Thursday, January 12, 2006

Beauty is only skin deep?!?!????

The expression "beauty is only skin deep" is wrong on so many levels, one doesn't know where to begin to refute it. You can't just say the statement is wrong because doing so manages somehow both to insult beauty and to insult surface beauty. To a sensitive person with visual sensibility, there is really no problem judging beauty largely by the surface (especially at the first), because to such a person, the surface tends to reflect what is inside as well. Moreover, I could and do argue that, in a way, surface beauty is more special than deep beauty because surface beauty must be of less importance to snobbish people who desire exclusive associations. If, say, the only people you are willing to meet or mate are members of your exclusive clubs, parties, or gated community, you really won't likely have a great number of associations and you will have plenty of time and opportunity to get to know each acquaintance fairly well. It is when love is so important to you that you are unwilling to rule out a special person no matter how brief your previous knowledge of him or her is, that your appearance becomes important. A person you see at a park, grocery store, train, etc., that could be what you want, and if your personal appearance reflects you and your tastes, that other person if sensitive can know your character is such you might well want him, and it could be the difference between you having a happy love life or an unhappy one. This is why prettiness is more important for females than males, males more tending to make the first move.

Anyway, a few months ago I decided to Google this hated-by-me saying to determine its origins, which I figured must be associated with something sinister. Just how right I was surprised even me, however. Apparently, the quote originally comes from Sir Thomas Overbury's The Wife. Sir Thomas Overbury was the homosexual lover of Robert Carr (or Kerr), who was also the homosexual lover of James I of England. Carr and the wife of the Earl of Essex decided they wanted to get married. This infuriated Sir Thomas Overbury, who wrote a poem concerning his supposed ideal wife to try to dissuade Carr from marrying. Included, according to the above link, was the phrase "All the carnall beauty of my wife/ Is but skin-deep, but to two senses known", whence the saying.

In other words, the expression "beauty is only skin deep" originally was a pleading by a sodomite in the King's court to keep his illiterate homosexual lover from screwing a disreputable mostly powerless young woman as opposed to sodomizing himself and the king. Did it work? No. The impudent "Lady" Essex and (presumably) Kerr schemed to have Overbury put in the Tower, and then secretly murdered him by slow poison (which didn't work as well as expected, so they finished him off by feeding him "corrosive sublimate" (I believe read somewhere what was used was sulfuric acid or something similar to it)). I imagine because "Lady" Essex took away for herself a good portion of the sodomy that previously had been destined for the king, Kerr fell out of graces with the King, who in his starvation had found a new, more cunning sodomizer, Georges Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham by way of finishing his rival encouraged the unfolding of the plot, as a consequence of which the "shocked" King remarked "if I spare any that are guilty, God's curse light on me and my posterity for ever!" Kerr and the Countess of Essex were found guilty, but doubtless motivated by his fond memories of debauch, the king pardoned them (after hanging some of his accomplices). The debauchery of James I is largely what gave the Puritans a plausible case for their rebellion. Apparently, most of the anti-sodomy laws date from this period of the ascendancy of the Cromwells and of the beheading of James I's son Charles I [update: I think this was an error on my part]. (It is interesting to note that, according to MacKay, James I's only other son, the virtuous young Prince Henry, who hated Kerr, was suspected of having been poisoned by Kerr, perhaps with James I's debauched connivance, an alternative explanation for Kerr being able to secure pardon--his knowing so much allowed blackmail.) As for Buckingham, he "is supposed, with great probability" of poisoning the king, which according to Mackay "...rests upon circumstances of suspicion stronger than have been sufficient to lead hundreds to the scaffold." Buckingham's motive? Partly because (as MacKay speculates) "his hope that the great influence he possessed over the mind of the heir apparent would last through a new reign, if the old one were brought to a close."

I can imagine that Overbury's poems originally were popular because people made fun of them as being immensely ridiculous and scandalously dumb. Unfortunately, nowadays people don't know the context, just the saying.

I should point out that there is a good deal of disagreement about the nature of the homosexual relationships which King James I, Kerr, and Overbury, actually had. The main question is who was sodomizing who, or as the homosexual community would more likely put it, who was dominant. MacKay, being from the nineteenth century when people had reasonable notions about sodomy, I believe is right in giving the impression that Kerr, the illiterate nobody, was the likely sodomizer and more dominant one. The disagreement you'll see on the net is not so much that James I had homosexual relationships, but that perhaps he was the dominant one. But this scarcely seems credible inasmuch as Kerr had essentially no power or abilities. In fact, James I in his youth (before he became debauched) was especially fond of scholarly pursuits. It scarcely seems credible he would want to dominate an illiterate person of no power like Kerr. Presumably the king was more the debauched than the debaucher. But not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course.

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