Diary of Thomas Jefferson's Granddaughter Published
The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) announced the publication of Thomas Jefferson's Granddaughter in Queen Victoria's England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838-1839. The diary, part of the Society's collections, unveils the story of Ellen Wayles Coolidge and her experiences abroad. Co-published by the Massachusetts Historical Society and Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the book was edited by Ann Lucas Birle and Lisa A. Francavilla, and is distributed by the University of Virginia Press. Books are on sale at the Massachusetts Historical Society and will soon be available on amazon.com.
In June 1838, Ellen Wayles Coolidge traveled to London with her husband, Joseph Coolidge, Jr. During her nine-month stay Coolidge recorded details of her experiences abroad and of her conversations with writers such as Thomas Carlyle and Harriet Martineau. This volume brings the full text of her diary to publication for the first time with carefully researched annotations that provide historical context. “The publication of this book is the culmination of a wonderful collaboration between the Massachusetts Historical Society and Thomas Jefferson Foundation,” said MHS President Dennis Fiori.
London's docks, theaters, parks, public buildings, and museums all come under Coolidge's astute gaze as she and her husband travel the city and gradually gain entry into some of the most coveted drawing rooms of the time. Coolidge gives firsthand accounts of the fashioning of the young queen’s image by the artists Charles Robert Leslie and Sir Francis Chantrey and takes notes as she watches the queen open Parliament and battle the first scandal of her reign. Her love of painting reawakened, Coolidge chronicles her opportunities to view over four hundred works of art held in both public and private collections, acknowledging a new appreciation for the modern art of J. M. W. Turner and a fondness for the Dutch masters. Across the spectrum of her observations, Coolidge's diary is always strikingly vivid and insightful—and frequently quite funny.
Her diary entries also include memories of her family in Boston and Virginia. As she encounters her mother's schoolgirl friends and recalls the songs her grandfather, Thomas Jefferson, sang while working in his study, Coolidge's thoughts return to her youth at Monticello and the lessons she learned there.
The original four-volume travel diary that Coolidge wrote during her trip to England is housed at the MHS. In 1825, Ellen Wayles Randolph married a Bostonian, Joseph Coolidge, at Monticello and then moved to Massachusetts. The Coolidge family subsequently established a relationship with the MHS that would span generations. Thanks to the generosity of the Coolidge family, the Society is home to the second largest collection of Thomas Jefferson manuscripts and related family papers. Coolidge’s travel diary came to the MHS in 1964 thanks to Jefferson descendent Mary Barton (Mrs. Edward) Churchill.
Ann Lucas Birle, co-editor of the book, is a scholar at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. She will give a presentation about Ellen Wayles Coolidge and her diary at the MHS on 2 February 2012 at 6:00 PM. A book signing will follow. Co-editor Lisa A. Francavilla is Managing Editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series.
The Purchase by Blood: Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862
Following the surrender of Fort Sumter on April 13, 1861, Northerners rallied behind Pres. Lincoln’s call for states to send troops to preserve the Union. Opening October 7, the Massachusetts Historical Society’s exhibition The Purchase by Blood: Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862 follows a small group of officers—husbands, brothers, and friends of the first families of Massachusetts—through the first years of the Civil War. These young men, like so many, wanted to feel the glory of combat and enlisted with a sense of adventure and unquestioning patriotism. Not anticipated was the bloody aftermath of early conflicts—the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, the Seven Days Battle, the Battle of Cedar Mountain, the Battle of Antietam—and the horrifying loss of life and optimism. This exhibition showcases letters, photographs, broadsides, journals, and works of art surrounding one group of men as the cost of war is brought home to Massachusetts.
UNIQUE SET OF REVOLUTIONARY-ERA NEWSPAPER VOLUMES REUNITED
AT THE MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY
BOSTON, August 2011—The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) announced today the acquisition of the fourth volume of a set of Revolutionary-era Boston newspapers collected, annotated, and indexed by Harbottle Dorr, Jr., from 1765-1776. With the other three volumes already in the Society’s collections, volume four, covering the years 1772-1776, completes the set as originally compiled by Dorr. It was auctioned at James D. Julia, Inc., an auction house in Fairfield, Maine, on August 25. The purchase was made possible through a combination of gifts to the MHS from anonymous donors and a distribution from the Society’s acquisition fund.
PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN ABIGAIL ADAMS LETTER: A blend of business, news, and political observations
BOSTON, June 2011—The Massachusetts Historical Society is pleased to announce that it recently acquired a letter that Abigail Adams wrote on 2 March 1788 to Dr. Cotton Tufts, the Adamses' financial agent in the United States for the period that they were abroad. Judge Lawrence T. Perera donated the letter as a gift in memory of his father, Guido R. Perera. It is a classic example of Abigail’s correspondence with Dr. Tufts, blending business issues and personal news with astute political observations. Adams Papers Managing Editor Margaret A. Hogan comments, “We had no previous record of this letter. Abigail’s comments on the state of politics in Europe, and her observations concerning events related to the U.S. Constitution, make this a valuable letter for scholars interested in the Adamses and the history of the era.”
Married to John Adams, Abigail was an invaluable partner to him as his political career developed. After his election to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774 and throughout the Revolution, Abigail was often left alone to raise the children, manage the farm, supervise the household and tenants, and care for extended family and friends. The letters she exchanged with John and other family members reveal her cares and worries, document her frank opinions and advice, and give an extraordinary view of everyday life in 18th-century New England.
In 1784, Abigail joined her husband in Europe, where he had been on diplomatic missions since 1779. This letter to Dr. Tufts was one of the last letters Abigail wrote from her home in Grosvenor Square, London, to the United States prior to her return in June 1788. Cotton Tufts, a cousin of Abigail’s, was one of the Adamses’ most important correspondents while they were abroad. He, in fact, helped to negotiate the purchase of the house now known as the Adams National Historical Park that John and Abigail would make their home upon their return to Massachusetts.
Along with her comments on the increasingly tenuous situation in France, where the financial and political crisis would shortly lead to revolution, Abigail’s thoughts on the American government and the need for it to be put on a stronger footing are especially noteworthy. Consideration of the new U.S. Constitution by the individual states was ongoing at this time—Tufts himself represented Weymouth as a delegate to the Massachusetts ratifying convention—and Abigail makes clear her own position: “How necessary is it my dear sir, for our own National honour & dignity Safety & security, that we should not cavil away our present advantages, but that our Government should assume a New & more respectable form, and by experience, rectify what we find amiss—” Also remarkable in this letter is Abigail’s particular appreciation for “the writer of those excellent paper”—Publius, the pseudonym used collectively by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison—in authoring the Federalist Papers.