Diary of Elias Mann, 1796-1800

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Content Notes

Elias Mann kept this diary during his undergraduate years at Harvard College. The diary begins August 17, 1796 and ends in August of 1800 and also includes several undated sheets filled with excerpts of poems. The daily entries describe many aspects of Mann's life, including not only his experiences at Harvard but also his involvement in the larger community. Entries related to life at Harvard describe club meetings (coffee club, Hasty Pudding Club and Phi Beta Kappa); trips to the theater; dinners at taverns; games and recreation, including a card game called "Loo," cribbage, backgammon, bowling, playing ball, fishing, skating and going for sleigh rides; gathering, and sometimes taking from others' gardens, food (most often plums, peaches, nuts and apples); what he ate (including one breakfast of three raw eggs and two glasses of wine); what he read (including Tristram Shandy and one of "Mrs. Ratcliffe's novels"); his friends, often mentioned by name; and academic work and formalities. In one entry he mentions the theft of several possessions from his room, and there are several entries about trips to Fresh Pond.|Mann's life beyond Harvard was very active. He traveled around Massachusetts, often on foot, making frequent trips to Boston, Wrentham (to visit a Masonic lodge), Medfield, Walpole (for corn), and Natick (to collect on a debt owed to his grandfather by an Indian). He seems to have been hired on occasion to borrow money or collect debts on behalf of friends. On May 20, 1799 he traveled to Boston to watch a frigate launch, and on June 12, 1799 he watched Governor Sumner's funeral procession. He writes lengthy entries about the death of George Washington in 1799, which greatly upset him, and attended a funeral commons in honor of Washington in January 1800. Mann also writes about rumors circulating that the Duke of York had been taken prisoner. Mann also describes various illnesses from which he and family members suffered, including his father's attack of what was diagnosed as Palsy, his mother's long illness, and his own itching and injured hand. He also mentions, in an entry made June 3, 1800, seeing a new machine "for drawing large stones out of the ground."|Throughout the four years this diary spans, Mann loved a woman whose name is always written in code. Many entries describe letters from her, their visits, and his pining for her.

Biographical Notes

Elias Mann was born in Medfield, Massachusetts on September 9, 1778, the son of Sabin Mann. Elias Mann entered Harvard College in 1796 and received an A.B. in 1800, an A.M. 1803 and an M.D. 1806. Mann practiced medicine in Medfield until his death on March 9, 1807.