James Horn. A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America. New York: Basic Books, 2005. xii + 289 pp. $26.00 (hardcover).
History is only boring if it seems inevitable. Interest in colonial Virginia is, perhaps, a victim of the colony’s ultimate success. Readers are apt to forget that failure was not only possible; it often seemed probable. In few places was this truer than at Jamestown, England’s first permanent settlement in North America. James Horn breathes excitement and uncertainty into a familiar story in A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America.
Horn focuses on the fifteen years between the colony’s settlement in 1607 and the Powhatan uprising in 1622. By limiting himself to a narrow timeframe, he is able to fill in some of the gaps that exist in the standard Jamestown narrative. Drawing from contemporary accounts as well as more recent scholarship, A Land as God Made It paints a vivid and often harrowing picture of Virginia’s early years as the author weaves a narrative from events taking place among colonizing circles in England and Spain, the settlers of Jamestown, and the Powhatan alliance. It is a good story well told. Horn creates genuine suspense as the fledgling colony repeatedly teeters on the brink of disaster. Casting its eye beyond Virginia, the book gives Jamestown a global context. It not only discusses why Britain was anxious to establish a foothold in America, but also addresses the Spanish interest in Jamestown and their other activities in Virginia.
Horn creates genuine
suspense as the fledgling
colony repeatedly teeters
on the brink of disaster.
Horn describes the changing goals of the Virginia Company of London and explains how, as settlers began to realize that there would be no quick gains from precious metals or Pacific passages, the colony’s focus changed to developing a long-term, diversified economy. This shift further strained the colony’s relations with the Indians — relations that were already fraught with tension and misunderstandings. Native Virginians, who viewed the interlopers as trading partners at best, determined that despite the often-desperate circumstances of the settlers, they were unlikely to be driven from the land in a direct confrontation. Instead, the Powhatans pursued a strategy of cultivating good relations while waiting for an opportunity to strike a decisive blow against the English. When that opportunity presented itself in 1622, Indians killed 347 settlers in a series of coordinated attacks. The Crown revoked the Virginia Company’s charter the following year and assumed rule over the colony, but left no place for Indians as participants. With tobacco emerging as a cash crop and with booming free and slave populations, Virginia began to resemble the society it would remain through the Civil War.
The fort and other structures on Jamestown Island crumbled long ago, and England’s first permanent settlement in America similarly receded into the dim corners of our national memory. It should not be so. There are lessons to be learned in the history of New World exploration and great drama in the events that unfolded in Jamestown. A Land as God Made It is a thorough and engaging account of Virginia’s early struggles and successes.
— reviewed by Kelly Gilbert, Research Archivist
Marc Leepson. Flag: An American Biography. Foreword by Nelson DeMille. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2005. xvii + 334 pp. $24.95 (hardcover).
The Stars and Stripes is an internationally recognized symbol of the United States of America. Having thoroughly researched primary sources as well as the previous leading histories of the flag, Marc Leepson explores how this national flag has become an enduring symbol of American democracy and union, both loved and hated.
Leepson begins with an exploration of the unknown origins of the Stars and Stripes. He describes the various banners flown by the colonists and Revolutionaries, from Great Britain’s Union Jack to the Continental colors that George Washington used to signal the birth of the Continental army. Leepson touts Francis Hopkinson as the most likely designer of the flag, then comprehensively debunks the myth of Betsy Ross’s creative initiative.
The flag was a military and mostly naval device for much of its early history. Not until the Civil War did the Stars and Stripes become synonymous with patriotism and union. (And at the same time it meant something very different to Southerners who were proudly fighting under the Confederate flag, the Stars and Bars). After the Civil War, veterans’ groups led some of the first and most influential campaigns to spread the use of the flag to civilian life. The Grand Army of the Republic pushed for flags to be displayed in schools and churches around the country and also instituted the celebration of Memorial Day. The First and Second World Wars brought widespread patriotic displays of the U.S. flag by citizens in all the states, and after those wars, groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion took up the push to keep the Stars and Stripes in every citizen’s awareness. Cold War tensions, Vietnam, and civil unrest brought new meanings to the flag as a deeply patriotic and contrarily divisive symbol for diverse groups. Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the nation was once more united under the flag with the huge displays of red, white, and blue that blossomed coast to coast.
