Peg was about 20 when her daughter was born. She was charmed by her child and in love with Dardis, Life should have been good. However, her estrangement from her family made her miserable. For better or worse she decided to leave Dardis and to cast herself on her family's mercy asking them to accept her back into their fold. Sadly, her attempts proved fruitless.
I again went to my sister Smith, ...... and implored her with tears to take me once more into her house.... She was unlimited in her upbraidings, violent in her abuse, and she declared if a morsel of bread would save me from death and destruction, she would refuse it to me.
What then is a vivacious, shameless hussy to do?
Peg chose to live under the protection of various successive gentlemen. The first was Thomas Caulfield, a near relation of the Earl of Charlemont. She and Thomas had a son. When Mr Caulfield left her to marry, he provided her with an annuity to help with the child. But the child died and Mr Caulfield no longer felt an obligation to support his ex mistress.
She next met Mr Leeson. It is generally held that this was Joseph Leeson, the Second Earl of Milltown. Peg enjoyed all the luxuries and material comforts that Joseph had to offer. But she paid a high price for such high style. Mr Leeson was a jealous sort and insisted she give up all her friends. On the occasions when he visited his country seat, Russborrough House, he insisted that she stay home alone and employed someone to spy on her to make sure she complied. These days we would describe this behaviour as controlling and abusive. For Peg, she felt she was lucky to have a rich protector.
Peg, never a shrinking violet, continued to meet her friends on the sly (her preferred companions were rascally men and loose women . One such man was a Mr Lawless. When Joseph Leeson discovered her shenanigans he kicked her out and she moved in with Lawless. For five years they lived as man and wife. They had five children together. Peg loved Lawless. He was her ideal man. To my mind, Lawless was a shit.
He stayed out late. He had affairs with other women. He beat her when she challenged him. To be fair, Peg admits herself that she could be jealous and had a temper. She would regularly cause a scene when she found him in the company of another.They lived together in a house in Wood Street. Interestingly to me, I spent many years with a rascally man of my own right opposite Wood Street, I spent time in a pub called The Old China Man. It was behind Dublin Castle and was basically a continuous party. You could dip in at any time - day or night - and find the music pumping, the drugs flowing and the conversation stimulating. I met all sorts there: dealers, prostitutes, gangmen, ex cons, soon to be cons, hangers on and friends and relations. Looking back I can see how innocent I was. I socialised with this lot and they were lovely. I know others found them violent and don't get me wrong, some were at times. But I entered the space with gentleness and curiosity and was treated the same. It was a period of great happiness in my life. The pub has since been shut down for being a hot bed of criminal nastiness. To me, it was a place of friendship and excitement.
At this time my rascally man ticked a few of the domestic violence boxes. He was controlling, and verbally abusive. He used gas-lighting. He never actually struck me but he was aggressive in his words and behaviour. A previous lover had used violence to control me so I was primed for compliance when I met this man, I was primed for obedience.
This is one of the reasons I am so taken with Peg's story. We experienced a similar situation in the same geographical space. I have been trying to remember how I felt during these years in order to convey this feeling in an illustration. I found myself wanting to write a country and western song. I merged the actions of the two men into one song. Here it is. You didn't let me talk to other people. You shouted if my cleavage was on show. You censored what I said, You kicked me in the head You were my lover but you acted like my foe. I took it as I knew that you were sufferen' My love was the best you'd ever known. You punched me and you strangled me You mauled me and you mangled me Why was your pain more important than my own? Your hurtful words and anger left me frightened To stay safe I stayed small and did as I was told. Your daily damn control of me, The money you stole from me. the life you made live was harsh and cold. I took it as I knew that you were sufferen' I never challenged you. I didn't moan. Your every deed diminished me, And with each day I ceased to be. Why was your pain more important than my own?
My response to years of low level domestic violence was to run away to West Cork and hide from men altogether. I'm only now, 15 years later, considering dating again. Peg's response to the same situation was to ditch men's controlling behaviour and set up financially on her own. She was already having sex outside marriage. She decided to charge for her services.
Good God, what a woman!
Here is my illustration for her time with her protectors. Like me, she experienced good times with her men, and also like me, the love she experienced was not always healthy.
I like this style. I'm excited with this style. I think I may have found something here. It uses metaphor, story-telling and a graphic look. I like the colour palette also. Those of you who have read previous posts will know I wish to create a series of prints. I can see how this style could be employed over a series.
Here's a drawing I did of Peg and how she was trapped by motherhood. I like the drawing but as I wrote this post I re-read Peg's memoirs, Her words do not suggest she was beaten down by caring for her children. This illustration does not reflect Peg's feistiness, but is helpful to me to indicate how this design direction can be carried through the series.
What I am discovering is that Peg's story is one of power. Men had power over her and she decided to wrestle that back, She used the cards she was dealt to good effect. Why Peg's story is relevant today is that men and women are still engaging in this power struggle. I find this interesting. Why do women give their power to men?