Holley, Marietta: Primary Sources
MARIETTA HOLLEY: PRIMARY SOURCES
MARIETTA HOLLEY (ESSAY DATE 1906)
SOURCE: Holley, Marietta. "'A Male Magdalene,' from Samantha vs. Josiah. "In The Oxford Book of Women's Writing, edited by Linda Wagner-Martin and Cathy N. Davidson, pp. 56-62. London: Oxford University Press, 1995.
In the following excerpt, originally published in 1906 in her Samantha vs. Josiah, Being the Story of a Borrowed Automobile and What Came of It, Holley addresses the issue of the double sexual standard.
I attended a beautiful party yesterday; it wuz a anniversary, and carried on regardless of style and expense. Over seven wuz invited, besides the happy folks who gin the party. And the cookin' wuz, I do almost believe, as good as my own. That's dretful high praise, but Miss Chawgo deserves it. It wuz to celebrate their weddin' day, which occurred the year before at half past two, and dinner wuz on the table at exactly that hour.
There wuz Josiah and me, Miss Bizer Kipp and Lophemia, she that wuz Submit Tewksbury, and her husband, and Widder Bassett and her baby. That made a little over seven; the baby hadn't ort to count so high as a adult. The party wuz all in high sperits, and all dressed well and looked well, though Miss Bassett whispered to me that Miss Kipp had flammed out a little too much.
She wuz very dressy in a pink flowered shally with lots of ribbins kinder floatin', but she felt and said that she wuz celebratin' a very auspicious occasion with very dear friends, which made us lenitent to her. Weddin' anniversaries are now and agin happy and agreeable, and the male party here, Nelt Chawgo, how much! how much that young man had to be thankful for! yes indeed!
And Id'no but I might jest as well tell about it now as any time while in history's pages the gay party is settin' 'round the bountifully spread table.
I'll make the story short as possible. Most three years ago we had a new arrival in Jonesville, a young grocery man by the name of Nelson Chawgo; the young folks all called him Nelt. He bought out old uncle Simon Pettigrew, his good will and bizness, though so fur as the good will went I wouldn't paid a cent fur it, or not more than a cent, anyway. Uncle Sime abused his wife, wuz clost as the bark to a tree, and some mentioned the word "sand" in connection with his sugar, and "peas" with his coffee, and etcetery, etcetery. But his bizness wuz what might be called first rate; he had laid up money and retired triumphant at seventy-one.
But to resoom. Uncle Sime Pettigrew's place of bizness wuz a handsome one, a new brick block with stun granite trimmin's, some stained glass over the doors and winders, and everything else it needed for comfort and respectability. He had a big stock of goods and whoever bought 'em and set up bizness in that handsome new block would have been looked up to even if he had been an old man with a bald head, rumatiz and a wooden leg.
But when it wuz a young, handsome, unmarried man, you may imagin he made a sensation to once, and he wuz as handsome a chap as you would often see, light completed with sort o' melancholy blue eyes and curly brown hair and mustash.
The Jonesvillians and Loontowners went into ecstacies over him the first day he appeared in meetin', he wuz so beautiful. They acted fairly foolish; they praised him up so and wuz so enthusiastick. But it is my way to keep calmer and more demute. I will try to restrain my emotions if I have to tie a string to 'em and haul 'em back if I find 'em liable to go too fur. I never could bear anybody or anything that slopped over, from a oriter to a kettle of maple syrup, and I kep' holt of my faculties and common sense in this case, and several of the sisters in the meetin'-house got mad as hens at me, and importuned me sharp as to why I didn't go into spazzums of admiration over him.
And I sez, "He is sweet-lookin', I can't deny that, but there is a kinder weak and waverin' expression to his face that would cause me anxiety if I wuz his Ma."
But when I promulgated these idees to the other sistern, sister Bizer Kipp especially, she most took my head off. She said his face wuz "Bea-utiful, just perfection."
