Treated Rather like Mr Darcy?

August 8, 2010 at 9:54 am (books, entertainment) (, , , , , )

Yesterday, I was reading Sophie du Pont: A Young Lady in America (since posting about it a couple weeks ago, I found a copy — great condition and a perfect dust jacket — at Monroe Street Books in Middlebury last weekend… So the library copy has been quickly returned) and came across this letter extract that I simply have to share! Enjoy —

“I have a laughable story of a partner of hers at Phillips ball…. In the midst of the dance, he exclaims ‘excuse me ma’am’ & darts off, leaving Ella petrified, not knowing what to do, & the whole set put out till John Phillips rushed forward & took his place — He reappeared at the end of the set but made no apol:y to Ella & avoided her all the rest of the evening. Every one pronounced him the rudest of bears [underlined TWICE!]”

Now comes the explanation, which sets the common thought of those dancers on its head:

“–Now the explanation of the whole matter ‘has come to light.’ … It appears, in the first efforts to dance, his suspenders gave way entirely and he was obliged to hold up his pantaloons, the descent of which you will allow, would have been distressing — (for himself & spectators)  His excuse to Ella was necessarily abrupt & he hurried to the door, which being much crowded at that moment, his further retreat was impeded — In this dilemma he felt some one pulling his suspenders, which had found their way down, & turning round he beheld little Caroline Phillips, who exclaimed aloud, ‘What is this!’ “

I don’t know what struck me as funnier — the poor man’s embarrassing situation (as well the now “cleared” bear), or the little girl yanking his suspenders!

And this gives a taste of the comical turn young Sophie’s letters often take. Just an enjoyable book; wish someone published more of her correspondence!

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Wonderful Book, Wonderful Reading

July 30, 2010 at 9:04 am (books) (, , , , , )

I am always on the hunt for new books relevant to this project — therefore, I am especially interested in published accounts of letters and diary and yes sketches.

It was great recently to be reintroduced to a book I had seen in the hands of a friend many years ago (the book even older: published in 1987!): Sophie du Pont: A Young Lady in America – Sketches, Diaries, and Letters, 1823-1833.

Unlike what is currently known about the drawings of Fanny Smith Seymour (see previous post on her topographical drawings at Oxford University), little Sophie excelled in drawing “carics”, cartoons of her home-life — although, from the samples included here, her etymological and topographical drawings weren’t too shabby either!

In many ways, Sophie’s “topics of conversation” are oh so similar to the lovely drawings of Diana Sperling (her book: Mrs Hurst Dancing). And that is where the interest lies: even across the pond, life for Young Ladies was similar in so many ways! Bathing houses, log see-saws, shoes lost in squelching mud – Diana and Sophie both tell these tales of everyday.

The one thing that draws me into this book are the letters. Just the most comical turns of phrase one would ever hope to read! Sophie’s recipients were lucky indeed. If Jane Austen could write to Cassandra that her letters showed her to be one of the comic geniuses, then Jane would have loved corresponding with young Sophie (born in 1810, she lived until 1888).

Sophie’s age puts her right in line with the younger sisters of Mary and Emma — both (coincidentally) named Charlotte: Charlotte Gosling and Charlotte Smith. Charlotte Gosling, I now know, had a couple reasons for being named Charlotte: her mother was a Charlotte (the Hon. Charlotte de Grey) and her sponsor at her christening was another : Charlotte, the Queen of England.

Watch here for some samples!

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