Friday, August 5, 2022

the last book I ever read (Andrew Holleran's Grief, excerpt five)

from Grief by Andrew Holleran:

In the way that books can take over your life, the letters of Mrs. Lincoln were starting to be the reference for everything I noticed. She was now in a hotel in Frankfurt. (“All the nobility stop here, counts, dukes & dutchesses abound in the house, and on my table, their cards are frequently laid. Yet in consideration of poor health & deep mourning, I have of course accepted no dinner invitations & have kept very quiet. Popp, the most charming of all dress makers, who received many orders from America, and makes for the royal family of Prussia & all the nobility, has just made me up some heavy mourning silks, richly trimmed with crape. The heaviest blk English Crape here, is only in our money $1.50 cts per yard, think of it! when in war times—I once gave, ten dollars per yard, for the heaviest!”) She seemed excited at first to be there. (“I like Frankfurt exceedingly, the true secret is, I suppose I am enjoying peace, which in my deepest, heart rending sorrow, I was not allowed, in my native land!”) But the note of anguish soon entered in. (“I find it quite as expensive here as in America & as I am urged by my physicians to proceed to Italy very soon—at least I expect to start about the 22d of January & remain until 1st April. That fearful, sorrowful month, will be spent very quietly here on my return.”) Finally the relief at having escaped the American newspapers’ criticism of her attempt to sell her clothes, her excitement at being in Europe, among aristocrats and superior couturiers, were spoiled by the demons she had brought with her: her fear that she could not afford the hotel or avoid people’s stares, her inconsolable grief, in which, dressed as she was (for the rest of her life) in mourning, it seemed she was trapped. The longer she remained in Frankfurt, the higher up, the further back, the smaller, the cheaper, the room was, till by the time her friend Mrs. Orne—a wealthy woman from Philadelphia who tried hard to get Mrs. Lincoln a pension from Congress—found her, she was living in what seemed to be a garret.

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