How to be inspired

Gustave DoréThis portrait of the great 19th c. French illustrator Gustave Doré seemed to me iconic of the Romantic artist, dashing off heedlessly, passionately, on some adventure or, at least, to deal with some tedious practical problem to do with a lover.

I’ve got the place and time, the clichéd character, a reason (feminism) to subvert the cliché and . . . we’re off!


“Let’s do this quickly, my friend. I am on my way to a rendezvous with the lady we spoke of — you remember.”

The photographer was not moved by his subject’s demand.

“Like you, Gustave,I Gustave, I am an artist. My art, as yours, takes time. Affect Effect  your pose now,  please, and stay very still.”

[ I made a mistake in the first draft, using Affect in stead of Effect. I have neglected for months to reread this (just my own work!) and look carefully for mistakes–how shameful! There are even more.) Please, forgive me and take this as a lesson in what to look for when doing your own proofreading.]

Monsieur Doré flung his scarf over his shoulder and took on the pose of an explorer leaving about to leave on his ship for the North Pole. (His hair always looked as if it had been attacked by a fierce gale, so needed no adjustment.) 

Later, at the home of Madame G., Doré was surprised to find the lady’s sister, Mlle. F., visiting. She was a plain woman of about 30, dressed in somber, but well-made clothes. Their women’s conversation came to end with the arrival of Doré, but when her sister had departed, Mme. G., now in a gloomy mood, informed him of the reason for the countrywoman’s visit. She had come from her home in Yonville to discuss with her sister the dispersal of their inheritance from the estate of their recently deceased father, the mother having died 18 years earlier. It was not a very large amount, but Mlle. F. thought their combined fortunes could finance a small school for poor children in Yonville.

“She thinks, because I am married, that I have no use for money! I must be as saintly as she, apparently.”


That’s the beginning. How will Gustave overcome boredom to help his mistress? I don’t know yet, but I’ll come up with something. Never fear!

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