Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Love Hurts

The Disillusionment of Miss Havisham
(inspired by Charles Dickens’ 1861 novel, Great Expectations) – Antiqued and stained wooden frame; vintage velvet; vintage tapestry fabric; rotted tulle and lace; dried flowers and leaves; desiccated moth; antique pearl hatpins; antique diamante hatpin; antique wedding ring; vintage silver shoe buckle; theatrical cobwebs; cracked and broken porcelain cherub head; vintage French satin ribbon; Fuller’s Earth; LED flickering candle; altered art pieces—wedding invitation, antique clock face, (box is heavily scented inside with Penhaligon’s “Bluebell” perfume)

Cupid has a lot to answer for.

Yup, that rosy-cheeked chubby cherub with the kewpie wings—the one with the quiver of poisoned darts, the tips of which have been dipped in a potent l’elisir d’amore. A single strike and passion infects the bloodstream, enflaming, enraging, intoxicating.

Sometimes to disastrous results.

Case in point—one nineteenth-century damsel from merry ol’ England; prim, proper, pretty, not to mention prosperous, she was, the heir to a brewer’s fortune. A good catch, therefore, for any suitable young fellow. But our little miss…well, like they say, a bad beginning oftentimes makes for a bad end.

Our little miss’s mother shuffled off this mortal coil while her issue was just a babe, leaving daddy to spoil his offspring—excessively—catering to her every whim, her every tantrum, crowning her queen of the house…

…a massive manse of old brick called Satis House.

“Satis” being the Latin for “enough”…

Enough House, then.

However our little miss never had enough.

And she got even more when daddy died.

Ensconced in her ivory tower, our little miss was unfamiliar with the ways of the world, the dangers therein, the wolves waiting right outside her door, and she lost her heart to a most unsuitable suitor, a silver-tongued swain by the name of Compeyson. He wooed her straight to the altar…

…and then left her there.


Absconding with most of her considerable dowry while they skipped down the pathway toward hymeneal bliss.

The bitter news reached our little miss on the very morning of her intended nuptials—at twenty minutes to nine, to be exact.

And that’s exactly when time stood still in Satis House.

The clocks were ordered stopped; windows were barred or boarded up; the servants were dismissed, and our little miss—now damned to be a “Miss” forever—entombed herself in that great mausoleum of a mansion, a mansion festooned for the marriage ceremony that never was.

There she remained isolated, wandering the house’s halls, the corridors of her own mind—one shoe on, one shoe off—still clad in her bridal dress and veil, the dining table still set, the wedding cake still holding pride of place as its centerpiece. Although his hands were fixed at Satis House, Father Time marched on, the years multiplied and within those prison walls decay overwhelmed, dust choked, the petals of the bouquets went brittle, the garlands withered, the wedding cake petrified, feeding only mice. Our little miss’s bridal dress became a shroud of rotting silk and stained satin clothing a living corpse, something described as a cross between a waxwork and a skeleton, with moving eyes—she, like her house, decomposing from the inside out.

You might think that that was the end of our little miss, bearing Cupid’s tragic curse alone to the grave, but not so. In her solitude, madness picked away at her in the same way vermin picked away at the moldering wedding repast and bit by bit, morsel by morsel, our little miss planned a pitiless revenge.

One man betrayed her, so all men must pay.

She adopted a daughter, a bright, shimmering shining star she named Estella. She groomed her, taught her, and when primed, she then used her as Nemesis’s weapon of retribution.

Every male heart Estella captivated, she would break.

Until, sure enough, the arrival of another Prince Charming, whose youth, whose innocence, simplicity and virtue began to untangle the knotted skein of the old spider’s web.

And the old spider saw at last what she was, what she’d done.

Sadly for our little miss, Fate had one last lesson to teach. Upon her redemption the tatters of her bridal dress caught light from the coals on the grate, and…

The flames of love finally consumed Miss Havisham.

So, what have we learned from this Dickensian tale of romantic woe?

That Cupid can be a really bad shot.

Oh, yes…and a very happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

Oh, innocent victims of Cupid,
Remember this terse little verse;
To let a fool kiss you is stupid,
To let a kiss fool you is worse.

—E. Y. Harburg