From Aurora Leigh:

To have our books
Appraised by love, associated with love,
While we sit loveless! is it hard, you think?
At least 'tis mournful. Fame, indeed, 'twas said,
Means simply love. It was a man said that.
And then there's love and love: the love of all
(To risk, in turn, a woman's paradox,)
Is but a small thing to the love of one.
You bid a hungry child be satisfied
With a heritage of many corn-fields: nay,
He says he's hungry,–he would rather have
That little barley-cake you keep from him
While reckoning up his harvests. So with us;
(Here, Romney, too, we fail to generalise!)
We're hungry.

I wonder what the meaning of the phrase in bold could be. It must be an allusion to some paradox or some story, or some saying, mustn't it?

1 Answer 1


The OED says:

paradox, n. 2. a. An apparently absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition, or a strongly counter-intuitive one, which investigation, analysis, or explanation may nevertheless prove to be well-founded or true.

The paradox in this case is in the surrounding lines:

the love of all […] Is but a small thing to the love of one.

This is counter-intuitive because all would seem to be greater than one. But in context the love of all refers to the adulation of readers for a famous writer:

To have our books Appraised by love […] Fame, indeed, 'twas said, Means simply love.

while the love of one refers to the love of a child for his mother (hence a woman's paradox).

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