I’m almost done with a long stretch of rather intense work, obligations, and events, and feeling grateful to the friends and family who supported me while I was in the midst of it. I should feel grateful more often I think, and so I was trying to expand my present state this morning as I was considering my various “debts” in my third-floor study: and there, sitting on an old family desk (a gift from my aunt for which I am very grateful), alongside some ribbon embroidered with elephants and a hand-carved elephant head (gifts from a very good friend and a former student, to both of whom I am also grateful) lay the most notable benefit of blogging I have received to date: a hand-written manuscript memoir written by Mary Jane Derby Peabody for her grandchildren in 1880 given to me by a lovely lady from Maine who enjoyed my post on the Salem native and artist. It’s a beautiful book: a precious gift to the grandchildren, and also to me.
Old Times for Young Eyes is a charming memoir of a Salem childhood, full of family, houses, furnishings, servants, teachers, teas, flowers, gardens, schoolgirl maps, and the fright we were in when there was alarm at night that the British has landed at Marblehead during the War of 1812! She wants her grandchildren to know all about the Derby family, and includes reproductions of her own painting of her childhood home on Washington Street (formerly on the site of the Masonic Temple) as well as the grand but short-lived Derby Mansion overlooking Salem Harbor. With her teenaged years, the setting moves to Boston, and Mary Jane describes that city in the 1820s in both words and pictures–it looks unrecognizable in the latter. I love everything about this book: the cover, the binding, the writing, the personal perspective and point-of-view, the details and the purpose.
Cover details and dedication…developing her love of botany…..gathering flowers for pressing on Gallows Hill…..Mary Jane Derby Peabody and the Washington Street House of her childhood….the Derby Mansion, “built by Elias Hasket Derby, your great-great-grandfather, in 1780”, Boston notes and drawings.
I’m not quite sure why I’ve waited so long to post on this book; I’ve certainly been grateful since the moment I received it! I suppose it may be because of a note that Mary Jane included on the memoir’s title page: Privately written for the family only by M.J. Peabody AELXXIV 1881. “Privately” gave me pause, as does only, but the book had already left the family’s possession and was acquired by my benefactress at a yard sale. I intend to pass it on to a Salem archive–not sure which one yet–because both its story and its lessons (this is a grandmother’s memoir after all) should be preserved. I particularly like her assertion that it is important for young people to have beautiful things around them, which her life story illustrates.
Wise words from Mary Jane Derby Peabody (1807-1892).
July 24th, 2017 at 6:34 pm
What a very special gift to have arrive in your mailbox out of the blue. Lucky you!
July 24th, 2017 at 7:56 pm
July 25th, 2017 at 6:58 am
Do you know why the word “Times” looks so different from the other words in the book title?
July 25th, 2017 at 8:10 am
Glad you asked, because I forgot to mention it–it appears to be printed on a scrap of paper that is pasted over whatever word was once (or still is) there: I don’t want to lift it off! It kind of enhances its scrapbooky aesthetic.
July 25th, 2017 at 11:21 am
Donna, I am so gobsmacked by this that for once, words fail me. Marvelous–and important–beyond words
August 12th, 2017 at 8:55 pm
Are there no living descendant’s, perhaps “g-g-grandchildren” of M. J. Derby Peabody to consider, for whom this thoughtful compilation & writing was surely intended to have, and to hold, before this would be turned over to any archive ? I would think it possible that this somehow left the custody of the family by accident, or theft, or some other mistaken, or inadvertent means.
August 14th, 2017 at 2:19 pm
I don’t know, Denise–I suppose I could do a quick genealogical check, and/or donate it with the caveat that it return to the family if requested.
April 7th, 2019 at 7:08 pm
I love this! I hope it will make its way to the SSU Archives. 🙂