Monday, December 29, 2008

A 100-Year-Old Grand Entrance...and A Grand Passion

We're reviving a tradition, established when we lived in Virginia, of throwing a Twelfth Night Party, complete with a community reading of Mr. Shakespeare's play (abridged by yours truly). As is also my tradition, I've been doing research on Twelfth Night, and found some fascinating nuggets in the NY Times online archives.

One article, dated 108 years ago today, details a gala reception held by the Twelfth Night Club (the women's answer to The Players) in honor of actress Sarah Bernhardt, scheduled for 3 till 6pm the previous day:
...elaborate preparations were made...There were many decorations, flowers, and a prettily set tea table...[but] for a long time the divine Sarah did not appear....It was after 5 o'clock and only the very hungriest of the guests had ventured to take a cup of tea, when a genuine message came: 'Tell the ladies to wait. I am on the way.'

...and suddenly there was a flutter of black and white, a whisk like the passing of a breeze...It was Sarah herself, picturesque in her big black hat, her black chinchilla-edged coat thrown back, from a beautiful gown of white, with roses and orchids on her breast, looking young [ha! she was 63 with a bum knee], animated, and altogether charming. The club gave her an ovation....while Bernhardt beamed ecstatically. "I zank you wis all my heart," she said.
The article immediately below it was just as interesting. Under the headline, "Divorce for Robert Graves: Court Order Gives Wall Paper Manufacturer Custody of His Child," we learn:
The domestic troubles which led to the divorce began when Mrs. [Charlotte De Grasse] Graves met J. Hamilton Jaffray, Jr., of Yonkers. He called frequently on the Graves home, at Irvington, until warned to keep away.

Mr. Graves sold the Irvington property and came to New York City to live. His wife still met Mr. Jaffray, and the divorce proceedings followed....Mr. Jaffray proclaimed his willingness to marry Mrs. Graves should the Court set her free from her husband; declaring that she was a woman of whom any man might feel proud.
Here's the odd thing: I went to high school in Irvington, and had a friend there who lived in Jaffray Park. I wonder whether J. Hamilton moved there with the ex-Mrs. Graves; or maybe he was a frequent caller in Irvington because he had family close by.

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