By William A. Haviland
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The Cultural paintings of the past due Nineteenth-Century Hostess explores the effect well-placed, full of life girls had on literary and political tradition within the U. S. and in England within the years 1870-1920. Fields, an American, used to be first married to James T. Fields, a admired Boston writer; after his demise she grew to become spouse to Sarah Orne Jewett, one of many optimum New England writers.
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Her parting kiss still dwells upon my cheek and the parting wave of her graceful hand from within the vine-dad doorway. The immortal Alfted stands by her side cheered by her sweet beauty and swings his hat full of grand wishes to us but the trees hide them and we are left together to be thankful for the privilege of having dwelt beneath a roof sheltering Wisdom and Holiness the rarest and divinest attainments men can reach. 18 Fields's adulation of Tennyson marks her as an American enthusiast, a culture consumer for whom British writers, especially those with reputations like Tennyson's, were tantamount to divinity.
Here the dominant vehicle for conversation is reading matter and the writers who create it. In Chapter 4, which concentrates on Gladstone, I trace several epistolary conversations Gladstone and her friends conducted about specific texts, showing how their arguments simultaneously displayed and re-formulated cultural values. Chapter 5, which concentrates on Annie Fields, also teases out the dominant values of Fields's reading community, but through Fields's reports about conversations primarily conducted face to face, rather than by mail, and through examination of the materials she gathered for a history of late nineteenth-century literary New England.
Later diaries reveal her emergence onto the social world and, especially, her interactions with the political, musical, and literary scenes. Throughout, she feels far freer than Fields to criticize or to unabashedly foreground her own point of view. A comparison of Fields's and Gladstone's records of readings by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, illustrates some of their diaries' tonal differences. Both Fields and her husband and Gladstone and her family were acquainted with Tennyson and his family and sat through more than one private reading of his work.