September 28, 1851

149

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Sunday, Sept 28  Having a bad cold and headache I did not attend church

to day have not read as much as I should had I been

well  Susan has got quite smart and has been

reading the wide wide world  It has been very 

quiet here all day  I have been looking at

my accounts book have neglected it sadly

of late but hope to do better for the future

 

The excitement and strain of the last week or so – the return from Boston, the plunge into redecorating and her daughter’s sudden and demanding illness – may have taken their toll. Evelina came down with a cold and was too ill to go to meeting.  That she was too sick to “read much” indicates just how crummy she must have felt. She generally enjoyed reading on Sundays after church. The only activity that seemed to interest her today was looking at her “accounts book,” but that didn’t cheer her up much. Perhaps she suddenly reckoned with the money she and Oakes had recently spent.

Little Susie Ames, who had been so sick with nettle rash, was definitely on the mend.  She may not have gone to church either, but she was deep into reading The Wide, Wide World, a popular, famously sentimental novel by Susan Warner (published under the pen name of Elizabeth Wetherell.) This pious classic tells the story of little Ellen Montgomery, a girl about Susan’s age who is separated from her mother and sent to live with distant relatives. She struggles among strangers – kind and mean – to accept her fate and learn to trust God. A best-seller in its day, it clearly appealed to Susan, and Evelina, too, presumably.

 

* Ellen Montgomery, the young heroine of The Wide, Wide World, is often in tears, as this period illustration from the popular novel shows.

March 16, 1851

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March 16th Sunday.  Went to meeting all day.  Oakes Angier

did not go. There were but a very few present

as it was very windy & cloudy commenced raining about

noon. Spent the intermission at Mr. Whitwells.

I liked both sermons, particularly in the afternoon.

Orinthia staid at home in the afternoon having

a bad cold This Evening wrote a letter to Louisa

J Mower & read the papers

Most of the Ames family attended church today. The crummy weather couldn’t keep them at at home, although it affected the travel of others in the congregation. Evelina continued to admire Reverend Whitwell and listened carefully to his sermons. She enjoyed the company of his wife Eliza, with whom she spent today’s intermission between services. Orinthia Foss, meanwhile, went back to the house at noon with a cold. Did she catch it yesterday when the ladies were out making calls?

After church on Sunday was usually a quiet time. The Ameses followed the old Puritan practice of not working on the Sabbath. Sewing was included in that stricture, meaning that Sunday was the one day Evelina gave her thimble a rest. She usually filled what we would call “down time” by writing letters or reading. On this afternoon, she wrote a letter to Louisa Mower in Maine, perhaps bringing Louisa up to date on Orinthia’s stay in Easton and her new teaching responsibilities.

As for reading, Evelina and Oakes either subscribed to or bought directly (in Boston) various periodicals and newspapers.  One of her favorites was Godey’s Ladys Magazine, a popular women’s monthly published in Philadelphia. If Evelina looked through the March issue today, in the section entitled “Editors Book Table,” she may have read notices for two books just published by George Putnam in New York. The first was The Wide, Wide World by Elizabeth Wetherell (pen name for Susan Warner), a Christian-themed novel that would be a big bestseller and a mainstay of 19th century fiction for decades. The short review described the book as “carefully and naturally written, manifesting in every page the anxiety of the author […] to inculcate profitable lessons in real life.” Both Evelina and her daughter would read it.

James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pathfinder was next in the list of new books and promised more adventure than The Wide, Wide World. Evelina never mentioned reading any of Cooper’s books but perhaps her sons, who also loved to read, enjoyed the Leather Stocking Tales.