Insatiable Desire for Admiration Always Makes for
Beatrix is growing up and Thackeray describes
"with cheeks mantling with health and roses:
with eyes like stars shining out of azure, with waving bronze hair clustered
about the fairest young forehead ever seen: and a mien and shape haughty
and beautiful,...She had been a coquette from the earliest times...Whenever
she sees a man, she makes eyes at him;"
Like myself of once and many women, Beatrix
goes after what she thinks will satisfy her— unmistakable admiration and
devotion from a man. Though she has had many men swooning over her,
asking for her hand, "she had not chosen one for a husband." Esmond,
captivated by Beatrix, longs for her, flatters and kneels before her; he
has even gone into the military hoping his position would raise him in
her eyes. She has encouraged his attentions, but when Esmond questions
Beatrix's flirtation with other men, she is incensed and says:
"I shall go my own way, sirrah,...and I don't
want you on the way. You might do if you had an estate....Do you
think I'm going to live in a lodging, and turn the mutton at a string whilst
your honour nurses the baby? Fiddlestick.... "
This is ugly dissatisfaction--not in behalf of
wanting a person stronger but in behalf of one's vanity. Thackeray's
prose, however, gives the dreary content real style.
Beatrix decides she
will marry a distinguished Scottish statesman, His Grace, the Duke of Hamilton.
Esmond is surprised but Beatrix explains why, Mr. Siegel said "[Esmond]
hasn't got very far with her. And," he says, "she is right":
"A woman of my spirit, cousin, is
to be won by gallantry, and not by sighs and rueful faces. All the
time you are worshipping and singing hymns to me, I know very well I am
no goddess, and grow weary of the incense. So would you have been
weary of the goddess too—when she was called Mrs. Esmond, and got out of
humour because she had not pin-money, and was forced to go about in an
Meanwhile, Beatrix was soon to have married the
Duke, but there is a duel and he is slain.
Dissatisfaction in Love Can Be Beautiful
In his lecture Mr. Siegel said:
"If a person doesn't like something,
and says, "I am proud of how I don't like this," at that moment his dissatisfaction
changes into satisfaction. To be dissatisfied truly is better than
to be satisfied untruly. So dissatisfaction is an opposite that becomes
one with satisfaction when we are proud of our dissatisfaction."
I think these sentences comment deeply on a speech
of Beatrix which Mr. Siegel said is "one of the high points in all English
expression." In it, she describes courageously her dissatisfaction
with herself, and as to love, speaks of something many women have done—pretending
to be satisfied when they were not. Beatrix' says to Henry Esmond:
'Stay, Harry...'Hear a last word. I do love
you, I do admire you—who would not, that has known such love as yours has
been for us all? But I think I have no heart; at least, I have never
seen the man that could touch it; and, had I found him, I would have followed
him in rags had he been a private soldier, or to sea.... I would do anything
for such a man, bear anything for him: but I never found one. You
were ever too much of a slave to win my heart; even my lord Duke could
not command it. I had not been happy had I married him. I knew
that three months after our engagement—and was too vain to break it.
O Harry! I cried once or twice, not for him, but with tears of rage because
I could not be sorry for him....I tried to love him; I tried, indeed I
did: affected gladness when he came: submitted to hear when he was by me,
and tried the wife's part I thought I was to play for the rest of my days.
But half-an-hour of that complaisance wearied me, and what would a lifetime
be? My thoughts were away when he was speaking; and I was thinking,
O that this man would drop my hand, and rise up from before my feet!...I
knew his great and noble qualities... But 'twas not for these I took him.
I took him to have a great place in the world, and I lost it. I lost
it, and do not deplore him—and I often thought, as I listened to his fond
vows and ardent words, O, if I yield to this man, and meet the other, I
shall hate him and leave him!"
I love what Mr. Siegel explained: what Beatrix
is looking for, "which," he said "Thackeray doesn't say...but Aesthetic
Realism does state: Beatrix wants to be known." And he continued,
"she'll take adoration, and men on their knees...; but deep in her heart
she says 'To hell with it. It's impossible," Mr. Siegel said "to
love a person who doesn't know you." Beatrix' ardent longing stands
for what all men and women are hoping for—to know and to be known.
And nothing meets this hope more fully than Aesthetic Realism.
I thank Ellen
Reiss, the Class Chairman, for questions I was fortunate to hear in an
Aesthetic Realism class when Michael Palmer and I first began to go out—encouraging
me to know him and to be a good critic of myself. "What do you want
more," she asked "for Michael Palmer to respect himself or for him to show
how wonderful you are?" and "Do you think if you're being embraced by Michael
Palmer, it is a thrilling chance to know the world and a person, and yourself,
or to get the sweeping honor you have been deprived of?" To consciously
choose knowing over vanity makes for pride and self-respect. "To
be in bliss, with our restless desire for improvement," said Mr. Siegel
"is to put the opposites of self-satisfaction and self-questioning together."
In another class not long after we were married, as part of studying what
good will is, Ms. Reiss encouraged greater accuracy and self-questioning
in how I saw my husband. I had the tendency wives frequently have,
to feel I knew my husband and how he could be better. Ellen Reiss
said: "The matter of seeing something as definite but also wanting not
just to say 'Yes I see you, you exist,' but wanting to see all the
subtleties and delicacies of it, do you think this is a question you have
in seeing Michael Palmer?" "Yes," I answered. And she asked
"How are you doing?" "I could do much better," I said. And
Ms. Reiss explained, "If you are going to have good will it is good to
be firm and pointed...but it's also necessary to want to be complete and
take in all that a self takes in. This has to do with interpersonal
relations but also historical things." Later in the class she asked
"If we're going to have good will do we have to see something wholly?
Does Lynette Abel have to say "I want to see what Michael Palmer really
is wholly, all of him, or "Gee he's my husband and I will be interested
in selected parts to try to be kind? " Will she be able to be kind
if she doesn't want to see who Michael Palmer wholly is?"
and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. To know that with every
year I can be deeper about who my husband is, and through knowing him like
the whole world more makes me proud. The knowledge of Aesthetic Realism
can enable our dissatisfaction to be beautiful, to be the same as good
will "the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for
this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful." I think there
is nothing more important for a person and nation to learn.