Robins was an actress, singer, feminist, and something of an adventurer; this diary covers only the Alaskan portion of her active life. Among other things she translated Nansen (p. 5), and wrote several novels and other books.
p. 29, Mr Wirt to Elizabeth about her brother: Well I met him in Juneau I August or September ’98. I was at Juneau with my family—I was organizing our work, had established chapel reading rooms, societies, ‘services’ of various sorts. We had a fine library. Mr. Robins used it. He haunted it. It was there I became acquainted with him. [This man Wirt later turns out to be an enemy of the brother and a principal charlatan of Nome.]
p. 30, another quote from Wirt, again about her brother Raymond: I had my moorings. Mr. Robins came to Juneau an agnostic. One day in the library his eye caught sight of Drummond’s Natural Law in the Spiritual World and he laughed at the title. But he had the curiosity to take it down and he stood with it in his hand an hour reading. He took it home and finished it. He read Science. He read Tom Paine, and he read the Bible. And then he went back to Natural Law. One day he came to me and said he was conscious of a great change at work in him, etc., etc…. He was ready to devote himself to service of humanity…. [Again this is from a troublesome source, but there is no reason to doubt this account.]
p. 55, Miss Blane found reading The Little Minister (Barrie) while sitting in the rain on a bollard.
p. 89, gave a book by Hawthorne to Benton Wirt.
p. 100: Raymond read me some favourite passage out of Spencer’s First Principles and Data of Ethics and of Ruskin’s ‘Sesames and Lilies.’ I listen stupidly. Dinner at one and try to talk to the McKays. After, Raymond goes away to his study carrying The Open Question …. [her book of 1898 on hereditary diseases].
p. 102, campfire discussions of Victor Hugo, George Eliot, Thackeray’s Becky Sharp.
p. 124, reference to Church library in Nome.
p. 125, dreams of a home with its own library.
p.137, reading Coriolanus.
p. 145 Coriolanus and Ibsen’s Brand, two plays she had acted in.
p. 215, 217, on the Yukon boat she is reading Zola’s Fécondité, as well as press clippings on Eleanore Duse’s performance of D’Annunzio’s Giaconda. She is still reading the book four days later at odd intervals.
p.242: on the Yukon aboard Susie: Rough fellow in duck and a slouch hat comes up.—‘What you readin’—do you mind if I look over your shoulder. Ho! Guess I wouldn’t read that in a month o’ Sundays (Fécondité). Though I’d just tell you you could come up in the pilot house when you liked—it’s the best place to see the river.
p. 266, reading Omar Khayyam and gives her copy away.
p. 289, in Juneau: I go about looking for the Congregational Reading Room from place to place (for Raymond’s sake)—at last arrive at a parsonage near a Protestant church up a wide steep board walk opposite the back of the Russian Church. At the house I find the incumbent [who] talks much and willingly of Juneau’s ‘Christian work.’ Spoke kindly of Mr. Wirt but said his work had left no trace—his reading room had fallen on evil days, was in debt and about to be shut up when a fire burnt the roof off. A good many of the books were saved and were boxed up and stored somewhere….