Wednesday, October 16, 2013

1796 Diary of 16-Year-Old Student at Litchfield Female Academy


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Rebecca Couch Mrs James C. Denison 1788-1863 View of Litchfield 1805

Charlotte Sheldon was a pupil in Miss Pierce's school in the early days of its existence. She was the daughter of Dr. Daniel Sheldon, of Litchfield, & his 1st wife, a Miss Judson, of Washington, Connecticut, who died in 1784 leaving 2 children, Charlotte & Daniel, who became Secretary of Legation with Albert Gallatin at the court of France. Charlotte was born in 1780, & was a "monster in learning," as her French teacher quaintly expressed it.  Being a subscriber to Sarah Pierce's Female Academy it is not surprising that in 1796, & again in 1802 Dr. Sheldon had his daughter Charlotte educated at the school.  When about 17 years of age, she became an invalid & died in Hartford, Connecticut about 1840. From a diary she kept in the summer of 1796, when she was just 16, the following entries give a view of her studies.

Litchfield Female Academy in Connecticut

The 1796 Diary of Charlotte Sheldon

Tuesday May 10th, 1796: the weather was so rainy this morning that I did not expect to set out for Hartford. so I sat down to my knitting and learnt a very good song called "The Mill Clapper," of Philo Roberts. It cleared off this afternoon so we sat off we had some rain but at night it cleared off beautifully. The air was finely perfumed with the shad and appletree blossoms. I arrived at Farmington just at dark and stopt at Mr. Wadsworth's tavern Mrs. Beardsley was over there and invited us to Dr. Tods there we directed our march. Tho. I had much rather have staid at Mr. Wadsworths for I was very little acquainted with Mrs Beardsley and was muddied from top to toe. Very soon after I got there I went to bed.

Wednesday May 11th, 1796: rose rather late staid till about 10 and then sat out for Hartford. found the riding very bad over the clay hills got to Hartford about noon dined at uncle Sheldons unpacked my things, went up to Aunt Hopkins went a shopping. Hardly knew what to do with myself amid so much noise and confusion, returned to uncle Sheldons.

Thursday May 12th, 1796: election day was ushered in with rain. I ironed out my gown and some such little matters. dressed myself dined at uncle Sheldons. then went in his carriage up to Uncle Hopkins. Tho I spent part of the forenoon in seeing people go by, I found Wealthy Morgan at my aunts I think her much improved since I saw her last, spent the evening in singing, etc., with Becca and Nancy.

Friday May 13th, 1796: read in the Moral Tales, tho' I think them rather immoral, dressed and went to uncle Sheldons intended to have taken a ride but aunt Hopkins sent word to us that a Miss Mather was there Polly Bull. and Sally Trumbull. spent the forenoon and evening Harriet Butler Betsey Woodbridge and Miss Fanning called. There was a swing up garret and behold we went to swinging Daniel and Mr Talcott spent the evening. I like Sally Trumbull. I think her a very pretty girl.

Saturday May 14th, 1796: To day Becca and I took our long wished for ride, we went as far as Wethersfield Folly we went down to Aunt Woodbridge's in the afternoon and drank tea there, we went to the new Court house, it is the most elegant building I ever saw the portico is very pleasant read partly thro " Nanine " one of Voltaires plays.

Sunday May 15th, 1796: Finished "Nanine." went to church in the afternoon it is a very handsome building we heard a flute and bass viol which Becca and I mistook for an organ quite a laughable mistake dressed took a walk down to Uncle Sheldons.

Monday May 16th, 1796: Washed and ironed almost all day went a shopping. read in Buffon's Natural History. It has a great number of cuts in it and is very entertaining. I should like to read the whole of it sung etc., etc.,

Tuesday May 17th, 1796: Ironed almost all the forenoon mended some stockings, dressed, went with Becca down to uncle Sheldons, Aunt was gone down to Mr. Joe Sheldons thither we directed our march and took a very pleasant walk with her to the point where the great and little rivers meet returned and drank tea at Uncle Sheldons staid all night.

Wednesday May 18th, 1796: It rained so that we couldn't return to Aunt Hopkins. made cousin Mary a baby, she is a sweet little girl, read there an abridgement of Sir Charles Grandison

Thursday May 19th, 1796: Becca and I waded up to Aunts thro' the mud drew a picture for Nancy & painted it in the afternoon Mrs. Fish, Emily Stilman & Julia Root spent at Aunts Emily staid in the evening I am very much pleased with her.

