Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beauty's Where You Find It

I hope you'll pardon, Gentle Readers, the quality of this image, imperfect as it is, given the sheer treasurability of what it portrays.  The year is 1968, and Lady Bird is in Palm Beach as the guest of Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post, then wintering at her modest little cottage, Mar-a-Lago.  Why she has chosen to accessorize her swoop-ti-doo-sleeved gown and pearls with what appears to be a Play Wig is an enigma lost in the mists of social history.

 I share this special moment of haute Americana mostly because it's been about the only thing this week keeping me even vaguely cheerful.  I've scanned the picture out of a marvelous book I got last weekend at Hillwood (chez Post, you'll remember), Living Artfully, which is just chock-full of lifestyle suggestions that are totally appropriate if you spend the year flitting from house to house in your turbo-prop plane, trailed by faithful retainers, fascinating houseguests, and the occasional First Lady.

We, by contrast, live in unspeakable squalor, although at the moment at least it's once again air-conditioned.  Today's disaster is the sudden and if not wholly unforeseen implosion of my laptop.  It's as if the Fates were conditioning me for some greater disaster (over and above the trauma of our impending move), but at least the "not wholly unforeseen" means the damn thing's been backed up in the last few weeks, so nothing terribly vital should be lost (until of course we need whatever it is and discover it is in fact gone down the digital drain).

But however dreadful it is, I can dip into my books (I also picked up volumes on Mrs. P.'s furniture, dishes (Sevres, darlings, most of it), and bibelots.  Sitting there with Mrs. Lyndon, Marjorie (everyone called her Mrs. Post, though) is wearing her amethysts, which (having seen them on display), I can attest are vast and deeply covetable, set in an elaborate swirl of gold and turquoise.

I think she's doing her best not to stare at her houseguest's hair.  Well, can you blame her?


  1. Me thinks the L Bird is smuggling bibelots out of Chez Post in that swirl of Dynel.

  2. Ypou are being way too hard on yourself. Mrs. Post was living off the legacy that her father built, and it was just a piece of luck that she married E.F. Hutton who recommend that she buy out Clarence Birdseye. But remember, only Marjorie Merriweather Post Close Hutton Davies May Post could live like that. Even Donald Trump and his paid flunkies couldn't keep up with the needs of Mar-A-Lago. Be amazed with her - she did her fortune well, as opposed to Hugette Clark who could have lived like Mrs. Post, but decided to spend her final days in a hospital room waiting for death.

    1. I'm actually developing something of a crush on Mrs. Post - the more I read about her, the more I think hers might be one of the most individually successful American lives of the twentieth century: she lived surpassingly well while doing a surpassing amount of good, and did so entirely on her own terms. The contrast with the sad Clark case is indeed stark.

      To me one of the great indicators of the admirability of M.M. Post comes to me via my Grandmother Muscato's markers of how she felt about someone: she kept her help. Many of her vast number of employees were with her for decades - for all I know, some of them 9or their children) are with Dina Merrill still.