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More Heavenly Than Pure Love

Posted for Marylyle McCue, Digital Library Intern, 2010.

Detail from A.M. Thackara’s Letterhead.

The Sherman Thackara Collection is comprised of private letters, photographs and other documents belonging to General William Tecumseh Sherman and his family. Three entire boxes contain the love letters of Eleanor Mary Sherman Thackara, one of the four daughters of General Sherman and his wife Ellen Ewing Sherman. Eleanor (aka Ellie) and Alexander Montgomery Thackara (aka A.M. or Mont) kept up a passionate correspondence for many years both before and after they were wed on May 5th, 1880. The letters range in date from 1879-1897. Mrs. Thackara is believed to have donated these letters to Villanova some time around 1897.

Recently I had the pleasure of transcribing several of Mont’s letters to Ellie, as well as to read many of the letters written by Ellie to Mont. One consideration when reading someone else’s letters is that over time you come to recognize the author’s idiosyncrasies and the letters become much easier to read, as if they were written in the hand of an old friend. Certain letters may be a struggle to read until one has become more familiar with the process and with the author’s handwriting, while others may just be a lost cause. Reading letters in a digital format presents different advantages and disadvantages in comparison to reading them in person. In person, one can hold the work in their hands (or gloves) and look closely, perhaps even using a magnifying device. Of course, the archives may not be within a close distance, they may not be open during convenient hours, require an appointment or have room for only a few researchers on any given day. Though one cannot physically examine a digital document, image correction can be used to make it more readable. Contrast, brightness and sharpness can be adjusted to make an image more legible than it would be in person. They can also be printed and written on when otherwise, at best, they would need to be photocopied by a librarian or at worst the researcher would have to make painstaking notes. Barring an Internet outage or major site upgrade, digital library images are available to you in your home or office 24 hours a day. As a countermeasure, when there was a delay in the project due to a site upgrade for the Villanova Digital Library, I saved a stockpile of digital letters as PDF images to my computer to prevent any further delays. It is certainly not an exaggeration to say that digital collections have forever changed the face of historic research.

Business card from Tiffany’s with Miss Sherman’s (possibly Ellie’s) ring size written on back.

One popular misconception about the Victorians is that their personal lives were devoid of romance or passion. On the contrary, during this period the notion of marrying for love became common and accepted in middle and upper class society. The Victorians were simply very private about their personal lives and extremely careful of when, where or in front of whom this side of them was displayed. A person would share their most personal feelings, fears and desires only with their beloved. However, it was understood that physical consummation of this passion would only be acceptable within the boundaries of marriage. The written word was then the most common and effective way to express these powerful emotions.

There are countless examples of the devotion and sheer adoration that this couple felt for one another throughout their letters. Only a few examples can be shared in this post, but they offer a glimpse of the letters’ contents along with a few recurring themes common in love letters of the time. In one note, Mont wonders to his sweetheart if she can imagine anything “more heavenly than pure love” and how those who have never felt it cannot truly conceive of it.

“My Little Darling- Oh! You know so well that every day my love for you is growing stronger. Every day you become more dear.” A detail from one of Mont’s letters to Ellie.

Like other Victorian lovers, Mont and Ellie were also very careful to keep their correspondence private. Ellie writes, “Today I put one of your dear letters into the book and its clasp that locked them from all but myself.” There are many instances where they have referred indirectly to events as if to protect those secrets from even the most prying of eyes. For instance in one letter, Mont alludes to a disagreement involving other unnamed parties that has upset Ellie greatly and he attempts to console her. He generously offers:

“I do not think it strange that you should wait to tell me of your troubles. Don’t you think that I have shown myself to be a friend that would sympathize with you. where in the beast dislikes fire, who knows my affection for her will never hesitate. I hope you call on me in any trouble that may arise, Oh! That I could do something believe this […] happens, that I could take to burden myself. Is there anything that I can do?”

Another example shows Mont simply wondering what important and mysterious matter Ellie plans to discuss with him that evening that she would not write to him in a letter. He ponders, “I am prepared for a serious talk my Darling on what subject I cannot fancy, still I will soon find out.” It is also likely that there could have even been some letters deemed too personal for donation.

Another notable convention present in love letters of the period is “testing,” where one lover ensures the devotion of the other through self-deprecation, admitting to or attempting to provoke jealousy. The author seeks a response assuring them of the other’s love and faithfulness, as well as of their own good qualities. Mont and Ellie often tease one another about trying the other’s patience, while also offering reassurance to the other. Each also claims to fear that they are completely unworthy of the other, as well as revealing a hope that the relationship will improve their own individual characters. Ellie refers to herself as “a good for nothing little body” and looks to Mont to dispel her fears that another lady will catch his fancy. Mont attempts to ease them in one note where he has “not seen any of the young ladies of this place yet, nor have I any desire to see them. All I want is to see you again.” Mont himself reveals, however, a terror that when their wedding day arrives, though he finds that he loves Ellie more than before, she will discover that she does not love him at all. A man of this time period and society would likely have had few, if any, outlets for expressing insecurities other than to his beloved.