Friday May 20th, 1796: Sat out for home, found the roading very bad. Rode as far as Mr Lewis's at Farmington dined there & staid two hours. Mrs. Beardsley sent Stella over for us, Daniel & I went over, & we concluded to stay all night. Heard Mrs Beardsley & Miss Polly Tod play on the Forte Piano, read in Helen Maria Williams letters, read in Lavater & looked at the Heads, took a walk with Miss Sally Beardsley over to the Lewis's, returned to Dr. Tods played button & went to bed very early.

Saturday May 21st, 1796: Sat out again for home found the roading better than I expected, got home about four o'clock went to Miss Sally's(Pierce) to carry a letter my face was so burned, I was ashamed to make my appearance any where felt tired & lazy.

Sunday May 22nd, 1796: Went in the forenoon to meeting. read in the American magazine & in the European magazine Miss Pierce's girls spent the evening at our house & Sally l & Julia Tracy.

Monday May 23rd, 1796: Helped about the house all the forenoon went a shopping with the girls & read history at school got tea & washed the cups knit the rest of the evening.

Tuesday May 24th, 1796: Read & wrote to the 30th page of the history knit sewed one of the tags of the fringe onto my cloak

Wednesday May 25th, 1796: Went to school & did what I commonly do there got above 4 in spelling ironed some Vandykes,2 etc., etc.,

Thursday May 26th, 1796: Studied geography at school felt very indolent, laughed & gaped the greatest part of the time, knit, finished my short gown.

Friday May 27th, 1796: Began to alter my muslin into a robe which is the most fashionable dress in Hartford read history took a run up to Miss Pierces & Mrs. Tracy's, etc.,

Saturday May 28th, 1796: Sewed on my gown all day, wrote all the evening.

Sunday May 29th, 1796: Attended meeting all day, heard two very indifferent sermons, read in the American Magazine found many good things in it & among the rest an extract from Mrs. Yearsley's poem on the slave trade, took a walk down to the brook it was too cool to be very agreeable walking finished my gown in the evening.1

Monday May 30th, 1796: Washed almost all the forenoon, sewed, began to work the edges of some ruffles

Tuesday May 31st, 1796: Starched my gown and hung it to dry, sewed, Persuer of these pages, know that I, the author of them, am not very well versed in polite literature, thou must expect to find, a dry, uninteresting, inaccurate, parcel of sentences, jumbled together in a hand hardly intelligible — this is no news perchance thou wilt say —

Wednesday, June 1st, 1796: We are once more blessed with a prospect of good weather, ironed almost all the forenoon, sat some ruffles on to my gown, went a shopping, bought me a comb, mended some of my cloaths went to school, & did what I usually do there. All Mrs Tracy's family spent the afternoon here Mrs Tracy is a charming woman, she has a family of the loveliest children I ever saw, Mr Gould & Miss Mira Canfield spent the afternoon & evening I liked Mr. Gould very much.

Thursday June 2nd, 1796: Cleaned my chamber, sewed, read in the American Magazine, wrote a letter to Fanny Smith tho I shall not send it to her, was inattentive & got to the foot in spelling, took a walk with the girls, & got wintergreen & honeysuckle, had a very agreeable walk, came home & dressed my hat with honeysuckle & ground pine.

Friday June 3rd, 1796: Sewed almost all the morning, studied a geography lesson, & recited it, dressed & went to Holmes where I spent the afternoon very agreeably spent the afternoon & evening at Dr. Smiths there was a very large circle there.

Saturday June 4th, 1796: Went to school, wrote a curious epistle to Sally Tracy, wrote a letter to Fauny Smith & copied it, read in Goldsmiths animated Nature went to the stores 3 times, sewed on my short gown,

Sunday June 5th, 1796: Attended meeting all day, read in Goldsmiths Animated Nature, I like it very much, many parts of it are quite interesting took a run in the garden sewed all the evening.

Monday June 6th, 1796: Assisted about house all the forenoon went to school, hemmed my shawl all round thought some of going to Mr. Bowles in the evening, but concluded not to go.

Tuesday June 7th, 1796: Bought a skein of silk & wound it hemmed accross two sides of my shawl, button hole stitch, studied spelling, sewed all the evening.

Wednesday June 8th, 1796: Worked on my shawl, read partly thro' the Dangers of the world aloud to Sally Tracy read in Coxes travels, I will give a short abridgement from his history of the Poles, [The first era of the History like that of all other European nations is involved in obscurity. The government was formerly almost an absolute monarchy; but the king continued to grant priviliges to the nobles, untill they became almost independent, for the king had no other power left, except the triffling one of confering titles, the kingdom was very much divided by religious factions. The Dissidents & Papists maintained warm quarrels], got tea, helped clear away the table, had the pleasure of seeing Aunt Hopkins, Becca, & Nancy, Miss Sally & Polly Pierce spent the evening at our house.

