

“You, my heart’s sovereign mistress (‘Regina’) stored in the deepest recesses of my heart, in my most brimmingly vital thoughts, there where it is equally far to heaven as to hell–unknown divinity!  Oh, can I really believe what the poets say:  that when a man sees the beloved object for the first time he believes he has seen her long before, that all love, as all knowledge, is recollection, that love in the single individual also has its prophecies, its types, its myths, its Old Testament?  Everywhere, in every girl’s face, I see features of your beauty, yet I think I’d need all the girls in the world to extract, as it were, your beauty from theirs, that I’d have to criss-cross the whole world to find the continent I lack yet that which the deepest secret of my whole ‘I’ magnetically points to – and the next moment you are so near me, so present, so richly supplementing my spirit that I am transfigured and feel how good it is to be here…” 2 February , 1839.

Regine Olsen by Emil Bærentzen (1840)

The tormented philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard pursued Regine Olsen for two years before he proposed and ultimately regretted the decision he’d made.  They met in the spring of 1837 while Kierkegaard was still a student.  His liking for her was immediate.  He pursued her as a friend and then a suitor before he confessed his true feelings, which he recounted in his writings about the awkward event nine years later:

“On 8 September I left home with the firm intention of settling the whole thing.  We met on the street just outside their house.  She said there was no one at home.  I was rash enough to take this as the invitation I needed.  I went in with her.  There we stood, the two of us alone in the living room.  She was a little flustered.  I asked her to play something for me as she usually did.  She does so but I don’t manage to say anything. Then I suddenly grab the score, close it not without a certain vehemence, throw it onto the piano and say: Oh! What do I care for music, it’s you I want, I have wanted you for two years.  She kept silent.  As it happens, I had taken no steps to captivate her, I had even warned her against me, against my melancholy.  And when she mentioned a relationship with [Johan Frederik] Schlegel [future husband and former teacher], I said: Let that relationship be a parenthesis for I have first priority…She mostly kept silent.”

Not the stuff made of ladies’ dreams, is it?  Despite his fumbling, Regine agreed to marry Kierkegaard, and they were engaged for almost a year before he sealed his engagement ring in a breakup letter and put it in the post on 11 August, 1841.  Is that today’s equivalent of breaking up via text?  Among a few other lines which aren’t necessary to relate, he wrote: “Above all forget the one who writes this: forgive someone who whatever else he was capable of could not make a girl happy.”

Sketch of Søren Kierkegaard. Based on a sketch by Niels Christian Kierkegaard

Sketch of Søren Kierkegaard, 1840. Based on a sketch by Niels Christian Kierkegaard.

Regine was rightfully devastated.  She thought herself in love with a melancholic heart, and the poor girl threatened to commit suicide.  She was so put out that Kierkegaard stopped writing her “I don’t love you anymore” letters (he thought indifference would convince her of his unworthiness) and finally visited her in person on 11 October, 1841…where he said some dick things:

“…I received a letter from him [her father] saying that she had not slept that night, that I must come and see her.  I went and made her see reason.  She asked me: Will you never marry.  I answered: Yes, in ten years time, when I have had my fling, I will need a lusty girl to rejuvenate me.  It was a necessary cruelty.”

Kierkegaard was capable of intellectual romantic excesses and though he broke with Regine because of his depressive nature, his inability to be writer and husband, and what he decided was divine opposition, the complicated man remembered her fondly for the rest of his life.  Upon his death, he wished Regine to have “whatever little I  may leave behind… [his books and author’s rights].  What I want to express in this way is that to me an engagement was and is just as binding as a marriage, and that therefore my estate is her due exactly as if I had been married to her.”  It was later revealed in 1896 that her husband Schlegel refused the inheritance.  Regine is also said to have destroyed her letters to Kierkegaard, so there isn’t much from her point of view, but Kierkegaard, who some biographers say suffered from hypergraphia, later reflected:

“I cannot quite place her impact on me in a purely erotic sense.  It is true that the fact that she yielded almost adoringly to me, pleaded with me to love her, had so touched me that I would have risked everything for her.  But the fact that I always wanted to hide from myself the degree to which she touched me is also evidence of the extent to which I loved her… Had I not been a penitent, had my vita ante acta not been melancholic, marriage to her would have made me happy beyond my dreams.  But even I, being the person I unfortunately am, had to say that without her I could be happier in my unhappiness than with her – she had touched me deeply, and I would so much, ever so much, have done everything.”  24 August, 1849

You can read more about Kierkegaard’s writing on Regine in Papers and Journals: A Selection. I also did a series of posts a while back on Napoleon’s letters (Achy Breaky Heart part one or part two) to Josephine if you find yourself in an epistolary reading mood.

