Introduction: The Late Nineteenth-Century Hostess

  • Susan K. Harris


Where there are powerful men, there tend to be very interesting women. The Cultural Work of the Late Nineteenth-Century Hostess: Annie Adams Fields and Mary Gladstone Drew originated in that truism, when, in the dark, cold December of 1995, I discovered Lucy Masterman’s edition of Mary Gladstones diaries in St. Deiniol’s Library, in Hawarden, Wales. I hadn’t gone to St. Deiniol’s to research Mary Gladstone; I’d gone for “rest and respite,” one of the primary goals William Ewart Gladstone had in mind when he established the library as a refuge for weary ecclesiastics in 1895.1 Although I don’t think mine was quite the profile W. E. G. had in mind when he trundled his private library of 40,000 books from his nearby estate to the new building, I was still a good latter-day version of his overworked clergyman.2 I was finishing a “study leave” in which I seemed merely to have traded classroom hours for committee-duty hours; I had two weeks to meet the deadline for returning a copyedited manuscript; I had a new course to prepare. Most of all, I had a profound need for silence. In short, like many others before me, I sought St. Deiniol’s as a refuge from the world.


Publishing Firm Political Liberal Administrative Skill Charity Work Coffee House 
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  1. 7.
    Lucy Masterman, Ed., Mary Gladstone: Her Diaries and Letters, London: Methuen&Co., 1930,212.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Harriet Prescott Spofford, A Little Book of Friends, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1916, 20.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Judith A. Roman, Annie Adams Fields: The Spirit of Charles Street, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990, 4–5. Until the recent publication of Rita K. Gollin’s biography of Annie Fields (see addendum below) Roman’s biography was the most extended study of AAF to date. For additional biographical information see Rita K. Gollin’s “Profile Annie Adams Fields, 1834–1915,” Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Spring, 1987); the Dictionary of American Biography, New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1931, 377–78; and Paula Blanchard’s Sarah Orne Jewett: Her World and Her Work, Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1994. Other sources include sketches in Harriet Prescott Spofford’s A Little Book of Friends and Henry James’s “Mr. and Mrs. James T. Fields,” Atlantic Monthly, July, 1915, 21–31. These latter, however, are hagiobiographies, celebrations of the life by Fields’s contemporaries rather than scholarly investigations. Addendum: Rita K. Gollin’s Annie Adams Fields: Woman of Letters, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002, appeared after this study had gone to press. Although I am unable to do more than acknowledge its publication, I am convinced that this extensively researched biography will influence all future studies not only of Fields herself but of late nineteenth-century Bostons literary world.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    Bikle, Lucy Seffingwell, Ed., George W. Cable: His Life and Letters, New York and London: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1928, 120.Google Scholar
  5. 25.
    Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc. 1981), 200–203.Google Scholar

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© Susan K. Harris 2002

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  • Susan K. Harris

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