But I still repeated what I had said in a megum tone, and with my most megumest mean, but I agreed with her in a handsome way that Nelt wuz what would be called very, very sweet and win-some, and would be apt to attract female attention and be sought after. And so he wuz. As days rolled on he grew to be the rage in Jonesville, a he-belle, as you may say. Groceries lay in piles on wimmen's buttery shelves and sickness wuz rampant, caused by a too free use of raisins and cinnamon and all-spice. They are too dryin'.
And still the wimmen flocked to his counters as if they couldn't buy enough stuff, and they priced peanuts, and got samples of cast-steel soap, and acted. No place of amusement wuz considered agreeable or endurable without Nelt Chawgo; no party wuz gin without his name stood first on the list, and when he got there he wuz surrounded by a host of the fair sect showerin' attention on him, anxious to win a smile from him.
He wuz doin' dretful well in bizness, and doin' well in morals so fur as I knew. He wuz payin' attention in a sort of a languid, half-hearted way, to Lophemia Kipp. She wuz a pretty girl, sister Kipp's only child. It wuz very pleasin' to her Ma. Folks thought she wuz the one that had brought it about; she acted so triumphant and big feelin' about it, and told everybody how active Nelt wuz in the meetin'-house, and how well he wuz doin' in bizness, and how strong and stimulatin' his tea and coffee wuz.
Folks thought, as I say, that she had more to do about his payin' attention to Lophemia than she did, fur it wuz thought that she had gin her heart to young Jim Carter, old lawyer Carter's youngest boy. He had gone west on a ranch, and it wuz spozed he carried her heart with him. It wuz known he carried her picture, took standin', with a smile on the pretty lips and a happy glow in the eyes, rousted up it wuz spozed by young Jim himself. He went with her to the photographer's; that wuz known, too. Miss Kipp had boasted a sight about him, his good looks and his good bizness and his attentions to Lophemia till Nelt come.
Sister Kipp hain't megum, she is one of the too enthusiastick ones whose motto is not "Love me little love me long," but "Love me a immense quantity in a short time." It stands to reason that if the stream is over rapid the pond will run out sooner; if the stream meanders slow and stiddy, it will last longer.
Well, 'tennyrate she wuz all took up with Nelt Chawgo, and praisin' him us as she had to the very skies you may imagin my feelin's when one day she fairly bust into my settin'-room, out of breath and red in the face, and sez: "I've discovered the dretfulest thing! the awfulest, the most harrowin'! Nelt Chawgo, that young he-hussy, shall never enter my doors agin!"
"Whyee!" sez I, "what's the matter?"
Sez she, "He's a lost young man, a ruined feller!"
"Whyee!" sez I agin, and I sunk right down in my tracts in a rockin'-chair, she havin' sunken down in one opposite; and sez I, "I hain't mistrusted it. He has acted modest and moral; I can't believe it!"
"But it is so," sez she. "He has been ruined. Angerose Wilds, a dashin' young woman up in the town of Lyme, is responsible."
"I have hearn of her," sez I. "She had quite a lot of money left her, and is cuttin' a great swath."
"Well," sez sister Kipp, "she has deceived and ruined Nelt Chawgo, and then deserted him; it has all been proved out, and he shall never speak to Lophemia agin, the miserable outcaster!"
Well, I wuz dumbfoundered and horrowstruck like all the rest of Jonesville, but I, as my way is, made inquiries and investigations into the matter. And the next time I see Miss Kipp, and she begun to me awful about Nelt, runnin' him down all to nort, I sez to her, "I have found out some things that makes me feel more lenitent towards Nelson Chawgo."
Oh, how she glared at me. "Lenitent!" sez she, "I'd talk about lenity to that villian, that low ruined creeter!"
"Well," sez I, "I have inquired and found out that Angerose Wilds jest follered Nelt up with attentions and flatteries, and it is spozed up in Lyme that he wuz tempted and fell under a promise of marriage." And I spoke with considerable indignation about this woman who wuz beautiful and rich and holdin' her head high.
But Miss Kipp treated it light and sez: "Oh, young wimmen must sow their wild oats, and then they most always settle down and make the best of wives."