Advertisements

Ban and Mary: A Lover’s Wager

For a fellow who had earned the nickname “Bloody Ban”, Banastre Tarleton was quite the ladies’ man.  Although not a large man, his compelling physical presence belied his short stature.  He was strong and athletic with reddish hair and dark eyes.  It was his arrogant charm, however, that tantalized the ladies as much as (if not more than) his handsome features and his heroism.

Mary Robinson as Perdita, John Hoppner, 1782

One of the most desirable women in England at the time, the actress Mary Robinson, better known as Perdita, met him through the Prince Regent.  Upon his return to England, Tarleton was hailed as a hero, an honor which granted him membership into Prinny’s exclusive set.  Mary Robinson had been one of Prinny’s many mistresses and had lately found a new protector in Lord Malden.  Much like Tarleton, Malden was convinced of his sexual prowess.  He bet that Mary would remain faithful to him even if Tarleton attempted to woo her away from him.  An account of the bet in the salacious Memoirs of Perdita claimed Tarleton “would not only win her from Malden, but also jilt her.”

Nice guy.

Ever the gambling man, Tarleton’s wager was well placed.  Several weeks after the planned seduction, Mary was in Tarleton’s bed and Lord Malden was astonished.  Up until this point, the three had been a mischievous trio, amusing themselves by playing tricks on Mary’s admirers and would-be suitors.  Now they had a fracture.

Ban in his green coat uniform

Mary was furious when she discovered herself the victim of their scheme.  As his hubris had made him a grand fool, Lord Malden relinquished his role as Mary’s protector, though he did settle upon her an annuity and also a house in Berkley Square.  Tarleton, never truly ruffled by anything, weathered the storm.  He was at Mary’s side in June when she suffered a traffic accident in Hyde Park and this dilligence in attending to her awarded him her forgiveness.

Although their passionate affair evolved into one of increasing strife and reconciliation, Tarleton remained Mary’s lover for 15 years.  They were the celebrity couple of their time.  Wherever they went—to balls, operas, political gatherings—people whispered.

Considered the most fashionably dressed in any room, the young couple made a beautiful pair and the papers loved them for it.  The war hero and actress were fodder for the insatiable public, appearing in the papers with as much frequency as celebrities in today’s supermarket newsrags.  James Gillray, a fledgling cartoonist at the time, published his scathing cartoon, “The Thunderer” (subtitled “Vide; Every Man in his Humour, alter’d from Ben Johnson”) in 1792.

The featherhead is none other than the Prince Regent (the triple feather was his father’s emblem).  Tarleton (with a noticeably large package in his breeches) is regaling Prinny with tales of war.  Mary is the whirligig above the door with a sign reading “A la mode beef, hot every night.”  Every man, we are to assume, gets to have a go at her.  The dialogue reads as follows:

Throughout his relationship with Mary, Tarleton was criticized for keeping around a loose woman who was nothing but a hindrance to him.  His family keenly disapproved, in part because while around Mary, he could not seem to live within his means.  From the previous post, we know this problem predates Mary, but perhaps they thought Mary a bad egg, worsening Tarleton’s profligacy through influence.  They would not be the first family to do so.

Tarleton’s lavish lifestyle with Mary eventually caught up with.  In 1783 his family offered to pay his most pressing debts, a total of £5,000, if he would leave for the continent without his lover.  In desperation, Mary borrowed to prevent this eventuality and chased after him.  She suffered a miscarriage on her journey and, as her biographer Paula Byrne has speculated, experienced partial paralysis of her lower limbs, possibly at the hands of a malpracticing midwife.  Tarleton was greatly aggrieved to hear the news and the couple swiftly reunited in France.

Mrs Mary Robinson – Perdita by Thomas Gainsborough, 1781

Mary’s condition seems to be of no impediment to their relationship.  Although they were on occassion known to be unfaithful, they lived together for many years after her health problems commenced and became known as “the wandering couple”, a reference to their travels while under pressure of debts.

Regarding one affair of signifcance, Tarleton simply shrugged off Mary’s liason with Charles James Fox, saying, “I shall ever applaud the Perdita for being the most generous woman on earth.”  Mary was not so equanimous when Tarleton diddled with another lady.  From the late 1780s, she was known to write poetry and novels portraying Tarleton as a villain and whatnot.

