Marriage is hell
The Prince and Princess of Wales, OJ and Nicole Simpson, the Mellors, t he Cobhams, the Parker-Bowleses - to be wedded in the Nineties is not necessarily bliss. No r, as the historian FLORA FRASER discovered in the letters and journals of past spouses, has it eve r been
Saturday 04 February 1995
Certainly the fact that she should have chosen a ramshackle oaf like Heygate adds a little to my distress but my reasons for divorce are simply that I cannot live with anyone who is avowedly in love with someone else.
Everyone is talking so much nonsense on all sides of me about my affairs, that my wits reel. Evelyn's family & mine join in asking me to `forgive' her whatever that may mean.
I am escaping to Ireland for a weeks motor racing in the hope of finding an honourable grave.
I have absolutely no plans for the future. Evelyn is to live on at Canonbury. Naturally I have done no work at all for two months.
I did not know it was possible to be so miserable & live but I am told that this is a common experience.
Love E The Tolstoys By August 1910, Sofia Tolstoya had endured 48 years of marriage to the great novelist Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy. These pages are from her diaries: August 15 There are crowds of people here; they are all so good-natured and not at all spiteful or secretive, as in our family hell. I think my husband's treacherous behaviour has weakened my love for him. I can see it in his face, his eyes and his whole mien, that spite which he vents on me all the time; and that spite is so unattractive and uncalled-for in an old man, especially when to the rest of the world he keeps preaching about "love". He knows he is tormenting me with those diaries, he is doing so on purpose; I pray to God to help me disentangle myself from this insane attachment tohim. How much freer and easier my life would be if I could! August 28 Lev Nik said today that the Christian ideal was celibacy and total chastity. I retorted that the two sexes were created by God, that was His will, so why did one have to go against Him and the laws of nature?
LN said that besides being an animal man also had reason, and this reason must be inspired and must not be preoccupied about the perpetuation of the human race; for that is what distinguished us from the animals. All well and good, if LN was a monk and an ascetic and lived a celibate life. But meanwhile at my husband's wishes I have conceived 16 times by him, 13 living babies and 3 stillborn.
TS Eliot TS Eliot reflected on his marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood in a private paper: I think that all I wanted of Vivienne was a flirtation or a mild affair: I was too shy and unpractised to achieve either with anybody. I believe that I came to persuade myself that I was in love with her simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself that she would save the poet by keeping him in England.
To her the marriage brought no happiness...to me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land.
Nero Roman emperor from ad54 to 68, Nero was noted for his debauchery, extravagance and tyranny. Here, the historian Suetonius describes Nero's approach to marital affairs After getting rid of Octavia, he took two more wives - first Poppaea Sabina, at that time married to a knight, and Statilia Messalina. To marry Statilia he was obliged to murder her husband, a consul. Life with Octavia had soon bored him, and when his friends criticised his treatment of her, he retorted: "Being an emperor's wife oughtsurely to be enough to make her happy?" He tried to strangle her on several occasions, but finally pronounced that she was barren, and divorced her. He later had her executed on a charge of adultery. Though he doted on Poppaea, whom he married 12 days after this divorce, he kicked her to death while she was pregnant and feeling very ill, because she dared complain that he came home late from the races.
David and Angie Bowie Angie Bowie's marriage to the protean rock star was a volatile one. Here, in the company of a lover, she reacts to the day's newspapers: The spark was a story in that day's Philadelphia Enquirer. My husband, it seemed, had been spotted on the Spanish Riviera in the company of our son, Zowie, and Mick Jagger's wife, Bianca.
I just exploded. "That prick! That slut! Mick writes `Angie' and tries to get in my pants, so Mr Fuck Anything That Moves If the Rash Isn't Acting Up Too Bad has to drag that sorry-faced, sulking little bore of a woman around in front of every bloodsucker with a Nikon in southern Europe, just so he can feel like a bigger billy goat than Mr Lips! And my son has to witness this!"
George IV and Queen Caroline Theirs was not a happy marriage, and a letter written by George in 1796 outlines his feelings towards the then Princess of Wales: For were everything to take place in a reconciliation in the manner that my most sanguine wishes could lead me to hope, in short, in every respect as I could desire; the abhorrence I have for the Princess, not only from her person, but from her manners, her total want of education & principle, besides the line of conduct she has ever since she puther foot in this country adopted towards me, & by which she has sufficiently evinced not only a total disregard for all truth & honor, but a determin'd predilection for every species of falsehood & deceit. I say my abhorrence of her is such, & the rooted aversion & detestation that I feel towards her, that I shudder at the very thought of sitting at the same table with her, or even of being under the same roof with her.
