Stories Among Stories: Tracing Readers Through Annotated Texts

Guest post by Tessa Berman.

Unassuming in appearance, a time-worn book with a featureless brown cover circulates through the library system of The University of Virginia. Within its pages, the book offers modern readers a breadcrumb trail of marginalia that, if adventurously followed, charts a passage through the Victorian Period and into the modern day. Published in 1841, the book, Poetical Works of Miss Landon, passed through many hands and illustrates the Victorian habit of making personal connections with texts through handwritten annotations (Figure 1). The collection of poetry was written by Letitia Elizabeth Landon. A popular and prolific writer, she was beloved by the people of her time. This hardcover traveled through four generations of the Slaughter family and offers a peek into the thoughts and lives of those along its journey.

book cover

Figure 1: Cover of Poetical Works of Miss Landon

To fully understand the path this book traveled and the personal connection its readers had to the text within, we must start at the beginning. Published in 1841, this copy of Poetical Works of Miss Landon was first owned by Dr. Thomas Towels Slaughter (1804-1890) and his first wife, Jane Madison Chapman (1806-1852). Thomas’s ownership inscription appears prominently on the back free end paper (Figure 2). “Thomas” appears at the top of the page followed by a full signature, “Dr. Thomas Slaughter” across the center page. Below the pencil signature is the name “Madison”, the maiden name of his first wife. Married in 1828, Thomas and Jane had twelve sons together ( On page 213 of the text, in the same hand as Thomas’s signature, we find the note, “Lt Col PP Slaughter” (Figure 3). Why did Thomas write this name on this particular page? To answer this question, we must first discover who Lt. Col. P.P. Slaughter was. Born in 1834, Philip Peyton Slaughter was the fifth son of Dr. Thomas Towles Slaughter and Jane Madison Chapman (Figure 4) (“Col. Philip Peyton Slaughter, (CSA)”). Philip attended the Virginia Military Institute, graduated in 1857 with the rank of 1st Captain, and went on to serve as a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War (VMI Archives Historical Rosters: Philip Peyton Slaughter). By including his son’s rank title (Lieutenant Colonel) in his note, Thomas places the annotation at a specific point in time. Philip was named Lieutenant Colonel of the 56th Virginia Infantry Regiment in September of 1861. Later, he was appointed Colonel of the same regiment in October of 1863. It follows, this annotation would have only reflected an accurate description of his son between the years 1861-1863. This time frame is significant for the father and son as well. In June of 1862, Lt. Col. P.P. Slaughter was gravely injured at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill (“Gaines’ Mill”). Although he survived his injuries, he would never be able to return to active duty.

Figure 2: Signature of Dr. Thomas Slaughter

Figure 3a: Handwriting comparison between Dr. Thomas Towles Slaughter’s signature and the annotation on page 213

Figure 3b: Handwriting comparison between Dr. Thomas Towles Slaughter’s signature and the annotation on page 213

Figure 4: Philip Peyton Slaughter as a VMI cadet pictured in front row center taken in 1853 (Gomez)

Thomas inscribed his son’s name on a page titled “Classical Sketches”, above the section “Bacchus and Ariadne”. On this page, two speakers are discussing a painting of the moment the classical Greek figures, Bacchus (God of wine) and Ariande (Princess of Crete), meet during the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The conversation between the two speakers moves to discussion of the myth itself. Perhaps it is here that Dr. Thomas Towles Slaughter’s thoughts linked the text to his son:

      LEONARDI: She was the daughter of a Cretan


A tyrant. Hidden in the dark recess

Of a wide labyrinth, a monster dwelt,

And every year was human tribute paid

By the Athenians. They had bow’d in war;

And every spring the flowers of all the city,

Young maids in their first beauty – stately youths,

Were sacrificed to the fierce King! They died

In the unfathomable den of want,

Or served the Minotaur for food. At length

There came a royal Youth, who vow’d to slay

The monster or to perish!  – Look, Alvine,

That statue is young Theseus.

ALVINE:  Glorious!

How like a God he stands, one haughty hand

Raised in defiance!

(Poetical Works of Miss Landon 213, hereafter cited as PWML)

Like Theseus, Thomas’s son left home to protect the innocents of his state. Lt. Col. P.P. Slaughter raised his hand in defiance, choosing to fight what he may have believed to be the beast of northern aggression. Theseus’s courage to fight for those who could not fight for themselves could have reminded Thomas of the courage he witnessed in his own son when Philip volunteered to join the Confederate Army.

Sadly, we cannot know for sure what Thomas was thinking, as he only left the name of his son as a souvenir of his private thoughts on that day. Maybe the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur was simply a favorite of his son. Or it is possible that the page placement of his annotation was completely random…the page he happened to be reading when his thoughts wandered to his son. Philip was seriously injured in June of 1862 while he was a lieutenant colonel. By this point, Dr. Thomas Towles Slaughter had already suffered the loss of eight of his 16 children, one of which died only six months prior to Philip’s injury ( Perhaps Thomas was simply driven to distraction while he was reading. As a doctor, he would have understood the gravity of his son’s battle injuries and would have most certainly wished to be able to help him.

After belonging to Dr. Thomas Towles Slaughter and his first wife, Jane Madison Chapman, this copy of Poetical Works of Miss Landon passed through at least two hands in the next generation of Slaughters. The names of Eugenia Taylor Slaughter (1842-1929) and Jane Chapman Slaughter (1860-1951) also appear in the book. Ultimately, it was Eugenia’s granddaughter, Lucy Slaughter Stumpf (1923-2000) that donated the book to the library of the University of Virginia (Landon). However, the name of Eugenia’s son (Lucy’s father) never appears in the book. This fact, in combination with the placement of Eugenia’s signature directly below that of the book’s original owner’s name, suggests that the book came into her possession before being passed to Jane Chapman Slaughter.

Jane Chapman Slaughter was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Towles Slaughter and his second wife, Julia Rankin Bradford (1823-1892) (“Jane Chapman Slaughter, Phd in French”). Her ownership inscription appears on the inside of the front cover of the book (Figure 5). Jane was an academic. She attended The College of William and Mary for her undergraduate and master’s work. She then became one of the first women to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, tying the Slaughter family history to the school (“A Guide to the Papers of Jane C. Slaughter”). Like her father before her, Jane left physical evidence of her interaction with this copy of Miss Landon’s poetry. However, her marginalia allow us a much greater window into her emotional interaction with the text. Jane Chapman Slaughter was inspired to add an entire stanza of her own poetical writing to the end of one of the book’s poems (Figure 6)!

Figure 5: Signature of Jane Chapman Slaughter

Figure 6: Additional four-line stanza of poetry added by Jane Chapman Slaughter

Nestled in a section simply labeled “Miscellaneous Poems”, a short work titled “Mardale Head” speaks to the longing and pain of lost love. The poem consists of four, four-lined, stanzas. The first three open with the repeating phrase, “Weep for the love” followed by various descriptions of failed love that the author entreats the reader to feel sadness for: forbidden fate, resigned hope, loving too much in vain (Landon 292-293). The final stanza breaks with this pattern:

Weep for the breaking heart condemn’d

To see its youth pass by,

Whose lot has been in this cold world

To dream, despair, and die.

(Landon 293)

It is likely that the melancholic and defeated tone surrounding the concept of love resonated with Jane, the fourth stanza specifically. In her lifetime, Jane Chapman Slaughter never married or had children. She, too, may have felt her youth pass her by.

It is within the added stanza of her own creation that offers clues that suggest this poetic expression was tied to a specific time in Jane’s life following a failed romance. She wrote:

                        Weep for her whose lot is cast

Upon some distant shore

Whose heart is pining for the home

She never shall see more

Jane maintained the rhyme scheme and syllabic format of the original poem, but she changed the subject completely. Her writing does not address “love” as a concept but rather a specific person who is pining for a lost love, likely herself. She felt compelled to adjust the poem of loss in love to specifically represent her personal experience of loss. This annotation becomes a conversation of intertextual marginalia with another book owned by Jane titled, Poems and Ballads by Longfellow. Andrew Stauffer, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, uncovered a diary or sorts within the pages of the 1891 collection (Stauffer). In that book, Jane left dated excerpts outlining a courtship with a man named John H. Adamson and her obvious fondness for him. She also recorded the end of the relationship. Adamson left the country on “crusade” to the West Coast of Africa and never returned. Professor Stauffer determined that some of Jane’s annotations in the copy of Longfellow were written during the relationship in 1900, while some were written years later in reflection as an older woman (Figure 7). Perhaps the stanza she added to “Mardale Head” came somewhere in between these times. Jane writes that her “lot is cast / upon some distant shore” and that her “heart is pining” for a home (her love) “She never shall see more”. This suggests that at the time the stanza was written, Jane’s love had already left her for the literal distant shores of Africa, but she is still pining so the loss is fresh. Jane Chapman Slaughter’s adaptation of this poem exemplifies the practice of Victorian readers interacting with printed text in an intensely personal way.

