‘The prudence of staying at home’

[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
As her children grew up, from time to time Regina Shober Gray[1] offered pen portraits on their emerging characters: here, she reflects on her older children Frank, Mary, and Sam Gray.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Friday, 4 March 1864: Frank [Gray][2] got home on Tuesday at 9½ p.m. after 3 weeks in Philad[elphia] and 1 in New York. He had a good time, and has grown decidedly; but brought home a heavy cold, by wh[ich] he is quite sick, and wh. he considers a decidedly ignoble termination to his festivities. He is now at Cambridge, though I strenuously urged the prudence of staying at home to be nursed up, [until] Monday next. He brought me from Horace [Gray][3] a copy of “Chron’s. of Schönberg-Cotta Family”[4] wh. I was delighted to get – three people having recommended it to me within a week as a most charming book – one to own &c.

Horace is too generous. He sent me $300 a few weeks since, and on Wednesday, Dr. Gray’s birth day, a present of $1200 came to him! The birth day dinner went off well – Uncle J. was too sick to come, but Aunt E.[5] did and sent a splendid pile of lovely flowers, so that after the guests had gone, we sent one large dish and 3 vases of roses, japonicas, azaleas &c to as many sick folk.

This morning I made a round of calls in Boylston St. and Arlington. Have had a busy week – Miss Choate[6] at work here for the boys – but I have not had time to sit down once steadily to work with her.

Frank Bowditch and Lizzie Perry[7] were married on Wednesday; Dr. Derby and Miss Bessie Parsons[8] yesterday. Ellen and Isa Gray[9] with Sarah Wallace[10] are expected tonight. Wm. Gray[11] is very poorly, completely overworked and run-down. A man who works on to the last minute and then stops, because he breaks down utterly – and it takes his constitution forever to rally.

Frank made over to Sam [Gray][12] the cabinet of shells which R.P.W.[13] gave him some years ago. F.C. never cared much for them; books and coins are his specialty in the collector’s line. Sam is delighted – and spent great part of yesterday and to day washing, sorting and re-arranging…

To night Mary [Gray][14] has 4 girls to take tea – and play besique,[15] with candy prizes. She seems very popular with her companions, and is very full of fun from all accounts. She promises to be a woman of brilliant gifts and what is yet better, of intelligent conscientiousness, and warm heart, with great refinement and delicacy and [a] very good share of common sense.

As for our precious Sam, he grows daily in grace – a conscientious, sensitive, aspiring boy, with a wonderfully steady quiet perseverance, intelligent, thoughtful and unpretending – with a sweet fair face and a saintly purity of expression, such as methinks the apostle John might have worn – a most precious boy.

Sunday, 13 March 1864: I have been poorly for several days, rather overdid myself the early part of the week, on Wed’y especially – shopping all the morning beside calling at Aunt Sarah B[radlee]’s[16] and to see Isa Gray. After dinner to Dr. Rimmer’s lecture on Art Anatomy,[17] till 5 o’c then to King’s Chapel Soc’y – then a visit from Mrs. Sprague,[18] which left me barely time to smoothe up a little before Miss Wilby[19] arrived.

We are busy on a set of shirts for F.C.G. of which he stands greatly in need, and that hurries me – and to crown all, Regie [Gray]’s[20] eyes are weak, and he cannot study, so I distract myself over his arithmetic and Latin grammar. I who never studied Latin, and never fairly understood even English grammar! This duty really exhausts my brain-power, more than anything else.

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

[3] Dr. Gray’s brother Horace Gray of New York (1821–1901).

[4] Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family (1862) by Elizabeth Rundle Charles (1828–1896).

[5] Dr. Gray’s uncle John Chipman Gray (1793–1881) was married to Elizabeth Pickering Gardner 1820–79.

[6] A family seamstress.

[7] Ebenezer Francis Bowditch (1841–1891) married Elizabeth Fessenden Perry on 2 March.

[8] Dr. George Derby (1819–1874) married Elizabeth Parsons on 3 March.

[9] Dr. Gray’s sister, Ellen Gray (1830–1921), and niece Isa Elizabeth Gray (1841–1923).

[10] The Grays’ cousin.

[11] Dr. Gray’s elder brother, William Gray (1810–1892).

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

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

[14] The diarist’s daughter Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923).

[15] A “French … trick-taking card game.”

[16] Mrs. Gray’s stepmother’s aunt Sarah Fletcher Bradlee (1789–1866).

[17] Dr. William Rimmer (1816–1879), director of the Cooper Union School of Design for Women 1866–70; his lectures were published under the title Art Anatomy in 1877.

[18] Sarah Deming (1794–1881) was married to Senator Peleg Sprague 1818–80.

[19] The headmistress of Mary Gray’s school.

[20] The diarist’s third son, Reginald Gray (1853–1904).

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.

2 thoughts on “‘The prudence of staying at home’

  1. In regard to her notes (number 7) about the Bowditch/Perry marriage: she states that the marriage took place on a Wednesday. My grandparents, Walter Samuel Pinkham and Isabella Southworth Foote took place on a Monday. These seem unlikely days to be married in today’s world. Was it the custom in the 19th century to be married on week days or was it just not a problem, as it would be today?

    1. That’s right, Sylvia, weddings took place on all days of the week. Perhaps we have become more rigid about punching the clock during working hours, but for Mrs. Gray and her contemporaries, weddings — like funerals — were held at the convenience of the participating parties!

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