Dear Enemy is friendly romance

Dear Enemy picks up the story of the John Grier Home that Jean Webster began in her earlier epistolary novel Daddy Long Legs.

The leading characters in that romance have chosen vivacious socialite Sallie McBride to turn the orphanage into a model institution.

Drawing of Sallie opening basket containing a puppy.
Sallie finds a puppy, gift from her friends Jean and Jervis.

Dear Enemy by Jean Webster

Jean Webster, Illus.  Century Co., 1915.  1916 bestseller #9.
Project Gutenberg ebook #238. My Grade: B+.

Sallie accepts only until Judy and Jervis can find someone else.

Almost immediately, Sallie locks horns with tradition and rigidity personified by the dour Scots doctor Robin MacRae.

He finds her frivolous, unfit for her job.

His attitude puts Sallie’s back up.

She turns on the charm where it will do the most good.

Before long Sallie has everyone eating out of her hand except Dr. MacRae. Sallie sends him notes addressed, “Dear Enemy.”

When the doctor leaves to take care of some personal business Sallie learns the cause of his moroseness.

For warm-hearted Sallie, it’s just a step from sympathy to love.

For all its romance and charm, Dear Enemy overlays a snapshot of institutional life in early twentieth century America. While not quite Dickensian, it’s a long way from Boys Town.

Sadie Kate has had her pigtails cut off.
Sallie is determined someone will adopt Sadie Kate, now minus her awful pigtails.

Sadly, some of the issues Sallie faced youth workers face today.

You couldn’t learn about them any more pleasantly than through Dear Enemy.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Daddy‘s Charm Is as Long as His Legs

If you liked Pollyanna and Anne Shirley, you’ll love Jerusha Abbott, heroine of Daddy Long-Legs.

A page from Daddy Long Legs with stick figure illustrationsThe oldest orphan at John Grier Home, Jerusha is awarded a college education by an anonymous trustee who thinks she may have a future as a writer. She’s to acknowledge her monthly stipend by letter addressed to “John Smith” and sent to the trustee’s secretary.

All Jerusha knows of the man personally is that he’s tall (she glimpsed his back as he left the home) and doesn’t like girls.

Jean Webster’s novel about what happens to Jerusha is told through the girl’s letters to her benefactor, whom she calls “Mr. Daddy-Long-Legs Smith.”

In her letters, which she illustrates with her own sketches, Jerusa reveals her joys and sorrows to the father-figure she invents for herself.

After first term failures in two subjects, Jerusha settles into her studies. She finds college work less difficult than “college play.” She has no experience of the normal experiences of family life or popular culture. However, her natural cheerfulness and adaptability soon make her part of the college community.

Through a roommate, she meets Jervis Pendleton, a wealthy, young, New York gentleman with whom she has much in common. If she didn’t feel obligated to pay Daddy Long-Legs for her education, Jerusha could easily fall for Jervis.

The heroine is believable as a person and as a fledgling writer. If the plot is a bit too pat, it’s nevertheless plausible for a girl with Jerusha’s orphanage upbringing.

Alhough it didn’t make the bestseller list (Dear Enemy, the sequel about the John Grier Home did)  Jean Webster’s 1912 epistolary novel is simply charming.

If you’re at a loss for a last minute Christmas gift for a stary-eyed adolescent or a senior citizen with a gentle sense of humor, Daddy Long-Legs might just fit the bill. The novel is readily available in both paperback and hardback. If your local independent bookstore doesn’t have it in stock, they can get it for you.

Daddy Long-Legs
by Jean Webster
Grosset & Dunlap, 1912
304 pages

Photo credit: page of first edition of Daddy Long-Legs, yellow with age, by Linda Aragoni

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni