X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

By the book

Monsieur Hollande and Madame Bovary

2 June 2012

10:00 AM

2 June 2012

10:00 AM

François Hollande has had it with austerity. Well, fair enough — austerity is dull and painful. No wonder other European leaders are keen to follow his example. But perhaps Hollande should take heed of what happened to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, who also longed to escape an austere life.

After all, Hollande hails from Rouen, the very city that plays host to Madame Bovary’s adulterous affair with Léon Dupois. It is at Rouen cathedral that Emma Bovary initially resists Léon’s amorous advances — that is, until he hails a cab, bundles her in, and evidently employs some persuasive behaviour while they are snugly ensconced. Famously, all that emerges from the carriage is a climactic ‘bared hand’, which casts out ‘some scraps of paper that scattered in the wind, and farther off lighted like white butterflies on a field of red clover all in bloom’. Emma’s virtuous letter, written to put Léon off, doesn’t do the trick. Could this be the fate of the European budget discipline pact, torn into shreds after Hollande’s powers of persuasion are exercised to the full?

[Alt-Text]


But Emma and Léon’s love affair is doomed from the start. Emma Bovary is a creature of extravagance, longing for luxury as a means to escape what she perceives to be a very dull provincial life. She only takes the fateful carriage ride with Léon when he tells her it’s the done thing in fashionable Paris. She insists on enjoying an expensive lifestyle with him, and when he cannot afford it, she makes up the deficit herself. It’s a moral low point when she makes Léon pawn a set of silver spoons that she was given as a wedding present.

Emma’s downfall isn’t her adultery, it’s her reckless extravagance. She falls prey to the dastardly merchant Lheureux, who sells her far too many gorgeous fabrics and other beautiful things, telling her she can pay him another time. And so Emma spend-spend-spends, meeting what debts she incurs with yet more debts, and selling off more and more of her poor husband’s property.

We all know the sad ending of Madame Bovary. Alas, Emma’s fantasies of the high life cannot last for ever. The time comes when she can put off her creditors no longer; she has to cough up. In despair, she turns to her lovers for money, but to no avail. She decides there’s nothing for it but arsenic, and kills herself, dying rather gruesomely.

Live within your means, seems to be the message here. Well, let’s hope his flirtation with spending isn’t political suicide for this other creature of Rouen.

Emily Rhodes is a blogger and bookseller. ‘By the Book’ is an occasional column on lessons from literature.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close