The Hostess as a Diarist
Both Annie Adams Fields and Mary Gladstone kept extensive diaries for over twenty years. With their letters, these volumes are the basis of what we know about their lives. Both women clearly saw the value of a chronological record of their activities; unlike twentieth-century diarists, however, they rarely recorded much that was intensely private. In fact most nineteenth-century diaries, especially as kept by women, concealed as much as they revealed. I begin this chapter by sketching out the general function of nineteenth-century diaries because without that framework it is difficult to understand how Gladstone and Fields conceived of their journals and the kind of “work” the diaries did as extensions of their keepers’ lives. Even as I proffer generalities, however, I suggest that little we claim about nineteenth-century diaries may hold true on close examination; although some excellent studies of diary literature have been published, they tend to apply only to small groups of texts. Much work remains to be done on nineteenth-century diary literature, in general and for specific demographic pools. Moreover as always, idiosyncratic individuals are capable of destroying any generalities—for every one thousand Victorian women who refrained from discussing their most culturally shameful thoughts or acts in their diaries, clearly, at least one confessed all. Whether we choose to examine the majority or the exceptions, of course, depends on what we are looking for.
KeywordsLiterary History Public Event Travel Diary Material Artifact Narrative Mode
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- 1.Harriet Blodgett, Ed., “Capacious Hold-All”: An Anthology of Englishwomen’s Diary Writings, Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991, 4. The Introduction contains a brief history of the evolution of the English diary.Google Scholar
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