How could I henceforth be content in any life but one that sets the brain in a hot merry fever with its stir? And I loathe death, the dreadful foul corruption, with who knows what future after it. Who says I had my choice? More sempstresses than shirts; drop starved at last: dressmakers, milliners, too many too they say; and then their trades need skill, apprenticeship. And who so bold as hire me for their humblest drudgery?
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Yes, yes, I listened to the echoes once, the echoes and the thoughts from the old days. The worse for me: I lost my richest friend, and that was all the difference. For the world would not have that flight known. What is it? And could I fit me to my former self? If I had had the wit, like some of us, to sow my wild-oats into three per cents, could I not find me shelter in the peace of some far nook where none of them would come, nor whisper travel from this scurrilous world, that gloats and moralizes through its leers, to blast me with my fashionable shame?
There I might -- oh my castle in the clouds! The blameless life, but never the content -- never. How could I henceforth be content in any life but one that sets the brain in a hot merry fever with its stir? Quiet is hell, I say -- as if a woman could bear to sit alone, quiet all day, and loathe herself, and sicken on her thoughts.
They tried it at the Refuge, and I failed: I could not bear it. And I loathe death, the dreadful foul corruption, with who knows what future after it. Back to my slough. Who says I had my choice?
Could I stay there to die of some mad death? More sempstresses than shirts; and defter hands at white work than are mine drop starved at last: dressmakers, milliners, too many too they say; and then their trades need skill, apprenticeship.
And who so bold as hire me for their humblest drudgery? And after all it would be something hard, with the marts for decent women overfull, if I could elbow in and snatch a chance and oust some good girl so, who then perforce must come and snatch her chance among our crowd. Just think! Would they try to ship us to the colonies for wives?
We ought to die off reasonably and leave as many as the men want, none to waste. My mother would have wept. Oh mother, mother, did you ever dream, you good grave simple mother, you pure soul no evil could come nigh, did you once dream in all your dying cares for your lone girl left to fight out her fortune all alone that there would be this danger? Thank God at least for this much of my life, that when you died, that when you kissed me dying, not a thought of this made sorrow for you, that I too was pure of even fear.
And yet, who knows? But I must have a conscience, must blurt out my great discovery of my ignorance! And who required it of me? And who gained? What did it matter for a more or less the girls learnt in their schoolbooks, to forget in their first season? Well, well, the silly rules this silly world makes about women! This is one of them. Why must there be pretence of teaching them what no one ever cares that they should know, what, grown out of the schoolroom, they cast off like the schoolroom pinafore, no better fit for any use of real grown-up life, for any use to her who seeks or waits the husband and the home, for any use, for any shallowest pretence of use, to her who has them?
Oh God, do I not know it? I could have lived by that rule, how content: my pleasure to make him some pleasure, pride to be as he would have me, duty, care, to fit all to his taste, rule my small sphere to his intention; then to lean on him, be guided, tutored, loved -- no not that word, that loved which between men and women means all selfishness, all putrid talk, all lust, all vanity, all idiocy -- not loved but cared for.
Ah the sweet nursery logic! Fancy me infallible nursery saint, live code of law! Yet the baby thing that woke and wailed an hour or two, and then was dead, was mine, and had he lived Had he come before and lived, come to me in the doubtful days when shame and boldness had not grown one sense, for his sake, with the courage come of him, I might have struggled back. But how? None but him to claim a bit of bread of if I went, child or no child: would he have given it me? No help, no help, no help.
How I could scorn it with its Pharisees, if it could not scorn me: but yet, but yet -- oh God, if I could look it in the face! Oh I am wild, am ill, I think, to night: will no one come and laugh with me?
No feast, no merriment to-night. So long alone! Will no one come? No help! How could it be? It was too late long since -- even at the first too late. Whose blame is that? If one hurls oneself into a quicksand, what can be the end, but that one sinks and sinks? Cry out for help? Ah yes, and, if it came, who is so strong to strain from the firm ground and lift one out?
Impossible path! No, why waste struggles, I or any one? What then? I, where I am, sinking and sinking; let the wise pass by and keep their wisdom for an apter use, let me sink merrily as I best may. Only, I think, my brother -- I forgot he stopped his brotherhood some years ago -- but if he had been just so much less good as to remember mercy. Did he think how once I was his sister, prizing him as sisters do, content to learn for him the lesson girls with brothers all must learn, to do without?
Merciless, merciless -- like the prudent world that will not have the flawed soul prank itself with a hoped second virtue, will not have the woman fallen once lift up herself Oh how his taunts, his loathing fierce reproaches, scarred and seared, like branding iron hissing in a wound! And it was true -- that killed me: and I felt a hideous hopeless shame kill out my heart, and knew myself for ever that he said, that which I was -- Oh it was true, true, true.
No, not true then. I was not all that then. Oh, I have drifted on before mad winds 6 and made ignoble shipwreck, not to-day could any breeze of heaven prosper me into the track again, nor any hand snatch me out of the whirlpool I have reached; but then?
And how could he have helped me? Held my hand, owned me for his, fronted the angry world clothed with my ignominy? Or maybe taken me to his home to damn him worse? What did I look for? He meant me well, he sent me that five pounds, much to him then; and, if he bade me work and never vex him more with news of me, we both knew him too poor for pensioners.
I see he did his best; I could wish now sending it back I had professed some thanks. But there! I was too wretched to be meek: it seemed to me as if he, every one, the whole great world, were guilty of my guilt, abettors and avengers: in my heart I gibed them back their gibings; I was wild.
Oh I blame no one -- scarcely even myself. It was to be: the very good in me has always turned to hurt; all I thought right at the hot moment, judged of afterwards, shows reckless. But I went forth with my fine scorn, and whither did it lead? What if he gave as to a whining wretch that holds her hand and lies? I am less to him than such a one; her rags do him no wrong, but I, I, wrong him merely that I live, being his sister. Could I not at least have still let him forget me?
Good God! So he and I must stand apart till doomsday. But the jest, to think how she would look! The notion! Some one at last, thank goodness. Whose though? Ah I know. Why did she come alone, the cackling goose? No matter; half a loaf is better than no bread. Oh, is it you?
AUGUSTA WEBSTER A CASTAWAY PDF
The poems skillfully portray the story of socially condemned figures of fallen woman within the broad context of customs inherent in patriarchal Victorian Britain, manifesting overall hypocrisy, powerless position of woman and utter poverty driving woman to prostitution. Both poems inevitably consign the prostitutes to an objectified status that precludes the possibility that they, and others, might see them as individuals. Her name, Eulalie, is itself symbolic of her profession. A flowery, sensual name, we wonder if this is in fact a professional alias, one that obscures her true identity but objectifies her and all such women.
She also made translations of Prometheus Bound and Medea. Her mother, Julia — , was the 4th daughter of Joseph Hume — of Somerset House, the intimate friend and associate of Lamb , Hazlitt , and Godwin. Hume was of mixed English, Scottish, and French extraction, and claimed descent from the Humes of Polwarth. In he attained the rank of commander, and was appointed the next year to the Banff district. The family resided for 6 years in Banff Castle, and Augusta attended a school at Banff.
The worse for me: I lost my richest friend, and that was all the difference. For the world I would not have that flight known. What is it? And could I fit me to my former self? There I might — oh my castle in the clouds! The blameless life, but never the content — never.