Figure 7a: Annotations made by Jane Chapman Slaughter at two different times in her Longfellow (a) compared to the stanza written in her Landon (b)

Figure 7b: Annotations made by Jane Chapman Slaughter at two different times in her Longfellow (a) compared to the stanza written in her Landon (b)

Upon Jane Chapman Slaughter’s death in 1951, her books were donated to the library of the University of Virginia but Poetical Works of Miss Landon was not among them. Instead, it found its way into the hands of Lucy Slaughter Stumpf. Perhaps Jane chose to pass this book on during her life to her great-niece because the signature of the girl’s grandmother, Eugenia Taylor Slaughter, can be found in the back of the volume. Eventually, the book did leave the many hands of the Slaughter family. Lucy donated the book to Jane’s alma mater on November 9, 1960. This copy of Poetical Works of Miss Landon now circulates through the hands of students and would-be poets searching for connections and sometimes leaving clues of their own.

Separate from the written word annotations found in this book, it has also acquired several silent insertions across time. Among these is a stain from a pressed flower and the crumbling residue of its sepal on a page of a poem that speaks about fallen warriors (Figure 8). Without accompanying written information, we cannot know when or where this flower came from, other than that its inclusion predates the book’s donation. This flower belonged to a Slaughter. Perhaps Thomas chose to press a flower from his father’s gravesite on this page as his father was a soldier. Also found among the book’s pages is a heavily underlined passage littered with checkmarks and marked by a paper scrap bookmark fashioned from the edge of dot matrix printer paper, commonly used in the 1980s and 90s (Figure 9). Perhaps a student at the university used the Slaughter copy of Landon to complete a homework assignment on Victorian writers! This copy of Poetical Works of Miss Landon contains a rich recorded history of its readers throughout time and is even connected to another collection within the University of Virginia’s library system. This discovery highlights the importance of genealogical cross-referencing between collections.

Figure 8: Remnants of a dried flower

Figure 9: Underlinings marked by a paper scrap bookmark made of dot matrix printer paper commonly used in the 1980s and 90s

Works Cited

“A Guide to the Papers of Jane C. Slaughter 1809-1951 Slaughter, Jane C., Papers 3700, -a, -b.” n.d. Accessed April 27, 2023.

“Col. Philip Peyton Slaughter, (CSA).” Geni_family_tree, 2 May 2022,

FamilySearch.Org, Accessed 23 Apr. 2023.

“Gaines’ Mill.” American Battlefield Trust, Accessed 23 Apr. 2023.

Gomez, Kelly. “Winston Memorial Chapel.” Home –, 12 Sept. 2022,

“Jane Chapman Slaughter, Phd in French.” Geni_family_tree, 2 May 2022,

Landon, Letitia Elizabeth. 1841. The Poetical Works of Miss Landon. UVA Library Collection, Barcode: X001273869

Stauffer, Andrew M. 2021. Book Traces : Nineteenth-Century Readers and the Future of the Library. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

VMI Archives Historical Rosters: Philip Peyton Slaughter, Accessed 23 Apr. 2023.

Book Traces @ UVA resources

Looking for more information on Book Traces @ UVA?

For a detailed overview including a description of our protocol and an account of the lessons learned and benefits derived from the project, download our white paper from Libra Open.

To explore the raw data collected during our shelf surveys at the University of Virginia, go to the Book Traces @ UVA database. Data can be searched and filtered via a web interface, downloaded as comma-separated values, or accessed via API calls.

You can also use the UVA Library online catalog, Virgo, to search for books identified by Book Traces @ UVA as having marginalia, insertions, or other unique modifications. Search for “Book Traces Project” as an associated author and you will be able to further narrow your search using keywords or the catalog facets. As of this writing (in June 2018), the addition of Book Traces metadata to the catalog is not yet complete; a fuller list of books identified by the project can be found in the Book Traces @ UVA database.

The Book Traces @ UVA Twitter account is intermittently active, tweeting examples of marginalia and related news.

If you are looking for general information about Andrew Stauffer’s ongoing Book Traces project, including books found at institutions other than the University of Virginia, go to

Book Find: Thy Heavy Loss Deplore

Editor’s note: We are grateful to volunteer Jamie Rathjen for his continued work researching the histories of some of the uniquely modified books that were discovered in the course of the Book Traces @ UVA survey of the UVA Library’s circulating holdings. Here is Jamie’s latest guest post.

The “prominent citizen of Charlottesville” William James Rucker (1873-1941) donated much to the University, including some of his books which he appears to have inherited from his father-in-law, Micajah Woods (1844-1911).  Woods was deeply connected with UVa, having graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1868 before becoming at the time the youngest ever member of the Board of Visitors, serving for four years from 1872. He was most prominently the long-serving commonwealth’s attorney for Albemarle County, holding the position from 1870 until his death. A particular book of Woods’, an 1825 London edition of The Works of Robert Burns, contains Rucker’s personal bookplate, depicting him at a lake with his hat in one hand and a freshly caught fish in the other. But the inscription comes from Woods instead – “Micajah Woods. 17 Febr. 1894. Please return if borrowed” – and it is both far from the only one in the opening pages and comes much later than the book itself and the other inscriptions.

The Woods inscription stands out, large and dark, among a forest of simply names (two different ones) and the occasional date from about forty years before, in a variety of styles ranging from light, nearly-faded pencil to ink. One is repeated seven times in total: “John A. McSparran,” (born 1830) in whole or in part, as if for some sort of handwriting practice. Luckily, one comes with a date: “January 4th 1852,” indicating that these inscriptions much predate Woods and Rucker. Also present is a name repeated twice: “Erastus R. Brown,” and another McSparran, James (born 1833), shows up once. Erastus R. Brown (1834-1900) lived in Albemarle County in this period and later moved to Rucker’s home state of Missouri (although not near Rucker), and the McSparran family also lived in the county. The McSparrans’ father, Erasmus (born 1802), was a local carpenter and appears in a list of builders and workers to have constructed the Lawn and surrounding buildings, while James became an itinerant Methodist preacher around the state from 1853, listed in his church’s minutes as serving near Winchester and Washington early in his career. Because of this, he is the most well-documented of the three; a book of biographical sketches of the state’s Methodist preachers from 1880 reports that only James and his youngest sister were alive of the family.

Returning to the books, the names, interestingly, appear as if they were done by the same hand and, for the two largest examples, the same pen. As for the writing itself, the entire body of it seems a bit juvenile: under Woods’ inscription there is some basic math in pencil, seemingly to work out the difference between 1833 and the 1850s, while on the next page after the names is a large outlined hand, again in pencil. Facing the title page is an engraving of Burns himself, which has been imitated both below the image and on the small piece of tissue paper which protects the image when the book is closed. Yet the most intriguing of all the inscriptions lies between the hand and the engraving: a faint poem simply titled “On Burns the Poet. June 4th 1851.”

The poem consists of a basic four stanzas of four lines, and appears to have an alternating rhyme (“ABAB”). However, the text is not entirely readable with my capabilities; the ends of the lines are in particular the most faded as to be nearly invisible. Additionally, it is unclear which of the three men wrote it, although a large “John A. McSparran” is in the middle of the page, in a thicker style than the rest of the text, and which overwrites the “3” indicating the third stanza. I have managed to decipher the first two stanzas to serve as a representative sample:


The world may ever lust for thee

Thy heavy loss deplore

But never – never will there be

Thy equal on this shore



Now cold and lifeless doth thou lie

Lonely beneath the clay and sod

No shining ray approach from the sky

While footsteps above thee are trod


The poem continues by lamenting Burns’ death yet taking solace in his perceived irreplaceability. The date of 1851 and the handwriting, similar to the preceding pages, limits it to one of the three inscribers. Curiously, for how heavily the book is marked before the text starts, there is no marking of the text itself. The text’s layout, because of Burns’ voluminous work and the additional essays included, consists of double columns and small print and is not conducive to even underlining or other non-verbal marginalia. Yet whichever of Brown or the McSparrans wrote the poem seems to have been a devoted fan of the poet.

Despite possessing no connection to UVa except through his father-in-law Micajah Woods, the Missouri native Rucker came to greatly benefit the university through his donations. A number of his and Woods’ letters, papers, notebooks, and other writings are kept in Special Collections. Among the most interesting is a collection of letters, some to Woods (but none to Rucker) from prominent 19th century and mostly Virginian figures, including Andrew Jackson, John Marshall, John C. Calhoun, and Charles Dickens. These are prized for their famous writers and subjects; those who wrote to Woods himself or his grandfather, also named Micajah, include Jeffersonian politician John Randolph, Confederate governor of Virginia John Letcher, Congressman and rector of the University Alexander H. H. Stuart, and Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston. Woods served in the Confederate cavalry and horse artillery from 1862, when he turned 18 and was allowed to leave the University, to the end of the war. Additionally, letters to his parents including “detailed descriptions” of battles in which he participated, such as Second Manassas and Antietam, survive in the collection of his papers. As for Rucker, his most significant donation came in 1941 in the form of $50,000 to go towards building a home, called the Rucker Home for Convalescent Children, under the auspices of the University hospital. The money was used to buy an estate west of Grounds on Ivy Road, but the home, as named for Rucker, only lasted 15 years until it was rebuilt in 1956-57.

