Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Review: The Diary of a Southern Lady

Jones, Katharine, ed. The Diary of a Southern Lady: Georgina Francis Barrett Devlin, April 18, 1852-February 19, 1912. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2011.

This diary details the everyday life of Georgina Francis Barrett Devlin of Yazoo City, Mississippi. The diary writer was born in England in 1825 and died in Yazoo City in 1914. The diary makes frequent mentions of persons with whom the subject associated. The editor has added footnotes to assist the modern reader in identifying some of these individuals. There is a gap between 1881 and 1895 where most of the diaries have been lost. The editor has also included extant letters and other notes that are relevant to the life of the diary's author. Based on her record of expenditures included in the diary, the individual who wrote the book was probably more affluent than most of the persons residing in the area. She does, however mention individuals who took music lessons, who rented from her, who did her laundry, etc.

As with most self-published works, there are a number of problems with the work. The one that irritated this reader the most is the numbering of the footnotes. Rather than using consecutive numbering within the chapter, the author restarted footnote numbering on each page. Another problem is in the identification of sources. At the end of the book, the editor has includes a few obituaries, but does not indicate the source for these items. Another problem is with documentation of genealogical data. The editor includes a brief genealogical outline of the family, but does not provide documentation for dates and other included information. While there is a list of persons mentioned in the diary, there really needs to be a comprehensive every name index to the book.

In spite of the problems mentioned above, if you had relatives living in the Yazoo City area during the time periods included in the diary, you will want to read this to get a feel for life in the city at that time and to see if your relatives interacted with Mrs. Devlin.

Note: This review is based on a copy of the book provided from the author for review. Copies of the book may be purchased from

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