The timeless appeal of the reformed rake.

18 Aug

The various talk on this blog about the appeal of reformed rakes got me thinking about a chapter in one of my favorite books of all time, Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery.  Anne of the Island is the third book in the “Anne of Green Gables” series and covers Anne’s college years.  As the most romance-oriented of the novels, it has a lot of interesting observations on the mating dance – principally Anne’s friendship with Gilbert (midway through the novel, she rejects his proposal and they spend two years estranged while they date other people, until – of course – Gilbert contracts a life-threatening illness that forces Anne to acknowledge her true feelings for him), but also the courtship of Anne’s best friend Diana with local farmboy Fred, and Anne’s beautiful and wealthy college roommate Philippa with a poor, ugly theology student, among other stories.

Anyhow, the chapter I am referring to is called “Averil’s Atonement” and is a recounting of Anne’s attempt to write a story for publication.  Anne, who has always been a whimsical dreamer, wants to write a sweeping romance and become a famous author.  Her heroine is a strong-willed young lady named Averil.  The hero is named Perceval Dalrymple.  Need I say more?

Anne spends a few weeks slaving over the story and finally reads it to Diana.  But instead of being enthralled, Diana seems disappointed.

“Why did you kill MAURICE LENNOX?” she asked reproachfully.

“He was the villain,” protested Anne. “He had to be punished.”

“I like him best of them all,” said unreasonable Diana.

“Well, he’s dead, and he’ll have to stay dead,” said Anne, rather resentfully. “If I had let him live he’d have gone on persecuting AVERIL and PERCEVAL.”

“Yes — unless you had reformed him.”

“That wouldn’t have been romantic, and, besides, it would have made the story too long.”

“Well, anyway, it’s a perfectly elegant story, Anne, and will make you famous, of that I’m sure. Have you got a title for it?”

For the record, Anne of the Island was published in 1915, and the timeframe within the book is probably late 1800s.  Reformed rakes never go out of style – because they have always been in style.  (Also note that Diana dutifully tells Anne what she wants to hear in order to preserve the friendship – even though Anne’s story went against what Diana saw as reality.)

The chapter continues with Anne showing her story to her neighbor, the blunt Mr. Harrison.  Mr. Harrison, being a man, doesn’t mince any words and tells her the dialogue is too flowery and the setting unrealistic.  Says he:

“But your folks ain’t like real folks anywhere. They talk too much and use too high-flown language. There’s one place where that DALRYMPLE chap talks even on for two pages, and never lets the girl get a word in edgewise. If he’d done that in real life she’d have pitched him.”

Unless he was a Boundless blogger!

Anne, of course, disagrees:

“I don’t believe it,” said Anne flatly. In her secret soul she thought that the beautiful, poetical things said to AVERIL would win any girl’s heart completely. Besides, it was gruesome to hear of AVERIL, the stately, queen-like AVERIL, “pitching” any one. AVERIL “declined her suitors.”

Mr. Harrison then adds the worst insult:  he agrees with Diana about Maurice Lennox!

“Anyhow,” resumed the merciless Mr. Harrison, “I don’t see why MAURICE LENNOX didn’t get her. He was twice the man the other is. He did bad things, but he did them. Perceval hadn’t time for anything but mooning.”

“Mooning.” That was even worse than “pitching!”

“MAURICE LENNOX was the villain,” said Anne indignantly. “I don’t see why every one likes him better than PERCEVAL.”

“Perceval is too good. He’s aggravating. Next time you write about a hero put a little spice of human nature in him.”

“AVERIL couldn’t have married MAURICE. He was bad.”

“She’d have reformed him. You can reform a man; you can’t reform a jelly-fish, of course. Your story isn’t bad — it’s kind of interesting, I’ll admit. But you’re too young to write a story that would be worth while. Wait ten years.”

Mr. Harrison isn’t really advocating for criminality or acting like a jerk; he’s advocating for the hero showing some alpha characteristics.  Anne wrote a story about a placid beta and got nowhere with two disparate audiences.  Of course, what Mr. Harrison says about the possibility of reforming a rake is questionable advice, at least according to certain definitions of alpha….

