Last Friday, I joined my friends in Newport for a program at the Newport Historical Society.
We stood in the Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House behind the NHS’s headquarters building and read excerpts of letters from the Williams Collection.
This is a simple, elegant concept for a program, and works incredibly well if the correspondence have the gift for expression that these people did. Even quotidian details–the price someone wants to get for their dining set, the likelihood of moving one’s mother, who must be carried ‘as carefully as a box of China’–take on humor when read aloud.
The best letter might well have been the last one, read by Sew 18th Century. The latest of the selection, the writer described a visit to Newport around 1844, arriving at the dock to the bustle of wagons, walking streets and finding a barber who knew the old fish hawker, the enormous jaw bone of a whale on a street corner, and even lifting the latch to walk inside the Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House where we were standing.
It was a lovely way to end the program, resonant with details the audience could connect with.
My dress turned out all right, and I managed to get it on and keep it on, which seemed a small miracle requiring only two pins.
When I tried it on at home, the front panel didn’t wrinkle, so I think I pulled it too tightly around me on Friday. I kept my bonnet on because I didn’t have time to make a new cap, so made do with the housekeeper’s cap from last fall. The chemisette was made by Cassidy, and saved me from the migratory ‘charms’ of a kerchief. The ‘shawl’ was a gift Christmas from my mother, who rightly saw it as a scarf, but those who wish to keep warm do not quibble when they cannot find exactly what they want. Before I wear the dress again, I have to attend to interior seams of the skirt and scoot the cuffs down to lengthen the sleeves. Four yards of 48-inch wide silk was just enough, but needs a little tweaking when you’re a tall as I am.