A little something else that turned up during the research for “Couchsachraga” . . . appears there here
“Back into the library and the Sir Walter Scott section. Two shelves and part of another. Must have everything he ever wrote, and three or four of each one.
Not a surprise. So many ladies loving ‘Ivanhoe’.
‘Saint Ronan’s Well’. All the copies of ‘Peveril of the Peak’ out. Miss Edgeworth’s ‘Leonora’ instead. Supposed to be a good read. Romantic but not going too far. Auntie’s kind of thing.
‘Bleak House’ for parlor reading. Mrs. Hentz’s ‘The Victim of Excitement’ for the underwear drawer.”
An excerpt, you understand. You can read it for real soon.
I have a few shelves of books of Southern history, mostly women’s history. I knew that those ladies read a lot whether they were isolated on their husbands’ plantations or in a house with a doctor or lawyer husband in Baltimore or Mobile. But I had no idea that there were records detailing what specific women had borrowed.
Right into the center of their lives, as it were. Amanda Cochran of Richmond, for example, reading nearly everything James Fenimore Cooper had written including probably a few he was trying to forget. Julia Benedict of New Orleans reading her way through Sir Walter Scott while obsessively looking at ‘Harper’s Weekly’ though how that would have kept anyone’s mind off the war in Virginia and the blockading navy ships out in the roads who can tell.
Maybe it’s just as well the author, Emily B. Todd, did her research in Richmond and New Orleans and not Baltimore. Not sure my great great great grandmother would want me to know what she was keeping in her underwear drawer when she wasn’t running her household chasing after my great great grandfather and his little brother in between dinner party planning.
This way Honora Bankhead Guest’s little secrets are safe . . ..
Clinton, Catherine. The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old South. New York City. Pantheon Books. 1984.
Todd, Emily B. Antebellum Libraries In Richmond and New Orleans and the Search for the Practices and Preferences of “Real” Readers. Research note. 2001. Online at journals.ku.edu. Also available at jstor.org and core.ac.uk/download/pdf/148649256.pdf Draws on microfilmed antebellum records of books borrowed by patrons of the Richmond Library, Richmond and the Lyceum and Literary Society, New Orleans.
The image being of one of the many editions of Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’. He sold well everywhere but especially well in the southern American states with a huge female following for women read most of the novels.
A ribbon map, this is. If only it had come along a decade earlier, Mr. Bordelon could mark off the distance from one drinking and gambling establishment on the Mississippi shore to the next with his new poker friend Martin Harden in my upcoming novella “Couchsachraga.”
Alas, it came into being in 1866, patented by Sidney B. Fairchild and Myron Coloney of Missouri, much too late even if these gentlemen could be time traveled into their future and blasted back again to their seats on a heap of cotton bales with a bottle of bourbon as the paddle wheel starts again.
Eleven feet long, it is only a few inches wide and wrapped handily around a spool small enough to fit in a gentleman’s pocket with a crank but with what must have been a banner like effect if the wind blew hard enough to push the paddle steamer halfway across the river while you were trying to fit it back in its case.
Town to city. Waterfall to river. Sugar lands to cotton. Cotton to corn and then to Minnesota wheat. That part a bit hard to read, it was true, being right at the end that stuck in the inside of the spool. Better the other where the river met the sea with the bayou looking like a turkey’s foot with water lines dashing every which way as they headed for the sea.
This example being part of the collection of the Library of Congress, http://www.LOC.gov. If one looks closely at the southerly end, you can spot Jefferson Davis’s name by the name of his Brimfield Plantation at Davis Bend in Mississippi’s black bottom country.