It was a la mode then. When Victoria married a German prince (they appear to have been available by the dozens then), marriages between the British and the Germans became fashionable, as did the learning of German language. So Thackeray, the son of a former Collector of Calcutta and the future author of Vanity Fair, was sent to Weimar to learn the language. There, a very pretty girl, named Amalia, lived near the coaching centre. And, according to Thackeray, he and all the boys in the Centre were in love with her. He used, later, to talk about her to his two daughters and when they visited Weimar, he showed them her house, though she had married by then and gone away from the town. However, some years later, he did come across her in Venice. He saw her name on the guest list of the hotel he was staying in and asked a waiter to point her out to him, which the waiter did. It was a fat woman, accompanied by a fat child. They were eating eggs. Thackerays daughters encouraged him to speak to her. But he did not find the strength to do so. The woman and the child left the room upon finishing the meal. If I should meet thee, After long years, How should I greet thee? With silence and tears. Byron. If he had married her when they were young, she would still have grown fat but his sight would have kept pace with her growing weight. The culprit was not she but the independence of time in relation to humans. Anyway, if one has loved a woman deeply, he does not cease loving her if she becomes deformed, even of her own volition. Kabhi na chain say rahnay diya tamanna nay, Kharab-o-khasta main iss dil ki arzoo say hua. No one blames Venus for being unfaithful to Vulcan as she did not choose him. Neither is she held responsible for the death of Adonis because even mythological stories have a certain moral framework. They are based on some law, however hazy, for human conduct. Therefore to demand that a woman, once adored, preserve her appearance so the youthful admiration she had once evoked in the now aging admirer is not offended, is to deny her right to decide on her own appearance. Amalia, one imagines, had had enough of admiring glances. Now she just wanted to enjoy her meals. In our tales before the coming of the modern short story, the young prince (apparently, only the princes and princesses fell in love then), who was usually not more than 15, fell for the good looks and the maquillage of the princess, not caring if she had any intelligence, if she could cook or sew. In Suroors Fasana-i-Ajaib, one of the two heroines, Anjuman Ara, though she likes Jan-e-Alam, is hesitant to marry him since he comes from another country about which she knows nothing. Her mother, in persuading her to agree to the match, does not address the questions bothering her daughter. She, instead, says that the daughter is born to leave the parental house. In fact, it is dishonourable for the father to retain a grown-up daughter, even though he be a king. At the end, she added that Jan-e-Alam was good-looking. So, Thackeray should have been thankful he was born in a civilised country and not in a cesspool of decaying feudalism. Anyway, as any good Stoic would tell him, the thought, the memory of a beautiful young Amalia should have sufficed to keep him happy, whatever she grew up into later. The writer is a former ambassador.