(The dénouement to this story occurs three chapters later, when Anne receives a check for $25 in the mail from the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder Co., with a congratulatory letter saying that “Averil’s Atonement” will be published in several prominent newspapers and in pamphlet form for Rollings Reliable patrons.  Anne is confused and then horrified when Diana reveals that she secretly submitted the story – with one small addition:

“You know the scene where Averil makes the cake? Well, I just stated that she used the Rollings Reliable in it, and that was why it turned out so well; and then, in the last paragraph, where PERCEVAL clasps AVERIL in his arms and says, `Sweetheart, the beautiful coming years will bring us the fulfilment of our home of dreams,’ I added, `in which we will never use any baking powder except Rollings Reliable.'”



38 Responses to “The timeless appeal of the reformed rake.”

  1. Anna August 18, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    In the movie they give Harrison’s lines to Gilbert, which de-betas him a little bit.

    Montgomery hit it right on the head. It’s not that women truly want wicked men, like Roissy says. They’d like one who could be wicked, but wouldn’t. As Anne herself said in the same book! Wonder what changed after Averil’s Atonement.

    Philippa and Jonas are one of my favorite couples ever. “If you close your eyes he is adorable!” I have a friend who maintains that she won’t be happy with anyone who’s not a “prettyboy”….I just keep saying “Jonas.” So far she hasn’t chosen any of the pulchritudinous and interchangeably personalityless dudes who have come her way.

  2. sdaedalus August 18, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    If you like LM Montgomery, Haley, take a look at her recently published diaries, they are absolutely fascinating.

    She had a tragic life in many ways. Fell in love with a guy in her early 20s, very strongly physically attracted to him, but felt that he wasn’t intellectual enough for her (he died tragically a couple of years later). Fifteen years later she married what appeared to be a very sensible choice, only to find that he suffered from severe depression. Her marriage was very unhappy.

    I like Anne, but I am more of an Emily of New Moon girl myself, although I much preferred Perry Miller to Teddy. I think Gilbert Blythe’s teasing of Anne in Anne of Green Gables though, is exactly what guys do to girls they like. He negs her relentlessly.

  3. sdaedalus August 18, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    PS: I don’t think real rakes ever reform, it becomes addictive. Unless you catch them as they are heading down the other side of the hill. The best you could hope for in this regard is to get someone who pretends to be worse than he is.

  4. Aunt Haley August 18, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    Your friend’s interchangeable dudes = Alec and Alonzo.

  5. Aunt Haley August 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    I have read that L.M. Montgomery had a rather tragique life. It seems that most people who produce lasting art do not have overwhelming happiness personally.

    Gilbert suffered from terrible oneitis, but at least he maintained some dignity about it.

  6. Anna August 18, 2010 at 12:19 pm #


  7. Anna August 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Yeah, Gilbert didn’t cry into his wine at home in his empty apartment about it. He was a man about town, president of all the clubs, and admired by many young ladies including Philippa “Put away your claws, Anne, I know he only cares for you” Gordon.

  8. sdaedalus August 18, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    Haley, which LM Montgomery character would you most closely identify with?

  9. Jenny August 18, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    LOL I remember that book. Interesting post. :D

  10. Lover of Wisdom August 18, 2010 at 3:27 pm #


    Since you are a big fan of the books, have you been to PEI?

  11. jack August 18, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    “The best you could hope for in this regard is to get someone who pretends to be worse than he is.”

    This might be called, perchance, “Game”?

  12. sdaedalus August 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    “The best you could hope for in this regard is to get someone who pretends to be worse than he is.”

    This might be called, perchance, “Game”

    Very clever. But you’d need to nab him fairly early on in his Game career, before the pretence became the reality & baby rake in training became a full-blown cad.

  13. Aunt Haley August 18, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Haley, which LM Montgomery character would you most closely identify with?

    Is this the LMM version of the old Sex and the City question? (Are you a Carrie or a Samantha? Are you an Anne or a Marilla?)

    Anyhow, the answer is: not sure. I see bits of myself in a lot of characters.

  14. Aunt Haley August 18, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    I have not, but it would be a fun vacation (and an excuse to say “loonies and toonies” unironically).

  15. Cane Caldo August 19, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    So you think Game is evil? Serious question, not a trap.

