Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chapter 1: Du Roy Wants a Wife:Georges Du Roy and Lily Bart - Bel Ami and House of MIrth

Robert Pattinson As Georges DuRoy

Suzanne has been gone almost three years now. My son is growing up and Madame Walter is not the best influence for him. I live in the Walter mansion and she still has not said a word to me unless it is about my son. I have employed nursemaids but they do not satisfy my aspirations for my son, so I have continued looking, until I finally understood that no one is going to be perfect for him. This presents me with a problem, because I do not wish to marry again. I am content with Clo and others with no one making demands on me.

Suzanne was so lovely and fun. We had barely gotten to really know each other when she became pregnant. Her mother insisted on her being much more confined than I wished and I was furious, as I knew the real reason. She had her convinced that sex would be harmful and Suzanne was fearful with me after that. We were just learning each other. I still saw Clo, of course, but I did not have the same desire for her as I had had before my marriage to Suzanne. It was a trying time for Suzanne and me, but I thought that after the child was born, things would improve.

Only she died in childbirth. I was left with an infant and, not exactly a broken heart, but a sense of real loss for what might have been. After two years I began to think about what I might do to find a mother for my son and a wife for myself. Young women were no longer acceptable to me as I could not see them as mothers. In bed I knew they would be ardent, for a while anyway, and that was agreeable to me. What I really wanted was someone who could preside over my life as I lived it with calm and tact, who would be good for my son and compatible with me. But she had to be beautiful. And she had to have integrity. I did not wish another highly polished cocotte like Madeleine. I no longer needed to marry wealth as I now had the millions from Suzanne’s death and my son was the legal heir to the Walter fortune. Strange how things twist and turn according to fate.

With my melancholy I read more to console myself and I began to see different possibilities beyond my journalistic career. My confidence in my writing had grown as my understanding grew. I began to write short stories, to publish them and I was trying to work on a novel with not much luck. I needed the atmosphere my own wife could provide.  I was never the kind of man who can be content living alone indefinitely.

I decided I didn’t want a French woman. My tastes had changed.  I wanted an English woman or an American one. I had a working knowledge of English, but after reading Madame Bovary I read some of the English women writers and then I read Wuthering Heights and I saw myself in Heathcliff. This had never happened to me before. I had not been a student at all when young. I had to make my way in the world as best I could. I knew Heathcliff so deeply and also the part of him that was wounded. But I had never loved like Heathcliff, and I was not looking for that, but as a character he intrigued me and I gained in self-knowledge knowing that we were so close. I had escaped his fate as Suzanne was more courageous than Cathy, but then she was so young and the young are often like that.

I think I wanted an English speaking woman because I was so infatuated with Emily Bronte. I decided that if I married an English speaking woman that the language would be a barrier between us. So I worked on fluency with Emily Bronte. She is a genius with language and her imagination is unrivaled. Was it wise of me to absorb her so completely? I didn’t know, but no other writer had captured me like this girl I would have loved to know.

But an American woman was more of a decided challenge to me. We French have such a love affair with the New World. And then at an event I met the Duchess of Beltshire and her companion Lady Skiddaw. As she was my dinner partner, she began to tell me of a most remarkable woman she had been recently reacquainted with at Monte Carlo.

“You know Georges, I may call you that may I not, well, I will anyway whether or no, it is time you remarried. I have heard your young wife died almost three years ago now and your young son must need a mother’s care and supervision. I have recently come back from the Riviera and I again met a most remarkable young woman there. I tried to get her to accompany myself and Lady Skiddaw back to the continent, but she felt it was imperative that she return to America. Why, I don’t know. She is astonishingly beautiful and has such amazing social graces she makes it such a pleasure to be with her. She is fun, gracious, considerate, has exquisite taste, really just perfect.

"But she is unmarried, and no one really understands exactly why. Ten years ago at Aix an Italian Prince, Prince Virigliano, rich and the real thing, was determined to marry her. As the marriage papers were being drawn up his good-looking stepson arrived and Lily, that’s her name, Lily Bart, apparently flirted with him and the two men argued openly. A scandal irrupted. Everyone began looking at her so queerly. Her horrible aunt, Mrs. Peniston, with whom she lives, felt a little ill, and thinking it was the food or climate or some such stupid thing, decided she would return home with her ward. Lily’s parents are dead and she has no money of her own, but is desired by the best people in New York City because of her beauty, her grace and her infallible tact.

"The Crown Princess of Macedonia was so taken with her when she stopped for a week at Monte Carlo she invited her to stay with her at Cimiez, wishing to bring Lily into her traveling entourage. Bertha Dorset had invited her to cruise the Mediterranean with a party of friends on her yacht the Sabrina, to occupy her husband while she dallied with a young poetShe was so jealous of Lily’s success everywhere she set sail for Monaco and the Casino at Monte Carlo, bringing Lily with her. It was there that I met her again. Bertha Dorset just did not understand that it is Lily's beauty that does it, that attracts everyone to her.  And she cannot transfer it to the people who invite her to social gatherings and voyages, so they blame her. Her face is so beautiful that it opens endless doors for her, but it also creates terrible destruction for her. Men want her and women are livid with jealousy. It's both a gift from the gods and a terrible curse.

"A Mrs. Fisher who knows her has discussed her with me. I have heard other stories too of course. A very suitable match becomes infatuated with her, and she seems ready to accept him, but then she oversleeps, goes on a picnic, etc. and the whole thing is ruined. My acquaintance Mrs. Fisher says she thinks it is because Lily despises the things she is trying for. She is twenty-nine now and more beautiful than she ever was. All of her friends’ husbands are infatuated with her, but she is lovely and polite and chaste, wanting nothing to do with them in the way they wish. She has a friend in Lawrence Selden, but he is an attorney with no assets, wealth, inherited or otherwise. He is not a possibility for Lily. She is poor, but as she often chides, she is a very expensive woman.

"I think you must meet her. She is perfect for you, and you, of course, are perfect for her. You are a Baron, exceptionally wealthy, an accomplished journalist, a writer, widowed and definitely looking for a wife and a mother for your very young son. You are not under the influence of anyone else, family or otherwise," and here the Duchess winks, "and I daresay you are experienced. You will know how to get her to say yes very quickly. I am going to New York City very soon, and I can arrange for you to meet her. The rest will be up to you naturally, but you will know how to proceed.

The Duchess winks again at me. She is known to be a liberal uninhibited person as she travels around the world of the privileged. They seek her company and pout when she tosses them off as bores. Obviously this Lily Bart does not bore her at all. In fact she is still quite taken with her. And I am intrigued to meet this American Cinderella, who does not sit by the fire in rags, but is always exquisitely dressed, sought by royalty and wealth, and looking for a husband. A husband who can offer her what I can offer. What could be more perfect.

"My gracious thanks to you. I think I shall take your advice. When are you sailing? We shall go together?" I take her hand and kiss it lingeringly.

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