Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle

It has been a while since I’ve written about Thomas and Jane Carlyle – August 19, 2015 – and that dealt specifically with an old book that had been republished, The Carlyles at Home by Thea Holme. The original had induced me to purchase an old copy of Froude‘s Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, a two-in-one volume that makes for a massively-thick tome.

Back in 2017 Kathy Chamberlain published her *new* biography, Jane Welsh Carlyle and Her Victorian World: A Story of Love, Work, Marriage, and Friendship.

Chamberlain focuses her attention on the 1840s, although it dips into Jane Welsh Carlyle’s early life so that readers get to know her “back story”. But, wishing to experience Jane Welsh Carlyle’s own words, I not only brought out my copy of Letters and Memorials, I also searched online for other early publications of her letters. I wanted just her letters, without those of Thomas Carlyle. Readers of the original blog post (click picture) will be able to access the Carlyle Letters Online, and many will know of the print volumes available.

This post mainly serves to point out the online copies of the following books of correspondence:


New Reprints of Old Books

I will preface this by calling the post a bit of a RANT; and mention also,
the intended blog post – on letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle – will appear separately.

It has been a while since I’ve written about Thomas and Jane Carlyle – August 19, 2015 – and that dealt specifically with an old book that had been republished, The Carlyles at Home by Thea Holme.

I must say, during the ensuing five-plus years, reprints have taken on a new “new life”. There once was a time when a reprint was a genuine reason to exult! A hard-to-find title *finally* available again, perhaps in paperback, but hopefully reproducing itself in a true manner – complete (if lucky) with images, maps, pedigrees, or whatever accompanied the original. SOMETIMES with the addition of such material. SOMETIMES, if really lucky, in a more authoritative issue.

I think, for instance, of Andrew Tod’s Memoirs of a Highland Lady in the 1980s, which included the full original text, instead of a reprint of the 19th century book. Tod continued to issue Elizabeth Grant Smith’s later diaries, such as (pictured below) The Highland Lady in Dublin, 1851-1856.

Ten years ago (and I’m grabbing a “date” out of thin air), I would be happy whenever I located a hard-to-find book on Google Books. Too many times, in the beginning of my research (see my blog Two Teens in the Time of Austen), I did shake my head when coming across a volume, now fully digitized, reliving the difficulty I had had in trying to procure a scarce copy through inter-library loan. For example, Special Collections’ copies do not circulate.

Digital meant the book could now be downloaded, and that was always a plus.

BUT: there was the presumption that the digital copy could remain forever and always…

The more recent past, however, has seen too many books that were ONCE accessible on books.google. They either become wholly removed or so buried that only an original link digs them up.

WHY the change?

Books.google obviously helped to provide easy “print on demand” templates – and these *new* reprints have become current, with their “no preview” or “limited preview” versions taking precedence at the top of the lists. These do not always seem to be produced by legitimate publishers, but both sorts of reprints can cause the old digitized volume to “evaporate.” It isn’t the long-dead AUTHOR who’s making money from new reprints. Rising cover prices and free content mean a tidy profit with little investment. “Print on Demand” requires no physical book stock. The resultant decimation of former availability has become a rather distasteful side to the digitization of old books.

Long ago, when I used to haunt the Used Books Annex at our local Barnes & Noble, I found a copy of E.M. Delafield’s The Provincial Lady in London. Its cover price was low, being a paperback reprint, (I think it was $7.95), so its used price was very insignificant. I was quite taken with the book. I wanted MORE “Provincial Lady.”

I bought another volume, new.

BUT: my paperback version had a production defect: a missing page. Luckily, UVM’s library had an ORIGINAL hardcover. I’ve just checked their holdings – and find that they no longer HAVE the book and even their “annex” (where old and new books sometimes go to die) copy is a later reprint. (Maybe the original became “lost.”)

I either copied down or xeroxed the missing page. (I should locate my Delafield stash to confirm, but don’t feel like rifling through the closet shelves.)

I mention this scenario because it brought home to me that the new reprint was not newly recreated. The same layout, page breaks, and the poor quality of the printing bore the evidence of the lack-of-expense expended in reproducing the reprints. Into the bargain, of course, “quality control” had missed that a page had not been reproduced. (I think it was a chapter header page, even.)

