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The Journal of Sarah Haynsworth Gayle, 1827-1835

A Substitute for Social Intercourse

Edited by Sarah Woolfolk Wiggins with Ruth Smith Truss

Publication Year: 2013

Astonishing, tragic, and remarkable, the journal of Sarah Haynsworth Gayle, wife of early Alabama governor John Gayle, is among the most widely studied and seminal accounts of antebellum life in the American South. This is the first complete edition of the journal in print.
 
Bereft of the companionship of her often-absent husband, Sarah considered her journal “a substitute for social intercourse” during the period from 1827 to 1835. It became the social and intellectual companion to which she confided stories that reflected her personal life and the world of early Alabama. Sarah speaks directly to us of her loneliness, the challenges of child rearing, her fear of and frustration with the management of slaves, and the difficulty of balancing the responsibilities of a socially prominent woman with her family’s slender finances.

The poor condition of the journal and its transcripts, sometimes disintegrated or reassembled in the wrong order, has led historians to misinterpret Gayle’s words. Gayle’s descendants, Alabama’s famed Gorgases, deliberately obscured or defaced many passages. Using archival techniques to recover the text and restore the correct order, Sarah Wiggins and Ruth Truss reveal the unknown story of Sarah’s economic hardships, the question of her husband’s “temperance,” and her opium use.

The only reliable and unexpurgated edition of Sarah Gayle’s journal, now enhanced with a fascinating introduction and inset notes, The Journal of Sarah Haynsworth Gayle, 1827–1835, is a robust and gripping account and will be of inestimable value to our understanding of antebellum society, religion, intellectual culture, and slavery.

Published in cooperation with the University Libraries, The University of Alabama, with further financial support from the Library Leadership Board, the University Libraries, The University of Alabama.
 

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

Without the encouragement of descendants of Sarah Haynsworth and John Gayle, her journal could not have been readied for publication. The late George Denègre of New Orleans, Louisiana, a descendent of the Gayles’ youngest child, Maria, proposed this project to me when I was editing Josiah Gorgas’s journals. ...

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Editorial Policy

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pp. xi-xvi

The original journal of Sarah Gayle at the University of Alabama is in fragile condition and is difficult to read. Some pages are loose and misplaced in the journal, while others are taped into the journal in random locations. Some pages have two sets of page numbers. Sarah Gayle used both sides of each page, and ink has bled through the paper’s fiber. ...

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Introduction

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pp. xvii-xxxii

Sarah Haynsworth Gayle’s Alabama in 1810 was frontier country in the Old Southwest. The Haynsworth family was part of the westward migration of farmers from the Piedmont of South Carolina who became the pioneer planters of Alabama. They left the exhausted fields of the seaboard Piedmont for the fertile Black Belt of the Mississippi Territory, ...

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1827

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pp. 1-40

27 July 1827 I am pleased with Mr. [Thomas] Clinton’s simple, earnest, frank and unaffected way of preaching. One at once perceives, he is a man regardless of self, having the honor of his Master, and the good of his auditors alone at heart. His language is free, at times almost polished; and I never heard any one use comparisons more apropos—often beautiful; ...

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1828

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pp. 41-84

12 January 1828 “The rule of the Gospel, is most conformable to the dictates of a sound reason, that the guards of virtue ought to be put upon the heart and the thoughts. It is of the utmost importance to preserve the imagination and the fancy chaste; it is otherwise, vain to hope to subject the manners to the laws of virtue & modesty— ...

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1829

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pp. 85-117

Saturday night January 3 1829 The new year has set in amidst the most delightful weather I ever saw—mild, clear and sunny. Many good resolutions have been made, which the next new year’s day will, in all probability come and find forgotten or broken. One I will endeavor to preserve faithfully—the vow I made against going in debt again. ...

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1830

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pp. 118-166

Friday Jan[uary] 1830 For the last four months, time has flown by almost unheeded. The addition to my family and my cares, has been also one to my pleasures; and in the midst of fear and apprehension, I raise my heart in thank-fulness to God, for his last gift—my little darling, blue-eyed Mary Rees, who was born on the 23d of September 1829. ...

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1831

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pp. 167-204

2 January 1831 Does not time fly? Without observing how the last year passed, I find myself beginning a new one. Another, and another, and another may be added to my life, alas! how unprofitably. But let it not be so—let me resolve, that another new year’s day shall find me at least desiring to be wiser or better, if I am not so, in reality. ...

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1832

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pp. 205-230

Greensborough 8 April 1832 Once more I sit down to my neglected Journal, to note down the birth of our seventh child, and third son, now six weeks old. Whilst ready to shrink from the additional responsibility it imposes, I thank and bless my Creator, who mercifully took me from the midst of danger, and placed me in comparative ease and health, ...

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1833

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pp. 231-273

January 2 1833 My house has been greatly thronged with company for the last two or three months—scarcely a day, and frequently all night. Miss Young & Miss Reed are here tonight and Margaret Coleman is with them. They have made me sing ’till I am hoarse, for them to dance. Louisiana startles me by her conduct. ...

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1834

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pp. 274-303

Tuskaloosa 20 January 1834 I have been greatly pleased and affected by an act of Matt’s, or rather; the manner of performing it. The children were around me, as usual, he in particular, sat in a small chair, with his head on my knee. I remarked to them, that my 30th birthday would soon come ’round, and conversed with them on subjects growing out of the fact. ...

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1835

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pp. 304-316

One from Maria also relates the death of yellow John, the faithful friend & servant of Mr. Gayle’s family, thro’ his whole life. We were all much affected, and many tears flowed to his memory. Maria says her own health is bad, but every one who has seen her, unites in representing her as being very fleshy, and looking hearty. ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 317-324

Sarah Gayle’s journal ends abruptly with the entry dated Tuesday July 1835, probably July 21, ten days before her death with lockjaw on July 31.1 A few days earlier she had described with a shudder the primitive work of the antebellum dentist filing her teeth, and for years she had repeatedly expressed in her journal an ominous foreboding about dental work. ...

Abbreviations

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pp. 325-326

Notes

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pp. 327-332

Bibliography

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pp. 333-342

Index

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pp. 343-349


E-ISBN-13: 9780817387167
E-ISBN-10: 0817387161
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817313333
Print-ISBN-10: 0817313338

Page Count: 383
Illustrations: 15 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth

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Subject Headings

  • Gayle, Sarah Ann Haynesworth, 1804-1835 -- Diaries.
  • Women plantation owners -- Alabama -- Diaries.
  • Plantation life -- Alabama.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Alabama.
  • Alabama -- Politics and government -- To 1865.
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