Monday, December 19, 2011
The Spectacles by Edgar Allan Poe
The narrator, 22-year old Napoleon Buonaparte, changes his last name from "Froissart" to "Simpson" as a requirement to inherit a large sum from a distant cousin, Adolphus Simpson. At the opera he sees a beautiful woman in the audience and falls in love instantly. He describes her beauty at length, despite not being able to see her well; he requires spectacles but, in his vanity, "resolutely refused to employ them." His companion identifies the woman as Madame Eugenie Lalande, a wealthy widow, and promises to introduce the two. He courts her and proposes marriage; she makes him promise that, on their wedding night, he will wear his spectacles.
When he puts on the spectacles, he sees that she is a toothless old woman. He expresses horror at her appearance, and even more so when he learns she is 82 years old. She begins a rant about a very foolish descendant of hers, one Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart. He realizes that she is his great-great-grandmother. Madame Lalande, who is also Mrs. Simpson, had come to America to meet her husband's heir. She was accompanied by a much younger relative, Madame Lalande. Whenever the narrator spoke of "Madame Lalande," everyone assumed he meant the younger woman. When the elder Madame Lalande discovered that he had mistaken her for a young woman because of his eyesight, and that he had been openly courting her instead of being civil to a relative, she decided to play a trick on him. The marriage was a fake. He ends by marrying the younger Madame Lalande and vows to "never be met without SPECTACLES."
One of Poe's comedy tales. Had the author's usual whit and irony. Superbly interesting, yet with the name Poe I was expecting a more sinister end, but a very satisfying one, none the less. Worth a good read.