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Old 08-24-2016, 04:50 AM   #1
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Webster, Jean: Daddy-Long-Legs & Dear Enemy (illus). v1. 24 Aug 2016

By Jean Webster (1876–1916)
With illustrations by the Author

Daddy-Long-Legs was first published in 1912; Dear Enemy in 1915.
This book is in the public domain in countries where copyright is “Life+99” or less, and in the USA.

Jean Webster (pseudonym for Alice Jane Chandler Webster) was an American author and playwright. Her best-known books feature lively and likeable young female protagonists who come of age intellectually, morally, and socially; with enough humor, snappy dialogue, and gently biting social commentary to make her books enjoyable to modern readers.

* * *
Daddy-Long-Legs, Webster’s most famous work, was published in 1912 to popular and critical acclaim. Today this book is often classified as children’s literature, but at the time it was part of a trend of books for and about adolescents and young women, which featured protagonists dealing with concerns such as college, career, and marriage. It has been adapted numerous times for the stage and film, even appearing as a feature-length Japanese anime movie.

This epistolary novel tells the story of Jerusha “Judy” Abbott, an orphan whose attendance at a women’s college is sponsored by an anonymous benefactor. Over the course of the next four years, her letters to this anonymous man chronicle Judy's educational, personal, and social growth. The reader is rewarded with a happy blend of humor, poignancy, and romance.

* * *
Dear Enemy, published November 1915, also became a bestseller. Although often called a sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs, it is actually a companion novel which chronicles the adventures of a college friend of Judy’s who becomes the superintendent of the orphanage in which Judy was raised. Sallie McBride’s letters to several correspondents wittily describe the daily calamities and triumphs of her life, and we witness her growth from a frivolous socialite to a mature woman and an able executive. The evolution of Sallie’s relationships with two very different men provides an understated romantic motif.

[—Summaries adapted from Wikipedia.]

From Judy’s first letter:
It seems queer to be writing letters to somebody you don’t know. It seems queer for me to be writing letters at all – I’ve never written more than three or four in my life, so please overlook it if these are not a model kind.

Before leaving yesterday morning, Mrs. Lippett and I had a very serious talk. She told me how to behave all the rest of my life, and especially how to behave towards the kind gentleman who is doing so much for me. I must take care to be Very Respectful.
But how can one be very respectful to a person who wishes to be called John Smith? Why couldn’t you have picked out a name with a little personality? I might as well write letters to Dear Hitching-Post or Dear Clothes-Pole.

I have been thinking about you a great deal this summer; having somebody take an interest in me after all these years makes me feel as though I had found a sort of family. It seems as though I belonged to somebody now, and it’s a very comfortable sensation. I must say, however, that when I think about you, my imagination has very little to work upon. There are just three things that I know:

I. You are tall.
II. You are rich.
III. You hate girls.

I suppose I might call you Dear Mr. Girl-Hater. Only that’s rather insulting to me. Or Dear Mr. Rich-Man, but that’s insulting to you, as though money were the only important thing about you. Besides, being rich is such a very external quality. Maybe you won’t stay rich all your life; lots of very clever men get smashed up in Wall Street. But at least you will stay tall all your life! So I’ve decided to call you Dear Daddy-Long-Legs. I hope you won’t mind. It’s just a private pet name we won’t tell Mrs. Lippett.

The ten o’clock bell is going to ring in two minutes. Our day is divided into sections by bells. We eat and sleep and study by bells. It’s very enlivening; I feel like a fire horse all of the time. There it goes! Lights out. Good night.

Observe with what precision I obey rules – due to my training in the John Grier Home.

Yours most respectfully,
Jerusha Abbott

From Sallie’s first letter upon arriving at the orphanage:
Dear Judy:
We arrived in a snowstorm at eleven last night, Singapore and Jane and I. It does not appear to be customary for superintendents of orphan asylums to bring with them personal maids and Chinese chows. The night watchman and housekeeper, who had waited up to receive me, were thrown into an awful flutter. They had never seen the like of Sing, and thought that I was introducing a wolf into the fold. I reassured them as to his dogginess, and the watchman, after studying his black tongue, ventured a witticism. He wanted to know if I fed him on huckleberry pie.

It was difficult to find accommodations for my family. Poor Sing was dragged off whimpering to a strange woodshed, and given a piece of burlap. Jane did not fare much better. There was not an extra bed in the building, barring a five-foot crib in the hospital room. She, as you know, approaches six. We tucked her in, and she spent the night folded up like a jackknife. She has limped about today, looking like a decrepit letter S, openly deploring this latest escapade on the part of her flighty mistress, and longing for the time when we shall come to our senses, and return to the parental fireside in Worcester.

I know that she is going to spoil all my chances of being popular with the rest of the staff. Having her here is the silliest idea that was ever conceived, but you know my family. I fought their objections step by step, but they made their last stand on Jane. If I brought her along to see that I ate nourishing food and didn’t stay up all night, I might come – temporarily; but if I refused to bring her – oh, dear me, I am not sure that I was ever again to cross the threshold of Stone Gate! So here we are, and neither of us very welcome, I am afraid.

I woke by a gong at six this morning, and lay for a time listening to the racket that twenty-five little girls made in the lavatory over my head. It appears that they do not get baths – just face-washes – but they make as much splashing as twenty-five puppies in a pool. I rose and dressed and explored a bit. You were wise in not having me come to look the place over before I engaged.

While my little charges were at breakfast, it seemed a happy time to introduce myself; so I sought the dining room. Horror piled on horror – those bare drab walls and oil-cloth-covered tables with tin cups and plates and wooden benches, and, by way of decoration, that one illuminated text, “The Lord Will Provide”! The trustee who added that last touch must possess a grim sense of humor.

Really, Judy, I never knew there was any spot in the world so entirely ugly; and when I saw those rows and rows of pale, listless, blue-uniformed children, the whole dismal business suddenly struck me with such a shock that I almost collapsed. It seemed like an unachievable goal for one person to bring sunshine to one hundred little faces when what they need is a mother apiece.

I plunged into this thing lightly enough, partly because you were too persuasive, and mostly, I honestly think, because that scurrilous Gordon Hallock laughed so uproariously at the idea of my being able to manage an asylum. Between you all you hypnotized me. And then of course, after I began reading up on the subject and visiting all those seventeen institutions, I got excited over orphans, and wanted to put my own ideas into practice. But now I’m aghast at finding myself here; it’s such a stupendous undertaking. The future health and happiness of a hundred human beings lie in my hands, to say nothing of their three or four hundred children and thousand grandchildren. The thing’s geometrically progressive. It’s awful. Who am I to undertake this job? Look, oh, look for another superintendent!

Jane says dinner’s ready. Having eaten two of your institution meals, the thought of another doesn’t excite me.


The staff had mutton hash and spinach, with tapioca pudding for dessert. What the children had I hate to consider.

Text was obtained from; images from Embedded fonts for titling and script inserts. Some transcription errors were corrected; punctuation, italics and diacritics formatted; American punctuation and spelling restored; chapter heads cross-linked to Table of Contents. Illustrations were manually cleaned and enhanced.

This was one of my favorites as a teen. Hope you liked it too!
This work is assumed to be in the Life+70 public domain OR the copyright holder has given specific permission for distribution. Copyright laws differ throughout the world, and it may still be under copyright in some countries. Before downloading, please check your country's copyright laws. If the book is under copyright in your country, do not download or redistribute this work.

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