ABSTRACT

This article contextualizes selected entries from Frederick William Beecher’s unpublished 1855 journal that records his time first on vacation in Boston during winter break and then back at Williams College during the winter term. The journal is significant for literary and cultural historians and biographers, as it gives an inside glimpse into the daily life of the Beecher family and the cultural and political ferment taking place in Boston in the mid-1850s. Second, unlike other mid-century accounts of college life that were made for publication, the journal offers an unvarnished day-by-day record of the intersection of curricular and extracurricular life that illustrates the surprising autonomy of student life in a prominent liberal arts college in the years just before the Civil War. And finally, as Beecher’s journal increasingly became an intimate forum for spiritual doubt, reflection, and conversion, it provides evidence of a hitherto-undocumented religious revival at Williams in the spring of 1855.

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