A Woman's Wit and Whimsy: The 1833 Diary of Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy (The New England Women's Diaries Series)

  • Publish Date: 2003-09-04
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy

Sale price $14.27 Regular price $29.29

Attention: For textbook, access codes and supplements are not guaranteed with used items.

Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy (1812-1899), the youngest daughter of Josiah Quincy-onetime U.S. Congressman, former Mayor of Boston, and President of Harvard University-was a discerning twenty-one-year-old woman of privilege when she kept a diary during the spring and summer of 1833. Although Anna was respectful in polite company regarding her limited status in a male-dominated society, her journal entries of the Quincy family's social activities reveal an unexpectedly trenchant and amused view of the affectation in the Harvard community as well as in upper class life in Boston.

Quincy's lively, lighthearted, and satirical accounts of Harvard University soirees and Boston cotillions portray a world where rites of courtship predominate, appearances are both significant and deceiving, and callow young men vie for an eligible woman's attention. Evoking the style of her admired Jane Austen, Anna re-creates a comfortable life-akin to Pride and Prejudice-spent walking, drawing, reading, writing letters, attending the theatre, and entertaining visitors. She describes receiving Harvard students and faculty at biweekly socials, dancing at formal balls, visits from Cambridge Worthies and dignitaries such as Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, naturalist John J. Audubon, and President Andrew Jackson, and seeing the acclaimed British actress Fanny Kemble in Much Ado About Nothing.

Above all, Anna's diary presents a young woman keenly aware of her early nineteenth-century milieu and her own place in society. She ponders her role in a prominent family clearly governed, professionally and economically, by men. She recounts dutifully receiving gentlemen callers in the gracious manner expected of young ladies, yet dismisses the ridiculous and the unmeaning behavior of the young men who end up as targets for her pen rather than potential suitors. While dramatizing her own position, Anna inexorably mocks society's pretensions, superficiality, and emphasis on appearance.

Customer Reviews