Many meanings of Womanhood (Jane Austen)

December 9, 2018 at 9:44 am (books, jasna) (, )

A new book, released at the beginning of December (2018) is Jane Austen’s Women: An Introduction, by Kathleen Anderson.

Anderson_Jane Austens Women

Over the years, as a member of JASNA, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting and listening to Kathleen’s incisive talks and reading her publications. A production of SUNY Press, there’s a format for everyone: hardcover, paperback, ebook. You can get a taste of it content from the following:

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Sorrows of Werther

December 8, 2018 at 10:16 am (books, chutes of the vyne, entertainment, history, jane austen, people) (, , , )

Last Saturday I was listening to the Met’s broadcast of Mefistofele (Boito); here, of course, is a subject who is undoubtedly better-associated with composer Charles Gounod.

Searching (as I always do!) for more on my Smiths & Goslings, I turned up a subscriber list for a book that, for DAYS, I believed was an English translation of that 18th-century smash-hit from Germany, Die Leiden des jungen WerthersThe Sorrows of Young Werther, by Goethe.

Pulling up the relevant book – this time having to SEARCH FOR IT (rather than stumbling upon it), I found that the text is a bit of a “hybrid” – a POEM, The Sorrows of Werter (sic): A Poem, by Amelia Pickering. It is, like the operas Mefistofele and Faust, based on source material, in this case “Founded on Goethe’s Novel.” It was published by Cadell in 1788.

No “Jane Austen” among the subscribers (famously, she IS listed as a Fanny Burney Camilla subscriber). But: a long list of names familiar to me as belonging to the wider Smith and Gosling circle.

When I spotted HENRY ADDINGTON (MP and PM), I wasn’t surprised when JOSHUA SMITH and MRS. SMITH turned up. The Smiths are Emma Austen’s maternal grandparents; Addington was Joshua’s fellow MP for Devizes.

The Duchess of Bolton would have been a name familiar to Jane Austen. There’s even a MRS. BENNET and a MRS. ELTON on the list!

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Several names occur in the Smith diaries – but I would have to dig about to ascertain whether they were the actual PEOPLE the Smiths and Goslings knew. Some BLACKWOODS, even an ABDY and a Mrs. BAKER of BEDFORD SQUARE. And who was the 1780s “Miss Ashley”???!! Two sisters of that name (but in the 1830s and beyond) were beloved by the Smith family.

There’s a BERTIE and a couple of BOSANQUETS. BLACKSTONES join the Blackwoods from further up the list. LADY CLIVE is prominent (in second position at the start of the ‘C’s’); Clive of India banked with the Goslings. Several CARTWRIGHTS and a couple of CARRS and COURTENAYS. Even “Mr. Cadell,” who (presumably) must be the publisher himself.

Well, you get the drift. So many people, so many readers.

In short, it’s so much fun to sort thru the names – especially when realizing that I am actually uncovering what volumes once belonged to a library or bedside table of relations to my Two Teens in the Time of Austen (ie, Mary Gosling and Emma Smith). The inclusion of The Sorrows of Werter: A Poem is a bit of a surprise, though they were a group who LOVED to read (and even write) verses.

Among family, joining the aforementioned Joshua and Sarah Smith are:

  • Robert Gosling, Esq.
  • Mrs. Gosling

(surely Mary’s paternal grandparents)

There are three Hornes and a Mrs. Hyde who may be Smith relations. The HICKS I suspect Jane Austen also to have known. There is a Countess Dowager of Northampton, related to Emma’s Castle Ashby cousins, but no one young Emma knew personally.

elizachute

The NORMANS were the cause of my search, and the reason I stumbled upon this book: TWO Mrs. Norman’s are listed; I lean a bit more towards the “Mrs. Norman, Henley” as being the woman _I_ want; but I’m not sure (the other has no identifying information attached to her name). I do believe, though, that her sons and daughter-in-law turn up as:

  • Richard Norman, Esq.
  • Mrs. R. Norman
  • George Norman, Esq.

