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Book cover of Best Companions: Letters of Eliza Middleton Fisher and Her Mother, Mary Hering Middleton, from Charleston, Philadelphia and Newport, 1839-1846

Best Companions: Letters of Eliza Middleton Fisher and Her Mother, Mary Hering Middleton, from Charleston, Philadelphia and Newport, 1839-1846

by Eliza Cope Harrison

Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
Pages: 520
Hardcover
ISBN: 9781570033759






Available to Buy

Overview of Best Companions: Letters of Eliza Middleton Fisher and Her Mother, Mary Hering Middleton, from Charleston, Philadelphia and Newport, 1839-1846

In the spring of 1839, Eliza Middleton (1815–1890), the youngest daughter of a wealthy South Carolina rice planter and diplomat, married Philadelphian Joshua Francis Fisher at Middleton Place, one of the most celebrated plantations in the South. Soon after the wedding Eliza began a new life in Philadelphia. In her first letter home, she begged her mother, "Tell me everything when you write." Thus began a seven-year conversation—on paper—between Eliza and her British-born mother, Mary Hering Middleton (1772–1850), that would encompass some 375 letters. The correspondence offers a sweeping view of antebellum Charleston, Philadelphia, and the fashionable resort of Newport, Rhode Island. The letters delineate a cultural and social life that bound together North and South at a time when sectional interests worked to sunder the nation.

These letters hold particular significance because they record the joys, sorrows, frustrations, and concerns of a mother and a daughter, and convey the opinions and actions of all their family members, including the men. Eliza and her mother chronicle issues and events ranging from mental illness to musical performances, financial panics to children's parties, pregnancy to politics. In addition they introduce a notable cast of characters, including Charles Dickens, President Van Buren, the courtly Philadelphian George Harrison, the scandalous actress Fanny Kemble Butler, the irascible diplomat Henry Middleton, the lovely Julia Ward, and the African slave who was captain of the Middletons' private schooner.

About the Editor:

Eliza Cope Harrison, after a career teaching history in the classroom as well as through museum exhibits and programs, returned to historical research in the 1990s when she discovered the Middleton-Fisher correspondence. The editor of Philadelphia Merchant: The Diary of Thomas P. Cope, 1800–1851, Harrison lives in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Synopsis of Best Companions: Letters of Eliza Middleton Fisher and Her Mother, Mary Hering Middleton, from Charleston, Philadelphia and Newport, 1839-1846

In the spring of 1839, Eliza Middleton (1815 1890), the youngest daughter of a wealthy South Carolina rice planter and diplomat, married Philadelphian Joshua Francis Fisher at Middleton Place, one of the most celebrated plantations in the South. Soon after the wedding Eliza began a new life in Philadelphia. In her first letter home, she begged her mother, "Tell me everything when you write." Thus began a seven-year conversation—on paper—between Eliza and her British-born mother, Mary Hering Middleton (1772 1850), that would encompass some 375 letters. The correspondence offers a sweeping view of antebellum Charleston, Philadelphia, and the fashionable resort of Newport, Rhode Island. The letters delineate a cultural and social life that bound together North and South at a time when sectional interests worked to sunder the nation.

These letters hold particular significance because they record the joys, sorrows, frustrations, and concerns of a mother and a daughter, and convey the opinions and actions of all their family members, including the men. Eliza and her mother chronicle issues and events ranging from mental illness to musical performances, financial panics to children's parties, pregnancy to politics. In addition they introduce a notable cast of characters, including Charles Dickens, President Van Buren, the courtly Philadelphian George Harrison, the scandalous actress Fanny Kemble Butler, the irascible diplomat Henry Middleton, the lovely Julia Ward, and the African slave who was captain of the Middletons' private schooner.

About the Editor:

Eliza Cope Harrison, after a career teaching history in the classroom as well as through museum exhibits and programs, returned to historical research in the 1990s when she discovered the Middleton-Fisher correspondence. The editor of Philadelphia Merchant: The Diary of Thomas P. Cope, 1800 1851, Harrison lives in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Publishers Weekly

Almost 400 letters between mother and daughter draw the reader into the antebellum Southern aristocracy. The Middleton family lived on one of the largest, most opulent plantations in South Carolina. These papers moldered in a family member's file cabinet until Harrison (ed.. Philadelphia Merchant: The Diary of Thomas C. Pope), a Middleton descendant, uncovered them; she now offers them as part of USC's invaluable Women's Diaries and Letters of the South series. The letters begin in 1839, just after Eliza Middleton Fisher's marriage. Eliza writes to her mother, "Tell me everything when you write," and mother obliges. We learn the vicissitudes of daily life, from the weather to the wardrobes. We read about young Eliza's travels to mountains and to Monticello, and we get a little celebrity gossip, as when Eliza visits dramatist and soon-to-be-abolitionist Fanny Kemble. The letters afford a fascinating glimpse of the cultural life of antebellum America, as we track what Eliza read (for example, the moral tract Woman's Mission) and the operas she attended. We also follow her foibles as she learns the arts of housekeeping. But the letters are not devoted solely to the frippery of society talk. The women also talk politics Eliza, for example, voices interest in "the Texas question" (the possible annexation of Texas, and the "disastrous" possibilities for the South). This volume is a major achievement, not least because Harrison makes public a trove of documents heretofore unseen by anyone but the Middletons. This is an epistolary collection to be treasured. Illus. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Editorials

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

Almost 400 letters between mother and daughter draw the reader into the antebellum Southern aristocracy. The Middleton family lived on one of the largest, most opulent plantations in South Carolina. These papers moldered in a family member's file cabinet until Harrison (ed.. Philadelphia Merchant: The Diary of Thomas C. Pope), a Middleton descendant, uncovered them; she now offers them as part of USC's invaluable Women's Diaries and Letters of the South series. The letters begin in 1839, just after Eliza Middleton Fisher's marriage. Eliza writes to her mother, "Tell me everything when you write," and mother obliges. We learn the vicissitudes of daily life, from the weather to the wardrobes. We read about young Eliza's travels to mountains and to Monticello, and we get a little celebrity gossip, as when Eliza visits dramatist and soon-to-be-abolitionist Fanny Kemble. The letters afford a fascinating glimpse of the cultural life of antebellum America, as we track what Eliza read (for example, the moral tract Woman's Mission) and the operas she attended. We also follow her foibles as she learns the arts of housekeeping. But the letters are not devoted solely to the frippery of society talk. The women also talk politics Eliza, for example, voices interest in "the Texas question" (the possible annexation of Texas, and the "disastrous" possibilities for the South). This volume is a major achievement, not least because Harrison makes public a trove of documents heretofore unseen by anyone but the Middletons. This is an epistolary collection to be treasured. Illus. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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