Monday 28th November
I bet you were wondering when I would get to this one. Well, after encountering Gluttony, Anna and her sister Anna, the dancer, head for Boston where they discover or rather are the object of Lust. And Lust may well be the oldest of all the deadly sins, one can almost imagine Neanderthal men Lusting over Neanderthal women, or maybe they didn’t so much Lust after them but just have them, perhaps Lust is a more recent invention. We read about the rich and decadent Romans and their orgies (echoes of which appear to be alive and well in recently departed Berlusconi’s Italy) but one wonders how much Lust was really involved or if it was more just an oversaturation of all the vices, from cruelty to over-eating and sex and the desire to perform it was just one of the items on the menu. In more sexually repressed times I think Lust will have had more than a walk-on role. Apparently there were so many prostitutes plying their trade in London in the nineteenth century that they made up about a tenth of the population; I should imagine that for certain gentlemen, (though hardly worthy of the title), sex with courtesans or highly paid women of easy virtue or the inhabitants of well-known but discreet bawdy houses or just plain street women was far more common an occurrence than actual congress with their wives. These wealthy and respectable men would find it perfectly normal behavior to over-eat, drink large quantities of claret and port and round the evening off with some dirty, but maybe highly enjoyable, sex with a prostitute, and as personal hygiene was not considered anything like as important as it is today, the spread of disease was prevalent, if a trollope didn’t have the clap already she would soon get it from a punter.
So, what exactly is Lust? It is apparently, not so much the committal of the sexual act, but the unnatural and overriding desire to have somebody; literally the Lusting over someone. So, in modern day usage we think of Lust as the desire which causes us to be over-attracted to someone before the act, or as in Lust for power where a politician is ruthless to get to the top, or even Lusting after money where one will do anything to get the filthy lucre; whereas the Lusting over rather than the committal of, or not as the case may be, is the deadly sin referred to. In other words it is the thought rather than the deed, which is a sin. But if the act is not consummated or even attempted, is a little quiet Lust so awful. I am sure that we have all quietly fantasized about people we do not know, and even some we do know, and wondered just what they would be like in bed, though when this tips over into Lust, which one imagines is a state where all one thinks about is the person of one’s desires, one’s ‘Lustee’, I suppose, is hard to measure. When does a desire become an obsession, maybe only the ‘obsessed’ knows, and by then it might be too late.
I have only once been in that situation, as you might read in the book ‘Catherine’s Story’, and I justified that by convincing myself that I was in love with that person. So is real Lust just another variation of Greed and maybe a bit of Jealousy, if the person you are Lusting after belongs to someone else. And in any case if the object of one’s Lust Is unaware of your Lust who is really hurt by it. But like all of the seven deadly sins, I am discovering that it is to the committer of the sin rather than the object that the damage is done, so the person who is consumed by Lust is actually more harmed by it than anyone else.
In any case, none of this really matters, as Anna and her sister soon leave Boston for the town of Tennessee, where they meet the far more interesting sin of Greed, something we maybe all know a bit more about than Lust.