While looking for something else in our Library special collections yesterday, I came across a mid-19th century notebook in the Farquhar collection. I could tell it was from the Farquhars – beyond the archival location info, of course – because it has one of Roger Brooke Farquhar, Jr.’s typed notes pasted to the cover:
Roger Brooke Farquhar, Sr. grew up at “Olney” (the house, that is, which was conveniently located in what later became the town of Olney) and as a young adult moved to the farm “Lonesome Hollow,” between Olney and Rockville. Thanks to his son RBF Jr. we have a large archival collection of diaries, letters, photos and other materials that tell the personal story of his family.
Inside this particular volume, as promised, are poems and literary excerpts written by a variety of hands. I glanced through and was struck by the following page, annotated in pencil by RBF Jr.* (Click the photo to enlarge.)
The circled bit is the final stanza of “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with an underlined “me” in place of “us.” The “M.P.C.” who copied this bit may be, as RBF Jr suggested, Mary Coffin, a Sandy Spring teacher – she married Willie Brooke in 1871. RBF Jr circled the lines and added, “Remember!!!! RBF Sr to RBF Jr to RBF III.”
It’s not clear whether RBF Sr. specifically pointed his son toward this piece of poetic advice, or if RBF Jr. found it years later and took it to heart. What is clear is that RBF Jr. saw this passage as fatherly advice, which he wanted to share with his own son and namesake. So many different personalities – the original poet, Mary the teacher, the three Rogers – intersect in just this one snippet of a page. When the words on the page make their own connections across the generations, old papers turn from “archival material” into a real, physical story.
*I recognize his handwriting, as he was one of the Society’s curatorial volunteers in the 1950s; his shaky writing and firm pencil are often found on our early paperwork. Roger has helped us out with Father’s Day posts before; see his adorable tiny hand-ax.