The identify of Mrs. R. Norman is especially interesting – she was a daughter of Francis Gregg, and therefore a sister to Caroline Carr, née Gregg. Married in 1783, she evidently died in 1792 or 1793. Eliza Chute (then unmarried and still Eliza Smith) makes NO MENTION of the death of Mrs. Richard Norman (which would have been an enormous help, Eliza!), but neither did she mention the 1817 death of Jane Austen — and both events must have been known to her, and of interest to her.

It dawned on me in the night to ask: WHO was Amelia Pickering??

It was while trying to find something, anything about the author that I found a copy of this very book (!!) at a rare-bookseller’s site, for £1200 (!!!!).

The seller found a critique of the period by Mary Wollstonecraft:

4to., pp. xxii, 69, [1]; with half-title and a sixteen-page list of 961 subscribers; apart from slight fraying a very good copy, uncut, in original blue-grey wrappers and tan paper spine.

First edition. Amelia Pickering’s ‘melancholy, contemplative poem’ (Todd) was one of a spate of works in English and German founded on Goethe’s novel, including poems by Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson, both subscribers here. Pickering ‘gives to Charlotte a voice, if rather weakly moralistic, and to Werter suffering which is acute, credible and unhysterical’ (Feminist Companion citing ‘The Sorrows of Young Charlotte: Werter’s English Sisters’, Goethe Yearbook, 1986).

Mary Wollstonecraft, however, was not enthusiastic. ‘To pity Werter we must read the original … The energy … is lost in this smooth, and even faithful, imitation … Werter is dead from the beginning: we hear his very words; but the spirit which animated them is fled …’ (Analytical Review, January 1789).

 

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Jane Austen: Used book buyer?

November 23, 2018 at 9:49 am (books, estates, history, jane austen) (, , )

In the appendix to JANE AUSTEN THE READER (2013), (a link provided by Springer [the publisher]), the quotation “‘new books were luxuries but not out-of-reach luxuries’” for the “all-female Austen household” may be too narrowly focused when discussing the possession of books by Jane Austen.

Why limit the idea of “books” to new books and think of them as luxuries?

Certainly, a gifted book could have come Jane Austen’s way, and Olivia Murphy (the author) accounts for such volumes. Evidence, however, leans heavily on the Godmersham Library collection of Jane and Cassandra’s brother, Edward Austen Knight. As with any intake of books, some might have duplicated Edward’s own, been rejected or “regifted”, or sold on.

It is the sold on that provides the clue to my current argument: There were also auctions, used book shops, and disbursed collections (which may include titles that were missing volumes).

With the death of Edward Austen Knight in November 1852, a valuation and reassessment of the Godmersham Library logically would have been undertaken. There does exist – and Murphy discusses this as part of her argument – evidence dated ‘1853’. That these books came from Cassandra Austen, either directly or through her niece Cassy Esten Austen, is perhaps a bit of a stretch. And, of course, what was once Cassandra’s may have come from her sister, which is the whole point of the appendix, which is entitled “What Happened to Jane Austen’s Books?” To Murphy, the context of other titles housed in the Drawing Room (“the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer and the novels of Maria Edgeworth”) is more important than the changing of the guard in home-ownership.

JA Reader

Click on the link here and then on the PDF for the section “BACK MATTER” (pp. 177-231) to read: Appendix: What Happened to Jane Austen’s Books?

* * *

A ‘rare’ instance of Jane Austen commenting on contemporary books, thru the parody of writing to “Mrs. Hunter of Norwich” (in actuality, Austen’s niece Anna Austen), in 1812, was up for auction in 2017. It sold for £162,500 (estimated by Sotheby’s to fetch £80,000-£100,000). A news story produced at the time (July 2017), “A Cache of Jane Austen’s Charming Letters.”

 

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Lady’s Magazine

June 15, 2018 at 4:29 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history) (, , )

The Lady’s Magazine: “Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex appropriated solely to their amusement”.

If the magazine’s subtitle weren’t so deliciously amusing (200 years later), I’d be rather inclined to feel insulted.