  16. sdaedalus August 19, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    No, I don’t think it is inherently evil. It can be used in evil ways though. I presume most decent Gamers have Codes of Ethics. I’d like to know what they are.

    I also think that, the more women one games, the less likely one is to be able to settle down with an individual woman. It’s the distinction between game being a means to an end, and an end in itself. With some bloggers, you can clearly see game as a means to an end. With others (Roissy & Roosh being the prime examples), the game is the end.

    Perhaps “cad” is a little bit harsh to use about guys for whom game has become an end rather than a means – I didn’t intend it to be particularly pejorative. A lot of these guyswould be self-professed unprincipled self-interested cads, but it’s theoretically possible that some long-term Gamers may have a code of ethics.

    It still doesn’t mean that they are good long-term relationship prospects though – nothing wrong with that in itself, but short-term hookups, no matter how ethically conducted, aren’t exactly what Haley is looking for here, so they are not much use to her for that purpose.

  17. ASDF August 19, 2010 at 8:39 am #


    “I also think that, the more women one games, the less likely one is to be able to settle down with an individual woman.”

    That may be the case, but I couldn’t say. Speaking as a budding gamer, game has had more pluses than minuses for me in the dating world. Exposure to a fair number of big city women has made me aware of what a high quality woman is, so I can pounce on her should I ever come across one (hasn’t happened yet).

    Game has been good for me in that it has made me more dominant and aware of what is going on in womens’ heads (usually). Women seem to like it, and I keep my self respect instead of pedestaling a mediocre girl or pestering one who isn’t interested in me.

  18. sdaedalus August 19, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    I still think that if you’re planning to settle down with a high-quality woman a series of women whom you would not regard as falling into this category is not necessarily conducive to this.

    I’ve known lots of players who talk nostalgically about finding a good girl but when they do, quite frankly, they want a return to the old life. It’s very hard to go from one lifstyle to another.

    Nothing wrong with game in itself but it does become addictive. So do what you would regard as low quality women.

    You should have a look at

    and see what you think of it.

    At least one of my real-life womanizing friends has confirmed this is borne out by his own experience.

    Also, you haven’t answered the Code of Ethics thing.

  19. sdaedalus August 19, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    I just think it’s difficult to switch from a series of non-high quality girls to just one high-quality one. Game is a lifestyle, if you live it for too long it changes your preferences. Not that there is anything wrong with that in itself. But what you wanted may no longer be what you really want. I suppose what I’m saying is that if you want game to give you a long term relationship, go directly there, rather than getting sidetracked into a series of short-term relationships first.

    This writer discusses it better than I can. But what he has said has been confirmed by some of my male friends.

    I’d be interested to hear more from any gamers on the code of ethics thing.

  20. jack August 19, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    Well once someone goes down the road of caddish behavior and begins using women, I don’t know that they can go back even if they want to.

    This is a big issue that women need to understand better – the male desire for variety. Think of men who have a harem (a real harem, like in some tribal cultures). So this hypothetical man has maybe 10, 20 women available sexually.

    Okay, are they all equally hot? I bet they are not. I bet there are women who are 10s all the way down to 5s, maybe lower.

    Why, when you could be sleeping with a 10 every night would you ever have a 5? This is something that all men understand, but many women do not, since it is not in their nature (usually) to crave (operative word – crave) more than one guy at a time.

    But the guy is more than happy to sleep with the 5 in his harem – she might be more adventurous or have a better personality. By keeping a harem, the man gets to fill his plate with whatever kind of woman he wants at that moment.

    Women, on the other hand, appear to GENERALLY want a single man, encompassing as much of their wish list as they can manage.

    One a man learns enough game to be able to experience the affection of many women, I have a hard time imagining how he can ever abandon the carnal desire for variety.

    Hence, the high-value male whose girlfriend-of-the-month is always complaining that “he won’t commit”.

    A certain cynicism will flourish in a guy like that and absent a transforming experience with God, it is easy to see that any ONE woman, no matter how wonderful, cannot take the place of the enjoyment of conquering new territory.

  21. ASDF August 19, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Well, I definitely fall into the “horizontal integrator” category in that article, though I can see the point about mystery method style game not working for the “vertically integrated” types long term. If you are a nerd who is bad with women, mystery method is a very tempting way to be successful with them, even if it is short term. Better to spend your 20’s sleeping with a bunch of chicks than to become even more introverted and porn addicted waiting around for someone who loves you for you to come along.

