Now why does this sound so familiar?

Remember the Victorian maha-novel in which an English gentleman’s wife runs away from him, leaving behind a small son? Therefore — quoting, with cuts for space, from the nice blog about it by Charles Petzold, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional — “Sir A is raising his son R with a System that he has developed, and which he is developing into a book, “Proposal for a New System of Education of our British Youth.”

This System requires that R remain morally pure and ignorant of sex until he is married at the age of 25 to a younger woman of Sir A’s choosing who is as uncontaminated as his own son…’

“To keep R pure of thought and deed, Sir A has tried to prevent him from meeting girls of his own age. He is alarmed when he discovers that R has been reading John Lemprière’s Classical Dictionary because the descriptions of randy Greek and Roman gods might have a corrupting influence on the adolescent mind… He even instructs the servants to avoid Public Displays of Affection in R’s presence: “I hope I am too just to object to the exercise of their natural inclinations. All I ask from them is discreetness.... No gadding about in couples,” continued the Baronet, “no kissing in public. Such occurrences no boy should witness. Whenever people of both sexes are thrown together, they will be silly... Let it be known that I only require discreetness (Volume1, Chapter 16 of the first edition).”

Sir A also picks a suitable girl for R. She is 13 and the wedding will be seven years later. But one day while out rowing, R sees a young woman plucking dewberries by the river, who is “a bit of lovely human life in a fair setting: a terrible attraction. The Magnetic Youth leaned round…and beheld the sweet vision. Stiller and stiller grew Nature, as at the meeting of two electric clouds. Her posture was so graceful that, though he was making straight for the weir, he dared not dip a scull. Just then one enticing dewberry caught her eye. He was floating by unheeded, and saw that her hand stretched low, and could not gather what it sought. A stroke from his right brought him beside her. The damsel glanced up dismayed, and her whole shape trembled over the brink. R sprang from his boat into the water. Pressing a hand beneath her foot, which she had thrust against the crumbling wet sides of the bank to save herself, he enabled her to recover her balance, and gain safe earth, whither, emboldened by the incident, touching her finger’s tip, he followed her.”

Maybe there really are only six plots. But don’t you marvel at how Indian girls and women manage the contradiction? We, who worship gods and goddesses with noticeably Greco-Roman ways — and also deal with the ‘system’ so comically described in ‘The Ordeal of Richard Feverel’ by George Meredith in 1859?


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