Rucker’s contributions to UVa, including this book, thus are derived significantly – although not entirely – from Woods, who appears to have been much more well-connected than him: the record of a court case over his will states that Rucker, “though a man of cultured tastes and wide information, had few intimate friends.” In the same way as Rucker’s contributions at large, the interesting aspects of this book are again derived entirely from others (and Woods). Nonetheless, this book and any others that Rucker donated, whether or not they came from Woods, represent a valuable contribution to UVa from two prominent residents of the area.

Works Cited

Currie, James, M.D. The Works of Robert Burns. London: Jones and Co., 1825.

Lafferty, John J. “Rev. James Erasmus McSparran.” Sketches of the Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Richmond: Christian Advocate Office, 1880. 112. &hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjJ95atzeHVAhXpgFQKHWcnCzM4ChDoAQgvMAI#v=onepage&q&f=false

Wilson, Richard Guy. “The Builders and Workers of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village.” Building a Living Legacy: Jefferson’s Academical Village. The Fralin Museum of Art. 27 February 2009.

“Sheridan v. Perkins.” FindACase,

“History of the University of Virginia Hospital in the 1950s and 1960s.” The University of Virginia Hospital Celebrating 100 Years.

“A Guide to the Micajah Woods Papers.” Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library.

Minutes of the Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Nashville: Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1859. 137, 141, 242.

Names, dates, locations, and occupations from

Book Find: The Poets Are Human

Editor’s note: Although Book Traces @ UVA has officially concluded our surveying project that was supported by a CLIR Cataloging Hidden Collections grant, we are delighted to see ongoing interest in the uniquely modified books we’ve discovered. Here we present a new guest post by Jamie Rathjen.

Alderman Library holds a sizable collection of books donated in 1949 by alumnus Frank C. Littleton (1873-1951) which belonged to him and his wife, H. Olive Trowbridge (1883-1924). Two of those that are most heavily written in were used by Olive’s aunt and caregiver Miriam Trowbridge Osborn (1840-1891) in her time at a private girls’ school, referred to in her inscription as “l’ecole de Madam Chegary,” in New Jersey and possibly New York. In the two volumes, a book of Robert Burns’ poetry and of Oliver Goldsmith’s poetry, plays, and essays, young Miriam combines an embrace for superlatives (both positive and negative) in response to her readings with at times pithy observations from the school’s English professor, Rev. Joseph McKee, about the poets themselves.

portrait of Miriam Trowbridge

Miriam Trowbridge

Miriam writes on the inside cover of the Burns book, “Mr McKee believed that Burns with all his love for drink and festivity was truely [sic] a pious man. Byron was a bad man.” The school was founded by a French immigrant, Heloise Chegary (1797-1889), and seems to have been notionally Catholic; that is, writer Emma Benedict Knapp, who was from the area and briefly attended the school as a child, noted that her “blue Presbyterian” father respected Chegary for “her methods of education and discipline” and regardless sent his children there (12). We see then from Miriam’s first note an almost immediate subtext focused on morality; at the end of “Epistle to a Young Friend,” the first poem substantially marked, she writes in her typical style “the morality of this poem is beyond all praise.” Later in the book, Miriam notes “a horrible satire” at the beginning of “The Holy Fair,” one of Burns’ famous satires on the organized religion of his day. (Burns’ other well-known satire about a preacher, “Holy Willie’s Prayer,” is not marked at all.) In another poem, “The Ordination,” Miriam again marks one stanza with “satire.” It is as if McKee, or Miriam, wants to make very clear that any time Burns writes about religion it must on some level be a satire. Yet McKee seems to have held Burns in very high regard: “We learn more in three stanzas of Burns than we would in all of Scott’s works,” Miriam records him as saying.

Miriam recorded her notes in Madam Chegary’s school at a time when it was transitioning from northern New Jersey to a new location in New York City and when she herself was transitioning to adulthood. She records a few specific dates (including “Oct 15th 1855” in the inscription) in the Goldsmith book, but only one in the Burns book. This gives no hints as to at which location she was, but Knapp writes that when she attended at the age of seven ca. 1854-55 the school was already at its New York location: “the southwest corner of Twenty-eighth Street and Madison Avenue – two houses” (12).

Another example of Miriam’s sarcastic streak is a wry note at the beginning of the Burns poem “Despondency: An Ode,” which contains such lines as “My woes here shall close ne’er / but with the closing tomb!” at the end of the first stanza. Responding to this, Miriam writes “September 26 1855. On the departure of Mother – quite apropos,” underlining the entire first stanza and placing her trademark non-verbal notes – large parentheses – around all of the stanzas in turn. Besides the date given, some of the notes function as a rough time capsule of the period: for example, a reference to “forty pounds” in Goldsmith’s “The Deserted Village” is marked with “$200,” revealing that five dollars to one pound was an approximate exchange rate at the time. On the same page, Miriam writes “Mr McKee says that any young man with a good education can repeat this passage,” referring to the then-common practice of memorizing poems as part of one’s education. At the beginning of the Burns poem “Halloween,” she explains the title holiday as “the night before the first of November,” in the era before it was commonly celebrated in America. Yet Miriam grew up rather quickly after writing in these books: another book of hers at UVa is a volume of Shakespeare in which she initially wrote in the spring of 1855, and then again on what she describes as the “dreadfully cold and inclement” night of 15 September 1856. “I wonder where I shall be at this time next year,” Miriam muses. Her words proved to be fitting: in 1858 she married Charles J. Osborn (1837-1885), who became a prominent Wall Street broker, and then had a son, Howell (1859-1895).

Flyleaf with inscription by Miriam Trowbridge

“Announced on this 16th of October 1855. There is no author who writes the English language with more purity than Goldsmith.” Thus Miriam inaugurates her annotations of the Irish author, beginning with his poem “The Traveller.” The relatively long poem shows a broad cross-section of Miriam’s notes, beginning with those which are most common, such as simply “very fine” or “beautiful.” There are also those for reference which divide the poem into sections for the different countries visited, as well as Miriam’s idiosyncratic way of defining strange words: a small X or cross is placed above the word, and another of the same is placed in the margin next to the definition. For example, in “The Traveller,” the river “famed Hydaspes” is given as “the boundary of Alexander’s conquests in the East.” This is the only example for an allusion, though; the other two in the Burns book explain words of dialect. Finally, Miriam also reflects on the poem: “this shows that happiness is equally distributed throughout all nations,” and then on the same page “the final lines,” a reference to what can be found written below the end: “True happiness is found within ourselves.”

Miriam’s description of Goldsmith inside the front cover of the book shows a man accustomed to opulence yet generous in the extreme, resembling yet exceeding what Miriam would become as an adult:

“Goldsmith had a great passion for dress. Sometimes he was beautifully dressed, at other times he looked very slovenly. One would not take him for the same man. He made from 5 to 6 thousand dollars a year, and still sometimes he had to borrow a shilling to buy his dinner. He was very extravagant and exceedingly generous. As long as he had anything, no one wanted if he could help it. He never was married, but when he died he was in debt 10 thousand dollars.”

Overall, less of the Goldsmith book is marked than Burns, in part because the final 400 pages or so contain his two plays (The Good-Natur’d Man and She Stoops to Conquer), only the former of which is substantially marked, and his essays. Miriam sees parallels between Honeywood, the titular good-natured man, and the author: “no one but Goldsmith,” she writes next to his name in the dramatis personæ. Later in the play, Honeywood is under house arrest and gets to talking to the bailiff that is looking after him. The dim-witted bailiff tries to sound smart by, among other ways, putting “among us that practice the law” at the end of some of his sentences. “The bailiff tries to be literary,” Miriam writes as the smooth-talking Honeywood proceeds to bribe him. “How soon the money changes his deportment towards him,” Miriam notes sarcastically. Turning to She Stoops to Conquer, Miriam declares “this play is the most laughable in our language” on its very first page; “laughable” is something that she calls the play and a number of lines and poems in both books, and, since She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy, it is unclear if she means “humorous” or “contemptible.” Regardless, she seems to have enjoyed at least The Good-Natur’d Man: ironic, given events that were to transpire in her later life.

