Author of FASHION

Playbill for Fashion

Playbill for Fashion

During her convalescence Anna Cora began work on a five act comedy called Fashion; or, Life in New York. She did so at the recommendation of Epes Sargent, who suggested that the comedy would be "a fresh channel for the sarcastic ebullitions with which you so constantly indulge us."

The play was a keen but good-natured satire on American parvenuism. She presented the New York social scene all its pretense and gullibility, its tendency to ape Parisian customs, and its exaltation of money.

Mrs. Tiffany, the wife of a newly rich business man, has high social ambitions for herself and her daughter Seraphina. Her extravagance is ruining her husband, who is Collage featuring engraving of Mowattcaught in financial misconduct by his clerk Snobson, who proceeds to blackmail him. Count Jolimaitre, who turns out to be actually a valet posing as a nobleman, is also after the Tiffanys' money. The plot grows progressively thicker as the story unfolds. The source of Fashion's comedy is its satirizing of social pretensions as in the following scene between Mrs. Tiffany and her French maid, Millinette:

Mrs. Tiff.: Is everything in order, Millinette? Ah! very elegant, very elegant, indeed! There is a jenny-says quoi look about this furniture -- an air of fashion and gentility perfectly bewitching. Is there not, Millinette?

Mil.: Oh, oui, Madame!

Mrs. Tif.: But where is Seraphina? It is twelve o'clock; our visitors will be pouring in, and she has not made her appearance. But I hear that nothing is more fashionable than to keep people waiting. None but vulgar persons pay any attention to punctuality. Is it not so, Millinette?

Mil.: Quite comme il faut. Great personnes always do make little personnes wait, Madame.

Mrs. Tif.: This mode of receiving visitors only upon one specified day of the week is a most convenient custom! It saves the trouble of keeping the house continually in order and of being always dressed. I flatter myself that I was the first to introduce it amongst the New York ee-light. You are quite sure that it is strictly a Parisian mode, Millinette?

Mil.: Oh, oui, Madame; entirely mode de Paris.

Mrs. Tif.: This girl is worth her weight in gold. (Aside.) Millinette, how do you say arm-chair in French?

Mil.: Fauteuil, Madame.

Mrs. Tif.: Fo-tool! That has a foreign, an out-the-wayish sound that is perfectly charming -- and so genteel! There is something about our American words that is decidedly vulgar. Fowtool! how refined. Fow-tool! Arm-chair! what a difference!

Mil.: Madame have une charmante pronunciation. Fowtool (mimicking aside) charmante, Madame!

Mrs. Tif.: Do you think so, Millinette? Well, I believe I have. But a woman of refinement and of fashion can always accommodate herself to anything foreign! And a week's study of that invaluable work -- "French without a Master," has made me quite at home with the court language of Europe! But where is the new valet? I'm rather sorry that he is black, but to obtain a white American domestic is almost impossible; and they call this a free country!

Fashion opened at the Park Theatre, New York, on March 24, 1845. It was a great popular success. It was generally well-received by the critics. Edgar Allan Poe, writing for the Broadway Journal, felt the play derivative of School for Scandal, but notable for its genuinely American humor.

Being a recounting of both of Mr. Poe's reviews of the inaugural run of "Fashion", with commentary on the ideas and unique style of that remarkable man

Poe's Evolving Views on “Fashion”

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For more in-depth information and analysis
Mowatt's life and career, read
The Lady Actress:
Recovering the Lost Legacy of a Victorian American Superstar

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