Daddy Long Legs is a 1912 novel by Jean Webster. The story is told as a series of letters from an orphan to the trustee of the orphanage where she grew up and who is now sponsoring her anonymously through college. The one condition is that she write him via his secretary once a month. As the matron of the orphanage tells our protagonist, Jerusha "Judy" Abbott, "His reason in requiring the letters is that he thinks nothing so fosters facility in literary expression as letter-writing. Since you have no family with whom to correspond, he desires you to write in this way; also, he wishes to keep track of your progress. He will never answer your letters, nor in the slightest particular take any notice of them."
We get to know Judy through her four years of letters, where she spills out her heart. In these letters she addresses her sponsor in a variety of ways, but most often a Daddy Long Legs based on the glimpse of him and his shadow climbing up the wall that she got on her way to the matron's news. Since Judy only saw him in the dark and from the back, she knows he is tall and thin.
Judy's reading material
One of the troubles Judy encounters is that having spent all her life in the orphanage, she knows very little of popular culture. She's never been in a private home before either. So we get an interesting perspective on the culture of the time. One of the ways she tries to "catch up" with her peers is by extensive reading (sometimes instead of her assigned studies). Probably in part due to this, she initially fails her Latin and geometry classes. Judy lists some of the books she reads in her letters. They include Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poems (including Locksley Hall), Vanity Fair, Rudyard Kipling's Plain Tales, Little Women", Matthew Arnold's poems, works of Robert Louis Stevenson including Treasure Island, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, The Portrait of a Lady, On the Trail, the plays of William Shakespeare including specific mention of Hamlet and As You Like It, Marie Bashkirtseff's journal, Jane Eyre, Life and Letters of Thomas Huxley, William Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey and poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and John Keats.
Daddy Long Legs has been turned into a musical comedy, a play and four movies from 1919, 1931, 1935 and 1955.
If you like this book, try Anne of Green Gables
- Daddy-Long-Legs information and downloadable versions on ManyBooks.
- Text of Daddy-Long-Legs on Wikisource.
- Video of the 1919 silent movie Daddy-Long-Legs on Wikimedia Commons.