Diaries of Benjamin Guild, 1776, 1778

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Content Notes

These diaries of Benjamin Guild document his travels as a Presbyterian pastor in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The daily entries describe people Guild met and dined with, the food he ate (including strawberries, currants, watermelon, English cherries, and lobster), the funerals he attended, and the sermons he gave. Many entries relate to his health concerns (the ague and eye trouble), sleeping habits, and widespread public health concerns (including smallpox, dysentery, "nervous fevers," consumption, and "putrid fever"). The diaries also contain passing references to the activities of American, British, French, and German soldiers during the American Revolution; the invasion of Canada and battles occurring in New York are noted. In August 1778, after visiting Providence, Rhode Island, Guild comments on the disordered state of the city after American soldiers passed through it. He also recounts a visit by officers of the French fleet to the Harvard College library in September 1778 and describes his dinner on board the French man-of-war, Sagitaire. One entry describes an elaborate ball sponsored by John Hancock, held for French soldiers and "Boston ladies," and another refers to the "incursion" of Indians. Many of Guild's diary entries pertain to his work as a Harvard College Tutor; these entries describe his lectures at the College, meetings with colleagues, personnel decisions, and the examination of students. He also describes books he is reading and his opinions of them, the purchase and sale of books, and his desire to learn Hebrew and French. In addition, multiple entries refer to a man named Prince, who may have been Guild's cousin, the Reverend John Prince of Salem, who graduated from Harvard in 1776.

Biographical Notes

Benjamin Guild was born in Wrentham, Massachusetts on April 17, 1749; he was the son of Benjamin and Abigail (Graves) Guild. He attended Harvard College, where he received an A.B. in 1769 and an A.M. in 1772. Following his studies, Guild served as a Presbyterian pastor in several Massachusetts communities including Dedham, Haverhill, and Cambridge. He was a Latin tutor at Harvard College from 1776 to 1780. In the late 1770s, he became a bookseller in Boston and opened the Boston Book Store on King Street, later known as Washington Street. Besides selling books, he issued printed catalogues and opened a circulating library. Guild helped found the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Massachusetts (1780), managed the subscriptions for the Academy's journal, and was a member of the editorial board of The Boston Magazine. On May 27, 1784, Guild married Elizabeth Quincy. They were members of the Presbyterian Church in Brattle Square and accumulated a large amount of real estate in the North End of Boston. Benjamin died in Boston and was buried on October 17, 1792. Elizabeth died in August 1825. The Guilds had two children who graduated from Harvard College, Benjamin (1804) and Josiah Quincy (1807).