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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Advice from the distant past

The Girl's Own Paper


As a child, I inherited a battered annual of The Girl's Own Paper, published in 1885 by The "Leisure Hour" Office, 56, Paternoster Row, London. 

I'm not sure at all of its provenance.  In the front it has the inscription "Nellie Phillips, With Mrs. Westenra's best wishes, Xmas 1890," so perhaps Nellie was in service (as they used to say in those days), and perhaps she was my grandmother's aunt, or great-aunt, because as far as I know my grandmother did not have a sister Nellie. What I do know is that the annual has been loved by four or five generations of small girls, who took turns in their time to color in the pictures.

Nowadays, it provides a great deal of entertainment, as well as a glimpse into the world of young women a very long time ago.  There is a column that is particularly interesting, being "Answers to Correspondents."  The letters are not quoted, so you have to guess what was being asked from the reply given, an exercise that can be very amusing indeed.

Today's samples:

PUG DOG:-- "Cards may be frosted with pounded glass.  Beware how to leave it about, as it may be mistaken for sugar."  

A budding murderess, perhaps?

HELEN ADAIR:-- "Of course, you cannot sell your cards as original if you copy them."

Aha, pirating existed even in those days...

L.A.P.:-- "You would require a special knife to cut the picture mounts, and we doubt your attempt being satisfactory."

Well, how encouraging is that!

TEMPUS FUGIT and HOPEFUL:-- "The 26th January, 1873, was a Sunday. Nelson was greatest as a naval and Wellington as a military commander. They cannot be compared one against the other. Horatia and her husband are dead: their children are living. Private families cannot be subjects of remark in a public paper."

Tell that to the paparazzi!

A.B.C.:-- "You subjected yourself to the caprices of a stranger in a most reckless and undignified way. When that person presumed to address you, you should have taken no notice and walked on, and if there happened to be any natural reason to excuse such presumption on the part of a stranger you should have declined walking with him, unless on a proper introduction, as your family had not the pleasure of his acquaintance.  We are shocked to hear that your family know nothing about it. You should never walk out with any man without the permission of your mother.  It is a gross act of impropriety and ignoring of parental authority. If this man desired your acquaintance he should have set about it in the proper way, and obtained an introduction, acting opening, and not taking advantage of your ignorance of common propriety, and forcing his acquaintance on you clandestinely."

7 comments:

Shayne Parkinson said...

Those are great, Joan! Especially the purse-lipped scolding in the last one.

If the family concerned was in New Zealand, it's possible to do some narrowing down via the RGO online indexes. I found a Nellie Phillips born 1880, daughter of Mary and Walter - though of course "your" Nellie may have been registered as Ellen or similar (there are several Ellens).

Dale said...

Obviously, L.A.P. was asking for the best method of stealing the Mona Lisa....

Joan Druett said...
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Joan Druett said...

Love the comments. I particularly liked the matter of fact attitude to ground glass. My grandmother was known as Sis, so I guess her name was Agnes, but who knows? And, I wonder, was Mrs Westenra. And why was the annual five years old before it was given to Nellie? Perhaps New Zealand was five years out of touch with the world at the time...

Joan Druett said...
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Joan Druett said...
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Joan Druett said...

My iPad went nuts and published my little rejoinder five times. The damn gadget is taking on a personality!