Monday, November 11, 2013


Last night two random things led me to read about two people who lived in different eras, but had written to their lovers till the time they died . One was David Hume who, they say, loved Hippolyte de Saujon, the estranged wife of Comte de Boufflers and mistress of the Prince de Conti, who never was quite Hume's, yet they shared an "intimate friendship".

Her husband soon died allowing her to wed the Prince, but he would not agree to marry her. Hume confessed his love for her but it wasn't reciprocated in similar fashion. Yet their friendship continued and they continued to write to one another.
He corresponded with her until the end of his life. In fact, he was on his own deathbed when news of the Prince de Conti's death reached him. Yet he took up his pen to commiserate with the greatest love of his life.

And at the letter's end he said goodbye: "I see death approach gradually without any anxiety or regret. I salute you, with great affection and regard, for the last time."
The other was Eloisa who loved Abelard. Their legend goes as far back as the 12th century and slightly varied versions of the story can be found on the internet. The one I find most credible is that Abelard was the teacher of Eloisa and a promising philosopher. They loved one another even as Eloisa's family disapproved of their love. Eloisa becomes pregnant and her uncles get furious at Abelard. She is sent away and in time delivers a boy. To pacify her uncles Abelard proposed a secret marriage, to which Eloisa refused, thinking it would harm his career. Abelard then convinces her to go to convent. Her uncles mistakenly think Abelard is trying to get rid of Eloisa and have him castrated. A eunuch now, his career is destroyed and he turns to religion, while Eloisa becomes a nun. Separated, they write to one another for twenty years and meet once before they die.

Alexander Pope in Eloisa to Abelard wrote of their legend:
In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heav'nly-pensive contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing melancholy reigns;
What means this tumult in a vestal's veins?
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat?
Yet, yet I love!—From Abelard it came,
And Eloisa yet must kiss the name.
Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose,
That well-known name awakens all my woes.
Oh name for ever sad! for ever dear!
Still breath'd in sighs, still usher'd with a tear.
I tremble too, where'er my own I find,
Some dire misfortune follows close behind.
Line after line my gushing eyes o'erflow,
Led through a sad variety of woe:
Now warm in love, now with'ring in thy bloom,
Lost in a convent's solitary gloom!
There stern religion quench'd th' unwilling flame,
There died the best of passions, love and fame.
Not Caesar's empress would I deign to prove;
No, make me mistress to the man I love;
If there be yet another name more free,
More fond than mistress, make me that to thee!
Oh happy state! when souls each other draw,
When love is liberty, and nature, law:
All then is full, possessing, and possess'd,
No craving void left aching in the breast: 
No, fly me, fly me, far as pole from pole;
Rise Alps between us! and whole oceans roll!
Ah, come not, write not, think not once of me,
Nor share one pang of all I felt for thee.
Thy oaths I quit, thy memory resign;
Forget, renounce me, hate whate'er was mine.

Occurrence and recurrence

We are always capable of fooling ourselves; as if events that occur, occur as part of a plan.

And as if the arrangement and the layout was our construct, making the events seem bearable, falling into their designated spaces in the grid of our understanding. We ascribe some method to occurrences and claim that some thought had gone into their happening, even when there was none. The smart ones among us also name them. Not that we are always wrong (for who knows?) but more often than not we might not even have come close to discerning why something happened. All what we think about occurrences in our lives are essentially retrospective, and by definition speculative. Thus, lust could become love, co-incidences could become fate, commonalities (common attributes) could become similarities (resemblance) and the like. Such freedom then and such burden, when one can write one's own past.


In an earlier post I had written about recurrence. I was concerned about content then - what would a writer write that he hadn't already put on paper before? I have more to write on that. The more things recur the more they lose their relevance. If one were to know that everything could or would happen again, the essence of such occurrence in it is own time would be lost​. And would it not then go on to spoil every chance encounter, every impulse, each spur of the moment? 

​W​here would go the sweet impatience? One that makes us do what we thought not, and (perhaps) ideally ought not. The stakes of omnia aut nihil, all or nothing and the joy of stealing that one moment - with knowledge that it is all or nothing, now or never. What better exercise in courage? 

Only if something were to happen once would we really have lived it; recurrence convinces that everything is a rehearsal. To some it may be a respite, to some it is no less than a sentence. Each recurrence could be damning, one is assured one will better it, one thinks one might be able to. Such knowledge is crippling.