His Account of His Disappointment in Love: Summary & Analysis

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The Walk Associated with the Widow

      Once Sir Roger and the Spectator were walking when they came upon a beautiful avenue seeing which Sir Roger remarked that it seemed strange to have bequeathed a part of his property to someone who had treated him so badly. But he could not help thinking about the perverse widow who had caused him so much unhappiness when he came to that particular walk. Like many a passionate lover, he had carved her name on the barks of the trees with the mistaken idea that he would get some relief from the intensity of passion, but it only perpetuated her memory as he remembered her whenever he saw the trees.

How He Met Her

      Sir Roger came into his inheritance in his twenty-second year. The next year he was appointed sheriff of the county. Handsome, impressive and with striking equipage, Sir Roger made a good figure and was admired by all the people. Once when he was at the court to try a case he found that the defendant was a beautiful widow who was an object of admiration for the whole court. She cast her bewitching eyes upon Sir Roger and he was enslaved. Her behavior during the trial was a mixture of business like actions and a certain attractive archness which made the court completely in favor of her and her opponent had no chance of succeeding against her.

The Widow’s Cruelty

      The Widow was a perverse creature who accepted the admiration of her various admirers but was not willing to give them anything in return. She had a train of admirers in town as well as in the countryside and she moved from one set to the other according to the change of seasons. She was always accompanied by a confidant to whom she told several maxims of her own making against men. This confidant made it even more difficult for her to show the slightest sign of liking for any man by quoting her own maxims back at her.

Sir Roger’s Visit

      Upon being told by someone that the widow had a better opinion about Sir Roger than anyone else, he felt very encouraged. He bought new liveries, matched his coach horses freshly, and. then called at the widow’s house to pay his court. The widow was a woman not merely beautiful but intelligent and learned as well. As a result, it was very difficult for a country gentleman to approach her with ease and confidence. When he visited her, he was received with civility. The widow then delivered a learned speech on pretenders of love and honor. Her eloquence and knowledge stunned Sir Roger into silence. He could not answer her when she asked if he agreed with what she had said. Her confidant remarked that he must be thinking of exhausting the subject as he was thinking so deeply. Though they were making fun of him, they kept serious faces. Sir Roger after sitting silently for half an hour wondering how to deal with such casuists, got up and took his leave. After that visit, Sir Roger had met the widow many times and every time she had addressed to him some discourse difficult to understand. Her barbarity compels him to keep away from her. She treats all her admirers in a similar manner. Her voice was very sweet and she had the finest possible hands. The disappointment in love had apparently affected Sir Roger to such an extent that he had developed a certain inconsistency of expression. Sir Roger though having plenty of self-control remembered the widow all the time even if he did not speak about her.


      Once again we have a flashback into Sir Roger’s life. We get to know here that he has been deeply affected in his character by disappointment in love which he experienced in his youth. The inconsistency that is apparent in his conversations evolves from this unhappy love affair. We also realize that Sir Roger is a rather simple and unintellectual person who is awed by any show of learning. Further, this essay provides us with a vivid picture of the perverse widow—beautiful but heartless, a flirt but scholarly and accomplished.

      There is an undercurrent of pathos in the essay which is specially noticeable in poor Sir Roger’s inability to forget the widow in spite of her cruelty, and how each little sprig of an avenue reminded him of her. There is a lot of pathos also in the lines when the author tells how Sir Roger began to rave after sometime of talking about her. But there is also more than a note of humor in the essay. The knight is the butt of most of the humor. His silent half hour at the widow’s place arouses mirth as do his expressions regarding his own behavior in court upon seeing the beautiful widow for the first time—“A great surprised booby”, “a captivated caff”. There is gentle and admirable irony in the widow’s remark about Sir Roger which he takes to be a compliment, “the tamest and most humane of all the brutes in the country”. Sir Roger is also the target of a gentle satire. He was apparently quite a vain person in his youth, and upon the slight encouragement he got because someone told him that the widow liked him better than anyone else, he went in for great expense, getting new livery for his servants and matching his coach horses anew etc.


      Line. 8-13. It is......severity: Sir Roger had in his youth suffered a disappointment in love. He had paid court to a beautiful widow who, however, had rejected his suit. He had since then been a different man. Now, when he and the Spectator are walking near his country house, they come upon a shady walk seeing which puts Sir Roger in mind of the widow whom he loved. He points out to the Spectator that it is paradoxical that though he has been badly treated by the widow a part of his property, namely that particular path, has been bequeathed on her. Sir Roger does not mean that any part of his land has literally been settled upon the stubborn and wilful widow, but that her memory is so closely associated with that particular walk that he could not go there without thinking of her and her cruelty to him. Even the tiniest of the branches in that avenue brings to his mind the perverse widow. This was so because when he had loved her in his youth, he had always thought of her in this particular avenue, so that, now too, he could not come to this place without thinking of her. This essay is in the nature of a flashback. There is a note of pathos in the description of Sir Roger’s disappointment in love, and this note clearly comes out in this passage. Steele, one notes, is a sentimentalist, whereas Addison is clearly not.