The details of their eventual breakup are not known, but we do know that Tarleton had political ambitions.  He first ran for parliament in 1784, but he didn’t win a seat until 1790.

Over the years, Mary, plagued by her condition, evolved into an independent woman of letters.  Her peers called her “The English Sappho”.  She wrote prolifically, producing numerous poems, six novels, two plays, and a feminist treaty a la A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Wollstonecraft.  She was also working on her unfinished memoirs.

Her liberal, feminist leanings did no favors for Tarleton’s political career.  Compared to his Tory brother (whom he actually ran against once), Tarleton did vote for parliamentary opposition as a Whig, but he was also well known for his support of the slave trade.  One can see how this would not go over well with Mary.

Contemplation, Mrs. Mary Robinson by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1783-1784 (Wallace Collection)

The couple eventually parted ways in 1797.  Mary was left with thousands of pounds of debt, presumably shared, but her relationship with Tarleton had been costly.  When he first ran for MP in 1784, creditors found the couple, living again in England, and took possession of a large majority of Mary’s property.

Tarleton, although a war hero and the author of the successful History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, had very little to live on, essentially half military pay of £341.  Mary also earned  income off her novels, but the numbers were dismal.  Over her writing career, she earned approxiately £460.  Given her and Tarleton’s financial disappointments, perhaps the same woman who published the poem Sappho and Phaon in 1796, a markedly different poem than her “Ode to Valour“, had reason to be bitter.

A year after their final breakup, Tarleton married Susan Priscilla Bertie, the illegitimate daughter of the 4th and last Duke of Ancaster.  They were married for 35 years, but had no children.

After  years of poor health, Mary died in 1800, but in an interesting twist of fates, Susan Tarleton befriended Mary’s only daughter, Mary Elizabeth Robinson.  When Mary Elizabeth, a novelist herself, published the anthology The Wild Wreath in 1804, the engravings were based on drawings of “Mrs. B. Tarleton”.  Their friendship is not entirely surpising given that Mary Elizabeth was raised around Tarleton.  Since she likely had an enduring connection to the  man who was father to her for over 15 years, it was even to be expected.

For more about Mary Robinson and Banastre Tarleton:

My previous post: Handsome Devil’s and their Deeds: Banastre Tarleton

The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide: Tart of the Week: Mary “Perdita” Robinson

Perdita, a biography by Paula Byrne

Mary Robinson’s bio and links to her works from the University of Pennsylvania’s Celebration of Women Writers

Mary Robinson: A Life Lived Extraordinarily (Jane Austen Centre) 

A short article on Sappho and Phaon from The Guardian

The First Actresses Exhibition: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons

All for Love: The Scandalous Life and Times of Royal Mistress Mary Robinson by Amanda Elyot (a novel)

The Prince’s Mistress: Perdita, a life of Mary Robinson by Hester Davenport

For the numbers on Ban and Mary’s pay scale see, Mary Robinson: Select Poems, edited By Judith Pascoe

Napoleon’s Achy Breaky Heart: Milan, 27 November, 1796

Earlier this week I left you with Napoleon in Verona, depressed and a trifle desperate.  Today, he’s looking a little like this:

The Emperor Napoleon I by Vernet (*see note below if the fancy strikes you)

Josephine’s cavorting with Hippolyte Charles who incidentally does not have the makings of a weak chin.  I’m told this helps in the romance department.

To say the least, Monsieur Bonaparte is suspicious of his lady wife.  He’s gone from realizing his general awesomeness to seeing cracks reflected in his veneer.  And you see, it’s all Josephine’s fault.

The General Napoleon by Andrea Appiani

Our little bit of muslin is just too wonderful in her own right to pay attention to her new husband who, in addition to being short, is apparently “impecunious” and “irrepressible”.  Touché, darling.

Josephine Bonaparte de Beauharnais by Andrea Appiani, 1796

Years later on 19 December, 1805, Napoleon writes to her, “. . . I am still in Brüun.  The Russians have gone.  I have made a truce.  In a few days I shall see what I am going to be.   Deign, from the height of your grandeur, to trouble yourself a little about your slaves.”

On this day, however, this is what he has to say:

 (click to enlarge)

P.S.