The Victorian masculine ideal was strength tempered by gentlemanly restraint while the feminine ideal called for “piety, purity, submission and domesticity” [Welter, pp. 151–174]. Evidence of period gender roles and expectations are apparent throughout both Mont and Ellie’s letters. Mont repeatedly describes Ellie as “pure” and lauds her for her piety. He also refers to “how happy I will be to know that a darling little soul will look up to me for […] protection and how proud I will be to protect her from any harm.” Ellie in turn writes of, “how happy I shall be in waiting upon you caring for you, learning better + better to anticipate your wishes and to please you.” Each vows to take care of the other, albeit in gender appropriate ways. Mont wants to shelter his “timid little one” from the wider world, while Ellie wants to nurture her “spoiled boy Mont” inside the confines of their household.

Mont and Ellie’s letters provide a variety of possibilities for research regarding the mid- to late 19th century United States, including topics such as correspondence, courtship, marriage, and gender roles. Judging by the fact that they had a long and happy marriage, Mont appears to have kept true to his promises of eternal love to Ellie:

“You can always feel certain that during the time we will have to pass before the spring and forever after, that I will have towards you the same undying affections and imperishable love that I have now.”

Further Reading:

Bederman, Gail. Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Lystra, Karen. Searching the Heart: Women, Men, and Romantic Love in Nineteenth-century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Welter, Barbara. “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820–1860.” American Quarterly, 18.2 (1966): 151–174.

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Celebrate the father of "naked poetry" — Nobel laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez

JimenezIn celebration of Hispanic Cultural Heritage Month, Mercedes Juliá, Ph.D., will speak at Falvey Memorial Library on Spanish poet and Nobel laureate, Juan Ramón Jiménez. Dr. Juliá recently released a book on the poet, entitled De la nueva luz: En torno a la poesía última de Juan Ramón Jiménez (Huelva 2010).

Dr. Juliá will speak at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, in Falvey Memorial Library’s first floor lounge.

This lecture builds on earlier library events dedicated to Jiménez. In the spring of 2009, Dr. Juliá worked to organize a symposium on the author and was instrumental in bringing to the Library a detailed exhibit about his life. She praises Jiménez’s versatility: “There is a Juan Ramón for every taste: an endearing poet very much like a child, a romantic poet in love with nature and love itself, a metaphysical poet in search for God and the absolute, a postmodernist poet desperate and broken because he is unable to find answers to his mortal quest.” (more…)


What is your goal? How can we help?


Welcome back to Villanova! “Go Wildcats!”

Visit the welcoming window display on Falvey’s first floor, created by Joanne Quinn, a member of the Outreach and Programming team. The football theme “What is your goal? How can we help?” vividly connects life on the playing field with using your library to make those academic touchdowns. Maintain your march down the field and go for a first down: Contact the reference librarians and subject specialists who are identified by name and their areas of expertise, as well as other library staff whom you might encounter.

In the center section of the large window, the white goal post frames the large “FALVEY,” its “V” created by that on a t-shirt. The exhibit’s title is also framed by this goal post. Scattered throughout the exhibit are cards relating to football: practice schedules, time out, M.V.P., “We are the champions,” and others. Across the bottom of the window are football-shaped balloons and miniature goal posts. The large goal post is flanked by football lanterns and Villanova football photographs.

Joanne’s display unites the academic and athletic aspects of University life in a lighthearted way.

~ Alice Bampton and Alexandra Edwards; photograph by Alice Bampton


Trial for NetAdvantage

The library has a free trial for NetAdvantage, a platform for campus wide access to Standard & Poor’s content that we currently receive via MarketInsight.  We’ve recently learned that MarketInsight will be phased out by the end of the year. Hence  Falvey Memorial Library and the  Applied Finance Lab are in the process of evaluating our needs and exploring alternatives to MarketInsight.

The official description of NetAdvantage is as follows:

Standard & Poor’s NetAdvantage is a comprehensive, professional source of proprietary analysis on industry trends, corporate activities, and investments. For non-business students, the service includes a Financial Education section with tools for understanding personal finance.

S&P NetAdvantage, along with other S&P resources, is a core service used at many of the leading investment firms, corporations, government agencies, and law offices.

