‘Open Confession to a Man from a Woman’ by Marie Corelli: Book Analysis
‘Open Confession to a Man from a Woman’ was published posthumously in 1925. It was a fictional work of Marie Corelli which spoke about the flip-side of love. In another blog post, I have done a general book review of this amazing little book. Today, I’m going to go deeper into the contents of the book and try to analyze it for your reference. It would be nice if you would be able to get the book on your Kindle to aid you in the understanding of this wonderful book. The very fact that I am ready to analyze the book to the best of my ability is a testament to the fact that I love the book and know that it can benefit others who want to read it.
Marie Corelli was a very controversial writer of her time. She wrote a lot of emotional and romantic novels which questioned the ethical and religious correctness of society. Her work was panned as ‘sensationalism’, but as a reader of her work, I don’t think so. She appears to be a hardcore opinionated feminist who resembles all the stand-up comedian feminist writers of this day and age. She is highly anti-Catholic to the point of hilarity and is very unconventional, but her thoughts about a painter whom she loved are worth taking note of and going deeper into. I highly recommend that you read the book with discernment and not feel offended where remarks about the Catholic faith is concerned because as you go on reading throughout the story, you realize that Marie Corelli keeps on quoting the Holy Bible in every part of her account in Open Confession to a Man from a Woman. She is certainly gifted with a unique understanding of the Bible which is highly commendable and should be seen as such by all.
The book begins with the line ‘If I love thee what is that to thee?’ This is a very solemn point in itself because not only is the painter, whom she loves, going to marry another richer woman instead of Corelli but also dares to communicate with Corelli about his dissatisfaction with his wife. In the early portions of the book, Corelli pens her amorous feelings toward this painter. This painter’s work is solely recognized because of his name being associated with the famous Corelli. She is an independent woman, talented, beautiful, a successful public figure, and is looking after herself. She is the very epitome of what independent women of today wish to be and even manage to become.
She recognizes the fact that this painter has a thousand faults, yet she finds it difficult to stay away from seeking his love, at least until they were still in a relationship. Corelli is not fond of conventions, and especially Catholic conventions, concerning a relationship of love shared between a man and a woman. She is certain that marriage should not be the result of all women and men who love each other. She is very keen to get this straight into the reader’s skull that marriage at times, especially the Catholic notion of marriage can make a relationship go sour or bitter.
She refers to the Wisdom books of the Bible and equates them to her situation with this painter, especially in the beginning when they were in love. She wished that she had understood them better so that she would have learned what a cheat the painter was. Yet in another context, she finds words to be a poor method of expression. Do remember that the painter would go on to love Corelli even after his marriage. He married the rich plain woman for the comfort of riches, and probably also because he wanted to live a cushy life, as well as not being indebted to Corelli for his fame. The joke was on him because, at the end of the book, Corelli rightly states that now he was only regarded as a man of worth because of his wife’s wealth.
To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness, but to the sinner, he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. —Ecclesiastes 2:26
Marie Corelli shows her true devotion to this insufferable painter. She mentions that her way of loving him is not even as per regular convention. Notice in the book, she tries to indicate subtly that she was not exactly sexually involved with the painter and so is, technically speaking, following convention set down by Victorian society. She finds this to be a curse more than a blessing. She blames her odd way of loving a man to the way she was raised as a child. Corelli was brought up in a very tense, desolate, and lonely atmosphere. She states she never had friends as a child and her only friends were books that she read in great numbers. When she discovered books, she realized she was no longer alone. I am a testament to that myself. I too have grown up in a silent atmosphere with books as my only succor. To know more about my life in books and with books, you can check out my two memoirs, The Reclusive Writer and Reader of Bandra and Scenes of A Reclusive Writer and Reader of Mumbai.
Corelli wonders whether life is the outcome of love or love is the outcome of life. She wonders about this because of the neediness of the painter to love her. She admits that she used to perceive the painter with a halo around his head; to her, he could do no wrong. Yet, how unwise it was on her part to perceive him in such a deluded manner and thereby overlooking something that was in plain sight for all to see, that he was not her true love and was a man unworthy of praise. She is even clear of the fact that he never was a good painter; she only used to see him as ‘a master’ in his craft as a delusion to her otherwise sensibly thinking mind.
Corelli in the beginning stages of her romance hated the interruption of her platonic love by friends. She calls them ‘the breakers of the most delightful peace’. But this peace was of course illusionary. It is she who realizes it, as well as she who says, that people always find the one who loves the most to be a fool. Yet, there a people who love to the very core of their being. They love something unabashedly when that something is not worthy of being loved at all. She makes a subtle reference here to the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross because ‘He loved too much’. But this folly of ‘loving too much’ is considered by her more precious than wisdom thereby trumping wisdom with the New Commandment of love:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. —John 15:13
As I have mentioned earlier, though being against Catholic tenets, Corelli quotes the Bible throughout the book. She draws the reader into a close analysis of how love overturns the wishes of the just. Also, how the love preached about on the pulpit is the one that is often the cause of another true lover’s grief.
