Letitia Hall, "Threshold of a Century: the Diary of Louisa Adams Park, 1800-1801"


To add to his self reproaches, he beheld in his tormented memory the countenance of his brother at their last interview, as it changed, while he censured his marriage, and treated with disrespect the object of his conjugal affection. He remembered the anger repressed, the tear bursting forth, and the last glimpse he had of him, as he left his presence for ever.32
She wrote of a dream:

Go to bed and dream of seeing my husband very much dejected, and would not tell me the reason talks to himself, but I could not hear what he said. At last, requested me to take Warren and sit for him to take our pictures. He attempted it but wept; threw away his pencil, and declared it was nothing like the original kissed me and protested with enthusiasm, none should tempt him to leave his wife and child. I awoke in tears, happy to find it a dream.33
The novels confirmed that her emotional responses were a normal part of life, and gave Louisa a vocabulary for her most intense emotions. She had to suppress her feelings when writing to John while sitting with her family34 but the her feelings were validated by the novels and expressed in the diary.

American literacy was on the rise in the late 18th century. Since the Revolution, Americans, especially American women, were becoming avid readers. Reading was viewed as an instructive activity and a necessary skill. Sermons and studies of natural history were widely read, but women increasingly read fiction. As the literacy rate rose, so did the sale of novels. Furthermore, one did not have to be well-to-do to get books. Libraries, common even in small towns, made it possible to rent books very inexpensively. By 1800, reading was not an upper-class activity any longer. The popularity of novels indicated that a new kind of market for books was developing; books were being read by a mass audience for the first time. All of the books Louisa mentioned reading were well known in her time.35  She used the library at Amesbury, so the books she read were available to all of her social group. It is possible that she discussed the books with her friends during their many social calls.

32. Mrs. Inchbald, Nature and Art (London: G.G. and J. Robinson, 1796; reprint, New York: Woodstock Books, 1994) 40.
33. Park, Diary, January 8, 1801.
34. Park, to John Park, January 5, 1800; Diary, January 25, 1801.
35. Cathy N. Davidson, Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) 11-16.
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