‘By dint of much skipping’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

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
In May 1860, Regina Shober Gray[1] was visiting her family in Philadelphia.

245 South Eighteenth Street, Wednesday, 9 May 1860: Shopping with [her sisters] Sue & Liz [Shober][2] all the morning – a call from my old school mate Sallie Newbold[3] p.m. – and quite a pleasant party … in the evening, 12 or 15 ladies to 2 gentlemen – a lack of beaux which gave much merriment. [Her younger sons] Reginald & Morris [Gray][4] grow too independent here – trotted off after breakfast to Aunt Annie [Shober]’s[5] to play with Baby John – and Uncle John [Shober][6] keeps them too abundantly supplied with cash. [They] buy the most abominable trash – I must keep possession of their purses myself.

Thursday, 10 May 1860: Another dull day – which gave us a long quiet morning for reading about [Eliot’s] “The Mill on the Floss.”[7] Poor little Mary [Gray][8] suffering with tooth ache, and could not screw herself up to going to the dentist, notwithstanding I offered the brightest gold dollar if she would – but she scorned being bribed into it!

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Tuesday, 12 June 1860: Not very well to-day, but occupied all the morning and out p.m. for shopping. Am reading the cruise of the Fox[9] [by] Capt. Mc Clintock in search of relics of Sir John Franklin[10] with much interest…

Thursday, 14 June 1860: Dressmaking all day. Went with Dr. [Gray] to look at a splendid French dinner set, deep crimson and gold, for sale at auction – but saw at once it would go far beyond our means – each piece was marked with a G. I believe Dr. Gordon[11] bought it – they could afford the $168 much better than we… Frank [Gray]’s[12] school composition on the “Steam Engine” was read aloud to the school – the only [essay] in his class which was; I thought it a very good paper for a boy of his age.

Friday, 15 June 1860: Took Morris out with me this morning for a round of errands – a hat for him & socks for Rege &c. Called at Mrs. Shober’s[13] to leave “Julian Horne”[14] for Aunt Sarah[15] – it will interest, spite of her anxieties about her brother Sam[16] just now. I fear the old gentleman will never be much better.

Monday, 18 June 1860: I have had a busy day – and wound up by slipping down the stairs and bruising myself considerably – so lounged after tea reading “Mademoiselle Mori”[17] with much interest; a capital picture of recent Roman life, manners, & politics, in the early and liberal part of Pio Nono’s career.[18] A sad book, however, the sadder too for its truth.

Thursday, 28 June 1860: Wrote to [her siblings in] Philad[elphia] – then to Burnham’s[19] to inquire for C.G.[20] about a set of books for the class to present to Mr. Gibbens.[21] He has been a faithful teacher at the Latin School, and now he is about to take charge of a school out of town they wish him to carry away some remembrance of his class here. I think they will decide for a set of Parker’s “Waverly Novels”[22] in half-calf at $25.

Stopped at Mrs. Shober – she is dull and little wonder. Mr. S. Bradlee is however quite contented at the [Somerville] Asylum, but it has given Aunt Sarah a painful shock.

Brookline, Saturday, 30 June 1860: Made a parting call after breakfast on Ellen & Annie [Gray].[23] Inquired at Burnham’s about Colton’s Atlas[24] for F.C.G. – 2 folios, richly bound for $18. Arrived here (Pine Bank) at 11½ o’clock. Found every one busy and interested in the various preparations great & small for Isa [Gray]’s[25] European trip…

Tuesday, 3 July 1860: A splendid day. Isa went off this morning quite bravely, though evidently a little sober – all bore the parting well. An hour or two after she left, we all assembled in Sallie [Gray]’s[26] room to read “Rutledge,”[27] which certainly commences well…

Friday, 6 July 1860: A cold, clear day; wrote to Philad. after breakfast – then walked with Fanny [Gray].[28] [She] loosed [her brother] Will’s dog “Guy” to-day; he has been tied up a week or more, and it was almost terrifying to witness his wild delight at recovering his freedom – and to her delight, he did run off to his old home. The wolfish instinct of Esquimaux dog must be strong in him, however, as he killed to-day a valuable cat. We read to day the “Semi-detached House”[29] – a sprightly little novel…

61 Bowdoin Street, Wednesday, 11 July 1860: Home again after a very nice visit. We yester’y managed to scramble through [Trollope’s] “The Three Clerks”[30] by dint of much skipping…

Continued here.


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

[2] Susanna Budd Shober (1823–1898?), who was married to Dr. John Davies of Fayal 1867–81, and Elizabeth Kearney Shober (1821–1865).

[3] Sally Robeson Logan (1819-1890) married James Simpson Newbold in 1842.

[4] Reginald Gray (1853–1904) and Morris Gray (1856–1931).

[5] Ann Bond Cochran married Mrs. Gray’s younger brother Samuel Lieberkuhn Shober in 1858; their son John Bedford Shober was born in August 1859. The Sam Shobers lived at 249 South Sixteenth Street in 1860.

[6] The diarist’s older brother John Bedford Shober (1814–1864).

[7] The Mill on the Floss (1860) by George Eliot (1819-1880).

[8] Mrs. Gray’s daughter Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923).

[9] The Voyage of the ‘Fox’ in the Arctic Seas: A Narrative of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John Franklin and His Companions (1859) by Captain [(later Rear Admiral Sir) Frederick Leopold] McClintock (1819-1907).

[10] Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), the Arctic explorer.

[11] Dr. Charles Gordon (1809–1872), who married Dr. Gray’s connection Mary Avery Upham in 1845.

[12] The diarist’s eldest son Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904).

[13] Mrs. Gray’s stepmother, Lucy Hall Bradlee (1806–1902), who was married to Samuel Lieberkuhn Shober 1830–47.

[14] Julian Horne. A tale (1860) by Frederic(k) William Farrar (1831-1903).

[15] Mrs. Shober’s aunt Sarah Fletcher Bradlee (1789–1866).

[16] Mrs. Shober’s uncle Samuel Stillman Bradlee (1785-1861).

[17] Mademoiselle Mori: A Tale of Modern Rome (1860) by Margaret Roberts (1833-1919).

[18] Pope Pius IX [Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti] (1792-1878).

[19] Lafayette Burnham, “antique and modern books,” at 107 Boylston Street.

[20] Presumably F.C.G., i.e. Frank Gray.

[21] Of the Boston Latin School.

[22] Samuel H. Parker’s edition of the Waverley Novels (1814-32) by Sir Walter Scott, 1st Bt. (1771-1832).

[23] Dr. Gray’s sisters Ellen Gray (1830–1921) and Anne Eliza Gray (1819–1884), who lived with their mother at 22 Mount Vernon Street.

[24] Colton’s Atlas of the World… (1856) by George Woolworth Colton (1827-1901).

[25] Dr. Gray’s niece, Isa Elizabeth Gray (1841–1923).

[26] Isa’s mother, and Mrs. Gray’s closest friend in the Gray family: Sarah Frances Loring (1811–1892), who married William Gray in 1834.

[27] Rutledge, published anonymously in 1860 by Miriam Coles (1834-1925), who married Sidney Smith Harris in 1864.

[28] Sallie Gray’s daughter, Frances Loring Gray (1843–1919), who married William Adams Walker Stewart in 1874.

[29] The Semi-Detached House (1859) by Emily Eden (1797-1869).

[30] The Three Clerks (1857) by Anthony Trollope (1815-1882).

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.

4 thoughts on “‘By dint of much skipping’

  1. Thank you for continuing to share Mrs.Gray’s diary. I would miss her very much if she were put back on the shelf.

  2. Mrs Gray’s diary could go down as the NEHGS “Days of our Lives.” (For closet historians and genealogists.) Please keep going; or, any chance you will eventually publish them? I am also “hooked.” Some of her acquaintances are connected to some of my step-father’s families. One question. Does Mrs. Gray ever mention going to church? I would imagine she would have intelligent thoughts on current sermons of the day.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Judith, does she ever go to church — yes! In the 1860 volume, she hears a succession of visiting ministers, vying to become King’s Chapel’s rector. While she liked the eventual choice, Henry Wilder Foote, she thought him rather light-weight.

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