      Line. 66-70. and all that......her advantage: The widow was a beautiful woman and here Sir Roger describes the effect of her beauty on the court where her case was being considered and where he first met her. She made such a good impression upon everybody that they all became clearly biased in her favor. The case apparently was about the settlement of property on the widow after her husband’s death. The opponent in the case was the heir of her husband. Whatever he had to say in support of his appeal, seemed to be groundless or baseless and trivial and useless to the prejudiced court. When, on the other hand, the lawyer for the widow spoke the people in the court felt that he could easily have said much more in support of her case. They were, in other words, predisposed to judge in the widow’s favor. This is a humorous dig at the country courts being impressed by personal considerations in their judgment of cases. It is also a dig at the tendency of people to be impressed, a little irrationally, by beauty and equates it with ‘right’.

      Line. 18-22. I have been......in the world: Here Sir Roger remembers that he had been rather foolish in his youth, when he had loved the widow, to carve her name on the bark of the trees in that shaded walk where the Spectator was now walking. This habit of lovers, namely, to inscribe the name of the beloved on tree trunks, was a foolish one, says Sir Roger. It has the opposite effect of what they desire. The lover seeks to relieve the intensity of his passion and disappointment by carving out the name of his beloved. What happens, however, is that his distress increases. This is so because he merely perpetuated the memory of his beloved by carving her name everywhere. Instead of finding relief he thus adds to his sadness as he is constantly being reminded of her. It is a rather wise and shrewd observation on the part of Sir Roger. The passage ends with a eulogy on the widow’s hands. There is also a touch of pathos

      Line. 70-75. You must understand......of the year: Sir Roger describes the nature of the widow with whom he had fallen in love.
He tells the Spectator that she is one of those people whom it very difficult to understand, whose actions are not easily explained. She personally enjoys the admiration and compliments showered upon her by all the young men. But she is just a flirt who gives nothing in return. She would not involve herself in returning any of their love or getting married with any of them. As a result, she has a large number of admirers who hang around her in the eternal hope of getting her love in return. She enjoys herself and in going from the city to the countryside, or vice versa, she merely goes from one set of admirers to another; Sir Roger has apparently understood the nature of the widow but still can not help loving her.

      Line. 75-80. She is a reading lady......declarations: The beautiful but perverse widow whom Sir Roger loves is a well-read, scholarly lady. And she knows the advantages and pleasures of having friends. She has a close and confidential friend beside her all the time in whom she confides all her thoughts. To this friend, she tells witty and clever proverbs and general observations against men. She tells her friend that she is against love and marriage. As a result, this friend sees to it that the widow does not get an opportunity to pay any attention to any of her admirers. The confidant quotes her own proverbs against love to the widow whenever she feels the slightest liking for any man. Thus she is prevented by her confidant from getting attached to any of her admirers. Sir Roger is obviously very much against the close friend of the widow.

      Line. 92-102. The particular skill......makes you fear: The widow whom Sir Roger loved was a woman of great ability as well as beauty. Her beauty sets the heart of any man who sees her on fire. At the same time, however, she commanded respect that held her admirers at a distance. She commands respect because of her learning, intelligence and good sense. She has more of these qualities than one can even expect from a man of talent. Steele seems to imply here that women generally did not have such intelligence! The widow had great beauty she is one of the most beautiful women on earth. If she cannot get your admiration with the artful use of her eyes like any beautiful woman can, she will put to use her true charms, namely, her intelligence and mental powers and her great learning. If one sees her in her entirety, takes into consideration all the qualities that went to form her, one would be struck by her dignified appearance, the cool and collected and controlled movement, her calmness and confidence. Her appearance would give rise to a hope in the beholder of some kind response from her. But then he would remember her talents and her high learning and this would give rise to despair as he could not match such high merits.

      Line. 113-123. When she discussed......took my leave: When Sir Roger visited the beautiful widow, he had fallen in love. For the first time, he was so impressed by her presence that he could hardly speak. In this silence, the widow gave a long and learned speech on  those who pretend to love and be honorable. Her speech seemed as learned as the best philosopher’s. When she asked Sir Roger’s opinion on what she had said, he felt too dazed at the wisdom of her speech to say anything. As he kept silent, the widow's close friend made the sly remark that Sir Roger was thinking over the subject so as to be able to speak upon it in an exhaustive manner. They did not laugh and kept a serious face even while they obviously made fun of the old knight. Sir Roger felt that he could be no match for such clever hair splitters and after having spent half an hour wondering how to, conduct himself before them, he decided to leave. The passage illuminates Sir Roger’s simplicity and his awe of learning. There is also gentle humor in the manner the two ladies tease Sir Roger. At the same time, there is a note of pathos; we can not help feeling a bit sorry for the poor innocent knights.

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