Sunday, December 6, 2009

Men Behaving Badly: Boswell gets the clap

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Loretta reports:

Despite my ruthless cutting, this is still longer than my usual post. But it’s hard to get the full picture otherwise. For the complete version, go here and scroll down.

Tuesday 18 January 1763
I this day began to feel an unaccountable alarm of unexpected evil: a little heat in the members of my body sacred to Cupid, very like a symptom of that distemper with which Venus, when cross, takes it into her head to plague her votaries. But then I had run no risks. I had been with no woman but Louisa, and sure she could not have such a thing . . .

Thursday 20 January
I opened my sad case to Douglas, who upon examining the parts, declared I had got an evident infection and that the woman who gave it me could not but know of it . . . .

I then went to Louisa. With excellent address did I carry on this interview, as the following scene, I trust, will make appear. . . . .

BOSWELL. Madam, I have had no connection with any woman but you these two months. I was with my surgeon this morning, who declared I had got a strong infection, and that she from whom I had it could not be ignorant of it. Madam, such a thing in this case is worse than from a woman of the town, as from her you may expect it. You have used me very ill . . . .

LOUISA. Sir, I will confess to you that about three years ago I was very bad. But for these fifteen months I have been quite well. I appeal to GOD Almighty that I am speaking true; and for these six months I have had to do with no man but yourself.

BOSWELL. But by G-D, Madam, I have been with none but you, and here am I very bad.

LOUISA. Well, Sir, by the same solemn oath I protest that I was ignorant of it.

BOSWELL. Madam, I wish much to believe you. But I own I cannot upon this occasion believe a miracle.

LOUISA. Sir, I cannot say more to you. But you will leave me in the greatest misery. I shall lose your esteem. I shall be hurt in the opinion of everybody, and in my circumstances.

BOSWELL (to himself). What the devil does the confounded jilt mean by being hurt in her circumstances? This is the grossest cunning. B
ut I won't take notice of that at all. — Madam, as to the opinion of everybody, you need not be afraid. I was going to joke and say that I never boast of a lady's favours. But I give you my word of honour that you shall not be discovered.

LOUISA. Sir, this is being more generous than I could expect.

During all this conversation I really behaved with a manly composure and polite dignity that could not fail to inspire an awe, and she was pale as ashes and trembled and faltered . . . . I was really confounded at her behaviour. There is scarcely a possibility that she could be innocent of the crime of horrid imposition. And yet her positive asseverations really stunned me. She is in all probability a most consummate dissembling whore.

From Boswell's London Journal, 1762-1763
By James Boswell


Monica Burns said...

You know, if you go read the wiki article on this disease, it's pretty much enough to turn your stomach and made you not want to ever have sex again!!!!!!


Anonymous said...

What an absolutely hysterical exchange between the two of them. It's so......polite. Imagine this conversation occurring today.

I love how he prides himself on how "manly" and "composed" and "dignified" he was, then calls her a "a most consummate dissembling whore." LOL

Vanessa Kelly said...

Oh, this is just too good to be believed. I love the bit about Venus plaguing her votaries. Surely, the most elegant description of the clap ever written!

Loretta Chase said...

Monica, high ick factor, I agree. I'm thinking about posting his account of treatment--which, while horrible, didn't work. Christine, it's so easy to picture, isn't it? And there he is, all wounded because she "betrayed" him, when he ALREADY had the clap (but having undergone the horrendous treatment, thought himself cured). Vanessa, that 18th C elegance--ah, Boswell: so easy to loathe, yet he could write, and offers such a clear window to his world.

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