March 20, 1852



from The Philosophy of Laughter and Smiling , 1877


March 20th Saturday  Have cut and basted a purple print

apron for Susan of a pattern that Lavinia

brought from Mary  Abby & Edwin & wife were

here to tea  Orinthia dressed in Franks clothes

and paraded around here awhile.  Send for Mrs

Witherell & Mrs S Ames to see her  We have had

a pretty lively time  Orinthia brought over

Edwin & wife.

The ladies laughed today.  After sewing for hours, breaking only for midday dinner, Evelina and her young friend Orinthia Foss laid down their needles to have tea. Orinthia got it into her head to put on nineteen-year-old Frank Morton Ames’s clothes “and paraded around.” She donned his shop pants, perhaps, and shop coat over one of his white muslin shirts. Evelina and her guests were so amused at the sight that they called in Sarah Ames and Sarah Witherell to see the fun. Cross-dressing was a novelty for these women, and Orinthia’s daring act generated hilarity.

All things considered, these women were probably due for some laughter.  It was the first day of spring, and everyone had been pretty well cooped up for months, excepting the occasional trip into town. More recently, they had suffered through a major fire. Some innocent amusement was a good release.

Evelina’s favorite author, Charles Dickens, knew all about laughter: “It is a fair, even-handed adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”**

While the women amused themselves at home,  the best-selling novel of the 19th century was published in book form today, in Boston.  We’ll soon find Evelina reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


* Clockwise: “The Giggling Laugh, excited by Boisterous Fun and Nonsense.” “The Obstreperous Laugh, instigated by Practical Jokes or Extreme Absurdities.” “The Hearty Laugh of the Gentler Sex.” “The Stentorian Laugh of the Stronger Sex.” “The Superlative Laugh, or Highest Degree of Laughter.“ From The Philosophy of Laughter and Smiling, George Vesey, 1877. Courtesy New York Historical Society, courtesy of CABINET: The Art of Laughter, Issue 17, Spring 2005

**Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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