Sunday, September 22, 2013


22 September
1832 [New York]

Went into a shop to order a pair of shoes.  The shopkeepers in this place with whom I have hitherto had to deal, are either condescendingly familiar, or insolently indifferent in their manner.  Your washerwoman sits down before you, while you are standing speaking to her; and a shop-boy bringing things for your inspection, not only sits down, but keeps his hat on in your drawing room.  The worthy man to whom I went for my shoes was so amazingly ungracious, that at first I thought I would go out of the shop; but recollecting that I should probably only go farther and fare worse, I gulped, sat down and was measured.

     All this is bad; it has its origins in a vulgar misapprehension, which confounds ill breeding with independence, and leads people to fancy that they elevate themselves above their condition by discharging its duties and obligations discourteously.

Note:  I suspect we have all felt what Miss Fanny Kemble (1809-1893), the legendary English stage actress and memoirist, describes with such passion and precision. I know I do daily, every time I pick up the phone and suffer an unbidden, anonymous marketing and sales hectorer addressing me by my first name and thinking that by dismissing me of my privacy and dignity he gains an advantage.  No. I am heading north, toward the Big Sky.  Some day I’ll be free.  I won’t care.  Just wait and see.  Till that day can be.  No mind. Nevermind. 

Upper:  Thomas Sully, Portrait of Fanny Kemble, 1834.

Lower:  Eric Dadswell, Fanny Kemble II, from Girl (Comic) Annual, 1958.

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