Culture Magazine

Nil Desperandum!

By Kirsty Stonell Walker @boccabaciata
Flipping heck, life is grim at the mo, isn't it? It's all a rubbish swiss roll of terroism and elections, far too many politicians on the telly spouting nonsense and it's frankly disturbing going anywhere near social media because it leaves you in no doubt that people are awful.  I'm so glad we're not people.  Anyway, in order to cheer us all up I thought I'd find us some lovely pictures of Victorian despair...

Nil Desperandum!

Disappointed Love (1821) Francis Danby

I've always been partial to this painting; it seems to depict a Jane Austen heroine sobbing in a wood.  Did she chose the wrong bonnet? Did she forget the words to 'The British Grenadier' at an inopportune moment and therefore ruin her marriage chances? Did she trust a red coat?  Never trust a red coat! Looking on the bright side, the Empire-line gown is enormously flattering during pregnancy.  I'm also worried about grass stains.  White is so unforgiving, although I don't suppose she can wear it any more.  Moving on.

Nil Desperandum!

Disappointment (1879) John Haynes-Williams

It's always disappointment to find that your friends have not shown the same commitment to the tapas evening as you have.  It's hard to imagine what this finely dressed young lady has to be disappointed about, unless someone has just loudly announced that their granny has the same net curtains in her downstairs loo as this lass has round her shoulder.  How mortifying!

Nil Desperandum!

Off (1899) Edmund Blair Leighton

Let's be honest, most disappointments come from romantic entanglements (and dry chocolate cake).  I especially like Blair Leighton's take on an ended love affair, although I think he missed the 'Sod' from the above title (or pick your own appropriate word).  The jilted chap has thrown his roses on the floor and stomped off leaving our lass to consider how much better she could do.  Pretty girl like you, I'm sure you can get a bloke in a nicer coat and some night white stockings.  She also seems to be sat on something that looks like a massive tombola drum which I'm worried will roll her unexpectedly into the stream when she least expects it.  As well, such is love.

Nil Desperandum!

Proposal (The Rivals) (1880) Axel Kulle

Well, what's going on here? Two chaps seem to be vying for a young lady's hand and I don't think it's hard to see which one is going home disappointedr.  I wonder if that is her Mum in the doorway with her hands on her hips.  The choice is either a man in long boots with his own brolly, or a chap in socks and clogs. I think we know why the chap in the middle looks so disappointed; boots and brolly always wins.

Nil Desperandum!

The Shepherd's Suit Rejected (1867) William Vandyke Patten

Another chap disappointed in love, this shepherd sobs behind his beloved as she sits awkwardly pretending it's not happening.  Pull yourself together love, that's just not dignified.  When even your dog is judging you, it's probably time to reassess your behavior.  I think the woman should take a leaf out of the sheep's book and move away quickly and discretely.

Nil Desperandum!

Wedding Cards, Jilted (1854) John Everett Millais

Do you think the person who sent the wedding card to this poor lass really didn't know that her bounder of a fiancee had buggered off? I'm not so sure but that might just be because I know the sort of people who'd love all that. 'Congratulations on your happy day! What's that? Bob ran off with your sister? And your cousin? Oh, deary me, what a pity. Tell me more...'  I just hope she got to keep all the presents.

Nil Desperandum!

Broken Engagement (1860) George Bernard O'Neill

Sorry Grandma, there is just no cheering up this poor young lady since her beloved fiancee, 'Cheating Ratbastard' ran off with 'That Trollop Sandra' and left her to sit around in the parlour in a brown dress. Obviously, when she pulls herself together she will write them eversuch a lovely note of congratulations and won't mention how she hopes his fruit withers on the vine, if you know what I mean.  Never mind Love, you can do much better.

Nil Desperandum!

Oh! That a Dream so Sweet (1872) John Everett Millais

To give it its full title, the above is Oh! That a Dream so Sweet, so Long Enjoy'd, Should be so Sadly, Cruelly Destroy'd, from Thomas Moore's Lalla-Rookh, and the lady in this picture is thinking of beloved but very aware that she is rather alone. From the title, it does sound like she has become another victim of a jilting boyfriend and a dream 'so sweet' of being respectably married has been 'cruelly destroyed'.

Nil Desperandum!

The Affront (1905) Antonio Piatti

Obviously, some people take a dumping better than others.  This lass is not taking it at all well and is even putting her finger in her ear in order not to hear the bad news. If you can't see your boyfriend or hear him then he can't possibly be dumping you.  It only makes sense.

Nil Desperandum!

The Unfulfilled Wish (1899) Julius Leblanc Stewart

I threw a coin into the wishing well and when that didn't work I threw in all my clothes.  Now, had my wish been to be naked in public I would be sorted.  If my wish had been not to be embarrassed in front of my neighbours, I might be out of luck. The girl in the picture appears quite disappointed with the outcome, so maybe she's realised that she's thrown away her shoes and the path back home is rather gravelly.  Ouch. I bet her car keys were in her pocket too.

Nil Desperandum!

Such is Life (1885) Weedon Grossmith

It does feel like we are getting the empty end of the cracker at present, but like the little girl in this picture we should just check there is nothing for us.  You never know, there might be a paper hat or one of those fortune telling fish.  Either way, despair not Gentle Reader, as there is still a fair amount of good in the world.  If your ratbag of a fiancee has jilted you, you were probably better off without him or her. If you have thrown all your clothes down a well, at least you'll get an even tan. Whilst there are still good books, good friends and moist cake in the world, then there are still reasons for hope and joy.  Until the election is over, I think I will keep a steady supply of the last one to hand...

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