Rockford: Gazette Steam Book & Job Printing House, 1873. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine and front board. Spine lightly sunned and corners bumped, front hinge a bith tender but a pleasing copy overall. Pencil ownership inscription to front pastedown: "From Ma Pronty, 1883." With the exception of a small stain affecting the lower outer margin of The Homestead and faint offsetting on page 32-33, internally a neat copy. The work appears to have been self-published; and it was likely designed for distribution among select family and friends. Scarce in institutions and in the trade, this is the only copy currently on the market.
One of the first American women to serve in a government nursing post, Mary Brainard was no stranger to the realities of war and peace. "Mrs. Brainard saw the hard side of war life, and worked many a long night over sick and dying soldiers...she was made nurse and head matron of the hospital at Lebanon, Kentucky, then going to the hospital at Lewisville as head nurse...Because of her faithful work she was awarded a pension by a special act of Congress" (Church). Brainard's wartime experiences are unavoidable throughout the volume. The Homestead, for example, is filled with nostalgia tinged with harsh reality as Brainard reflects on the rural landscape and future harvests, while also admitting that her song is one "of sorrow sanctified, Of trial overpast; I catch the meaning if I can Of every shadow cast." Verse such as The Desolate and War are even more deeply entrenched in loss, returning again and again to images of boys and young men cut down in youth. Yet others, like Love & Youth, and Loyalty focus on some of the greater qualities that give positive meaning to human life. Brainard's role as a Civil War nurse is deeply entangled with her poetry, and references to tending the wounded appear throughout. For Brainard, poetry is an exercise in managing grief and expressing the beadth of her wartime experiences. (Item #2775)