Thursday, November 23, 2006

Harking Back to Peter's World

From Wednesday's International Herald Tribune's WaybackMachine(tm).

NEW YORK: 1906: Signor Caruso At Court

A motley crowd, including many women of various ages and degrees of beauty, gathered in the Yorkville police court this afternoon [Nov. 21], when Signor Enrico Caruso, tenor of the Metropolitan Opera House, was arraigned on a charge of improper conduct in the Central Park monkey house. Even a larger crowd gathered outside to see the principals in the affair arrive. They were distinctly disappointed when it became certain that Mrs. Hannah Graham, who made the formal accusation against Signor Caruso in the police station, would not be a witness. Signor Caruso came in a cab with Mr. Conried and Mr. Bareleing, his instructor. The tenor alighted, smiling and in apparent confidence. Signor Caruso soon took the stand and denied having annoyed women as charged.

Today, the rest of the story (not yet available on line):

NEW YORK: 1906: Signor Caruso Guilty

Signor Caruso was declared by the magistrate, Mr. Baker, this afternoon [Nov. 23] guilty of annoying a woman in Central Park and fined $10, which is the usual amount for disorderly conduct. His counsel will appeal to the General Sessions Court. It is reported this evening that the tenor is prostrated by the trial and its result. He wept while former Judege Dittenhoefer was summing up the defence. Signor Caruso was recalled by the prosecution, which attempted to present evidence that Signor Caruso insulted a society woman in a cab while driving home from a reception last year, but the magistrate refused to admit the testimony. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Mathot, who announced yesterday that he expected to have Mrs. Graham as a witness, informed the court that she ad left the jurisdiction of the court.

A starker contrast to the Simpson case, or a time more evocative of Peter's ideal world, would be difficult to achieve.

As much as Peter might rue the change, I can't escape the conclusion that if I was fined $10 for every time I annoyed she who is perfect in all ways, I wouldn't be able to afford sunlight.


Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I'm not completely sure why I have been honoured with this one. If you know anything about modern employment sexual harassment law, she was obviously way ahead of her time.

BTW, Caruso was lucky (assuming he got off) he hadn't been born a generation or two earlier. It was well into the 19th century before an accused was permitted to testify in his defence at all, the theory being that people were unreliable, self-interested scum and of course couldn't be counted on to tell the truth when facing jail or the noose. The famous right to remain silent is thus quite recent and only arose when it was decided an accused was competent to testify in his defence, but not compellable by the Crown/state.

OT, if you are into Peter-the dinousaur stories, here's one from two days ago. Our twelve year old son, in whom we are well pleased, is attending a new school that is both academically accelerated and all in French. He almost drowned in the first month, but pulled himself together on his own and is now excelling in all subjects. Forgive the boasting, but in this case I just can't stop.

Anyway, it was parent-teacher meeting the other night. A few days before, we got the note every modern parent dreads--"We're going to teach sex to your innocent, pure little angel." If you think I'm in another century, you should see the perfect half! Well, it was either that or embarass him by pulling him out, so away we go.

I guess the social studies teacher lost the draw, because she was assigned to teach it. She raised it directly in our meeting and asked if we had any problems. I was dying to say that I was philosophically opposed and thought he should learn it all on the street like I did, but someone beautiful was eyeing me VERY carefully and so I just mumbled something about hoping it wasn't going to be taught with too much...umm...zeal.

That was enough for her to start talking about how rote, careful and understated she tried to be and how the weird questions could make her squirm and keep her up late crafting truthful but decidedly non-stimulating answers. It was all quite absurd and very Canadian. I had no doubt she would happily make an impassioned speech on how important it is to teach this to the kids in school, but she obviously would rather be doing anything else herself. I was much relieved and left thinking how much better I would sleep if only they taught Darwinism in the same spirit.

November 24, 2006 3:22 AM  
Blogger M Ali said...

So does insult mean he touched her inappropriately or that he said, "You know, that dress makes you look a bit chunky."?

November 24, 2006 6:09 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Maybe she just inspired him to burst out singing the wrong song.

November 24, 2006 6:29 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I think there were two factors in Mr Caruso's disfavor. One, she was a "society woman", and as such her reputation had enumerable monetary value. Being a society woman was akin to having a job back then, but in reverse. Society status determined how much of her husband's forutne a woman could manage to spend on some ball. She couldn't let a slight like this get around unanswered.

The second factor against him was the fact that he was a swarthy Italian in the days when swathy Italians were as socially acceptable as Borat is today.

November 24, 2006 8:00 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I'm not sure what the Times meant by 'insult' in those days, when there were fine distinctions among 'criminal conversation' and 'assault' and whatnot.

When I began in the news game, 'criminally assaulted' for 'rape' was just passing out of use.

I suspect 'insult' means 'grope.'

November 24, 2006 11:58 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


The situation and use of language evinced genteel civility whose disappearance some, among whom I include you, would rue.

Consequently, I expected you to jump on the decay of our society due to the combination of secular amorality and the ugly, unshaven, head of atheistic Darwinism.

As it so happens, my son is also twelve, and, if the tests are anything to go by, the smartest member of our household. While he is taking math with the kids a grade ahead, in other respects his attention span, at least, would keep him from hitting in your son's league.

My wife, having an undergraduate degree in Biology, and being a nurse, simply gives our critters (in addition to the man child, I also have a 13 yr old woman child) straight answers to their birds & bees questions. She figures that they will take on board what computes, and put the rest on disregard.

Consequently, they found the school provided sex-ed something of a yawn.

As for the flip side of the coin, celibacy training, we got the kids a puppy last year.

Unlike my teen-age years, where, so far as girls were concerned, I must have been the unwitting recipient of a Romulan Cloaking Device, I fear my son will cause girls to go rather weak at the knees.

So does my wife. She is already carefully eyeing the bear rifle Joe Shropshire thoughtfully suggested when Duck threw another scare into Brit.

November 25, 2006 12:22 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...


Isn't it a hoot to watch how many modern women (actually the best ones) will sign on enthusiastically at dinner parties to all the correct feminist cant about equality...patriarchy...sexism...equal rights, blah, blah, but then view every girl their teenage son meets as a scheming, dangerous jezebel? I'd lay odds the story of Samson and Delilah came from a woman.

November 25, 2006 4:01 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


That is because very few liberal shibboleths survive having children.

November 25, 2006 4:15 PM  

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