'One’s vanity does penance always'

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
Of particular interest in these entries is Regina Shober Gray’s [1] depiction of being photographed in September 1861: “I hope [the resulting pictures] will be reasonably good, but one’s vanity does penance always in these cartes de visite likenesses. Gentlemen look well in them, but they almost always give a harsh, stern unnatural look to a woman’s face.” [2] Mrs. Gray noted that her own standards were relatively flexible, reporting that her friend Rebecca Wainwright [3] “does not think my photographs very successful – but I feel that I ought to be satisfied with them – they are quite as good of me as other peoples are of them. Hard and rigid looking.” [4]

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Thursday, 5 September 1861: Frank [Gray]’s[5] birth-day – 15 years old. I can hardly realize it. He had presents from myself, “Barrington’s Heraldry,”[6] from Aunt Liz [Shober][7] a dollar, from Mary C. [Gray][8] 3 engraved Shirt Studs. His eyes are decidedly better. Regie [Gray][9] went out to Russell Place[10] with [his cousin] Ed [Gray],[11] who escorted Mary in last evg. and staid over night – and he will remain till tomorrow. Nellie Bradlee came in town to-day with her mother,[12] whom we persuaded to leave Nellie with us for the night. They have all gone off to drive with Mrs. Shober,[13] and have a splendid afternoon for it. I was to have gone, but Morris [Gray][14] has been so poorly all day I could not leave him. I am sorry it happens so, since the last time Mrs. S. invited me to drive, Mary had one of her dreadful head-aches, and prevented my going then. As it has turned out I might have gone this p.m., for Morris and his papa went off, 5 minutes after the others left, to drive with Dr. Brown![15] And I have been alone – the older boys went down to their boat after dinner. Yesterday morning Lizzie and I went out to Russell Place at 10½ o’c. and came back in 12½ train.

Had time for a pleasant call. Wm. Gray[16] has not been very favorably impressed by President Lincoln, in the interviews held with him on the subject of reorganizing his Cabinet. The country loudly demands the expulsion of Cameron[17] & Welles[18], Secretaries of War, and Navy; and W.G. went as one of the Bank Commissioners on the Treasury Loan, to remonstrate with Lincoln and urge the removal of the obnoxious minister. Cameron is known for an utterly unprincipled man – Welles honest enough but ignorant of naval matter and inefficient. Wm. is guarded in his comments and says “Mr. Lincoln is President of the U.S. and must be supported as such,” but is evidently much disappointed in the man.

Wednesday, 11 September 1861: A violent storm all day with southerly gale; it might pass for the equinoctial – but it is rather early for that. We have had a nice quiet day for reading the “Netherlands”[19] and for sewing. Yesterday we had quite a successful shopping morning, and p.m. Dr. [Gray] drove Lizzie out to Mrs. [Edward] Gardiner’s[20] at Longwood, where she had quite a satisfactory call. On Monday we dined at Sallie Gray’s [and] had a pleasant visit. Sallie drove us in at 6 p.m. and took Regie out to pass a week. He however came home last night not quite well and a little homesick.

Went to Medford this p.m. with Lizzie Shober, Mary, & Morris & Aunt Sarah B[radlee].[21] A lovely day – we came home in the horse cars, a tedious ride! Yesterday we were busy with the dressmaker all day. This morning we went to “Black’s”[22] to be photographed, Lizzie and I. A thing we have both protested against always – I hope they will be reasonably good, but one’s vanity does penance always in these cartes de visite likenesses. Gentlemen look well in them, but they almost always give a harsh, stern unnatural look to a woman’s face.

Sunday, 15 September 1861: I am invalided to-day and unable to go out. A great disappointment as our church is open again, and a young Mr. Foote[23] preaches for us, who will be a successful candidate for our pulpit many think. I wanted much to hear him. He graduated this summer at Harvard, and has already received 3 calls! A young man of great promise. Dr. has gone with the older children.

