‘A morning at the public library’

[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
Regina Shober Gray[1] continued to take an interest in her neighbors:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Friday, 5 February 1864: A lovely day which tempted me out to make a few long intended calls, on dear old Mrs. Davis[2] [and] Mrs. Wm. Lyman,[3] who [has] been shut up for sixteen weeks, but is as handsome and as fascinating as ever… Sam [Gray][4] & I spent an hour this p.m., at De Vries’[5] store, looking over [Gustave] Dore’s[6] Illustrations of Dante’s [Divine Comedy][7] – the most weird, wonderful, powerful things conceivable on the subject. I have ordered a set of card photographs from them – as part of Emily Adams’s[8] New Year present to me. She sent me $50, and this is the first thing I have decided on…

Last evening we all went to meet General Burnside and wife[9] at a family party at Wm. Gray’s[10] – a pleasant evg. He is a splendid looking man, tall, with a grand build, fine eyes, teeth, complexion, and a very taking smile. His wife quiet, ladylike, unpretending, not pretty but sensible & very pleasing…

I rec’d $300 on Thursday. $50 of it for Frank,[11] the rest for myself, from Horace Gray;[12] he is always kind and generous. Our poor neighbor Mrs. W. P. Lyman[13] is trembling for the life of her sweet little Minnie,[14] who sickened of diphtheria, a week after little Lily’s death, and now lies very low. My heart aches for her – two such darling little girls; but there is still hope that this one may be saved…

Wednesday, 10 February 1864: We are distressed to-day, to hear of sweet little Minnie Lyman’s death yesterday noon. A most lovely child, very beautiful and singularly precocious. Two out of the three sweet child faces,[15] whose exquisite smiling loveliness made so fair a picture of child life, grouped at their basement window some 4 weeks since, eagerly watching a street-organ – two gone forever more, pale, still, and cold all that beaming glowing sweetness – how will their poor young mother bear it? God help her. I shall never forget that group, I paused at the time to nod to them as I passed and take it all in – they were so lovely: little did I dream that gay smiling greeting would be our last on earth…

Yesterday, sewing circle at Mrs. Wm. Greenough’s[16] – a pleasant meeting. Rebecca [Wainwright][17] came to tea and brought “Pet Marjorie”[18] to read aloud…

Sunday, 14 February 1864: …On Friday we were agreeably surprised by a visit from Mr. James Carey[19] of Baltimore – he married my cousin Sue Kimber. Thursday, the family from Mother Gray’s[20] dined here. I have decided to get me a square camel’s hair shawl from $100 of Horace Gray’s recent present of $250 – also have set aside another $100 for a parlor bookcase. I have got a fine set of card photographs, 76 of them, from Doré’s Illuss.’s of Danté – and a handsome book for them, from $15 of the $50 Emily Adams gave me at Christmas – shall probably select ice-cream knives with the rest of the money. I shall spend a morning at the public library, collating and numbering my cartes, with the large engraved folio of Doré’s Dante, and copying off the quotations appropriate to each. It will be quite a piece of work.

Sam has given up his collection of Postage Stamps to Regie [Gray],[21] in exchange for Regie’s shells – Regie of course is giving away quantities of stamps to Mary, Morris, Ed. Gray[22] &c. But I insisted on his keeping for himself all that were not duplicates – and filling up his own stamp collection first, as was but fair; if someone did not keep an eye over that boy’s lavish and impulsive generosity, he would give away the very nose upon his face! He takes real delight in giving. Exchanged some of these very stamps with the Bullard boys for shells only day before yesterday, expressly to add to Sam’s shells; a dear, darling, harum scarum, warmhearted boy.

Sam is much pleased with a little English pocket testament he bought, captured from, or with, the blockade runner “Minna.” Mr. Carey thinks Maryland will be the first Slave state to abolish slavery – a triumphant march of opinion for Maryland…

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] Daughter of a Shober family friend from Philadelphia, Susan Jackson (1785–1882) was married to Isaac P. Davis 1807–55.

[3] Not to be confused with Mrs. William Pratt Lyman (see Note 14 below): Mary Boott (1795–1878) married William Lyman in 1821.

[4] The diarist’s second son, Samuel Shober Gray (1849–1926).

[5] At 145 Tremont Street.

[6] Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré (1832–1883).

[7] Doré’s edition of Commedia by Durante degli Alighieri (Dante; ca. 1265–1321) was published 1861–68.

[8] Emeline Matilda Adams (1824–1884), who had married Caleb Agry Curtis in January 1864.

[9] The controversial Major General Ambrose Everett Burnside (1824–1881), who married Mary Richmond Bishop in 1852.

[10] The diarist’s brother-in-law, William Gray (1810–1892), at 20 Mount Vernon Street.

[11] Dr. Gray.

[12] Mrs. Gray’s brother-in-law Horace Gray of New York (1821–1901).

[13] Abby Mauran Church Humphreys (1826–1891) was married to William Pratt Lyman 1855–64. The Lymans lived at 58 Bowdoin Street.

[14] Mary Williams Lyman (b. 1855) died 9 February.

[15] The Lymans’ surviving child was William Pratt Lyman (Jr.) (1860–1924), who married Helen Beeckman in 1886.

[16] Catherine Scollay Curtis (1821–1899) married William Whitwell Greenough in 1841.

[17] Mrs. Gray’s best friend, Rebecca Parker Wainwright (1820–1901).

[18] Pet Marjorie: A Story of Child-Life Fifty Years Ago (1863) by Dr. John Brown (1810–1882).

[19] James Carey (1821–1894) married Susanna Budd Kimber in 1850.

[20] The diarist’s mother-in-law, Mary Clay (1790–1867), who married William Rufus Gray in 1809; her household (at 22 Mount Vernon Street) included her unmarried children Frederic (1815–1877), Anne Eliza (1819–1884), and Ellen Gray (1830–1921).

[21] Mrs. Gray’s third son, Reginald Gray (1853–1904).

[22] The diarist’s daughter Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923), son Morris Gray (1856–1931), and nephew Edward Gray (1851–1907).

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.

3 thoughts on “‘A morning at the public library’

    1. Dr. and Mrs. Gray were, at this stage, comparatively poor relations: Dr. Gray’s mother was well-provided-for, and his brothers William and Horace were successful businessmen; Mrs. Gray’s stepmother and brother John Shober were both well-off, and other members of the Gray and Shober families took trouble to give the F. H. Grays money and thoughtful presents. (This process was not fool-proof, and there were occasional hurt feelings.) In time, with the deaths of the older generation (and some of Dr. and Mrs. Gray’s siblings), financial tensions eased, but it was really the earning power of their children, in the 1880s, that gave Mrs. Gray some financial security at the end of her life.

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