Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Prima Donna: A Passage from City Life >> Page 184

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Page 184

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 184THE PRIMA DONNA
names I did not know, and who, if they had not left the city, could
only have found shelter in some one of the thousand purlieus of
destitution which cover its filthy spots. I returned home soured and
dissatisfied, and went back, in sheer doggedness of purpose, to my
solitude and studies.
It may have been three weeks, or more, after this, that there was
a great stir in New York about a foreign Prima Donna—a singer
whose excellence was equally indisputable and great. The newspapers
which, in such matters, usually speak in the superlative style of
Euphrosine, and in words as magnificent as those of Brobdingnag,
now, in the excessive warmth of their enthusiasm, happened upon a
newer set of phrases, which left the ancient forms of eulogy far
behind them. The fountains of public admiration were opened. The
praises of the new candidate for applause and sixpences, sounded from
the high places of authority, were heard repeated at every corner.
The singer was pronounced to be one who could sing louder, squeak
longer, and prolong the note through a more numerous and sym-
metrical set of quavers than any vocalist of past or present celebrity.
She was, in short, the last lion of the town, and absorbed in her own
glory, for a season, its thousand phrases of hyperbole.
As a general rule I never suffer myself to do as all the town does;
but on this occasion I fell into the current and went forward with
the stream. I had my reasons, apart from any curiosity either to see
the lion or to hear his roar, which induced me to depart from my
wonted resolution. I fancied that the music of the new performer
would impair my recollection of the old, and do away with the im-
pression of that which I had lost so suddenly. Up to this time I still
deceived myself with the fancy that all my interest in the unknown
creature whom I so much missed, had been the pure result of her
musical sweetness and superiority. I went the house was full to
overflowing all hearts save my own were full of expectancy and
impatience. The curtain rose the crowd roared and clapped. With
an indifference the most unfashionable, I looked up at the performer,
and beheld in the famous Prima Donna, my own musical Unknown!