There are a couple of things in Stendhal’s Roman Tales that I can’t get out of my head. Here’s the first one which appears in the second story, Vittoria Accomramboni:
It should be realised that Paolo Orsini had grown enormously fat. His legs were thicker than a normal man’s body, and one of these massive limbs was infected with a disease called La Lupa, the she wolf, named thus because it had to be fed with large amounts of fresh meat, which were applied to the infected area. Otherwise, the raging disease, not finding dead flesh to devour, would hurl itself upon the living flesh which surrounded it.
This, of course, conjures up lots of images, but I was intrigued by this idea of La Lupa. I’d never heard of it before, and all I could think about is the flesh-eating bacteria along with terrible stories of amputations we hear about in the news. Is this what Orsini had? Or was he possibly an uncontrolled diabetic with an ulcerated leg? All speculation, of course, but I been thinking about the possibilities since I read the quote.
And then at one point in The Cenci, Stendhal goes into a marvellous aside on the Don Juan figure and he argues:
For a Don Juan to exist, there must be hypocrisy. The Don Juan character is an effect whose cause has no root in the ancient world. Religion in those days was a celebration, urging men to pleasure.
He goes on to say:
I attribute the emergence of a satanically inspired Don Juan to the Christian religion.
What a fascinating idea. I’m going to have to think about that.