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British Aristocrats on American Women, ca. 1890

15 June 2009

A conversation from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, between Lord Henry Wotton and Lord George Fermor: 

“It is rather fashionable to marry Americans just now, Uncle George.”

“I’ll back English women against the world, Harry,” said Lord Fermor, striking the table with his fist.

“The betting is on the Americans.”

“They don’t last, I am told,” muttered his uncle.

“A long engagement exhausts them, but they are capital at a steeplechase.  They take things flying.  I don’t think Dartmoor has a chance.”

“Who are her people?” grumbled the old gentleman.  “Has she got any?”

Lord Henry shook his head.  “American girls are as clever at concealing their parents, as English women are at concealing their past,” he said, rising to go.

“They are pork-packers, I suppose?”

“I hope so, Uncle George, for Dartmoor’s sake.  I am told that pork-packing is the most lucrative profession in America, after politics.” 

“Is she pretty?”

“She behaves as is she was beautiful.  Most American women do.  It is the secret of their charm.”

“Why can’t these American women stay in their own country?  They are always telling us that it is the paradise for women?”

“It is.  That is the reason why, like Eve, they are so excessively anxious to get out of it,” said Lord Henry.

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