stolen copes

Discussion in 'English Only' started by K-Young, Feb 18, 2012.

  1. K-Young Member

    Japanese
    I'm reading O Henry's "An Unfinished Story." I don't understand two parts in this paragraph below.

    Against the wrinkly mirror stood pictures of General Kitchener, William Muldoon, the Duchess of Marlborough, and Benvenuto Cellini. Against one wall was a plaster of Paris plaque of an O'Callahan in a Roman helmet. Near it was a violent oleograph of a lemon-coloured child assaulting an inflammatory butterfly. This was Dulcie's final judgment in art; but it had never been upset. Her rest had never been disturbed by whispers of stolen copes; no critic had elevated his eyebrows at her infantile entomologist.


    1 << Deleted by moderator. One topic per thread please. >>


    2 What is the meaning of "Her rest had never been disturbed by whispers of stolen copes"? I got to find copes means long capes. However, the sentence doesn't make any sense to me, though I guess it may mean nobody criticizes her taste for pictures. ... but I'm not sure.

    Help me, please.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2012
  2. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Not having read the story, I can offer two working hypotheses.
    << Deleted by moderator. One topic per thread please. >>
    'Stolen copes' is a way of referring to allegations that a picture had been stolen. The meaning seems to be, 'No one had suggested any of her pictures of people in fine robes had been stolen'.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2012
  3. K-Young Member

    Japanese
    I'm reading O Henry's "An Unfinished Story." I don't understand the sentence including "stolen copes" in this paragraph below.

    Against the wrinkly mirror stood pictures of General Kitchener, William Muldoon, the Duchess of Marlborough, and Benvenuto Cellini. Against one wall was a plaster of Paris plaque of an O'Callahan in a Roman helmet. Near it was a violent oleograph of a lemon-coloured child assaulting an inflammatory butterfly. This was Dulcie's final judgment in art; but it had never been upset. Her rest had never been disturbed by whispers of stolen copes; no critic had elevated his eyebrows at her infantile entomologist.

    I guess the sentence may mean her taste for art is not shaken by anything, but I'm not sure.

    I need some help, please.
     
  4. K-Young Member

    Japanese
    Thank you for answering it.

    I checked "copes" in some dictionaries, and I guess it means "long cape."
    A long cloak or cape worn as an outer garment, chiefly out of doors ( from OED)

    And still I don't understand why a long cape is referred to here.
     
  5. jmichaelm Senior Member

    NJ, USA
    English - US
    As far as I can tell he's saying that no one has ever seen her room, and so no one has passed judgement on how she has decorated. Later in the story he specifically states, "No gentleman had ever asked her out before."

    A "cope" is a priestly robe. To say the whisper (or rustle) of a priest's robe has never disturbed her sleep seems to say that no priest has ever visited her bedroom. Or else that no one posing as a priest has visited her room. Either of these choices opens up more questions than answers in my opinion.

    If "cope" can also mean generally a cape or outerwear, then it makes more sense. No one has ever come into her room with cloak or cape on because she has never had a visitor. More to the point, after she had gone to sleep no man had left in the night putting on his cloak and thereby disturbing her sleep. To put it bluntly, she is a virgin.

    However why the cope would be "stolen" is still mysterious to me.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  6. K-Young Member

    Japanese
    "no one has ever seen her room" ... well, I see.

    "no priest has ever visited her bedroom" ... maybe so.

    But why is "stolen" used here?
     
  7. jmichaelm Senior Member

    NJ, USA
    English - US
    Why "stolen"?

    Imagine a man visiting a woman after an evening of lovemaking is quietly dressing, picking up his cloak and leaving while she sleeps. His cloak is not literally "stolen". It belongs to him, but he is sneaking away with it as if he were stealing it. So the "whispers of stolen copes" suggests men sneaking away quietly.

    Since Dulcie has never been disturbed by men sneaking off while she sleeps, I'm reasonably sure (or at least doing a good job of convincing myself) that O. Henry means to say she is a virgin with no romantic experience with men.
     
  8. K-Young Member

    Japanese
    "she is a virgin with no romantic experience with men" ... Wow!

    What a superb insight!

    Thank you.
     
  9. G a Senior Member

    Coahuila, Mexico
    American English, Español mexicano
    Hmm...interesting, but it doesn't feel quite right.

    I'm going to guess that just as the "infant entomologist" refers to the lemon-coloured child, "stolen copes" refers to the O'Callahan in a Roman helmet, which she presumably thought quite proper.
     
  10. K-Young Member

    Japanese
    Hmmmmm.....

    So it might be that the O'Callahan in a Roman helmet in the plaque is wearing "stolen copes," but why should it be a plural form?
     
  11. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    This appears to be a reference to a contemporary scandal in the art world:

    From an article in Everybody's Magazine, Volume 11 (No. 5: Nov. 1904.)

    Mr Morgan and the Stolen Cope.

    Seldom have art patrons and amateurs the world over, as well as the public at large, shown more interest than that which at present attaches to the case of Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan and the celebrated cope, which he recently exhibited in London and which was unquestionably stolen from the Capitular Hall adjoining the Cathedral of Ascoli in Italy. .....

    [The article discusses the history of the cope (which was given to the church in 1288), the police investigation and efforts to get Morgan to return the cope to the church. He is not thought to have stolen the cope, but to have bought it from someone who did. The article ends with the following comment.]

    .... It might be incidentally remarked that Mr, Morgan has enough money to purchase duly authenticated, not stolen, goods.
    [space]
    Everybody's Magazine published several of O' Henry's stories.

    Edit: Corrected quotation and added link.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  12. jmichaelm Senior Member

    NJ, USA
    English - US
    Ah. Thanks Cagey for the information. All that remains is for me to delete my posts and change my name... :eek:
     
  13. K-Young Member

    Japanese
    Thank you for the information about the case of the stolen cope, Cagey.

    I think I understand it now.
     
  14. G a Senior Member

    Coahuila, Mexico
    American English, Español mexicano
    So I was wrong too...but I did think it was an enlarging on the questionable quality of her interior decor, rather than some deep allusion to paramours or lack thereof.
     

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