Happy Birthday, Mary!

February 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm (a day in the life, news, people) (, , , , , , , , , )


by Frenchie (Photobucket)

Today is Mary’s 210th birthday… My! that seems a great number. Funny, 1800 doesn’t seem so ‘long ago’, but when you think that it was two hundred and ten years ago—

I have been thinking a lot lately about “diaries”, for it was Mary’s 1821 diary that first led me to begin to research all of these people. Her earliest diary, written in the summer of 1814, records a trip to Oxford, to visit her elder brothers. The interesting thing about that excerpt is that the city was en fête due to the presence of the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia. And why were they in England? Because Napoleon had been defeated… or so everyone thought: this is the period of the false peace. And my Mary was right in the thick of it; she even tells us: “the Chairs in which {sat} the emperor and king of Prussia, they were of velvet and very handsomely mounted in gold, and I had the honour to sit in both of them.”

Norfolk Kate brought to my attention Susan Hill’s book Howards End is on the Landing – which charts the author’s navigation of her library as she rediscovers or re-reads what she already owns. My! definitely something I should do… but there is so much out there… hard not to buy (or at least want) more!

But our discussion of the book, which has led Kate to some new volumes, lead me back to the likes of Kilvert’s diaries. I bought my omnibus edition (all three 1940-era volumes in one, reduced, volume) while I was in Winchester researching for this project in 2007! Happy days, indeed…

(I confess I returned home with an exceptionally heavy suitcase; bought something like 15 or 20 titles; my downfall was an Oxfam bookstore that had reopened — and been freshly restocked — during my stay.)

Kilvert’s love of Dorothy Wordsworth also made me dig out her Grassmere Journal (I have an illustrated copy). Well, you see where it all gets me = surrounded by books that I’d love to just spend weeks with, never mind a few hours once home from work. Give me sunshine, my comfy white chair beside the window, good music (classical, please) on the radio and a great book and I am happy.

As happy as Mary and Emma and Eliza Chute were all to be, according to their diaries and letters, when books came under discussion.

I must mention, in closing, a fabulous website I came across while researching about those 19th century ‘pocket books’: Whose Diary? A Genealogical Detective Story concerns the deduction of a young man who kept a pocket book account of his daily doings back in 1846. Of use is the author’s detailing of the printed material to be found at the front and rear of the ‘pocket book’, as well as a deciphering of the hand-written comments. Fascinating is how the owner was discovered! The photographs really bring home for those who have never handled such little diaries (it fits comfortably in the hand and measures — roughly — 4-inches by 7-inches, when closed). Emma’s and Mary’s (those that I’ve looked through in person) were red in color. Their diary of choice was not “Marshall’s Gentleman’s Pocket Book” but “The Daily Journal or, Gentleman’s, Merchant’s, and Tradesman’s Complete Annual Accompt Book, for the pocket or desk” – to give its more or less full title. This series is described as “One hundred and twelve ruled pages, on fine writing paper, for memorandums, observations, and cash, every day in the year”. Price? “Two Shillings and Sixpence, bound in red leather; and Four Shillings in extra roan.”

I won’t spoil the tale of the diarist discovered, but will let you go to the link yourself. Must say, however: I know that “gut” feeling when you find something and just know “this is it”!

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