Thursday June 9th, 1796: Aunt & family departed for Watertown this morning, drew some patterns, worked on my shawl, studied a lesson in Guthrie we got partly through France it is bounded on the North. . . . Finished reading the Dangers of the world read in Coxes travels. [The Russians & other foreign nations fomented the quarrels that existed in Poland. . . .] Assisted mammy, went up to Miss Pierce's & borrowed the Robbers, read partly through it. it is an excellent tragedy. The character of Amelia is rather inconsistent in my opinion.

Friday June 9th, 1796: Finished the Robbers, the scene in which Charles de Moore discovers his father in a ruined tower is perfect in my opinion, Worked on my shawl, read in Coxes travels, Read partly thro the Truly wise man. Read in Goldsmiths Animated Nature.

Saturday June l0, 1796: Worked on my shawl, Read the English merchant, a very good comedy. Read in the World. Went down to the store. Helped get tea.

Sunday June 11th, 1796: It is quite cold and unpleasant to-day; attended meeting all day, Spent the evening at Miss Pierces.

Monday June 12th, 1796: Washed a little. Worked on my shawl. Went down to the store with the girls. Dressed the flower pots. We had company in the afternoon & evening, several gentlemen were at our house in the evening.

Tuesday June 13th, 1796: Wrote a letter, Read in Coxes travels; worked on my shawl, sewed all the evening.

Wednesday June 14th, 1796: Learned a grammer lesson. Read the story of the Highlander & partly thro Sophron & Tigranes. Went down in the lot & got wintergreen, got supper.

Thursday June 15th, 1796: Worked on my shawl. Studied a grammer lesson, parsed, Read in the World, knit, Read partly thro Macbeth one of Shakespears best tragedies.

Friday June 16th, 1796: Sewed. Went to school. Read in Cox. parsed. Went down to get wintergreen. Worked on my shawl. Went to strawberrying. Heard some very good music a flute & violin. It is a most beautiful evening, took a walk as far as the corner.

Saturday June 17th, 1796: Sewed. Parsed. Began to read the Recess, a very good novel. It is founded on the idea that Mary Queen of Scots was privately married to the Duke of Norfolk & had two daughters Ellinor & Matilda who are the heroines of the novel, they were educated in the Recess which was several rooms in an Abbey unknown but to three persons. Matilda was married to the Duke of Leicester who took shelter in the Recess from assassins. Took a walk. Read again in the Recess.

Sunday June 18th, 1796: Read again in the Recess. I have finished the first volume. Attended meeting all day, wasn't very much edified. Took a walk with Sally Tracy & Mr. Gould went almost to the mill, had a very agreeable one. Heard some very good music after I got home. Mr. Tod, Mr. Holmes & Miss Polly Collins besides several others spent the evening here, it is a very pleasant evening.

Monday June 19th, 1796: Helped about house, knit. Parsed. Read in Coxes travels, read in the Recess to Sally Tracy & mammy After school dressed me and went to Mrs Lords where I spent the afternoon & evening

Tuesday June 20th, 1796: Washed, Cleaned my chamber, finished my shawl, washed and ironed it . The colors don't fade. Helped get supper. Stewed some currants. Learn't one or two verses in a song, spent the evening at Captains Catlins.

Wednesday June 21st, 1796: Went to the Braces & helped clean the room to dance in, Which took almost all the forenoon Went down in the lot after bushes & fixed up the room Dressed & danced in the evening, had a pretty agreeable ball.

Thursday June 22nd, 1796: Parsed, Sewed. Went to strawberrying with Fanny Pierpont, found a good many.

Friday June 23rd, 1796: Put my closet to rights. Had an invitation to the ball, spent the rest of the day in fixing my things. Went to the ball, had a very agreeable one. Came home in the morning.

Saturday June 24th, 1796: Felt pretty dull, Read the second volume in the Recess, the language was pretty good, I like this volume better than the first, Tho I think it is not possible, that any person could suffer as many misfortunes as Ellinor & Matilda, I like the character of Ellinor better than that of Matilda. there is something very interesting in her character, I wanted to have it end happily. Went a strawberrying with Susan Bird.

Sunday June 25th, 1796: Read all the forenoon, Attended meeting in the afternoon, heard a very poor sermon. Read in the history of Spain, I think it a very good one, I do not know the name of the author. Picked a large basket of roseleaves.

Monday June 26th, 1796: Washed a little etc., Made a half handkerchief, took a walk up to Captain Stantons. Read in the history of Spain translated to the 15th page in Rousseau's Emelias. Drew a rose, Read in the history of Spain in the evening.

Tuesday 27th, 1796: Parsed. Sewed. Studied spelling. Spent the afternoon at Mrs. Demings. Walked up as far as Captain Catlins.

