'How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare that after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.' No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some amusement. — from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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September 22, 2010

From my reading: Polite Conversation in the Gilded Age


Mrs.Stuyvesant Fish ('Mamie')


Once, one of Alva Vanderbilt's overnight guests had been so careless with his cigarette smoking in bed that he left her exquisite linens spotted with burn holes. When told of this by a distraught maid, Alva ordered that the expensive sheets be mended with the coarsest thread that could be found, and placed on the gentleman's bed in this state the next time he visited. After an uncomfortable night, the guest pulled Alva aside and said, 'I think I ought to tell you that your linen is not being taken care of as it should be. You ought really to see the sheets on my bed.'

'Ah,  yes, those sheets!' Alva told her guest. 'You're quite right. Those are the sheets you burned holes in with your cigarettes. I had them darned especially for your use.'

-- Chapter 12, 'The Unseen Armies'

.  .  .

Bedecked in an array of all this splendor, with exquisite piece piled on exquisite piece in an effort to dazzle, Cornelia Bradley-Martin, declared the society magazine Town Topics, was 'so ablaze with diamonds from head to toe that she looked like a dumpy lighthouse.'
-- Chapter 14, 'Jewelry'

.  .  .

Invitations to Mamie's parties and dinners were widely sought after, although she rarely evinced any pleasure in entertaining her guests ... Greeting one set of arrivals, she declared, 'Make yourselves perfectly at home, and believe me, there is no one who wishes you were there more heartily than do I!'

-- Chapter 7, 'The Society Lady'

From A Season of Splendour:  The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York, by Greg King.

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