The books’ ultimate connection to UVa is that Miriam’s niece Henrietta Olive Trowbridge (frequently called Olive, while she later seems to have herself gone by H. Olive) came into her care following the deaths of both of her parents in 1883: her mother in childbirth, and her father, Miriam’s brother Clement J. Trowbridge, through disease. Miriam was “extremely fond” of Olive compared to her son Howell, who developed a hedonistic, luxurious lifestyle not dissimilar to the “very extravagant and exceedingly generous” habits Miriam described of Goldsmith, so it is perhaps no surprise that Olive ended up with her books (The Osborn, 27). During this period, the family lived at Tahoma, the imposing Osborn estate in Mamaroneck, N.Y. built by Miriam’s husband Charles in the years before his death in 1885; Miriam died when Olive was only eight years old, and the family’s lawyer, John Sterling, became her guardian. Olive ultimately spent most of her life at Tahoma; she and her husband, Frank C. Littleton, only moved out in 1922 in favor of Oak Hill, the one-time residence of President James Monroe in Aldie, Va. Even though Olive’s death came in 1924, soon after they moved, and Miriam’s books were not donated to UVa until 1949, Olive is listed first on the bookplates and Oak Hill is mentioned as well.

portrait of Olive Trowbridge

Olive Trowbridge

photo of Oak Hill

Oak Hill

photograph of Tahoma in the present day

Tahoma in the present day

The Osborns seem to have mixed with the very upper crust of New York; the family also owned a home on Fifth Avenue which was regarded in the New York Times as “one of the most substantial houses in the fashionable part of the city.” Charles Osborn made his fortune by pushing around the money of wealthy industrialists such as J.P. Morgan and especially infamous railroad baron Jay Gould, with whom the Times readily admitted Osborn was not friendly and contrasted greatly: “as open-hearted, generous, and cordial as Gould was narrow, irresponsible, and selfish.” At his death, the elder Osborn could nevertheless consider himself well-regarded in his industry.

Miriam’s son, Howell, became a successful young broker in his own right, but after his father’s death the “jaunty, gay, and reckless” son inherited an $35,000 annual income (equivalent to more than $820,000 today), which allowed him to quit brokering. He maintained an apartment in Paris where he was noted for his “lavish hospitality,” outwith his generosity. The Times reports an anecdote of the latter: a rich man from Baltimore enlisted a florist to buy an orchid from the Osborn estate for $2500. Howell seemingly refused to sell; the next day, he delivered a package containing the orchid to the florist, entreating the other man to make his employer “pay big” for it. “What he wouldn’t sell he gave away,” observes the newspaper. Ultimately Howell’s substantial income, which only increased after Miriam’s death, was not enough for his tastes. The Times writes of him that (emphasis added):

“Mr. Osborn’s name was prominently before the public for many years because of his fondness for the stage, his debts, and his mother’s determination to prevent, as far as possible, any actress from receiving any benefit from her estate.”

By this period, and perhaps because of Howell, Miriam had developed an intense, specific distaste for actresses. An anecdote repeated in Howell’s Times obituary, among other places, claims that Miriam attempted to exclude from her estate any children that Howell would have with an actress. Regardless Howell, while indeed cohabiting with actresses including future Broadway star Fay Templeton, never had any children. Miriam’s niece Olive then became the beneficiary of Howell as well as Miriam, a fact affirmed by the New York court system when Miriam’s two sisters attempted in a series of 1898 suits to get two-thirds of the estate for themselves and leave one-third for Olive. They failed to give sufficient grounds to invalidate Miriam’s will; thus, the 15-year-old Olive had become rather quickly the last Osborn scion.

Miriam’s enduring legacies are two buildings that she had constructed with the family fortune: one she envisioned as a retirement home for women in suburban New York, and a donation, in the memory of her husband, in the form of a lecture hall to Yale University. Neither exists in quite its original form; the retirement home seems to have dropped the women-only designation, while the Yale building, close to several of the university’s science departments, is now primarily laboratories. However, both retain the Osborn name to this day: “The Osborn” and “Osborn Memorial Laboratories,” rather than the original “Osborn Recitation Hall.” An article in, ironically, the Harvard Crimson describes the recitation hall as sumptuous and advanced, and sure to be “one of the finest buildings belonging to the college.” The retirement home was not opened until 1908, well after Miriam’s death, but came to include Olive on its board of managers at one point – its only actual connection to a living Osborn (The Osborn, 27). Instrumental in both buildings was the family’s longtime lawyer, John Sterling, a Connecticut native who possessed the connection to (and two degrees from) Yale and acquired the land for the retirement home, as well as performing other functions for the family such as serving as a guardian for Olive after Miriam’s death. The Osborns built their fortune through the investment world, but the family’s legacy was secured as much through philanthropy as any business transaction.

Miriam’s prescient words appear one more time in “Epistle to a Young Friend,” as she notes at the end of the poem “Burns was the most sociable being living. So much so that he was sought by everyone, that is where he got the habits that were the bane of his life.” While reacting sympathetically to the Scot, the same words could later plausibly describe her own son. It is appropriate that Miriam declares that one can find “humanity in Burns’ every image,” because that seems to be what she enjoys most about both books of poems – or, as she records someone else from the school putting it, “blessed be the Poets, for they have taught us to be human.”

Works Cited

Hun, Marcus R., ed. “Henriques v. Trowbridge.” Reports of Cases Heard and Determined in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Vol. XXVII (1898), 18-22. Albany: Banks, 1898.

Knapp, Emma Benedict. Hic habitat Felicitas: A Volume of Recollections and Letters. Boston: W. B. Clarke, 1910.

Zwerger, Mark R., et al. Images of America: The Osborn. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2008.

Death of Charles J. Osborn. The New York Times. 12 Nov. 1885. (accessed on

Good-Bye to Wall-Street: Howell Osborn is Going to Stop Speculating. The New York Times. 13 Sep. 1886. (accessed on

Howell Osborn Dead. The New York Times. 7 Feb. 1895. (accessed on

The New Recitation Hall at Yale. The Harvard Crimson. 5 Dec. 1889.

Poems, Plays, and Essays, by Oliver Goldsmith, M.B. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Co., 1855.

The Poetical Works of Robert Burns. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Co. 1855.

Book Find: To Norah C. Carroll, From Herself!!

While assessing the latest delivery of books from the Ivy Stacks Storage Facility, I very nearly missed the first Book Find that made me laugh out loud. On the flyleaf of a 1919 copy of Burned Bridges by Bertrand W. Sinclair was what appeared, at first glance, to be a classic early twentieth century gift inscription but ended up being much more humorous.

The book’s apparent owner wrote her name, “Norah C. Carroll,” in neat cursive centered on the page, with a predictable “from” underneath. But then, at a jaunty angle with a quickly scrawled underline and two exclamation points, the gift giver is revealed to be “Herself!!”


My first thought about this intervention was that it was truly something special. During these first few months of my pulling volumes from Alderman’s shelves and sifting through Ivy delivery boxes, I have seen many proud inscriptions of ownership as well as tender gift notes in the front matter of books. At first glance, I was ready to log this example into our Google Form as being just another “Inscription > Gift Inscription,” but then the surprise hit me. The only word I could think of to describe Norah C. Carroll in that moment of discovery came to me in French: this lady, she has panache.

My second thought was that I wished I had thought of this gesture of panache myself and made a mental note to do the same whenever I bought a new book. Essentially, even though I knew absolutely nothing about Ms. Carroll, I already wanted to be her.

This desire only grew when I remembered that this woman was not a twenty-first century inductee into Parks and Recreation‘s “Treat Yo’self” culture of hedonism but instead an assertive female voice writing to us from circa 1919. The layers of her audacity thickened when I found out, via a 1930 United States Federal Census for the city of Charlottesville, that Norah C. Carroll would have been about forty-two years old at the time of her inscription and was ostensibly a housewife (Occupation: “None”) with an eleven-year-old son. My admitted bias to read the gift inscription as a feminist act could even be confirmed by further digging into her biography which, at least to a modern researcher, also suggests that Carroll was a woman who made unique life choices. First, given that her son James P. Carroll was born in 1908, Norah C. Carroll would have been (as far as we know) a first- time mother at age 31. Though it was difficult to find childbirth data for Carroll’s generation specifically, a longitudinal study of childbirth in the United States starting with women born in 1910 confirmed that Carroll’s story of motherhood was just as rare as her gift inscription. The study’s data demonstrated that

[f]or women born in 1910 and 1935, having a first birth after age 30 was relatively rare (less than 10 percent of births) (Kirmeyer and Hamilton 2)

If it was rare even for women born two generations later than Carroll, how anomalous must her story of motherhood have been?

Later in life, we also see Carroll striking out on her own, this time with ramifications beyond the statistical. In 1957, a U.S. City directory for Richmond, Virginia reveals that Carroll had moved away from Charlottesville. Furthermore, there is neither a  James P. or Payne J. Carroll listed in the directory. Barring a situation where Carroll was living with a sister or brother listed under her maiden name (which I was not able to find), all signs point to Carroll, then aged 80, striking out on her own to a new, bigger city.

