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Carrie M. Harris papers

Identifier: MS 0546

Scope and Contents

The Carrie M. Harris Papers consist of one bound volume entitled "Foreign lands 1891-92 C. M. H.," that primarily contains letters written to family members (mostly her mother and a person to whom she refers as "Aunt Em") describing her travels in Europe. The letters especially describe her travels in England, France, Germany and Italy, and include accounts of extended visits to Florence, Paris and Rome. Harris travelled with her husband David N. Harris, and friend Louise R. Jewett (art professor at Mount Holyoke) whom she met during her trip, both of whom are discussed in her letters. The volume also includes memorabilia, such as menus and programs; illustrations and clippings from newspapers or magazines related to places she visited; and photographs. Most notable among these is a portrait of Jewett and another of Harris, her husband and Jewett with an unfinished portrait of David Harris in the foreground.


  • Creation: 1891-1892

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Carrie M. Harris was born circa 1847 and lived in Nashville Tennesse. Between 1891 and 1892 she lived in Paris and travelled though Europe with her husband David N. Harris and her friend Louise R. Jewett, a professor of art at Mount Holyoke College.


1 boxes (Faculty/Staff Jewett)

Language of Materials



Harris, Carrie M., b. ca. 1847; European traveler. Papers consist of a bound volume of "Foreign lands 1891-92 C.M.H.," letters, and memorabilia. Describing her travels through Europe at the end of the 19th century.

Summary of Correspondence

This volume of journal-letters, as Carrie called them, describe her trip abroad, accompanied by her husband, beginning with a letter on shipboard, May 20, 1891, and ending in London September 6, 1892. Carrie, whose home was in Nashville, wrote about twice a week, addressing the letters to her mother or to Aunt Em. The letters were typed, and the Harris typewriter caused considerable excitement at the Italian border where customs had never seen one before.

This was not Carrie's first trip to Europe. At the time of the letters she was about 44 years old and had been married for 11 years to David Harris, a clergyman and scholar, who always carried Dante's Inferno wherever he went and according to Carrie in May of 1892 was reading it for the eleventh time. David spent a good bit of his time reading and writing; he taught a Bible Class in Paris and occasionally preached at Sunday service. A number of his articles written while abroad were published in American magazines. Carrie too was involved in writing, and was editor of several religious publications, chiefly for children.

The Harris's landed in France and after a night at a small hotel in LeHavre, and a morning picking wildflowers, they proceeded to Paris where they took a room at Mme. Cezaire's, a pension near the Louvre. Almost immediately on May 27 they met Louise Jewett, another boarder who was taking art classes at Julian's Atelier. From that time on, Carrie and Louise were constant companions. Mornings Louise would attend her art class or sketch, Carrie would write, or edit, or help David with his writing, and by afternoon the two women would be off exploring. Carrie felt especially fortunate to have Louise as a companion, not only because she was charming, intelligent, clever, refined, full of life and spirit (July 9, 1891) but also because her interest and background in art made her a perfect guide through all the galleries and museums.

The three friends stayed in Paris until early November, went on to Florence where they stayed till mid-February. They went south to Sicily, then were in Rome until mid-April, back to Florence and then to Venice, Ravenna, Vienna, the Danube, Germany; without David the two women went on to Belgium and England, ending up in Oxford in August where they enrolled in a summer program.

Carrie was a gifted writer with a good eye for detail. Her descriptions of Paris where they spent six months are full of color, conveying well the flavor of the city - shops, workers, flowers, and life in a pension. A small fire caused by a carelessly-thrown match at the pension led Carrie to comment "It is strange, but I have not heard of a fire since I have been in Paris." (Sept. 10, 1891) Board at Mme. Cezaire's was $10 a week each, plus $2 a month for service. Their room had no bath but a "neat little water-closet" (June 1, 1891) and "David revels... in his rubber tub." The food is very good (Carrie takes milk instead of wine) and conversation in French (or later in Italian) is usually lively. Evenings there are lectures, or reading aloud from Browning, or sometimes a concert ($0.35 for the opera in Germany). There are comments about clothes and fashions - a millinery shop in Florence copies a sprig of hawthorne for one of Carrie's bonnets. (April 24, 1892)

Carrie's interests were broad and she welcomed every chance for seeing and learning. There is a long account of a trip through the Paris sewers (June 19, 1891) and the salt mines in Berchtesgaden (June 3, 1892). She accompanied Louise to her art class, noting the life model "clothed as Eve is supposed to have been." (June 9, 1891) In October (15, 1891) she visited a destitute family whom Mme. Cezaire had befriended in "du Gros Caillou" - a family living on 24 sous a day. She managed to observe a wedding in Chartres (July 2, 1891), a baptism (Jan. 12, 1892, Florence) of a two-day old "wee mite" with a ducal coronet on its "weak head wobbling about" and a priest asking the "wee mummified object" if it believed. There was a neighbor's funeral and a cemetery visit on Jour des Morts; and in Rome at St. John Lateran the ordination of eight young priests. David's scholarly connections opened doors not normally available to tourists. Carrie accompanied him when he visited primary schools in Paris (July 27, 1891) although at first Carrie was so awed by the formalities of the permission that she did not dare ask to go along - "I am evidently expected to stay at home and mend the stockings." There was a scientific seance (Oct. 11, 1891) at Hopital de la Charite; a visit to the Mosaic Manufactory of the Vatican and to the Clarendon Press in Oxford, and a visit behind the scenes at the British Museum where she handled precious manuscripts.

While in Paris, Carrie taught a Sunday School class of 22 students.' Church services were an important part of the week and Sundays frequently found them attending several churches, perhaps a service in English, then another in French or Italian. They were all serious about their language study and Carrie became quite fluent in French and Italian. Her Italian teacher was a personal friend of Garibaldi and fought with him (Sept. 14, 1891).

These letters include a good bit of information about Louise Jewett since the two women spent so much time together over a period of 16 months. Carrie encouraged Louise's painting and describes in detail the sitting of the "old crone" and the bambino, titled In the Baptistry, which Louise painted in Florence. The volume also includes a clipping (filed with the letter of Feb. 14, 1892) from the Wilkes Barre Pa. Library News-letter for 1897 reviewing Louise's two paintings'- the Straw Braider and In the Baptistry, with a photograph of the latter. On July 1, 1892 while in Berlin, a friend snapped a photograph of the three travelers, David and Carrie in their room with the unfinished portrait of David on which Louise was working, with Louise in the background in her painter's apron with her palette. The Mount Holyoke College Collection includes letters of Louise written while abroad. Those between November 1891 and September 1892 coincide with the letters of Carrie.

CR Ludwig

October 1990

Harris papers, C.M.H. 1891-1892.
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Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA