Life In New York City: Random Gossip 1885 #6

NO GREATER SOCIAL CONTRAST could possibly be planned than that which came about by chance last Thursday night. Two of the most fashionable houses in town were occupied by assemblages of dancers. One was the residence of Mrs. William Astor, wherein was crowded that portion of New York people who regard themselves and are generally regarded as constituting "our best society." The entertainment was given in honor of Miss Marion Langdon, and it had all the qualities deemed most desirable on such resplendent occasions. There was even less of the too demonstrative conviviality on the part of those young fellows who, at the former private balls this Winter, have drunk too recklessly of the champagne and grabbed too hoggishly at the free cigars. Mrs. Astor instituted something of a reform in this sad matter by furnishing the great supper room with tiny tables, at which the ladies sat for refreshment and were served by the men. This device kept the former offenders employed during the time of eating and drinking and in the restraining presence of femininity. There were no temperance influences at the other ball which I have mentioned. On the wicked contrary, everything possible was done to encourage inebriety. I have said that the house of this second congregation was fashionable, and so it is, if occupancy as a rule by very polite and wealthy folks is enough to make it so, for it is the Academy of Music, home of Italian opera in New York. But the directors ask no questions of anybody who comes along with $1,200 with which to pay the rental for a night; and the tenant this time was the keeper of the infamous Prospect Garden, who brought together in a masquerade the lowest wretches in town and such men as cared to look on the indecencies.

LORD GARMOYLE WAS ONE OF MRS. ASTOR'S guests. it is difficult to write much about New York's ultra fashionable sociability without mentioning Lord Garmoyle once more, so constant and unique is his participation. His aristocratic standing in England was a sufficient passport for entry into circles which purport to be difficult of access, and he receives five times the invitations which time and his personal slowness permit him to accept. But he is somewhere or other every night; and the odd fact is that, while his sycophants hug him they make wry faces over his s shoulder. In plain terms, he is an object of ridicule. The American instinct of humor cannot be wholly suppressed by an acquired taste for titled Britons. At the clubs too, he is a welcome visitor; and yet it was in the wealthiest and largest of them, the Union League that he was practically joked in the neatest and most artistic manner. He sat there in a group of young fellows. close by lounged several hard headed old chaps, to whom he was a mild diversion. One of these was idly turning the pages of an illustrated book on architecture. "By heaven, that's the ugliest gargoyle I ever set eyes on," he suddenly exclaimed. Garmoyle was almost agitated and his companions turned red at the supposed criticism of M'Lud. But a subsequent reference to a dictionary has taught them that, though they may happen to be equally ugly, a gargoyle and a Garmoyle are not the same.

THE OPENING OF THE ATHLETIC CLUB'S NEW HOUSE was a brilliant ceremony, too. There was dancing, in which some of the girls who had members for waltzing partners must have felt as though they were in the arms of cast iron men worked by steam power, for it was natural that the cultivators of muscle should desire to illustrate their progress, and it was but once in a dozen turns that some of the lighter belles fairly rested their soles on the floor. And there were puny chaps, moreover, who, in imagination, arose to the brawn of the occasion and explained to their gentle friends the workings of the gymnastic machinery with a proprietary air which seemed to say: "I could astonish you by croaking the joints of that thing if I didn't think it impolite to show brute force in your presence."

HOW DO THESE ITALIANS AFFORD SO MUCH FOOD for so little money? I can enlighten you. The most careful purchaser I ever saw was a man in the great Washington Market. He was going from stall to stall, literally nosing out bargains in fish, flesh, fowl and vegetables. His sense of smell was his guide in making purchases. He sought things that were not yet in decay, but would be on the morrow. In that way he secured very low prices. The articles which he bought at half rates, or still lower, were those which the dealer would have lost altogether if not sold that day. The quantities purchased were considerable, and I was curious to know what was to be done with them. "He is the caterer for one of the table d'hote dinners," said the butcher of whom I inquired. "They buy mighty close, those fellows. They can't be fooled in the least. They can tell by sniffing at a turkey that it isn't tainted yet, but will be in a few hours; and having bought the fowl at a fraction of the market price for prime best, they get it cooked and down the throats of their customers before the process of rotting has time to fairly begin. it is the same way with all they buy. How else could they make any money?"

MR. CLEVELAND ENDED HIS VISIT TO TOWN with arduous hours of listening to the advice and information which, in accordance with his invitation published before he came, uncounted politicians have given to him. The entry of mere cranks was made difficult by Secretary Lamont, who received all callers in an anteroom and decided whether to let them go into the President elect's presence. Scenes of persistence, amounting often to altercation, have been almost incessant. But there was no hindrance to the man who, careless in manner and confident in speech, introduced himself tot he sentry as Senator Garland. If Lamont had known Garland he would have promptly excluded the chap as an impostor, for he did not in the remotest resemble that gentleman; but, as it was, the bogus Garland was politely ushered in. Once seated at Mr.. Cleveland's table he boldly declared himself to be no politician but the inventor of a machine for spirit telegraphy. His device consisted of a short telegraphic line, with the end for mortals running into an ordinary receiver, while the end for ghosts was attached to an apparatus by means of which invisible operators could send or get messages. He had drawings in a bulky roll, and he urgently invited Mr. Cleveland to go with him to see a model. What he desired was Government aid to bring out his invention. His talk was so wildly entertaining that he got full ten minutes of Mr.. Cleveland's time.

IN THE WAY OF THEATRICALS, we are admiring and ridiculing Booth and Barrett. Admiration is dominant, of course, but occasionally we have to laugh it their in tensest tragedy. We do this to Barrett, for instance, when he gallops, snorting like a frightened pony, as Cassius, from the scene of Caesar's death. It is absurd. As for Booth, for a moment in "The Apostate" he was guyed like any other actor who had suddenly become comical in the midst of intense emotion. It happened at a juncture when he thought he had fooled and cajoled the unwilling maiden to his purpose. Then she turned on him with new and unexpected disdain. He was crouching in an attitude of mingled cunning, expectation and exultation; but on hearing her adverse decision he sprang quite clear of the floor, grimaced frightfully and yelled "Damnation!" It was as though he had dropped a fifty pound weight by accident on his tenderest corn. The audience broke instantly into a roar of merriment.

Website: The History
Article Name: Life In New York City: Random Gossip 1885 #6
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle February 8, 1885
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