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Friendship is the Joy of reason

Friendship is the Joy of reason

One of my favorite things on the internet is The Public Domain Review. Of my five blog posts so far, this is the second focused on a primary source the PDR discovered in the deep recesses of some online archive. I get very excited about everything they do, but Anne Wagner's Friendship Book in particular caught my eye.

First of all, there happens to be an Anne Wagener in my writing group, and she wrote a smart, hilarious, and rawther touching book about finding your path after college, which you should all buy on your e-reader right now please and thank you.

But unlike my good friend and fellow writer, the Anne Wagner of yore was roughly a contemporary of my main character, Heli McAuley. Heli brings to the Genesee Country a commonplace book much like Anne's friendship book, which she cherishes for the unusual and unladylike contributions of her best friend, Briney. Heli being of a more scientific bent, I don't imagine her commonplace book would be as aesthetically engaging as Anne's. Nonetheless, it's interesting to see what was on the mind of Anne and her friends between 1795 and 1834. There is a good deal on friendship, a good deal on death, and an awful lot of really insipid poetry. Anne and her social circle appear to have been perfectly conventional, and therefore give me an excellent idea of what kind of society Heli comes from - and what she would find boring. For example:

My dearest Anne you'll never find, a truer friend nor one more kind, than, yours ever, Geo. Browne

I wish that these lines might have the power to remind you of a friend who will never forget your amiable family. Harriot Pauli

That he may be as high in your esteem as you are in his, is the sincere wish of your friend and well wisher, Edw. Littledale

Friendship is the Joy of reason / Dearer yet than that of love / Love but lasts a transient season / Friendship makes the joy above. / Who wou'd lose the sacred pleasure / Felt, when soul with soul unites / Other blessings have their measure / Friendship without bounds delights. Isabella Boardman

The personal notes remind me of the flowery protestations of devotion written in my high school yearbook by people in whom and with whom I shared a mutual and permanent disinterest. These formulaic social interactions are just the kind that many characters in Under a Bravery of Stars struggle either to maintain or to escape from, sometimes simultaneously.

And then there's this undercooked little poem:

While other females trifle life away / in scandal, equipage, and play, / Anna, with sense exalted and refin'd / and each superior grace adorns her mind / There friendship, honor, truth, and virtue live / With all the charms that art or nature give. [illegible initials]

Upon first reading, it may sound like the poet is praising Anne for her intelligence. Not so: Anne is being praised for being sensible enough never to step out of line. This light verse is just a polite reinforcement of social mores. Anne, clearly, has been successful at upholding them. For Heli, it is a bit more difficult . . .


Image and excerpts from: Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, The New York Public Library. "Memorials of Friendship. (Cover page verso)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1795 - 1834. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47db-b630-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

 

 

 

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Boh!

Boh!