debunks the myth
of Betsy Ross’s
Leepson keeps the narrative moving with a generally chronological telling of events and keeps the chronicle lively with biographical accounts of the important people in the history of the flag, such as Mary Pickersgill, the seamstress who sewed the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key, and Robert G. Heft, who designed the fifty-star flag while he was still in high school. Leepson also reveals many firsts for the flag: when it was raised in England, its earliest naval battle, and when it was placed at the North Pole and on the moon. Generations of biggest flags are mentioned, as are extraordinary flag materials, including the ducttape flag produced by Scott Todd in New York City. Along with the explicit flag proceedings, Leepson also regales the reader with how and why the national anthem, pledge of allegiance, and national motto came into being.
This highly readable history of the flag is entertaining and informative for anyone with an interest in United States history or flags.
— reviewed by Maria Kimberly, Project Editor
Barbara C. Batson and Tracy L. Kamerer. A Capital Collection: Virginia’s Artistic Inheritance. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2005. xvii + 125 pp. $25.00 (hardcover).
Since 1784, when Virginia’s General Assembly commissioned a statue of George Washington and a bust of the Marquis de Lafayette, the commonwealth has amassed a rich collection of paintings and sculptures that commemorate four hundred years of Virginia’s history and culture. Housed in the state capitol, the executive mansion, and other state buildings and open spaces surrounding Capital Square, these works of art reflect eighteenth- century legislators’ conviction that public representations of eminent leaders, important events, and sublime landscapes play a crucial role in educating and inspiring future generations. After the General Assembly authorized the Virginia State Library in 1873 to acquire works related to Virginia’s past, other state agencies followed suit and began procuring portraits of governors, prominent legislators, judges of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and other civic leaders. Meanwhile, artists and benefactors augmented the collection by donating pieces of a very different sort. The allegorical statue Joy of Life , for example, entered the collection as a gift from artist Attilio Piccirilli to the wife of Governor John Garland Pollard. Taken together, these varied works complement Virginia’s rich archival resources and serve as an alternative text that documents the state’s history and demonstrates changes in artistic styles, conventions, and tastes.
When the Virginia State Capitol closed for renovation in 2005 and many of its works of art were temporarily removed, the Library of Virginia, which oversees the collection’s care and conservation, selected about fifty paintings and sculptures to display in a year- long exhibition. Tracy L. Kamerer, curator of the state art collection, and Barbara C. Batson, exhibitions coordinator at the library, wrote A Capital Collection as a companion volume that showcases many of the pieces on display and also includes other highlights of the commonwealth’s collection. The result is a striking combination of full-page photographs and succinct but informative essays that carefully examine each featured work. While several of the pieces depict landscapes or noteworthy events, the majority of the works are portraits of men (and a handful of women) who at one time captured Virginians’ attention. Some of the subjects remain familiar: George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Stonewall Jackson figure prominently in the nation’s collective memory, and their achievements are amply represented. Other subjects’ fame was more fleeting, and the reproduction of their likenesses gives modern audiences a window into events that might otherwise be largely forgotten. A fascinating example is James Westhall Ford’s oil-on-canvas portrait of Wabokieshiek, Black Hawk, and Nasheaskuk, painted as the three Native American leaders passed through Richmond after their capture by federal troops in Illinois. The expressions on the three men’s faces are difficult to describe in words, underscoring the important role these visual records play in allowing us to connect with the past. Unfortunately, there are gaps in the state’s artistic record. The portion of the collection represented in this book includes no African American subjects, a fact that both reveals and obscures much about Virginia history.
The expressions on the
three men’s faces are
difficult to describe in
words, underscoring the
important role these
visual records play ….
A Capital Collection is an interesting read as well as a useful reference work. The pieces of art, with their well-documented accompanying essays, appear in alphabetical order according to the artist’s last name. Each essay contains a biographical sketch of the artist that describes his (or, in one instance, her) interests, training, and major accomplishments and establishes the context in which his or her creations took shape. The authors then discuss the subject of the featured piece, providing a biography of the person or a description of the event depicted. The text also addresses the particular circumstances under which the painting or sculpture was executed and provides a brief evaluation of the piece, pointing out details that might escape an untrained eye. Supplementing each essay is a summary of the work’s vital statistics, including the year it was created, the medium, the size, the text of any inscriptions, the state agency to which it belongs, and the means by which it entered the collection.
