Last week I shared a letter from Lucy Chase to a Henry Sargent, and promised more about it this week. Here’s the letter again, as a refresher!
Any thoughts? Well, according to those who have studied this letter, many agree that it is, in fact, a joke! Knowing Lucy’s personality (her wit, her humor, and her intelligence) it hardly seems in character for her to write such a dramatic, love scorn letter. The fact that it is incredibly over the top reaffirms its role as a piece written to give Mr. Sargent a good laugh.
And for those who are wondering, Mr. Henry Sargent was a doctor living and practicing in Worcester. His older brother, Joseph, was also a doctor in Worcester. Henry married his “Miss Whitney”, Catherine Dean Whitney, in 1849. Henry unfortunately died at the young age of 36.
This letter proves the importance of context in historical research. Reading the letter without any background information about Lucy, one would probably take the letter at face value. Even knowing basic information about Lucy, such as her birth and death, where she lived, and what she did, might not be enough. It is because this letter lives in the larger context of the Chase Family Papers that we are able to understand its value. By piecing together an entire picture of Lucy through her correspondence and diary entries, we can recognize this letter for what it truly is.
Finally, I love this letter for proving to those who think people were so different “back then” that they really were not. People have always had a great sense of humor!