AAS holds in its manuscripts collections an excerpted diary of a convict from the 19th century. It is a small unassuming volume of just under fifty pages on plain brown paper, and doesn’t visually grab your attention. It was the title on the front page that piqued my curiosity: Promiscuous Leaves from My Diary.
A glance inside confirms that it is not a usual diary. It is allegedly a collection of entries from a prison diary, which bears a gift inscription to an Anthony S. Morse, a prison inspector. The relationship of the writer of the diary to Mr. Morse is unknown, though an educated guess might be that it is related to trying to win the diary writer’s freedom.
The diary leaves me with a number of questions:
1. If the alleged original diary actually existed at one time, and it has not been lost or destroyed, where is it?
2. The length of the original diary is not clear, when did the diary begin? Furthermore, when did it end?
3. The prisoner speaks of facing a very long imprisonment. Did he ever get out of prison?
4. The writer of the diary, at least according to what he has chosen to excerpt, is quite convinced of his own innocence. If there’s any historical evidence, which way does it point?
I plan to post a bit of this diary at a time, while also researching the context and the person who wrote the diary. Hopefully, we’ll all learn a few things, and have some fun along the way! I think you’ll agree once you read some of the diary that it’s an intriguing document.
We begin with the front and back of the first three leaves:
Intrigued? Stay tuned for the next installment…