I’ve started the year-long endeavor of reading for my PhD candidacy exams. As Beth would say, “goo.”
So today I’m reading “Of Queen’s Gardens,” one of the two essays in John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies, a huge best-seller in the 1860s. I like reading Ruskin, because while I find a lot of Victorian prose puts me to sleep like a healthy dose of Nyquil, his writing is actually quite beautiful. And this even distracts me from his extremely conservative ideas about women’s role in the domestic sphere. After all, as a Victorianist I’m used to reading texts that insist women belong in the home, endlessly arranging flowers and producing chubby Victorian babies, learning only enough of science or politics or history to allow them to assist their husbands in more important projects.
But “Of Queen’s Gardens” ends with this really striking passage:
“There is not a war in the world, no, nor an injustice, but you women are answerable for it; not in that you have provoked, but in that you have not hindered. Men, by their nature, are prone to fight for any cause, or for none. It is for you to choose their cause for them, and to forbid them when there is no cause. There is no suffering, no injustice, no misery on earth, but the guilt of it lies lastly with you. Men can bear the sight of it, but you should not be able to bear it.”
It’s rare that you find a passage like this. Women are assigned the impossible task of being simultaneously morally infallible and ignorant of the world around them (that happens all the time), but at the same time that men are degraded into war-hungry weirdos.
In completely unrelated news, the weirdest thing happened yesterday. Danny’s checks from the Army are currently sent to his dad’s house in Charlotte, and his dad then forwards them to my apartment. Last week, his dad sent a check to my apartment, but he put the wrong apartment number on the envelope. And apparently the guy who lives in A21, where the check was sent, was also named Danny Smith. Not that this is an unusual name, but what are the odds? And the guy was nice and brought the check over, even though it was probably really tempting to try and cash it himself.
This man deserves cookies. And I would go make them, but I have some reading to do.