Archive for October, 2011

Elsie’s Widowhood (book #118)

24 October 2011

Martha Finley. No date in my edition, wch looks as if it might be 1920s, but the book was first published in 1880. It’s online.

There is a frontispiece, wch is graphically very dull I think but amusingly and interestingly* shows Elsie sitting on the beach in full mourning. Presumably people did have to do this. I can’t scan it at the moment but will do. *I have Show-not-Tell Fail.

Here’s a description of tea-time before Elsie’s husband dies:

It had been wont to be a time of glad, free, cheerful, often mirthful intercourse between parents and children; no rude and noisy hilarity, but the most enjoyable social converse and interchange of thought and feeling, in which the young people, while showing the most perfect respect and deference to their parents, and un-selfish consideration for each other, were yet under no galling constraint, but might ask questions and give free expression to their opinions, if they wished ; and were indeed encouraged to do so.

Doesn’t it sound terrible?

Here’s Elsie’s son Edward before going to college:

Mother,” he said, ” I think I have a pretty clear idea of some of the temptations of college life: doubtless there are always a good many idle, profane, drinking, dissolute fellows among the students, but it does not seem possible that I shall ever find pleasure in the society of such.

Impossible not to think Prig. When he comes back from college, you’ll be glad to hear that Elsie takes one look at him and knows “that I can believe my boy has come back to me as pure and innocent as he went!”.

I like Mr Embury falling for Molly Percival (who I think is Elsie’s father’s half-brother’s daughter, but I may be wrong) because she is a “cripple”:

“Your very helplessness draws me to you and makes you doubly dear. I want to take care of you, my poor child. I want to make up your loss to you as far as my love and sympathy can; to make your life bright and happy in spite of your terrible trial. … Your love, dear girl, and the blessed privilege of taking care of you, are all I ask, all I want … “

Can we say co-dependency? Also I think it’s odd that he brings his daughters to the proposal, but keeps them out of sight (behind a bush?) until she’s accepted:

“You will be mine? my own dear wife? a sweet mother to my darlings. I have brought them with me, that their beauty and sweetness, their pretty innocent ways, may plead my cause with you, for I know that you love little children.” He was gone before she could reply, and the next moment was at her side again, bearing in his arms two lovely little creatures of three and five.

Speaking of children, this is random, though admittedly from a non-Christian (=bad person): ‘”the heat and threats of yellow fever drove us North. I scattered the younger children about among other relatives, leaving several at your house, Adelaide”‘.

In the second half of the book Elsie’s son and daughter live in a cottage with some friends and do their own housekeeping. There are some interesting menus. Violet is planning

“potatoes, (sweet)corn, beans, tomats (sic – this is dialect from a boy bringing the groceries), cabbage, lettuce, and young beets … ” … “There’s a chicken all ready for the oven – cousin showed me how to make the stuffing and all that. I’ve engaged fresh fish and oysters – they’ll be coming in directly. I shall make an oyster pie and broil the fish. I mean to make a boiled pudding and sauce for dessert, and have bought nuts, raisins and almonds, oranges, bananas and candies besides, and engaged ice cream and cake.” … (they also have) the lettuce, the cold-slaw and bread and butter … the tarts

It turns out that Vi can’t cook well enough, her timings all go wrong (I sympathise) and some of the food is inedible. Elsie has foreseen this (you would have to kill her) and sent a hamper of “a pair of cold roast fowls, a boiled tongue, pickles, jellies, pies and cakes in variety”.