There is much to admire in the way people in the nineteenth century carried about the process of getting married — or, Traditional Courtship. The Victorian Age was a high-water time even then for Courtship, compared to the more corrupt eighteenth century. It was, perhaps, a low-water time for sexual satisfaction, however. They seemed to be very bad at sex, even by today’s low standards.
Nevertheless, as much as we can admire the way things were done in those days, it did have a flaw — and that flaw was: Chivalry. As Dalrock has explained in great detail, Chivalry is, basically, simping — a man debasing himself before a woman, becoming a beggar for her affection. Chivalry is “courtly love,” specifically, the love of a courtier (often a knight — i.e., a soldier) for a noble woman, commonly already married to a nobleman. The courtier was, literally, the subject (servant) of the Lady, so the servant-like behavior made sense.
This is bad on many levels, among them that women really don’t like it. Women want a man of power and leadership, who invites the woman to become part of His Thing — his Frame. He does not grovel to be accepted into her Frame.
Here we have a key moment in The Portrait of a Lady (1881), by Henry James. It is considered one of the finest novels in English by an American. Isabelle Archer is a pretty American girl from an upper-middle-class family. She is nice enough, but doesn’t really have any particular advantages besides a pretty face. After the death of her parents, she doesn’t have much to do, so she is invited to England by her mother’s sister, who married a rich American banker who retired to the English countryside. Here, she meets with one of her uncle’s neighbors, Lord Warburton.
In Pride and Prejudice (1813), we are told that Mr. Darcy is very rich, because he has an income of ten thousand pounds a year. A British pound was about a quarter of an ounce of gold, so that is equivalent to about 2500 ounces of gold, or $3,750,000 per year of income (not wealth). If we assume that the income is 3% of wealth, that implies wealth of about $3,750,000/3% or $125 million. Anyway, this is what it looks like — here is Darcy’s house, known as Pemberly:
By 1880, England had grown much wealthier. Lord Warburton does not have an income of 10,000 pounds per year — his income is 100,000 pounds. And, unlike today, this currency did not lose value. We could estimate his wealth around $1,250,000,000 in today’s money. Warburton was a billionaire. He did not have just one estate. He had six. And, as a Lord, he was not only literal lord and master of his own estate(s), and all the workers upon it (the money came from agricultural production, and, often, government bonds), and also the country seat that he likely administered as a kind of county government — somewhat like the mayor of a town. He had an inherited seat in the House of Lords, one of the houses of Parliament. So, think of a billionaire business owner who is also a Mayor and a Senator.
Lord Warburton is, perhaps, about 30 or 32 years old. He is not said to be physically ugly, which means that he was heart-rendingly attractive, as is any man who is under 50, not fat, and a billionaire. Isabelle Archer is 18 or 19.
In this scene, Lord Warburton proposes marriage to Isabelle Archer.
“My dear Isabelle,” Warburton began. “We have known each other only a few days. And yet, I have decided to ask you to be my wife. Perhaps it is your American sense of adventure and self-sufficiency. Or, perhaps your charming American accent. I have had many offers from many women. They throw themselves at me. Actually, it is their mothers that throw them at me. They are very nice girls, from the finest families. But, I find them dull, and you excite me.
“Any man wishes to have a family, but it is especially important for me, as I must have an heir, not only of my estate, but of my position in the leadership of this country, one of the greatest countries on Earth. Thus, the mother of my children must aspire to raise our children to their high station, and great responsibilities. Also, I have many duties, not only to manage my estates, but in society and even in Parliament and in diplomatic matters. This will require a woman of some capability, and I think you will excel at this. Do not be too intimidated by the demands of society. In time, you will excel at it. In truth, these society women are not so good as you are already.
“Let us be married next month, with the usual pomp and pageantry. It is not so difficult. All you have to do is show up and wear a dress. I will have my people take care of the other details. Then we will go to Italy for a month, where a friend of mine has a villa that we can borrow. I think that will be a lot of fun for both of us.”
“Oh, Warburton, I don’t know what to say,” Isabella sighed, as her head whirled. “Of course I accept. But, can we be married tomorrow? I want to go to Italy with you right away.”
OK, I just made that up. That is what Lord Warburton should have said. That is what the Warburton-like character does in fact say, in any one of hundreds of lookalike how-I-married-a-billionaire romance novels. And if the silly bitch still said no, Warburton could have said: “Well, this is where you can call [on] me when you change your mind.”
“Silly bitch,” is what Isabelle Archer’s own father would have called her, to her face, if he was still alive, and heard that she turned down an offer from Lord Warburton. And doesn’t Father know best?
But, this is what Warburton actually said, according to Henry James:
“I care nothing for Gardencourt,” said her companion. “I care only for you.”
“You’ve known me too short a time to have a right to say that, and I can’t believe you’re serious.”
These words of Isabel’s were not perfectly sincere, for she had no doubt whatever that he himself was. They were simply a tribute to the fact, of which she was perfectly aware, that those he had just uttered would have excited surprise on the part of a vulgar world. And, moreover, if anything beside the sense she had already acquired that Lord Warburton was not a loose thinker had been needed to convince her, the tone in which he replied would quite have served the purpose.
“One’s right in such a matter is not measured by the time, Miss Archer; it’s measured by the feeling itself. If I were to wait three months it would make no difference; I shall not be more sure of what I mean than I am to-day. Of course I’ve seen you very little, but my impression dates from the very first hour we met. I lost no time, I fell in love with you then. It was at first sight, as the novels say; I know now that’s not a fancy-phrase, and I shall think better of novels for evermore. Those two days I spent here settled it; I don’t know whether you suspected I was doing so, but I paid—mentally speaking I mean—the greatest possible attention to you. Nothing you said, nothing you did, was lost upon me. When you came to Lockleigh the other day—or rather when you went away—I was perfectly sure. Nevertheless I made up my mind to think it over and to question myself narrowly. I’ve done so; all these days I’ve done nothing else. I don’t make mistakes about such things; I’m a very judicious animal. I don’t go off easily, but when I’m touched, it’s for life. It’s for life, Miss Archer, it’s for life,” Lord Warburton repeated in the kindest, tenderest, pleasantest voice Isabel had ever heard, and looking at her with eyes charged with the light of a passion that had sifted itself clear of the baser parts of emotion—the heat, the violence, the unreason—and that burned as steadily as a lamp in a windless place.
By tacit consent, as he talked, they had walked more and more slowly, and at last they stopped and he took her hand. “Ah, Lord Warburton, how little you know me!” Isabel said very gently. Gently too she drew her hand away.
“Don’t taunt me with that; that I don’t know you better makes me unhappy enough already; it’s all my loss. But that’s what I want, and it seems to me I’m taking the best way. If you’ll be my wife, then I shall know you, and when I tell you all the good I think of you you’ll not be able to say it’s from ignorance.”
“If you know me little I know you even less,” said Isabel.
“You mean that, unlike yourself, I may not improve on acquaintance? Ah, of course that’s very possible. But think, to speak to you as I do, how determined I must be to try and give satisfaction! You do like me rather, don’t you?”
“I like you very much, Lord Warburton,” she answered; and at this moment she liked him immensely.
“I thank you for saying that; it shows you don’t regard me as a stranger. I really believe I’ve filled all the other relations of life very creditably, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t fill this one—in which I offer myself to you—seeing that I care so much more about it. Ask the people who know me well; I’ve friends who’ll speak for me.”
“I don’t need the recommendation of your friends,” said Isabel.
“Ah now, that’s delightful of you. You believe in me yourself.”
“Completely,” Isabel declared. She quite glowed there, inwardly, with the pleasure of feeling she did.
The light in her companion’s eyes turned into a smile, and he gave a long exhalation of joy. “If you’re mistaken, Miss Archer, let me lose all I possess!”
No woman on Earth would be interested in a man who would throw all he has away for a stupid bitch, even if she herself is that stupid bitch. This turbo-simpery produces much the effect that we would expect — a notable absence of pussy-tingles:
She wondered whether he meant this for a reminder that he was rich, and, on the instant, felt sure that he didn’t. He was thinking that, as he would have said himself; and indeed he might safely leave it to the memory of any interlocutor, especially of one to whom he was offering his hand. Isabel had prayed that she might not be agitated, and her mind was tranquil enough, even while she listened and asked herself what it was best she should say, to indulge in this incidental criticism. What she should say, had she asked herself? Her foremost wish was to say something if possible not less kind than what he had said to her. His words had carried perfect conviction with them; she felt she did, all so mysteriously, matter to him. “I thank you more than I can say for your offer,” she returned at last. “It does me great honour.”
“Ah, don’t say that!” he broke out. “I was afraid you’d say something like that. I don’t see what you’ve to do with that sort of thing. I don’t see why you should thank me—it’s I who ought to thank you for listening to me: a man you know so little coming down on you with such a thumper! Of course it’s a great question; I must tell you that I’d rather ask it than have it to answer myself. But the way you’ve listened—or at least your having listened at all—gives me some hope.”
“Don’t hope too much,” Isabel said.
They did not get married.
This is fiction, of course, but to be believable (this is supposed to be a Great Novel, not a cheapie romance) it must either reflect reality, or at least, reflect some ideals held at the time. You see this kind of turbo-simping (chivalry) throughout all the novels of that time.
So, it seems that we cannot simply imitate old forms and ideals. We will have to create something new — an updated version of Traditional Courtship, with the Chivalry carefully excised, like a cancerous growth.
Or, as Sigma Frame recently put it: