George and Mercy had an enviable marriage: George's friends at least were envious of his "southern belle," even if she was an intellectual. She wasn't a bitch, which many of them apparently considered their own wives. And since she didn't give herself airs either, despite her academic title, it only contributed all the more to George's reputation. Mercy's public display of hopelessness could only hurt that position. More than that, the first publication of his wife's creative efforts reminded him on some marginally acknowledged level of the things she had achieved and he had given up. Resentment made George particularly nasty.