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The Olio or miscellaneous writings of Isaac S. French, student of medicine


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Isaac S. French was born on January 18, 1834. He received a doctorate in medicine from Dartmouth College in December 1854. He then returned to his parents’ home in Loudon, New Hampshire. He married his cousin, Ann Augusta French, on May 5, 1857. They lived north of Barnstead, New Hampshire, where French practiced medicine, worked on his farm, and wrote articles for publication in local periodicals.

"Medical Department of Dartmouth College," Farmer’s Cabinet, December 7, 1854, America’s Historical Newspapers, (accessed November 29, 2007).The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, "Isaac S. French," FamilySearch International Genealogical Index v5.0, (accessed November 29, 2007).

The journal of Dr. Isaac S. French contains original poems, essays, and entries describing his daily activities as a medical student at Dartmouth, New Hampshire, and physician from 1854 to 1861. French also described his relationships with several women and the early years of his marriage.

Isaac S. French’s journal consists of two volumes of essays, poetry, and diary entries. At the beginning of the first volume, French wrote that the book is dedicated to "short sketches." The essays and poems were increasingly outnumbered by brief entries describing French’s daily activities. The second volume contains mostly diary entries with only a few interspersed poems and essays.

The first volume began with essays and poems dated April 1854. The subjects include French’s opinion of social or political matters, fictional stories, and autobiographical anecdotes. French also described holiday celebrations for Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The poems often show editing marks and the number of metrical feet listed at the end of each line. Some poems were written for autograph albums.

In 1854, French began each month with a heading including a volume and issue number. Each month contains a short list of daily entries followed by several essays and poems. In January, the daily entries contain little more than notes about the weather, but the entries feature increasingly detailed descriptions of French’s daily activities as the year progresses. Beginning in March 1854, a series of young women including Lydia, Hannah, Ester, Ella, and Augusta were a common subject in the daily entries. Ella and Augusta are French’s cousins. French wrote his opinion of each woman and described the time they spend together. Many poems are dedicated to these love interests. When describing his more intimate encounters, French wrote in a code. The key to this code is available upon request.

The first volume ends in May 1855. The last pages contain a list of French’s expenses while attending medical lectures in Hanover, New Hampshire, and a family tree. The second volume begins in 1856. The title page contains a dedication to French’s cousins Ella W. Brawn and Annie Augusta French. Following several initial poems is a lengthy entry dated December 9, 1856. In it, French described his sad state of mind and vows he will never again put love before principles. The next entry is dated January 18, 1858. In it, French noted that "Augusta has shown that she loves me, but her parents, oh! How they err in bringing up children, hasty, snappish and thoughtless." In the next entry, dated February 18, 1857, French wrote of being in unfavorable circumstances, but does not elaborate. French did not write again until July 9, 1857, at which point he was married to Augusta. He wrote, "I have found all my sanguine hopes realized and my wife all that I could expect under the circumstances." Beyond these clues, it is not clear what the "circumstances" of their marriage were.

Beginning in January 1858, the journal contains short daily entries describing French’s activities. He occasionally mentioned Augusta and his opinion of married life. It appears Augusta was often ill. Otherwise, the entries describe his life working on a farm, attending patients, studying, and writing articles for publication. Other topics included political meetings, his religious beliefs, tapping trees and making sugar, the weather, and several months French spent teaching at a local school. There is a gap in entries between January 2, 1859, and January 1, 1860. In March 1860, French assembled a printing press and began to use it. The last entry is dated January 16, 1861.

While the second volume contains only a few interspersed poems, French continued to write. He noted several poems and articles that had been published in local periodicals. These include a poem addressed to Lydia that appeared on July 16, 1854, in the

New Hampshire Democrat; an article on sugar manufacture in the March 12, 1858 Granite-State-Farmer, an article on tillage in the May 8, 1858, Gazette; an piece titled "To My Wife" in the August 21, 1858, Gazette; an article on pluro-pneumonia in the June 23, 1860, Journal; and an article in the Inquirer on July 24, 1860.

The last pages of the second volume contain several poems and essays dated October 1865, including "Autumn: A Valedictory / Written for the class of Miss Lizzie Chandler’s School. Oct. 1865, A request." There is also a single entry dated October 19, 1865, which describes an eclipse.

  1. Item 0152: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Purchase, 1957.

Processed and encoded by Kate Hand, December 2007. Updated by E. Evan Echols, October 2014.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2014 October 10
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

The Olio or miscellaneous writings of Isaac S. French, student of medicine, 1853-1865. 2 volume.
Item 0152
Physical Description

2 volume

Print, Suggest