Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More from "Old Christmas": The Officer & the Young Lady

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Susan reporting:

We're returning to the Christmas dance at Bracebridge Hall c. 1820 as described by Washington Irving in "Old Christmas" (from The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.) Irving might have been an American observer, but this almost sounds like the beginning to a Jane Austen story....

"The most interesting couple in the dance was a young officer and a ward of the Squire's, a beautiful blushing girl of seventeen. From several shy glances which I had noticed in the course of the evening, I suspected there was a little kindness growing up between them; and, indeed, the young soldier was just the hero to captivate a romantic girl. He was tall, slender, and handsome, and like most young British officers of late years, had picked up various small accomplishments on the Continent –– he could talk French and Italian –– draw landscapes, sing very tolerably –– dance divinely; but, above all, he had been wounded at Waterloo: –– what girl of seventeen, well read in poetry and romance, could resist such a mirror of chivalry and perfection!

"The moment the dance was over, he caught up a guitar, and lolling against the old marble fireplace, in an attitude which I am half inclined to suspect was studied, began the little French air of The Troubadour. The Squire, however, exclaimed against having anything on Christmas Eve but good old English; upon which the young minstrel, casting up
his eye for a moment as if in an effort of memory, struck into another strain, and, with a charming air of gallantry, gave Herrick's Night-Piece to Julia...

"The song might have been intended to compliment the fair Julia, for so I found his partner was called, or it might not; she, however, was certainly unconscious of any such application, for she never looked at the singer, but kept her eyes cast upon the floor. Her face was suffused, it is true, with a beautiful blush, and there was a gentle heaving of the bosom, but all that was doubtless caused by the exercise of the dance; indeed, so great was her indifference that she was amusing herself with plucking to pieces a choice bouquet of hothouse
flowers, and by the time the song was concluded, the nosegay lay in ruins on the floor...."

Illustrations from "Old Christmas" by Randolph Caldecott, 1875.


Vanessa Kelly said...

It's so romantic! Not only is he truly accomplished, he's a war hero!

Jenny Girl said...

How romantic?! Gentlemen in uniform always enchant us ladies no matter what the time period is. Happy holidays Ladies :)

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

It IS romantic! I only hope that the officer managed a way to lead the young lady under the mistletoe that night. :)

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