A diary written in the early 1800s – a fascinating piece of social history – which lay undiscovered in a drawer for decades, has been published.
Joan Wright, from Belford, who has produced the diary into book form, and Ian Hall, from Alnwick, who runs Wanney Books, have teamed up to publish Eleanor’s Diary, which provides a real insight into the life of Eleanor Weatherly, a gentlemen farmer’s daughter from Belford, in 1804 and 1805.
A copy of the diary first came to light almost 200 years to the day from when it was written in 2004 after lying untouched in a drawer for decades.
And Joan was engrossed from the moment she started reading it.
“If you think that life then was dull out in the sticks, then think again,” she said, adding that Eleanor certainly had stamina in terms of her social life, with balls until six in the morning and card-playing taking up a lot of her time.
Plus Eleanor’s ‘pithy observations and wry sense of humour’ meant there were hints of Jane Austen – of whom Joan is a fan – in the writing.
Joan decided to research the history of the family and, in a real piece of fortune, managed to track down the diary itself, not only for 1804 which she had already read, but also for 1805.
“I realised I had come across a rare piece of social history about this area 200 years ago,” she said.
Joan then started doing talks at local history societies and the like before deciding that the only way to really do the diary justice was to publish it in its entirety.
This is where Ian – and the Gazette – came in. Ian published a book on military remains in the county, setting up his own imprint in the process.
In a story published in the Gazette in October last year, Ian appealed for any budding writers to get in touch if they are interested in getting their ideas – for books on Northumberland’s history, culture and landscape – into print.
The pair have been working together ever since and the result is a book which features the unedited diary alongside other information on the family, their life and times.
Eleanor’s Diary can be purchased online using Paypal at www.wildsofwanney.co.uk or by post from Joan Wright, 19 North Bank, Belford, NE70 7LY, with a cheque payable to Joan Wright.
It costs £9 including postage and packing in the UK.
Anyone who wants to discuss a book project about Northumberland can contact Ian on firstname.lastname@example.org