SALE OF A WIFE To be sold for five shillings, my wife, Jane Hebland. She is stout build, stands firm on her posterns, and is sound wind and limb. She can sow and reap, hold a plough, and drive a team, and would answer any stout able men, that can hold a tight rein, for she is damned hard mouthed and headstrong; but, if properly managed would either lead or drive as tame as a rabbit. She now and then, if not watched, will make a false step. Her husband parts with her because she is too much for him - Enquire of the Printer.
NB All her body clothes will be given with her Liane de Pougy Liane de Pougy was `the most beautiful courtesan of the century'. In 1910, at the age of 41, she married Prince Georges Ghika, 15 years her junior. Sixteen years later, he had something to tell her. This is from her diary: On July 4 , curtains drawn on the appalling day that was about to start, I heard footsteps in my bedroom. I opened my eyes and could just make out my husband's silhouette in the duskiness, standing by my bed. Only half awake I said: "Georges? Is that you?" "Yes, my darling. Have you slept well?" He got into bed with me, took me in his arms, covered me with kisses and said in a rather strangled voice: "Listen, I've got a confession to make." Accustomed as I was to himas the being from whom all sweetness came, I imagined some clumsiness; yes, the only thought to enter my head was that he had broken one of my ornaments, a piece of opaline perhaps. I smiled and said "Confess!" Then he began mumbling that he couldn't dowithout me, that he adored me, that he would kill himself an hour after I died, but that he couldn't do without Tiny One [Marcelle Thiebaut]. I didn't want to understand. I stammered: "But Tiny One is here, you have got her." "No," he said, "but I shallhave her. I've got to. I've never deceived you, I want to tell you everything. Yesterday evening we kissed for the first time, we told each other of our love. The child loves me as I love her. I'm a bit old for her, but she doesn't mind. If you agree, nothing need change. The three of us can live together. I can't be happy with you and without her, or with her and without you." My whole body began to tremble. I said to him: "But you are murdering me. It's appalling, get out of my bed." He hugged me tighter. "But I adore you. You'll see, you'll have two people to adore you instead of just one. We'll cherish you, we'll take care of you, we'll make you so happy. She's mad about you - she'll obey you, you will always be the mistress, the queen. She will take second place, she will submit to you. I have told her all that and she has accepted it. Everything will go on as it is now except that I will go to her at night. No one will know anything about it, not even the maids or Madame Garat." I prayed to God, with open hands I said to Him: "Let Your will be done, oh God! Make me say what You want me to say. Help me, Saint Anne! This is the worst blow fate could give me. Don't let me cry like a fool, don't let me faint, but I wouldn't mind dying. Protect me!" Georges went on: "You'll see, we'll be gay and happy. In Paris she can sleep in my bedroom and I can have the little divan in the dressing-room. During the day it can go in your big cupboard." "Get up," I said, because I didn't want him to feel me trembling. "I have got to think. I have got to go away and think without hate or anger or torment. I shall go away with Camille for a week, somewhere far away from here, from you two, and then I shall tell you what we are going to do." "If you leave," he said, getting up at last, "if you leave I shall hate her. I'm going to bring her in. She is waiting. Neither of us has slept all night."
Clytemnestra and Agamemnon Agamemnon, commander of the Greeks in the Trojan War, was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, on his homecoming. This is how the playwright Aeschylus has Clytemnestra describe the killing: I stabbed twice. You heard him bellow.
His great legs couldn't help him.
When he fell, I struck him a third time, out of joy and reverence for Zeus, who rules the dead beneath the earth.
That's how he perished. When he vomited his life out, the dark red blood rushed like a summer shower, and splattered my hands.
I am glad. I stand up like a garden, full of the first rain and bursting into flower.
Old men, I have told you the facts. Rejoice with me, if you can, but I will glory.
If our religion allowed it, I would pour out wine in thanksgiving on the dead man.
He brewed unpardonable evil for us.
Now he has drunk the cup.
Chorus: The blood on your hands has smeared your mind.
You will die friendless, you will be killed as you killed.
Clytemnestra: Listen, hear me. I offer the blood of this man to the Furies of Iphigenia.
I shall never be afraid, while Aegisthus, my loyal friend, makes the fire shine at my hearth.
He is our shield of defiance. Now, as always, he will stand beside us. But this man cannot stand. Once his body was the plaything of any girl in Troy, now it lies smeared with the blood of this woman.
Cassandra saw wonders, she was wise at revelations, she was quick to serve the rower at his bench.
Poor Swan, she sang her dying lamentation, now heart to heart, she lies with her lover - one blood! The sight gives excitement to my own bed.
William Burroughs William Burroughs is writing to Allen Ginsberg about his marriage. The footnotes were written contemporaneously by Burroughs's wife, Joan, whom Burroughs later shot dead, hitting her rather than the glass balanced on her head: I simply do not recognise such an entity as a "neurotic heter with strong queer leanings". For the Cris sake do you actually think that laying a woman makes some one heter[osexual]? I have been laying women for the past 15 years and haven't heard any complaints from the women either.1 What does that prove except I was hard up at the time? Laying a woman, so far as I am concerned, is OK if I can't score for a boy. But laying one woman or a thousand merely emphasises the fact that a woman is not what I want. Better than nothing, of course, like a tortilla is better than no food. But no matter how many tortillas I eat I still want a steak.2
1 Correct! 2 Around the 20th of the month, things get a bit tight and he lives on tortillas Oscar Wilde Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd in 1884. He made the following remarks to Frank Harris: When I married, my wife was a beautiful girl, white and slim as a lily, with dancing eyes and gay rippling laughter like music. In a year or so the flower-like grace has all vanished; she became heavy, shapeless, deformed. She dragged herself about the house in uncouth misery with drawn blotched face and hideous body, sick at heart because of our love. It was dreadful. I tried to be kind to her; forced myself to touch and kiss her; but she was sick always, and - oh! I cannot recall it, it is all loathesome... I used to wash my mouth and open the window to cleanse my lips in the pure air. Oh, nature is disgusting; it takes beauty and defiles it; it defaces the ivory-white body with the vile cicatrices of maternity; it befouls the altar of the soul.
Mao Tse Tung Jiang Qing, a former film actress, was Mao's fourth wife. Neurotic and imperious, she feared above all else that Mao would discard her. This account is by Li Zhisui, Mao's personal physician: Jiang Qing had wakened earlier in the night wanting a glass of water and another sleeping pill. When her nurse failed to respond to her call, Jiang Qing looked for her in the duty room, and when the nurse was not there, the Chairman's already suspicious wife stormed into Mao's bedroom and discovered her nurse with Mao.
For the first time since I had met her, Jiang Qing lost her temper with Mao. As her fury spilled forth, other suspicions came pouring out, too. There was a recent visit from the daughter of a former servant of Mao. The young woman visited Mao in his bedchamber during her winter break in 1958. She had paid a similar visit to the Chairman during his November-December stay in Wuhan. Jiang Qing had found out and suspected her husband of having affairs not only with her nurse and the young girl but with the young girl's mother, the former servant, as well. All this came out during the couple's late-night quarrel.
Mao's response to his wife's fury was to leave. He returned to Beijing immediately, leaving the fuming Jiang Qing behind.
Jiang Qing quickly regretted her outburst. Her apology arrived shortly after our return, in the form of a simple note quoting a line from Journey to the West, the most beloved of China's folk stories. When Xuan Zang, the Chinese monk who goes to India insearch of Buddhist scriptures, and hence in a quest for truth, leaves Monkey behind at the Water Curtain Cave in a pique of anger, Monkey is bitterly disappointed and lonely. "My body is in Water Curtain Cave," Monkey says to Xuan Zang, "but my heart isfollowing you." Mao was delighted to read the same words from Jiang Qing. Mao was the modern-day Xuan Zang, on a dangerous mission in a quest for truth in the form of communism. His women were trivial when compared with the perils on the journey to communism.
Mao now had Jiang Qing's implicit permission to carry on his affairs.
John Osborne and Jill Bennett Jill Bennett, the actress, was John Osborne's fourth wife. He called her `Adolf'; they divorced in 1977. She killed herself in 1990 and Osborne wrote this: "This final, fumbled gesture, after a lifetime of glad-rags borrowings, theft and plagiarism, must have been one of the few original or spontaneous gestures in her loveless life... I have only one regret now in this matter of Adolf. It is simply that I was unable to look down upon her open coffin and, like that bird in the Book of Tobit, drop a good, large mess in her eye."
Jane and Alan Clark Jane Clark , who married the former Conservative MP when she was 16 years old, is talking to Michael Cockerell, the television interviewer, about an unexpected guest on her honeymoon: "Christina was his girlfriend."
"And she turned up on your honeymoon?"
"Yeah...amazingly. But actually, she was nice, she was the nicest one. The others have been pretty good rubbish since, but Christina was lovely, I liked her. We could have had a sort of Bunuel situation, you know, and done away with him."
"Were you tempted?"
"I have been plenty since."
