Friday, August 21, 2015

John Buell's Last Will and Testament

image of John Buell's Last Will and TestamentThis past week we acquired two related manuscripts that speak volumes: the Last Will and Testament of John Buell of the Mohegan tribe, dated July 12, 1745, and the execution of his estate from July 11, 1746. In July of 1745 Buell had just become a part of Captain Adonijah Fitch's company in King George's War. He was among the many members of the Mohegan tribe to join the English in the French and Indian wars. These documents are a witness to the uncertainty of his fate as he headed from Connecticut to Cape Breton.

There are a lot of ways to look at Buell's Will. It shows the influence of European colonial law on tribal culture, especially for a "Christianized" Indian. It also documents one Mohegan's worldly possessions and debts as well as his thoughts on their distribution upon his death. He splits his estate between his "squaw Luce Johnson" and his daughter Lydia, while asking for their protection in a troubled time.

image of the execution of John Buell's Last Will and TestamentBut there is a curious addition. The wages he is about to earn as a member of Fitch's unit are to go toward his debts to Jonathan Trumble, and it is Trumble who signed off on the final disposition of the estate. This calls into question the motivation for joining the war and writing his Will. Was he forced into the military to help pay his debts? Or, was the Will written at the self-interested insistence of Jonathan Trumble who wanted to ensure any money Buell earned would go first to pay his debts? Or, should we take it on face value? He says his Will is written "knowing my own Mortality & The Danger into which I am Going."

The documents are now here in Rauner and open for research use. We would love to know more about John, Luce, and Lydia Buell and Jonathan Trumble.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Rare Edition of Austen’s Emma

TitleTwo hundred years ago, Jane Austen’s novel Emma was first published in London in December 1815 (with the date 1816 appearing on the title page). Next year, in 1816, the prominent Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey decided to issue a reprinted, cheaper edition for the American market.

Only six copies are known to remain of this first Austen novel to be published in America—and one is here at Dartmouth! Although this copy has been at Rauner since it was donated in 1972 as part of a 601-item collection, its existence has been unknown to Austen scholars until now. Inside front flyleaf of Jeremiah Smith's copy of Emma, with a note about meeting her in person

This Emma was owned by Jeremiah Smith (1759-1842), who served as chief justice of New Hampshire and, briefly, as governor of the state. Smith's copy of Emma conveys that he was both a careful and a curious reader. He kept track of when he bought the volumes, from whom, and what he paid.  He also wrote in notes, gleaned from periodicals and encyclopedias, about Austen, her life, and her works. (Emma, like all of Austen's novels published in her lifetime, did not identify her by name as its author.) Most delightfully, Smith evidently read Emma with pen in hand, correcting the printers' errors—which were many. That Smith's interest in and appreciation of Austen continued is clear from the presence in his collection of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice,First page of Emma, Chapter 25 (p. 227) and Mansfield Park, all of which he subsequently purchased in English editions.

Like Smith's, each of the surviving copies of the Philadelphia Emma has its own stories to tell of owners and readers. The New York Society Library recently featured its copy, which is annotated in pencil by nineteenth-century readers, in an exhibition and blog post. Goucher College in Baltimore, where I teach, is preparing an open-access digital edition of our own well-traveled copy. Other copies are held at Winterthur Library, Beinecke Library, and King's College Library of the University of Cambridge. To see Dartmouth's copy, come to Rauner and ask for Smith J PZ3 .A93.

Posted for Juliette Wells, Associate Professor and Chair of English at Goucher College, editor of Emma for Penguin Classics (2015), and author of Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination (2011).