Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I love Sir Robert Hart's Lust for a Concubine in 19th Century China by Lloyd Lofthouse

There is an old, well known axiom — which came first, the chicken or the egg? For man, that question should be — which comes first, lust or love?

The answer for Robert Hart was lust while he was attending the Queen's College, Belfast (1950 - 1953), and the love came later in China after 1955.
As a young man, Hart's Wesleyan Methodist conscience failed to prevent bouts of promiscuity. While attending the Queen's College in Belfast, he seduced too many women and his reward was a dose of syphilis, which was probably treated and cured with the primary treatment, which was mercury in the form of calomel, ointments, steam baths, pills, and other concoctions. Another medicine to treat syphilis was Guajacum—used to treat the STD since the 16th century.

About a year after arriving in China, Robert met and bought Ayaou, a Chinese concubine, with whom he developed genuine affection and respect.
In fact, after his decade-long romance with Ayaou, there was no evidence that he sought a lusty romance with anyone else. In "Entering China's Service, Robert Hart's Journals, 1854—1863" the editors wrote, "Hart's years of liaison with Ayaou gave him his fill of romance, including both its satisfaction and its limitations."

One can only imagine what Hart experienced during his romance with Ayaou that nothing else ever equaled or surpassed it.

Of course, if it hadn't been for Sir Robert Hart burning his journals covering the first 2 years and nine months of that romance, my curiosity may not have been aroused enough to discover more about this lusty relationship, which led to more than a decade studying China's history and culture.

Sterling Seagrave wrote in "Dragon Lady" that "he (Hart) had a sleep-in dictionary, his concubine, Ayaou. He had just turned twenty; Ayaou was barely past puberty but was wise beyond her years. Thanks to her his life settled into a quiet routine and he was able to get on with his… Chinese studies, quickly becoming fluent in Mandarin and Ningpo Dialect."

Seagrave said, "Robert was raised a strict Wesleyan… Life was all work and pleasure was sinful."

It was those lusty pleasures that Hart experienced with Ayaou for a decade in the middle of the 19th century that caused him to burn those journals a half century later in an attempt to erase his sinful love of Ayaou from the record, but he failed and although we do not know much about Ayaou, we do know that she was real and had a significant impact on his life.

Through Ayaou, Hart learned to love China and had great plans for its future. He wrote, "I want to make China strong, and I want to make England her best friend."

Hart's skills as Inspector-General of Chinese Maritime Customs were recognized by both Chinese and Western leaders, and he earned several Chinese honorific titles, including the Red Button, or button of the highest rank, a Peacock's Feather, the Order of the Double Dragon, the Ancestral Rank of the First Class of the First Order for Three Generations, and the title of Junior Guardian of the Heir Apparent. He also received a baronetcy from Britain's Queen Victoria, and in 1906 he was awarded a Grand Cross of the Order of the Danneborg by the King of Denmark.

In "The Concubine Saga", my goal was to breathe life back into that bitter-sweet romance that existed between Robert Hart and his concubine Ayaou.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart [combined in this single volume], which earned honorable mentions in general fiction at the 2008 London Book Festival, 2009 San Francisco Book Festival, 2009 Hollywood Book Festival, 2009 Los Angeles Book Festival, 2009 Nashville Book Festival and was a finalist in historical fiction for the National Best Books 2010 Awards. Lloyd Lofthouse grew up in Southern California, served in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Marine and lives near San Francisco with his wife and family with a second home in Shanghai, China.

Leave an approved comment on one or more Blog posts found at Lloyd or iLook
between May 30, 2012 and June 30, 2012
during "The Concubine Saga" Web Tour
and automatically be entered into a drawing
to win a limited edition, signed and numbered hard-cover copy of the novel.
(NOTE: only one limited-edition, hard-cover copy is available to give away)


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