J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Love Story at the A.A.S., 22 Oct.

Yesterday I quoted an anecdote from The Life of James Otis, published by William Tudor, Jr., in 1823. It described a young woman in Boston offering succor to British soldiers wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill, causing them to assume wrongly that she supported the cause they were fighting for.

That story stuck with me, but I didn’t expect to find out who the unnamed young woman was. Last week I learned from books published by later generations of the same family that the woman was William Tudor, Jr.’s own mother, then Delia Jarvis.

And there turned out to be another detail Tudor had kept out of his 1823 book: Delia Jarvis was from a Loyalist family. Her later descendants were open, even celebratory, about that detail at the end of the 1800s. They said that Jarvis had insisted on hosting a tea party even after the beverage had become political anathema. They reported that her future husband addressed her in letters as “my fair loyalist.”

The senior William Tudor was joking a bit, signing himself “your faithful rebel” while working as the Continental Army’s first judge advocate general. He eventually won his bride over to his political side, the family said. But the couple’s son hadn’t suggested any split loyalties for her in 1823, when public feelings about Loyalists might still have been raw.

On Tuesday, 22 October, the American Antiquarian Society will host a talk on those love letters between William Tudor and Delia Jarvis. Mary C. Kelley will speak on “‘While Pen, Ink & Paper Can Be Had’: Reading and Writing in a Time of Revolution”:
Instead of the typical focus on the famed trio of Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin, this lecture looks at the American Revolution through the eyes of two relatively unknown individuals. A son and a daughter of families who counted themselves members of Boston’s elite, William Tudor, who served in the Continental Army, and Delia Jarvis, a Loyalist whom he was courting, forged their relationship in a world of divisive turmoil and radical change. A remarkably rich transatlantic literary culture that remained intact in an increasingly embattled world served as their vehicle. This program will explore not only the letters and the lives of Tudor and Jarvis, but also the fiction and poetry on which these individuals relied as they navigated their way through the momentous events of the struggle for independence.
Tudor was one of John Adams’s law clerks during the Boston Massacre trial. After his military service he took on Massachusetts state offices and hosted the meeting that founded the Massachusetts Historical Society, which now holds those letters.

Kelley is the Ruth Bordin Collegiate Professor of History, American Culture, and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She’s written and edited books on the Beecher sisters, Margaret Fuller, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and other nineteenth-century American women. Her paper on the Tudor-Jarvis correspondence appeared in Early American Studies.

Kelley’s talk is scheduled to start at 7:00 P.M. It’s free and open to the public.

(The image above shows a portrait of Delia Tudor auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2005. It was painted by John Wesley Jarvis, a British-born portraitist who doesn’t seem to have been a close relation to the sitter.)

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