Archive for the ‘Primary sources’ Category

“Leave me to enjoy the sweet Freedom I love”

I wish I had kept a commonplace book. I could never muster enough discipline or time to do so although there are bits and pieces of things I found interesting—from magazine articles to photos, from odd words to poems, from recipes to DYI columns—scattered here and there in physical notes or on my computer. MILCAH MARTHA MOORE (1740-1829), however, did keep a commonplace book: copying poems she found interesting, letters from friends, items from newspapers and passages from books, usually for her own pleasure, but often with the intention of sharing them with friends or relatives in the Philadelphia area. Poems she copied were frequently by women who had not been able to publish them but who were able to achieve some recognition by having them circulated among women friends.

What follows is a poem titled “To Sophronia” by HANNAH GRIFFITTS (1727-1817), Moore’s second cousin, signing herself “Fidelia.” The name “Sophronia” was often used to refer to an unmarried woman so the title is apt for this poem praising the single life.

I’ve neither Reserve or aversion to Man,
(I assure you Sophronia in jingle)
But to keep my dear Liberty, long as I can,
Is the Reason I chuse to live single,
My Sense, or the Want of it—free you may jest
And censure, dispise, or impeach,
But the Happiness center’d within my own Breast,
Is luckily out of yr. reach.
The Men, (as a Friend) I prefer, I esteem,
And love them as well as I ought
But to fix all my Happiness, solely in Him
Was never my Wish or my Thought,
The cowardly Nymph, you so often reprove,
Is not frighted by Giants* like these,
Leave me to enjoy the sweet Freedom I love
And go marry—as soon as you please.

Fidelia

[Marginal note:]
* The satyrical Sneers thrown on the single Life.—

Illustration: Anonymous manuscript, mid seventeenth century, containing poems by various authors, in various hands. Includes Shakespeare’s second sonnet. James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, found HERE. The poem appears in Milcah Martha Moore’s Book: A Commonplace Book from Revolutionary America edited by Catherine La Courreye Blecki and Karen A. Wulf (University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 1997), pp 173-74.

posted July 23rd, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Griffitts, Hannah,Moore, Milcah Martha,Philadelphia,Poetry,Primary sources

Washington’s Encampment at Verplanck 1782

Having recently visited the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and written about it in this post, I am tempted to return to see a special limited-run exhibit there from January 13 to February 19. On display will be a newly discovered seven-foot-long watercolor painting of Washington’s Encampment in Verplanck, New York, on the banks of Hudson River in 1782. The meticulously detailed painting by Pierre Charles L’Enfant shows the tents of various regiments and on a hilltop the only known wartime depiction of George Washington’s traveling canvas headquarters tent. The actual tent is a prize artifact at the Museum of the American Revolution. Below is the part of the panoramic painting that shows Washington’s tent.

Read about the discovery of this painting in this New York Times article.

I am excited about this painting not only because the Verplanck Encampment is in the Lower Hudson Valley where I live but also because it is directly across from the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site of which my friend Julia Warger is the manager. She is over the moon about this discovery and she and her staff are poring over a highly enlarged reproduction of a section of the watercolor she received from the Philadelphia Museum.

Stony Point is the scene of the battle in which Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, on July 16, 1779, led his troops in a daring midnight attack on the British garrison seizing its fortifications and taking the soldiers and camp followers prisoners. The site is also the location of the Hudson River’s oldest lighthouse, built in 1826. Presently decommissioned it’s worth seeing if only for the spectacular view it affords up and down the river.

posted December 4th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Art,Battles,L'Enfant, Pierre Charles,Museums,Primary sources,Stony Point Battlefield,Verplanck Encampment,Washington, George,Wayne, Brigadier General Anthony

“Goods & Chattles”

An inventory of a household’s goods provides an intimate glimpse of the owner’s life as no other document can. Reading it, one almost feels guilty of spying or trespassing. ELIZABETH AMSDEN (1724-1768), an unmarried woman from Deerfield, Massachusetts, made her living as a weaver; indeed she had a shop. Shortly before her death in 1768 she made a list of all her belongings and sold them to a townsman. Here are her possessions, actually quite of number for a single lady. Note that “do” means “ditto”, “hollon” refers to a plain-weave fabric from Holland. Prominent are the tools of her trade: looms, warping bars, sley, shuttles. The signatures at the bottom left are those of the neighbors who witnessed the document.

See the inventory in manuscript form HERE. Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA.

posted November 27th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amsden, Elizabeth,Clothes,Employment,Furnishings,Primary sources

“Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe”

More about deciphering eighteenth century handwriting.

Readers will, of course, have seen the sign “Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe” when looking for a place to have a cuppa. The “y” in the sign is a thorn and represents “th”; therefore one should say “The Olde …” The thorn is used in other words too.

Lower and upper case letters of the alphabet in their handwritten forms can be difficult to recognize and differentiate. Nouns were often capitalized but not consistently. The writer will sometimes capitalize a noun on one line but not on another. Or … use the lower case for a proper noun. Cast your eyes on these samples of upper and lower case letters.

Doesn’t the capital “L” look like an “S”? Many’s the time my colleagues and I have conferred in a manuscript library over the handwriting in a letter, trying to decide whether a particular word begins with a capital “G” or a lower case “g”.

One of the more confusing writing conventions met with in reading and transcribing eighteenth century letters and diaries is the “long s” that looks like the present-day “f;” it was used in the middle of words though not at the end. The words shown are “Congress” and “possible.”

I’m off shortly to help a friend examine a cache of family letters. Maybe the tips and examples given will help you decipher old family letters or diaries, if you’re lucky enough to have them.

The source for this post is “What Does That Say?” Series, Pt. I found HERE.

posted November 16th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Primary sources

A Short Break

For the next few days I will be visiting the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. It opened in April and I am anxious to see what steps have been taken to make the period more meaningful and accessible to young and old alike. I’m interested, of course, in how much attention has been paid to women and how they are represented. More fodder for this blog.

posted October 24th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Philadelphia,Primary sources

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