    What do you mean by code of ethics? I don’t meet women by chloroforming them in alleyways.

    And Jack is spot on about men liking variety. It’s not a cop out to say that it’s just the way we’re wired.

  22. sdaedalus August 19, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    What do you mean by code of ethics? I don’t meet women by chloroforming them in alleyways.

    Lol. I appreciate most women are well able to look after themselves but:-
    (a) would you use full-on game on every girl you were attracted to over the age of consent for the purposes of pumping and dumping her or would you make exceptions for women who were particularly vunerable or were going out with friends of yours or so forth
    (b) to what extent would you regard lying as to your future intentions or as to any sexually transmitted diseases you might have as a justifiable part of Game.

    No moral judgments here at all, just interested. You don’t have to answer these specific examples, they are just some things that have been cited to me by some womanizers as relevant to how they behave.

  23. sdaedalus August 19, 2010 at 10:44 am #


    I would agree with this. Variety does not seem a bad sort of life for most guys. Of course, managing a harem must take a lot of work & there is more to life than sex. Game is really a full-time job in many respects.

    I’m not sure life’s quite so good for women in the harem though. Most women would prefer not to be part of a harem, and it takes quite a lot of effort to keep them there. That’s what I mean by game being a lot of work.

    I’ve no difficulty with men who want a harem & know this is what they want. However some men like the idea of settling down with one woman without necessarily thinking whether this will be enough for them. That can mess a girl round quite a bit. Men need to be pretty certain, before committing to an LTR or at least marriage, that this is what they actually want. And most women assume, unless specifically told to the contrary, that most men who get married to them at least aspire to monogamy.

  24. ASDF August 19, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    Oh, these are serious ones. I thought you meant Barney Stinson type lies about shipping out for the Peace Corps the next day. I would totally do that, but I wouldn’t lie about big stuff.

    Girlfriends of friends or people’s girlfriends in general is a tricky one. I don’t make it a habit of stealing them and don’t like the attitude of many gamers who revel in it, but they raise a few good points:

    Firstly, in the defense of “the other men” everywhere, it is the girl who chooses to cheat. It’s easy to be high minded in theory, but very difficult when the girl is actually throwing herself at you. Men, even players or whatever you want to call them, deal with women from a point of scarcity.

    Secondly, if not with you, she would just cheat with someone else. Her relationship is probably already on rocky ground, either for legitimate reasons or because the guy is a hapless beta.

    And now a question for you, since you have taken on the role of girl ambassador:

    After reading your response to Jack, would you have any qualms about a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type marriage, such as was (according to Mad Men) apparently quite common in the past?

  25. sdaedalus August 19, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    But it’s not just about stealing her, it’s about betraying a friendship. I appreciate resources may be limited, but would you leave your friend if he were injured, even if it put your life a little at risk? I bet not. Would you steal his food because you were hungry? Again, no (I appreciate that the food would probably not walk off with someone else, but still..) It’s not a question of sexual morality here, but a question of loyalty to one’s friends.

    Anyway, I’m not here to judge, none of us are perfect. It’s just you guys understand so well men’s vunerabilities that I find it hard to see how you could treat a friend in this way without at least a significant twinge of conscience. I agree it’s easier if you don’t know the guy, but still… Surely whatever else you guys have, you’ve loyalty to your own gender?

    After reading your response to Jack, would you have any qualms about a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type marriage, such as was (according to Mad Men) apparently quite common in the past?

    It is probably better than a “tell everything & lets all get into bed together” marriage but it wouldn’t be the kind of marriage I would aspire to have, it’s not what I was brought up to understand marriage to be. Family background dies hard in this situation.

    I wouldn’t marry someone if I figured this was the kind of marriage I would be getting into. If I did end up in this situation, I would try to make the best of it and would probably not leave if I were treated with a certain level of respect. But I would do my best not to end up in such a situation if at all possible and I would try to avoid someone with a lot of previous sexual partners because in my experience this would make it more likely that such a situation would arise.

