The Wynne Diaries

September 7, 2014 at 3:37 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, europe, history, jane austen) (, , , , , , , )

Years ago I visited Dartmouth College library several times a month – I had a quarter-year pass to borrow books. A hectic summer, but a productive one.

Surely it was during that summer that I spotted, on the shelf in the darkened bowels of the library where books of English history & biography are stored, the three-volumes that make up The Wynne Diaries. Although the published diaries include entries by three Wynne sisters, it is Betsey Wynne — the future Lady Fremantle, wife of Admiral Thomas Fremantle (one of Nelson’s “band of brothers”), who makes headlines.

  • 2010 story of the ‘rediscovery’ of the original diaries (The Independent)

Both the newspaper article and the talk cited below list the impetus for Elaine Chalus’ interest in her project: Her finding a worn, old Penguin paperback, a one-volume reprint of the original Oxford set. I never knew such existed, but even if I had – the lover of “complete” editions in me would had brought about the same search for the full three volumes (1935-1937-1940). I found them, online, pricey but far less so than the current offers. And my trio had their dust jackets!

  • Giustiniana Wynne (aunt) figures in the biography A Venetian Affair, by Andrea di Robilant

Needless to say, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Chalus’ biography, The Admiral’s Wife, so this recent 75-minute talk was a nice find, although I do wish Betsey were less “seen through the eyes of her husband”, but given its title, ” ‘My dearest Tussy’: Family, Navy and Nation in the Fremantle Papers, 1801-1814″, the talk should be forgiven for being a bit Thomas-Fremantle-centric. Being women’s history, its firm association with Nelson will undoubtedly help sales once the biography finally hits the shelves.


While listening, I took down two short notes, relevant to my own project:

  • “this is a face-to-face world, where knowing people matters, using your networks matters”;
  • “building community networks… entertaining the community; paying the visits, and the reciprocal visiting, and offering dinners and going out to dinners, and having balls… This is very much the Jane Austen world, in that sense; people are forever popping in and visiting, and having a cup of tea, and then going out and inviting somebody else to dine.”
wynne diaries

colorful jackets of the original Wynne Diaries



  1. lucy said,

    is it so interesting your artical and i wanted to find diary about regency or victorian did you could recommend me of diary of upper class young woman in online?
    thank you

  2. lucy said,

    society like the age of innocence

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Lucy – give me a few days and I’ll get back to you. Age of Innocence is the other end of the century from the Regency, though; and deals with New York society. I mainly *love* books dealing with England – so that is more likely what I’ll have to recommend. In the meantime, do take a look at my blog Regency Reads (also on wordpress; link on side).


  3. Lucy said,

    thank you very much

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Lucy – apologies for being a few weeks rather than a few days.

      One of my favorite “Victorian” diaries is WEDDING TOUR, the 1873 honeymoon diary (in Vienna) of Emily Birchall.

      Although the promised additional years never were in fact published, an interesting look at daily life, pre-1800 is The Complete Diary of a Cotswold Lady: LADY OF RODBOROUGH (vol. 1), which is the earliest diaries (and introductory material) of Agnes Witts.

      Although not the actual diary, this biography based on a comprehensive diary includes society, travel, and literature rolled into one: Jean Strouse’s ALICE JAMES: A BIOGRAPHY.

      Mid-century Boston comes alive in the diary MORE THAN COMMON POWERS OF PERCEPTION; the Diary of Elizabeth Rogers Mason Cabot.

      Sometimes, letters are as good as diaries – in addition to the Wynne Diaries, with their decided “Continental” leaning, a refugee from the fighting of the Napoleonic era is the delightful Rosalie Stier Calvert, her letters published as MISTRESS OF RIVERSDALE: the Plantation Letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert, 1795-1821.

      A FABULOUS book is the charming “sketches, diaries & letters” of SOPHIE du PONT: A YOUNG LADY IN AMERICA – which covers her early life, from 1823 to 1833. I’ve long LONGED for MORE Sophie!

      Others include journals of ELLEN TOLLET of BETLEY HALL (her life during the year 1835) and THE DIARIES of SARAH HURST (her life during 1759 to 1762) – neither of which are “high society”, but are simply splendid glimpses of life during another time and in another place.

      I’ve talked about many of these on my alternate blog Regency Reads: and this link will give you some of those mentioned here in greater depth.

      And I must not forget these two diarists: Emily Shore (THE JOURNAL OF EMILY SHORE) may not be the “high society” you wish, but she’s a wonderful girl to get to know. And the MANY books that reproduce THE HIGHLAND LADY’s journals – especially the first two, which introduce readers via an AMAZING auto-biography. I’ve blogged a couple of times about Elizabeth Grant’s diaries: for she knew people who knew my Smiths!

      MAUD: THE ILLUSTRATED DIARY OF A VICTORIAN WOMAN will be sure to be a page-turner, too – if only to leaf thru all the illustrations!

      My biggest suggestion: visit a LARGE library. Looking up just one of the above books will tell you where in the stacks they are located – then browse, sit what else is sitting on the shelf beside any of them. Although not as much FUN, online catalogues will also let you browse the shelves. A good bibliography is a book you like, will also point the way.

      I hope some of these might turn out to be of interest. They are some of MY favorite books.

  4. Lucy said,

    thank you!!! :) and if i could ask for one thing
    Because where i live we dont have much of this genre books in library and many new books
    and I did many searches online about journals but didnt find
    could you give me an advice how i could find diaries or letters of young lady in high society world in sites where i may read
    i thank you alot

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Lucy – online books, the two I use quite often are: [which is very easy to search, but less easy to find multiple volumes of same title; they seem lately to have less problem with really bad scans of pages]. My alternate, which is less easy to search but has (sometimes) different scans of same book found on is = they have other media than books too!

      If you prefer typed text, I highly recommend the A CELEBRATION OF WOMEN WRITERS ( One can actually help build the site, if you have a favorite out-of-copyright text that you’d like to see on their site (I posted a couple books, years ago).

      I’ve come across (BIG PDF files) some books at the University of Toronto (I think I have the correct place!), so it’s always worth doing a search with the title (put it in quotes, to keep the title as a whole phrase) and see what turns up where. Obviously, this is once you find a title.

      Keep in mind, too, that interlibrary loan is a real gift – and (in the States anyway) should be a free service offered at your local library. WorldCat can be accessed via = and is useful for finding out where some copies are.

      Search the likes of with either ‘journal’ or ‘diary’ and a place and a time and that might turn up some good hits. Alternatively, you can let your fingers do the walking: access online catalogues at a large university and see what sits on the shelves near the likes of The Wynne Diaries (if 18th/19th century England is of interest to you). Also, if you find a book whose subject matter is up your alley, check (ie, via the table of contents to see if the author included a BIBLIOGRAPHY. We all have found books we never knew about that was listed in the back of some book we came across!

      Good luck in your search!


  5. Lucy said,

    thank you!!!!!! you helped me a lots

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