NetAdvantage has company, mutual fund and exchange traded fund profiles and screeners.  This content is substantially duplicated in services such as Mergent and Morningstar.   Digital editions of Securities Dealers of North American and the well known Register of Corporations, Executives Directors (also on Lexis-Nexis Academic) are also available.  Some nice editorial content can be had in the Financial Education and Investment Ideas zones.  Two areas where NetAdvantage may really have an advantage over competing products is in the bond report and screener and Industry Surveys.  Because S&P Industry Surveys are a solid introduction to understanding  the conditions, driving forces, trends and key players in an industry, I regularly recommend them to students.

Please let me know what you think of NetAdvantage!


Upcoming Library Events

There are several exciting library events approaching!

Want to know who the next president will be?  Lara Brown has some ideas, today at 4:00pm in the Falvey cafe/lounge.


Falvey Library Open House – Students can enter to win an iPad, Kindle, or Sony Reader!


Dr. Mercedes Julia will be discussing her new book!


Need some business skills?  These workshops are offered in Bartley Hall!  Communication majors may be especially interested in the workshop on advertising, offered October 18th and 20th.



Kristyna Carroll
Research Support Librarian


Win an iPad and more: Falvey Open House, Tues., Sept. 21 & Wed., Sept. 22

open-house-ereaders2Tuesday & Wednesday, Sept. 21 & 22, 2010, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Try out the iPad, Kindle and Sony e-Reader. Enter the drawing to win one of them! Free USB thumb drives to the first 250 students who enter the drawing.

Shake hands with the Wildcat!

Grab some cookies, pens and other free stuff.

See you there!


Saints, Students, a Scientist, and Other Sculptures

Over the summer, I’ve added a couple of new collections to the Digital Library. One of these new additions is the Villanova Sculpture Collection, documenting the sculptures found on campus. Eleven of the thirteen sculptures that I know of have been added, and I hope to photograph the remaining two by the end of this week (time and weather permitting, of course!). (Edited to add: All sculptures are now photographed and online! 9/16)

Augustine the Teacher
Augustine the Teacher.

I have taken photographs of the sculptures in full view from as many sides as possible, as well as detail views of interesting aspects or attributes. Most of the sculptures are depictions of saints, including two each of St. Augustine and St. Thomas of Villanova, but there are also some other notable people and some abstract shapes.

Gregor Johann Mendel.

Come take a scroll through our virtual sculpture garden!


Sociological Abstracts Tutorial

The Sociological Abstracts database is a useful starting place for sociology research. The database covers a variety of sociology-related topics in fields such as anthropology, economics, education, medicine, community development, philosophy, demography, political science, and social psychology from many journals and other periodicals.

To help you get started with searching this database and to demonstrate a few helpful tricks, I’ve created a short video tutorial about Sociological Abstracts. You can watch the video on the Social Problems Research Guide or on YouTube.

sociological abstracts

Please note that the layout of the Library website has changed slightly since I made the tutorial. Rather than clicking the “Research” tab to get to the database as shown in the video, you will need to click the “Guides” tab. The database itself is the same, so all other demonstrations are accurate.

Feel free to contact us with any further questions or comments that you may have.


Goodbye and Hello


The history/sociology liaison team lost one of its original members – David Burke, who will devote more time to resource management and the creation and organization of metadata in Falvey’s growing digital library.

Laura Bang, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s library science school, replaces David on the liaison team. Laura joined Falvey this past spring as a curatorial assistant in Special and Digital Collections. Originally from Santa Barbara (Ca.),  Laura received her bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Bryn Mawr College. Last summer, while in graduate school, Laura worked at the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany. Laura noted that the IYL is located in a fifteenth-century castle and that her work there was her “favorite experience in library school.”

Jutta Seibert, coordinator of Academic Integration, continues as team coordinator and Alice Bampton, Visual Resources librarian, remains on the team.


Now Online:Uniworld

Two very useful formerly print business directories are now online:  American Firms Operating in Foreign Countries and Foreign Firms Operating in the United States!  You might think identifying branches of U.S. firms doing business abroad or foreign based companies doing business in the U.S. would be easy using standard business directories such as Hoovers or Mergent or Lexis-Nexis Company Dossier, but it isn’t.

The new online version of these specialized directories supports very precise queries.   For instance, you can get lists of private and public U.S. pharmaceutical industry companies with offices in Pennsylvania.  Job seekers will love the feature that limits searches to firms with career postings.

The resource is available from the Databases A-Z page, Marketing & Business Law and Management and Operations subject pages.  Our current subscription is limited to viewing and printing records, if usage and demand is great enough we can upgrade to Excel access.


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Last Modified: September 10, 2010