“Many happy hours”

“Anyone with an interest in the Holt and Coltishall areas, the workings of brewers and maltsters, the growth of nonconformity, crime and the lifestyle of women in the 18th century . . . will spend many happy hours engrossed in the five volumes we have at present.”

So writes Maggie Vaughan-Lewis, the former Surrey County Archivist and now a Norfolk-based historian, in her review of the new edition of Mary Hardy’s diary in the Journal of the Aylsham Local History Society for August 2013 (vol. 9, no. 8, pp. 294–6).

“The 460-page index is especially user-friendly”

In her analysis Maggie Vaughan-Lewis devotes a lot of attention to the diary editor’s style of presentation and to her typesetting technique. After applauding the choice of a font which minimises the impact of the 18th-century fondness for lavish use of capitals the reviewer turns to the glossary, individual maps, family trees and indexes in each of the four Diary volumes:

“Not only is the reader provided with a very useful glossary, family trees and a map of the north Norfolk landscape that was Mary’s world, but the 460-page index is also especially user-friendly.

Rather than indexed to a page number in the normal way, references are given to the date of the relevant entry. That means the reader can eliminate or choose a reference without having to check every one. A novel idea which at first I found odd but on using the volumes now appreciate the more.”

The usefulness of The Remaining Diary

The review continues with reflections on the fifth volume, a paperback entitled The Remaining Diary of Mary Hardy. This contains the entries not included in the hardback four-volume Diary set.

“The format of the first four volumes is standard hardback book size complete with indexes. The fifth volume is an A4 paperback format and has no index or sidenotes.

It has been thought odd by some to have omitted entries of less interest from the first four volumes only to publish them in the fifth. Margaret Bird’s explanation is that she felt the duller, repetitive entries would have drowned out the liveliness of the rest. On seeing that these extra entries comprise 44% of the original section from 1781 to 1809, I suspect she was right.

But I also agree that it would have been wrong to lose such a quantity of the text . . . These entries in this extra volume are also a boon to weather historians as Mary never fails to tell us what each day brings.”

There is more from this review on the Diary website.