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The Diary of Dorothea Herbert

This memoir is a gold mine as women's records from this period are very rare. Not only does it provide details about what it was like to live in a rackety family home in the eighteenth century, but it also gives insight into unrecorded aspects of private life. For example, children are very often absent from historical records so Herbert's description of her childhood games is marvellous to read. The children were usually unsupervised and their games ranged from the educational (playing at being Robinson Crusoe) to the downright dangerous – the Herbert boys tried to set their music teacher alight.

Herbert also describes with much humour the efforts she and her friend Betty Hare made to beautify themselves (before Betty was whisked off in tears to be married at the age of fifteen). Their 'cosmetic endeavours' included going to bed covered in ointment and brown paper to improve their complexions.

Shelfmark: TCD MS Deposit

Jane Maxwell

Dr Jane Maxwell has worked for many years as an Archivist and Manuscripts Curator in the Department of Manuscripts & Archives. She has published, lectured, and curated exhibitions on subjects as diverse as the lives of 18th-century Irish women, and the literary archives of Samuel Beckett.