Slip Into Something Victorian




Those who know me know that I have been researching my family almost from the time our eighth grade American History class was asked to do a short pedigree chart. Too bad I did not learn to keep good records and ask pertinent questions until after those who were well informed of our family’s history had passed on. Luckily for me, an exceptionally kind third cousin once removed (see, doesn’t that sound like a dedicated family historian?) passed on to me a family heirloom. Not from our direct line, but from an ancestor’s first wife. I had photos for this post, but I promise you that WordPress hates me! Me personally–almost as much as I hate WordPress. I love illustrations, so I apologize for the blah post.

The young woman”s name was Sarah Bailey, and she was called Sallie. She lived in Northwest Georgia and was a cousin to our ancestor, but I’m not sure how many times removed. The families lived very near one another. Anyway, the heirloom is an autograph book about six by eight with a dark blue cover decorated with flowers and leaves of abalone shell. After all this time, the handwriting is fading until it’s barely legible. Some inks retained color better than others. Most legible are the pencil inscriptions, but those are disappearing as the pages change color with age. I love reading the remembrances for their odd spellings and sentiments. In fact, I’m positively fascinated by this book. Sallie was dearly loved by her family, and by mine. I see her as a carefree young miss, then opening her home to friends and soldiers during the War. Some of the entries thank her for time spent in her home, which may mean an hour or a day or a week.

 This little book lets us see into the life of a lovely Southern belle at school before the Civil War began, a young woman whose callers were soldiers, who became a bride, a mother, and a young woman on her deathbed. The inscriptions change in tone. Please let me share some of them with you:

 The flowery words of a dashing suitor:

 Ah would the hands that write these lines

Were fondly clasped in thine

 Ah would the lips that read these words

 Were once more pressed to mine

 Those happy hours with thee I spent

 Those like I nere shall see.

 If fortune smiles or darkly frowns

 Still Ill forget thee not

 Farewell the word I scarce can write

 Farewell to love and thee

 On by-gone days then think of me

 Farewell remember me

Your friend

Silly words from a discouraged would-be beau:

Miss Sallie wont believe me when my love to her I swear

She teases me so very much I believe I’ll pull my hair

I’ll tell you what the fact, if she keeps on treating me bad

I believe I will go crazy. I know I will go mad.

Yours in a hurry

From a female school friend:

Miss Sallie        Jan the 27 1860

In memory’s tears

O, May I share

One lonely vacant spot

Of all the names recorded there

Let mine not be forgot

Your Sincere friend

Then, the War began, and the ancestor she later married wrote:

To Miss Sallie

A place in thy memory dearest

Is all that I claim

To pause and look back when thou hearest

The sound of my name.

Others tried to sway her heart:

To Miss Sallie

But once I dared to lift my eyes,

To lift my eyes to thee

And since that day beneath the skies

No other sight they see

Presenting idly to my sight

What still a dream must be

In vain sleep shuts them in the night

The night grows day to me

A fatal dream – for many a bar

Divides thy fate from mine

And still my passions make war

But peace be still with thee.

And another:

To Sallie Dear

Oh may each flower that greets the spring

And glistens in the sunny light

And every bird with sportive wing

Whose song is measured by its flight

Bloom brighter when thy form is near

Sing sweeter when thy face they see

A life of joy without a tear

Is what I wish and pray for thee

As the war progressed, our ancestor sounds war weary and fearful of death. Definitely not an eloquent, flowery suitor, is he?

Remember me when I am gone, think of me

Sometimes, pray for me often

& I’ll remember thee

But he’s the one who won her hand in marriage. Family lore is that she didn’t recover from a pregnancy.The last entry is when her first child, a boy, was almost two. We believe she must have had a second pregnancy from which she did not recover due to the age of her son. Childbirth carried so many serious complications in 1870, especially for the “proper” ladies who wore tightly laced corsets. We are only speculating, of course, and have nothing but family storeis passed down through generations. Here’s the final entry:

What shall I wish for thee?

What helping invoke? I might wish that thy barque would glide sweetly o’er the bosom of Life’s

Troubled ocean, without a ripple to disturb its easy course. And that thy fair and beautiful brow

Would never receive the fingerprints that time always writes to mar the beauty of loved ones –

Again I might wish that your life might always be one bright dream of pleasure – But how vain

Would be that wish – There never was a bright eye but it was dimmed by tears – not a true and

Happy heart — but it had its share of sorrow – for we are all mortals and we are doomed to some

Trouble at least. So I will not make vain or silly wishes. But let my heart dictate my wish – You

Have suffered long and painfully – none know what agony you have endured. But now I hope

your sickness is at an end – and that you may soon rise from your bed with the same good health

you enjoyed in the days of long ago – and that you may realize what it is to be a devoted wife &

Mother – for little Ossie needs a Mothers love. But should it so please God that my wish may not

Come to pass, may you submit humbly as becomes a christian – knowing that “He doeth all

Things well – and in ______ resignation acknowledging His supreme power say “Thy will not

mine be done” – Then at last when He sees fit –for you to linger no more in this “vale of tears” –

may your soul wing its way back to the “God who gave” – There to await the loved ones in the


Very truly your friend

Yikes!  Isn’t that a morbid sentiment to write to a dying woman? Talk about not cheering her up!  We have to judge not by our time, however, but by the 1870’s when the last was written. Perhaps that was par for that era. Studying history is fascinating, but  I’m so glad I’m alive today instead of earlier, aren’t you?

Thank you for reading. Please stop back at our blog again soon! 



  1. Caroline, you have a treasurer greater than gold. I loved reading them. I am lucky like you in that my family saved a lot of these kinds of things. I have misplaced the letters, but I have two that my great grandmother wrote to my grandmother when she married grandpa. His mother actually told her that when she was done with her new husband that she wanted him back… I must search for those letters again because they would be great for a story.

    Paisley, how funny! I hope you find the letters – please let us know when you do.

  2. Denise Eagan says:

    Oh what a lovely, lovely book to have! I hope you can find a way to preserve all the writing so you don’t lose it as the years pass!

  3. A little Edgar Allen Poeish, isn’t it Caroline?

    What a great find! It helps when you’re writing historical fiction to read letters and accounts from people who lived in the time you’re writing in. Gives a real feel for the period and how people thought. I’ve read some of the letters between soldiers and loved ones at home during the Civil War. No one writes letters like that nowadays, and some of them are so beautiful.

    Hope you can find a way to preserve that book!

  4. Thank you on many levels for this post, Caroline.
    People in those times had different concepts of friendship and love. Reading their expressions of feelings and emotions makes me wonder what they would think of today’s twitters, emails, texting and sexting.
    In many ways – we live in rude, coarse times. Thank goodness we have lovely historical romances for escape!

  5. Thanks for commentig, ladies. Wouldn’t those people be appalled at tweets and facebook? Oh, and texting with it’s own language. Mary Ann is correct, thank goodness for our lovely historical romances.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: