Illustrations from the teenage diary of Mary Browne (1807-1833), which was published in 1905, more than 80 years after it was written. Born in England in 1807, Mary was 14-years-old when she wrote the diary which tells of her experiences travelling down to London and on to France with her family during the summer of 1821. Like a true teenager, she was not impressed with what she saw, writing:
About Calais was the ugliest country without exception I ever beheld; there was scarcely a tree to be seen, no hedgerows, no pretty cottages, everything looked dirty and miserable; there was a great deal of sand, and the country looked exactly like a desert; I thought that if this was a specimen of France, it was certainly a most charming place!
Indeed she seemed to have generally a negative view of all things French:
The French children are old-fashioned, dull, grave, and ugly: like little old women in their appearance. The babies are wrapt up in swaddling-clothes like mummies, and they wear queer little cotton hats. The nurses carry them very carefully hanging on their arms; they say that nursing them, or tossing them about, makes them mad.
Despite her antipathy she produced a wonderful range of studies of the people she encountered, as well as various situations, such as a village fête and a puppet show. There are also some impressive illustrations of soldiers which she saw at the funeral procession of Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon-Penthièvre, Duchess of Orléans. She also managed to witness a visit from the King at Versailles, remarking that "The King is a very fat, contented-looking man."
Little is known about Mary's short life (she died when just 26 years old). The introduction, written by her niece Euphemia Stewart Browne, tells of how she was a keen naturalist and later turned her artistic talents to painting "an exquisite collection of butterflies and moths" which was left unfinished at her untimely death.
Apr 23, 2015