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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Elizabeth Firth diaries (online)

Give thanks for repositories who SHARE the wealth by offering digital images and/or transcriptions of their holdings.

The University of Sheffield Library has a PDF transcription of the diaries of Elizabeth Firth, who is a young schoolgirl when the first diary begins in 1812.

Elizabeth was born in 1797 (she lived until 1837).

On Archives Hub is the following description: “Diaries recording the day-to-day events in the life of a young girl in the Yorkshire village of Thornton in the 1810s and 1820s.” It goes on to categorize the diaries as being “of the simplest kind: brief day-to-day records of social and church occasions…. Their principal interest lies in the references to members of the Brontë family with whom Elizabeth was acquainted, and the collection includes a letter from Charlotte Brontë to Elizabeth Firth” (also known under her married name, Elizabeth Franks).

As you might guess, _I_ do not think the principal interest is due to her connection to the Brontës, but in the descriptions of the lifeof diarist Elizabeth Firth herself. And she tells some wonderful stories.

To give a bit of background: Elizabeth Firth lived at Kipping House, Thornton (near Bradford), Yorkshire. Her father John Scholefield Firth was a doctor – and, by the time the Brontës moved to Bradford (1815), Dr. Firth had become a widower.

The connection to the Brontës, though, IS quite an interesting one: Elizabeth Firth befriended Maria (Branwell) Brontë; in 1821 Patrick Brontë proposed to Elizabeth! I’ve already told you that her married name was “Franks”, thereby letting the cat out of the bag regarding Patrick’s proposal. It is “thought to have led to a rupture in her relations with the Brontë family” that lasted at least a couple of years. Elizabeth married the Rev. James Clarke Franks in September 1824.

The Bronte Sisters blog has two interesting posts (from 2013) you’ll want to read:

A blog dedicated to Anne Brontë has an additional story (from 2017):

Elizabeth Firth

Both blogs have this image of Elizabeth Firth; I’ve been unable to find it anywhere else – but hope it truly is her. Don’t we all like to SEE the writer we’re reading?!

The diaries of Elizabeth Firth have been culled for such books as The Letters of Charlotte Brontë: 1829-1847. But in discussing Elizabeth’s importance to the family, readers learn about Elizabeth’s life. Including, that the Franks had five children.

Other books Elizabeth shows up in: A Brontë Family Chronology and the Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors (by Juliet Barker).

Elizabeth Franks’ grandson, G.C. Moore Smith, published some extracts in The Modern Language Quarterly, entitling his 1901 article “The Diary of a Schoolgirl of Eighty Years Ago.” This covers the earliest years, which in detailing some “odd” (to us) school practices, is quite fascinating. A 1904 article in The Bookman also discusses aspects of “My grandmother,” in an illustrated article entitled “The Brontës at Thornton.”

The diaries not only include daily entries, there are also accounts. Of use, if you wish to know the cost of “3 caps” in 1829 (1 pound) or an apron (14s 10d). On the last page (page 252) I spot recipes for “Cheescakes”, “stuffin”, and “punch”.

The editing includes footnotes and explanations, even of archaic or dialect words. Some give indications of places, and also note special markings in the diary itself. Entries are short, as befits such pocket diaries of the time, and are gathered in daily remarks for the month, which makes the look of the transcription very easy to read. In short, Highly Recommended.

[NB: REALLY tough searching for Miss Firth – keep coming up with images of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy!}

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.

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

Diaries for Dana

mauSince reading the blog comments of Dana, I’ve been mentally picking books to recommend – the ones that came first to mind were two already discussed here, including the one book I simply cannot say enough GOOD THINGS about: The Diary of Sarah Hurst.

diaries_sarah_hurstDana was hoping for diaries – by women! – where the writer shared thoughts and feelings.

There are many I could recommend, but fewer that are what Dana requires: “more detailed”.

So tonight, a few that have come to mind. Hopefully, people’s comments will elicit a bit more commentary about the books – for, it’s getting late and has been a long day. But if there’s ONE THING I LOVE TO TALK ABOUT, it’s BOOKS!

Every time I go upstairs, I see the cover of one of the most delightful books – not only do you get a GREAT sense of the writer, she was an artist too! It’s an old book, published back in the 1980s. maudIt had its US and UK versions (I do presume the interior of the book remained unchanged), and therefore had also two dust covers. Spend the extra and find a copy with its jacket — you will be glad to have the “whole” package.

maud-2Maud’s late-Victorian thoughts and hijinks are just a delight – and, as you can see by the cover art, she was a wonderful artist! How I wish author Flora Fraser had published more along this line. And more about Maud Berkeley!

I was going to keep on going, but maybe I’ll save my next for another blog post. Maud certainly deserves to be at the head of a list, not one among many. A very special book – and diary.

 

Upcoming and Noteworthy

A short note to say “Welcome, 2013” and “Happy New Year” to readers of Regency Reads.

I’ve posted a new page, Exciting & New, which features books unread (most are yet-to-be published) that have gained my attention. Want to tout a book (new or old!): Do make contact. I haven’t devoted a lot of time to this blog, but I’d love to make it a real source for those desiring their British history to have a primary-source focus.

mrs creevey

Creevey and Croker

Sorry to duplicate some of what you will today find on my main blog, Two Teens in the Time of Austen, but today’s post really does BELONG here too:

I was letting my fingers do the walking through my downstairs bookcase – and plucked an old paperback “selection” of Thomas Creevey’s papers. Gosh! I remember when I first bought this: I hankered after the THREE books it was based on. Guess what? you can pretty much find them online now… Ah, it had taken at least some dusty stacks grabbing (if not storage…) to find the Maxwell edition. A lot of work to find them back then.

So here I’m posting links, including those of a “rival” John Wilson Croker.

Thomas Creevey (left) left letters – and if he DID leave diaries, they’ve not been traced and may have been “swallowed up” by those not wanting his thoughts and opinions to leak out.

My paperback is a reprint edition edited by John Gore, called Thomas Creevey’s Papers, 1793-1838.

I was reading Gore’s introduction last evening. Gore’s 1944 compilation had been preceded by Sir Herbert Maxwell’s 1904 2-volume set. Gore had worked not to duplicate items. Gore writes of Maxwell’s work “taking Edwardian London by storm”. We should all be so lucky…

  • The Creevey Papers, edited by Sir Herbert Maxwell: vol I, vol II – this is via Internet Archive, but is a Google book. It looks like both volumes are in one. Another link; here’s a two-volume set: vol I; vol II. I like the “set” because vol II has a portrait of MRS Creevey (right) – and you know I’d rather read about the ladies.
  • Creevey’s Life and Times, edited by John Gore seems not online — yet?!

In reading the introduction, I was reminded of John Wilson Croker (below)- his works cover nearly the same period.

I can’t say much about either man – never read Croker and it’s been years since I’ve dipped into Creevey. I based a character in two short-stories on his sister. Should look into getting those stories published…