Primary Source Exercise
Compare the following newspaper columns by Mary to Mathilde’s letters, specifically to Fritz on August 20, 1860 and to her mother Elisabeth Giesler in January 1862.
Mary contributed lightly fictionalized vignettes about the experiences of Percy Anneke, Hertha Anneke, and Lili Booth to the children’s page of the Milwaukee Daily Life newspaper. She wrote under the penname Genoa Grey and called the children Percy Shelley, Lulu Bell, and Lillian May.
Consider the following questions:
1. Which do you think affects the difference between Mary and Mathilde’s depictions of Percy’s birthday most: the different perspectives of the two women, the different medium (letter vs. column for children), or the focus on children?
2. Do you get a different impression of specific individuals form Mary’s columns than you do from the letters in the book?
3. If a child in Milwaukee read the newspaper columns, what impression would they gain of Europe? What do you think Mathilde would think about that impression?
September 21, 1861
The History of Lillian May and Lulu Bell in Switzerland.
BY GENOA GREY.
Chap. 6—A Birthday in Bremen.
On Sunday morning, August 19, 1860, the steamer Bremen came to a perfect stand-still near Bremen Haven — there was no tide, so that it could not put into the Haven as usual. It waited there until noon and the children began to be very impatient to go on. Just as they had made up their minds that they could not wait any longer, a beautiful little steamer, whose name was “Roland,” came puffing alongside the ship, and took off the passengers for Bremen. It started slowly along, up the most charming river, whose banks were dotted with low-roofed moss-covered cottages; every now and then there were great wind-mills, whose enormous wheels went turning around in the air; there are no such mills in America. The children had never seen such tall and magnificent poplar trees as those upon the banks; a great many birds were hopping about among their branches, and goats were feeding upon the grass plats that sloped down to the river.
The children had no time to enjoy the lovely scenery very long, however, for just as they were passing a beautiful, brown moss-covered cottage, around which some children were playing—and one was riding on a little bit of a mule—they were called to come down stairs to have their dinner.
Percy Shelley soon became acquainted with a little boy about a dozen years old, whose father was proprietor of the “Hotel Bremen,” and he was very glad the family had decided to stop there; the hotel had been highly recommended to them by persons on board the ship, and was formerly an excellent house; it is at present unworthy of recommendation, owing to its extortionary prices, and bad management in general. The little boy, Conrad, was found to be the only really good and reliable person about the whole establishment.
The family were at least very fortunate in securing excellent rooms, from whose windows they had a charming prospect.—The children thought that many of the funny gabled houses looked “as though they had come right out of a picture-book,” and had been built for “great bird cages;” it was no wonder they thought so, for the mossy roofs of many of them were covered all over with swallows, doves, and other kinds of birds, and there were any quantity of birds’ nests partly hidden under the wide-spreading eaves of several houses in the vicinity.
They saw a great many soldiers parading in the streets with Roman helmets upon their heads. Lillian May asked her mother where their office was, and why they did not stay in it, and write for the newspapers, instead of making tableaux around the streets? She seemed to think they were a terrible lazy set of fellows, and she was about right.
The second day of their arrival in Bremen was the birth-day of Percy Shelley; he was ten years old. He did not think anything about its being his birthday when he awoke, so nobody said a word to him on the subject, and after breakfast his mother told him he might play with Conrad for awhile, while she took a walk with the rest of the family. There were a great many stores near by, so after looking about a little they bought a small canon, a trumpet, a knife, and two or three picture-books; they then returned, after having sat down on an in bench in a beautiful park, through which flowed a river, and watched the white swans sailing along as peacefully as could be upon its surface.
As they reached their hotel, they found Percy Shelly sitting upon a bench outside the door, talking with Conrad. His mother told him he need not be in any hurry about coming up stairs; he could wait there, and play around until he was called.
Conrad knew very well how to keep him; he understood what was going on, but he was wise enough not to say anything, or to act mysterious, as some boys might have done.
Percy Shelly’s mother had ordered a very early dinner. It was served in their own room, and in the most charming manner. The table was beautifully ornamented with flowers, and every napkin was encircled with a little wreath of rose buds, instead of a ring as is usual. All was ready at last, and Lillian May rang the bell; Conrad sprang up stairs in answer to its summons, and peeping into the room said in English, “all’s right” and bounded off again. He soon reappeared with Percy Shelley, and was delighted to witness his astonishment as he saw the little canon, and all the pretty things laid out upon the red-covered stand in the middle of the room. He then learned in this pleasant manner that it was his birthday. He was quite as much pleased with the nice dinner in his honor, as with the pretty presents. There were five courses, to all of which it is needless to say he did ample justice. Is there a boy on earth that would not? If such an one exist I do not believe he is to be found either in Europe or America. The little girls were especially pleased with the dessert of plums and pears—the yellowest little pears you ever saw.
