A Keepsake

Ms_101845.4It only measures 3-3/8” tall and 2” wide and has a gold stamp on the front and back cover. It is one of the latest additions to the CHS collection. The title is A Story for the Beautiful and it is inscribed “For Mary from Mary” and Hartford, 1845. The binding may be an example of Allen S. Stillman’s work, a Hartford binder.

A Story for the Beautiful was actually written by N.P. Willis and published in The New Monthly Magazine in 1839. What caught my fancy was the first paragraph in which the author states:

It is a conceded point that an author may chose his readers. The devout are separately addressed, so are the political, so are the scientific, so are the rich and the poor, so are the learned and unlearned. I address myself to the beautiful! Stop here plain reader! This tale is not for you!

Now, I don’t tend to think of myself as plain, so I kept reading. What follows is a story of true love denied and then found again, a classic tale. Two young English aristocrats, Elinor and Everard, are born in close proximity, both geographically and in time. They are destined for each other but separated by their parents for ten years. When Elinor comes back from being educated at a French convent, she blushes when she meets her strikingly handsome old childhood friend. Everard takes it as an affront (she is childish) as does she (he brushed her off!), and they are both despondent.

Everard takes off for Constantinople where he falls in love with an Egyptian princess (of course). In the meantime, Elinor is visiting the Mediterranean with a friend and receives a letter to the effect that her mother and Everard’s father are to wed! Now she and Everard will be brother and sister, so they cannot marry each other!

Long story short, Elinor gets her revenge by playing the Egyptian princess and then breaking his heart when she runs away because he failed a “test” to show he was “high born”. It is only when they are re-united as “brother and sister” in Malta does Everard discover the truth. As with all true love stories, the two young people do get married (their parents did not marry after all) and, I suppose, lived happily ever after.

In this version, a young lady named Mary transcribed the story in beautiful, tiny handwriting. She numbered her chapters differently (she added one), and she includes a quote or verse at the beginning of each chapter, making it “her” story. Maybe both Mary’s were hoping for true love, just like Elinor in the story.

I am, I admit, a romantic. This tale reminds me of some of Shakespeare’s plays with scenes of mistaken identity, or the novels of Edith Wharton. It also reminds me a bit of the “Epic poem” I posted about here before. I guess I should admit that I am an incurable romantic!

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