The Canadian Journal of Lady Aberdeen, 1893-1898.

Ishbel Marie Marjoribanks Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair, better known as Lady Aberdeen (1857-1939), was a British social reformer devoted to women’s rights, philanthropy, and other causes. “As Vice-Regal Consort to Governor General John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen, from 1893 until 1898, Lady Aberdeen organized the National Council of Women in Canada, became first sponsor of the Women’s Art Association of Canada and helped found the Victorian Order of Nurses” [Canadian Encyclopedia ].

p. xxvii, when overwhelmed by her duties: Lady Aberdeen had two cures for a depression. The first was to escape from the “stifling artificiality” by a trip, a ride—“I am quite ashamed to find how much better a place the world can look during, and after, a ride”—or a retreat into the library—“as far as reading, more and more I find that to keep life in proportion, books are an absolute necessity.” The second was to work, to plunge into the matters at hand with a frenzied energy and fierce determination.

p. 28: M. & Mme Paul Bourget came here for two or three days visit on Friday—we like them both…. He is immensely full of H.D.’s [Henry Drummond] books, which he has only come across for the first time during the past few weeks & he left us a paper containing a remarkable sermon of Archbishop Ireland’s on the mission of Christianity & the Church to the present age, preached at Cardinal Gibbon’s jubilee.

p. 56: Sunday Jany 13th [January 14th 1896] There are always such heaps of little things to see to here that one does not seem to get any time to work at anything steadily & it is difficult enough to get through necessary letters & skin the papers, & so there are but few odds & ends of time for reading. Have just finished Skelton’s new Life of Mary Queen of Scots, georgeously got up with illustrations & wide margins–& Mrs Besant’s Autobiography, was a bit disappointed in latter after my remembrance of her on the steamer as we came home in 1891.

p. 195: Saturday Feby 9th [1895] A whole week without any journal & I am not going to try to write it either. I have been engaged most of the time in trying to get by books etc .etc. unpacked & re-arranged. It is terrible how upset all one’s possessions get when one has no fixed abode for some months & Ihave been on the move ever since May 25th last.

p.212, the editor on Lady Aberdeen and libraries: Lady Aberdeen was one of the moving spirits behind the drive for a public library In Ottawa, but her efforts met with the little success. In January, 1896 a bye-law was submitted to the electors and it was turned down by a large majority. Not until the Carnegie Foundation stepped indid the library move forward. It was finally opened in 1906.

p. 214, Wednesday April 3rd [1895]: Mrs F. McDougall & Mr Hayes came to report the failure of their attempt to get the Archbishop to sign the petition for a public Library. It seems he cannot approve of it, as; he would have no control over the books selected & there would be histories & other books telling against their church. This is understandable enough, though doubtless now their young people get worse reading without a library than they would with one….

p. 391, on visiting Washington DC on Feb. 27 1897: General & Mrs Greely gave tea for us—a most kindly meant but somewhat painful entertainment. He once stayed with us at H.H. & has called one of his children “Rose Ishbel”. Sir Julian [Pouncefote] took us not only to Congress but to the new Public and Congressional Library. It is a splendid building. Sir Richard Cartwright said “We are proud of our library at Ottawa & rightly so—but when I saw this there was no spirit left in me”…. & the interior is composed mainly of white marble, the ceilings being decorated in various styles, with a good deal of colour.. …a marvelous arrangement has been invented whereby when a book is wanted, its name is whistled up to some remote corridor where it is found by an attendant & by means of some sort of electric tube it arrives by itself as by a magicians wand, before you on your desk. Marjorie & Capt. Wilberforce disagree as to whether the storing capacity for books is estimated at two or fifteen millions.