Letters of Eliza Middleton Fisher & Her Mother, Mary Hering Middleton, Fromcharleston, Philadelphia, & Newport, 1839-1846
These letters hold particular significance because they record the joys, sorrows, frustrations, and concerns of a mother and a daughter, and convey the opinions and actions of all their family members, including the men. Eliza and her mother chronicle issues and events ranging from mental illness to musical performances, financial panics to children's parties, pregnancy to politics. In addition they introduce a notable cast of characters, including Charles Dickens, President Van Buren, the courtly Philadelphian George Harrison, the scandalous actress Fanny Kemble Butler, the irascible diplomat Henry Middleton, the lovely Julia Ward, and the African slave who was captain of the Middletons' private schooner.
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"Admirably researched and exquisitely edited, this correspondence moves gently above editorial notes so teeming with details that they are a counterpoint text. As for the letters themselves, they demonstrate the special talents of educated women for creating domestic cohesiveness with informative and entertaining language."—Joanne Trautmann Banks, Co-editor, The Letters of Virginia Woolf
"Out of her mother's desk drawer, Eliza Cope Harrison has uncovered a lively and engrossing set of letters. Readers will find rich commentary on travel, sectional differences, slavery, politics, music, childbirth, mothers and daughters, friendship, and marriage. Harrison shows the Middleton women to be deeply involved not only in their homes and families but also in 'spheres' deemed male terrain. These letters reward multiple readings—by scholars, students, and those curious about everyday life in nineteenth-century America."—Kirsten Swinth, Professor of History, Fordham University
"No single volume better captures the intricacies of North-South and mother-daughter relations or the dynamics of family life among elite Americans a generation before the Civil War. Lovers of Philadelphia, Charleston, and Newport will find Best Companions superbly rewarding. The editing is deft and helpful, careful and sensible, not obtrusive. On page after page, incidental observations and the play of feelings and minds will delight the reader."—David Moltke-Hansen, President, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
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