This wonderful Pre-Civil War book is entitled “I Will Be A Lady”, and is authored by the renowned Louisa Caroline Tuthill. It was specifically written as a book for girls, and covers all sorts of etiquette situations in a conversational tone with Zephina as the main character. Often a book such as this was the only source of instruction and information with which to conduct oneself in social situations, and it is chock full of interesting tidbits that lend an insight into the Victorian age.
The Chapters include:
1. A Pleasant Welcome.
2. The Puzzling Word.
3. Zephina’s Mamma.
4. Girlish Correspondence.
5. Airs and Graces.
6. Friendly Suggestions.
7. Free and Easy.
8. The Bower.
9. Parting Tokens.
10. A Gentle Reproof.
11. An Unexpected Invitation.
12. The Journey.
13. City Acquaintances.
15. A Surprise.
16. A Friendly Visit.
17. Les Tableaux Vivants.
18. A Father’s Letter.
19. An Invalid.
20. Harriet Ann at Home.
21. An Awkward Acquaintance.
22. A Friend in Affliction.
23. Zephina’s. Grief.
25. An Intended Marriage.
26. The Future Mother-in-Law.
Tuthill was a master at story-telling, and incorporated etiquette and social situations into her verbiage, which was both entertaining, and easy for a young girl to read and comprehend. Here are some excerpts from the text below. Please excuse any typo’s as they were taken with an optical reader.
On Gathering Roses for Rosewater:
Mrs. Morris came to the door. " Beulah, my child," said she, " why do you cut so many flowers ? you know I want them for rose-water."
"You spared them this morning, mother, and told me 1 might have my apron-full ; see, it is only just full," replied Beulah, showing her heaped-up treasures ; " and you know, as the bushes were sent us by Mrs. Whately, it is no more than right that she should enjoy as many of the roses as she can. See, mother, how beautiful they are. I cannot think they were only made for rose-water, for we might have had that, and not a flower at all.' "
"You are a queer child, Beulah, a very queer child. And what are you going to do with the roses”
"Ornament the white room, the nice spare chamber, for Mrs. Whately," replied the little girl.
"And be laughed at, as a silly little country- girl, for your pains," said the mother.
Beulah could not think so. "The lady would not have sent them so far for a present," said she, "if she did not love roses."
"She knew they were good for rose-water ; — but follow your own notion," said Mrs. Morris.
While Beulah flew to the spare chamber to arrange the roses, Mrs. Morris spread her suppertable; — cold ham stood in friendly nearness to sweetmeats, and pickles kept their sourness to themselves by the side of cakes and pies ; the broiled chickens, toast, and hot potatoes waited for the arrival of the visitor.
" Squire Morris's cousin, I said, mamma, and she had none of the fixed-up look that I do so abominate. Please give me something to wear besides this old trumpery, — these old silk dresses and Madge Wildfire bonnets."
" I wish I had known before that there was such a lady visiting at the farm-house," said Mrs. Fanshaw, without taking any notice of her daughter's request. " Cannot you make some excuse to call again and find out something more about her?
" No, mamma ; I cannot degrade myself by such meanness ; — they are kind-hearted excellent people ; — - the nice old Squire ; I love him dearly. I did not say the fine woman that I saw there was a lady ; — you know I never call people that I like ladies."
" O Zephina, you have such shockingly low tastes," in a piteous tone whined Mrs. Fanshaw. " I do not know what will become of you ; I think T shall call on the lady myself."
" You, mamma ! why should you ? "
" Why, if her equipage is so splendid as you say it is, she must be somebody." was the reply.
" If it is the carriage and horses that you respect so much, you can call upon them at the tavern, for there is where 1 saw them," said Zephina.
" You are a very provoking girl, Zephina, and I can never make you understand these things."
" mamma, excuse my impertinence ; I know it is wrong, but indeed I do see too plainly into the ways of the world ; — I am old before my time."
Mrs. Fanshaw made no reply, but went to array herself to call on the stranger.
The style of Mrs. Fanshaw's dress somewhat resembled that of Zephina, though the materials were not of such undeniable antiquity. The satin shoes, with which she saw fit to make her way among the stones, had to suffer; and her long veil, floating far behind her, caught repeatedly upon the briers by the road-side. From her sallow complexion, and the expression of discontent and affectation upon her countenance, one would have judged that the pure sources of health and happiness were lost to her ; — that face it was painful to behold.
On Airs and Graces:
The tall, thin girl, with China-blue eyes, was dressed in a bright pink merino, and her winter bonnet, with red feathers, though it was June, — because the country folks would not know but that was the city fashion.
As soon as Zephina saw Medad and Beulah, she said, " There are some acquaintances of mine ; make your courtesy, Harriet Ann."
And accordingly out went the foot for a long slide, and all the rest just as Zephina described it, and down went the long, pink merino into the dust, leaving a dark border around it. Beulah could not refrain from smiling, and Medad's " Haw, haw, haw," might have been heard half a mile. But Miss Harriet Ann, quite delighted with herself, had not a suspicion of the cause, and stretching her long neck to its greatest extent, strutted off like a young turkey.
" What a pretty garding ! " she exclaimed. " Was that a young gent'man at the window ? I was n't quite certin, but I thought I saw one ? "
" Poor girl ! it 's too bad to laugh at her," said Beulah ; " she did her very best."
" No doubt of that ; and 't was worth a dollar to see this," replied Medad, giving a faithful imitation of the courtesy as he left the room.
On The Bower:
" I do, indeed ; but yet I think, Zephina, you ought to have been more anxious to please your mother."
" I was anxious to please her, but then I never took the right way. I believe I was born for the country, for I have a natural love of it, and I never cared for the balls, concerts, theatres, and parties, to which mamma always took me. Then I hated flattery, because I had a genuine love of truth. I do not remember ever to have told but one falsehood in my life, and of that I am even at this time so much ashamed, I can't bear to think of it. When I was about ten years old, the gentlemen who visited at our house talked to me a great deal, and I answered them with simple truth, in such a way, often, as to give of- fence ; and mamma scolded me, telling me I was dreadfully impolite.
" I remember once, in particular, a gentleman praised my beautiful natural curls, as he called them, and, soon after, asked me if I did not like him. ' No, Sir, I do not like you,' I answered. ; Why not ? ' he asked, in the most coaxing tone. 'Because, Sir, you do not tell the truth.' 'That is a great accusation for a little lady to make. What have I said that was untrue ? ' he inquired. I told him he knew very well that my curls were not natural, for they had just been taken out of papers, and were as stiff as wires. He laughed heartily, telling me that I would never do for a fashionable lady, — I was altogether too honest.
The story is just wonderful, with Zephina the main character, weaving her little life in and out of others’ lives. The text definitely delineates how folks couched their language in Pre-Civil War times, and shows social norms and convections we are not aware of today.
This hardbound, taupe brown cloth-covered book has an embossed design on BOTH sides, and the title in gilt on the spine. The spine also has more gilt embellishments. It is in remarkable condition, the cover boards in VG condition with almost no wear to the board tips and spine. The inside flyleaf page has a previous owner’s inscription and a small label from its original sale. The text pages are clean and tight, with no writing on them. It is truly an amazing book, about 170 pages. It measures aprox 4 x 6.5 inches.
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