In 1979, after he met Jackie O, Bruce Chatwin wrote to his wife, Elizabeth,
Escorting Mrs Onassis to the opera next Thursday. Met her again with the John Russells, and my God she’s fly.1
Best description of Mrs. Onassis ever? I think so. I was surprised to learn that this connotation of “fly” was of so early a vintage, but a writer in a discussion at Metafilter found an even earlier occurence in an O. Henry story of the first decade of the 20th century.
[The Mysteries of Udolpho] is a kind of mystery-machine, of course, full of local puzzles and conundrums.
»Terry Castle, in her introduction to Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford, 1998.
Given that the solution to one of the novel’s puzzles is straight out of an episode of Scooby Doo, “mystery-machine” is an apt choice of phrase.
One evening, I suddenly took a fancy to possess her in the middle of the drawing-room, with the chandelier and candles lit, the fire in the hearth, the chairs set out in a circle as if for a grand soirée, and with her in evening dress with her bouquet and fan, and all her diamonds on her fingers and round her neck, a headdress of plumes, the most splendid costume imaginable, and myself dressed as a bear. She agreed to it.
»Théophile Gautier. (Joanna Richardson, trans.) Mademoiselle de Maupin. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1981.
Why, look at that! It’s a 175 year-old instance of furry sex!