the classics pages letters

Hello Oracle:

There is a small place in Alberta, Canada called Musidora. Currently, our records show that it was named after a place in France. First of all, it does not sound French, and searches done either in paper copy or on the
internet do not indicate there is a place in France by that name. Other searches have shown that artists such as Gainsborough and Etty have painted pictures of Musidora bathing. This has led me to the thought that there may
be some connection to Roman mythology. Does this make any sense to you?
Have you heard of this character? (This is outside my area of expertise -- Western Canadian history.) On the internet there are also a number of references to a stable/horse line in Yorkshire that uses the name Musidora.

Any help you can give would be appreciated.


Dear Merrily
There was a very famous star of French avant-garde silent film Les Vampires called Musidora (so there is a French connection) (Possibly the original Vamp?)

The paintings you mention illustrate "Summer", an 18th cent poem by James Thomson from his (then!) highly popular "The Seasons" (pub 1744), in the Classical vein, called Damon and Musidora. D behaved in such a gentlemanly way after catching her bathing that she agreed to marry him! (Very different
from the Classical version where Actaeon sees Diana - and she has him torn to pieces by his own dogs.)

"With wild surprise,
As if to marble struck, devoid of sense,
A stupid moment motionless she stood:
So stands the statue that enchants the world;"

(1344-47) [referring to the
Venus dei Medici in Florence]

"The most popular passages of The Seasons, which were long the admiration of English readers and did much to gain the poem its vogue on the continent, were those episodes which take the form of sentimental anecdotes appropriate
to the season under discussion. Of these, three in number, two are in Summer. A description of a thunderstorm suggests the story of Celadon and Amelia, the lovers separated by a fatal thunderbolt. This is quickly
succeeded by a passage on summer bathing, illustrated by the tale of Damon and Musidora, which, in its present form, is entirely altered, and altered for the worse, from the form which it assumed in the earliest draft of the
poem. The episode of Palemon and Lavinia in Autumn is a tale of harvest,modelled upon the history of Boaz and Ruth. At their best, these stories are merely elegant decorations of Thomson's verse. Their popularity in their
own day was due to an artificial taste which sought in such poetry the distractions of an unreal world, and tolerated the questionable morality andspurious sentiment of the story of Damon and Musidora, for the sake of its
superficial prettiness."

Basically T took a Classical/Biblical story and prettied it up. The name Musidora (which he invented) thereafter became popular - maybe it's due for a comeback?(though I prefer Merrily - which I've never heard before)

You presumably already know about this: - odd that Musidora, Alberta should have two Ukrainian/Orthodox churches.

The name Musidora, by the way , is Greek - meaning "gift of the muses" - presumably on the analogy of Theodora. But she was not a character in
ancient mythology.