Still in search of more “Provincial Lady” books, (E.M. Delafield was a prolific writer, in general as well as in this “series”), I went to a bookstore “downtown”. There came the REAL surprise. Not only were these books reprinted by “xeroxing” (for lack of a better word) the original 1930s, 1940s books, but a NEW new-reprint series had gotten underway. The smaller paperbacks had grown in size and were now a good $10 more (ie, closing in on $20, each). New Cover Art. But SAME interior.

I think, but I couldn’t swear to it, that the *missing* page still remained missing!

Thank goodness many books already uploaded to Internet Archive have remained there. Occasionally, I even use Hathi Trust. (Beware download links that offer books for “free”. What else comes with the download, I do not know…)

I know “all good things come to an end,” and I do still head over to books.google whenever I’m thinking about buying a book (a good preview is priceless), but to have books removed from the site so a few companies can “make a buck” was not the aim of the project. The early goal had been rather remarkable: To make books available to everyone. Let’s not forget the PUBLIC when discussing PUBLIC DOMAIN books.

Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary

publisher/date: University Press of Kentucky, 2009
pages:  xviii + 262
hardcover; paperback scheduled for Oct 2021 release
genre: diary

My longest trip to Kentucky was in 2015 for the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA). The meeting was held in Louisville; I gave a paper. But it wasn’t until my recent (Dec 2020) encounter with the diaries of Isadore Albee of Springfield, Vermont, that I sought out more about the (U.S.) Civil War era. Of course I have books – of letters; of diaries (including the ‘famous’ Mary Chesnut); a Howard Coffin book on Vermonters in the Civil War – but when I came upon the excerpt of Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary (edited by Nancy Disher Baird), I knew I had found something out-of-the ordinary.

Was it the “mystery” surrounding Josie Underwood’s diary?


typescript appeared out of the blue, forwarded by the United States Postal Service. Where had it come from? Where was the original diary? Was it (gasp!) a fake?

The latter query was dispatched QUITE quickly. Too much information that could be correctly corroborated – known Civil War facts AND intimate knowledge of Underwood family details.

The other questions never seem to have gained answers, despite an intense search – including among Underwood descendants.

That it survived, in some way, gives an indication of how good this diary is. Somehow, young Josie Underwood speaks – and her words, thoughts, feelings are fresh and exciting.

Bowling Green, Kentucky is the scene in which the Underwoods lived; Pa – Warner Underwood – was a stout Unionist; Ma – Lucy Craig Henry Underwood – celebrated her roots as a “Daughter of the South”, but she so keenly felt her brother’s “betrayal” of their father’s fight for a United States that she wished her own dear brother dead instead of fighting on the Confederate side. Kentucky, at the moment, was doing its damnedest to stay neutral. The family members, though, had picked sides – some “Union,” some “Secesh” – and backed up their beliefs in words and deeds.

One of the most touching instances – Josie’s sister Jupe’s aiding of a young clergyman and his pregnant wife, who were literally run out of town in Mississippi for being “Northerners”. The couple, “compelled to leave, without preparation and little money,” were not finding anyone to aid them in this flight — until Jupe took them under her roof, giving them respite and funds to continue on to Boston. This humanitarian aid, despite rather frightening threats to her from locals!

The book, too, makes me think less of “brother fighting brother” and turned my thoughts to those of Mrs. Underwood: men just a generation (or two) before had fought wars creating and uniting the United States. Now their sons and grandsons were engaging in divisions. It’s an important thought to keep in mind for wars so distant in time to us in the 21st century.

On a personal note, Josie Underwood (1840-1923) is a true delight! Her quick mind, staunch beliefs, familial devotion, and those many marriage proposals (so many that I have lost count!) gave wings to her thoughts, actions, and recorded words.

In looking up information, it is with great pleasure that I see, after more than ten years< the book will be reprinted (in paperback) later this year. Snap up used copies, in hardcover, before they disappear (new copies are available through the University Press of Kentucky). Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary is a “keeper”, and it is well-served by Baird’s editing, useful appendix of “Who’s Who”, notes, and index.

