Works Cited or Quoted
Abigail, and John Adams], The Book of Abigail and John: Selected
Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784 ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc
Friedlander, and Mary-Jo Kline (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Selected correspondence of two accomplished letter writers of the Revolutionary
years, with politics, domestic life, and gender perspectives stitching
[Breckinridge, Lucy], Lucy Breckinridge of Grove Hill: the Journal
of a Virginia Girl, 1862-1864 ed. Mary D. Robertson (Columbia: University
of South Carolina Press, 1994).
The wartime journal of a young planter class woman in southwestern Virginia,
especially telling of a womans experience of waiting to hear war
news from afar. Her entries blend a young womans concern with
friendships, reading, and gossip with a dawning sense of nationalism
and southern distinctiveness.
Buck, Lucy Rebecca, Sad Earth, Sweet Heaven: the Diary of Lucy Rebecca
Buck during the War Between the States, Front Royal, Virginia, December
25, 1861 - April 15, 1865 (Birmingham, Ala.: Cornerstone, ).
A Shenandoah Valley woman in her early 20s, whose diary records military
action constantly spilling over into domestic life. Bucks diary-keeping
almost exactly coincides with the duration of the war.
Altman, Janet Gurkin, Epistolarity: Approaches to a Form (Columbus:
Ohio State University Press, 1982).
A very useful guide to thinking about letters and letter-writing in
general, raising issues of how the reader and writer interact through
the letter, how letters both create and bridge gaps of distance and
time, and how letters differ from related forms of writing.
Dickinson, Emily, The Letters of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas
H. Johnson and Theodora Ward, 3 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1958). The poets collected letters, a good example of how
such collections over a long period of time resemble a diarys
account of the writers changing perspective on her life.
Dublin, Thomas, ed., Farm to Factory: Womens Letters, 1830-1860,
2nd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).
Correspondence home from young New England women working in the textile
mills. The letters are filled with youths ambitions, accounts
of hard work, hopes for family, and, sometimes, criticism of factory
Escott, Paul D., ed., North Carolina Yeoman: the Diary of Basil Armstrong
Thomasson, 1853-1862 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996).
One of the comparatively few nineteenth-century diaries published
or manuscript written by a non-elite man. Thomasson records his
views of his farming practices and economy, his neighbors, religion,
and the coming of the Civil War.
Faragher, John Mack, Women and Men on the Overland Trail (New
Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979).
A path-breaking historical analysis of settlers moving West, discussing
distinctions between womens and mens immigrant experience
based on the different ways they wrote letters about it.
Elizabeth, Read This Only to Yourself: the Private Writings of Midwestern
Women, 1880-1910 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982).
Close and sensitive readings of the letters of ordinary North Dakota
farm women, with generous examples from their correspondence, on topics
ranging from cooking and the weather to sex and death.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Letters, 1804-1864, ed. Thomas Woodson,
L. Neal Smith, and Norman Holmes Pearson, 4 vols. (Columbus: Ohio State
University Press, 1984-1987).
Hawthornes prodigious output of letters of all kinds, including
ones in which he reflects on written correspondence as a literary form.
Like Emily Dickinsons letters, this is a long-term collection
which amounts to an extended self-portrait.
Litoff, Judy Barrett and David C. Smith, Since You Went Away: World
War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1991).
A lively interpretation of the wars home front and womens
experience of war, work, and worry through a sampling of their letters,
happy and sad.
Morgan, Sarah, The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman, ed. Charles
East (New York: Touchstone Books, 1992).
A young Louisiana woman whose diary of the war is a striking combination
of objective description and subjective mood. Morgans diary is
an unusually compelling blend of sharply seen personal details
conversations, flirtations, destructions and vivid, sometimes
panoramic visions of a society turned upside down.
Redkey, Edwin S., ed., A Grand Army of Black Men: Letters from African-American
Soldiers in the Union Army, 1861-1865 (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Collected war-front letters from black Union soldiers originally published
in African-American and abolitionist newspapers during the war, arranged
by geographic place and by topic. Interesting for the overlap of letter
form and journalism.
Starobin, Robert S., ed., Blacks in Bondage: Letters of American
Slaves (New York: New Viewpoints, 1974).
Letters of all kinds from African Americans in bondage, to family, friends,
and the people who owned them. Selections give a sense of the spectrum
of slaves response to their servitude, from means of adaptation
to hints of outright rebellion.
Strong, George Templeton, Diary, 1835-1875, ed. Allan Nevins
and Milton Henry Thomas, 4 vols. (New York: MacMillan, 1952).
The diary of an upper class New Yorker, one of the best-known journals
of the Civil War era, who fervently supported a Union victory and criticized
everyone from Lincoln to Lee.
Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher, A Midwifes Tale: the Life of Martha
Ballard, Based on her Diary, 1785-1812 (New York: Vintage Books,
An award-winning interpretation of a colonial American midwifes
diary/log book, with many insights into the historical interpretation
of diaries in general. Thatcher seamlessly joins her portrait of Ballards
work and social position to questions of diary-reading and historical
Woodward, C. Vann, ed., Mary Chesnuts Civil War (New Haven,
Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981).
Woodward gives an interesting account in the introduction of his sleuthing
work as editor of this complex text (written in part during the war
and in part afterwards), including his discovery that earlier editions
of this famous South Carolinians diary had been greatly altered
Writing in General
Fabian, Ann, The Unvarnished Truth: Personal Narratives in Nineteenth-Century
America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
A wide-ranging look at the nineteenth-century literary impulse to tell
about ones own experiences, especially those thought to provoke
amazement, pity, or deep concern. A thoughtful study generally of peoples
desire to write about their lives.
Folkenflik, Robert, ed., The Culture of Autobiography: Constructions
of Self-Representation (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press,
Eleven essays on the broad and diverse act of self-invention through
writing about ones life. Essays range from theoretical studies
of autobiographical imagination to cross-cultural analyses of autobiographical
Heilbrun, Carolyn G., Writing a Womans Life (New York:
W. W. Norton, 1988).
A succinct, ground-breaking discussion of the way in which gender and
personal writing intersect time and place, through a look at womens
lives in English literature, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Barton, David, and Nigel Hall, eds., Letter Writing as Social Practice
(Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2000).
In one of the most wide-ranging collections, thirteen essayists look
at social settings for the writing of letters, from love letters to
prison letters, eighteenth to twenty-first centuries.
Decker, William Merrill, Epistolary Practices: Letter Writing in
America Before Telecommunications (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1998).
An interesting study of how the materiality as well as the intellectuality
of letters shaped peoples relationships and their sense of social
bonds before instant communication. There is a usefully
broad spectrum of correspondence which includes letters of ordinary
Americans as well as those from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson,
and Henry Adams. An excellent bibliography.
Earle, Rebecca, ed., Epistolary Selves: Letters and Letter-Writers,
1600-1945 (Aldershot, Eng.: Ashgate, 1999).
Ten essays examining the letter form and letter writing, ranging from
the paper visits of the eighteenth century to American mothers
World War II correspondence to sons, government, and each other. A very
Emerson, Everett, ed., Letters from New England: the Massachusetts
Bay Colony, 1629-1638 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press,
Examples from early American history, with a suggestive introduction,
bibliography, and note on sources.
Redford, Bruce, The Converse of the Pen: Acts of Intimacy in the
Eighteenth-Century Familiar Letter (Chicago: University of Chicago
A literary critics look at the social and intellectual beginnings
of the modern personal letter. A good blend of historical
setting and literary analysis of personal correspondence and its relation
to other forms of writing.
Bunkers, Suzanne L., and Cynthia A. Huff, eds., Inscribing the Daily:
Critical Essays on Womens Diaries (Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press, 1996).
An excellent collection of 15 essays on the broad cultural significance
of reading and writing diaries. The topics range from specific diaries
to literary theory, with much commentary on historical context throughout.
The editors have a lucid, useful introductory essay in which they relate
the diary form to other kinds of womens literature and thus to
the historical roots of gender. There is a useful, wide-ranging bibliography.
Culley, Margo, ed., A Day at a Time: the Diary Literature of American
Women from 1764 to the Present (New York: Feminist Press, 1985).
A sampler of womens journal writing, with 29 excerpts covering
three centuries. The pace is necessarily quick, but the volume has a
thoughtful introduction on the historical significance the diary as
a powerful literary form leading American women to become evermore personally
and politically conscious. The bibliography is excellent.
Franklin, Penelope, ed., Private Pages: Diaries of American Women,
1830s-1970s (New York: Ballantine Books, 1986).
Excerpts from 13 lesser-known womens diaries, including ones written
by a 70-year-old Pennsylvanian in the 1830s, a Minneapolis woman coming
of age in the 1920s, and a young Japanese-American woman living in the
Tule Lake relocation camp during World War II. Franklin has added brief,
helpful introductions and afterwards sections to frame the
Gannett, Cynthia, Gender and the Journal: Diaries and Academic Discourse
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992).
A literary and personal exploration of diaries as spanning popular and
academic expression or, more to the point, diaries are seen as
a literary form which opens up specialized academic writing on language
and feeling. An emphasis on both womens and mens writing
is central to the book, and there is a useful bibliography.
Kagle, Steven E., Early Nineteenth-Century American Diary Literature
(Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986).
A suggestive typology, with examples, of the centurys diary literature,
including diaries of spiritual quest, diaries of travel, diaries of
situation, life-long diaries, and philosophical (Transcendentalist)
journals. Includes a good bibliography of major nineteenth-century diaries.