What Bea Knows
Posted by Karen R on October 30, 1997 at 15:38:49:
In response to Omissions and bafflement *SPOILER*, written by Kate on October 29, 1997 at 22:42:42
I don't think that everything relates to sex, especially as it relates to Ellen's motivations for carefully crafting a household journal that established her role relative to the great man that was her husband. As I think you've read in the critiques, the Victorians were pretty paranoid about their private lives. Ellen mentions early on how she and Randolph agreed to get rid of all the private paper, letters, etc. His love letters to her were nobody's business but theirs. If concealment of their nonsexual love life had been a motivation, why wouldn't she have kept those around? They would have demonstrated the deep, deep love they had for each other (presuming that accounted for his waiting so long for her).
I think the motivation was all one of image. His greatness as a poet, with a private life that could not be picked apart and pilloried like others before him (Shelley, Coleridge, etc.). When I go back to our models for Ash, I am drawn here to Emily Tennyson, who destroyed everything that she didn't want anyone to know about. Alfred left the decision to her. All the love letters to her and his correspondence to Arthur Hallam were destroyed. Their son, Hallam, was his first biographer and he participated in the great charade of AT's life. They requested that AT's correspondence be returned from lots of people and they were. Over 40,000 letters were returned and most of them were destroyed. Anything that did not supppot his image as a "tame, saintly character" was destroyed.
The process of making AT's memory respectable was her life's work. "It was so successful that it took another half-century before the world began to suspect that behind the bland features... was the complicated mind and awkward personality of one of England's greatest poets." She died shortly after their son finished his bio; the great task of her life was complete.
Regarding Beatrice and her understanding of Ash. She really understood him and Ellen. "Ash told her and she heard him." It was a shame that she was not allowed to write her dissertation on Ask to Embla. As she wrote in her Finals paper: "There are poets whose love poems seem to be concerned...with true conversation between men and women." Later she comments that "Reading those poems...offered her a painful and as it seemed illicit glimpse of a combination of civilized talk and raw passion..." There is another word that could be interchanged for conversation in this context, but is it allowed here?
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