*As a complete side note, the upside of the sad-faced painting by Vernet is that it comes in a melamine plate offered by the National Portrait Gallery.  It was also mentioned in December’s Oprah magainze, if that’s your thing.  The downside: it’s £12, double the price of the other melamine face plates.  But I suppose he was an Emperor and as such large and in charge so he has to have the biggest sized plate of the bunch.

Also

You’re going to have to forgive me about the ongoing post name in this series.  For some reason I had Billy Ray Cyrus’s Achy Breaky Heart in my head which is odd because a) not a fan of Billy Ray; and b) I hardly like country.  Hauntings of country songs past, I guess, but attributing Napoleon’s letters to Josephine a result of his achy, breaky heart has cured me of my problem.  Hopefully, I have not passed it on to all of you.

Napoleon’s Achy Breaky Heart: Verona, 13 November, 1796

Eight months prior to Napoleon’s beseeching and, by turns,  chastising letter from Verona, Marie Rose Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie, a thirty three year-old widow from Martinique, marries the then twenty seven year-old officer of the French Army.

The marriage is not a love match per se, but one marked by passion and enmity in equal measure.  Later they will share the affection of old friends, but on this November day Napoleon suffers beneath the rumors of Josephine’s affair with Hippolyte Charles, a handsome lieutenant in the Hussar regiment.

(click image to enlarge)

Problem is, the pre-Emperor Napoleon is intensely smitten with his sophisticated and vivacious wife.  “As for me,” he says, “to love you alone, to make you happy, to do nothing which would contradict your wishes, this is my destiny and the meaning of my life.”  His burning fire for all things Josephine, however, earns him much despair during the early years of their marriage.  He writes her letters of which she rarely answers.  He agonizes and pleads for the proof of her ardor and turns furious when he doesn’t receive it.  In many ways he is as fickle a lover as she.

Paranoid and oppressive, his romantic intensity later results in his own affairs, but throughout his life, he does exhibit a rare devotion to her that can never be felled by the chaos surrounding them.  Even after their divorce and his subsequent remarriage to the Grand Duchess Marie Louise of Austria, he writes her letters and shows concern for her well-being.  He even goes to his death with her name on his lips:  “France! . . . Armée! . . . Tête d’armée ! . . . Josephine!”

7 Kiss Scenes to Heat Up…Your Writing

Stumped on how to write a moving kissing scene? Here are 7 types to get the juices flowing. Just don’t end up drooling on your own hand while, ahem, “practicing”! And remember, one of the best parts about writing is involving one’s partner (or if dealing with a lack thereof, an unassuming friend, a random and willing stranger, hell, maybe even your neighbor’s garden gnome) in research. Hey, honey . . .

The Kisses

1.  The angsty, “I’ve loved you so long, but wanted you longer,” kiss.  Also known as, “You might be dating my brother, but in another life I was dating you, and damn, I think I just stopped caring.”

2.  What do you get when you combine a fragile, doe-eyed girl human with a boy-rock-band-bodied vamp?  The “I don’t want to hurt you, I want to eat you, but no! we can’t . . . can’t . . . can’t . . . oh, yes!” kiss.  P.S. Ms. Meyer, I know you’re writing for teens, but I can’t help it.  When Bella and Edward’s sexual tension explodes and you fade to black, I’m holding that against you.  Kinky creatures that they are, I don’t think vampires would approve and I don’t either!

3.  In short, ugly girl Penelope becomes a swan, but Scottish guy already thought she was beautiful, pig nose and all.  Ah, sweet.  No, spicy!  I could be wrong here, but I think James McAvoy can kiss with the best of them. 


 4.  The “I’m drenched, you’re drenched, and we’re so mercurial together, the weather’s mimicking our mood” kiss.  Pride and Prejudice, you get the award for the hottest kiss that wasn’t. 

5. The passionately angry, long time coming kiss.  Summarized as:

Allie:    “I waited for seven years! Now it’s too late.”

Noah:   “It wasn’t over.   It’s still not over.” 

Me: Swoon

Click to watch video

6.  The fated and mated kiss.  Who would’ve thought animations could be hot?

7.  The slightly subversive meets secret yearnings kiss. As somebody wrote on the youtube comments, “Why can’t that be my leg?!”  Bittersweet, tender, and yet sizzling.  Now that’s my style.

Know of any scintillating kiss scenes that set the bar high? Do share! I’d love to hear about which ones you find memorable and romantic.

