The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

November 21, 2011

Nov. 21, 1852

A comparative view of the social life of England and France from the Restoration of Charles the Second to the French Revolution (1828) was a history written by Mary Berry, (March 16 1763 to November 21 1852). Berry was a friend of Thomas Macauley, and other intellectual luminaries, of the late 18th century. This volume enhanced her fame, but she was already known for her editing of Horace Walpole's correspondence, and other books also. I am gong to briefly quote from the preface because it gives a good sense of an ahistorical past which governed the imaginations of writers until about this period. You can see her need to defend her history because if things really changed, that might cast doubt on the fundamentals of the 18th century world. (If things did NOT change the reason to write history is different or non-existent). Nowadays we are accustomed to the view that fundamental world views can shift in an historical time, but our view was itself an historical development. So this introduces Mary Berry:

... the great moral principles upon which all social order in an advanced state of civilisation is necessarily formed, remain at all times nearly the same, the modifications imposed by law, or induced by custom, in different eras of society—the duties exacted by the one, and the licence often obtained by the other — produce occasional, accidental ebbs and flows in the morals as well as in the manners of private life. These form an interesting and not unuseful subject of contemplation to such minds as, in society, by an intimate acquaintance with their contemporaries, have been enlightened, not contracted; who have learnt, in and from the world, indulgence to its follies without participation in its thoughtlessness, and a severe adherence to general principles, with great lenity to individual deviations from them. ...

Mary Berry and her sister and father led an adventurous life of travel, and their salon was attended by many names we remember today, though we have forgotten Berry's. Mary died the same year as her sister.

After her own death her correspondence was edited by a good freind of hers and published in 1865:
Extracts of the journals and correspondence of Miss Berry from the year 1783 to 1852, Volume 1.
Included in this book is a poem written by the cousin of Mary Berry, graciously ending a long visit with her family.

MISS SETON'S LINES TO THE 'TEA-CADDY

Dear Caddy, since no more from thee
I now shall draw each morning's tea,
This envied place no more be mine,
And I, like ministers, resign;
Since from these scenes I must retire
To humble Causham's cottage fire,
Where dog, and cat, and I, and mother,
Sit and make much of one another;
And quit this house where best I see
The charms of true society; 


This excerpt, (the original is about a hundred lines) with its artful conceits, gives a glimpse of a privileged class which produced more women writers than we have counted.

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