Then comes the topic of marriage. Corelli never wants to enter into holy matrimony with anyone. She has stated plainly that:
- With marriage, all mystery and rapture of love vanish.
- A man’s former goddess becomes an ordinary woman.
- Then comes the need for a mistress.
- There is no bitterness more bitter to a man than the consciousness that he has failed to hold a woman’s love.
She shows us a realistic part of the whole marital state, especially on a psychological level, which is relatable to everyone. Yes, we take our spouses for granted. Once locked in holy matrimony, we through shared space, forget the marvelousness of our love and start to criticize our loved ones. Corelli’s painter also seems to have been of the possessive type. She finds this hard to believe because she as a lonely child, has never thought of herself to be lovable and precious to anyone. This new way of looking at herself startles her, making her feel like a bag of mixed feelings. She hopes that she should die before her paramour should ever grow tired of her company.
You will find not only Biblical quotations in Corelli’s book but also quotes from poets. Lord Byron, who seems to have been her favorite, is quoted as saying, very aptly, about men not taking love seriously, whereas women take it so seriously that they make that ‘chapter’ in their ‘book of life’ as a whole summary. Corelli herself wants to lose herself in her beloved and not want to have her own separate identity. This only happens during her weak moments. By the end of the book, her strong will to be her own woman overpowers this transgression in the world of modern-day ‘how to’ extroverted feminist icons and writers. Corelli has got a sense of humility to admit that she wanted to lose her identity and liberty to be in total companionship with the painter. This she says is a sort of primitive force of attraction that even she, the infamous Marie Corelli cannot shake off at times.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. —Luke 9:24
She mentions the story told by the Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples about the widow and the seven husbands. In the story, the widow and the husbands in heaven are no longer male and female, but angels. This is the Corelli who is influenced not only by the sayings of Lord Jesus, but also the latent feminism of her time, as well as theosophical ideas in spirituality that were prevalent then. She attempts to show that there is no difference in the sexes. She tries to bring out an androgynous characteristic in all her details of her relationship with this painter. She burns for him as the moth gets burned by the candle flame. But she loves the burns she receives from the flame of immortal love that has no iota of ‘hate’ in it. Indeed, even after the painter’s betrayal, she cannot hate him. She can only pity him.
The first part of the book ends with Corelli’s knowledge of the painter’s betrayal and impending marriage to a rich but plain-looking woman. When he meets her after a long period, there is still the intense chemistry between the two. He sensually asks her unbeknownst to all but her ‘whether is she still the same’. I don’t know much about love other than the love I see in books, however, I am aware that it pleases the male sex immensely to know that their old discarded lovers still yearn for them. They get a sort of ‘kick’ from it. This knowledge is prevalent in all books and intellectual documents of the world.
If in my youth I had realized that the sustaining splendor of beauty with which I was in love would one day flood back into my heart, there to ignite a flame that would torture me without end, how gladly would I have put out the light in my eyes. —Michelangelo
The question burns in Corelli’s heart. However, she mentions that her love is beyond the norms of society and convention. It is not bound by marriage and is a love that is eternal and pure. This repeated emphasis on the pureness of her love is indicative of her inability to shake the man off. What she needs right now is to see him objectively as he is, an opportunist. But instead, we see Corelli justifying the reason why her heart, mind, and soul still feels for the words spoken by this painter. She is aware of the degradation in his character, but the sad fact is that she is incapable of hating him like the way another person would. The painter is her idol, but even she realizes his feet too like the idols are only made of impure clay. It is she who made him be what he is not. He was an incomplete human being whom she had conjured to be divine. She says that her painter is so ungrateful to her that it would make a dog blush in shame. This is quite an act of utter truthfulness on Corelli’s part because she is being humble enough to equate herself with a creature, a dog, the very symbol of loyalty.
Marie Corelli in the heat of her indignation says that indeed there are two sides to men:
- An attractive and lovable side.
- A diabolic and hateful side.
The male sex according to her has his preconceived notions about which side to present to his lovers and when. A male to her is a two-faced liar. She is being unnecessarily unjust here but her point is valid when it is pointed out that where the kingliness of the male sex is concerned, she did not realize that it was her own ‘queenliness’ that was shining forth. It is quite true when we are good, we see the good in others. When we experience sorrow, we recognize the sorrow in others. This is a spiritual, ethical, and psychological fact of life. Nothing is more wearisome a task than when there comes a time in our lives to look back at the people we have been madly in love with and then wonder: ‘Whatever did I see in you?’ We can learn more about a person from the women or men they choose and had chosen to be around. This is what Corelli tries to bring out in this part of the book.