Last, but certainly not least, if we take this inscription out of the narrative of Carroll’s own biography, the inscribed year of 1919 is, of course, symbolic in its own right. Could Carroll have been asserting her own purchasing power in the same year that women of the United States were finally granted the right to assert their political views? The book itself is even called Burned Bridges, which we could choose to read as a metaphor for the year 1919’s departure from pre-suffrage womanhood to a new, enfranchised femininity.

Again, it is very tempting to view Carroll’s biographical details and the year of her inscription through a feminist lens. Yet, circumscribing her defiant act within the broader framework of an ideological movement takes the emphasis off of the profound material evidence we are privileged to behold today from 2016. In light of this, I prefer to view Carroll’s inscription not as a feminist act but instead a radical act of self-indulgence and even self-love that attests to her personal panache as a woman in an era of change.


Kirmeyer, Sharon E. and Brady E. Hamilton. “Childbearing Differences Among Three Generations of U.S. Women.” NCHS Data Brief, No. 68, 2011. PDF.

United States. Census Bureau. “Department of Commerce and Labor– Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States: 1930, Population, Charlottesville.” United States Census 1930. Washington: U.S. Census Bureau, 4 May 1930. Web. 10 November 2016.

United States. Census Bureau. “Department of Commerce and Labor– Bureau of the Census, Census of the United States: 1957, Population, Richmond.” United States Census 1957. Washington: U.S. Census Bureau, 4 May 1957. Web. 10 November 2016.

ASU Book Traces: project led by Devoney Looser finds “fascinating stuff”

We’re delighted to see this article in ASU Now, “Exploring value of print in the digital age,” about the Book Traces project at Arizona State University led by Devoney Looser. Here is an excerpt:

“We’re finding fascinating stuff,” said Looser, a professor in the Department of English and organizer of ASU Book Traces, a project with ASU Library that aims to highlight the value of library print collections — as well as new ways of engaging with them — precisely at a time when many are being reduced in size.

“One of the clearest trends in academic libraries is the rethinking of print collections,” said Lorrie McAllister, who was recently appointed associate university librarian for collections and strategy at ASU Library, and is helping to facilitate projects such as Book Traces in addition to a new partnership with MIT on the future of academic library print collections.

“Professor Looser’s project demonstrates that there is still interest and passion for the many technologies used in book design over many centuries, its utility and historical significance as a format and preservation mechanism, and the physicality of the medium as an engagement and research tool,” McAllister said.

Book Find: The Partridges Live On

Guest post by Book Traces @ UVA volunteer Jamie Rathjen

The books of the Partridge-Lehman family, originally from the Germantown area of Philadelphia, may be found scattered all throughout Alderman library, representing a range of dates and interests. Accumulated from the 1880s to the 1940s, the books seem to have been donated by long-serving UVa medical school professor Edwin Partridge Lehman (1888-1954) sometime between 1942 and his death. Many of the Partridge books have owners’ or gift inscriptions recording which member of the family owned and/or gave the book, and the same names appear over and over: most frequently Lois Partridge Lehman (1887-1950), Edwin’s sister, but also Edwin himself and their uncles and aunts. However, the crux of the Partridge case, and the person who links Lois and Edwin to said uncles and aunts, is their mother, Emily (Partridge) Lehman (1858-1890), whose death appears to have induced another Partridge, Emily’s sister Henrietta, or “Hettie” (1860-1946), to mark some of the poems in an edition of John Greenleaf Whittier’s collected works with leaves and, in one example, an inscription of “July ’90”.

Library of the University of Virginia / From the libraries of Edwin Francis Partridge, Henrietta Hartmann Partridge, Lois Partridge Lehman, and Edwin Partridge Lehman

Edwin F. Partridge (1833-1897) was the father of Emily and Hettie and the grandfather of UVa medical school professor Edwin P. Lehman.

The Whittier book is identified inside its front cover as a gift from C. L. P. – Charles Leo Partridge (1872-1908), Emily’s brother – to Hettie, identified here as H. H. Partridge, and carries a date of 25 March 1890. The date itself does not appear to be significant, as it was not Hettie’s birthday, nor anyone else’s in the family, nor a holiday. However, its importance lies in its proximity to Emily’s death on 17 June 1890. Whittier seems then to have been very close at hand to console its owner with lines such as “That Life is ever lord of Death / And Love can never lose its own!” from the writer’s narrative poem “Snow-Bound,” which is among a short section that earned a marking in the margins and the “July ’90” inscription (210-211). (As with most of the other poems that are marked, a leaf was originally kept inside the book on this page, but it has gone missing since this book became known to Book Traces.) Interestingly, these lines represent a turn in “Snow-Bound” from the description of a fierce winter storm to the reliving of nostalgia, as “We sped the time with stories old…” is the very next line after the end of the section marked. In this way, the characters of “Snow-Bound” successfully pass the time, so that “forgotten was the outside cold.” Additionally, later in the poem one of the members of the poet’s family – a sister, no less – is implied to have died somewhat recently, perhaps young, and has a stanza devoted to her. “And yet, dear heart! remembering thee, / Am I not richer than of old? / Safe in thy immortality / What change can reach the wealth I hold?” asks Whittier as narrator (422-25). The answer, of course, is that nothing can change a memory except its possessor. Perhaps “Snow-Bound,” then, was stumbled across, or looked for, in the book and served as a felicitous reminder of Emily. As the family in the poem seeks to comfort itself in a time of uncertainty with its memories, so can the Partridges find solace in their memories of Emily.

“H. H. Partridge, from C. L. P., March 25, 1890.”

A maple leaf, which has since disappeared, once lied on one of the pages of “Snow-Bound,” along with an inscription of “July ’90,” referring to the lines at the top right corner of the page.

While the “July ’90” stanza of “Snow-Bound” is the only part of the poem that has an accompanying note, other lines just before receive marks in the margins. Before the poem’s “turn,” the narrator laments the change that has occurred since the title snowstorm: “How strange it seems, with so much gone / Of life and love, to still live on!” The poem continues to expound on the absence, yet permanence of those who are missing (“We sit beneath their orchard-trees … We turn the pages that they read, / Their written words we linger o’er, / But in the sun they cast no shade”), and this section of 35 lines leading up to the “July ’90” is punctuated by small vertical marks of 3-4 lines in length every 10 or so lines (181-82; 192, 195-97). Despite the gaps that appear, the lines that do not have marks next to them do not seem to be any less relevant; it is not as if Whittier mentions death or absence for four lines, goes somewhere else for five more, and then returns again. Instead, it is as if this entire 35-line section of “Snow-Bound” (lines 179-211) is deemed worthy of consideration, though the series of marks is spotty, and is wrapped up at the end with the “July ’90.”

Another poem called “At Last” opens with the line “When on my day of life the night is falling…” again reminding the reader of impending death. This opening section of the poem, as well as the last two lines at the end, also earn a small mark in the margin, the only ones in the book outside of “Snow-Bound.” In “At Last,” like the relevant portion of “Snow-Bound,” the narrator continues to be put at ease when thinking of the afterlife – in this case his own rather than another’s. The poem’s other thrust, that the narrator also finds comfort in God’s presence (“I have but thee, my father!”) and as a source of strength (“Be Thou my strength”), would have been reassuring as well (13, 8). The poem ends with the narrator’s vision of the afterlife, and the lines “And find at last, beneath Thy trees of healing / The life for which I long” (27-28). It is worth nothing that the family was religiously inclined. Hettie’s father, Edwin F. Partridge (1833-1897), was an “elder” at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, the family’s home at the time of Emily’s death, and served in a similar role in Redlands, Calif. after the family moved there in 1896 (Find A Grave). Indeed, in his will, the Partridge patriarch gave the Presbyterian Church’s Board of Foreign Missions five thousand dollars. Following on from this, one of the other Partridge books to have made it to Alderman library, with Emily’s inscription in the front, is a New Testament from 1881. The first few pages of the text harbor a small “Dear Hettie” written in the space below a verse, and, a few pages later, perhaps a reciprocal “Dear Emily.” The “Dear Hettie” begins with an H that appears lowercase, similarly to the inscription in the Whittier book. This means that the Whittier inscription must say “H. H. Partridge” despite looking like “N. H.,” as additionally there were no Partridges whose names or plausible nicknames started with N. If religion is thus something over which Hettie and Emily bonded, then it is also something in which Hettie could have later found comfort and nostalgia. Whittier’s decidedly positive image of the afterlife in both “Snow-Bound” and “At Last” could only help her in that task.

The pages of “At Last” do not contain a leaf, but the opening lines are marked by pencil in the margins.

