There is an episode in Dickens’ last novel, Our Mutual Friend that is an extreme illustration of the old view that ‘Romantic love used to be thought of as a kind of temporary madness.’ Today, most people would probably say that Mr. Headstone was crazy, but perhaps he’s just a point near one end of a continuum. It wouldn’t surprise me if quite a few otherwise sane men are within shouting distance of Mr. Headstone. You can judge for yourself from the video excerpt below, but it will help to have a little background.
Lizzie Hexam is at the bottom of social ladder, but she’s good looking and has a lot of natural class. As a result two men who are her social superiors fall for her. Eugene Wrayburn is a impecunious, ne’er-do-well gentleman who persuades her to let him tutor her and her friend. Mr. Headstone is a school teacher who meets her through his student (Lizzie’s brother, Charley Hexam). Headstone is pathologically attracted to her on first sight. He is also insanely jealous of Mr. Wrayburn who treats him with condescension and disdain. Both Charley and Mr. Headstone decide that he should tutor and marry Lizzie, not Wrayburn. The clip below shows this plan being executed with disastrous results for Headstone. It’s almost painful to watch!
Mr. Headstone declares his loves to Lizzie Hexam
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