The Story of a Prima Donna's Birthday

by Ina Brevoort Roberts

as it appeared in The Ladie's Home Journal, August 1900.


Doug Boilesen, 2023

This PhonoLiterature selection takes place at the beginning of the 20th Century on the birthday of an old couple's daughter who has moved across the ocean and has "won fame with her voice." The parents haven't seen her for some time and are having a hard time trying to stay cheerful as the memories of their baby Milly who they watched grow into a graceful woman are making them feel particularly isolated on this anniversary of her birth -- "even Christmas was not so dreary as this birthday."

The father goes to do chores before the impending snowstorm and says he's going to then go to the post-office as there might be a letter from Milly.

When the father returns he has no letter, but he does have a large wooden box which had come that afternoon by express -- and it had been sent by Milly.

As they open it they are puzzled by what it is, first thinking it "looks like a small-sized sewin'-machine. And here's a brass horn, too. Now I wonder if Milly sent that fur a joke, or what?"

Discovering another box with instructions in it the old man learns, by spelling out the word, that it's a p-h-o-n-o-g-r-a-p-h "and them things in that air records....I wisht I knew what 'twas fur though."

While the husband continues to look puzzled and investigate the mystery his wife says "it must be good fur somethin' or Milly wouldn't have sent it."

The directions are followed, the machine is wound up with its key, and they anxiously await to see what it does.

At first nothing but a peculiar buzzing...and just as they were ready to be disappointed they heard a voice singing. It was Milly singing. The "sting of their loneliness" would soon disappear:



The following is the complete From a Far Country - The Story of a Prima Donna's Birthday.


The Ladie's Home Journal, August 1900.




This ad appeared in The Ladies' Home Journal, December 1899 (1/16 page ad - See full ad p. 44)