Several blog posts feature the history of the magazine, from the University of Kent. See also this introduction, to the university’s project. The Eighteenth Century Journals website features the index compiled by the University of Kent’s project. At one time, the firm Adam Matthew had microfilm of issues beginning in 1801. Check WorldCat for holdings. My local university evidently carries the reels.

As is only too typical, Google book scans can be good – or crappy. Plates may be present – or missing. To bridge the gap, do check out Catherine Decker’s “Regency Fashion” page. And the National Portrait Gallery (in London) has a nice listing of Lady’s Magazine fashion plates. Here’s another NPG group sorted  by “artist” (features a lot from 1805, 1806, 1807).

I had already found some of the volumes – which helped compile this list (I will be updating that page shortly). A concerted search produced a few more of the “missing”. Though am rather “bummed” about not finding ALL of the first series. If you come across them, do let me know!

LadysMagazine Britannia_1808

The Lady’s Magazine

vol. 1 – 1770
vol. 2 – 1771
vol. 3 – 1772
vol. 4 – 1773
vol. 5 – 1774
vol. 6 – 1775
vol. 7 – 1776
vol. 8 – 1777
vol. 9 – 1778
vol. 10 – 1779
vol. 11 – 1780
vol. 12 – 1781
vol. 13 – 1782
vol. 14 – 1783
vol. 15 – 1784
vol. 16 – 1785
vol. 17 – 1786
vol. 18 – 1787
vol. 19 – 1788
vol. 20 – 1789
vol. 21 – 1790  [alternate copy NYPL]
vol. 22 – 1791
vol. 23 – 1792
vol. 24 – 1793
vol. 25 – 1794
vol. 26 – 1795
vol. 27 – 1796
vol. 28 – 1797
vol. 29 – 1798
vol. 30 – 1799
vol. 31 – 1800
vol. 32 – 1801
vol. 33 – 1802 [some fashion plates]
vol. 34 – 1803 [some fashion plates]
vol. 35 – 1804 [some fashion plates]

vol. 38 – 1807 [alternate site Archive.org] [alternate copy]
vol. 39 – 1808 [some fashion plates]
vol. 40 – 1809
vol. 41 – 1810 [see 12 fashion plates @ TESSA]
vol. 42 – 1811

“new series” (1819-1829):

1821

1829

“improved series” (1830-1832)

1830 [may be a different “new & improved” magazine]

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Marianne’s Square Piano

May 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2010, I wrote on film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility, specifically asking (and noting) how various films treated Marianne Dashwood’s pianoforte. It has always bothered me that I scoffed at the idea of the piano being moved from Norland Park (the Dashwood estate now in the hands of their half-brother) to Barton Cottage by water. How could something so delicate (in my mind) be subjected to (perhaps!) a watery grave?

A new-to-me book, Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano, by Madeline Goold, brings home just how ingeniously-constructed these early pianos were. She purchased at auction an 1807 Broadwood “box” piano. This probably was the type of pianoforte the Goslings sisters first learned to play. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this Beechey portrait (below), identified as the Coventry Sisters, is VERY like the description of the Beechey portrait (still “missing”) of Elizabeth and Mary Gosling.

(You should also read the post, “Elations and Disappointments“…)

Early Music

(the periodical “Early Music” on JSTOR)

The piano, though, is what we want to pay attention to in this portrait. And that brings me back to Goold’s pianoforte. When she first found it – in “complete” condition (unlike one that was a hollow shell, latterly used for chickens!) – its legs were laying beside the keyboard’s “box. I certainly NEVER thought, when contemplating the removal of Marianne Dashwood’s piano, about disassembling it to the point of removing its legs, packing it in a deal box (a “box” within a box, if you will), thereby making it not only portable, but highly stable. Can’t tip over if it isn’t standing upon its legs, can it?

Goold’s book (which isn’t new – published in 2009) highlights the fascinating history of her auction purchase, and how she put together that history. I, too, have wished for a bit more of the backstory (even as an appendix) concerning the two-year restoration her Broadwood No. 10651 incurred. Goold’s story of the almost-accidental discovery of the pianoforte, in the early chapters, really spoke to me; so many of us would have loved to have made a similar discovery.

