My Last Duchess 4 (Pages 156 – 166)



I have failed to mention Bertha, who is Cora’s personal maid. Bertha comes from the south and is black, and she knows she has a privileged position as a lady’s maid. In England she met Jim, who was a footman in Ivo’s household, and they liked each other.

Back in England she is surprised when she accompanies her lady to welcome the Duke and she sees Jim. Later when they are alone, Jim tells her that when the duke asked for a volunteer to be his valet, he jumped at the chance. Bertha is happy he is here, but she warns him that in America it is socially unacceptable for a man to court a black woman, so they need to be very careful.

Apart from this, Cora tells Bertha that since he arrived, Ivo has been very cold towards her, which is nothing like the way he behaved towards her in England. According to Cora, he couldn’t keep his hands off her, and now he has barely kissed her. Cora is very conflicted, and she confesses that when Teddy asked her to run away with him, she was tempted because of Ivo’s behaviour.

Mrs Cash also talks to Bertha, reminding her of her privileged position in the house, so if she doesn’t want to lose her job, she must tell her anything that afflicts and worries Cora.

So many conflicts in this book. I have the feeling that the wedding might not take place.


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