Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

George Moles

Assignations with Psyche

This is a true story: the amatory history of one Peter Cowley, a sensitive, academic, non-athletic but cheerful and confident youth, who was educated at a renowned boys’ grammar school in Northern England.
There were three stages in his romantic development. From early childhood he was interested in aesthetic matters, sensitive to beauty, and no stranger to Arnold’s ‘eternal note of sadness’.
In his early twenties and beyond, he was obsessed by Wildean notions of youth and its transient bloom, as exemplified in his story The Picture of Dorian Gray. Finally, from his mid-thirties onwards, inspired by an erotic painting, his physical ideal was voluptuous, Renoiresque women, endowed with ample curves.
At Oxford University he met his first love: pretty, lively, blue-stocking, Vivien Bellerose, from an exclusive girls’ public school. She was also Townsend Scholar at Lady Margaret Hall. He was captivated by her plummy, sophisticated, Southern English voice and her fancied resemblance to seductive, olive-skinned, Italian women he had recently seen on holiday. In the course of numerous, mainly unanswered, letters he quoted Virgil: Omnia vincit amor (‘Love conquers everything’) – to no avail. She mistook Virgil for Boethius, an obscure, Neoplatonic philosopher.
Afterwards, Peter moved to London. There, for many years, he was the slave of beautiful, but languid and passive, Eugenie. He raved over her fragile, pre-Raphaelite looks and wrote her impeccably rhyming Shakespearean sonnets, but she did not respond.
In spite of his amatory disappointments, Peter was temperamentally suited to affairs of the heart. An overt Romantic, he adored the glamour and beauty of women in their prime.
You need but lift a pearl-pale hand . . .
. . . And all men’s hearts must burn and beat (Yeats).
Many years later, in a London social club, he struck oil with Sophie Brightmore, an intellectual, lecturer and writer. She took a fancy to him and appreciated his cerebral nature. But, already in her late forties, she did not satisfy his increasingly unrealistic Wildean requirements. She made singularly little physical impression on him, like some shadowy figure from a dim, Arthurian legend.
It was hardly surprising, therefore, that after four years of close friendship, he transferred his affections to attractive young African siren, Glycera. She was much his junior, but, fortunately, preferred older men. He wooed her with expensive dinners and a holiday in gai Paris. Sweet-tempered and warm-hearted, she became his best friend.
It was through Glycera that Peter finally met the voluptuous woman of his dreams in the shape of full-figured Eumorphe. For two years he and Eumorphe were ‘just good friends’; then a strong chemistry developed between them. On one occasion, witty and worldly Gottfried, an old flame of Eumorphe’s, egged Peter on, ‘You’re going to see your girlfriend!’
Typically, over the next few weeks, she held up her smooth, fresh young face to receive his uninhibited, plentiful kisses. Encouraged, he plied her with amorous missives, stuffed with terms of endearment, and visited her two or three times a week. She, for her part, professed to ‘miss him like hell’.
This was, by any standards, heady stuff, but suddenly, out of the blue, the whole affair collapsed like a pack of cards. Eumorphe reverted to her long-term boyfriend, who, unbeknown to Peter, had been lurking in the background. Soon – cardinal, unpardonable sin – she was busy slimming, like any normal, body-obsessed woman. Peter’s interest dwindled.
There was a happy ending. Shortly after this episode, a Polish nurse, with a woman’s power of intuition, remarked at first meeting on Peter’s ‘very youthful spirit’ for his time of life. From that moment, new romantic vistas opened up before him.

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