Regency Explorer – check out New Releases

Happy 2021 wishes to all Readers, despite January being a week from its end (already…). To celebrate, I invite you to check out the superb list of NEW RELEASE books Regency Explorer puts up every month.

My interests, as expressed here at Georgian Gems, Regency Reads & Victorian Voices, often deal with old books re-found, or new diaries presented through websites. But there is no thrill like a book in the hand…

Regency Explorer’s pickings tend to the historical and biographical. Right up my alley – and I hope yours too. Centered a great deal on Europe, most choices are British in some respect; but not all! Some offerings, even, are in languages beyond English. From the rather long list of January 2021 releases, there’s been little delay thanks to covid in getting books to the press. I even see a *new* Jane Austen book of literary criticism that I must check out (for the curious: P.J. Allen, Jane Austen’s Lost Novel: Its Importance for Understanding the Development of her Art).

With Amazon on the brink of getting rid of its easy ADVANCED SEARCH form in favor of “recommendations” (and, often, “sponsored” books that have ABSOLUTELY nothing in common with my search term), lists like these, of new releases, become more and more important.

John Martin of Dorset, diaries

I first came across the diaries of John Martin of Evershot through this 44-page PDF.  Recently expanded into a website all its own, John Martin of Evershot: The Life and Times of a 19th Century Land Surveyor will well-occupy visitors interested in history, in land survey, and in Dorset (especially) and England.

Nine diaries – the first kept in 1810 and the last in 1861 – are remarkable signposts to a man’s lifetime and the times through which he lived.

“Martin’s career may be roughly divided into three unequal sections. Until 1837 it was dominated by inclosure work. Then for a brief spell, less than a decade, he was concerned with the commutation of tithes in the parishes. Finally from 1845 onwards he found himself engaged in a new area of work – the railways, which altered the country more fundamentally than either inclosure or tithe reform could ever do. “

Image from Dorset History Centre’s 2018 “tweet” about the Martin diaries.

Diaries, in themselves, may be deemed “unpromising if not boring”. It takes a careful (and caring) editor to bring the the words and situations to life. “But history is a strange subject, for the present, the here and now, is not yet history whilst it is being lived.

Lady Somerville’s Diaries

Lady Somerville was born Frances “Fanny” Hayman; she married in 1833.

Lady Somerville’s diaries feature her TRAVELS, and such snapshots made so long ago can be highly amusing, informative, and interesting. The diaries illustrate the following places in the 1850s and 1860s:

1854 – Boulogne

1855 – Cowes

1856 – Scarborough

1858 – Cowes

1859 – Ryde

1860 – Weymouth

1861 – “thereafter”

The opening page gives information on the family, as well as on Fanny Hayman’s youth – and mentions the traces of letters girlhood friends left behind! Correspondents included Annabel Crewe – who also corresponded with Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall. One of my favorite books is Ellen’s diary and letters – which now has a companion volume. But more about that at a later date.

The two friends, Annabel and Ellen, were concerned about Fanny Hayman’s upcoming marriage (in 1833), because of the age gap between Fanny and her future husband. The Somervilles ultimately settled in Leamington Spa. It is from there that their travels commenced.

COVID-19 Diaries

Reading a diary from World War II era (yesterday, May 8, 2020 being the 75th anniversary of VE Day), I wondered what other PUBLISHED diaries have been produced from material at the archive of the Mass Observation project in the U.K. I have SEVERAL books and the one I am reading – The View from the Corner Shop, a diary by Kathleen Hey – was edited by the team Patricia and Robert Malcolmson, whose names appear on more than one book jacket.


They are soliciting diaries recording YOUR experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. I only wish _I_ lived in the U.K.

They are also asking people to participate in their 12th of May Diary project (10-year anniversary this year). They call it “Mass-Observation Day-Survey“. I had to smile when I spotted that THIS diarist included, not only WORDS, but also a sunny drawing!

diary with drawing_8yr-old

School groups and community groups are encouraged, but so aren’t individuals. Please consider adding YOUR VOICE to such project(s).

