Eldon House Diaries

New in my mailbox is a not-so-new book (published in 1994), The Eldon House Diaries: Five Women’s Views of the Nineteenth Century.

The collection (it’s a BIG book!) introduces readers to the Harris family – the first of whom settled in London, Ontario in the 1830s. It’s actually still available (digital version) through the Champlain Society, though I (of course…) found mine in the used book market.

“The Eldon House Diaries documents the life of a large upper middle-class family living in London, Ontario, during the nineteenth century. Amelia Ryerse Harris, John Harris, and their then eight children moved into Eldon House on September 10, 1834, and members of the family occupied it thereafter for the next 125 years. This house, and their families, dominate the pages of the Eldon House diaries selected for the years between 1848 and 1882.”

The surprise is that Eldon House STILL EXISTS! It is now a museum, “featuring a 19th century period mansion and gardens,” open to visitors.

The House website features a useful listing of the rooms that are available for viewing, covering the ground floor and second floor: from the Kitchen and Larder, to the Servants’ Quarters; from various bedrooms to the Library and Morning Room.

Another link gives a nice history of John Harris, who was born in Devon, England. A victim of the “press gangs”, Harris served in the Royal Navy. War brought him to the Canadian side of the North American Great Lakes, where he met the woman he would marry: Amelia Ryerse, who is the foremost (and lengthiest) diarist The Eldon House Diaries book chronicles.

 

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Wynne’s Diary (online)

An online presentation of a young woman’s diary – covering late Victorian, Edwardian, pre-World War II years. Culled from 30 volumes of diaries.

Wynne_s Diary

The young lady in question is Wynne… You meet her under the tabs you see along the side: Family; Festivity; Travel; Love; Fashion; Editor’s Picks.

Entries are accessed through the “menu” at the top – choose a year, pick a month; then “more info” at the bottom of each individual “window”.

Generously illustrated.

When Winifred Llewhellin began her diaries, in 1895, she was 16-years-old; she married in 1902.

The site is put together by Wynne’s youngest grandchild, Peter Symes, and includes some audio memories by her daughter Ysobel.

Click on the photo to access the site.

Two new Illustrated Diaries

I have not seen these books, but I am VERY intrigued!

Baker_on the Broads

A Week on the Broads was “advertised” in the recent Christmas email from the bookshop at The National Archives in Britain. Only 96 pages, it didn’t really catch my attention at first. But I have been to Norfolk, and I my attention was piqued just enough by the sub-title, “Four Victorian gents at sail on a Norfolk gaffer in 1889,” to search it out. I’m glad I did!

S.K. Baker’s volume about the Norfolk Broads actually has a companion volume, entitled Camping on the Wye. Both came out this year, in June and August 2017.

Michael Goffe, a descendant of one of the “gents” who accompanied Baker, owns the sketchbooks — “Facsimile” in this case means S.K. Baker’s words and watercolor pictures!

Amazon.uk lets us “look inside” the two books:

  • Camping on the Wye: Four Victorian gents row the Wye in a randan skiff in 1892. (also: a Sample, from Bloomsbury, includes the “into”]
  • A Week on the Broads: Four Victorian gents at sail on a Norfolk gaffer in 1889.

And it’s the look inside that will convince you that there’s a LOT packed inside. Here’s a page from each volume:

Broads

A Week on the Broads

Wye

Camping on the Wye

 

S.K. Baker and his “Victorian Gents” made the Times Literary Supplement in October (2017). Of course, the writer (Jacqueline Banerjee) alludes to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat – and calls her article, “Four Men in a Boat”.

 

More images from the book, A Week on the Broads, and some background information can be found in The Great Yarmouth Mercury‘s article — including a photo of Michael Goff. It was this article, by Andrew Stone, that REALLY fired my imagination!

And there’s the thing: illustrating why the books are “facsimile” editions (as Stone’s article does) goes a LONG way towards helping readers appreciate just what their owner is now sharing with us. This small remainder — just two sketchbook diaries — of one man’s life (and four men’s adventures) is a very special gift indeed.

Private Journal of Adelaide Darby

Adelaide Darby2

Publisher / date: Sessions Book Trust/Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, 2004
pages: 502
Paperback
genre: diary

I purchased this a few months ago, but only recently started reading from the beginning (rather than “dipping” into the text here and there). Adelaide Darby is 16 years old when the diary opens. She is a DELIGHT to get to know!

The Private Journal of Adelaide Darby of Coalbrookdale opens in 1833. The impetus for beginning to keep a journal was reading The Young Christians – which encouraged all readers to keep a journal. Ample notes identify who people and places are – the Darbys are a multi-generational group associated with the Ironbridge (built by Adelaide’s grandfather).

