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.”

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Ballard: England in 1815

In 2011, the blog Austenonly ran an article on the actress Miss O’Neill, and, in commenting on her, introduced me to the journal of Joseph Ballard. Ballard says more about Miss O’Neill than my diarist, Emma Smith (after marriage, Emma Austen). The post induced me to look up Ballard’s journal for myself.

joseph ballard

Its full title goes a long way to explaining the delights to be found inside: England in 1815 as seen by a Young Boston Merchant, being the Reflections and Comments of Joseph Ballard on a Trip through Great Britain in the year of Waterloo. Published in 1913, its frontispiece was a watercolor portrait of the young merchant in 1813 (detail above). Ballard was 26 years-old during his trip abroad. The journal covers March to November 1815.

The voyage to England, of course, opens the narrative. With nations at war and sea travel parlous when the weather whipped up storms, Ballard’s journey could not have an easy one. He touched on English soil at Liverpool.

To read Ballard’s journal is to discover:

  • “Manchester is quite a smokey place.”
  • “Leeds is a town of considerable consquence.”
  • “On visiting the Bank of England I was astonished at its magnitude…”
  • “The Tower of London is a large pile of buildings surrounded by a deep moat.”
  • “… went to Astley’s Amphitheatre near Westminster Bridge.”
  • “… curiosity led me in …”

ballard journal

FIND Ballard @ books.google or archive.org

 

Journals of Henrietta Liston

liston journals

Thanks go to Janeite Deb, who sent an email with links to Henrietta Liston’s online journals, as well as to this (click photo) informative article. Both are from the National Library of Scotland. I must say I was VERY impressed with the NLS publication Discover magazine. In this issue alone, there are articles on Robert Louis Stevenson manuscripts, Blackwood’s Magazine, and – of course – the cover story of Mrs. Liston.

Born on the island of ANTIGUA in 1752, Henrietta Marchant emigrated to Glasgow, Scotland as a child. She married Robert Liston in 1796. “A few weeks after their wedding, the Listons sailed to America.” Robert Liston had been appointed British Minister to the United States.

Living in what soon became the 14th State in the Union (the state of Vermont), I was impressed with the accessibility of maps showing Henrietta Liston’s movements. And, yes, she touched Vermont, having navigated Lake Champlain.

Some of the BEST of Abigail Adams‘ letters were written during her periods abroad; the Liston journals will be *MUST READS* for those interested in an “outsider’s view” of the country. They also can be used to flesh out such first-person accounts of the new country as told in the letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert (published as “Mistress of Riversdale”).

Liston’s words about George and Martha Washington are juxtaposed with her thoughts on flora and fauna. And, yes, she writes of gallant (as she calls him) Alexander Hamilton.

liston journals2“The Liston Papers – an amazing resource; … a boon to social historians”

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”

More Than Common Powers of Perception

cabot diary

Publisher / date: Beacon Press / 1991
pages: xix + 357
Hardcover
genre: diary

Last Saturday I spent some delightful hours with Elizabeth Mason’s diary; I’m currently up to the part (1858-1860) where she and Walter Cabot are deciding their mutual attraction.

Elizabeth’s journal is an exploration of one Bostonian family’s life, and (especially) one young girl’s dreams, aspirations, and self-criticisms. I find her inner-thoughts very inspiring at times. I will content myself with sharing one passage. It is June 1857; Elizabeth has long been contemplating her self-perceived “coldness” — for she has declined an offer or two. A declined offer is what prompts this passage:

“He is content with crumbs indeed, and he seems to dwell very much on a continuance of our intercourse as friends. If we can meet again on familiar terms and he will give up all other ideas, I think possibly I might be a pleasure to him, and he to me. I have read in novels of these sort of intimacies, and always imagined that they might be much more natural than any other intercourse between men and women, but perhaps it can only take place in novels. I pity a man like Mr. Higginson, who feels the emptiness of a solitary life, for he has not the resources of a woman, cannot surround himself with home occupations or the ties from loving services, that only women can render, and has no friends and sympathizers as women have, for it seems to me that it is only women who can be real sympathizers. Men are so busy in their own objects, so full of business, that their time and thoughts are none too much for themselves; but a woman’s life is in others, and her nature makes it easy and natural to be interested in their affairs. Not that I do this, but I see how it might be done, and try to come nearer to my ideal. A true woman lives for herself only in others — a difficult attainment…” [p. 170]

The young Elizabeth hopes for education; a warmer relationship with her mother (especially) and father; these subjects bring out touching emotions in the diarist. Of the married woman, I can’t quite say – as I’ve not finished the book! She gets a bit more newsy, and the entries are sometimes further apart (the editing may contributed to this sometimes, but she does comment also). 1872 is particularly heartrending — and the reader finds Elizabeth back to those pithy thoughts and feelings she expressed to her diary earlier (ie, before her marriage). I bought it in Plattsburgh, at The Corner Store, in November 2004; as you can see, it was published even longer ago!

The editor, P.A.M. Taylor, a (male!) historian from the University of Hull (England), has included a nice selection from the original journals; his minimalist approach to editorial intrusion provides just enough information to keep the story’s salient points in the forethought of the uninitiated reader. Taylor has written a superb introduction (which covers the book’s first 30 pages); and, what I rather like, given summary of the years coming up in each “section,” thereby alerting readers, in a most informative manner, what’s about to happen.

More than Common Powers of Perception:The Diary of Elizabeth Rogers Mason Cabot is a must-read for those interested in the period, in Boston, in the lives of young women. More than twenty years after this initial publication, I do wish someone had seen fit to publish the diaries in toto. More Elizabeth Cabot would be quite welcome.

* * *

  • A companion book: A Woman’s Wit and Whimsy: The 1833 Diary of Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy (193 pages; 2003); Anna is mentioned in Elizabeth’s diary.
  • Boston Letters of a slightly later period, see Harvard’s online offering of Letters and Diaries of Margaret Cabot Lee (privately printed, 1923). Margaret, who lived 1866 to 1920, is part of Harvard’s series, “Women Working, 1800-1930” (see their collection of “diaries and memoirs“).