Monday, 30 August 2021

what women will do next to distinguish themselves, we wonder!

Via the always diverting Messy Messy Chic’s internet meanderings, we are directed to an 1871 American newspaper article about a certain “female in Quebec, the other day, perpetrated a ghastly joke, mocking death in His own domain by lying down in a hearse and smoking a pipe” having engaged a driver and funeral carriage to parade her through the city and enjoy the view. Though hoping that the reporting was accurate and this unnamed individual continued to make a spectacle of herself, the story goes on to editorialise that had this exhibition been made in the United States “our neighbours to the north would have made it the subject of very strong animadversions.” This lovely word—which first leads to the eponymous antiprelatical tract from John Milton upon the “Remonstrants Defence Against Smectymnuus” (none of these words register)—comes from the Latin phrase animum advertere meaning to turn the mind towards but has come to mean the opposite in aversion, critical and censorious. Smectymnuus was the nom de plume of Puritan clergy—an initialism properly conjugated—for whom Milton wrote as an apologist and hoped to redeem in the eyes of detractors.