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from An Enquiry into the Origin of Lady Burke’s Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful photo

The first and the simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity, so it does not surprise me when you say you are leaving for the rest of the evening to climb Mount Grablehorn or that you need a reprieve, that our marriage is too much like a revolution in that you are revolted in how I have acted. And oh, you have always been revolted in how I have acted. Yes, beauty was a social apparatus and you entered with the heightened appetite that one has in common with all other animals; but upon closer examination, I was perhaps never smooth enough, never as quiet as you would have preferred, or I was too politically unrefined when the men were in the parlor, or maybe, something else. Oh, I see how you are curious to go out in the woods so late at night, to walk where there is no man or woman, where you can discover inspiration through nature in the last throws of its defeat. Oh, where does nature throw you, Edmund? I have asked myself that nightly—as I have wondered how many times you have had your get-togethers, your long walks in the woods with the Marquis of Rockingham, or the Doctor whom everyone so longs to have join the club. What busies you in vale between the woods? How many long walks must you take, when I wait for you so gently by the hearth in our home? Am I not weak enough? Do I not know my place? 

I am not so satisfied with the ideas of pain as you are, but I am willing to try as long as you are with me. So, do not seek the cold night in the vale, Edmund. I am here, my body warm—like the evening after the indictment when you entered my parlor and lifted my skirt ever so slightly. You: tired after days of reading accusations but somehow lit from within. Something in you that night was young and had a darkness burning. What was it about the Governor of Calcutta’s misfortune that touched you with such delight that piqued your curiosity? What was it of his trespasses in that dark tropical land that brought you to my room whispering, India? Yes, a perpendicular has more force in forming the sublime, I know. And when we made love that night, with my natural inarticulate voice, likened to an animal in pain or danger, and my eyes rolling gently with the inclination of your object, you were an intimidation. I would never speak of it again, how you turned away after my low moans of horror, how you saw my exalted vastness, my inward sense of melting and languor; only to never return. I bore that distress for you and I weep to bear it again. 

It fills me with terror to imagine what you saw; what made you turn from my uncertain image. You brought unto me a force that I had never known, yet turned from my natural distress. I have always sought to carry the idea of weakness, of imperfection, to be a sensible object on to which you project beauty but again I have failed. You guided me by your nature; your sublime and I took your hand. If you lack reason to turn from me, then what fear have I created that robs you of your passion! Or was it the unnatural force that you wrought upon me, the enlightened experiment of pleasure that you then could not endure? You have created something then condemned it in terror! And yes, to make a thing very terrible, obscurity seems to be necessary and you have made me obscure, hollow, and alone. 

If it were within my greatness, Edmund, I would disassemble the mount you so long to climb, destroy each tree that lines your path, and kill each governor, doctor, and marquis with whom you so long to escape with. Yes, the ideas of pain, sickness, and death fill the mind with emotion; but what of your wife’s life and health, can that not put you in a capacity of being affected with pleasure? Are you not curious to find out? Must I seek the strongest of emotion in you through pain? Oh Edmund, you are gone to climb Mount Grablehorn, but I have climbed the steps to your parlor with tiny urns of arsenic saved in my knotting bag, for I too am capable of conveying great ideas. 

image: Andromeda Veach