After dinner a carriage drove up to the door, and they all got in, and drove about the city for several hours. They passed through a great many parks, where more than a hundred swans were sailing about in different ponds and rivers, but the children seemed to be most delighted with the flowers and vines around the windows of the houses; every house had its pretty balcony, always covered with flowers, so that the city presented the appearance of a beautiful garden. They have many pictures of all the wonderful places and things they then saw, which they will be happy to show to their little friends in America when they return.
Yesterday was Percy Shelley’s birth-day also. That was the second, as you will see, that he has had in Europe. He enjoyed himself very much indeed, and received many beautiful presents, among which was a cake sent him in the evening by the loveliest old lady whom we know in Switzerland. She is eighty one years old, and is very kind to all children. There were eleven small wax candles placed in the cake itself, and they burned out the eleven years very brilliantly.
He also received a charming crayon picture—an Alpine sketch from Mr. Snell, an artist neighbor, who has made many pretty pictures for the children. I shall tell you of their visit to Lulu Bell’s grandparents next time.
February 8, 1862
For the Daily Life.
Life of Lillian May and Lulu Bell in Switzerland.
BY GENOA GREY.
Chap. 21.—How the New Year Came.
Well! How do you suppose the New Year came? With sleigh-rides, and frozen ponds, icicles, and skates, sleds and nice slippery hills to slide down on? No! It brought none of these. No funny New Year’s addresses, and no turkeys for dinner —but hares instead. You have seen pictures of hares in story books, but you ever had any to eat, for there are none in America. Never mind, a turkey, or a chicken, or even a goose makes a much better New Year’s dinner in my opinion than a hare.
It was on the Sylvester evening —that is the last evening in the old year, and the eve of the New. It was just a week since Christmas eve. The Christmas tree was all aglow then, and the children thought, as I told you before, that the Christ-child had lighted it. They wondered what was going to come on the eve of the New Year. They did not expect it would bring them anything as the Christmas did; still they felt that something was going to come. They were invited to large party at the Young Ladies Seminary of Professor Kapp. The Christmas tree was going to be “plundered,” after having been lighted anew for the second time, and Madame Kapp and her daughters thought the children would like to be there. So they would have liked it, but their mothers thought it would be far better for them to go to bed and sleep.
Percy Bell, being a large boy, was allowed to go. He was taken in charge by the children’s especial friend, Mr. Snell, an artist, whose studio is in the northern wing of their house—a very kind man, who gives them drawing lessons, and tells them the most beautiful Alpine fairy stories. I shall tell you some of his pretty stories by-and-by.
You ought to have seen the nice things Mr. Snell and Percy Bell brought home for the children. They hid them all away very carefully, however, and did not say a word about it —until New Year’s evening, and then they hung them all on a charming little tree, lighted all over like a second Christmas pine. It stood on Mr. Snell’s studio table. The children were quite as delighted as they had been at Christmas. There was one funny little thing that seemed to please them more than others: it was a tiny steamboat ploughing about in the water of a wash bowl! Five small war tapers blazed up from its engine pipes. It really looked quite grand. Several whales, and other fish, and a flock of wild ducks swam after it. They all followed the course of a magnet held in the hand of one of the children.
The Countess Hirshfield, who gave the children such pretty “plays” at Christmas, said those ducks made her quite jealous for her birds, They need not, by any means; for we have seen nothing yet as beautiful as her bird plays. The children continued to like it better than all things[.]
It culd never fill the place of the handsome dolls in their little hearts. No playthings could. That would be impossible.
But I have not told you yet how the New Year came in.
The children’s mothers had gone to spend the Sylvester evening at the house of the German Poet, Herwegh – little Marzel’s father, as you may remember.
Mina was to put the children early to bed and so she did; but when the mothers returned at one o’clock —the New Year being just an hour old then, the first sound they heard was “I wish you a happy year!” They were sitting up in bed with their dolls in their arms. “We saw it com”; said Lulu Bell. “Yes,” said Lillian May, “and saw him too; he had a sword in his hand, and he swung it up over his head when he sang.” Sure enough, just as the hundred bells of the city, and upon the surrounding hills pealed forth in loud and gleeful welcome the incoming of the New Year, the children woke. They could not have slept on if they would. Minna put on their shoes, and wrapped them up in shawls, and told them to look out of the window There was a great fire blazing upon the Utli mountain, and the noise of thousands of feet trampling along in the street beneath their windows. Everybody was running into the city to wish each other a happy New Year in the public streets, and to hear the music of the many bands which were playing along the river, and upon the lake. Pretty soon the night watchman stopped in the street under their window with his sword in hand, ringing a farewell to the dear old year, and a welcome to the New. His voice was loud and strong, and all who heard him agreed with the children in thinking his beautiful New Year’s welcome “ought to have been in the papers, with a picture of himself beside it.”
On New Year’s morning, as the children’s mothers sat together drinking their coffee, the door opened, and Lillian May and Lulu Bell entered the room, hand in hand, singing the loveliest little song of greeting their mothers had ever heard. They had learned it two weeks before at school, of their singing teacher, Madame Beust, and had kept their pretty secret quite to themselves, so that the surprise they have their mothers was complete.