3 Jan 2007
Jennifer de Guzman
I was intrigued by this article until I reached the point where Mr. Velshi seeks to convey Pompadour's superiority over other famous seducers, who have supposedly "demeaned themselves and their gender considerably." First, there is the matter of the "androgynous" Don Juan and Casanova. Putting aside whether or not this characterization is accurate (I have never though of either of these men as androgynous), there is the characterization of them prefiguring Dorian Gray (whom, I must tell Mr. Velshi, is not "prepubescent"), which seems accurate only in that all of these men were noted seducers of women, not in that they represent some sort of assault on "manliness," whatever that might be.
That Dorian Gray debases himself has nothing to do with his being "unmanly" and everything to do with moral decay and the separation of vice from consequence. But, in any case, Mr. Velshi's prissy assessment that "This sort of willful and unmanly metrosexualism is unbecoming; doubtless, Don Juan and Casanova were quite happy being the little spoon, too" strains his credibility -- although it is quite amusing as an example of how such old-fashioned thinking lives on; Mr. Velshi should seek the opinion of young women besot with men like Johnny Depp or, before him, David Bowie to understand if androgyny is truly "unbecoming." To men like Mr. Velshi perhaps it is, but if one is seeking to attract women, his opinion hardly matters.
And bravo to the Roman propagandists, whose characterization of Cleopatra as a whore lives on, unexamined, more than 2000 years after they dreamed it up. The story of her hiding in a carpet is, for one thing, apocryphal, and for another, is meant to illustrated her shrewdness, a trait that Cleopatra clearly possessed and which Mr. Velshi admires in Pompadour. "An honest inspection of the men who had their way with" Cleopatra (as if she some sort of naive and used milk maid, a Tess of the D'Urbervilles who happens to be Queen of Egypt!) , historically speaking, gives us a list of only two men: Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. Her affairs with them, I believe, had everything to do with the desire for Empire and the perception of their divine rights on the part of all parties. Blaming Cleopatra for Julius Caesar and Antony's downfall is simplistic and lacking original thought on the subject. There is a good deal of intersection of power and eros in the story of Cleopatra that is missed here.
I am not quite sure whether its a lack of support from content of essay or the distraction of Mr. Velshi's unconvincing rhetoric toward the end of the essay that makes Mr. Velshi's conclusion about "the cruelty of eros" making "it sublime" seem a bit overblown. Fortunately, that doesn't matter if one is a teenager or young adult looking in the English Review for advice about how to score. Mr. Velshi will get thanks from young people everywhere, I'm sure.
3 Jan 2007
Don Juan is a fictitious figure. Conflating him with Casanova, a historical figure, is emblematic of the incoherence of Velshi's piece. To comment on "Don Juan" you'd hav to specify which version of this fantasy figure you are talking about, and Velshi doesn't.
But with regard to Casanova, Velshi seems to mind that Casanova liked women and enjoyed spending time with them. Advantage Casanova, I think.
Also, Casanova is an interesting and illuminating writer, while Velshi's piece is a series of unexamined, unargued assertions of jaw-dropping wierdness. And what in the world was unbecoming about Cleopatra's (probably also fictitious) carpet stunt? If we pretended the story were true, then it would have been an ingenious way of handling a tricky political situation, while demonstrating a certain degree of style. Is intelligence and courage sexy? On my planet, and perhaps yours, yes. Perhaps not on Velshi's.
But it's not worth picking on details; there simply isn't an argument there. Velshi's piece is, by any reasonable standards, drivel.
4 Jan 2007
This was a pleasant, informative read but a bit misleading in its title and lede. We seem to be discussing "la vie sentimentale" more than sex per se. Nor is it clear that Pompadour had a great "sex life" in the carnal sense one usually attaches to the term.
Of course, we have a far too narrow view of sex life these days. For a heterosexual man, for example, just being in the company of an attractive, theoretically available female is to be in a sexual relationship that can range from racy flirtation to deep intellectual exchanges to matters of friendship and emotion. A distinctive sexual element is
Our young people could benefit greatly by realizing this in that then they could go on dates and have romantic friendships without tromenting themselves so much about whether they are having appropriately vigorous and frequent
genital stimulation . . .
PS But how did Mme's hairdo become the favorite of old time rockers like Elvis Presley?
