New Hampshire and Massachusetts: 1859-1863. Enamelled boards painted and inlayed with opal. Backstrip lacking and front board detached, but textblock holding tight. Measuring and 7 x 9.5 inches and comprised of 45 pages in a variety of hands, with entries ranging from 1859-1863 (one stray entry by the book's owner is dated much later in 1914). Contributors largely identify their locations as Exeter, New Hampshire, though several others note Boston or Attleboro in Massachusetts. Born in Exeter in 1837, U.S. Census records show Lucinda living out most of her life in that town, working as a milliner until the 1862 birth of her first daughter and her marriage in 1863 to the Reverend Aura Gerrish. The present compilation is both literary and personal, giving insight into the transmission of poetry and the expression of desire through the exchange of published and original compositions.
The book begins when Lucinda is 22 and unmarried, supporting herself in trade. Several early entries show young men vying for her affection, writing dedicatory verses about her beauty. N.F. Carter, for example, writes original "Lines Dedicatory to Miss L.R." that focus on "A thousand forms of morning loveliness" in her, and how "queenly beautiful they sometimes seem, So tinted with the blush of bashful love." A year later, R. P. Woodman regrets that he is "not possessed of a poet's lyre to stir the deep emotions," and so instead he quotes from Micah 6:8. By 1862, Aura Gerrish, the man who will become father to her children and her husband, leaves his own mark -- this decidedly more spiritual in tone, with his invention belying the physical relationship that leads to a pre-marital pregnancy. "Lucinda, let each act of thine While blest with health and life and times, Like mountains, diamonds, grass and trees, Toward Heaven point and Heaven please."
The bulk of the entries, however, are left by female friends of Lucinda's; and these speak to the community and friendships women in the region relied on through their lives. It also provides information on their reading. Nellie F. Jewell leaves an 1859 entry quoting M.A. Williams' Mothers Tribute, released in the 1831 United Efforts: A Collection of Poems. In 1862 Sarah Flanders quotes the Beautiful Sentiment published in the Rutgers Literary Miscellany of 1842. And in 1863, Marianna Hoyt provides a lengthy extract from the 1862 Peterson's Magazine publication of Ellen Ward's Lines for an Album.
A lovely and research rich piece, the present provides opportunity for studying the exchange and transmission of literature, the circulation of poetry among men and women, the use of poetry to express desire and friendship, genealogy, paleography, and gender studies. (Item #3370)