The latest Shuffelton item to cross my desk is quite the Victorian jewel. No, really. You should see the cover. In fact, here it is:
Yes, it’s Ladies of the White House; or, In the Home of the Presidents: Being a Complete History of the Social and Domestic Lives of the Presidents from Washington to Hayes – 1789-1880, by Laura C. Holloway. With Numerous engravings on Steel and Wood. (Cincinnati: Forshee & McMakin, 1880).
The contents of the book are just as gloriously, unashamedly, over-the-top as the cover. Here’s a particularly florid and naively dreamy passage about Martha Jefferson Randolph, Jefferson’s daughter:
Her memory is so fragrant with the perfume of purity and saintly sweetness, that it is a privilege to dwell and muse upon a theme so elevating. The world has not yet developed a more harmonious, refined, or superior type of womanhood than the daughters of Virginia in the last century. Reared in ease and plenty, taught the virtues that ennoble, and valuing their good name no less than prizing their family lineage, they were the most delightful specimens of womanhood ever extant. Most particularly was Martha Jefferson of this class, whose image is fast losing originality in the modern system of utilitarian education. Her father’s and her husband’s great enemy pronounced her “the sweetest woman in Virginia;” and the assurance comes laden with the testimony of many tongues, that her existence was one of genial sunshine and peace. Are not such natures doubly blessed, first, in the happiness they secure to themselves, and, secondly, in the blessing they are to those who walk in the light of their example?
Priceless! Although, seriously, I doubt that a woman with eleven children would describe her existence as one of “genial sunshine and peace.”