Emma, Lady Hamilton Emily (Emma) Lyon married Sir William Hamilton in Naples in 1791. In 1793 she met Lord Nelson, whose lover she became. Sir William is writing to her in 1802: I have passed the last 40 years of my life in the hurry and bustle that mustnecessarily be attendant on a publick character. I am arrived at the age when some repose is realy necessary, and I promised myself a quiet home, and although I was sensible, and said so when I married, that I should be superannuated when my wife would be in her full beauty and vigour of youth. That time is arrived, and we must make the best of it for the comfort of both parties. Unfortunately our tastes as to the manner of living are very different. I by no means wish to live in solitary retreat, but to have seldom less than 12 or 14 at table, and those varying continually; is coming back to what was become so irksome to me in Italy during the latter years of my residence in that Country. I have no connections out of my own family. I have no complaint to make, but I feel that the whole attention of my wife is given to Lord Nelson and his interest at Merton. I well know the purity of Lord Nelson's friendship for Emma and me, and I know how very uncomfortable it would make his Lordship, our best friend, if a separation should take place, and am therefore determined to do all in my power to prevent such an extremity, which would be essentially detrimental to all parties, but would be more sensibly felt by our dear friend than by us. Provided that our expences in housekeeping do not encrease beyond measure (of which I must own I see some danger) I am willing to go on upon our present footing; but as I cannot expect to live many years, every moment to me is precious, and I hope I may be allowed sometimes to be my own master, and pass my time according to my own inclination.
Lorena Bobbitt and John Wayne Bobbitt Lorena Bobbitt, a former nail technician, describes her feelings towards her husband on the night of 23 June 1993, when she emasculated him: "The first thing I saw was a knife. I grabbed that knife and, um, I went tothe bedroom, and, and he was there, I guess, and he kind of, like, moved or something. And I took the sheets off and I cut him. I was thinking many things. I was thinking the first time he hit me. I was thinking when he raped me. I was thinking so many things, just really quick. I just wanted him to disappear. I just wanted him to leave my life alone. I don't want to see him any more."
Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes The current Poet Laureate married the poet Sylvia Plath in 1956. Plath committed suicide in 1963. This passage is from her journal for May 1958; the couple were living in Massachussetts: As I came striding out of the cold shadow of the library, my bare arms chilled, I had one of those intuitive visions. I knew what I would see, what I would of necessity meet, and I have known for a very long time, although not sure of the place or date of the first confrontation. Ted was coming up the road from Paradise Pond, where girls take their boys to neck on weekends. He was walking with a broad, intense smile, eyes into the uplifted doe-eyes of a strange girl with brownish hair, a large lipsticked grin, and bare thick legs in khaki Bermuda shorts. I saw this in several sharp flashes, like blows. I could not tell the color of the girl's eyes, but Ted could, and his smile, though open and engaging as the girl's was, took on an ugliness in context... his smile became too white-hot, became fatuous, admiration-seeking. He was gesturing, just finishing an observation, an explanantion. The girl's eyes souped up in giddy applause. She saw me coming. Her eye started to guilt and she began to run, literally, without a good-bye, Ted making no effort to introduce her... Jealousy in me turned to disgust. The late comings home, my vision, while brushing my hair, of a black-horned, grinning wolf all came clear, fused, and I gagged at what I saw.
The Earl and Countess of Westmeath In September 1817, the Countess of Westmeath writes to her husband, the 8th Earl, summarising the miseries of her five-year long marriage.
You first took me away from all my friends, as good as shut me up in an obscure corner of the world, without horses or servants to stir out. In the bitter winter of '13 and '14
I was in a room not papered, sashes rotten, with child, and very ill; not allowed anything but green wood because turf was two shillings a kish instead of one. When my child was 12 hours in the world you told me you would be damned if you gave 25 guineasa year to a bitch of a nurse: `Why the Devil could not I nurse her myself?', tho' the Dr told you I was unable. Three weeks after, the child was to be disinherited and settle everything upon Thomas [the Earl of Westmeath's half-brother]. You took possession of my pin-money, would turn me out of doors if I dared to insist upon having it. You beat me. You endeavoured to place (I will call things by their proper names) a pimp's daughter as my own maid, her nephew a postmaster; and all this time, when I was undergoing all the privations I mentioned for want of money, you could find money for a prostitute. You could believe her word when she saddled herself and her children upon you and did you the honour to tell you they were yours. You dared tell me thatyou had injured her. You lived three years with me in constant deceit.
At last you made an agreement with me, and bound yourself by all that was sacred that there should be an end of the business on conditions, God knows, to that woman's advantage enough. Last year you began again, and broke your most solemn word of honour [about not seeing his former mistress and her two children], and now you dare to tell me that you never thought of anyone but me. Remember your oath to me, and then ask yourself if you are to be trusted. Frankly speaking, I will never live with a man as his wife, who thought any other woman and her children had the slightest claim upon him. You and I are not intended for each other, and cannot understand each other. Rosa [their daughter] is very well, and sends her love.
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