“A good many sharp speeches”

PP231.236 Regina Shober Gray. Not dated.
Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Rhonda McClure’s Tuesday post on finding the correct death date of Martha Babcock Greene Amory in Paris reminded me that Regina Shober Gray (1818–1885) mentions her in several entries in the early years of her diary.[1] A sharp-eyed chronicler of her contemporaries, Mrs. Gray’s words bring Martha Amory to uneasy life.

1 Beacon Hill Place, Boston, Monday, 16 January 1860: Fanny Gray[2] came to take tea – [she] played some sweet airs on the piano, with a great deal of feeling – and described a number of fancy ball dresses for Mrs. C. Amory’s[3]  next Thursday.

Sunday, 22 January 1860: Have heard of little else than the [Amorys’] fancy ball – it was a grand success and kept up until 5 a.m. A confused medley in my mind of Turks, Bedouins, Greeks, and Japanese, Knights in mail and “Nights” in velvet Pompadour, Dukes and Marquises, peasant girls and peasant men of all nations, “morning stars” and fair saints, cowled priests. The “ace of trumps” fell through I believe, as did the “pandean pipe” which Mr. T. Appleton,[4] O.W. Holmes,[5] and others thought of personating – each wrapped in foil and bound lightly together – they would have made great fun of it.

Sunday, 15 January 1865: A queer story is going the rounds now; Mrs. Charles Amory went to a party at Cornelia Dehon’s.[6] She waked up that night, remembering that she had on coming home slipped off her gloves and rings and left them carelessly on the parlor table; among the rings was a diamond of immense value, which at the time of her daughter Mrs. Gordon Dexter’s[7] marriage, she had offered to have set for her as one of a pair of solitaire earrings, if the stone could be mated – but no mate could be found for it, so it remained a ring.

Mrs. A. routed up her gentlemanly husband and made him trot down stairs, in the dead cold winter night for the rings, all of which he brought up, save the inestimable diamond – that could not be found. Of course she was in a frantic state! and next day, sans a word of explanation or apology, sends a police detective to the Dehons! to look for the lost ring which was not to be found there, simply because it was afterwards discovered between the seat & the back of a stuffed sofa in her own parlor whereon she had seated herself, and slipped her hand down (a way she had when talking) leaving the ring wedged, when she drew the hand out!

Of course the Dehons are indignant at her discourtesy, and very reasonably think she had better have instituted her police search at home first, before putting them and their servants to the alarm and annoyance of a “detective” inquisition! Everyone is blaming her – but she don’t care, since she has got her ring.

Sunday, 17 March 1867: A retort of Mrs. Charles Sumner[8] is making a laugh. Mrs. Gordon Dexter attacked her rather rudely & conspicuously with

“Alice, do you know they say you and I are the two most unpopular women in Boston?”

“Oh, my dear, they must have forgotten your mother!” was the ready answer – Mrs. D.’s mother, Mrs. Charles Amory, being proverbially disliked. A good many sharp speeches are put into the mouth of Mrs. Sumner – she is very bright, and not very scrupulous as to the courtesies of life.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. All entries from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] Dr. Gray’s niece Frances Loring Gray (1843–1919), who married William Adams Walker Stewart in 1874. She lived with her parents at 20 Mount Vernon Street in 1860.

[3] Martha Babcock Greene (1812–1881) married Charles Amory in 1832. The Amorys lived at 67 Mount Vernon Street.

[4] Boston wit Thomas Gold Appleton (1812-1884).

[5] Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1884), author of The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858).

[6] Cornelia Dehon (1820?–1904). She lived at 216 Beacon Street in 1865.

[7] Susan Greene Amory (1840–1924) married Franklin Gordon Dexter in 1863.

[8] Alice Mason (1838–1913) was married to William Sturgis Hooper 1857–63 and to Senator Charles Sumner 1866–73.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

One thought on ““A good many sharp speeches”

  1. Thanks for sharing this- what an insight into the lives of the privileged of Boston. I especially like, “not very scrupulous as to the courtesies of life.” What a delicate description!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.