4 Jan 2007
Congratulations on your article about Marquise de Pompadour; certainly history has lessons that one should always examine… but the utter vision is the one that clarifies and stands as a guide and results from a broad range of analysis, such as yours.
4 Jan 2007
I come to this article from a slightly different perspective - having had to deal with relatives with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (Kings and the rich are especially prone.)
From that angle, this is a tutorial on how to keep what therapists call "the narcissistic supply" going, and in that much, shrewdly stated. NPD is a way of reducing anxiety, and the lessons here are that flattery has to be exactly targeted, and can be more effective if it both raises anxiety issues before soothing them. Politicians do this all the time... first pump up the fear, then reassure everyone that you're the guy for the job and the voters are smart to recognize "this vital issue."
As the author states, this is dangerous knowlege but consider it an exercise in raising consumer awareness.
4 Jan 2007
In regards to your comments on the usefulness and laudability of Pompadour's example:
I would have thought that preying on someone's insecurities, such that he or she became emotionally dependent, arguably addicted to the presence of another person would be at best unethical. Surely, that is something to be ashamed of.
4 Jan 2007
Although Mr. Velshi's article started out as a promising essay it quickly took a series of embarrassing turns with blatantly ignorant opinions that revealed quite a shallow mentality.
Mr. Velshi would be well served to first learn the meaning of Eros before he started dispensing erratic musings on the topic. The cruelty of eros is what makes it sublime? (!)
Mr. Velshi confuses seduction with outright manipulation and thus his whole article is one big conceit. Covert manipulation in the pursuit of power is not seduction by any means and certainly does not need exaltation, that Mr. Velshi praises it as an insightful skill to have in order to engage in 'short-term relationships' is nothing short of vulgar.
Crassness, like manipulation, has nothing to do with the spirit of Eros. One can seduce another for a short relationship --they are called affairs, Mr. Velshi-- and they can be carried out in utterly honest and passionate abandone.
Seduction basks is its effrontery, in weaving a web of temptation for the subject of one's desire, not in raping them of their powers of discernment.
There is nothing more erotic than skillfully leading the subject's of one's obssessions to the rivers of one's own desire, so that they feel that giving in is the only natural thing to do. That is seduction, Mr. Velshi.
One would hope you would not recommend covert manipulation to the young in order to succeed in the realm of seduction. Your recipe reads more like the sophistries of a stealth rapist than the devoted skills of a would-be lover.
10 Jan 2007
As a matter of game theory, I think it is unwise for Mr. Velshi to admit in writing to admiration for a technique that is most effective for temporary liassons. I assume he is young and in the catagory he concludes is not looking for marriage. I think wide dissemination of this article to his various targets will make seduction that much harder. On the other hand, Alykhan Velshi is an oustanding pseudonym.
14 Jan 2007
One could do worse than have a Pompadour for a companion. The Versailles System set in operation by Louis XIV only works when the ruler is as interested in kingship as he was. Take away that ruthless desire for control and what remains is a constricting cage of etiquette and meaningless artifice. Pompadour, through her personal talents and varied interests, made life seem interesting for a very intelligent man who seemed to have very little interest in actually ruling.
In a less rarified sense, many people look to spouses and companions to enable us to withstand the banalities of existence.
11 Feb 2007
Did your imaginings concerning Pompadour and her putative skills come to you via ouija board? Document and to substantiate, young fellow, you hear?
18 Aug 2008
All of Velshi's information completely lacks historical perspective and much of it lacks actual historical knowledge. It seems he did a brief Google search on a summary of the life of M. de Pompadour and expanded it into an essay with his own skewed perspective.
Also, despite being the quintessential royal mistress, when the topic is "seduction", Pompadour seems an unlikely candidate, given the sexuality of the act of seducing someone. Madame de Pompadour famously suffered from "rigidity" - likely she had a disorder that caused discomfort and foul odor during the intercourse. She stopped having sex with Louis XV altogether in 1750 and yet still remained his friend and companion until her death 14 years later. Who the hell wants to take bedroom advice from a woman who had a deplorable sex life that ended when she was 29?
And then there's the completely incoherent comparison of two historical characters to a fictional character with mild homophobic undertones...
Actually the whole article (starting with the title) came off as the moanings of a man who didn't get much in the way of female attention in college and now tries to use history as a means of exposing everything he's already known about the "cruelty" of womankind.
Get over yourself, V.