By bringing Virginia’s state art collection to a wider audience, this handsome book provides an important service to anyone interested in the commonwealth’s history.
— reviewed by Jennifer R. Loux, Research Associate, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
John O. Peters. Blandford Cemetery: Death and Life at Petersburg, Virginia. Petersburg, Va.: Historic Blandford Cemetery Foundation, 2005. xiv + 170 pp. $45.00 (hardcover).
In continuous operation for nearly three centuries, Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg offers a time-traveling stroll through the history of the region, a primer on changing trends in funerary art and ironwork, and, ultimately, a revealing look at evolving American attitudes toward death and burial. So discovered author and photographer John O. Peters in completing this project for the Historic Blandford Cemetery Foundation.
Peters, coauthor and photographer of Virginia’s Historic Courthouses (1995), began his relationship with the cemetery in October 2003 when hired to photograph the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Isabel. As a writer and architectural photographer familiar with how much of our nation’s built history has been demolished, he appreciated Blandford Cemetery’s survivor status.
Built between 1735 and 1737 on the highest point in the area, Blandford Church and its graveyard were transformed to a municipal cemetery after its acquisition by the town of Petersburg in 1819. Unfortunately, the town failed to maintain it, and, between 1830 and the start of the Civil War, Blandford Church and Cemetery became a crumbling moss- and ivy-covered ruin, admired by visitors, writers, and artists as a romantic symbol of the South.
In the early aftermath of the Civil War, the newly formed Ladies Memorial Association began holding memorial ceremonies for the Lost Cause at Blandford Cemetery as early as 1866. That year also saw the start of the reinterment of thousands of Confederate dead at Blandford, most in a new section of the cemetery called Memorial Hill.
The cemetery continued to expand, providing additional burial space over the years. In response to vandalism, the Historic Blandford Cemetery Foundation was organized in 1987 to restore and preserve the site. The foundation’s efforts resulted in Blandford Cemetery’s being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Peters notes many of the prominent civic leaders buried in the graveyard, as well as artists such as actor and Petersburg native Joseph Cotten, who died in 1994, and eccentrics such as Bennett Aldridge, known as “the most wicked man in Petersburg” when he died in 1858.
The site holds a wealth of craftsmanship in marble, granite, and ironwork. Blandford Cemetery’s story, illustrated with photographic details, shows how the words and images found on the fences, headstones, table and chest tombs, mausoleums, and monuments changed over the years. The eighteenth- century’s ominous “memento mori” with skull and crossed bones gave way in the nineteenth century to the more hopeful Romanticism of weeping willows, angels, and the idea of death as a kind of sleep. By the twentieth century, the memorial park with simplified, military-style gravestones was in vogue.
The author’s striking color and black-and-white photographs showcase the vistas and private nooks of the site in various moods. In addition, dozens of historic photographs and images enliven the pages, including watercolor renderings, stereoscopic cards, sheet music, and even souvenir commemorative spoons. But this is more than a coffee-table book. In addition to being an informative text, the book provides endnotes; a bibliography; and lists of cemetery foundation officers, directors, and patrons that will be of use to researchers, now and in the future.
— reviewed by Ann E. Henderson, Assistant Copyeditor
Kent Masterson Brown. Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign. Civil War America Series. Gary W. Gallagher, Series Editor. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. xv + 534 pp. $34.95 (hardcover).
On the afternoon of July 3, 1863, the soldiers in Pickett’s Charge crested the top of Cemetery Ridge and briefly broke the Union lines before receding back across the fields littered with hundreds of their dead and wounded comrades. To many historians and Civil War buffs, this episode is known as the high-water mark of the Confederacy. After the Battle of Gettysburg, the long retreat to Virginia still faced the beaten Army of Northern Virginia. This retreat, in which General Robert E. Lee withdrew his army from Northern soil while skillfully protecting his replenished wagon trains and removing many of his wounded men, is the subject of Kent Masterson Brown’s Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign.
… skull and crossed bones
gave way … to the more
hopeful Romanticism of
weeping willows, angels,
and the idea of death
as a kind of sleep.
