World War I: A Nursing Sister’s Diary

Many archives are getting into blogging (many on WordPress!). It’s a GREAT way to gain awareness about items in their collections, AND a fabulous find some someone like me: one always on the hunt for MORE information.

Yesterday I found several informative posts at the blog attached to the Essex Record Office; this one concerning a World War I era diary – as some of you may know, such things are of GREAT interest to me (even if technically past the “Victorian” era).

This one concerns a nursing sister, Kate Luard (born 1872). She tangentially touches on my Smith & Gosling (Two Teens in the Time of Austen) research in that the Luards are later generations affiliated with the Bramstons of Skreens — and the Bramstons were neighbors to the Smith estate of Suttons (there was also a branch of the Bramston family in Hampshire – at Oakley Hall – neighbors to Eliza Chute at The Vyne and Jane Austen and family at Steventon & Chawton.

Two books are associated with Kate Luard, one is the Diary of a Nursing Sister, 1914-1915 (originally published anonymously in 1915)

diary luard

  • an interesting diversion from reading is having the book READ to YOU: Ruth Golding and a half-dozen others contribute to a LibriVox recording.

The Essex Record Office (ERO) has a few snippets culled from the book, focusing on the Spring of 1915 and an earlier post focusing on Kate Luard herself.

Kate is more fully discussed “on her own website“, with an announcement of a new edition (2014) of the book Unknown Warriors (originally published 1930), which covers Kate Luard’s letters from 1914 through 1918.

unknown warriors


Sophie du Pont: A Young Lady in America

Publisher / date: Harry N. Abrams Inc. Publishers, 1987
pages: 192
genre: biography/letters/art


Years ago, a friend who teaches American History (colonial period up to the American Civil War) encouraged me to borrow this book from her. I must confess I seem destined to hardly read books that I borrow… I flipped through it; but did I read much of it? Perhaps I just wasn’t “in the mood” for it. It certainly made no impression on me. And yet, it stayed with me enough to lookup  the title again last year — and I found my local university library had a copy. I took it out, and fell in love.

It is atypical for the books you will find listed here at “Regency Reads,” in that there is more of an editorial hand involved here. Subtitled, Sketches, Diaries, & Letters 1823-1833, Betty-Bright Low and Jacqueline Hinsley paid particular attention to young Sophie’s drawings. And certainly the initial reaction is about all the “carics,” as Sophie called them. If you delight in the drawings of Mrs Hurst Dancing — these works by Diana Sperling will be brought to mind by Sophie du Pont.

The sketches represent Sophie’s life from the ages of 13 to 23. Drawings in the rear illustrate what a fine artist she was. But it was the letters and diary entries that grabbed attention — real slices of life from this period that I can’t really count as “Regency” but will since (in England) George IV (and then William IV) was on the throne during these years. I have long “wanted more”! Oh, for volumes of these wonderful writings – for not only Sophie is represented, but also additional family members. When I say that this du Pont family is connected to Winterthur, well, you will then figure that there is a LOT of material available, and ask: Well, why only this volume?? Since we’re talking the late-80s, indeed there should have been many, many follow-ups; but we’ll take what we can get!

As luck would have it, I didn’t have to “borrow” this book for long — an exquisitely-kept copy (complete with dust jacket, of course!) was found at my second favorite used-bookstore, Monroe Street Books, in Middlebury, Vermont. This book, and the first couple I “reviewed” on this blog — the Diaries of Sarah Hurst, 1759-1762 and the Journals of Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall, are three all-time faves for portraits of average women of the 18th and 19th century.

* * *

There are two “prequels” available to readers of Winterthur Portfolio (which can be found online through library database connections, ie, through JSToR, if not in the flesh). Here, Betty-Bright Low presents family letters with some editorial introductions and excisions. Nicely illustrated:

  • Low, Betty-Bright P. “Of Muslins and Merveilleuses: excerpts from the Letters of Josephine du Pont and Margaret Manigault,” Winterthur Portfolio 9 (1974): 29-75.
  • Low, Betty-Bright P. “The Youth of 1812: More Excerpts from the Letters of Josephine du Pont and Margaret Manigault,” Winterthur Portfolio 11 (1976): 173-212.