Du Barry and the Louveciennes Panels

In 1769 Louis XV gifts Madame du Barry with the Louveciennes, a chateau on the Seine northwest of Paris. Under the direction of the architect, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, she builds a pavillion where she will entertain her beloved king.

Conceived as a set of wall-sized oil paintings, the Louveciennes Panels were originally commissioned from Jean-Honore Fragonard to illustrate the Progress of Love, i.e. the friendship and love Du Barry shares with the king. Unfortunately for Du Barry and Fragonard, death claims Louis XV in 1774 before final completion of the project.  The paintings now serve as a painful reminder of the affair.  Du Barry rejects them and replaces the panels with works on the same theme by Joseph-Marie Vien.

Louveciennes Blueprint

Fragonard’s Progress of Love was considered contemporar and vivacious, imbued with love’s greatest impulses.  On the contrary, Vien’s  similarly titled work Progress of Love in the Hearts of Young Girls features classical temples as the backdrop and creatures of sentimental love in antiquated costumes.   Compared to Fragonard’s lush conception of courtship, this was a sedate love, a deadened love without meaning or passion.  Du Barry, suffering the pains of her recent loss, must have felt so.

The Greek Maidens Adorning a Sleeping Cupid, Joseph-Marie Vien

The Lover Crowning His Mistress, Joseph-Marie Vien

Interesting fact:  Madame du Barry was arrested at Louveciennes in 1793 before the Revolution took her to the guillotine.

Come back tomorrow for the story of Fragonard’s Progress of Love, including their current location in Chateau Louveciennes!

How to Write a Page-Turning Love Scene

Reprinted in the April/May/June 2012 issue #67 of Vision: A Resource for Writers

A love scene in a romance novel represents the physical culmination of emotional tension. When written right, it packs a powerful punch, leaving readers with a sense of where the hero and heroine stand. It should be passionate, but also purposeful. My advice? Make the love scene illuminate more than the act of intimacy. Treat it like a major plot point – a means to advance and solidify your story – and hook the reader.

1. A love scene must advance or hinder the courtship of your hero and heroine. Look at it this way: sex either binds them together or pushes them apart. Before you begin writing, decide which motives to instill in the hero and heroine. What are his/her goals? What’s going to happen after the scene? Doubt? A fight? Will the love scene be completed or interrupted?

Another thing to remember: a love scene at the middle of the book must be treated differently than a love scene at the end. When the hero and heroine get along too soon in the novel, it’s a passion killer.

2. Avoid purple prose. Find the delicate balance between flowery and erotic words by familiarizing yourself with love scenes in published romance novels. Check out Goodreads, go to romance groups, and see what people are saying about specific love scenes. Pay attention to which words/actions distract or entice. Think about your own turn-offs and turn-ons. Experiment with the latter until your scene feels steamy.

3. Physical intimacy between a hero and heroine should be consistent with their overall behavior in the novel. If the interaction seems out of character, the reader will sense it. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but your typical shy heroine won’t behave wildly in the bedroom. Unless you’ve provided adequate foreshadowing, this will come across as an inconsistency in characterization. It may even cause the reader to flip through the scene.

4. Page-turning love scenes don’t use formulas. Surprise your readers. Physical intimacy is more than a sequence of events in a bedroom. Try putting a spin on the typical format of kissing, then sex. Think about location, position, etc. It can be vanilla sex, but make it fresh. One new element is enough to make the scene as unique as the characters involved.

5. Understand your comfort level when writing love scenes. On the spectrum of sexual openness, everyone has preferences and limits. Don’t push beyond those to tailor your writing to the market. Your discomfort will show and the love scene will seem awkward. Instead, focus on what you find sexy, while keeping in mind that the world will be reading this. Have a partner? Experiment! It’s a great excuse for research. All in all, confidence in writing the love scene will give it a quality of realness and that is hard to resist.

6. Consider putting yourself in the mood. How would you romance your mate? Candles? Soft music? It may seem cheesy, but seducing yourself prior to writing lends a mood to the scene. Pictures this: you’re in sweats and have greasy, unwashed hair. What kinda love scene are you gonna write? Now imagine the lighting is soft, you’re wearing a silk negligee, blues music is playing in the background. Definitely sexier.

This is one occasion where you need to stroke your muse. Listen to your inspiration, focus on your characters, and write true to their passion. Even if your first attempt at writing a page-turning love scene requires revising, I’m thinking your mate might be very happy tonight. Sounds like a win-win to me!