Sunday, March 1, 2009
This post features a quote used frequently in our family, "Courage, Camille." I want to go be clear that although I've never uttered this little two word phrase of encouragement myself, I've been the recipient more times than I can remember. The sources of encouragement for the infamous, "Courage Camille!"? That would have to be my Mother mostly, but sometimes from other family members too.
Nowadays I bristle when I'm advised in person or in writing to have "Courage, Camille". I've finally decided that now is the time to find out why I react so strongly. Why does this innocuous message get to me, irritate me, make me want to snap back, "Fuck Camille" when I hear or read those words? And now, I finally get it; after some thought there is understanding.
But first, what of this Camille? Who is she and why is she advised to summon courage?
Camille is a fictional character in a classic novel from 1848 by Alexandre Dumas Fils. A beautiful and famous courtesan living in Paris, her trademark camellias decorate her hair when in public. Despite her best intentions, Camille falls in love with a young aristocrat named Armand. Their relationship is doomed from the start. Rather than destroy Armand's reputation, and at the strong request of the young man's father, she severs the ties that bind them both. Ultimately, she dies of consumption and Armand is left with a broken heart. The story line is the basis for Verdi's opera "Traviata" and for a classic film, Camille, starring Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor from 1938.
From the book, the quote comes from Armand's father, Duval as he implores Camille to break off the relationship she has with Armand. He says to her, "You would be proud someday of having saved Armand from a fate he would have regretted all his life--which would have brought on him the idle jest and scorn of every honorable man. Pardon me, Camille; but you know the world too well to doubt the truth of what I say. It is a father who implores you to save his child. Come, prove to me you love my son. Give me your hand. Courage Camille, courage! (she slowly gives her hand). Bless you, bless you. You have done your duty."
What a sad tale and and a quote that's equally sad viewed in the context of the story line. The courage Camille must summon destroys both herself and her true love with a sacrifice made for the benefit of a restrictive, unforgiving society. Blah to that!
But this isn't why I don't like the quote because after all, I only learned these details after some research. The real root for my bristling comes from knowing that what I need when I'm advised to summon "Courage, Camille" is NOT courage at all. I already have courage. I have what it takes to get myself out of bed every morning and put one foot ahead of the other and make it through to the end of the day.
What I think I need instead is something like.....
"Strength, Susanna", or
maybe even, "Vision, Victoria".
Camille and her brand of courage are not for me!