(I, alas, do not play…)

In March, 2017, I attended an Austen symposium at SUNY Plattsburgh, a Bicentenary Celebration of Art, Music, Austen. This was a wonderful gathering. Small and intimate, presenters made up a good deal of the audience. A FABULOUS mini-concert by mezzo Meagan Martin (with pianist Douglas Sumi) which presented her commissioned piece, “Marianne Dashwood: Songs of Love and Misery”. The weekend ended with an optional tour through Plattsburgh’s Kent-Delord House – and there, against the wall in one room, was their box (or square) piano. Alas! the vagaries of too many winters & summers had been quite unkind to it. Our docent pronounced it unplayable. Which was not to be the case with Goold’s auction find!

A sad fate for so many; a happy fate for too few – such as the Broadwood No. 10651.

The book includes information on the Broadwood business (the glimpse into their sales books is highly interesting), as well as the titular “Mr. Langshaw,” a piano teacher in the north of England who helped supply pianos to his students.

* * *

UPDATE: The blog Prinny’s Taylor posted in 2011 the “Adventures of a Pianoforte” which discusses (with pictures!) a restored 1809 Broadwood GRAND piano affiliated with author Charles Bazalgette’s ancestor, Louis Bazalgette. A fascinating use of the old ledgers of the Broadwood business. The Bazalgettes were especially active in having their piano moved and tuned. I must admit that I never _thought_ about WHO was tuning the pianos in the Smith and Gosling family. They make mention only a couple of times; but I’ve never thought about following such a lead – and wouldn’t have without Charles’ post.

 

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Pride & Prejudice Austen Feast

March 16, 2018 at 12:18 pm (books, jane austen) (, , , )

Devoney Looser on visiting the Margaret Herrick Library, in Beverly Hills is a MUST-READ for those who LOVE (or love to hate) the Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier 1940 MGM film Pride and Prejudice.

I must admit, I’m a Greer Garson fan (she made some great films), and look past the fact that she and Elizabeth Bennet are farther apart in age than they should be. (Rather like overlooking her off-screen amour with her on-screen son from Mrs. Miniver.) I find Garson far more “charming” than a certain 1990s Elizabeth.

And who, after Rebecca, wouldn’t desire an Olivier-Darcy?

So I look past a lot (though haven’t seen the film in a few years; and that, I think, might have been watched via Archive.org).

But: back to Devoney Looser’s blog post.

It’s like a breadth from “Old Hollywood”! Especially when she’s describing the photographic stills. Had SUCH a laugh over the idea of someone masking a putto’s nakedness from the cameras! (Putto, the singular of Putti.)

Greer Garson

As to the LOVE of British actors for their tea — heard that one already from Susan Hampshire, when filming The Pallisers. Those damned big dresses get in the way when the tea passes through…

I must admit, I diverge a bit from Devoney’s thinking towards the end of her post, knowing how much TV and films are constantly “echoing” the last blockbuster or climbing aboard the current bandwagon. Lately, Primetime Game Shows, Superheroes, and lots of “extraordinary” doctors and sleuths (everybody’s got superior intelligence nowadays). Back then, it was the Cowboys and the Comedies. BUT: it’s also the era of British-literary films that made it BIG here in the States like David Copperfield (1935).

So I don’t think it so much the audiences who required some impetus for attending Pride and Prejudice (and the stage play would have helped make an audience – both for a film AND for the original novel).

pp_colin keith johnston

I think the heads of Hollywood wanted a sure-fire hit by producing the same they were used to producing, wanted a little of this and a bit of that to liven up a book they might never have read.

Let’s face it: some screen writers probably never READ Austen, and were not up to the task (and why their efforts were deep-sixed).

On a personal level, having been in Devoney’s shoes – though, with the exception of the Morgan, we’re walking into different libraries – I loved reading about the “wonderment” she experienced during her bus-trip and her entrance into the Herrick.

The post, of course, advertises her recent book, The Making of Jane Austen.