Although I have not lived in such conflicts as World War I or World War II, lives as lived (especially for women) is a GREAT interest of mine. And such words, written from the heart, are exceptionally important for generations to come. Also, such recordings make people realize (in so many ways) the truth of an old adage like, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” As well, the idea that our privations are sometimes light in comparison to the privations of others – whether in nearby states now; or in different lands now and back when. Conversely, sometimes a privation or a danger might locate a glimmer of solace in someone else’s plight that mirrors one’s own.

Boredom Busters: 5 Biographies

In no particular order, except how they came to mind, here are five biographies, diaries, and/or letters that I have found SO engrossing that I never want the reading experience to end. They are all *old* books, so your fingers can search the used book market, thereby creating some online business (perhaps for small retailers). If the coronavirus keeps YOU home, cozy up with these tales of life in other times.

(1) Germaine Greer, Shakespeare’s Wife  (2007)

Greer_Shakespears WifeA consistently engaging narrative, though its foundation is erected upon slim, extant historical evidence. Greer’s prose and knowledge of the time period, the players, and an ability to extrapolate a meaningful conclusion, keep this book not far from my bedside. Although early for my usual tastes, to me, this book shows what a good writer can do with a few choice bits and a winning way with words.

“Anyone steeped in western literary culture must wonder why any woman of spirit would want to be a wife.”




(2) Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography  (1980)

Strouse_Alice JamesI am no Henry James fan (although I have a soft spot for The Aspern Papers. What researcher in pursuit of family letters wouldn’t? And I adore the film The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland). His sister’s life, on the other hand entrances me. Alice James had so much going for her, until she sank under the idea of invalidism. Strouse’s words flow like butter, whipping up an irresistible tale of one woman’s life.

“Interesting perceptions are preferable to marketable achievements only when there is enough money to go around.”





(3) Avril Pedley (ed), A Georgian Marriage: The Family Papers of Sir Nash & Lady Grose, 1761-1814  (2007)

Pedley_Georgian MarriageOh! to have found such a treasure trove as the correspondence of Nash Grose and Mary Dennett. Editor Avril Pedley, the owner of the letters, tells us, early on, how she came by such an astounding series of letters. The sharp mind of Mary Dennett brings the Georgian era to life. The one book I never wish to finish.

“Pray when did I desire you to keep every scrap of my writing? Never I am sure… tear it, burn it or anything else”






(4) Susan C. Djabri (ed.), The Diaries of Sarah Hurst, 1759-1762: Life and Love in 18th Century Horsham  (2009)

Djabri_Sarah Hurst

One of the first diaries I truly found to be “a must have”. Sarah Hurst’s diaries cover only a few years, those during which she was parted from her beloved Captain Henry Smith, a marine at war in far-away Canada. Barbara Hurst, a descendant of the diarist’s brother, transcribed the diaries, bringing Sarah out of the shadows. Djabri’s editing only adds to the total package of this fascinating document. A diarist with a unique, compelling voice.

“I had now carried on my affair with Lieutenant Smith for 3 years unknown to my friends tho’ not without great compunction of mind and several efforts to break with him, which however prove ineffectual.”



(5) Frederick Pottle (ed.), Boswell’s London Journal, 1762-1763  (1950)

boswellThere’s only one James Boswell. And this diary begins it all. I’m pretty sure I found my copy in a long-gone-now secondhand book shop in Rutland (Vermont), Tuttle Antiquarian Books. I seem to remember the shop’s basement level was one of my favorite haunts. Prolific Boswell – ‘friend’ to Dr. Johnson, ‘enemy’ to Mrs. Thrall – lived in a charmed circle of people who left writing behind, be it published works or intimate words.

“The ancient philosopher certainly gave a wise counsel when he said, ‘Know thyself.’ For surely this knowledge is of all the most important.”

Letters to a Governess

Over the weekend, I discovered this unknown little charmer – a slim book published 1905, featuring letters written by the children of Walter Scott to their governess, Miss Millar.

Letters, Hitherto unpublished, written by members of Sir Walter Scott’s family to their old Governess…” is a slice of life in the Abbotsford (Melrose, Scotland) household between the dates of 1810 to 1837.

