October 31, 2011

A Hallowe'en Party: awfully degraded

Caroline Ticknor, the granddaughter of Boston publisher William Davis Ticknor, published several works in her lifetime, including biographies of other writers. One collection of short stories published in 1896 included the tale "The Hallowe'en Party."

The humorous sketch follows a character named J. Turner Dodge, a well-to-do New Yorker transplanted to a less cosmopolitan locale. Trying to fit into the high society scene there, he happily accepts an invitation to a Halloween party, wearing a brand new expensive suit. To his surprise, however, this party is not a formal dinner, but a series of games. By the end of the tale, Dodge has become soaked from bobbing for apples, covered in flour from a game, bumped his knees from falling down stairs, ingested thick black smoke from incorrectly cooked chestnuts, and accidentally swallowed a button intended as a prize hidden in a cake. The next day his friend greets him, excited to hear about the experience:

"How was the party?" he called out; "anything like what you have in New York?"

"No, thank heaven," Dodge responded, " we may be awfully degraded there, but we have n't fallen quite so low yet."

The next year, when Dodge is invited to his second Halloween party, he concocts a prior engagement. "I shall always remember my first Hallowe'en party," Dodge admits. His friend tries to persuade him, noting that most people like these types of parties:

"Well, then, I have n't been educated up to Hallowe'en parties. There are some tastes that can't be acquired, you know; you must be born with them, like the love of Boston baked beans."

"Oh, you 're too New Yorky for anything; don't you know that these jolly informal things are twice as much fun?"

"Yes; but I'm satisfied with half as much fun; you can have my other half."

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