The rest of the poems in the Whittier book that are marked do not have pencil in the margins, but retain their different varieties of leaves. This appears to be a practice derived from Emily’s New Testament, which has one page marked with a four-leaf clover. The poems so marked – and each one appears to be a new kind of leaf – at first appear to comprise a mixture of subject matter, yet do have a common existence at the intersection of some of Whittier’s frequent topics: religion, history, and imagery of natural landmarks. One is “Monadnock from Wachuset,” part II of “Mountain Pictures,” which concerns its namesake pair of mountains, located about 30 miles apart respectively north and south of the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border. Both mountains are associated with some of the writings of Thoreau (and the former also with Emerson), and Whittier uses them to meditate once again on the nature of human existence: “We felt man was more than his abode, – / The inward life than Nature’s raiment more,” observing so as he is moved by a farmer’s description of his mother, who “lived and died here in the peace of God” (42-43, 37). Perhaps this was a favorite poem of Hettie’s, or perhaps the description of the farmer’s mother reminded her of Emily, who could have lived her life in a way worthy of the same description. Emily was the only member of the family who both was born and died in Philadelphia; the parents and other siblings all survived at least until the move to California. Thus, “lived and died here” could only, and quite literally, apply to Emily.

Another poem marked with a leaf is “To the Reformers of England;” this poem gets the largest leaf besides the one in “Snow-Bound” which has since gone missing. The title refers to contemporary (at the time of writing in 1843) reform efforts in the United Kingdom to abolish the Corn Laws, import controls on wheat that helped the landowning class and harmed the working class by artificially increasing the price of bread. In encouraging the reformers, Whittier likens their cause to a variety of past English agitators working for “common rights and equal laws,” such as those nobles behind the Magna Carta (“Runnymeade,” the field where it was signed) and the 17th century English civil war: “let the State scaffold rise again” begins a stanza referencing Sir Henry Vane (1613-1662), a nobleman and one-time governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who participated in government during the English commonwealth but was executed by the restored monarchy (50, 21, 13). He was the subject of a 1652 poem by John Milton, who praises his work for religious freedom: “both spiritual power and civil, what each means… / thou hast learned, which few have done” (10-11). Besides Whittier’s interest in the anti-tyrannical spirit of the English civil war, the war does harbor a connection to the Partridges, as after the war the victorious parliamentarian side espoused “reformed” Christianity during its rule; among the modern representatives of that persuasion is Presbyterianism, the Partridge family religion. Interestingly, “To the Reformers” was included in a Whittier collection called “Anti-Slavery Poems: Songs of Labor and Reform,” contemporary to the complete collected works owned by the Partridges. This poem’s inclusion perhaps betrays how Whittier viewed the Corn Laws: as a representative of “tyrant’s law, or bigot’s ban,” and exactly as unjust as any other (5). Yet Whittier believes that his reformers, like abolitionists, are ultimately right, as “the triumph shall be won” (49).

A large brown leaf secured in the center binding covers some of the text of “To the Reformers of England.”

A leaf is found in another poem with a similar attitude to “To the Reformers”; it is called “Our Country” and subtitled “Read at Woodstock, Conn., July 4, 1883.” As the date indicates, the poem was both read on and written for Independence Day and is very patriotic. Where Whittier mentioned the struggle for “equal laws” in “To the Reformers,” here he praises his “Country of our love and prayer” and its maintaining of “just and equal rule” (50, 2, 44). Whittier ascribes all of the advances towards said equality to a personified Freedom, which, in his mind, has ended slavery, delivered the Union victory in the Civil War, and made America a “refuge for the wronged and poor” (40). Yet, unlike in “To the Reformers,” he devotes more space to what Freedom could do rather than has done: “redress” Native American “grievances,” “full requital to Labor make,” gender equality in terms of sharing in “rights and duties,” universal public school, and reduce the tax on “a poor man’s food” (57, 59, 64, 68). Whittier was thus quite forward-thinking in his political beliefs, and especially his views on gender could have been encouraging to a young woman like Hettie. Perhaps she saw examples of equality in her family life; seven years later, the four surviving Partridge children are treated equally in their father’s will, for example. We can see, then, that not every poem that is marked has to do with Emily; perhaps these leaves pre-date the others and were added between March 1890 and Emily’s death in June. Even in the small set of poems that are marked, the breadth of Whittier’s writing and Hettie’s reading is evident.

Another leaf is placed at the transition between two poems: “My Dream” and “The Barefoot Boy.” The former seems to be more relevant to Hettie at the time of her mourning of Emily, yet the upper half of the leaf is missing and would have covered the text of “The Barefoot Boy,” in the same way that, for example, the “To the Reformers” leaf covers its text. Regardless, the namesake vision of “My Dream” is that the narrator is walking in a group along a narrow, high mountain road, but the others “one by one the brink o’erslid,” until only the narrator is left (15). The dream is a fairly straightforward metaphor for death; Whittier even remarks on humanity’s differing attitudes towards it with “Some with wailing and lament, / Some with cheerful courage went, / but … Never one to us returned” (17-20). But again, as in “Snow-Bound,” the narrator finds solace in religion, this time in the form of Jesus, who is addressed as “Thou, O Most Compassionate,” and uses this to quell any lingering fear he may have about mortality (65). The poem that comes afterwards, “The Barefoot Boy,” is purely childhood-based nostalgia, with plenty of Whittier’s natural imagery thrown in to describe time spent growing up immersed in the outdoors. Perhaps the combination of innocence and, again, nostalgia from “The Barefoot Boy,” and the narrator’s composure in the face of death in “My Dream” is what earned the leaf its position at the junction of two poems, representing both sets of feelings, rather than obviously being meant to refer to one or the other.

Another large leaf covers some of the text of both “My Dream” and “The Barefoot Boy.”

The final poems are marked by a small part of a leaf – unlike the others, most of it seems to have disintegrated – that is firmly wedged between two pages. Again, this is unlike the others, which are mostly laid on top of the page of choice or positioned so that a small portion of the stem is in the center crevice; perhaps this one fell in over the years. On one page is “Kenoza Lake,” describing its namesake body of water near Haverhill, Mass., Whittier’s hometown and also in the area of the two mountains from “Mountain Pictures.” The poem is mostly another of Whittier’s nature poems except for the final two lines, where he manages to insert “Revive in us the thought of Him / Who walked on Galilee!” (55-56). This provides a bit of a transition to the other poem, “To G. B. C.” This work appears to be in reference to Rev. George B. Cheever (1807-1890), a noted preacher and reformist (and simultaneous anti-reformist, leading the cause against abolishing capital punishment in the 1840s) who spoke about a variety of causes, including abolition, equal rights, and temperance (Mackey). Whittier extols Cheever to remind him, and the country, of the biblical Isaiah and other prophets, to “smite like lightning,” and, additionally, “smite with truth” all those to be found objectionable. Whittier’s attitude is similar to “To the Reformers,” as his rhetoric is very polarized; again, he believes his points of view – or the ones he supports – to be correct, morally right, and truthful, and that they ultimately will, or may be destined to, triumph.

The small remnant of a leaf is ensconced in the center binding, no longer big enough to cover the text but definitely pointing to “To G. B. C.”

A clover marks part of “Mountain Pictures,” part II.

The two poems “Kenoza Lake” and “To G. B. C.,” taken together, seem to represent what Hettie Partridge finds most interesting about Whittier: his writing at the intersections of nature, religion, and politics and his ability, in writing about religion, to provide to her solace about Emily. This edition of Whittier’s collected works runs nearly 600 pages and yet only a few poems are set aside with leaves or markings. Even these few, though, can help tell Hettie’s story of loss that – along with this book – seems to have defined her year of 1890. But just as a poem’s sparse diction can hide the work, thoughts, and feelings that went into it, this group of poems is only tied together by Hettie herself with her “July ’90” inscription; otherwise, it is only a disparate collection of notes.

Works Cited

“The Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier.” Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1888.

“Edwin F. Partridge (1833 – 1897) – Find A Grave Memorial.” Find A Grave, 5 Dec. 2007. Web. “Edwin F. Partridge.” 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009.

–. “Edwin F. Partridge.” Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.

–. “Emily P. Lehman.” Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Mackey, Philip English. “Reverend George Barrell Cheever: Yankee Reformer as Champion of the Gallows.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 82.2 (1972): 323-342.

Milton, John. “To Sir Henry Vane the Younger.” Complete Poems. Vol. IV. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001.


Book Find: “Of what use is language?”

Editor’s note: this post was researched and written by Book Traces @ UVA project assistant Nitisha Potti, with editing by me (Kristin Jensen).

One of the greatest perks of working with Book Traces @ UVA is that you come across these very fascinating and interesting interventions in various books, some of which are very puzzling like when you find some doodles drawn across the book on various pages, some of which may be related to the text and some may not. Some of the books have poems written in them, which may or may not be original. But the most exciting for me are those which have remarkable interventions spanning across various decades, yet have so much in common with the text that they could be easily mistaken to be written by the author himself or herself.

