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Robespierre’s Chamber Pot

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Fifteen days from now

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The Yorkists

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Whitehall Spookery

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Gordon v. O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

Virtuous WomenFiona Pitt-Kethley
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Virtuous women are those who do not sell
themselves too cheap or give themselves for free.
In Solomon, the virtuous woman’s price
is set far above rubies, we all know.
What kind of rubies though? Idol’s-eye-size?
Or just small chips in an engagement ring?

A friend of mine has got this man at work –
her ‘sugar daddy’. He saves up for weeks
to take her out for these expensive meals
‘The bill came to ninety-one quid,’ she wrote.
‘I had the moules marinières – £7.
He got the cheapest thing – the chicken soup
to start.’ Next he chose sole while she had duck.
(The rest was gâteau, gin and German wine,
three coffees and two Armagnacs – both hers –
and whisky for the pianist.)

‘He wanted me to wear a Twenties dress,
but I wore armour-plated corduroy ...
He’s very unattractive with bad teeth
and pitted cheeks and greasy hair, you see.
He used to grope a lot, but since I fell
in love’ (with someone else) ‘he’s stopped ... Now he
tries the odd furtive touch on my bare skin
with his cold hands.’

Poor man, I thought. I read the letter out
to Mum. (She loves to live vicariously.)
‘The evil pig,’ she said, ‘You’d think that she’d
have given him something for his ninety quid.’

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