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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Evidence = New Conclusions

In my last post, I gave you my "final" conclusions on who wrote Laura's diary and which version should be my guide. Having convinced myself, I went on to complete the writing of The Road to Frogmore, staying as close as I could to the story Laura herself had told.

And then . . .  came that late night phone call from a family member who might very well know more about this story than I do. She was complimentary about most of the book with only a couple of corrections. But one was a biggie. She pointed out that in my book, a woman named Amanda Ruggles died. But the caller is a descendant of Amanda Ruggles' brother and she insisted that Amanda had not died as I described. In fact, she said, she lived for many years after the caller's great-great grandparents (T. Edwin Ruggles and Harriot Murray) were married. Whoa! How could that be? I immediately dived into my evidence, and here's what I wrote back to my caller:

I was concerned after our conversation that perhaps I had gotten the facts [about Amanda Ruggles]  wrong, so I set out to recheck. First I read my description of her death in “The Road to Frogmore,” since it was written back in 2011. My reaction  upon second reading was that the story was too detailed for me to have made it up from whole cloth, so I had next to determine what source I had used. 

The dates of the events surrounding her last illness and death in the book are September 15, 1863 through October 1, 1863.  I first checked the Holland edition – the one you have.  On page 116, you will see that there is a huge jump in the dates – from September 13 to December 10. The whole period of Amanda’s illness and that of Ellen Murray is simply missing. The only summary appears on page 117, where her letter refers to “Miss Ruggles’ death” and then goes on to discuss Ellen’s continuing illness.

However, in the handwritten manuscript, there is a detailed, day-by-day account of Amanda Ruggles’ illness and death, with enough references to her name and that of her brother, T. Edwin Ruggles, so as to leave no doubt about their identities. I have copies the entire episode from the manuscript, so that you can read the story for yourself.

. . . . I have no explanation of why Holland omitted all of this, except, perhaps that it is very detailed and he grew impatient with all the worrying.  Who knows! But it’s important to know that the printed version is not the whole story.  (3) As for a later mention of Amanda still being alive . . . well, if you have her around after Oct. 1, 1863, it must be a different Amanda.  That’s quite possible, of course. 

There! Once again I had found a "plausible" explanation for contradictory evidence. But there was more. My caller had also sent me a photocopy of a letter written by Ellen Murray, and the more I looked at the handwritten copy of the diary next to the letter, the more convinced I became that Ellen had made the copy rather than Laura Towne.  I'll argue that case next time.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. Sorry I was late to see the Google notice (don't have any other friends who use Google notifications!!