I’m enjoying my book for the Newbery Through the Decades challenge, Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs, so much. This little vignette from the beginning of the book about Abba May’s (Louisa May Alcott’s mother’s) great aunt is just delightful:
She was the great-aunt of Abba May’s, this Madame Dorothy Quincy Scott, and she did not go by any such informal title as made use of her first name. Not Aunt Dorothy–perish the idea–nor Aunt Scott, but Aunt Hancock, from the name of her famous first husband. She had married, when very young, that John Hancock whose bold signature leads the list of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. She was a bride when the Revolution was breaking out and was mistress of the Executive Mansion when her husband became the first Governor of Massachusetts. A picturesque gentleman he was, courageous, extravagant, patriotic, and formidable, a man of great presence, coming to preside over the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in a crimson velvet suit and plumed hat, setting the first strong hand to the management of a new and turbulent commonwealth. Dorothy was a spirited wife and upheld the grandeur of her position in good part.
The trials and troubles of launching a new country were not long over when John Hancock died. His wife married again; but within the family at least, the name of James Scott never seemed to eclipse the first title, and she was always Aunt Hancock. She lived to a great age and was the grand figure of the whole family relationship. When it was reported that her great-niece Abba May was engaged to marry a schoolmaster, she issued an impressive summons that the young man should be brought to dine with her. She liked to be kind, but to be so in a splendid and autocratic manner.
Joyous, yet perfectly respectful, was Bronson’s description of how she received them in great state, sitting in her big chair as though it were a throne. She entertained them with reminiscences of her great days when she was the Governor’s lady on Beacon Hill, and dropped hints to Bronson that he should be properly impressed with the nature of the grand alliance he was about to make. As they went in to dinner, she rated the servants for being slow; she announced that she always began dinner with pudding, since she did not like the foolish new fashion of pudding at the end. She carved the great round of beef herself, because “Governor Hancock’s wrist was lame and she had fallen into the habit of carving while at the Mansion.” (26-27)
This whole thing just makes me smile. 🙂