Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Holidays!

I'll be taking a break from blogging until after the New Year. I'm not sure whether some of the others will pop in or not; I do know that some of them have huge piles of marking to wade through before the end of term.

When I was looking for an online Christmas romance, I found one by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin. Her The Romance of a Christmas Card was published in 1916 and demonstrates the miracles that can be worked by three pious women and two Christmas cards. Wiggin's A Cathedral Courtship is an earlier work, an epistolary short story, and with lines like the following, I'm really not sure how seriously one is supposed to take it:
'I witnessed the somewhat unusual spectacle of my nut-brown mayde hopping on one foot, like a divine stork'
They certainly don't write heroines like this one anymore, who can say in what appears to be all seriousness that
It is certainly very queer that the stupidest man that breathes, one that barely escapes idiocy, can disentangle a railway guide, when the brightest woman fails. [...] I do affirm that there is hardly any juncture in life where one isn't better off for having a man about.
She describes the hero thus: 'Mr. Copley has accomplished something, young as he is. He has built three picturesque suburban churches suitable for weddings, and a state lunatic asylum.' Our heroine, according to Mr Copley, is
the concentrated essence of feminine witchery. Intuition strong, logic weak, and the two qualities so balanced as to produce an indefinable charm; will-power large, but docility equal, if a man is clever enough to know how to manage her; knowledge of facts absolutely nil, but she is exquisitely intelligent in spite of it. She has a way of evading, escaping, eluding, and then gives you an intoxicating hint of sudden and complete surrender. She is divinely innocent, but roguishness saves her from insipidity.
Hope you're all saved from insipidity during the holidays too, but hopefully not because you've lost all sense of logic, knowledge of facts and the ability to read a train timetable.


  1. For some reason Laura, I thought immediately that the railway guide was like a road map. One of those things that just naturally tangles and stays tangled in my hands.
    Oh, and are we sure a woman wrote this?

  2. It's definitely a timetable, not a map. The full quotation is:

    I can't even grapple with the lesser intricacies of the A B C railway guide. The trains, so far as I can see, always arrive before they go out, and I can never tell whether to read up the page or down. It is certainly very queer that the stupidest man that breathes, one that barely escapes idiocy, can disentangle a railway guide, when the brightest woman fails. Even the Boots at the inn in Wells took my book, and, rubbing his frightfully dirty finger down the row of puzzling figures, found the place in a minute, and said, "There ye are, miss." It is very humiliating.(this page)

    Kate Douglas Wiggins was a woman. You can see a picture of her, and a longer biography, here. She wrote many novels and articles, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica 'led the kindergarten education movement in the United States' and, according to the biography I mentioned earlier, was 'vice President of the New York Kindergarten Association for a number of years, honoured for her service in 1912'. Like I said, though, I'm not sure how serious Wiggins is being here - it is an epistolary short story (the hero and heroine are either writing letters or diary entries), and the quotation comes from one of the letters/entries written by the heroine, who does seem to be a particularly silly young woman, so I don't think we can assume that Wiggins herself would have thought that all women were incapable of understanding a train timetable.