Adelaide’s journal is actually the third in a series of diaries – all transcribed by the late Lady Rachel Labouchere. (The other two concern Deborah Darby, 1754-1810 and Abiah Darby, 1716-1793. Both are still offered ‘new’ by Sessions Books.)

The layout of each year begins with a ‘Comment’ section by the editor, Emyr Thomas. This underscores (though sometimes ‘repeats’) what the diarist has to tell us. Adelaide’s opinions of neighbors and relations bring fun into the proceedings. There are times that she is QUITE opinionated! As when she calls one young man, “the detestable.” Adelaide is also seeing the ‘death’ of the coaching era as trains will take over more and more – and her family take part in all that business. There’s no index, so any nuggets that come when she mentions her readings will be discovered as they happen – but of Maria Edgeworth’s Helen she was writing (in 1834), “Helen is such a beautiful natural and good character…. All the people are to the life.” So despite her protests that she should not be reading novels, Adelaide does manage to pick them up from time to time.

The Darbys were Quakers (“Friends” is the term used in the book); and it’s not a surprise, therefore, that Adelaide should meet the Gaskells – “Mrs. Gaskell is the most delightfully simple, girlish creature imaginable.”

The family were involved with the local politicians, so there is a bit of the current political climate cropping up.

The book’s cover describes the diary’s contents as, “In her early years she [Adelaide Darby] records her feelings about a succession of unsuccessful suitors. Approaching her thirties she realised how much she like church music and singing (and fine clothes) contrary to the simple Quaker practices of her upbringing, and was baptised into the Church of England. In 1852 [the diary goes up to 1861], at age 35, she married Henry Whitmore, MP for Bridgnorth, Shropshire, who served in Lord Derby’s second and third Tory administrations…. Adelaide, from her London homes, recorded an increasingly glittering political round in increasingly staccato Journal references.”

Captain Gronow Reminisces

One book often cited, Reminiscences of Captain Gronow actually is one of FOUR books by Rees Howell Gronow, published in the 1860s. Although written as memoirs later in life, the amount of informative gossip keeps Gronow at the top of the “bibliography” lists in many Regency histories and biographies.

Capt Gronow

The first book – the most famous of them – is also available *free* as an audio book at Librivox.

Grego’s two volume illustrated edition should prove popular too: volume 1, volume 2

Gronow lived from 1794 to 1865. He attended Eton, served in the Napoleonic Wars, spent time in Debtors’ Prison, was a Member of Parliament who was ousted in a “void” election.

Diary of Lady Lucy Cavendish

LOVE that an old book has found new life (and new fans?) as a blog. In this case The Diary of Lady Frederick Cavendish (to give the title of this 1927 issue). Women today might take issue with being known by their husband’s name (for instance, few would use the correct form of Mrs Robert Adams, preferring Mrs Thelma Adams instead – though the latter was distinctly in use for a widow at the time). Thus the title of my post. Giving Lady Lucy her due.

lady-frederick-cavendish

Earliest entries are from 1854; final entries come from 1882. The blog started because of a set of the book’s 2 volumes being found at a used bookstore for $3 in the late 1970s. You can read about the gestation of the blog under the tab “BACKGROUND“.

The extensive Introductions, to each volume as well as each volume of diary is also included.

By way of introduction to you, dear Reader, here is a hint about her lineage:

“Born in one of the finest families of the English aristocracy, she had many connections to several of the grandest families in Great Britain. Her grandmother, Lady Sarah Spencer Lyttelton (“Granny” in the diary), held such a close association with the Royal Family that she was spoken of as the “Governess of England.” Her uncle, William Gladstone, was several times Prime Minister and many of her relatives were members of Parliament”

New: Online Diaries

How I could neglect SO LONG in collecting together all the WEBSITES that reproduce diaries (and coming soon, letters), I just don’t know. You will find them under the tab DIARIES ONLINE.

While I track down more that I have come across over the years, I start with FOUR sites that were true *FINDS* indeed:

  • Gertrude Savile’s diaries, on Twitter
  • Miss Fanny Chapman’s diaries
  • Lady Charlotte Bridgeman’s journals
  • the theatre comments of John Waldie

This group covers Britain (and sometimes beyond) from the early 1720s into and beyond the 1850s. Each diarist has a fascinating tale to tell, and a compelling voice with which they narrate. Some are presented “whole”; some have accompanying links to page images, if you wish to try deciphering them yourself.

lady-charlotte-bridgeman
a page from Charlotte Bridgeman’s journal