In December of 1753, Reverend Jonas Clarke of Lexington wrote to his brother, Thomas, from Dedham. The letter begins with several sentences of excuses, as Thomas had asked Jonas to write more often . . . and it appears that Jonas had not obliged, due his self-proclaimed very busy schedule. (Haven’t we all been there, especially in December just before the holidays?)
“To speak the truth,” Jonas wrote, “I have been exceedingly drove with business, as you may easily conceive from my having the care of many youth committed to me; for I have, at present, and have had, ever since you was here, about 60 scholars, and sometimes more.”
And doesn’t that just perfectly describe how many of us feel as we end this December of 2020? Like we have been “exceedingly drove?” It has been a long year full of unanticipated stressors, while we continuously adapt to the to the frequently referred to “new normal.” Many of you who are caring for children may even feel like you have had “the care of many youth” committed to you (and, at times, even if you only have a few children, it may even feel like you have had upwards of 60 scholars remote learning in your home). It has been a very strange year indeed, and it is likely that the holidays were quite different for you this year, as well. Now that the hustle and bustle is winding down, maybe you can take a bit of time to relax and regroup before jumping into the new year and all that it may have in store.
Letters like this one from Jonas Clarke, though, are fascinating windows into the minds of individuals throughout time. Personal correspondence can offer insights into how people were feeling at particular moments in history, they can shed light on historic events or routine day-to-day life, and they can really humanize the past for us. Through this letter, we can find ourselves comparing our hectic lives with that of Jonas Clarke over 250 years ago.
At Lexington Historical Society, our interest in these personal texts has led us to launch a brand-new program: Letters of Lexington. This will be a subscription based program where individuals can purchase a 6-month subscription for $100 and receive one curated mailing per month from Lexington Historical Society’s archives. Each month’s mailing will focus on one original short letter that can be found in our archival holdings. Subscribers will receive a scan of each letter, a typed transcription of the letter, and a short description of the letter which will place it into historic context. While the letter will be from Lexington’s archives, that does not mean that it will always focus on the American Revolution! Lexington has a rich and diverse history, and these letters will span from the 18th to the 20th centuries and will be on a variety of topics. Letters will be sent out towards the end of every month, beginning at the end of January 2021.
Our social calendars this winter may not include too many outings or events, and will certainly look different from winters past, but no doubt you will find yourself as “exceedingly drove” as ever for one reason or another. Maybe we can all make a special effort this year to write more letters! And, I hope that you also make a special effort to document your experiences during this unique winter, so that 250 years in the future, residents of Lexington can see how you spent these long months and how you made it through this crazy pandemic time. (And don’t forget to submit anything you take the time to document to our What Life Was Like In Lexington: The Covid-19 History Project!)
Lexington Historical Society wishes everyone a wonderful holiday season and a safe winter! Hopefully, we can all take a deep breath and give a big cheer for 2021!
– Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.