MusingMuso Posted February 22, 2011 Share Posted February 22, 2011 When I was over in America, (land of the free, so long as it isn't a prescription), I met some unlikely and hugely interesting people; among them a gay, born again Irish Bostonian catholic, who just had to be something of a one-off contradiction in terms. Apparently, he lectured in English Literature, as the Irish tend to do, and then stuff people full of James Joyce. Anyway, to turn a short story into a long one, this character told me a wonderful tale about a lady called Isobelle Stewart-Gardner, who was the somewhat eccentric wife of a multi-millionaire cotton magnate; Boston then being the centre for the American cotton-manufacturing trade. When her hubby dropped dead, she inherited a vast fortune, and being something of an aesthete, filled her home with priceless works of art by Raphael and numerous other masters. The former family home is now the Isobelle Stewart-Gardner museum in Boston.....been there, done it, bought the imported T-shirt. Apparently, she was born the wrong side of the sheets, and was nothing if not unconventional. She wore bright clothes at a time when the good ladies of Boston wore black. (Shades of Mark Twain's distain for convention). Not only was she spectacular in her choice of attire, she also had a pet cheetah which she led around on a diamond studded lead; regularly taking the animal with her when she went shopping in fashionable Boston. She would hand the lead to the manager of the shop on her arrival, and he probably kept a gun in his pocket just in case the cat decided to attack. In addition to this, she rode around Boston in a heavy and rather spectacular carriage, drawn by, (of all things), an elephant! Because she was stinking rich, people would ask her to donate to various worthy causes, and a high Episcopalian Church, (affectionately known locally as "Smokey Mary's"), was not slow to join the queue. So it was that she was invited to attend Mass and declare the fund-raising carnival open; the church knowing that she would write a cheque. Out came the elephant and heavy carriage, and off they trundled off to the carnival, if not the circus. Well, the church was not situated with elephants in mind, being at the top of a steep hill. Without convenient horse-troughs, poor old 'Nellie' perspired as it plodded up the hill, getting slower and slower on the way. It was fairly inevitable that Isobelle should arrive late, and although the parish priest had delayed things as much as possible,so that their principal guest could take her place in a specially reserved front pew for Mass, they had to proceed without her. Arriving to find a procession entering the church via the west-door, Isobelle Stewart-Gardner stepped quickly down from the carriage, held her hat and ran across to the west-door; blundering her way past the clergy, the choristers and the acolyte swinging burning incense in a thurible. In characteristic style, she stopped briefly and turned to the thurible swinging acolyte, robed in a cassock and cotter, saying loudly, "My, my honey child, that's just the most divine dress, but I think your handbag's on fire!" Well, I believe it to be true.....but then..... MM Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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