Melons in Ohio

Frances Trollope, the 48-year-old mother of Anthony, the more famous novelist, came to reside in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1828. A leisure class proto-Victorian almost to the point of caricature, she found a great deal in America to disapprove of, from the mosquitos and slimy Mississippi delta, to our incessant spitting (of tobacco, primarily) and our filthy habit of shaking everyone’s hands at every possible encounter, to our religious voluntarism (which she claimed was religiously regressive, depriving rural Americans of their access to religion, she having visited apparently between circuit rides of the responsible Methodist) and our inability to talk about anything but politics and money. As one sample of her general intolerance of American egalitarianism and coarseness, I offer the following.

Let those who have not spat throw the first stone

Let those who have not spat throw the first stone

Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans. London: Whittaker, Treacher, & Co. (New York reprint, fourth edition), 1832, 83. Think Margaret Thatcher and Martha Stewart channeling de Tocqueville, but it’s a treasure trove of cultural and social history for the antebellum period.


  1. Adam Greenwood says:

    Awesome. Ptui.

    BTW, I’ve always wondered when trollop came to mean trollop.

  2. Truly great. Thanks smb.

  3. They took some of the fun out of eating watermelon when the seedless variety hit the fruitstands. My mouth is watering just thinking about a good piece of melon.

  4. Although we endorse a PG-rated site, I will indulge our guest’s curiosity.

    Trollop is a colloquial variant of troll, and by the mid seventeenth-century it referred to an untidy woman (hence morally dissolute). Can’t ever really escape the equation of “dignified” appearance and moral rectitude, can we?

    Incidentally, some etymologists maintain that troll/trull is older than OED claims and referred primarily to what we now call a commercial sex worker (CSW).

    Finally, Trollope is actually a contraction of Troll-hope, which meant Troll Valley, which (now I’m kidding), is the origin of Valley Girl. Somehow the reference to a supernatural valley eliminates the slatternly connotation; context is everything.

  5. The lady was present at the Owen-Campbell debate (Cincinnati, April 1829, also attended by Sidney Rigdon), and she later offered succinct, incisive reflections which were borne out by other reviewers with perhaps less panache. “It was in the profoundest silence,” recorded Mrs. Trollope,

    and apparently with the deepest attention, that Mr. Owen’s opening address was received; and surely it was the most singular one that ever Christian men and women sat to listen to. . . .
    . . . . .
    Neither appeared to me to answer the other; but to confine themselves to the utterance of what they had uppermost in their own minds when the discussion began. I lamented this on the side of Mr. Campbell, as I am persuaded he would have been much more powerful had he trusted more to himself and less to his books. Mr. Owen is an extraordinary man, and certainly possessed of talent, but he appears to me so utterly benighted in the mists of his own theories, that he has quite lost the power of looking through them, so as to get a peep at the world as it really exists around him.
    . . . . .
    . . . but . . . neither of the disputants ever appeared to lose their temper. I was told they were much in each other’s company, constantly dining together, and on all occasions expressed most cordially their mutual esteem.

    All this I think could only have happened in America. I am not quite sure that it was very desirable it should have happened any where.

    Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans. By Frances Trollope. Edited, with a History of Mrs. Trollope’s Adventures in America, by Donald Smalley. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949), 149, 152-53. First published London, 1832, during which year the then-two-volume work went through four editions.

  6. Some segments of society seem to still dislike public eating:

    “Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone–a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive. … Eating on the street–even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat–displays [a] lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. … Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. … This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if we feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior.”

    That’s Dr. Leon Kass, head of the president’s committee on bioethics and in charge of determining what human dignity is. Pfft.

    Link here:

  7. Sam- I wonder what the esteemed Dr Kass would think about the way Indians and other Asians and Africans eat their food. I wonder if he would find it to be “doglike” since people in those cultures usually dont use knives or folks or spoons when they eat their meals.
    What a putz!!!!

  8. Randall says:

    This post reminds me of the time when BY officially discontinued tobacco chewing in the Tabernacle. From Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 344:

    “There is another subject I wish to refer to. Last Sabbath this front gallery,…was very full. After meeting was dismissed I took a walk through it, and to see the floor that had been occupied by those professing to be gentlemen, and I do not know but brethren, you might have supposed that cattle had been there rolling and standing around, for here and there were GREAT QUIDS OF TOBACCO, AND PLACES ONE OR TWO FEET SQUARE SMEARED WITH TOBACCO JUICE. I want to say to the doorkeepers that when you see gentlemen who cannot omit chewing and SPITTING WHILE IN THIS HOUSE, request them to leave; and if such persons refuse to leave, and continue their spitting, just take them and lead them out carefully and kindly. We do not want to have the house thus defiled. It is an imposition for gentlemen to SPIT TOBACCO JUICE around, or to leave their QUIDS OF TOBACCO on the floor; they dirty the house, and if a lady happen to besmear the bottom of her dress, which can hardly be avoided, it is highly offensive. We therefore request ALL GENTLEMEN ATTENDING CONFERENCE TO OMIT TOBACCO CHEWING WHILE HERE.” [Emphasis in the original]

    Thanks Brigham, for taking a hard and unpopular stance on an important issue.

  9. I wonder if there are any stats on whether the rates of mouth and lung cancer changed after the Mormon community stopped smoking and /or chewing tobacco or using snuff type products. Or of there are any numbers showing the rates of liver disease after Mormons stopped drinking alcoholic beverages. Or numbers on social problems caused by men drinking lots of alcohol- such as domestic violence,child abuse etc.

  10. Mormons were just one voice in a chorus of anti-tobacco reformers at the time. 20,000 Mormons not chewing tobacco wouldn’t change the stats much, but the much broader evangelical group would. there’s no reliable data though.

    as for Kass, wow, he really does come across as a self-important misanthrope.

  11. Randall says:

    I wish the usage of “Quids” would work its way back into the American vernacular. It’s an onomonopiac joy to shoot off the tongue.

    How about, “Unsuspecting ladies who strolled through the ‘Easy way out’ posting yesterday were greeted with a dressful of orthodox and apostate quids. In the egalitarian spirit of the original posting, confused drag queens who sashayed into the bloggernacle were greeted with the same warm, wet welcome.”