One such intervention which caught my eye appears in the UVA Library’s copy of The Treasure of the Humble written by Maurice Maeterlinck and translated by Alfred Sutro, published in 1900. It is a poem titled Silence written by Edgar Lee Masters and copied by hand onto the free endpaper  by an anonymous owner of the book. Now, the owner might have possessed the book in 1946 or later, since Silence was written in 1946. Book Traces @ UVA usually deals with interventions made before 1923, but this book has one more intervention which piqued my interest to write about this book. It has a very peculiar bookplate with the name of Marie Conrad Lehr on it. Mrs. Lehr lived from 1884-1921 (according to various online sources), a period which falls under the Book Traces @ UVA research era. This book is a classic example of what is called a “mixed scene” here at the Book Traces project, i.e. a book with interventions ranging over various times periods by different people.


As the interventions found in this book are very atypical I thought that the content of this blogpost should also be different from the previous blogposts where I tried to reason or dig as to why those interventions ended up in those books or why did the people involved make those interventions in those books.  Therefore, for this blogpost I decided to find a link between the various people involved with these interventions based on the thoughts reflected from the text of the book and the interventions.

As I read the introduction written by A. B. Walkey for this book The Treasure of the Humble, I get the sense of the book being written in a very spiritual manner of which you become sure when you read a line about the author from the introduction: “This volume presents him in a new character of a philosopher and an aesthetician.” Mr. Walkey calls Mr. Maeterlinck a Neo-Platonist in the introduction. The same can be seen from the first chapter Silence in this book. The author is found advocating silence over words and emphasizing the importance and strength of silence during and after the life of a human being: “let silence have had its instant of activity, and it will never efface itself; and indeed the true life, the only life that leaves a trace behind , is made up of silence alone.” Since the author strongly believes that a life is made up of silences more than anything else and you can find these silences in every part of life, I was astonished to see the poem of Edgar Lee Masters on the front page which propagates an idea similar to the idea put forth in the first chapter of the book.

The person who inscribed this poem in the book only wrote the first and the last stanzas of the poem, perhaps because those are the only two stanzas that relate so closely with the text in the book. In the first stanza the poet writes, “And I ask: for the depths, of what use is language?” To give more of a context: the poet starts off by saying that he has seen the silence of the stars, the seas, the city when it pauses, the woods before spring and so on and after seeing all these silences he wonders what is the use of language, of words more so when we are voiceless in the face of realities. When you read the poem after the text or vice-versa it doesn’t feel that they have been by different people from written in two different eras.

Opposite the poem on the free endpaper of The Treasure of the Humble was the bookplate that belonged to Marie Conrad Lehr, which was stuck behind the front cover, and on it were these words taken from a poem “Ode to the West Wind” written by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

“Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth”

Marie Conrad Lehr was a direct descendent of Martha Washington on her paternal side. According to many online sources, Mrs. Lehr and her husband did a lot of social work and donated to many social causes and also after her death she gave away many of her personal belongings and her art collection to museums and Mount Vernon’s Ladies Association. It seems apt for a person who gave back to the society so often during her life and also after it to have chosen such words for her bookplate. Percy Bysshe Shelley asks the wind to carry his thoughts through time like it does with the dead leaves, which is symbolic of the fact that only our thoughts that survive even after our body perishes, which is so much in keeping with the tone of this book The Treasure of the Humble. 

The fact that Marie Conrad Lehr and the anonymous owner of the book who wrote the poem Silence on the flyleaf both chose somebody else’s words to inscribe in the book shows how strongly these words resonated with them. When they came across this book that conveyed the same message that Silence and Ode to the West Wind conveyed they felt the urge to have these two literary works in the book. The most amazing part that reinforces what the text and both the poems are trying to tell, i.e. about the power of silence and that it is the thought which prevails even after the soul leaves the body, is that these interventions were made by two different people in two different decades in the same book.  Thus, the thought that links the author of the book, the earlier owner of the book, and the later owner who wrote down the poem in the book is the belief that a noble thought is what prevails even after death and the silence that follows it.

Works cited:

Maeterlinck, Maurice . The Treasure of the Humble.

“Montmorenci–Marie Conrad Lehr.”

Masters, Edgar Lee. “Silence.”

“Percy Shelley: Poems.”

Book Find: How a 19th-century letter became the tool to unearth a scandalous affair

Editor’s note: this post was researched and written by Book Traces @ UVA project assistant Nitisha Potti.

With the advent of digital media, everybody has become a Biographer or an Author or a Blogger. Given that researching about almost anybody’s life has become very easy with vast volumes of knowledge just a click away, how much can you trust these sources? And when you write something  without thorough research on your part, then you end up making a mistake or an error in reproducing facts and then you end up receiving flak from every Tom, Dick and Harry who has read (or not read but just wants to take advantage of the stage set up for ridiculing someone) within milliseconds. I wonder if the person at the receiving end of all this ridicule has ever wondered, would I have received so much criticism had I been a writer in the 19th century or early 20th century, or would anyone have even noticed that I made a small mistake had I been a writer in those days?

Being a blogger myself, all these questions which were always there in some remote corner of my head got answered when I came across this very interesting artifact while I was working with Book Traces @ UVA  in the form of a letter, which was written in 1894 by Mr. John Cordy Jeaffreson. Mr. Jeaffreson is also the author of the book I found this letter in which was pasted on the first page of the book. The book is titled A Book Of Recollections and is the first of the two volumes with the same title, published in 1894. The letter was addressed to Mr. Baker, who at that time might have possessed this book. Another interesting insertion was found pasted on the back page of the book which was a letter addressed to Mr. Baker by Mr. Sam Timmins in 1895; this letter I admit was very tedious to decipher.

letter-from-jeaffreson-part-1 letter-from-jeaffreson-part-2

Mr. Jeaffreson starts the first letter like this: “It delights me to know you approve the Halliwell Phillipps chapters of my Recollections.” The letter then goes on to describe the relation its writer shared with Mr. Halliwell and that he did not write the chapter to please anyone but he writes and I quote – “It would have been strangely discreditable to human nature, had no one of his many comrades spoken in behalf of this dead man, who in his life was ever ‘the advocate of the absent.’” One can clearly make out that Mr. Baker was related to Mr. Halliwell after reading Mr. Jeaffreson’s thanks to him – “your cordial words have afforded me [illegible] satisfaction coming to me from his [i.e. Mr. Halliwell’s] near kinsman and legal representative.” The part of the letter that intrigued me the most was “I sympathize cordially with the fervor of your remarks on ‘this Sidney Lee,’ though I wrote of him with so little warmth, from an opinion that a display of angry feeling would weaken the force of my vindicatory essay.” You can sense some resentment from both the parties towards Mr. Sidney Lee. Now, after examining the contents of the second letter that was pasted in book what caught my eye was “Vol II. has (pages 167-232) a very full of [illegible] of details about our dear old friend Halliwell.”


At this point there were many questions popping in my head—Why Mr. Jeaffreson and Mr. Baker shared this resentment towards Mr. Lee? What is the relation between Mr. Baker and Mr. Halliwell? How do Mr. Timmins and Mr. Halliwell know each other? And the most basic question who are all these people mentioned in the letters and why are they communicating with each other? So I decided to start my quest for answers from Google.

Turns out Mr. Halliwell was the noted English Shakespearean scholar James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps. He has written many volumes about the life of Shakespeare and many literary scholars and critics have admired his work because of the extensive labor and the passion that went into his works. Many books have been written critiquing the work of Mr. Halliwell. He created Shakespeare collections, acquired many copies of plays, and arranged clippings from other early printed works in scrapbooks alongside his own notes. He also produced facsimiles of the quartos, so that he might have accurate copies of editions he could not purchase.

Mr. Halliwell’s life was dogged by controversy. While researching about Mr. Halliwell I stumbled upon this conjecture surrounding him during 1845 when Mr. Halliwell was, according to Wikipedia, “excluded from the library of the British Museum on account of the suspicion concerning his possession of some manuscripts which had been removed from the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. He published privately an explanation of the matter in 1845.” This piece of information prompted me into reading the pages suggested by Mr. Timmins in his letter and look for some clues on the matter at hand. On page 191 of Vol. 2 of his book A Book Of Recollections Mr. Jeaffreson writes “Unfortunately, the writer of the notice of James Orchard Halliwell in the Dictionary of National Biography was misinformed in respect to a most important point of the story, which he reproduced to the grave discredit of the Shakespearian scholar. Speaking of the scandalous charge against young Halliwell the writer of the deplorable memoir observed,” and then he quotes the snippet from the article he claims deplorable which was published a year after the death of Mr. Halliwell in 1889. To worsen things, this memoir was the first time Mr. Halliwell’s widow and his daughters came to learn about this scandalous affair. On page 192, Mr. Jeaffreson writes that Mrs. Halliwell wrote to the author of this memoir that the order excluding Mr. Halliwell was soon rescinded. Upon being thusly informed the author of the memoir went to the British Museum for official evidence on the point wherein he learnt that Mrs. Halliwell was in fact correct. Mr. Jeaffreson then went on to write, “The consequences of this worst of several mistakes in the faulty memoir of Halliwell-Phillipps were, are, and will always remain lamentable.” Mr. Jeaffreson uses rather harsh words to describe this memoir, calling it “The worst of the Memoir’s Several Errors.”

