Thursday, March 29, 2012

My First Years as a Frenchwoman- by Mary Alsop King Waddington

Free US/UK Kindle Classic
My First Years as a Frenchwoman
by Mary Alsop King Waddington
My First Years as a Frenchwoman, 1876-1879 by Mary Alsop King Waddington is a 1914 memoir with such a curious title, that it caught my attention. (US Edition)  (UK EditionLet’s dive right in, as she does:
I was astonished at the way the mistress of the house mentioned my name every time she spoke to me: "Madame Waddington, êtes-vous allée à l'Opéra hier soir," "Madame Waddington, vous montez à cheval tous les matins, je crois," "Monsieur Waddington va tous les vendredis à l'Institut, il me semble," etc. I was rather surprised and said to W. when I got home, "How curious it is, that way of saying one's name all the time; I suppose it is an old-fashioned French custom. Madame de B. must have said 'Waddington' twenty times during my rather short visit." He was much amused. "Don't you know why? So that all the people might know who you were and not say awful things about the 'infecte gouvernement' and the Republic, 'which no gentleman could serve.'"
 [Footnote 1: "W.," here and throughout this book, refers to Madame Waddington's husband, M. William Waddington.]
You see this book is not only entertaining, but the footnotes are interspersed with the text and easily accessible.

Waddington is an American whose French husband is a diplomat.  That does not, however, make her a diplomat!
The position of the German Embassy in Paris was very difficult, and unfortunately their first ambassador after the war, Count Arnim, didn't understand (perhaps didn't care to) how difficult it was for a high-spirited nation [France], which until then had always ranked as a great military power, to accept her humiliation and be just to the victorious adversary. Arnim was an unfortunate appointment—not at all the man for such a delicate situation.  .  . He was a thorough man of the world, could make himself charming when he chose, but he never had a pleasant manner, was curt, arrogant, with a very strong sense of his own superiority. From the first moment he came to Paris as ambassador, he put people's backs up. They never liked him, never trusted him; whenever he had an unpleasant communication to make, he exaggerated the unpleasantness, never attenuated, and there is so much in the way things are said.

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