THANKS to the Facebook group “British History Georgian Lives” post by Alan Taylor, which alerted me to the Devoney Looser blog post.

EXTRAS:

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Why are we still reading Jane Austen

December 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

While looking up a few sites for the post “Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands,” I came across this EXCEPTIONALLY interesting post from H.J. Jackson at Yale Books Unbound. It is especially apropos to read it as 2017 winds to a close – 200 years after the death of Jane Austen, in 1817, and it ties in oh-so-well with the most recent JASNA AGM (Annual General Meeting, of the Jane Austen Society of North America). Our 2017 conference centered around “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality.” (The conference took place at the heavenly Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California.)

Jackson’s entire title is “Why Are We Still Reading Jane Austen (But not Mary Brunton)?” There must not have been room enough to include in the title “and hardly any Walter Scott.” For his early popularity pops up in the article as well.

It is Jackson’s look at two successful writers – both Scottish, as it happens – and comparing the current cool-burning flame that exists for both Brunton and Scott with the heat of Jane Austen’s fame that makes the article a damned good read.

Brunton lived nearly the same span of years as Jane Austen:

  • Jane Austen, December 1775-July 1817
  • Mary Brunton, November 1778-December 1818
  • Walter Scott, August 1771-September 1832

Jackson also comments about Austen on film; Brunton never made it to the screen and the heyday of films based on Scott novels were the heyday of Hollywood, though TV has offered a surprising number of Scott “mini-series”. I won’t count Lucia di Lammermoor et al: all those operas are too well-known!

Ivanhoe

But we all suspect that Austen mania began with Colin Firth’s Darcy – even Robert Taylor didn’t generate that kind of fervor! Unlike some readers Jackson mentions, I never came across Austen in school. DECADES later, the second I (re-)heard the theme music for the 1980s BBC production (with Rintoul, Garvey, and a great script), I knew: this was the prompt for my own purchase of an omnibus edition of Austen. So I can’t blame others for following suit, a decade later; but I can say “ENOUGH already!” to the never ending Darcy-mania. When women line up in droves to see Firth’s vacant white linen shirt, there’s a whole different fandom than for Austen and her works.

So _I_ hope, as the next hundred years since the publication of Austen novels has already gotten underway, that there will remain a serious core to the study of Austen, her life and her works. I really fear for the over-academic as well as deplore the overly-copied. It’s rather like A Christmas Carol – “done” so many times that (I personally) can’t even stand to hear the title.

But I won’t get off on a Darcy tangent… Jackson doesn’t even go there.

Jackson’s query, “What happened to Brunton — the gradual fading and extinction of her  name — could easily have happened to Austen,” is what makes the article so exciting. “Austen rapidly accumulated most of the tributes that the nineteenth century had paid to Scott (translations, adaptations, illustrations, pilgrimages) and garnered others unimagined by the Victorians, such as reenactments, academic conferences, the heritage industry, websites, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” [no comment on this last entry…]

[NB: the two things I can say against Jackson is that she forgets part of James Edward Austen Leigh’s name, when discussing A Memoir of Jane Austen, and the error of her claim that he – born in 1798 – “had never known her well.” To have known Jane Austen versus to remember stories of her fifty and sixty years later are vastly different “problems”. Even his own daughter depended on diaries and letters when writing about his life decades after his death. Most of Austen’s letters – those later published by Brabourne – were not made available to Austen Leigh.]

Jackson’s article is a short Christmas and New Year’s gift to Austen’s readership – one which offers much food for thought during these cold, dark days here in New England and elsewhere in the world.

cushion_austen

a Jane Austen pillow

 

Brunton, I think, gained much by having her portrait and correspondence published – after her death, along with Emmeline, her last novel. Such “publication” (in Brunton’s case, done by her widower) seemed feared within the Austen family (although Cassandra outlived her sister by several decades).