There is a reference made by Corelli to Saint Joseph of the Bible who when he realized Mother Mary was pregnant before marriage and wanted to divorce her. She twists the Gospel story in an almost Gnostic way and says that there are many men like Saint Joseph in the world who want to ‘put away’ or ‘do away’ with that which is ‘pregnant’ and with more power than them.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken… —Matthew 1:18-25
Now, as you can see from the actual text from the Bible, it’s a different interpretation altogether. I don’t endorse Corelli’s thoughts but, it was such an off the beaten track thought to interpret the vision of Saint Joseph in this way.
Like her reference, Corelli does not ever want to consider herself defeated. She knows the man by now and his tastes. She knows he will be fed up with his marriage and, what do you know, he does get fed up indeed. So fed up to the extent that he dares to get in touch again with Corelli. The magic dew alluded to William Shakespeare’s ‘The Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is shaken off Corelli’s eyes and the scales have fallen from her eyes. She now sees the painter for what he is, but can only pity him and nothing else. She still can’t hate him.
During and after the marriage, the book deals with the truth about misogyny in the world, a world that prefers the Phryne to the Hypatia. Phryne was a beautiful courtesan of Athens while Hypatia was a Greek scholar and mathematician who was killed by a Coptic Christian mob who blamed her for religious turmoil. Corelli compares herself to Hypatia in this saga of her love being betrayed to another.
She uses a double pun to indicate that despite all the misogyny that seems to surround her, she is ‘more than happy’ or ‘happier’ even to have received a wedding invitation from her old lover. To her ‘wealth and genius’ don’t ‘couple well together’ making a mockery of the painter marrying into riches, his worthlessness as a painter, the point that she saw him as a genius which was wrong judgment, and, finally, alluding to herself as the only ‘genius’ in this rather comical love triangle. I find the part about the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley to be hilarious. She hates his poetry, finds no sense in it, and finds him to be a highly overrated poet. Strangely, she likes Lord Byron’s poetry, who was Shelley’s friend, and not his. She feels Shelley is unworthy of praise and should be read in ‘cold blood’ like she now is analyzing her painter lover’s paintings. I love the part where she mentions that ‘genius’ is often used as an excuse for bad manners and scandalous behavior. Shelley falls into all these brackets. So does her lover.
Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted. —Shelley
Corelli in the last parts of her book Open Confession to a Man from a Woman deals with her intellectual pursuits. She speaks of her life spent fruitfully reading books all the while. Though she criticizes Christianity, yet she finds tremendous joy in the ‘thought’ of mankind. She finds succor in the ‘thoughts’ of Lord Jesus Christ, William Shakespeare, and Socrates. She mentions here struggles as a girlchild who liked to read and not want to look pretty for others. She gets so personal, that the first part of the book seems to be a distortion of what the real person of Marie Corelli is, a very intelligent, witty, and wise woman. She was called a ‘strange child’, a ‘dreamer’, and ‘old fashioned’. I think people like to label anyone wise beyond their years to be strange. I was thought to be strange myself when I used to be found buried in books in my school library. I may not have been a person of intellect, but I try, whereas Corelli was certainly an intellectual genius. She is worthy of being, just as she said, detached from that painter for good. Corelli, like me, feels that her solitary girlhood will be now substituted by solitary womanhood. Well, until society changes its way it looks at independent women there will be many more women coming into the light of success but all alone, a winner standing alone without a man on the arm.
She concludes with a feeling of disgust that the painter still wants to communicate with her and cheat on his wife. She loathes him and says he had never known what he had ‘gained’ let alone what he had ‘lost’. She criticizes theosophy but has shown throughout the book to have been influenced by it. So, she contradicts herself in this matter. She asks the painter to cease with his letters for she shall nevermore be his in this life. Certain critiques related to the Catholic church and the Bible will not be analyzed by me so as not to hurt anyone’s sentiments. But note that the firebrand Corelli has expressed her views on these very same subjects. Buy your copy of Marie Corelli’s book today and step into the world of the forsaken lover.
I hope this book analysis was useful to you. It was a sheer joy to analyze this book, and I hope to read more of Corelli’s astounding works and review it here on my blog. If you are interested in more book reviews, book review analysis, short story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, then you can check out my blog insaneowl.com. If you want to buy my books then you can check out my website fizapathanpublishing.us or fizapathan.com. Happy reading to you all!
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