Because Reading is Fundamental...

Monday, December 3, 2012

An 1815 Diary of a Shipwrecked Girl

Available here.

From the seller's description:
Exceptionally rare and original, 1815-16 Manuscript Journal / Diary entitled "A Journal Of A Voyage From Frankfort (Maine) Bound To Plymouth (Massachusetts) On Board The Schooner Betsey”. “Kept by Hannah B. Drew”. This handwritten Journal offers a fascinating tale of the harrowing experience of Hannah Bartlett Drew and her traveling companion Betsey who were shipwrecked off the coast of Maine on their way home to Plymouth, Massachusetts and transferred from vessel to vessel in an attempt to reach their original destination, traveling to the West Indies and eventually arriving home three months after leaving Maine.

    Measuring approximately 14" x 8 1/2 ", this Journal begins on October 23rd, 1815, and ends on January 16th, 1816. It contains 22 lined pages, 14 1/2 of which are filled with the very legible black ink penmanship of Hannah Drew. There is also a cover page (detached) with the title of the Journal inscribed on both sides. The entire Journal / Diary is entirely in the hand of Hannah Drew with just a few daily entries written by "Betsey" with a notation that reads "Hannah is not well".

    On the afternoon of Monday, October 23rd, 1815, Hannah Drew and her friend Betsey set sail in a small boat from Orrington, Maine to Frankfort, Maine. There they boarded The Schooner Betsey under the command of Captain Harlow. This was to have been a short trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts for the two girls, but it quickly turned into a three month nightmare for them.

    On the 25th of October, 1815, Captain Harlow's vessel set sail, and for the next two days the girls are extremely seasick. On Friday the 27th Hannah describes the wind as blowing very hard and the girls as being very much frightened. The girls are ordered to their berths, but Hannah sneaks up to the deck where she describes the scene: "O! Most dreadful was the sight. Cutting the mast down, pumping and boiling water out of her." And then "...we expected every moment they would come and tell us they could do no more. We must be drowned."

    On October 29th, the Ship Two Sisters of Dover bound for the West Indies comes to the relief of The Betsey, which has been drifting about, and the girls are transferred aboard. The girls now have a new problem; they wish to see a ship bound for America, but this does not happen. The Two Sisters continues on it's journey, and the month of November passes as the ship sails South.

    Hannah reports seeing Trinidad and Tobago; she says "Negroes came and brought us oranges... the gentlemen continue to be attentive. They intend selling us to the Negroes I believe." This does not transpire, and on Monday November 27th, the ship anchors in St. Pierre, Martinique. Here they meet Americans who arrange for transportation back to New England, and on December 3rd, the girls embark on yet another journey.

    The month of December is spent sailing northward, and Hannah describes the trip, the company, the weather, and various pastimes aboard ship. On Thursday, January 11th, 1816, the ship anchors at Cape Ann, Massachusetts. A hard snow falls, and the girls are afraid they will not be able to leave the ship, but on January 12th a man from the boat carries them in his arms on shore; they are met by a man with a horse and sleigh who delivers them to the home of the Mansfield family. On Monday, January 15th, Hannah and Betsey board a stage for Boston. "We stopped quite often. At one house we saw a gentleman who had been to Plymouth, and he heard our friends had given us up for lost."

    At last, on January 16th, 1816, Hannah and Betsey set out for Plymouth. "We got to Old Plymouth at two O'clock. Before we got to the door, the driver called out 'I have got the girls' and people by dozens ran to see us. When we got in Kingston there was an old man put his head into the stage and said 'I want to go home and say I have seen the shipwrecked girls.' So you see, my parents, that strangers felt for us, and everyone that knew of it. I hope that I shall never cause so much anxiety again, and that all will be rewarded for their trouble, and I be spared to see you all again." Signed, Hannah Bartlett Drew.

    This Journal is a simply amazing and fascinating narrative of what was surely a horrifying experience for these two young girls in the early 19th century. Although there is no mention in the Journal of the girls' ages, a reading of the text leads us to believe that these were pre-teen or early teenage girls - 11 to 14 or 15 years of age. Hannah was obviously a well educated and articulate young woman and her "tale of woe and redemption" is a simply amazing read!!! Our first thought was that this was a contemporary "copy" made by Hannah Drew from her original Diary as the penmanship is consistently neat and the same ink used for all entries. Close inspection of the manuscript, however does show subtle but definite variations in the handwriting from day to day and our best assessment is that this is the actual journal kept by Hannah. We must add here, however, that others might feel that the manuscript was written by Hannah after the voyage as a copy of her original Diary.

    This wonderful and exceptionally rare, Manuscript First Hand account of the trials and travels of 2 young girls shipwrecked in 1815 is in very good condition. It is bound in paper wraps with hand lettering - the front wrap is present but detached with wear, edge chipping, soiling and staining and the rear wrap is lacking. The interior pages are complete and intact - hand bound with sewn thread. These interior pages have some minor edge chipping and some spots of staining but, overall are well preserved. The writing is dark and bold and Hannah’s excellent penmanship make the text easily readable.

    An exceptionally rare and fascinating, original 1815-16 Manuscript Journal / Diary kept by a young girl shipwrecked off the coast of Maine and carried on a harrowing journey to the West Indies and back before being returned to her parents in Plymouth, Massachusetts and a fantastic addition to any collection!

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