But agin I mentioned extenuatin' circumstances. Sez I, "Miss Wilds wuz noble and galliant in her bearin'; she wuz rich and handsome, and she turned his thoughtless head with her flatteries, and won his pure and unsophistocated heart, so it wuz like wax or putty in her designin' hands, and then at the last she turned her back on him and wouldn't have nothin' to say to him." But these mitigatin', extenuatin' circumstances didn't mitigate or extenuate a mite with Miss Kipp.
Sez she bitterly, "Couldn't he have repulsed her attentions? Couldn't he have kep' his manly modesty if he had been a mind to? Wuz there any need of his fallin' to the depths of infamy he sunk to? No, he is lost, he is ruined!" sez she.
Sez I, "Sister Kipp, don't talk so scornfully; don't say ruined," sez I. "Fall is a good word to use in such a case; folks can fall and git up agin—mebby he will. But ruined is a big word and a hard one; it don't carry any hope with it; it breathes of despair, agony and eternal loss."
"Well," sez she, "it ort to in his case. I shall draw my skirts away from him and go by on the other side. Before his ruin he wuz a sweet, lovely young man but now he is lost. I shall have nothin' to do with him, nor Lophemia shan't."
But I still tried to draw her attention to the facts I had promulgated that Miss Wilds, too, wuz not guiltless. But she wuz sot and wouldn't yield.
She said his sect wuz considered stronger-minded than our sect, with heftier brains and mightier wills, and so it stood to reason that if he wuz tempted by one of the weaker and more feather-brained, he could have saved himself and her, too, from ruin.
There wuz some sense in her talk, I had to admit that there wuz. But I kep' on wavin' my mantilly of charity as high as I could, hopin' that some of the folds, even if it wuzn't nothin' but the end of the tabs, might sort o' shadder Nelt a little, for he wuz indeed a object of pity.
And we couldn't none of us look ahead and see the thrillin' eppisode that wuz in front on him. No, a thick veil of despair seemed to hang down in front on him. And I didn't mistrust that it wuz my hands that wuz goin' to push that veil aside and let some rays lighten up the darkness. But more of that anon and bimeby.
When the news got out about Nelt Chawgo, Jonesville society wuz rent to its very twain. The two factions led on by Miss Kipp and Nelt's friends waged a fearful warfare, some jinin' one side and some the other.
Some on 'em, the old conservative ones, wuz for overlookin' the hull matter so fur as Nelt wuz concerned and throwin' the hull blame onto the female woman up to Lyme on the safe old ground, trod so long by the world at large, that he wuz a man and so such sin in him wuzn't a sin. It wuz sin in a woman, a deep and hopeless sin that forever barred the guilty one from the pail of respectable society.
But I held to the firm belief that if she carried the pail he ort to, and visey versey. My idee wuz that they ort to carry the pail between 'em. They said it wuz sin in the woman, a turrible and hopeless sin, but in him it wuzn't. It come under the head of wild oats, which when planted thick in youth and springin' up rank, prepared the ground for a rich after crop of moral graces.
This wuz old well-established doctrine that had been follered for years and years, so they felt it wuz safe.
But one night to a church sociable when Miss Kipp had brung the subject up and one of our foremost deacons, Deacon Henzy, wuz advancin' these idees, she that wuz Nancy Butterick, who had come to Jonesville to deliver a lecture in the interests of the W. C. T. U., she sassed Deacon Henzy right back and sez she:
"The idee of thinkin' that the same sin when committed by a man and a woman ort to be laid entirely onto the party that is in the law classed with lunaticks and idiots." Sez she, "That hain't good logic. If a woman is a fool she hadn't ort to be expected to have her brain tapped and run wisdom and morality, and if she is a lunatick she might be expected to cut up and act."
She wuz educated high, Nancy wuz, and knew a sight in the first place, as folks have to, to amount to much, for all education can do anyway is to sharpen the tools that folks use to hew their way through the wilderness of life.
