February 6, 1852


Feb 1852

Friday Feb 6  Jane has baked some mince to day of

meat that was left last week and has done

very well.  Cut out a shirt for Oliver to day

and intended to finish it tomorrow but this

afternoon Miss Foss came and Miss Burrell

from W Bridgewater  We called at Edwins

this evening  commenced raining about five

Domestic tranquility reigned today as Jane McHanna made some fine mincemeat and Evelina cut cloth for a shirt, until interrupted by the arrival of Orinthia Foss and her friend Miss Burrell. For Evelina, chores gave way to social intercourse.

Besides keeping a record of various domestic details such as her sewing, Evelina often lists in her daily diary entries the names of the friends and relatives who come to call – in this case, Orinthia Foss and Miss Burrell. She writes of the women with whom she spends time, in fact, more often than she is apt to describe interactions with her immediate family (unless, of course, her husband forgets to pick her up to go out on a social call.) She includes the names of female friends, including her sisters-in-law, as much if not more often than she mentions the names of her children. Her social life, as in “We called at Edwins this evening,” is terribly important to her. She narrates it to her diary in order to remember it and savor it. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care about her family; she does. But looking after her almost-grown children is not noteworthy.

Evelina’s diary is simple, even for the nineteenth century, when the “practice” of keeping a diary was “to record personal feelings and explore intellectual growth.”* Eveline doesn’t concern herself with external events the way Mary Chesnut of South Carolina did in her diary of the Civil War, nor does she describe or question the secondary status of women as other Bostonians such as Caroline Healey Dall did in her diary. The intellectual pursuits and considerations of the brilliant Margaret Fuller never interested her – it was beyond her ken.  Evelina was literate and engaged in her life, but in a diffident and unsophisticated way. She wrote in a manner that more closely resembled her father-in-law, Old Oliver; her brother-in-law, Oliver Ames, Jr.; and, eventually, her son, Oliver (3). She simply wrote down whom she saw and what she did.


Steven Stone, Making Sense of Letters and Diaries, http://www.historymatters.gmu.edu

Other resources for information about diaries in the nineteenth century:

Schlesinger Library, Harvard University, http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww/diaries.html


February 16, 1851

Hoarhound or horehound

Hoarhound or horehound

Sun Feb 16  Did not go to church to day on account of a bad

cough  Boiled Molasses, honey, & sugar and a little 

hoarhound for it.  Jane has been to meeting at the

boarding house.  Michael & sister called to see her.

Have been reading some in Margaret by Mr Judd

do not like it at all I believe I shall not finish it

but can spend my time for a better purpose

Mr Whitwell exchanged with Mr Lovell  Very pleasant

Evelina’s cold was long gone, but her cough lingered.  To make it better, she cooked up a nostrum that included hoarhound (or horehound), a medicinal herb cultivated for its efficacy as an expectorant.  She likely grew it in her kitchen garden, or knew where to find it wild.  Brewed with honey, sugar and molasses – the latter being recommended by many household guides as good for the throat –  Evelina’s dose of medicine was warm and comforting.

Her cough may have been real, but it probably wasn’t the only reason Evelina avoided going to meeting this morning.  At church, she would have had to face some of the women who had not attended her Sewing Circle meeting. Her feelings may still have been too hurt to do so and her cough made an excellent excuse for her absence.

Everyone else seemed to be practicing their faith today. The Ames family presumably all went to church and heard Reverend Stephen Lovell stand in for Reverend Whitwell; the two men had finally swapped meetings as originally planned a few weeks ago.  Jane McHanna, the Ames servant originally from Ireland, attended a Catholic service held in the dining room of the Ames boarding house, and apparently came home with fellow-countrymen Michael Burns, the Ames coachman, and his sister.

Today’s new book, Margaret by Reverend Sylvester Judd, did not pass muster.  Evelina started the novel, a story about a young woman raised in the wilds of Maine, and emphatically did “not like it at all.”   Reverend Judd, a Unitarian minister, was a peripheral member of the Transcendental circle; his book is considered one of a very few works of Transcendental fiction.  Margaret Fuller, author of Woman in the Nineteenth Century,  described it as a “work of great power and richness” but critics and other readers such as Evelina found the book incomprehensible.