Beginning with a succinct account of events leading up to the battle, Brown reminds his readers that Lee had two main goals in invading Pennsylvania. He hoped to gather supplies for his men and horses from fertile Pennsylvania and to draw the Union army out of war-ravaged Virginia. Lee never intended to fight while in Pennsylvania and skillfully maneuvered his army to protect both it and its foragers. A chance encounter between Confederate and Union forces and probably Lee’s own pugnacity led to a battle that did not need to be fought. After the battle, the general needed to withdraw his army, including the wounded, and his gathered supplies back to Virginia.
This Lee did skillfully, maneuvering his army to take defensive advantage of the terrain it was crossing. The Confederates were able to return to Virginia with their wagon trains and what wounded men they could carry with them. The pursuing Union army was not able to attack and rout its opponent. Yet the Confederates were as fortunate as they were skillful. Despite rain and muddy roads, the Potomac River remained passable, and Lee’s men were able to construct a bridge to cross. Also, the Union army moved slowly as a result of injuries and perhaps of a belief that Lee’s army was larger than it actually was. By July 14, most of Lee’s army, trains, wounded men, and prisoners were across the Potomac River and in the Shenandoah Valley. The army had more provisions and fresh horses but had left some of its best men behind.
… the French fleet
defeated the British
navy and helped deliver
a decisive victory for
Brown contends that although Gettysburg was a tactical defeat, Lee’s Pennsylvania campaign, including his successful retreat with supplies and forage, was a strategic victory and that the balance of power between Confederate and Union armies remained. Yet it should be noted that after Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia never took the strategic offensive again. Still, Brown’s Retreat from Gettysburg draws a vivid and detailed account of the days following the battle.
— reviewed by Trenton E. Hizer, Senior Finding Aids Archivist
Anne Sarah Rubin. A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861– 1868. Civil War America Series. Gary W. Gallagher, Series Editor. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. x + 319 pp. $34.95 (hardcover).
Rather than a history of the Confederate States of America, as the title of this volume might suggest, A Shattered Nation is an account of the rise and fate of a shared consciousness of Confederate nationalism, the counterpart that arose in the seceded states during the Civil War of those “mystic chords of memory” to which Abraham Lincoln referred in his first inaugural address in March 1861 to remind all Americans that they belonged to the same nation. Many students of Southern history have pondered the question of whether residents of the Southern states before the Civil War shared conceptions of regional unity or identity that may have eased them into secession. Others have discussed whether an insufficiency of shared national identification subtly undermined the Confederate war effort. Anne Sarah Rubin does something entirely different: she asks what happened to the sudden outpouring of Southern patriotism that arose in 1861.
Southerners were not Northerners; Confederates were not Yankees. Committed Confederates — including soldiers and civilians, men and women, politicians and shapers of public opinion — ceased early in the war to identify themselves as what they were not and developed a conscious self-image as Confederates who possessed and defended a culture, political economy, and political tradition different from the ones of which they had been a part before the Civil War. In defeat, that self-image endured, but once the seceded states were forced back into the Union, Confederate nationalism evolved rapidly into the core beliefs of a new Southern self-identification. Old South and Confederate perceptions and rhetoric informed debates about Reconstruction, the New South, and the future.
Concentrating neither on political nor military sources, Rubin casts a wide net over the waters of public opinion in order to draw up insights from authors, editors, textbooks writers, keepers of diaries, orators at commemorative events, and private discussions of changing public events. The attitudes of women and other noncombatants are very conspicuous in A Shattered Nation and illuminate more than the old studies of Confederate nationalism or regional identity, which focused on political debates and the emotional consequences of camp life and battlefield experiences. Including many hitherto unheard voices, A Shattered Nation is therefore an important addition to the continuing scholarly discussions of Southern distinctiveness and the adaptation of defeated Confederates to life back in the Union.
— reviewed by Brent Tarter, Editor , Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Bruce Linder. Tidewater’s Navy: An Illustrated History. Foreword by David Poyer. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2005. xiv + 343 pp. $45.00 (hardcover).
The long and honored history of the United States Navy and its protective presence throughout the southern Chesapeake Bay is artfully interpreted by Bruce Linder in Tidewater’s Navy: An Illustrated History. The Tidewater is one of Virginia’s five major geographic regions, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the fall line. This imaginary line runs north to south, crossing the eastern Virginia rivers at the points where their levels are affected by tidal flow and no longer navigable. Locally, however, “Tidewater” refers to those thriving communities around Hampton Roads, a naturally protected harbor created by the confluence of the James and Elizabeth Rivers, a gateway to the Atlantic.
