ellen performances

Today’s highlights in my ongoing project to read through and transcribe the letters of Rachel (a wealthy Victorian girl at boarding school on the East Coast in the 1890s) include…

  • Rachel’s cousin Will and his Yale roommate Allen both have the measles. Rachel shows limited sympathy (”Poor boy!”), before immediately mocking them and calling them “childish” for getting a disease only little kids get.
  • Rachel and her roommate “B” (It stands for Bertha!) attempted to steal a sign (what sort idk) from a fair they went to but found they “were carefully guarded”. She wishes Will could have been there to help.
  • Will has a crush on a girl named Jenny, who Rachel knows, and is constantly asking Rachel if Jenny has mentioned him.
  • “B” often sits next to Rachel as she writes and suggests things to add to the letter or just generally distracts her.
  • Will and Jack, who are brothers, don’t write to each other. They write to Rachel and tell her to write to the other and pass on a message for them. Rachel keeps asking why they do this, but goes along with it anyways.
  • Rachel always explains why there are ink blots or areas of sloppy writing in her letters. Explanations so far include such classics as: the dinner bell just rang, it’s after lights-out and I’m writing this in the dark, “B” is shaking my arm, “B” is kissing me, this pen is broken, the postman is almost here, and there was a bee.
  • For her 18th birthday Rachel received: a new Kodak camera, eighteen white rosebuds, silver manicure scissors, a pair of shell side combs, a silver pencil, and a vase of pink roses. However her favorite present was from her father who wrote to say she could just buy her own present and he would pay for it.
  • Rachel is always mentioning the pictures she takes with her Kodak. I wish I knew what happened to them. 
  • In addition to Calvé, Marlowe and Sothern, Rachel has now also gone to see performances by Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, John Philip Sousa, Ignacy Jan Paderewski (playing the piano, not governing Poland), and freaking Sarah Bernhardt! 
  • Rachel likes to put question marks in the middle of sentences to denote sarcasm; i.e. “I am very ? sorry for you.” and “Men were not excluded and we had the pleasure ? of meeting several.”
  • Your 1890s slang word of the day: “squelch” (verb) - to be lectured or punished for something. Example: “I expect to be squelched unmercifully by mama and papa.”  Can also be used as a noun as in: “This term we have had nothing but squelches.”
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