[They] are quite as good of me as other peoples are of them.

Regie & Morris are just now doing penance each in a corner of my room, for quarrelling and striking each other over their play. Lizzie has gone to the [Church of the] Advent. Rebecca [Wainwright] came home from her Dorchester visit on Friday & took tea with us last night. She does not think my photographs very successful – but I feel that I ought to be satisfied with them – they are quite as good of me as other peoples are of them. Hard and rigid looking. Some of Lizzie’s I thought also were reasonably successful – the faces of some were excellent, but the figures were poor, and she has destroyed hers, quite disgusted with them!! She was over hasty & fastidious in the matter I think, for the faces of two or three could not be improved upon – they were sweet!

Wednesday, 25 September 1861: …I just missed seeing Prince Jerome[24] and his wife Princess Clotilde (daughter of Victor Emmanuel).[25] Going into Chandler’s store,[26] I was struck with the rush of people about, and remarking that it looked like brisk business in spite of war times. “Oh,” said he, “the Prince & party passed out just as you came in – did you not see them? there they go!” I turned and saw the back of a straw bonnet trimmed with blue, which covered the back of Clotilde’s head. C’est tout – just my luck! Why could not I have looked at the people as they passed me in the doorway? Should have recognized Jerome from his likeness to the pictures of Napoleon 1st  I’m sure.

Continued here.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. All entries from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] Entry for 11 September 1861.

[3] Mrs. Gray’s best friend, Rebecca Parker Wainwright (1820–1901).

[4] Entry for 15 September 1861.

[5] The diarist’s eldest son, Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904).

[6] A Familiar Introduction to Heraldry… (1848) by Archibald Barrington, M.D.

[7] Elizabeth Kearney Shober (1821–1865).

[8] The diarist’s daughter, Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923).

[9] Mrs. Gray’s son Reginald Gray (1853–1904).

[10] The country house of Dr. Gray’s uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. John Chipman Gray, in Cambridge.

[11] Dr. Gray’s nephew Edward Gray (1851–1907).

[12] Ellen Marion Bradlee (1846–1930), the daughter of Hepsa Hall Bradlee.

[13] Mrs. Gray’s stepmother, Lucy Hall Bradlee (1806–1902), was married to Samuel Lieberkuhn Shober 1830–47; Hepsa Bradlee’s late husband, Henry, was Mrs. Shober’s half-brother.

[14] The diarist’s youngest son, Morris Gray (1856–1931).

[15] The Grays’ neighbor Dr. Buckminster Brown (1819–1891).

[16] Dr. Gray’s elder brother William Gray (1810–1892) married Sarah Frances (“Sallie”) Loring in 1834; Ed Gray was their youngest son. See also entry for 11 September 1861.

[17] Simon Cameron (1799–1889), a Senator from Pennsylvania 1845–49, 1857–61, and 1867–77, was briefly Secretary of War 1861–62.

[18] Gideon Welles (1802–1878), Secretary of the Navy 1861–69.

[19] History of the United Netherlands (1860–67) by John Lothrop Motley (1814–1877).

[20] Sophia Harrison Mifflin (1822–1889) married Edward Gardiner in 1849.

[21] Mrs. Shober’s aunt Sarah Fletcher Bradlee (1789–1866).

[22] James Wallace Black and Perez M. Batchelder, daguerreotypists, at 173 Washington Street in Boston.

[23] The Rev. Henry Wilder Foote (1838–1889), who married Frances Anne Eliot in 1863.

[24] Prince Napoléon Bonaparte (1822–1891), generally called Prince Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte and a cousin of the current French Emperor, married the fifteen-year-old Princess Maria Clotilde of Savoy in 1859.

[25] Vittorio Emanuele II (1820–1878), King of Sardinia 1849–61 and King of Italy 1861–78.

[26] John Chandler of Chandler & Co., “dry goods,” 6 and 8 Summer Street.

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward