‘The old familiar music’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Skipping ahead in the Regina Shober Gray[1] diary to Christmas 1870, the Gray family – along with Mrs. Gray’s siblings, the Shobers, and the diarist’s closest friends – was both generous and imaginative in its gift-giving.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 18 December 1870: Cold weather at last – Morris [Gray] had a good day’s skating on the little pond at Uncle John [Gray]’s[2] in Cambridge yesterday – and is tired out to day par consequent. Cora Weld & F.G. Peabody[3] have really enjoyed her visit here this week – she is much more accessible here, from Cambridge, where his duties [at Harvard Divinity School] confine him steadily, than at Jamaica Plain – and he can see her every day instead of only 2 or 3 times a week. I am not a very fierce duenna, having been young and in love once myself; so we leave them to themselves a great deal…

The girls got home [from a dance] at about 2 a.m., which gave us a chance to see the glorious “Aurora” – broad bright flames of blood red & orange light streaming up from a low double arch of white light. It was the most vivid piece of colour I have ever seen, in that way.

Strenuous efforts are to be made to bring the offender to justice…

There has been a serious commotion at Harvard College; a wicked piece of hazing, blowing up a freshman’s room, with gunpowder or nitro glycerine shattering furniture windows &c in 4 or 5 rooms – lifting joists, displacing doors so that inmates could not get out of their rooms – throwing one man to the ceiling and nearly suffocating several – and alarming the whole town – is a matter wh: goes a little beyond the limits of a joke. Strenuous efforts are to be made to bring the offender to justice – as amenable to civil law.

Monday, 26 December 1870: A hurried week of Xmas shopping &c. a family Xmas dinner on Saturday; it was more convenient to us to keep that, than Monday. The family from 22 [Mount Vernon Street][4] and Uncle J.C.G. & Aunt E. were the guests. It was my 52d birth-day! how old that sounds.

Sam [Gray] gave me a beautiful book, Birket Foster’s Eng. Landscapes[5] – Mary [Gray] a thermometer & Regie [Gray] a Holmes Stereoscope & Yo Semite views – splendid ones. R.P.W.[6] sent me a portemonnaie,[7] much needed, and Sallie Gray,[8] two magnificent books royal folio, “Doré’s Illus. of La Fontaine,”[9] wh. for sumptuous binding, paper, & type are a luxury to look upon; and the designs are wonderful, as is everything Gustave Doré does. Mary Shober[10] sent me $500! of wh. I was to give $25 to each of the young people – $45 is reserved to pay for Mary’s gray porcelain miniature, [and] Am Mai [Mary Shober]’s present to Dr. Gray; … with the rest I have bought a new parlor sofa, a couch for M.C.G.’s room, a piano stool, and several minor matters I could hardly otherwise have afforded.

Mrs. Shober sent me a lovely 15 or 18 in. high marble Apollo, which got cruelly broken coming on – alas! –

Frank [Gray] gave me a Swiss carved bread plate & knife; & Morris [Gray] “Aspendale”[11]; & Lucy B[owditch][12] a warm knit sontag.[13] Sallie Lewis[14] sent a fan to M.C.G., gloves to the boys – and to me a luxury of a satin hood – wadded & trimmed with fur, with deep cape – & Mrs. Shober[15] sent me a lovely 15 or 18 in. high marble Apollo, which got cruelly broken coming on – alas! – and to M.C.G.1 doz. kids[16] – F.C.G. a beautiful Russia leather papeterie & portefeuille[17]; to Sam, an exquisite gilt bronze bill holder, opening like leaves of a book, on a sawhorse stand; to Rege a very “nobby” wallet in gray duck[18] with Russian leather trimmings; to Morris a silvered bronze owl on a gilt stand, with which he is delighted. Indeed we are all delighted with all our gifts.

Lucy had something for everyone – a grand ivory paperknife for Sam, with his monogram on it. Jet earrings for Mary, & Emily Curtis[19] gave her a jet necklace which matches them nicely. Lucy gave Morris a minimum thermom; Rege an oxydz’d silver watch chain & Frank a hanging watch case – of leather, very ornate; and I gave them all, books & ha[nd]k[erchie]fs – &c; also to Mary a sofa cushion wh. I filled up – and I had the mate one wh: Lucy B. filled made up for myself. When Mary’s new couch comes home her old one is to be restuffed & covered for Sam & Rege.

Emily Curtis called for me last evg. to go with them to the Messiah. How we enjoyed the old familiar music I have not heard for years, nor had she. It was finely rendered in every respect.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. Their children were Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904; Frank, F.C.G.), Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923; M.C.G.), Samuel Shober Gray (1849–1926), Reginald Gray (1853–1904), and Morris Gray (1856–1931). Entries from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] Dr. Gray’s uncle, John Chipman Gray (1793–1881), who married Elizabeth Pickering Gardner in 1820. See also the entry for 26 December.

[3] Cora Weld (1848–1914) and Francis Greenwood Peabody (1847–1936) were married in June 1872.

[4] The household of Dr. Gray’s unmarried siblings Frederic Gray (1815–1877), Anne Eliza Gray (1819–1884), and Ellen Gray (1830–1921).

[5] Myles Birket Foster (1825–1899), the illustrator of Beauties of English Landscape (1862).

[6] The diarist’s best friend, Rebecca Parker Wainwright (1820–1901).

[7] A wallet.

[8] Sarah Frances Loring (1811–1892) married Dr. Gray’s brother William in 1834.

[9] Perhaps Fables de La Fontaine, published in Paris in 1867.

[10] The diarist’s elder sister Mary Morris Shober (1816–1873).

[11] Aspendale (1870) by Harriet Waters Preston (1836–1911).

[12] Mary Gray’s close friend Lucy Bowditch (1850–1918), who married Richard Stone in 1875.

[13] A type of shawl.

[14] The diarist’s younger sister Sarah Morris Shober (1825–1917), who married the Rev. William Phillips Lewis in 1868.

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

[16] Gloves.

[17] A box for holding writing paper and a wallet.

[18] A type of canvas.

[19] Another intimate friend: Emeline Matilda Adams (1823–1883), who married Caleb Agry Curtis in 1864.

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.

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