If I were to compile a taxonomy of my tribe.
To describe the residents of this fair city.
There would be the Proper Bostonian.
Richard Cardinal Cushing would suffice.
Seen here with another prominent Bostonian.
(Proper? You be the judge.)
For the Improper Bostonian?
Mob boss Whitey Bulger would do nicely.
And then there would be the Jimproper Bostonian.
Still trying to comprehend that one.
But there is another extremely interesting subvariant:
Isabella Stewart Gardner, socialite and patron of the arts.
Portrait by John Singer Sargent, one of her stable of artists.
Unconventional doesn’t begin to describe her.
Tea? Hardly. She drank beer.
She greeted her party guests while perched in a tree.
And instead of those incredibly annoying giant, immaculately coiffed poodles I see being walked around the Back Bay?
(I told one woman: “I don’t want your dog. I want your dog’s grooming budget.”)
Isabella walked her Rex on a leash.
Rex was a lion.
This and many other amusing tales may be found in the book Proper Bostonians by Cleveland Amory (thank you, Patricia!)
She was born into wealth. And she married wealth.
Let’s face it: If you are bizarre but rich, you are an eccentric.
But if you are poor, you are just a weirdo.
And will be told by the police to “move along”.
Perhaps her greatest act of eccentricity was disassembling a Venetian palazzo and reassembling it, piece by piece, in Boston’s Fenway.
That palace now forms the core of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
One of the great splendors of the museum is its exquisite garden.
The floral arrangements change throughout the year.
To say that the garden is sculpted is really not an exaggeration.
And there is just a hint of naughtiness to suggest the real Isabella.
Isabella Stewart Gardner.
Not a Proper Bostonian at all.
Sounds like one helluva woman.