Sez she, "The male sect is in the eyes of the Law the gardeens of females, and ort to act like gardeens to 'em and try to curb their folly and wickedness and restrain it instead of takin' advantage of it, and fallin' victims to their weakness."
Sez she, "When a oak tree falls it falls heavier than a creepin' vine, a creepin' up and hangin' to it, and it would be jest as sensible to lay the hull of the blame on the creeper for the fall of the oak, as to put the hull of the blame on the Lyme woman."
Why, she brung up lots of simelys that fairly bristled with eloquence, and Deacon Henzy sassed her back in his way of thinkin'; it wuz a sight to hear 'em talkin' pro and con.…
… I thought Jane Ann looked queer, but I went on and sez: "Oh, if that woman could look and see the wreck she has made of that once happy and good young man, it must be she would be struck with remorse. They say she is handsome and well off, and holds her head high, while her victim is dyin' under the contempt and scorn of the world. Nobody will associate with him. Why, my Josiah draws his pantaloons away from him for fear of the contamination of his touch. He's weighed down under the scorn of the world and his own remorse. He is ruined in his bizness, and he's goin' into the gallopin' consumption as fast as he can gallop."
Jane Ann gin me such a queer look here that I involuntary follered her gaze and looked at the handsome stranger. Her work had fell into her lap, her face wuz red as blood, and she busted into tears, sayin:
"I am Angerose Wilds! I am the guilty wretch that wuz the means of that sweet and innocent young creature's fall; I am the one to blame. But," sez she with her streamin' eyes lifted to mine, "I never realized until you brung it before me the extent of my crime, but I will atone for the evil as fur as I can. I will marry him and so do all I can to lift him up and make an honest man of him, and set him right in the eyes of the community. And," sez she, while the tears chased each other down her cheeks, "Poor Nelt! poor boy! how you have suffered; and I alone am the guilty cause!"
But here I interfered agin, held up by Justice and Duty. "Don't say, mom, that you alone are to blame; divide it into two bundles of guilt, take one on your own back and pack the other onto hisen. It hain't fair for one to bear it alone, male or female."
Josiah come that very minute and I had to bid them a hasty adoo. But the last words that galliant appearin' handsome woman whispered to me wuz: "I will make an honest man of him; I will marry him."
And if you'll believe it, she did. It all ended first rate, almost like a real novel story. It seems that woman wuz so smut with remorse when it wuz brought before her in a eloquent and forcible manner; and she realized the almost irreparable wrong she had committed aginst that lovely and innocent young man, she offered him the only reparation in her power; she offered him honorable marriage, which he accepted gladly, and they got married the next week, and he brought her to Jonesville the follerin' Monday, and they sot up housekeepin' in a handsome two-story-and-a-half house, and are doin' well and bid fair to make a respectable couple.
We buy the most of our groceries there; not all, for I am megum in groceries as well as in everything else. I buy some of the other grocer, not bein' willin' to hurt his fellin's, his wife bein' a member of the same meetin'-house. But Miss Kipp can't be megum any more than my own dear pardner can. She come 'round immegiate and unanimous, and said their marriage made 'em both all that could be desired. She buys all her groceries of him; she sez his tea is cheaper and takes a spunful less in a drawin'. But I don't believe it; I believe she steeps it longer. 'Tennyrate she bought of him all her fruit and candy and stuff for Lophemia Carter's weddin', which took place some time ago.
Well, this party I sot out to tell you about wuz to celebrate the first anniversary of the Chawgo and Wilds weddin', and wuz a joyful event.
After we got home Josiah wuz so nerved up (part on't wuz the strong coffee), that I had to read three truthful articles out of the scrap-book; he a settin' leanin back in his chair a listenin' and a makin' comments on each one on 'em as I finished readin' 'em.
His talk bein' some like the little pieces they play between songs, interludes, I believe they call 'em, only his talk wuzn't all the time melogious; no, indeed; fur from it. There wuz minor cords in it, and discords, and flats and sharps, yes indeed!