This region has been recognized, since colonial times, for both its strategic and economic importance. Freedom of the seas and the protection of maritime commerce were vital to sustaining the first English settlers and to the success of nation-building. In Tidewater’s Navy, Linder carefully chose the primary periods of American history to explain the navy’s contribution to the area’s growth. The world’s most powerful navies vied for control of Hampton Roads during the American Revolution. What began with the destruction of Norfolk by Royal Navy bombardment in January 1776 ended with the defeat of the British army and naval forces at Yorktown in October 1781. The author also provides a compelling narrative of one of the last great sea battles between sailing warships, known as the Battle of the Capes. In this engagement the French fleet defeated the British navy and helped deliver a decisive victory for American independence.
From that time forward, Linder lays out the progression of the United States Navy’s increasing influence on the region’s culture and economy. By 1794, a permanent naval presence had been created at Portsmouth’s Gosport Navy Yard. The young nation’s first dry dock was constructed there in 1833. In subsequent years, many warships built and maintained at that facility, commanded by such revered names as James Barron, Samuel Barron, Stephen Decatur, and Matthew C. Perry, sailed the globe in defense of American interests. Civil War historians often neglect the important naval aspects of America’s most tragic conflict. In 1862, Hampton Roads hosted the world’s first combat between ironclad warships, CSS Virginia and USS Monitor . The author devotes an entire chapter to this one event and clearly links this innovative technology for ship design and construction to the area’s emerging naval importance.
The Tidewater experienced extraordinary growth in the twentieth century resulting from the military build-up during two world wars. Federal government investment within the region created a sudden population expansion attracted to new jobs. Local governments’ ability to provide sufficient housing and services was strained while the local residents struggled to adapt to the inevitable social changes. Now, the influx of navy families has increased the local economy and strengthened social ties. Over the past sixty years many threats have arisen, but Hampton Roads’ naval readiness has led the way in the defense of freedom.
Tidewater’s Navy is primarily written from a historical administrative perspective and offers little insight into the important roles assumed by women or African Americans in the navy. Bruce Linder, however, has produced an entertaining and informative reference book that will benefit history students and delight sailors past and present.
— reviewed by R. Thomas Crew, Jr., Senior Research Archivist
Nancy Bondurant Jones. Rooted on Blue Stone Hill: A History of James Madison University. Forewords by Linwood H. Rose and Ronald E. Carrier. Santa Fe, N.M., and Staunton, Va.: Center for American Places, in association with the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, 2004. viii + 288 pp. $39.95 (hardcover).
His goal was to create
a school “bound by no
traditions, … unbiased
by questions of the past,
… made to fit
our own time.”
As James Madison University prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2008, Nancy Bondurant Jones explores the history of the institution in Rooted on Blue Stone Hill. She uses a variety of sources to capture student life and the evolution of the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg into the present-day James Madison University.
The book is divided into four parts, each coinciding with the term of one of the first four presidents of the institution. The first section is devoted to the administration of Julian Ashby Burruss, president of the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg from 1908 until 1919. This section focuses on the establishment of the school and its many challenges, including attracting students and setting up the physical campus. Actively involved in all aspects of the new school, Burruss envisioned a campus of the time and also the campus of the future. His goal was to create a school “bound by no traditions, … unbiased by questions of the past, … made to fit our own time.” With this vision in mind, Charles M. Robinson, a Richmond architect, designed the layout of the campus incorporating buildings of “distinctive blue limestone walls and red, Spanish-tiled roofs.”
In subsequent sections of the book, Jones examines the administrations of succeeding presidents. In 1919, Samuel P. Duke became the second president of the school. The Burruss years had seen the campus population expand, and Duke continued that focus by increasing the facilities and also attracting and retaining faculty through greater compensation. The name of the school was changed in 1924 to the State Teachers College at Harrisonburg and again in 1938 to Madison College. Men were able to enroll at Madison College beginning in 1946, although there were restrictions on their attendance. In 1949 George Tyler Miller succeeded Duke. Continuing the pattern of growth, the college broadened the range of degrees it offered. In 1971, Ronald E. Carrier became the fourth president of Madison College. He envisioned an institution of diverse population and diverse opportunity. Sweeping changes and improvements continued — the result of a growth in student population, the subsequent campus construction, and the continued enhancement of the curriculum. In 1977, Madison College became James Madison University.
