Sunday, March 5, 2017

On this day in 1886

Florence Earle Coates pre-1894
A reception is held at the Penn Club in Philadelphia in honor of French author Madamme Henri Gréville.  Florence Earle Coates is in attendance.  In the Philadelphia Inquirer society pages, on May 13th, 1894, Marianna F. McCann writes the following descriptive piece about an encounter she had with Mrs. Coates during the reception:

As a special act of indulgence the writer was taken as a very young girl to a reception given in Philadelphia at the old rooms of the "Penn Club," in honor of Madame Henri Gréville [most likely the reception which occurred on March 5th, 1886]; and there she met one who impressed her far more deeply than did the plump little author of "Dosia," [La Fille de Dosia (1876)] with her velvet frock and too-tight kid gloves. I was completely captivated by a tall, slender woman, with a luminously white face, great black eyes, and a patrician way of moving about. I was presented, and when she spoke to me I was strangely stirred by a voice deep and vibrative with feeling. That voice would have made the fortune of a tragic actress—by which I do not mean at all that it was "grief-charged." There were splendid diamonds in her ears and very splendid eyes in her head; and I know I tried to decide which were more dazzling—the little cut balls of crystallized carbon or those dark orbs, prismatically so beautiful and yet warm with soul. I did not then think to ask myself if she were beautiful, for the possessor of the splendid eyes seemed to exhale wit, sentiment and eloquence as easily as the rose does perfume or the child innocence. Her conversation was perfectly delightful and not a little bewildering. Later on, I confided my enraptured impression of this fascinating woman to a very ancient and clever old lady; in my enthusiasm I made free use of the personal pronouns "she" and "her," quite omitting to be more definite. "O, ho," she broke in before I had half finished my eulogy, "you've been talking with Florence Earle Coates. She can write a fine poem, but she does not stop at that—she is one." Mrs. Coates is the very incarnation of contradiction. The action of her life is cast along the lines of conventional routine; but the hidden and real existence of the woman is carried on miles beyond and above all material concerns, in the pure ether of the poet's realm. She will shut herself up with the "wide-eyed muse" to round a sonnet of majestic reach, or she will merge into the gay world, the laces of a duchess about her, precious stones at her throat and glowing roses on her breast, there to dazzle all listeners with her conversation, in which bon mot, persiflage, eloquence and philosophy are interwoven. She is a "fine lady," and yet her poetry is never tainted by "fine ladyism." She is a blue stocking, but with none of the unlovely signs of bluestockingism about her. Another woman with Mrs. Coates' voice, mobile face, and evident histrionic instinct would have dashed away front the conventional life and sought vent for the "tempest within" in the mimic world of the stage, but Mrs. Coates is mistress of a perfectly ordered home. Mrs. Coates is a Yankee of the Yankees. On three sides she is descended from the founders of New England, one of her anscestors being one of the five companions of Roger Williams when he commenced the settlement of Providence. She is also a great-niece of General Anthony Wayne.—Marianna F. McCann

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