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Reply to Bridgett Williams-Searle, by Timothy Kenslea I have enjoyed reading the thoughtful interchanges in H-SHEAR's interactive book reviews for several years now, so I am delighted that Professor Robertson has chosen my book for inclusion in this forum. I am even more grateful for Professor Williams-Searle's insightful and sympathetic reading of my work. She seems to have understood exactly what I was trying to accomplish in _The Sedgwicks in Love_. I am gratified that she believes I have succeeded to some extent, and instructed by her assessment of where I might have fallen short. As Professor Williams-Searle notes, the Sedgwick sisters and brothers born during and just after the Revolution experienced every one of the changes in courtship, engagement, and marriage that marked their generation. These included not only the ones mentioned in the review -- the shift from parental to personal choice of partners, the relocation of virtue from the forum to the fireside, changing notions of the meaning of marital abuse, and Related changes in the law of divorce and separation -- but also changes in step-family relations, in women's (especially widows') property rights, and in the legal status of widows in general. All of these are discussed and dramatized in the Sedgwick family's correspondence, and all are treated in my book. It is true that _The Sedgwicks in Love_ presents no major theoretical advances. It was not intended to (unless one wants to count the passing revelation that a number of Boston Unitarians were exchanging love letters filled with sentiments that Karen Lystra has classified as "Victorian," a full generation ahead of time). But I do think that every good book review is as much a review of the book one didn't write as of the book one did, and many of the possibilities suggested by Professor Williams-Searle make me wish I could have prolonged my research and expanded my focus. Still, one has to stop somewhere. One has to finish. Soon after I accidentally stumbled into the riches of the Sedgwick Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society (I thought I was researching legal history at the time), I made the decision that any project I developed out of those sources would be narrative in nature. Long years as a reader, editor, and teacher of History and English in high schools informed that decision. Such a narrative would dramatize major theoretical advances found in other recent scholarship, and perhaps partly qualify them, but would not (as Professor Williams-Searle notes) break much new ground. Then, even before I found the remarkable hundred-letter correspondence between Henry Dwight "Harry" Sedgwick and his fiancée, Jane Minot, from the winter of 1816-1817, I decided that Harry would be the central figure in that narrative. This worked particularly well with the marriage theme. Harry was the loudest voice urging his older brother Theodore to marry the woman he loved, despite her stepfather's objections. He was the one designated by the family to resolve a messy dispute with their stepmother over the settlement of their father's will. He was the first to confront his abusive brother-in-law, Ebenezer Watson. And before he successfully courted Jane Minot, he was involved in two of the three comically disastrous courtships mentioned in Professor Williams-Searle's review. On top of all that, he wrote copiously, in a style that was always at least clever and frequently brilliant. I also made a decision not to focus so much attention on Catharine Maria Sedgwick -- the best-known Sedgwick of this generation, and the only one not to marry -- except where her story intersected and illuminated the complex relations of her parents, brothers, and sisters with their spouses. At least in part, this decision was made easier by my increasing awareness of how much good new research was being done on Catharine by other scholars, especially by literary scholars who are involved in the work of re-canonizing Sedgwick and other women writers of the early nineteenth century. I was reaffirmed in this decision when I met, joined, and participated in the conferences of the Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society. The 2002 volume of essays edited by Damon-Bach and Clements and cited in Professor Williams-Searle's review is an early example of their work, which will be demanding our attention for years to come. But giving Harry the central role in a narrative work meant little of that work would examine things that happened after Harry's death in 1831. Thus I relied more on Catharine's letters and writings from the 1810s and 1820s -- when her brothers were making their marriage choices, and her sisters were dealing with the consequences of the choices their father had made for them -- than on her later writings. The treatment of issues of marriage and singleness in _Hope Leslie_ (1827) mattered more to my study than _Married or Single_ (1857), written and published when Catharine was the lone surviving Sedgwick of her generation. Still, I should have woven a consideration of that later work into my discussion of Catharine's singleness in my epilogue. One parenthetical phrase in Professor Williams-Searle's review, though, really made me slap my forehead and say, "What was I thinking?" Commenting on the sometimes inscrutable nature of family members' written accounts of Ebenezer Watson's abusive treatment of their sister Frances, she writes, "[D]id no official in Albany notice or comment when Watson kicked his family to the curb for three days in December 1828?" Although it did not make it into the finished book, the answer is right there in the dissertation from which the book was derived, and I blew right by it. Watson was temporarily excommunicated by his church as a result of this scandalous event. His Sedgwick in-laws report this, and in all likelihood, somewhere in Albany, so do some surviving church records -- but I didn't follow that lead. I wish I could say that this is the only do-over I would like to have. Still, the generally favorable comments in Professor Williams-Searle's review, and the kind responses of other recent reviewers and of numerous readers, are gratifying. I hope readers of H-SHEAR will see _The Sedgwicks in Love_ as Professor Williams appears to have seen it -- as a book that fleshes out our understanding of recent scholarly advances in this field, and thus as a book to share with one's friends and students, and with readers outside academia, to introduce them to these changes in the context of a readable, sustained narrative. But next time, I'll go to Albany. Timothy Kenslea Needham (Mass.) High School www.freewebs.com/timothykenslea/ Notes . Karen Lystra, _Searching the Heart: Women, Men, and Romantic Love in Nineteenth-Century America_ (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 129. . For more on this group, see Lucinda Damon-Bach, "Sedgwick Society," http://www.salemstate.edu/imc/sedgwick/society.html. . Timothy Kenslea, "Awakening the Heart: Courtship, Engagement, and Marriage among the Sedgwicks of Berkshire County in the Generation after the Revolution" (Ph.D. diss., Boston College, 1999), p. 292.