Sir Owen Asher
Sir Owen, seemingly a tall man, certainly above the medium height, was waiting for him in the passage. His thin figure was wrapped tightly in an overcoat, most of his face was concealed in the collar, and the pale gold coloured moustache showed in contrast to the dark brown fur. The face, wide across the forehead, acquired an accent in the pointed chin and strongly marked jaw. The straight nose was thin and well shaped in the nostrils. ‚An attractive man of forty ‚ would be the criticism of a woman. Sir Owen’s attractiveness concentrated in his sparkling eyes and his manner, which was at once courteous and manly.
The baronet’s evening clothes were too well cut for those of a poet, a designer of wall paper, or a journalist, and his hands were too white and well cared for at the nails. His hair was pale brown, curling a little at the ends, and carefully brushed and looking as if it had been freshened by some faintest application of perfumed essence. Three pearl studs fastened his shirt front, and his necktie was tied in a butterfly bow. He displayed some of the nonchalant ease which wealth and position create.
From the beginning his ideas and tastes had been superior to those of a merely fashionable man. At five-and-twenty he had purchased a Gainsborough, and at thirty he had spent a large sum of money in exhuming some sonatas of Bach from the dust in which they were lying. At three-and-thirty he had wrecked the career of a fashionable soprano by inspiring her with the belief that she might become a great singer, a great artist ; at five-and-thirty Bayreuth and its world of musical culture and ideas had interested him in spite of his unconquerable aversion to long hair and dirty hands. After some association with geniuses he withdrew from the art-world, confessing himself unable to bear the society of those who did not dress for dinner ; but while repudiating, he continued to spy the art-world from a distance. An audience is, however, necessary to a cello player, and the Turf Club and the Royal Yacht Club contained not a dozen members, he said, who would recognise the Heroica Symphony if they happened to hear it, which was not likely.
So in his revolt against the habitual pleasures and ideas of his class, Sir Owen became more explanatory of that class than if he had acquiesced in the usual ignorance of GBP 20,000 a year. To the ordinary eye he was merely the conventional standard of the English upper classes, but more intimate observation revealed the slight glaze of Bohemianism which natural inclination and many adventures in that land had left upon him.
She noted his fastidious dress, the mauve necktie, the perfectly fitting morning coat buttoned across the chest, the yellow-brown trousers, and the long laced boots, half of patent and half of tan coloured leather.
He judged it necessary to dissemble, and he advanced the theory which he always made use of on these occasions — that women were more capricious than men, that so far as his experience counted for anything, he had invariably been thrown over. The object of this theory was two-fold. It impressed his listener with an idea of his fidelity, which was essential if she were a woman. It also suggested that he had inspired a large number of caprices, thereby he gratified his vanity and inspired hope in the lady that as a lover he would prove equal to her desire. It also helped to establish the moral atmosphere in which an intrigue might develop. His dealings with women had always been conducted with the same honour that characterised his dealings on the turf.
Owen’s appearance was distasteful to Ulick – the varnished boots, the turned-up trousers, though the day was dry, the large shirt cuffs, the scarf pin, and some few other suggestions of careful dressing annoyed Ulick, and he wondered how a man could waste so much time on his appearance.
From: George Moore: Evelyn Innes (1898) and Sister Teresa (1901).