Property by Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin’s Property delivers an eerily mesmerizing inquiry into slavery’s venomous effects on the owner and the owned. The year is 1828, the setting a Louisiana sugar plantation where Manon Gaudet, pretty, bitterly intelligent, and monstrously self-absorbed, seethes under the dominion of her boorish husband. In particular his relationship with her slave Sarah, who is both his victim and his mistress.

Exploring the permutations of Manon’s own obsession with Sarah against the backdrop of an impending slave rebellion, Property unfolds with the speed and menace of heat lightning, casting a startling light from the past upon the assumptions we still make about the powerful and powerful.

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- Sarah Goodridge, Beauty Revealed. Self portrait miniature on ivory. 2 5/8th inches by 3 1/8th inches. American. 1828.

Let me just type that year again: 1828.

A variation on a Lover’s Eye, this was a gift from Goodridge to Daniel Webster (he who bargained with the devil in Stephen Vincent Benet’s short story) and discovered in his possessions after his death. Most descriptions of the duo’s relationship depict them as “friends and correspondents.”

Right. She painted 12 portraits of Webster over the years. He burned her letters. She kept his, and never married.

Here’s the rest of Sarah Goodridge, in another self-portrait from a couple of years later.

This little piece kills me. Cell phone porn and texted seductions are nothing new. We just keep reinventing ways to tell each other we’ve fallen in love.
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January 23rd 1828: Saigō Takamori born

On this day in 1828, the famous Japanese samurai warrior Saigō Takamori was born in Kagoshima. He has often been called ‘the last samurai’. He went on to lead troops of the Satsuma region as they fought their rivals Chōshū. He opposed the opening and modernising of Japan in the Meiji Restoration of 1868, and the ruling Tokugawa Bakufu. He was a leader of the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion against the Meiji Government. Takamori was the basis for Ken Watanabe’s character in the 2003 film ‘The Last Samurai’.

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