As someone culling all the Smith & Gosling family diaries and letters that I can find, to constantly hear that Cassandra is blamed for the lack of Jane Austen letters available to posterity is difficult to bear. Where, I ask, are Cassandra’s letters!?! I dearly wish we had those. But more importantly: Cassandra would NOT have been Jane Austen’s only correspondent. So, many others could have “kept” Jane Austen’s letters…. If “posterity” wishes to blame someone, wag a finger a little harder at the niece who destroyed her father’s property, rather than at the sister to whom letters were personally addressed. They were hers, to do with as she pleased.

But I won’t go off on a long “burn correspondence vs. keep correspondence” tangent either. We all must appreciate what we have, and be thankful for the insights others give us when sharing and discussing their thoughts, their ideas.

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Etching Memories

November 8, 2017 at 12:35 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history, places, travel) (, , )

A year or two ago I bought a batch of letters; included was one which should have had a half-page etching of Worthing, England. The Smiths & Goslings _never_ wrote on the rear of these pictures – though the letter confesses that the writer had written ON the drawing: an “X” marked the spot where the parents of the recipient had over-nighted.

But I can’t tell you where anyone stayed: the picture has been cut off. All that remains is the letter.

So within the last few weeks, when I came across some letter sheets I bought them. But none are of Worthing….

Companies, such as ROCK & CO, did produce books of their engravings. You can see one here, currently (Nov 2017) for sale. In my ‘searches’, however, I came across a very useful and touching website.

This book, posted online, forms both a diary and a book of engravings. A unique combination.

Torquay letter sheet

What is *special* about this copy of the book Drives &c In & About TORQUAY is that the author collected the drawings AND put down memories of a trip.

In the days before easy photography, these drawings procured the author the perfect illustrations!

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New Matrimonial Ladder (c1853)

September 10, 2017 at 9:32 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , )

In search of images by artist Thomas Onwhyn (c1814-1886), also known as Samuel Weller (under which name he did “illegitimate” illustrations of works by Charles Dickens), I came across a wonderful blog post at BOOKTRYST. Onwhyn illustrated his own version of a book I fell in love with when first coming across The Matrimonial Ladder (1825).

new matrimonial ladder_possession

Onwhyn’s version – called (surprise) A New Matrimonial Ladder – of the “tale” has charm, and you see above his deft handing of scenery (many of his drawings were published by Rock & Co., London), with the cliffs in the background. It is a hard choice – like choosing between the prettiness of Brock or the allure of Hugh Thomson when discussing illustrations of Jane Austen novels.

Declaration

The drawings of “M.E.” (above) have much in common with such delightful books as Mrs. Hurst Dancing (drawings of Diana Sperling) or A Picture History of the Grenville Family of Rosedale House (drawings of Mary Yelloly).

I think you will enjoy BOTH (online) “books”.

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An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman (review)

August 27, 2017 at 1:36 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history) (, , , )

James Boswell sums up in one sentence his idea of good biography:

I cannot conceive a more perfect mode of writing any man’s life than not only relating all the most important events of it in their order, but interweaving what he privately wrote, and said, and thought.”

Susan M. Ouellette, who presents the entire extant diary of Phebe Orvis Eastman, first provides an adroit clarification of the diary, in a set of essays. The diarist, of course, never wrote with the intention of publication. Her thoughts are personal and private – and, at times, (well-labeled by the editor) cryptic. This layout, of essays then diary, guides the reader to pick up on the crumb-like indicators within the diary. Ouellette has uncovered a good deal of the life of Phebe Orvis Eastman — before, during, and after the diary, which makes for a rounded biographical profile. She also informs the reader about the era in which Phebe lived.

Extraordinary Ordinary Woman

An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 tells of life on the American “frontier,” first in Vermont and then in the vicinity of Canton, New York. A young nation, the United States was still at war with England during Phebe’s childhood (she lived from 1801 to 1868). The geography of her diary is not the cosmopolitan perspective of Philadelphia, New York, or Washington; nor even from some great plantation. Thereby supplementing those perspectives, it enlarges our knowledge of young women in post-Revolutionary War America.

