Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day, 1898

In the spring of 1896 the Pyle family moved from Ambassador Bayard's mansion - which was much too costly to maintain - to a more modest brick house at 1601 Broom Street, on the corner of Gilpin Avenue in Wilmington. Almost immediately, Pyle's daughter Phoebe found a best friend in Gertrude Brincklé, who lived next door.

Here we see Gertrude, grinning, next to Phoebe, whose face is obscured by her brother Ted. This detail is from a snapshot taken by Howard Pyle himself, apparently, during a children's party at his studio, about 1897. Pyle later used the photo as reference when painting the title page illustration for an edition of Hawthorne's The Wonder Book.

On Valentine's Day 1898 - "That was the year we had a big storm, with snow up to the hairpin fence," remembered Gertrude - Pyle presented his young neighbor (and future secretary) with an illustrated poem, which was later destroyed in a fire. The Broom Street house is one of the few Pyle homes that still stands, but the hairpin fence is gone, though I recall seeing remnants of it 15 years or so ago.
A Soldier of Saint Valentine
In silk and golden lace
Was walking down Broom Street one day,
And there he saw thy face.

He thought it was the fairest face
The ever he had found;
He heaved a sigh, and gave one look.
And straightway he did swound.

Since then he mopes and pines with love,
His every breath a sigh;
He fain would be thy Valentine,
To ask he is too shy.

So here I send his pictured face
That you his love might know;
Unless he's buried in a drift
And lost beneath the snow.

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