Posted by: Lizzie Ross | July 19, 2010

Love-letters from the wrong girl!

Molly Make-Believe (1910), Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, illus. Walter Tittle, The Century Company, 211 pp.

Mismatched lovers have been a popular starting point for romantic comedies for centuries, and the variations on this theme are innumerable. This book presents one you may not be familiar with: Carl Stanton, bedridden for several weeks by a temporary illness, wishes his fiancée, Cornelia, were more romantic and would write to him frequently when she heads south for the winter.

Cornelia urges him to hire a correspondent, hands him an advertising circular, and leaves for her train. The circular offers, for a price, “all the Satisfaction of receiving Letters with no Possible Obligation or even Opportunity of Answering Them.” One option is “Love Letters. Daily. (Three grades: Shy. Medium. Very Intense.)”

Our hero orders the love letters, expecting something mass-produced, and is shocked to receive, with his first note, a warm blanket and more sympathetic words than he’d received in all his time with his beloved Cornelia. The letters, from Molly, gradually become more and more captivating, until Carl suddenly realizes . . . well, no doubt you can guess what he realizes.

The outcome is foreordained by the gods of romance-novel-writing, but it’s amusing to watch the inevitable unfold. And you can read this in an hour (access an on-line version at ProjectGutenberg.org).

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