Phebe’s immediate family had staked claims and worked to clear the land and worked to create their community. (Vermont joined the Union as the Fourteenth State in 1791.) Phebe’s picture of rural Vermont, in the decades beyond that first settlement, offers readers first-hand experience of a growing, interconnected community. And through her move to a less congenial, even “wilder” frontier, Phebe’s own words involve us as witnesses to her personal pain and turmoil.

Phebe Orvis lived a somewhat carefree life as a young woman in Bristol, Vermont. Ouellette’s earliest chapter covers the tragedy of Phebe’s early life: Her mother died when Phebe was just a toddler. The baby’s age and gender (she was the fourth child, but the only daughter) resulted in her living not with her father and siblings, but with her aging maternal grandparents.

Readers of The Midwife’s Tale, featuring Maine’s Martha Ballard, will find a similarity here in the craft-skills taught to young women. Phebe Orvis is a weaver, spinner, and sewer; for instance, when Phebe writes of “Finished my web”, she is telling readers that she has yet again begun a weaving project. Such projects probably helped to fund the classes she took at the Middlebury Female Seminary.

Phebe Orvis is a serious student – and among the early cohort of women attending Willard’s establishment (though Willard herself had moved on by this time). Phebe’s “formal education” is unfortunately cut short, and readers feel her disappointment, and her reticence in doing what is requested of her: She moves to Parishville, New York, to help at her aunt and uncle’s Tavern. This transition led her to marry a man who was not her first choice for a life-partner. Ouellette uncovered in the diary the subtle “ceremony” of gifts exchanged (and ultimately returned), which points out a certain young man as Phebe’s prior attachment.

The Eastmans married in 1823; it is the marriage, the arrival of children, and the constant scratching for a living in New York, which concerns the remainder of the diary, which ends in October 1830. The blank pages that follow serve as silent testament that life went on, even if the woman writing could see no reason to spare the time to record more of that life. Phebe Orvis Eastman retained her diary, and even placed a few later inserts inside it. The diary meant enough to her, at the very least as evidence of early concerns and feelings, to have preserved it.

And others preserved it after Phebe’s death.

Special mention should be made of the late Mary Smallman, who encountered the diary after it surfaced again in Plattsburgh, NY. She transcribed the diary and dug about for information about the mystery diarist. Safe in her hands at a time when few put value on such manuscripts, Smallman ultimately deposited the diary and support materials with the Saint Lawrence County Historical Association (NY).

As with any primary source, records helped to fill out details, but aspects remain that can never truly be known. This book, with the diary in its entirety, ably supported by informative essays, is a window into early 19th century America. That its roots begin in Vermont makes it special to me, a native Vermonter, like Phebe. The physical world she knew nearly two hundred years ago can still be discerned.

Maps provide visuals for those needing to conceptualize the placement of Bristol, Middlebury, and Vergennes, Vermont; also, Saint Lawrence County, New York. An index is included. The size of the book – being both taller and wider than the average hardcover – somehow makes it a bit unwieldy; being produced in hardcover rather than paperback might have minimized that sensation. A tighter layout of the diary entries might have allowed for slightly larger type without increasing page count. Generous spacing between lines tries to compensate for the font and font size. Notes and a bibliography bring the book to 380 pages (Excelsior Editions, SUNY Press; $29.95).

Diaries, in general, are filled with the insignificant, and Ouellette has done the hard work of teasing out the significance behind the diarist’s little clues of life-events. This single volume diary indeed covers (as Boswell prescribed) “all the most important events” in the life of this Vermont girl, from her days as a single woman seeking education at the Middlebury establishment founded by Emma Willard; to her employment in New York, which brought her into the company of Samuel Eastman, whom she eventually married. The diary tells her story; the essays and finely-tuned editing makes Phebe’s history accessible to all readers.

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Susan Ouellette, a history professor from Saint Michael’s College (VT), has written on Phebe Orvis Eastman over the decade that researches into the diary have taken. One of the more accessible (it’s ONLINE) is her article “Religion and Piety in the Journal of Phebe Orvis“, in the Vermont History magazine. The book An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 is the richer for this lengthy gestation.

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