November 7, 1852


Anne Marsh-Caldwell

(1791 – 1874)

Sunday Nov 7th  It was unpleasant this morning

and I did not feel like going to church

All the rest of the family went  Oakes A

& Oliver came home at noon & did not return

I have been wicking most of the time

Evelina played truant today and skipped church. How quiet the house must have been with everyone away. She wrote that she was “wicking most of the time,” although we might imagine that she read a little as well.

Wicking is a term for placing a wick into a candle mold and pouring wax around it to make a candle. No doubt the Ameses used some candles around the house – we know, for instance, that Evelina had bought wax candles the previous month. It’s unlikely, however, that Evelina was actually making candles. The task would have been too big a production, especially on the Sabbath. She may have been using the term wicking in a different sense; perhaps she was placing fresh wicks into some of the oil lamps around the house. Although kerosene was not yet available, other sources of oil were. Knowing how up-to-date Evelina’s parlor was, we can imagine that she had furnished it with relatively modern oil lamps. She may have been trimming those wicks.

Given the “unpleasant” weather outside, Evelina spent the day indoors. Once the wicking was completed, she may have settled down to read, as she so often did on a Sunday after church. Last week she had mentioned reading a novel called Ravenscliffe, a novel published in 1851 and written by Anne Marsh-Caldwell, an Englishwoman.  Mrs. Marsh was known for her stories of the upper-middle class and second-tier aristocracy; her books were quite popular from the 1830’s through the 1850’s, occasionally rivaling books by authors with whom we are more familiar: Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, to name two. A contemporary described Mrs. Marsh’s novels as “thoroughly feminine,”* which suggests that they fell into the category that Old Oliver described as “love trash.” Evelina seemed to enjoy the book, regardless of her father-in-law’s contempt. It was probably good escapist fare from wicking and rain.

*Sara Coleridge, Memoirs and Letters of Sara Coleridge, 1873


2 thoughts on “November 7, 1852

  1. Given Evelina’s interest in needlework, is another possible interpretation that wicking refers to working on candlewicking, a technique used in making bedspreads?

    • Very interesting possibility – you may well be right. Whatever the wicking was, it’s still unusual for Evelina to be working on a Sunday. Thank you for the suggestion!

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