I then tried to find who the writer of the debatable memoir was as the details of the memoir were clearly mentioned in the book by Mr. Jeaffreson, and it turns out it was Mr. Sidney Lee. This therefore puts the resentment of Mr. Jeaffreson towards Mr. Lee in perspective. The next step was to find out the relationship between Mr. Baker and Mr. Jeaffreson. Googling threw light on this as well: according to Folgerpedia, Mr. Ernest E. Baker was the nephew and executor of Mr. Halliwell. Mr. Timmins, who wrote the second letter, according to many online sources was credited with finding many sources of information for the books written by Mr. Halliwell. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that being closely involved with Mr. Halliwell was the reason why Mr. Baker and Mr. Timmins were so interested in the chapters written by Mr. Jeaffreson about Mr. Halliwell.

To summarize: Mr. Halliwell Phillpps, a noted Shakespearean scholar, was wrongly accused of stealing manuscripts from Trinity College due to which he was excluded from using the college library, which was rescinded in light of the evidence produced by Mr. Halliwell proving his innocence. But, the author of the memoir about Mr. Halliwell i.e. Mr. Lee did not reproduce this incident faithfully due to lack of information or negligence on his part (nobody can tell). He never mentioned any retraction of the exclusion, which according to Mr. Jeaffreson tainted the reputation of Mr. Halliwell. Also according to Mr. Jeaffreson there were other parts of the memoir, for instance the part written about Mr. Halliwell’s family members, which was totally incorrect; Mr. Jeaffreson calls the memoir “Strangely inaccurate.” Also, Mr. Halliwell’s friends who knew about the “vile charge” as Mr. Jeaffreson puts it were furious because up until the memoir was published Mr. Halliwell’s wife and daughters knew nothing about it and suddenly the affair was splashed across the memoir in a highly inaccurate manner. In due course, some respite was felt by Mr. Baker and Mr. Timmins who wrote a letter to Mr. Baker suggesting he read Mr. Jeaffreson’s version of the entire scandalous affair, after reading the vindicatory account of the entire matter written by Mr. Jeaffreson. The first letter hints at gratitude felt by Mr. Baker towards Mr. Jeaffreson for his truthful account. The second letter was written in 1895 and it is safe to say that Mr. Baker had already read the book by then and had a warm exchange of letters with the author before Mr. Timmins wrote the letter to Mr. Baker. Nevertheless Mr. Baker saved the second letter in this book which shows the strong relation he shared with his uncle and his gratification on reading Mr. Jeaffreson’s account, that he wanted to save anything related to the book in the book itself.

My point that I started at the beginning of this account being: no matter what century you are in, if you make a literary mistake concerning facts, you will get criticized, showing that only the intensity of the criticism and the speed at which you may receive it changes with changing times.

Works Cited:

Jeaffreson, John Cordy. A Book Of Recollections. vol. 1, London, Hurst and Blackett, Limited, 1894.

Jeaffreson, John Cordy. A Book Of Recollections. vol. 2, London, Hurst and Blackett, Limited, 1894.

Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. vol. 24.

“J. O. Halliwell Phillips.” Wikipedia.

“J. O. Halliwell Phillipps.” Folgerpedia.

“James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps.” Shakespeare Collected.

The Reading Habits of Randolph H. McKim

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Book Traces @ UVA intern Araba Dennis, a double major in Latin American Studies and American Studies who spent part of the fall 2016 semester researching the history of the Alderman Library collections.

One of the most fascinating aspects of a project such as Book Traces is its ability to uncover the richness of history that exists both in and around UVA. As a student traversing around Grounds for classes and meetings in any given 200-year-old edifice, rarely do I delve deeply into the history of how that edifice, statue, or even a serpentine garden wall came to be. One such example rests in the history of McKim Hall, currently existing as an array of administrative offices for the University of Virginia Health System; this purpose is not terribly far off from its original in 1930, being a dormitory for nursing students.[1] This hall was named after none other than Randolph Harrison McKim, owner of one of Book Traces’ recent finds, an extended copy of Works of Michael de Montaigne with the inscription: ‘4th Virginia H[eavy] Art[illery] Nov. 1863’.

DSCN2032 edited for blog

Randolph Harrison McKim was born in Baltimore in 1842, not even two decades shy of the beginning of the American Civil War.  A student at the University of Virginia in 1861, McKim was swayed to join Confederate forces after seeing a secession flag waving from the dome of Jefferson’s Rotunda[2]. Witnessing the cheers and nearly explosive Southern pride touted by students and professors alike, that day, McKim decided to join the Confederate army as a member of the 4th Virginia Heavy Artillery directly after his graduation in 1861; he ascended to the position of lieutenant, and soon to chaplain of the entire 2nd Virginia Cavalry.[3]

McKim’s reading habits throughout his life, borne through his love for academia during his time at the University and even more greatly cultivated during his time at war, correlate greatly to his ownership of the Montaigne work; even more so, one can further understand why the University would name a building in McKim’s honor. In his first year as a student, McKim took classes in French, German, moral philosophy, and senior math. Many of his extracurricular readings centered on the new schools of thought developed by Western philosophers. McKim details this with a letter written to his mother on June 20, 1861: “I stand moral philosophy on Tuesday next. To-morrow and next day I am to read two essays in the Moral class,–one on two of Butler’s sermons, one on a chapter in the Analogy”[5].

Throughout the war, McKim remained an avid reader, despite having left volumes in his dorm at the University and losing many of his books when the Heavy Artillery would transfer camp. Leading up to 1863 and even beyond, McKim journalled about his enduring passion for reading. In a diary entry after the Battle of Manassas, composed on January 24, 1861, McKim notes:

“I have felt my ignorance lately in listening to men in the mess of greater age and far greater reading and information than myself. In listening to George Williamson, describing the cities, and the manners of foreign countries, and the monuments of art and antiquity in Europe, I have felt a longing to travel, and to learn more of men and things; and I have sighed in contemplating my ignorance of the world of Nature, of literature and of art, and yearned to drink deep of knowledge.”[2]

The loss of the Confederacy was not quite the end of Randolph Harrison McKim’s journey. McKim was ordained as a minister in 1866, and served as a pastor until his death in Washington, DC in 1920. McKim recorded his growing affinity for theology in diary entries and letters to loved ones during the war. For example, on February 4, 1863, McKim described in a journal entry his leading of worship amongst the Heavy Artillery — it is also imperative to note that, immediately following this entry, McKim claimed that, deeper into the war, all of Northern Virginia was swept up in a religious fervor:

“On Saturday evening I again commenced the prayer-meetings. Only a few came, but I felt sure the numbers would increase. The next day I was sent over to Major Snowden’s headquarters as corporal of the guard and was obliged to stay all night. I read the XXVIIth chapter of St. Matthew aloud to the men on guard.” [2]

Ten years before his death, the former Confederate lieutenant published A Soldier’s Recollections: Leaves from the Diary of a Young Confederate, with an Oration on the Motives and Aims of the Soldiers of the South, a personal anthology of the battles McKim fought as a member of the 4th Virginia Heavy Artillery.[5] Additionally, in McKim’s will, he left a sizable portion of his estate to the University of Virginia – some of which included nearly $70,000 for which he requested the construction of a new nurses’ dormitory.

McKim Hall was designed and opened for use in 1930. Coincidentally, this was only a few years before Alderman Library officially opened, simultaneously aggregating collections through donations and books left behind by students; perhaps McKim left the collections as part of the estate he bestowed upon the University. One way or another, Book Traces’ ability to uncover this little piece of a larger puzzle gets us closer to an understanding of history, of people, and of the University of Virginia as a whole.


[1] Virginia, University of. McKim Hall, School of Medicine Administration. n.d. 24 October 2016 <>.


[2] McKim, Randolph Harrison. A Soldier’s Recollections. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1910.


[3]  Confederate Vets. n.d. 26 October 2016 <>.


[4] Internet Archive. Works of Michael de Montaigne; comprising his essays, journey into Italy, and letters, with notes from all the commentators, biographical and bibliographical notices, etc . 1864. 26 October 2016 <>.


[5] Confederate Vets. n.d. 26 October 2016 <>.a