Monday, October 20, 2008

Byron, Flashman, Steerforth ... when it comes to men, I'll take the classical ideal every time
Germaine Greer writing in The Guardian,
Monday October 20 2008

I was one month shy of my 11th birthday when my parents gave me for Christmas the Oxford University Press edition of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, "with 40 illustrations by Phiz". When I got to the illustration facing page 88, in which Steerforth confronts Mr Mell, I fell in love, with a squiggle of Indian ink representing Steerforth's noble brow under a tumble of curls, his flashing eye, and his aristocratic nose, as sharp as an axe-blade. This was the face of my dreams.

Two years later, I went with the school to see the 1951 movie of Tom Brown's Schooldays and there it was, the face I adored, this time on 21-year-old John Forrest, who played Flashman. The other girls couldn't understand what I saw in him, because he was sneery, cruel, arrogant and not in the least cute. Quite, I thought. I was beginning to realise that the face I found so compelling was classical. Part of its beauty derives from its being simply one aspect of a symmetrical head: the nose may be sharp but it does not project beyond the outline of the whole; the brow may be broad but it doesn't break the contour; cheekbone and jaw are shaped but don't distort the perfect ovoid poised on its columnar neck.

Read Germaine Greer's full piece here.

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