Diary of Margaret Appleton Holyoke Mascarene, 1759

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Content Notes

The diary is written on interleaved blank pages in a 1759 almanac. The regular, brief diary entries are attributed to Margaret Appleton Holyoke Mascarene. Some entries, beginning in April, appear to be written in a different hand. The second author may have been Mascarene's sister Priscilla Holyoke (1739-1782) given that the entries mention visits by "Pater Mater Epes" and "Bets & Nancy." Priscilla, Margaret, Elizabeth ("Betsy"), and Anna ("Nancy) were the four daughters of Edward and Margaret Holyoke. After Margaret Holyoke's death in 1740, Edward Holyoke married Mary Whipple Epes, the widow of Symond Epes. Entries are typically only a few words and record domestic activities including childrearing, travel, house guests, family illness, and deaths in the community. Mascarene references British victories in the French and Indian War and the measles outbreak of 1759, including the illness of Faro, who may have been Mascarene's slave. Notably, the diary includes entries chronicling the care of Mascarene's newborn son by a nurse. Three interleaved pages at the end of the diary contain a list of expenses and payments and a list of clothing sent to the wet nurse Mrs. Cherry.

Biographical Notes

Margaret Appleton Holyoke Mascarene (1726-1792), the eldest child of Harvard's ninth president, Edward Holyoke, and his second wife, Margaret Appleton, was born on September 22, 1726 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. On August 9, 1750, Margaret married Cambridge shipping merchant John Mascarene (1722-1779; Harvard AB 1741). In 1752, Margaret Mascarene returned to her parents' house in Cambridge while John Mascarene traveled to England in an unsuccessful attempt to collect pension money due to his father. The couple lived primarily apart until 1761 when John joined Margaret in Cambridge. In 1764, John received a commission as Comptroller of the Port of Salem. The family lived in Salem until 1779, when they returned to Boston. John worked in a Boston customs house until his death in September 1779. Following her husband's death, Margaret supported the family by selling off her husband's large library and mathematical instrument collection. The items that she could not sell were donated to Harvard. Margaret Mascarene died in Boston on December 21, 1792. Margaret and John Mascarene had at least five children: Elizabeth (1751-1783), Joanna (June 1756-September 1756), Paul (b. 1758; temporary member of the Harvard Class of 1778), Peggy (d. 1760), and John (b. 1766).