“I have spent this morning in reading . . . “

Fragments of the Journal of a Young Lady of Virginia, written by Lucinda Lee Orr to her friend Polly on visits to relatives and friends in Lower Virginia in 1782, show that reading novels had become a pastime of young women and a subject of their correspondence.
From “The Wilderness”, residence of John Grymes, Esq.(one of this family was Gen. Robert Lee’s grandmother) Orr writes to “my dearest Polly” on September 20.

I have spent this morning in reading Lady Julia Mandeville, and was much affected. Indeed, I think I never cried more in my life reading a Novel: the stile is beautiful, but the tale is horrid. I reckon you have read it. Some one just comes to tell us A Mr. Masenbird and Mr. Spotswood is come. We must go down, but I am affraid both Sister’s and my eyes will betray us.

Orr writing from “Belleview”, residence of Thomas Ludwell Lee to Polly

Sept. 25
The Company is all gone, and I have seated myself to converse with my Polly. Mrs. A. Washington has lent me a new Novel, called Victoria. I can’t say I admire the Tale, though I think it prettyly told. There is a verse in it I wish you much to read. I believe, if I a’n’t too Lazy, I will copy it off for you: the verse is not very butifull, but the sense is, I assure you.

Lucinda writing from Chantilly, the residence of Richard H. Lee.

October 6
I have been very agreeably entertained this evening, reading a Novel called Malvern Dale. It is something like Evelina, though not so pretty.

I have a piece of advice to give you, which I have before urged—that is, to read something improving. Books of instruction will be a thousand times more pleasing [after a little while] than all the novels in the World. I own myself, I am too fond of Novel-reading; but, by accustoming myself to reading other Books, I have become less so, and I wish my Polly to do the same.

Writing from Lee Hall, the residence of Richard Lee.

To-day is rainy and disagreeable, which will prevent their comeing from Bushfield. I have entertained myself all day reading Telemachus. It is really delightful, and very improveing. Just as I have seated myself they are come to tell me tea is ready. Farewell.

Nov. 5
I have, for the first time in my life, just read Pope’s Eloiza. Just now I saw it laying in the Window. I had heard my Polly extol it frequently, and curiosity lead me to read it. I will give you my opinion of it: the poetry I think beautiful, but do not like some of the sentiments. Some of Eloiza’s is too Ammorous for a female, I think.

Nov. 12
We are going to seat ourselves and hear Mr. Pinkard read a Novel.

Lucinda Lee Orr’s Journal had been printed and published For the benefit of the Lee Memorial Association of Richmond ( Baltimore: John Murphy and Company, 1871). The Journal can be found online HERE.The History of Lady Julia Mandeville by Frances Brooke is written as a series of letters by the widow Lady Anne Wlmot and Harry Mandeville. It was published in 1763. The book can be read HERE. You can read hear it read HERE. The illustration is on the cover of a recent edition.

posted July 21st, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Amusements, Poetry


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