OF THE BABY NAME IRENE
Irene Adler is a character in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, and appears in the 1891 story, A Scandal in Bohemia, as well as being mentioned in several others. Irene has the exalted position of being a woman whom Holmes admires – no small feat, indeed. Born in New Jersey, Irene has a successful career as an opera singer and also has an affair with the King of Bohemia before retiring to London in her late twenties. The king describes her as “the most beautiful of women” with “the mind of the most resolute of men”, which surely must be the highest praise possible for women of the 19th century. Nonetheless, all this fine feeling does not stop the king, on the eve of his marriage to another, from hiring Holmes to recoup a compromising photograph of him and Irene. We are happy to report that our Irene out-foxes the great Holmes himself, earning her his undying admiration. Not only that, Irene does not hand over the picture, but she promises not to use it against the king as long as he does not try any more dirty tricks such as this. She has our admiration as well – way to go, Irene!
Irene is a character in John Galsworthy’s series of novels in The Forsyte Saga, published between 1906 and 1921. The novels follow the fortunes of an upper-middle-class British family, and have been made into several cinematic adaptations. Soames Forsyte is a self-described “man of property”, and this property includes, in his view, his beautiful wife, Irene. Although his possessions bring him little happiness, this does not stop Forsyte from accumulating more and more, or from obsessing over what he has. To this end, Forsyte seeks to isolate the lovely Irene by erecting a magnificent house in the country for her, keeping her away from all she knows and holds dear. In a neat piece of irony, Irene falls in love with the architect Soames has hired to design her fortress. Soames, in a rage, rapes Irene, who leaves him, and the architect, crazed over the rape, dies in an accident. As the saga continues, Irene forms a platonic friendship with Soames’ older cousin, the family patriarch, Old Jolyon, who leaves her money upon his death. She then spurns Soames’ entreaties to bear him a child and enters into an affair with and marries the elder cousin’s son, Young Jolyon, by whom she does have a child, Jon, and finally achieves happiness. Irene is a perfect example of women in a time when they could be almost literally bought and sold, held chattel by men and looked upon as no more than breeding machines. That she broke free of these chains, albeit at great price, is a tribute to all the Irenes of her time.