1807: No Less Sacred to Them than the Tie of Marriage

Silhouette of Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake (c. 1805-1815)

I passed a few days in the valley of one of those streams of northern Vermont, which find their way into Champlain. If I were permitted to draw aside the veil of private life, I would briefly give you the singular, and to me most interesting history of two maiden ladies who dwell in this valley. I would tell you how, in their youthful days, they took each other as companions for life, and how this union, no less sacred to them than the tie of marriage, has subsisted, in uninterrupted harmony, for forty years, during which they have shared each other’s occupations and pleasures and works of charity while in health, and watched over each other tenderly in sickness; for sickness has made long and frequent visits to their dwelling. I could tell you how they slept on the same pillow and had a common purse, and adopted each other’s relations, and how one of them, more enterprising and spirited in her temper than the other, might be said to represent the male head of the family, and took upon herself their transactions with the world without, until at length her health failed, and she was tended by her gentle companion, as a fond wife attends her invalid husband. I would tell you of their dwelling, encircled with roses, which now in the days of their broken health, bloom wild without their tendance, and I would speak of the friendly attentions which their neighbors, people of kind hearts and simple manners, seem to take pleasure in bestowing upon them, but I have already said more than I fear they will forgive me for, if this should ever meet their eyes, and I must leave the subject.

William Cullen Bryant: Letters of a Traveller; or, Notes of things seen in Europe and America (1850) (source)

Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake met in 1807 and fell quickly in love. For the rest of their lives they lived together, ran a tailoring business, and were accepted by relatives and their community as a married couple. They are buried together under a shared headstone in Weybridge Hill Cemetery, Addison County, Vermont.

The silhouette card of the couple (c. 1805-1815) is possibly the first depiction of a same sex couple. (source)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1937: The Building of Tidewater

John Noble - The Building of Tidewater (c1937)

John Noble: The Building of Tidewater (c.1937)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1918: Young Crow

Jan Mankes - Jonge kraai (1918)

Jan Mankes: Jonge kraai (1918)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1927: East River

Georgia O'Keeffe - East River from the Shelton (East River No. 1) (c. 1927-28)

Georgia O’Keeffe: East River from the Shelton (East River No. 1) (c. 1927-28)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1907: The Boat of the Ideal

Constant Montald - The Boat of the Ideal (1907)

Constant Montald: The Boat of the Ideal (1907)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1673: Life Being So Short and Books So Plentiful

Antonio Montauti - Portrait of Antonio Magliabechi (1725) [detail]

In 1673, Antonio Magliabechi became librarian to Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was an eruidite scholar, fluent in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and—according to his contemporary and biographer Giacinto Gimma—versed in physics, mathematics, rhetoric, grammar, history, magic, zoology, mineralogy, chemistry, medicine, and many other subjects. His residence was a center of intellectual life in Florence and drew scholarly visitors from across Europe.

He was passionate about books. His own personal library was vast, consisting of 140,000 books and 10,000 manuscripts—far too many to fit in the shelves in his house. Books lined the stairways and were piled on the front porch. He “lived amid books and upon books. They were his bed, board, and washing.” Isaac Disraeli recounted the following:

Heyman, a celebrated Dutch professor, visited this erudite librarian, who was considered as the ornament of Florence. He found him amongst his books, of which the number was prodigious. Two or three rooms in the first story were crowded with them, not only along their sides, but piled in heaps on the floor; so that it was difficult to sit, and more so to walk. A narrow space was contrived, indeed, so that by walking sideways you might extricate yourself from one room to another. This was not all; the passage below stairs was full of books, and the staircase from the top to the bottom was lined with them. When you reached the second story, you saw with astonishment three rooms, similar to those below, equally so crowded, that two good beds in these chambers were also crammed with books.

Indeed, it seems he cared for little else. He ate simply—”eggs, bread, and water, in great moderation”—and would wear the same clothes until they became ragged. He reputedly simply slept in his clothes, thinking it a waste of time to do otherwise, “life being so short and books so plentiful.” Indeed,

he fought against sleep until it conquered him, and even when it did so, he would not lay himself on his bed, but, spreading an old rug over any books that were on the floor, would stretch himself upon them. Only if it were very cold he would throw himself, completely dressed, into his unmade bed, which was filled full of books, taking a basin of coals with him. Several times by these means he caused a fire to break out, which was, however, fortunately quenched by the other inmates of the house.

He was famed for his memory:

It was common for the learned to consult him when they were writing upon any subject, and he could tell them not only what previous authors had directly treated of the same matters, but could also point to such as had briefly and incidentally alluded to them, naming the author, the book, the words, and often the very page at which each passage occurred.

A friend gave him a manuscript composition to read, and after a time received it again. Shortly afterward, the individual came to Magliabechi, lamenting the loss of the manuscript, and entreating him to put down as much of it as he could remember, that it might be rewritten. The other consented, and, sitting down, wrote over the production, word for word, from beginning to end.

In later years he retired to the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Novella, where he died at the age of 81. In his will, he left his books to be used as a public library “to promote studies, virtues, sciences, and with those, piety and the universal good, for the universal benefit of the city and especially for the poor, clerics, priests and seculars who have no way of buying books and being able to study.” He left his fortune to the poor.

Sources here, here, here, here, and here. Bust of Maglibechi by Antonio Montauti (1725).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1865: O Roaches!

Special Delivery 1957A quite common superstitious practice, in order to rid a house of Cockroaches, is in vogue in our country at the present time. It is no other than to address these pests a written letter containing the following words, or to this effect : “0, Roaches, you have troubled me long enough, go now and trouble my neighbors.” This letter must be put where they most swarm, after sealing and going through with the other customary forms of letter writing. It is well, too, to write legibly and punctuate according to rule.

—Frank Cowan: Curious Facts in the History of Insects, Including Spiders and Scorpions (1865)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment