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Price Realized: $2,250 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2444 Lot 232
(NEW YORK CITY.) Brevoort, Edith H. Diary of a wealthy Manhattan orphan. 58,  manuscript diary pages,  commonplace book pages. 4to, contemporary 1/4 calf, minor wear, rebacked; one leaf of the commonplace book clipped, repaired tear to one leaf. In a custom full morocco slipcase with George S. Hellman's later commentary on the diary and a 20th-century manuscript transcript. New York, 8 May 1848 to 31 January 1849
Estimate $1,000 - 1,500
Edith Henry Brevoort (1832-1891) was the daughter of Henry Brevoort, Jr. (1782-1848), one of the wealthiest members of New York's Dutch-American aristocracy. They lived at a mansion on 5th Avenue at the corner of 9th Street (a landmark until demolished in 1924). She began this diary shortly before her 16th birthday. Her mother had died three years before, and her father died ten days into the diary, leaving Edith at home with her three unmarried older sisters. Many entries describe visits by carriage to her sister Laura Brevoort Bristed at Hell Gate. Her 7 July 1848 entry (page 25), one of the longer ones in the journal, describes an outing to Manhattan's rustic northern reaches (around 70th Street) with her sister and her governess Mrs. Sewell: "She took us over to the ferry house and we walked & walked such a pretty path by the river. Odd that we should never have found it out before. We passed all the Jones & Schermerhorn places, saw the maniac asylum on Blackwell's Island & at last arrived at the Jones Wood, & plunged into it. . . . We met an old negro whom Mrs. S. accosted as Daddy and he told us to go straight along and we would find ourselves on the 3rd Avenue. We therefore proceeded and arrived on this hot dusty avenue, & finding it so disagreeable we turned out & went down a private lane leading to a Mrs. Ryder's or Ryker's farm. We . . . found a gate leading to a small hut, so we went up and knocked at the door which was opened by a little old man. . . . Told us he was a Jew and his name was Mr. Levi . . . Laura says she thinks it is a woman. He certainly was made like a woman, small arms & hands and a gentle voice."
Edith seems to have been mature beyond her years. "Who should pop in but Mr. Cay? We sat on the piazza until nine o'clock, he writing poetry & me listening of course. . . . We read, smoked, & talked for some time in the library" (13 August, page 51). One suspects Edith hadn't been taking gentleman callers in the evenings, or smoking, under her parents' supervision. A morose streak was frequently expressed: "I can't help seeing the evil in everyone. I don't judge them for it, for I feel I am as bad. . . . I feel as if the evil was spreading & I feel it spreading in myself" (2 December). In the rear of the diary are 21 pages of memoranda, mostly notes on sermons attended, bits of poetry, and an essay titled "The Object of Life."
Edith later married Pierre C. Kane and had children of her own. Clearly beloved by her descendants, the diary is enhanced by an 11-page typescript commentary on the diary by mid-20th century author and bookdealer George S. Hellman, bound with a charming watercolor on the front wrapper. This commentary was apparently unpublished, though another copy can be found among his papers at the New York Public Library. Among Hellman's best-known works was his edition of the correspondence between Edith's father and Washington Irving. Also included is a 34-page manuscript transcript of the diary done circa the 1950s by granddaughter Rose Kane Geer.
Provenance: the author's son Henry Brevoort Kane (1866-1930); his daughter, deaf-mute sculptor Florence Brevoort Kane (1895-1956) of Rhode Island; her gift in 1944 to her cousin Rose Kane Geer (1891-1968) per inscription on rear pastedown; Rose's gift to sister Edith Brevoort Kane Baker (1884-1977) of Glen Cove, NY per gilt initials on spine of slipcase.Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $2,250