August 27, 2012 - “The Duchess” Who Wasn't Day

In America, her books were published under the name The Duchess. But the Irish writer Margaret Wolfe Hungerford wasn't a duchess. (A duchess is the wife or widow of a duke, or a woman who has the rank equal to “duke” in her own right.) I guess that's why whoever makes up wacky holidays calls this one “The Duchess” Who Wasn't Day.

Hungerford wrote light romantic fiction. Her books were not “important,” but the fun and flirtatious dialogue made them popular throughout the English speaking world of the late 1800s. Molly Bawn was her most famous book.

Born on this date in 1855 in Country Cork, Ireland, Hungerford's most famous bit of writing is this line:

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Celebrate “The Duchess”

  • When an author uses a pen name, it is called a pseudonym. Why do you think a Victorian woman who was a wife and mother might use a pseudonym?
  • If you wrote a book and wanted to use a pseudonym, what would it be?
  • Think about Hungerford's most famous line. Do you think that it is true that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? What does it even mean?

    By the way,
    this idea had been expressed before Hungerford wrote it, but it never been expressed in these words. Reading some earlier versions of the thought, I think Hungerford's version is shorter and therefore better. Check out the history of the saying in the Phrase Finder.
If everyone finds the
same sorts of scenes
beautiful, is the saying

Also on this date:

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