    Don’t ask don’t tell marriages were quite common among the aristocracy in an era of arranged marriages which were essentially business arrangements but have never really worked well where the couple married for love. One look at the disintegration of the Don & Betty marriage on Mad Men would illustrate this. Betty is completely eaten up about the whole thing.

  26. ASDF August 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I meant girlfriends of strangers. None of the ladykillers that I know steal girls from their friends. Nor is it a common topic of conversation in the comments section of game blogs. Of all the cases I know of where a friend has moved in on another friend’s girl, there have been extenuating circumstances including, believe it or not, real feelings developing.

  27. sdaedalus August 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Well, that is not as bad as I thought then. But I still think you won’t get too many virgins of 7 or over willing to go into either a harem or a don’t ask don’t tell type situation. If you’re going to take a girl’s virginity, do you feel you owe it to her to tell her what she’s getting into?

  28. ASDF August 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    The beauty of the “don’t ask don’t tell” arrangement is that there’s no asking or telling! duh! But seriously, it’s all a moot point since I’m nowhere near engaged. Maybe with the love of a good woman I will turn into Ward Cleaver. At any rate, if my future wife does her job in the bedroom properly, I won’t be able to have an affair even if I wanted to.

  29. Cane Caldo August 19, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    For me the problem with Game is two-fold.

    1) There is way too much emphasis on the “hindbrain” business. Put me down now as someone who thinks evo-psych has a limited life as a serious pursuit. Separating the genetic influences from environmental or temporal ones is too complicated a formula. While I’m at it: true AI won’t happen either. I’m a rebel.

    2)(And this is related) Game makes most sense in a sin/fallen-world scenario than within a framework of secular philosophy and pseudo-science. That means that an acceptance of the wages is in order, and how those That’s why I like Roissy. He has managed to glean that truth even though he has a public face of atheism. I would bet money he grew up not only Christian, but Methodist or Episcopalian.

  30. Cane Caldo August 19, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

    Whoops. I edited myself too hard. It should read

    ‘…That means that an acceptance of the wages is in order, and how different–and different kinds of–deaths affect our lives. That’s why I like Roissy…”

  31. sdaedalus August 20, 2010 at 1:20 am #

    The beauty of the “don’t ask don’t tell” arrangement is that there’s no asking or telling


    @Cane Caldo
    There’s certainly a religious background there.

    I think the hindbrain explains why a lot of women act irrationally round men. Not necessarily in terms of dropping their knickers on sight (I think the so-called universal power of Game in this regard is a bit exaggerated, some women just do not do one-night stands though they can acknowledge the temptation) but in terms of LTRs, why we pick people for LTRs even though they are bad candidates for them, why we stay in bad LTRS when we should walk & so forth.

    I would agree about the sin/fallen world scenario. I’ve said this before, but I have a grandmother who says Roissy reminds her of the local parish priest who preached that all women were whores & all men beasts while this was still fashionable. He was subsequently retired early.

    I would also agree that sex & death are often related in the Roissysphere, maybe generally. It’s not for nothing the French talk about le petit mort.

  32. Aunt Haley August 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    I feel like I read somewhere that Roissy was raised Catholic.

  33. jack August 20, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    One of my favorite bands – The Squirrel Nut Zippers had a song called “All the Boys are Monsters, All the Girls are Whores.

    To a jaded individual, this would have the ring of truth to it. Absent being saved, perhaps it is true.

  34. ASDF August 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Being saved just means that you feel guilty about your monstrous thoughts.

  35. Cane Caldo August 25, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    Case in point: One evo-psych author versus another. The conjecture by both is annoying.

    Those old ghosts Revelation and Tradition are so much more useful.

  36. Jennifer August 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Anna, WHY would you call Gilbert a beta??

    “Perceval Dalrymple”. *snort*

    You know, the idea of a reformed rake is partly why so many women want rakes.

    “Put me down now as someone who thinks evo-psych has a limited life as a serious pursuit. Separating the genetic influences from environmental or temporal ones is too complicated a formula. While I’m at it: true AI won’t happen either. I’m a rebel.”

    True, but if you have a problem with Game, why would you like Roissy? He has nailed some things, about women being drawn to nasty men. This indeed is a Biblical truth: :He shall rule over you”..


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