J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, October 05, 2012

A Defense of New England “Courtship”

In 1793 the Herald of the United States of Warren, Rhode Island, ran the “Circulating Letter to Bundling Females” ascribed to “The Reformed Bundler,” which I quoted yesterday.

A couple of weeks later, in the 1 June issue, printer Nathaniel Phillips (1756-1832), a Boston native who once worked for Isaiah Thomas, ran a response from “Modestia.” That writer identified herself as one of the newspaper’s “Female Readers” and said:
Courtship, or an intimate correspondence with Gentlemen of liberal and honourable sentiments, stimulated by principles of generosity, and conducted by the rules of decency, forms the mind to virtue, and renders an agreeable harmony, collected by the friendly hand of social acquaintance, and promoted by a universal coalescence in the order of nature; while it refines and meliorates that unpolished refractory spirit, and animates the torpid stupor which keeps the different sexes at a distance.

In what attitude the objects of this charming confederation is placed while assembling the endearing faculties of the soul; or what shall be the particular topic of their conversation I shall leave to their discretion to digest who are to act on this Hymenial stage—and leave the Reformed Bundler to triumph in the halo of his stupendous performance—esteeming his directions and counsels, with his torrent of frightful ideas, as regardless as the dying howls of a wretched hermit suffocated in his own filth.

While I am writing this, MOLL BELIAGRE and IRIS THORNBACK, accompanied by a Female-Man, part of their own species (who had been graduated at a BROTHEL) are trumpeting thro’ the street, the eclat of the Reformed Bundler, in adulation of his superlative genius, by which horrid clarion I was just about to consume my piece had not AMANTIAE and the CHAST DIANA entered my chamber, giving it their approbation—whose virtuous hearts can affix energy to every innocent Female Composition.
Well, that took a turn toward the nasty halfway through, didn’t it? Since the essay from “The Reformed Bundler” had first appeared in a newspaper in New Hampshire, its author probably didn’t see that response. But someone local did.

TOMORROW: A good old-fashioned flame war.


Anonymous said...

This bundling discussion is a wonderful series of blogs. I'm curious about the title of the engraving, "The Jelly-House Maccaroni" -- what on Earth does it mean? Of course, Yankee Doodle has the line about sticking a feather in his hat and calling it Macaroni, and I have read that this refers to an exclusive London club by that name, as if the country rube could ape his betters with a feather in his cap and be as elegant as someone at the club. But what's a Jelly House? And is the Macaroni story true? -- Joe Bauman

J. L. Bell said...

That engraving is from London in 1772, so it’s separated from this Rhode Island essay by twenty years and three thousand miles. But thematically it seemed like a good match.

“Macaroni” was eighteenth-century British slang for very fashionable Italian styles, and then for a very fashionable young man dressing in those styles—the sort who might be called a fop, a dandy, or a metrosexual, depending on the era. When Yankee Doodle put a feather in his cap and called it macaroni, the song was either making fun of him for having such a provincial sense of style or showing him making fun of metropolitan macaronis.

As for the “jelly-house,” sexual-slang expert Gordon Williams says that in the late 1700s such restaurants developed a reputation for being sites of “lust and liquor.” In the 1766 farce Neck or Nothing, a bawdy woman is said to have “lived at a Jelly-house.”