John Ruskin never Effie-d his wife.Posted: May 12, 2011
We know that posts have sort of been few and far between this week. We don’t have any excuses (well we do, but you probably don’t give a shit about them). But good news, we’re here, we’re back, get fucking used to it.
Once upon a time in the little hamlet of Perth, Scotland, a certified hottie named Euphemia
“Effie” Gray was born. Not Effie White, the sassy diva from the moviefilm Dream Girls portrayed by Jennifer Hudson. Coincidence? Probably. But they certainly both went through some shit, so Redbox that masterpiece of song and decide for yourself.
Anyway, Effie was born in this big ol’ mansion where John Ruskin’s grandpa had committed suicide. Remember John Ruskin? Before researching young Effie I sort of had an academic crush on him, but turns out he was just an all-around grade-A prick. But you should still read On Art and Life. Okay so she’s born in a house of death, her family and Ruskin’s family are super close, they know each other pretty well, you get it.
When Effie was twelve in 1841, Ruskin wrote a fantasy novel for her called The King of the
Golden River. Which sounds like it’s about pee. But actually it’s about agrarian despair! Because what do kids love more than a fantasy novel about devastating droughts!? The answer is a lot of things. So many other things. I mention this book to illustrate how utterly out of touch Ruskin was in terms of social grace: he wrote it for a twelve year old girl when he was 22, he wrote it about an agricultural disaster, and he was unaware of the pee reference in the title.
So with all of this in mind, a marriage between sweet Effie and musty old Ruskin seems like a truly poor yet absolutely expected decision. Because it’s the mid-nineteenth century, and who cares about “love” and “happiness” when it comes to getting hitched? No one, that’s who. Well some people probably did, but there’s no room for that blissful bullshit on this blog.
After the wedding in 1846, seventeen-year-old Effie and who-gives-a-shit-he-was-
just-much-older Ruskin went to Italy so Ruskin could research his most important work, The Stones of Venice. I’m not sure you’re understanding how conflicted I feel, because The Stones of Venice is just a fucking masterpiece but he was SUCH a douche. Why was he such a douche, MRG? You haven’t told us yet. Oh, sorry I’m taking a little too long to tear down one of my architectural heroes. I’ll speed up.
Effie and Ruskin never consummated their marriage. As in never boned. Never had sexual intercourse, if you’re not into euphemisms (if you recall, Effie’s real name was Euphemia…hmm). They didn’t even do it in Venice, which is one romantic-ass locale. And rest assured that she was truly a confirmed hottie – she was modeling for various artists, including John Everett Millais (remember that name, bitches). So what gives?
Well listen up. Effie and Ruskin decided to have their marriage annulled after six years of non-coital torture, and during the trial, all kinds of crazy shit came out. Including Effie’s best guess as to why they never boned, written in a letter to her father (yuck):
He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and, finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April.
WHAAAA?! “Disgusted with her person?” What could that mean? What did Ruskin have to say in response? WELL I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED.
In defending himself, this fucking prince said:
It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.
UM. What. the. fuck. I mean you see what I see, right? He couldn’t look at let alone be aroused by this beautiful, kind, smart MODEL on their WEDDING NIGHT. “Her person was not formed to excite passion?” What did he expect was under those Victorian petticoats? What was he passionate about? Architecture. Did he think there were some Gothic mullions under there?
Sorry. I’m sorry. That was a little hysterical. I get it. I’m calm now.
Here’s what I think. Ruskin was an art critic. Which means that he spent a lot of time analyzing and writing about very idealized forms, including perfectly smooth and shapely Greek nudes. Which unlike humans, don’t have pubic hair, or moles, or scars, or whatever else could have possibly disgusted him. Presumably, such a twat couldn’t convince a lady to get naked for him before his marriage, so Effie was probably the first woman he’d ever seen in the nude. And he was probably shocked to find that she wasn’t made of white marble or that she GASP didn’t get a Brazilian before the wedding night.
In court, Ruskin accused Effie of a mental imbalance. You know, because a woman just CAN’T be in the right. She’s got to be crazy! But the judge called bullshit and Effie got her annulment. Ruskin went on to keep writing really excellent architectural criticisms and to never get married again.
And what about Effie? Well, Ruskin might have been disgusted by her bod, but John Everett Millais certainly wasn’t!!!!1
That’s right, our sweet Effie was a smart bitch. Millais had accompanied the miserable Ruskins
on a trip to Scotland, where Millais was to paint Ruskin’s portrait according to his very specific artistic principles. And dear sweet Effie, who had been modeling for Mr. Millais for a while, was like “Hey John, my husband really hates my vagina. It makes him sick. Did you want to see it no big deal just want your opinion as to how you feel about my vagina and maybe the rest of my hot body.” Which didn’t actually happen, but they did fucking fall in love right under Ruskin’s upturned nose, and undoubtedly this was a huge impetus for the annulment.
Effie was still a virgin when she and Millais got MARRIED immediately after the trial! Doesn’t that just warm your cold, cold heart? And then they had like eight kids, so you know Millais didn’t have a problem with Effie’s perfectly normal bod. And also, he did these adorable matching portraits of himself and his lady, literally illustrating his love for her:
Listen to your aunt MRG. It’s moral time. Men: don’t fucking be like John Ruskin. I get that the whole no-pubic-hair thing is real big right now. I get it, I mean what lady doesn’t want to feel like a porn star/pre-pubescent child? But listen, regardless of the situation down under (and I don’t mean in Australia, AM I RIGHT!?!) just be grateful that you have a piece to slam. And ladies: just don’t marry men like John Ruskin. Find your Millais. And then Millais him. (Get it, because it’s pronounced mil-LAY. So like, I made a joke about it.)
A final lesson – humor isn’t humor if you have to explain it.