Friday, March 2, 2012

Teenaged Jessie Swaine's Reflections on the 19th Century

One recent discovery in the Archives is the 1895 literature notebook from Jessie Swaine, onetime domestic science instructor at Ypsilanti High School and the Normal School. Jessie lived for much of her life in what is still called the Swaine house at the northeast corner of Forest and River. She wrote in this notebook when she was approximately 16 years old. One of the entries is an essay on the 19th century.

The Nineteenth Century

The Nineteenth century period is the present period and is the most wonderful period of all; it is an age of invention and their [sic] has been a great advancement in Education, Religion and Literature also in the social life and politics have been bettered and science has advanced greatly nearly every school boy and school girl knows now and more than the men that made science a special study in the past ages, it is taught in all schools and in nearly all grades. The invention of electricity has aided us greatly in lightly on streets and many other useful things, the sewing machine has taken the place of the needle, and fire arms have been greatly improved.

The different churches have become more united and societies have been formed in which the Bible is read and people are taught more about religion, then missionaries are sent from Christian countries to countries where God is not known and they teach the people there so that the Christian religion is being spread all over the world.

In Literature fiction has taken the place of the drama of the Elizabethan age and it is purer than it used to be, and treats more of the life and ways of people then of wars etc. We read not only for the story but for what we can get out of it, we find most of our best reading in the magazines and Reviews.

Baron [Byron] was one of the best poets of this period but his life does not correspond with his writing and many think that he will not have a lasting remembrance, his poems are gloomy, melancholy but deep and beautiful. Is this not true:

There is a rapture in the pathless woods,
There is a pleasure on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar.

His words are certainly stricking [sic] and stirring....


Jan Anschuetz said...

Thank you Laura. You always know how to start my day with your great finds. Jessie spent ALL of her life in this house, aside from studying in NY and CA during summer months and trips including one winter in Germany! Her older sister Florence ventured out to teach in Wayne and Detroit. Isn't it great that they saved everything, nearly?

Dusty D said...

It is...we are fortunate to have so many materials from her family. Incidentally this essay was written in 1895 when Jessie was 16.

Anonymous said...

This is great! Thanks for posting it. Can we have more from Jessie Swaine?