Sophia Scott

I enjoyed the descriptions, in the introduction, of Scott’s children, especially of his two daughters: Sophia (who married the Scott biographer, J.G. Lockhart) [above] and Anne [below].

Anne Scott

Currently in the midst of reading letters written by the three Clephane sisters of Torloisk (the eldest married Spencer, Lord Compton in 1815), I had hopes of finding extracts of their letters TO Scott when I searched for the volumes of Lockhart’s Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott.

There are TEN volumes (in the 1882 edition) of the Memoirs, which are listed below:

vol. 1 – 1771-1997
vol. 2 – 1798-1806
vol. 3 – 1806-1812
vol. 4 – 1812-1814   [a fine description of Torloisk]
vol. 5 – 1814-1818   [Mrs. Scott’s portrait]
vol. 6 – 1818-1821   [Sophia Scott’s portrait]
vol. 7 – 1822-1825   [Anne Scott’s portrait]
vol. 8 – 1825-1826
vol. 9 – 1827-1829
vol. 10 – 1830-1832

There are other editions (earlier and later), but having access to one specific edition will help continuity.

Scott’s children were not long-lived. For those having an interest in some background to the family, as well as superb photographs of Abbotsford – the home Scott built from his book proceeds, which nearly bankrupted him, visit the estate’s website. Even James Edward Austen Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew, who married my diarist; see Two Teens in the Time of Austen) toured Abbotsford; he was a fan of Walter Scott’s “Waverley” series, and the family devoured everything Scott produced.

The introduction to the Governess letters comments upon their most-recent (c1905) dissemination through the hands of several people with ties to Miss Millar. I now wonder, of course, where these precious letters CURRENTLY reside.


Gilbert White: Natural History & Journals

How could I overlook one of the most *celebrated* journal keepers, based in Jane Austen’s own county of HAMPSHIRE?

Gilbert White (18 July 1720-26 June 1793) lived in Selborne, Hampshire – inheriting upon his father’s death “The Wakes,” which is now a museum. Selborne is ten miles south of Basingstoke.

Although he was curate for Selborne, it is White’s observations of nature and the countryside that brought him the lasting fame he now “enjoys.” His 1789 book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne has really been in print ever since. His journals are what interest me the most, however; the daily tidbits of a life.

Gilbert White Journals

Top on the list of Gilbert White-related websites is THE NATURAL HISTORY OF SELBORNE, which features “a fairly complete transcription of forty years of the personal journals.” In December (2018), I got caught up in his last year’s entries, 1793. I also found the entires of Timothy the Tortoise as entrancing as others have done (Timothy features in his own books, for instance!) The online entries are well-presented.

For those who love books, the 3-volume set of White’s journals, published (in full) in the late 1980s in an edition edited by Francesca Greenoak; illustrated by Clare Roberts. Sydney Padua calls this edition “gorgeous,” “huge,” and “lovely to hold.”

The Gilbert White House Museum has online the “original manuscript” of White’s book, written as a set of letters to Thomas Pennant, and others.

Gilbert White manuscript

The handwriting is consistent and easy to read, but, as you can see, contains “corrections” and “insertions.”

To sum up the man, I turn to Tom Clark, who writes: “All evidence indicates he [Gilbert White] was a cheerful, witty, mild and endlessly curious man.”


  • Tom Clark’s Beyond the Pale includes photos of The Wakes and the countryside, and cites some Gilbert White diary entries
  • Basic Information on Gilbert White, including a portrait, from the Gilbert White House Museum site: Who is Gilbert White?
  • Amy M. King, “Publication of Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne, 1789″
  • Rhian Williams, “Gilbert White’s Eighteenth Century Journals as ‘Everyday’ Ecology” (from Isle: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 24, No. 3, 2017) (viewed online or as PDF)
  • A fascinating look at the written descriptions of Gilbert White, as well as extant and inauthentic portraits, in The Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society (vol. 43, 1987): “Likenesses of the Reverend Gilbert White,” by J.E. Chatfield. (article is PDF)