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The Hostess as a Correspondent

  • Susan K. Harris

Abstract

Over their lifespans both Mary Gladstone and Annie Fields maintained an extensive correspondence with hundreds of their contemporaries. In the course of this correspondence they probably practiced every conceivable form of letter-writing, from love letters to letters of appointment, from offers of employment to domestic workers to pleas for funding to government agencies, from invitations to letters of dismissal, from private letters to friends to public explications of their views. With this, they addressed a wide body of their contemporaries, from supplicants for public assistance through officials at the very top of their countries’ political and social echelons. Moreover they received letters as well as wrote them, and the letters they received tell us as much about their standing among their contemporaries as do their own writings. Placed as they were, both socially and geographically, and trained as they were to organize conversations about matters of great general interest, it is not surprising that they became centers of significant epistolary conversations.

Keywords

Prime Minister Diary Entry Personal Letter Intended Reader Train Service 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    William Merrill Decker, Epistolary Practices: Letter Writing in America before Telecommunications, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998, 35.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The Gladstone/Lyttelton family slang was known as “Glynnese,” because it originated in the Glynne family, that is, the natal family of Catherine Gladstone (Mary’s mother) and her sister Mary Lyttelton. See Lisle March-Phillips and Bertram Christian, Eds., Some Hawarden Letters, London: Nisbet & Co., 1917, xi.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Lucy Masterman, Ed., Mary Gladstone, Her Diaries and Letters, London: Methuen & Co., 1930, 53.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Bhikhu Parekh, Marx’s Theory of Ideology, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982, 18.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    AAF to SOJ, bMS Am 1743.1, Folder 6, “Tuesday night,” Annie Fields Collection, HO. According to Perry Westbrook, Chattergi was a disciple of Madame Blavatsky, the theosophist (Perry Westbrook, Acres of Flint: Sarah Orne Jewett and Her Contemporaries, Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1981, 119).Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    Donald D. Stone, Communications with the Future: Matthew Arnold in Dialogue, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997, 31.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    Herbert Paul, Ed., Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1904, 184.Google Scholar
  8. 24.
    Roland Hill briefly explores the relationship between Mary Gladstone and Acton in Lord Acton, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000, 309–316, including Mary’s publication of their correspondence in the early twentieth century. As is evident to anyone reading that correspondence, Hill notes the way Acton used Mary to reach her father, but he also shows that Acton’s goals were not simply to effect short-term political goals. Rather, “if it is remembered that the friendship between Gladstone and Acton was based on the big issues of life and death and man’s purpose in the world,” then, Hill concludes, Actons “Machiavellian” use of Mary was “intended for a greater good in which he sincerely believed” (313). Hill also quotes from one of Mary’s own letters to Acton, showing that she was clearly aware of Acton’s intentions: “Somehow I feel as if I had no right to it [i.e., the letter Acton had written to her] and had got it from you on false pretences—that you really wrote it for my father” (313).Google Scholar
  9. 29.
    In fact W. E. G., though a voracious reader himself, does not seem to have read this work. (H. C. G. Matthews, Index to W. E. G.’s reading, The Gladstone Diaries, Vol. 14. See M. R. D. Foote, Ed., The Gladstone Diaries, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968–94.)Google Scholar
  10. 32.
    Lisle March-Phillips and Bertram Christian, Eds., Some Hawarden Letters, London: Nisbet & Co., 1917, 88.Google Scholar
  11. 37.
    For a synposis of the changing states of the English franchise see Jose Harris, Private Lives, Public Spirit: A Social History of Britain, 1870–1914, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 14–15.Google Scholar
  12. 54.
    H.S. Pomeroy, The Ethics of Marriage, New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1888, v.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Susan K. Harris 2002

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  • Susan K. Harris

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