June 20, 2021

"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate... "

"We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.”  

Wrote Henry David Thoreau. I'm quoting that now, because of that post earlier today about a telegram and because it seems to relate to our current predicament living on the internet.

In case you're wondering about Princess Adelaide, she does look interesting:

ADDED: A reader questions whether I have the right Princess Adelaide. There's also this Princess Adelaide, a granddaughter of King George III. She was born in 1833, and was portrayed like this in 1846:

Age and photography rendered her less cute:

The Princess Adelaide in the original post was born in 1792  and died in 1849. Thoreau was having his pond experience at Walden from 1845 to 1847, and the book came out in 1854. The first Adelaide was in her 50s in those days. What's more ridiculous leaking into the broad flapping American ear — a coughing royal teenager or a coughing queen dowager?

WAIT: The simple answer is that the older Adelaide wouldn't have been called "Princess" at the time Thoreau was writing. She had been queen (1830-1837) and after King William IV died in 1837, she became queen dowager.


Ann Althouse said...

R.T. O'Dactyl writes:

"Mark Twain wrote a short story in 1898 -- during the Grover Cleveland administration! -- that essentially predicted the Web and some of its effects. See this article and the original story "From the 'London Times' of 1904"."

Ann Althouse said...

Quaestor raises a thorny issue that I won't resolve:

"I wonder if the Adelaide pictured is the person Thoreau had in mind rather than some non-specific aristocratic lady. The proposed Maine to Texas telegraph line could not be earlier than 1844, the date Morse/Vail single-wire telegraphy patent. By that time Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen had not been a mere princess of an obscure German duchy for at least 26 years, having become Queen Consort of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1830. From 1837 she was styled Dowager Queen Adelaide. Thoreau was no respecter of titles, but one doubts he had even heard of Adelaide before her marriage to the Duke of York."

Ann Althouse said...

Amadeus 48 writes:

The Thoreau quote is a good one. Two of my favorite aphorisms are from Emerson:

“Things are in the saddle, and ride Mankind.”


“The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

They contain an element of Yankee common sense that carries down the years, as does the quote from Thoreau.

Ann Althouse said...

My favorite quote book — "Garner's Quotations" — uses Emerson to introduce a set of quotes about vomiting:

Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis. —Ralph Waldo Emerson...

Let me personally give you a piece of advice. Never inhale your own vomit. —William Kennedy, Ironweed

There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends. —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

A guy’s not really your boyfriend until he’s thrown up on you. —Patti Smith

Is there a hole for me to get sick in?——Bob Dylan, “Tombstone Blues”