London by the book

My great-great-great-grandparents were known to have the largest private collection of books in their community. I don’t doubt that they and all of their children owned and read Charles Dickens books. Dickens published Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Old Curiosity Shop in the 1830s and 40s, when my G-G-grandmother Caroline was a teenager. I have written Dickens books into Caroline’s story, as a matter of fact. Which brings me to reblog a post I wrote in 2008, when our family lived in London and I visited the Charles Dickens Museum on Doughty Street.

London Town

It seems to me only fitting that I should read books by British authors while we’re living here. To that end, I’ve so far enjoyed Jane Austen’s  Sense and Sensibility and Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.

I’m admitting here, of course, that my classic reading credentials up to now are thin. When we studied Great Expectations in high school, I’m pretty sure I used the Cliffs Notes version rather than reading the whole book. Pretty shameful, eh?

But I’m living in Dickens’ city now, and I’m inspired. He is everywhere. Just a few blocks from SU’s London Centre stands Dickens’ former home, at 48 Doughty Street. While he lived there with his wife Catherine, their first two children were born. And his two literary Dickens’ deskchildren, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist were born there as well.

I actually stood next to the desk where he wrote his last…

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‘I Hope…To See You Once More And Then I Would Die Contented’: An Irish Mother Writes to Her Son

The American Civil War was not fought by native-born Americans alone. This heart-touching letter, written by an Irish mother living in New York in 1864, is but one example of the sacrifices Irish immigrants made for this country.

Irish in the American Civil War

Bridget Burns married her husband William in Ireland on 18th August 1840. When her husband died eight years later, he left Bridget a widow and their only child, Henry, fatherless at the age of six. By the time 1861 came along, Bridget and her son were living 125 Greenwich Avenue, New York. On 19th August that year 19-year-old Henry enlisted, becoming a Private in Company D of the 59th New York Infantry. With that act, Bridget became one of tens of thousands of Irish mothers who spent each day on edge, waiting for news from the front. Over the course of the war Henry regularly corresponded with his mother; he sent his letters to neighbour Catharine Farrell who read them out to the illiterate Irishwoman.

Henry, always keen to hear from home, felt his mother didn’t write to him enough and chastised her for it- at one point in 1863 telling…

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