Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

Daddy-Long-Legs cover

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster was first published in 1912 but my copy dates from 1929 and it was a recent purchase of mine. It’s one of the many books aimed at younger people that I didn’t read when I was young. I have to admit though that I had been under the impression that this one was for much younger children so I was surprised to discover that Miss Jerusha Abbott is in fact 17 years old when she begins writing her letters to her benefactor Daddy-Long-Legs.

She gives up on her given name Jerusha (who wouldn’t?) and decides to be known as Judy. She has been brought up in an orphanage and obviously lacks love and attention but the staff recognise that she’s brighter than most of the children there and she’s allowed to stay on at school longer than most. When the dreaded monthly visit of the trustees comes around Judy is noticed by one particular trustee who decides to pay for her college tuition – it’s a miracle.

Her benefactor wishes to remain anonymous but Judy saw a silhouette of a long-legged man whom she guesses is her benefactor, hence she calls him Daddy-Long-Legs. He does want her to send him letters though and so begins Judy’s one sided correspondence with him.

Judy is an excitable and exuberant seventeen year old, immature by modern day standards I think but she’s very lovable although to me by the time she reaches the age of twenty-one she doesn’t seem much older. It’s quite obvious from fairly early on in the book what is going to happen, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this charming book.

I bought my copy of the book in Pitlochry, a small Scottish Highland town and I was amazed to see that it has a small rubber stamp in it which says Perkin, Grant and CI 542 Cangallo BUENOS AIRES. I think that must have been the bookshop it was originally sold in. I just wish that all our books could tell us where they’ve been in their journeys from being published to ending up in our hands, sometimes a couple of hundred years later in my case anyway. I do know that the original owner of this one was called Eileen Bannerman as she wrote her name in pencil inside it and the date 17th July, 1929.

8 thoughts on “Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

  1. I agree, Katrina – these old books have such stories of their own. This one sounds as if it could have been fascinating. I like the premise of the actual story too!

    • Sandra,
      I thought I must have been the only reader not to have read it already! I enjoyed it anyway and I think you probably would too.

  2. I often find little labels in the backs of books that say ‘Old Corner Bookstore, Boston’ or other bookstores. Or personal inscriptions like ‘To keep you entertained while you recover’. You don’t find that sort of thing in new books, do you?

    • Joan,
      Years ago I always wrote my name in books, but gave it up. Now I think it might have been of interest to anyone else who might own my books in the future – but what a thought!
      We have one book that has a very sad inscription from someone who was obviously very much in love with the person they were gifting it to. They must have broken up!

  3. I read this at about age 14 or 15, at my mom’s suggestion. I liked it okay, but I was very disappointed that it wasn’t like the Leslie Caron/Fred Astaire movie. It was sort of like the feeling I had about the book Mrs. Miniver after seeing the Greer Garson movie Mrs. Miniver, which was so incredibly interesting and exciting.

    • Judith,
      I had no idea that this book had been made into a film and I’m quite an Astaire fan! I can’t imagine it somehow. It’s unusual for the film to be better than the book. I don’t even think I’ve seen the whole film of Mrs Miniver although I read the book not too long ago.

      • I agree it’s unusual–but the movie was more captivating to me at age 13 or 14. Of course, there was the dancing…
        Mrs. Miniver is a must-see, though it is an American film, but it was exceedingly popular here, won 6 Academy Awards in 1942, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Greer Garson–who deserved it!) Walter Pidgeon, an American actor (I think) was her husband, and the film was so overwhelmingly well done. I’ve watched it a number of times since my youth and have enjoyed it ever bit as much. Ken loved it, too. And it doesn’t reek of American film, if you know what I mean. I do wish you could see it. Here’s the Wikipedia link, which is very good, if I do say so.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs._Miniver

        • Judith,
          Mrs Miniver is on TV now and again here and I’ve probably seen many bits of it, but have never sat down and watched it all. I’ll do it next time it’s on. Meanwhile,on a different topic if you’re interested in gardening you should hop over to You Tube and look at the BBC’s Gardeners’ World programme, it features two dogs (Nigel and Nellie)and they always make me think of your Sasha. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJQDl8Q5tRo

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