“The Parrot is beautiful …”

I have just finished reading a new children’s book called Snowball The Dancing Cockatoo by Sy Montgomery, with illustrations by Judith Oksner, who happens to be a friend. It may be that you have seen a video that went viral: Snowball dancing to the Back Street Boys or Snowball in the commercial for Geico with the gecko. Seems that Snowball dances in sync to the beat in whatever music he hears: rock, polkas, you name it. Scientists have tested the bird and confirmed its ability to do this, an ability previously thought to be unique to humans. Snowball lives at Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service, Inc., a not-for-profit bird rescue and sanctuary in Indiana.

Snowball reminded me of a letter from Cornelia Clinton, the daughter of New York Governor George Clinton, to the man she was in love with, French diplomat Edmond Genêt. Known as Citizen Genêt, he was busy trying to stir up private support for the French in spite of the official American policy of neutrality. During their courtship, Cornelia thanked Genêt for a gift he had sent: “The Parrot is beautiful and as a gift of yours will claim a share in my affections … I shall take great pleasure in hearing it say I love you Genêt.”

New York Government House Decr 18 1793Let my Prompt answer to your letter express to you the pleasure the reciept of it gave me, tho I assure you I did not want that to recall you to my memory—you have never since your departure been absent from my thoughts. … those Democratic principles [you value] serve but to endear you to me, for notwithstanding your worth I do not think I could have been attached to you had you been any thing but a Republican—support that Character to the end as you have begun, and let what may happen you, your friends in New York will never forsake you.

My Father does not forget you for we drink to your health every Day. … I regard your happiness too much to wish to see you at the risk of your honor or that of your Country, but at the same time I will promise you a kind reception from your Cornelia when you do come … my Brother [George Washington Clinton] is your Friend and wishes success to your Country, he Declares if France should not be succesfull he will go crazy—his heart is rapt up in the cause of Liberty. Cornelia

Cornelia married Genêt on November 6, 1794 with her father’s blessing, as well as £2,000.

Cornelia’s letter appears on page 188-89 of In the Words of Women. The illustration of Cornelia Clinton can be found in The Republican Court, or, American Society in the Days of Washington, new and rev. ed. (New York, 1856), plate opposite 295. You can buy the Snowball book HERE. All of the proceeds go to the rescue service.

posted March 4th, 2013 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Book Beat, Courtship, French Revolution

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