forty-three (Scheele’s Green)

by nike, January 18, 2015
William Morris wallpaper featuring Scheele's Green - a pigment discovered by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1775, which was made using acidic copper arsenite

William Morris wallpaper featuring Scheele’s Green – a pigment discovered by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1775, which was made using acidic copper arsenite

Well … yes, I know. I took a little break over the Christmas/New Year period. I hope you did, too. But here’s a little something to kick of 2015.

Jane Austen’s Sophia reproached her brother, Frederick, in Persuasion, saying that, “none of us expect to be in smooth waters all our days.”

This, after Frederick claimed he could not bear to see a woman on board a ship–travelling the world–and accounted it “an evil in itself.” Largely because of the various comforts he imagined these sea-bound women required.

If only comfort was what you had required. A feather pillow. Linen sheets. Fine china and silver cutlery. The blue expanse of a calm sea. But you set sail hell-bent on being ruined. The only thing you took was the traveller’s case I bought for you. A gift from one who loved you, and was your dearest enemy. Green leather, with brass handles, I had lined with a beautiful wallpaper designed by our beloved William Morris. Green, your favourite colour. That particular shade you called a vivid dream. Imagined it the shade of the forests in which you and your husband would soon walk hand in hand. Two days spend bent over that square hollow. The green so luminous I imaged you having to close the trunk at night, to shut out its queer light.

You were travelling to the colony, to wed my own dear love. The older sister; the prettier; the best beloved had won him. I’d once claimed that your own sweet life was dearer to me than my own.

How strange to find that one has lied, despite speaking from the heart’s deep well of truth.

I dreamed you were taken with consumption. Fell down a flight of marble stairs. Were thrown from a horse. I held your hand as you died, in dreams, and called you sister, dearest. But the truth is that you were hale and well. Running up and down stairs with impunity, never tripping, never faltering in your headlong flight towards my love.

Never mind. To the truly determined, the world is a razor’s edge.

Arsenic in the cloth of your dress, in the ribbons in your hair, in the wallpaper with which I lined that trunk. The fumes seeping into everything: hairbrushes and creams, corsets and dreams.

They say the queen had the wallpaper stripped from Buckingham when she was kept waiting by an ailing dignitary. But you were well away by then. Your illness at first ascribed, no doubt, to the frailty of a woman ill-suited to being at sea.

What was it dear Frederick wrote to his beloved Anne? That she was an excellent creature because she believed in true attachment and constancy among men?

I wonder, indeed, if she was really such a fool.

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