Sunday, July 5, 2009

Burne-Jones: Colors of the Week & What Colored His Life

Over a year ago, during the first month I was posting here at TBN, I did a post on Burne-Jones and the colors of the week. The fact that Ned saw Saturday as "wet: ever since I was tiny, though I don't know why" always stuck with me, and so when I was reading May and Amy today, (yep, still reading it) it sprang to my mind when I read a portion of a letter he wrote about his childhood:

"Sunday was September 3rd--I always keep it with what piety I can--that was the day my Mammy died--on the sixth day after I was born...It used to be the saddest of days at home, whilst my father remembered things, a day of tears, and the show of tears, and I used to hate it when I was tiny..."

He says in another letter:

"I should like to be kind to all women and I don't think I ever hurt one yet--no, never willingly. I don't think it is ever out of my mind what hurt I did when I was born, and I was quite old as a child, ten or twelve, when my father still took me once a week to my mother's grave, and used to sit crying--and when we walked in the streets, he would stop at places and would tell me that hereabouts my mother was tired and could walk no more, or that at another place something amused her--the grave was in a churchyard on a hill called Holloway Head, and I thought it was the same name in the Lord's Prayer, and duly prayed night and morning "Holloway Head be thy name"...It is never long out of my mind, and I am always ready to cry with it--so I'm good to women..."

I wonder...if young Ned either was taken to the graveyard weekly, on Saturdays, or perhaps he saw Saturdays as 'wet' in anticipation of his father's tearful trips to the cemetery on Sundays? Either way, I have a sad suspicion that Ned's view of Saturdays as 'wet' has something to do with his father's mourning for his mother.

It's clear also from the quote that Ned still at least partially blamed himself even in old-age for what happened to his mother, and that the lack of a female figure growing up is part of what began the reverence for women that so colored his entire life. The author of May and Amy makes this observation as well, but I would take this evidence even further, and (although I am no therapist) would argue that perhaps this is also why Ned had such a history of falling for unobtainable women in his life instead of focusing on his own marriage. He was living out the same dynamic he saw in his father, who would forever long for and idealize a woman he could never be with again. For Ned, 'love' was dreaming of a woman he could never be with...that was what his father always did.

I hate to break a week's silence on The Beautiful Necessity with such a bittersweet post, but I found the thought fascinating, and had to share it!


Margaret said...

What a tragic story! I had never read this before. Poor Ned, this explains a lot.

Hermes said...

Great post, helps explain his very strange attitude to women. I always thought he treated his wife very badly.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Hello Grace! What an intriguing story! You are most definitely introducing me to people and genres of literature that I have not discovered; I have done more French reading and have encountered some equally interesting characters! Hey, the Holeman Hunt and the Pre-Raphs exhibit is here at the Minn. Institute of Fine Art and we are going tomorrow! I will report what I saw. Take care, Anita

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dearest Grace, I will tell you all about the exhibit! I can't wait! Anita