A little something else that turned up during the research for “Couchsachraga” . . . appears there here
“Back into the library and the Sir Walter Scott section. Two shelves and part of another. Must have everything he ever wrote, and three or four of each one.
Not a surprise. So many ladies loving ‘Ivanhoe’.
‘Saint Ronan’s Well’. All the copies of ‘Peveril of the Peak’ out. Miss Edgeworth’s ‘Leonora’ instead. Supposed to be a good read. Romantic but not going too far. Auntie’s kind of thing.
‘Bleak House’ for parlor reading. Mrs. Hentz’s ‘The Victim of Excitement’ for the underwear drawer.”
An excerpt, you understand. You can read it for real soon.
I have a few shelves of books of Southern history, mostly women’s history. I knew that those ladies read a lot whether they were isolated on their husbands’ plantations or in a house with a doctor or lawyer husband in Baltimore or Mobile. But I had no idea that there were records detailing what specific women had borrowed.
Right into the center of their lives, as it were. Amanda Cochran of Richmond, for example, reading nearly everything James Fenimore Cooper had written including probably a few he was trying to forget. Julia Benedict of New Orleans reading her way through Sir Walter Scott while obsessively looking at ‘Harper’s Weekly’ though how that would have kept anyone’s mind off the war in Virginia and the blockading navy ships out in the roads who can tell.
Maybe it’s just as well the author, Emily B. Todd, did her research in Richmond and New Orleans and not Baltimore. Not sure my great great great grandmother would want me to know what she was keeping in her underwear drawer when she wasn’t running her household chasing after my great great grandfather and his little brother in between dinner party planning.
This way Honora Bankhead Guest’s little secrets are safe . . ..
Clinton, Catherine. The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old South. New York City. Pantheon Books. 1984.
Todd, Emily B. Antebellum Libraries In Richmond and New Orleans and the Search for the Practices and Preferences of “Real” Readers. Research note. 2001. Online at journals.ku.edu. Also available at jstor.org and core.ac.uk/download/pdf/148649256.pdf Draws on microfilmed antebellum records of books borrowed by patrons of the Richmond Library, Richmond and the Lyceum and Literary Society, New Orleans.
The image being of one of the many editions of Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’. He sold well everywhere but especially well in the southern American states with a huge female following for women read most of the novels.
Image: via pinterest.com.
Oh to go back and be here.
The violinist playing the last few bars of a scene as whispers from the score of the end of act I of Saint Saens’ opera “Samson et Dalila” drift through. The thump of the parquet seats bouncing toward their seat backs and fans snapping open as ladies take their escorts’ arms and head towards the back of the theater heading towards the doors as the lights go up like moths to a brilliant flame. Couples from the loges grilles above filtering back toward the lobby stair. Ladies who are enceinte along with ones in mourning frocks and ladies of the evening in their garish satins escaping from their screened boxes way up towards the stage.
The interval having just begun and the next act in a bit. The champagne ladies almost done setting up.
Gentlemen’s lounge belching cigar smoke whenever the door opens. Ladies streaming into the lounge across the way in search of smelling salts and hoping for a gentler relace of their corset strings from the maid in the little curtained room in the back before they swoon.
A good visit with a friend and enough time for a second flute. A lady who must have had three waltzing in the corner with a gentleman who does not appear to be her husband judging by the kissing.
Another ten minutes and the lights dimming and rising again. Everyone dashing back and the morocco leather covered doors closed again with the last few arriving too late to be admitted and reduced to standing on tiptoe peeking through the windows towards the stage until the ushers take pity as the orchestra swells and the soprano’s next aria begins and let them in.
Image: French Opera house, Bourbon and Toulouse Streets, New Orleans, Louisiana. Built in 1859 it was destroyed in a 1919 fire. This is a view of the lobby. I found it on the Facebook page The New Orleans Culture but have only been able to trace it back to this website http://old-new-orleans.com/NO_French_Opera_2 which has other images of the opera house but with this being the only one of the lobby.