Jones effectively tells the story of James Madison University through many examples. Of note are the extensive photographs gathered from the University Archives and Special Collections, as well as from alumni, that illustrate many aspects of student life. Also included are personal accounts from alumni sharing their experiences at the school. Combining personal examples with an administrative overview of the college, Jones presents an engaging glimpse of the history and student life of James Madison University. This book is an attractive, informative, and timely look at one of Virginia’s public universities.
— reviewed by Laura Drake Davis, State Records Archivist
Pamela R. Matthews, ed. Perfect Companionship: Ellen Glasgow’s Selected Correspondence with Women. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2005. xlvi + 324 pp. $49.50 (hardcover).
Readers who delve into Pamela R. Matthews’s thoughtful collection of Ellen Glasgow’s letters will learn more about the author as a writer and a person. The correspondence collected in Perfect Companionship begins in 1884 with a letter to her aunt (Ellen Glasgow, age ten, used stationery featuring a turtle on a sled) and ends with her death in 1945. Glasgow corresponded with more than 100 women in the span of almost 50 years, leaving nearly 700 extant letters. The 255 letters printed here effectively illustrate that Glasgow’s primary emotional attachments were to women — the perfect companions of the book’s title.
Ellen Glasgow wrote regularly to her friends, her sisters, her fellow writers, and other female acquaintances, among them artists, publishing figures, and spouses of literary and academic figures. Her letters to women are less self-conscious, less crafted, and less guarded than her correspondence with men. As primary documents, these letters help to reveal the real Ellen Glasgow. Glasgow struggled with a serious hearing impairment virtually all of her adult life; reading a friend’s letter made her “feel as if we had talked for hours.” Correspondence allowed Glasgow to chat in a way that was nearly impossible face-to-face.
were to women…
Glasgow had an attachment to fine writing paper and preferred customized stationery. At home in Richmond she used paper engraved with her address, One West Main Street, and on vacation she used letterhead provided by hotels and ships or ordered paper with her summer address in Maine. Over the years there was mourning paper edged in black; colored stationery in shades of gray, blue, and ivory; and note cards large and small. The quality and color of her writing paper mattered to Glasgow. “Whatever surface she covered with her words,” Matthews explains, “had to be just right.” Glasgow’s handwriting was hard to read, but her typing skills were even worse: she forgot to space after commas, typed over partially erased text, and neglected to return the carriage at the end of a line.
Glasgow’s letters are full of news, opinions, and the details of life. Travel and the world around her are vividly described. English women, she observed on her first trip abroad in 1896, were very different from their American sisters and wore dresses in “flaming colors” and “immense bonnets.” She reported to her sister, Rebe, that the figs and the wine were delicious in Naples; she described shopping for a coat for her secretary Anne Virginia Bennett in London (selecting “the only one that seemed … to have any room about the hips”) and praised the atmosphere in the Rockies (“a mingling of sage & pine & ambrosial sunshine”). The letters likewise reveal much about Glasgow herself: she had her hair waved at the Jefferson in the 1930s, disliked high heels, and chided her sister for writing letters in pencil (which Glasgow found hard to read). She loved reading Thomas Hardy’s works, never saw the movie version of In This Our Life, and wore a “Wilkie for President” pin in 1940.
The letters are accompanied by eleven black-and-white photographs and a wealth of useful features, including a substantial introduction, a complete chronology of Glasgow’s life, a comprehensive calendar listing all of her known correspondence with women, and a biographical register identifying all correspondents and persons mentioned in the letters. Perfect Companionship is a valuable book for Glasgow scholars, but will also appeal to those interested in literary history, women’s history, and the South. This excellent collection will enable its readers to envision Ellen Glasgow as she settles in with a cup of hot milk, pulls out her paper, and writes.
— reviewed by Jennifer Davis McDaid, Deputy Coordinator, State Historical Records Advisory Board
Sara B. Bearss is senior editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, published by the Library of Virginia.