I recently deposited my late father’s 40+ years-worth of diaries with the Great Diary Project , an incredible undertaking to preserve diaries of all kinds. It made me think about keeping a diary – and how many good resolutions there must be to do just that which are never fulfilled. Which reminded me that I own a ladies’ memorandum book for 1822 – and the owner didn’t use it either.
The book is beautifully bound in plain red Morocco leather with a tab to keep the covers closed and measures just over 4.5 x 3.25 inches.
But even though it contains no fascinating insights into the daily life of a lady in 1822 it is a lovely item in its own right, and it does contain two handwritten recipes and a mass of other useful printed material including “New Songs and Melodies”, instructions for country dances and quadrilles, the price of stamps and “Enigmas, Charades and Rebuses.”
The diary belonged to “Elizabeth Plant. Greatwood Lodge.” I did not have much confidence that I could find her – but an on-line transcript of a deed appointing Thomas Plant “Farmer of Greatwood Lodge in the parish of Eccleshall in the county of Staffordshire” as a trustee in 1879 gave me the parish. Greatwood Lodge is still there, a red-brick farmhouse that was perhaps quite new in Elizabeth’s time, and still a farm.
The frontispiece has a fashion plate and a view of a fine country house in Suffolk
As the frontispiece says the diaries were sold by a Bury St Edmund’s bookseller and throughout East Anglia the choice of a Suffolk house was probably for marketing purposes. Perhaps Elizabeth received it as a gift from a friend or relative.
I wonder if she took the picture of the walking dress to her local dressmaker, or even attempted it herself – and did she and her friends try out the country dances the book contained?
Amongst the poems I particularly like this cynical view off London – perhaps intended to convince the country-dwelling owners of the diary that they were in the right place:
The only things that Elizabeth wrote in her diary were two recipes, one for gingerbread and one for “toufy” or toffee, both on the accounts page for January. The gingerbread sounds tasty!