Wednesday June 28th, 1796: Fixed up my hat. knit. Drew a landscape. Parsed. Read in the world. Went after straw berries.

Thursday June 29th, 1796: Knit. Parsed. Studied spelling.

Friday July 1st, 1796: Sewed. Studied a parsing lesson. Parsed. Went twice down to Mr. Shetaters, to buy pendals. Had my ears bored, not a very agreeable operation, knit Read in Coxes travels. got tea, stewed some currants. Took a walk as far as Mrs Lords.

Saturday July 2nd, 1796: Read in the World. Sewed.

Sunday July 3rd, 1796: Attended meeting in the forenoon & read in the Recess & in the World in the afternoon Took a run up to Miss Pierces.

Monday July 4th, 1796: Felt doubtful about going to the ball. Went over to Mrs. Holmes of an errand. Studied a parsing lesson. Parsed. knit, concluded to go to the ball, fixed my things to go. Went down to the Store Dressed & went to the ball, had a very good one.

Tuesday July 5th, 1796: Felt rather sleepy, Knit, Washed out the bottom of my gown. Parsed. borrowed the Transition of a Moment. I like it pretty well, tho it is not equal to the Recess. read in it till about 10 o'clock.

Wednesday July 6th, 1796: Finished reading the "Transition of a Moment." Heard the news of Polly Buel's death, sewed at school. Parsed. Fixed my things to wear to the funeral. Dressed & went. There was quite a large concourse of people. felt rather tired.

Friday July 8th, 1796: Riped my gown which I am going to have altered. Picked some green peas. Parsed. Took a ride. a very agreeable one. Drank tea at Mrs Phelps on Chestnut Hill, got home at sun down,

Saturday July 9th, 1796: Read in the Citizen of the World, picked currants, sat the table for tea. Read in the Herald. Went up to Miss Pierces of an errand.

Sunday July 10th, 1796: Attended meeting all day. felt quite sorry to see all Mr Buel's people, racked & tortured, by a cruel sermon & prayer, were a great many people at meeting. Miss Naby Lewis came to our house after meeting.

Monday July 11th, 1796: Sewed. Read partly thro Romeo & Juliet. Read in Othello.

Tuesday July 12th, 1796: Took a walk in the garden, Wrote a scrumptious letter to Sally Tracy. Parsed. Wrote copy hand. read in Coxes travels.

Wednesday August 7th, 1796: Washed all the forenoon. Went down to the store, & over to Mr. Smiths, ironed out some calico, swept the school room, Picked currants & gooseberrys for tea.

Thursday August 8th, 1796: Ironed my gown, cleaned my chamber, Studied a parsing lesson. Partly learned the words to a song. Picked currants. Wrote copy hand. Parsed. Read in Coxes travels, Partly learned a tune.

Friday August 9th, 1796: Sewed. Parsed. Went over to Dr Smiths tried on my gown, stayed part of the afternoon, Read in Coxes travels, chose sides, Mrs Lord drank tea at our house, Went up to Miss Pierces of an errand.

Saturday August 16th, 1796: Went over to Dr. Smiths & tried on my gown Heard Miss Nabby read in Julia de Roubigne. Ironed about two hours. Went over to Dr. Smiths

Sunday August 17th, 1796: Attended meeting all day. Heard two excellent sermons preched by Rev. Mr. Hooker Read in the Female Spectator. Took a walk.

Monday August 18th, 1796: Washed a little. & helped about house Parsed. Read in Coxes travels. Got tea. Picked currants. Went over to Dr. Smiths. Spent the evening at Miss Pierces. Heard some very good music after I got home.

Tuesday August 19th, 1796: Went up to Miss Pierces of an errand Doubled some yarn, Studied grammar, Read in Coxes travels. I think this a better opportunity than commonly occurs, to find out the manners of a people,

Wednesday August 20th, 1796: Sewed. Read in the Mirror, The Story of La Roche is excellent. He makes an excellent prayer on the loss of his daughter. The description of his situation is beautiful. Read in Coxes travels. Studied grammar. Drew. Heard some very good music.

Thursday August 22nd, 1796: Read in the Mirror. Had a pair of gloves cut out, began to make them. Marked a pair of pillow bears. Read in Coxes travel Spent the afternoon very agreeably at Mrs. Tracys Walked down as far as Mr Ozias Lewis's & back again.

Friday August 23rd, 1796: Sewed on my gloves, Studied grammar. We had company at our house this afternoon, Spent the evening at Miss Pierces.

Saturday August 24th, 1796: Read in Knox's essays, I like them very well. Sewed on my gloves, worked the back of another pair.