Posted on February 17, 2011
An Old Friend of Sir Walter’s
Mrs. Henry Adams, nee Marian ‘Clover’ Hooper is said to be the inspiration for Henry James’ Daisy Miller and Portait of a Lady. I may have to go out and read these books. Here’s an excerpt from a letter to her dad in 1879:
“”On Sunday we had a dinner of ten at the Gaskells’. One guest, a curious old Miss Mildmay, near eighty years I should judge, snow-white hair, partly age, partly powder; violet satin gown with black lace, and the ways of an old belle; bored with women, but rising to masculine devotion.
“Henry and Mr. Gaskell flirted madly with her after dinner, and I sat by to listen. She was very intimate with [Sir Walter] Scott, who had sent her a Dandie Dinmont from Abbotsford. Knew ‘Tommy’ [Sir Thomas] Moore, as she called him, by heart; had heard him sing all his songs.
“Had been an intimate of the Miss Berrys’ house [English authoress Mary Berry and her sister Alice, pals of Sir Horace Walpole], who had a light over their front door at their evenings when there were ‘too many women,’ as a beacon to others who might come. The ‘Elder Berry’ was very bright, but the younger ‘we called Gooseberry.’
“When a woman has been in fashionable society in London for sixty years, by proper handling one can get a good deal from her. As she left , she begged me in a most flattering manner to call on her in the morning ‘early’ — all of which was owing to Henry’s flirtatious insinuations, but I shall surely follow up the trail.”
Wait a minute. “Flirtatious insinuations” from Henry Adams? Have you ever read The Education of Henry Adams? This is the stodgiest, most boring guy who ever walked the earth. As I noted before, this book opens up a whole new page of history.