Lady Baltimore is multiple-layer novel

I had to read Owen Wister’s Lady Baltimore a second time last week, having failed to save the review I wrote of the bestselling novel in May of 2015.

Despite its confectionary name, it’s a novel that withstands repeated reading.


Lady Baltimore by Owen Wister

1906 bestseller # 2. Project Gutenberg Ebook #1386. My grade: B.


A young gentleman named Augustus tells the story. His snobbish aunt has sent him to Kings Port, South Carolina, to research family history.

Augustus is having lunch at the Women’s Exchange, when a young man comes in and orders a Lady Baltimore cake for the following Wednesday.

It’s clear to Augustus and to pretty, young counter clerk (who also happens to bake the cakes) that young man is ordering his own wedding cake.

When he’s not in the library, Augustus uses his letters of introduction and his fondness for Lady Baltimore cake to find out about the would-be bridegroom, John Mayant; his finacée, Hortense Rieppe; and the charming cake baker.

Readers must pay close attention to figure out how Augustus figured out what happened.

Wister called Lady Baltimore a romance. It’s that and more: Mystery, history, social criticism, and generous dollops of humor mingle pleasantly in its pages.

Augustus’s view of the American “Negro” may offend readers—but it’s an accurate picture of “enlightened” whites’ attitudes in the 1906.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Readers will find mouthwatering photographs, historical information, and recipes for the Lady Baltimore cake on the What’s Cooking America website.

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