What a busy day! I was catching up with my good friend and agent today, which was lovely, because there is nothing nicer than hearing the news from friends. At Christmas, we get to catch up with so many people that we might not get to see throughout the year, via the Christmas card. Some people however choose to update you in the fullest possible sense, via a round-robin. Hmmm....
|The Telegram (1894) Luisa Max-Ehrlerova|
I'm sure the people who send round-robins mean them to be a lovely, life-affirming act of friendship, however, for the recipient, they can be very depressing. It might be because in this country we are not always comfortable listing our achievements, let alone hearing a massive string of the achievements of others. Look at the expression of the woman in today's picture - she has just read that her family friend's daughter is now taking grade 8 clarinet as well as competing at Olympic level in gymnastics and has recently won the Nobel prize for at least two things. Our lass feels her greatest achievement this year is not killing her house plant. She just reached the end of the first of eight pages of round-robin and that has been enough to make her reach for a pistol. She hasn't even reached the bit about the Tuscan mini-break yet. I doubt she'll make it that far.
|The Message (1890) Henry Scott Tuke|
There is a rich artistic history of women getting crappy news by letter. Mothers being informed of loved ones dying in wars, women being dumped by post. You get the odd moment of a bloke learning of his wife's infidelity, most famously this one...
|Past and Present, No.1 (1858) Augustus Leopold Egg|
The letter in this case reads 'I saw your wife in Nandos with Gavin from Accounts. They are definitely at it. Sincerely, A Friend', causing the wife to completely narf up the hand movements to YMCA, and divorce and destitution inevitably follow. Of course there are many lovely paintings of love letters being exchanged and people getting thoroughly jolly letters but in art, the majority of news is bad. Admittedly, not every lucky recipient of a tragic letter goes straight for the pistol - I mean, blimey, what on earth was in that letter?! Egg's woman has just found out that she will be homeless and cast out to die in an alleyway and she's not reached for the pistol. Let's not make a scene now, remember you're British.
|Memories and Regrets (c.1874) Alfred Emile Stevens|
Also, if you shoot yourself (or others) just because you get a sad letter, then you miss the opportunity of keeping that letter and wallowing in it again at a later date. Just as we have many images of women getting miserable letters, we have even more images of them re-reading that letter at a later date in order to be miserable all over again. As we saw earlier in Sobvent, having a good grizzle over stuff that has already happened is almost a hobby of Victorian women. Alfred Stevens brings us a reminiscing woman whose letter is so tragic her boobs have almost popped out of her corset. That's the sign of a properly sad letter. She has obviously sighed so deeply that her nipples almost got free. Blimey, if you are going to reminisce, make sure you are wearing the correct underwear or else you leave yourself open to a whole raft of other issues. Get your grieving vest on before you even open that envelope. And before you open your Christmas cards, put all firearms and sharp objects away. Just in case.
See you tomorrow.