The Ordeal of Richard Feverel "Woman Will Be The Last Thing Civilized By Man"

George Meredith

"Woman Will Be The Last Thing Civilized By Man"

Context: Sir Austin Absworthy Bearne Feverel, Baronet, of Raynham Abbey, is a man who wants to rear his son according to his own System, which virtually excludes women from the young lad's life till he is twenty-five. Sir Austin is a woman-hater because his wife, the daughter of a retired admiral, was unfaithful to him. Sir Austin's bailiff, Denzil Somers, was a college friend who ran through his own inheritance, a modest one, and then became Sir Austin's employee, as well as a poet. He wrote and published sentimental and satiric verse under the pseudonym of Diaper Sandow. Lady May, Sir Austin's wife, a "languishing, inexperienced" woman was at first jealous of her husband's friend and employee, but by degrees she comes to tolerate him. Toleration grows to affection, and the poet-bailiff becomes her lover, as she finds the fluent young man appeals more to her "little refinements of taste and sentiment" than does her husband. Therefore, she runs off with him, deserting her husband and five-year-old son. Among the results of her infidelity is a book her husband writes, entitled The Pilgrim's Scrip, a collection of aphorisms, many of them obviously from the pen of a misogynist. The book is published anonymously, except for Sir Austin's crest, which stands upon the title page. Through his little book the rejected husband gives "a bruised heart to the world":

He made no pretensions to Novelty. "Our new thoughts have thrilled dead bosoms," he wrote; by which avowal may be seen that Youth had manifestly gone from him, since he had ceased to be jealous of the ancients, his forefathers. There was a half-sigh floating through his pages for those days of intellectual coxcombry, when Ideas come to us affecting the embraces of Virgins, and swear to us, they are ours alone, and no one else have they ever visited: and we believe them.
. . .
Carrying forward his misogynistic theme he gravely declared, as one whose postulate was readily accepted universally:
"I expect that Woman will be the last thing civilized by Man."