Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cumbered with Serving, Best with Woes, Learn of the Lady from her Letters

In times of great stress, we take comfort in small things, hence my fascination with the little book, "In Small Things Forgotten." which I used in my dissertation, and mentioned in my book on Barbara Pym, "The Subversion of Romance in the Novels of Barbara Pym."  I mention Pym her in a post on Erzebet because, but for the reputation a Victorian Catholic clergy assigned to her, Erzebet would be one of Pym's excellent women, widowed, still responsible, caring for others, yet unlike most of Pym's women, fantastically wealthy.

"Who should blame us if we only want the trivial things?'  Barbara Pym, quoted in the film, "Miss Pym's Day Out" starring Patricia Routledge.

I have been involved with caregiving, and solving other's issues for some time now, more intensely the last two years, and completely immersed the last 5 months.  Things that give me respite are often not possible; it is another full time job.  One cold Feb. day, after hours and hours at the hospital waiting or battling with incompetents, I hang a small, plastic red heart on one of my trees.   It becomes my focus point over the next month or of doctor's visits, a botched attempt at rehab at Fiendish Manor, battles with insurance companies, a fraud situation perpetrated by Fiendish Manor, lawyers, caregiver agencies, and so much more aggravation.

An hour on the couch with my little cats, watching Netflix, or immersed in a Patricia Cornwell, Elizabeth George, or James Patterson, these keep me alive.  These and correspondences with women who read my old columns on, but became my fast friends.  They lead by example, as each faces a family trauma, or serious personal illness, and yet, they keep on.

My mother, now gone herself, stressed to me often that if something were to happen to one of us, to her, to me, to Dad, the two left would have to keep going.  I'm trying.

One thing that has happened to me is that I continuously compare myself to Erzebet, to the Erzebet portrayed in her letters as compiled and published by Kimberly Craft.

As I've written before, the letters are all about Erzebet's attempts to manage her 27 or so estates in times of war and illness, alone as a widow, constantly worrying about her granaries and funds.  How would she care and feed for all those in her charge?  I found nothing happy or even light-hearted in her in her letters.

Now, here I am.  Involved in the care and responsibility of 5 houses, shopping for others, arranging their medical care, calling for their medicines, trying to live their responsibilities for them. Not feeling well myself, not at all well, not sleeping, yet rising early to make this or that appointment for someone else. Worrying about those charged with the care of my family, dodging attempts from members elsewhere in my family overseas to take advantage of Dad and of Me, worrying about my own family, my husband, our son.

I'm an only child, and in this age of technology and social media, I feel so alone.  How must Erzebet have felt, a young widow, with her parents dead, living in dangerous times, a religious outcast according to some?  Wealthy single women, or even gentlewomen of modern means, have never been treated favorably.  I had one modest house before I married, and I had neighbors who constantly resented me for it.

Pym, and I, have read and commented on Coventry Patmore's "The Angel of the House." I, and Erzebet, have had the burdens that kept The Angel grounded, but we are both very far from receiving the praise and admiration she got from her doting, if not smothering husband.

Norah Loft has written about single women in the 16th century and 17th century who tried to run and own estates, and J.S. Mill has addressed the laws that kept women from owning property, and see also The Married Women's Property Acts, and Mary Wollstonecraft, "A Vindication of the Rights of Women."

Ah, Erzebet, Ah, women kind.

Public Domain Image of a Letter by Erzebet

1 comment:

  1. I did get a comment on this one, privately. I just want to say thank you!