Thursday, July 22, 2010
Ms. Stockett tells her history of Baltimore as if she were leading the reader around by the hand, showing the sites and gossiping. I enjoyed it immensely. I had the great pleasure of strolling around Westminster Hall and Burial Grounds the other day, and there were many of the great names mentioned in Stockett's book, including General Sam Smith and E.A. Poe. Today I visited Greenmount Cemetery with Stockett's book in mind and I saw some names familiar from her text as well.
The book came out in 1928, and alas it bears the prejudices of its time (there are some disparaging remarks about "darkies"). Fortunately these are few and far between. Stockett bemoans the destruction of what was left of old Baltimore during the '20s; apparently there was a mania to knock down stately mansions of Howards and Latrobes and Whistlers in order to build "filling stations." I can only imagine how she'd react to later losses around town!
Strangely absent from her tale is John Work Garrett of the B&O Railroad, but his daughter makes an appearance. So too does the brother of Napolean, who married local girl Betsy Patterson, much to the Emperor's chagrin. This is only one of the fascinating and stirring tales she recounts. I never knew Dickens was in Baltimore until reading this book; apparently he was a fan of E.A. Poe, and visited the hospital where Poe and his mother-in-law both died in order to pay his respects to their memories.
Stockett closes her book right up the street from my house, in Druid Hill Park. Apparently in the 1920s there was still a shepherd with sheep roaming around the Park, and deer were plentiful. Those days are gone, but not the use of the Reservoir by "discreet lovers."