Two Diaries Kept By Evelyn Kelly
After the letters were published, two diaries were later discovered among the papers of Frances Gage, Evelyn Albright’s literary executor. Ms Gage kindly donated the diaries so that they could be added to this website.
The first diary begins on November 14th, 1903 in which Evelyn writes “Today I am fifteen.” The diary ends on July 25 1908, a time in which Evelyn and her friends were preparing for College. The second diary was kept by Evelyn from October 18, 1908, when she was a student at Victoria College, Toronto and living in residence at Annesley Hall.(1) The diary ends on February 12, 1912. Both diaries reveal a good deal about the development of Evelyn’s character during mid adolescence and young womanhood.
In her first diary Evelyn discusses the personalities and events of her day to day life, such as family, friends, churchgoing, school and books she is reading. She records the profound effects that the deaths of family and friends have on her.
Evelyn is already a confirmed teetotaler and shows concern about friends who drink “intoxicating liquors.” Evelyn records her social activities, such as skating parties, sleigh rides and visits out of town. She writes of her hopes and ambitions and wonders what sort of a person she is going to turn out to be. She trusts that her “...’true womanliness’ must have a chance and I must exercise my ‘capacities for doing good.’” (May 20, 1906)
On January 6, 1906 she expresses her thoughts about the “ideal woman,” when she writes:
“I have begun to think how shallow I am and am determined to be deeper because my ideal woman would be. I have been thinking of some of the attributes of my ideal woman. In the first place by “woman” I use the word in its highest and noblest sense, not something designating a being of the female sex.
Preeminently she is a Christian, she is noble, true as steel. Her heart is warm and tender as a child’s yet her mind is finely cultivated. She is innocent and pure as a lily, simple as a child, yet wise, as a serpent. She is tactful, loving gracious, yet possessed of a strong will and indomitable determination. Her temper is controlled by her firm will though that does not say she has no temper. Indeed she has and a hot one. She is pleasant and full of fun, yet is sad and grave at times. She is much, much more than all these.
I wonder shall I ever realize or become the woman I have here described, If I do my ideal will then be higher, ever higher.”
It is clear that Fred Albright is a family friend and has known Evelyn for some time. Fred and Evelyn appear to correspond infrequently during the time Evelyn keeps her diaries as there are very few letters for those years in the Collection. His name appears several times in the diary as exemplified by the following entries:
On January 11, 1906 Evelyn notes: “I received a card(2) from Fred A. yesterday. I like him better every time he comes home. He seems like a kind of brother and in fact I think he feels like one, for he told me he did. ... I am beginning to see how much of our thoughts and character are formed by environment. Our idea of right and wrong are formed by the people around us and what we read. And oh! so much else. I thank Fred for opening my eyes. I’m sure next time he sees me he will find me agreeing more heartily with him than I did before.”
On December 30, 1906 Evelyn writes: “I don’t know what’s the matter with Fred Albright. He seems indifferent and rather cold. I don’t believe he likes me much. He makes me feel as if he thought I was very conceited and rather fast. And he once wrote to me about my ‘true womanliness’ and tremendous capacities for doing good. But I hope I’m mistaken. He’s too good a friend to lose, though he often hurts me.”
On January 13th, 1907 Evelyn comments: “I was just reading what I had written about Fred Albright. He wrote to me a few days ago and was explaining things. He said he had been out of sorts with himself all fall and was examining himself to see what was the matter. He hurt the one he liked the best and yet, knowing he did it, kept at it. No wonder he didn’t seem the same. He told me in fun I wasn’t to write to him any more. I’ll miss his letters if I don’t for he writes the most interesting ones I receive.”
Fred’s achievements are recorded by Evelyn on June 6 1906 “The reports of the exams were out today and Fred A. [Albright] got first class honors. He’s lost his bet with Brownlee.”(3)
Although Fred Albright is featured in the first diary it is not apparent that Evelyn regards him as a future husband. She discusses her friendships with other men On January 11, 1906 she writes: “Well tonight marks an epoch in my life. It was the first time a boy asked me to go any place with him. ... Today, coming home from the pond, I asked Charlie Harper to come to the special services. He came and afterwards asked me to go to Grimsby Tuesday night, to skate. Now I know I can’t go. First place Papa and Mama won’t want me to; second there will be meltings very likely and I don’t want to leave them.”
The last entry in the first diary is dated July 25, 1906 in which Evelyn acknowledges that she has enjoyed Fred’s visit and writes that: “...tonight Fred went, after having spent a week here, much enjoyed by me, at least. ... We had a bet today - for ice-cream or anything else that’s in style then - that inside fifteen years he’ll be married. He bet he would and I bet he wouldn’t, though I expect to lose.”
As Evelyn prepares for a visit to Beamsville, her last thoughts are: “After we come back here we’ll be getting ready for College. As Ray said a while ago, ‘I see a bright future before me.’”
By the time Evelyn begins her second diary, on October 18, 1908, she is a student at Victoria College. Much of the writing centres around her studies, activities with friends, her growing self discovery, and her occasional self-doubts. Although written over a four year period, this is a much shorter diary and Evelyn does not write in it as frequently as before nor with the same enthusiastic spirit that she displays in her earlier diary. On December 9, 1909 she observes: “...I’ve just been re-reading my old book, and it seems almost the work of another girl. How bombastic and youthful the language seems. Yes, though I don’t appear so sometimes, I guess I am getting grown up. In a way I’m younger. I look at life from a different point of view. I’m gayer. But perhaps that is due to the fact that I no longer worry over religion. It’s now a settled fact with me. And the process by which this feeling has come seems hardly discernible. It is slow growth. It seems so strange to look back and see one’s self grow.”
Evelyn feels homesick at times, when on February 8, 1909 she confesses: “It’s wicked to take this good time from my work, I know, but I want my mother, and my own house tonight.”
Confusion and uncertainty seem to haunt Evelyn towards the end of her student days She has doubts about her future as her entry for January 12, 1911 shows: “To try to settle at twenty one what one is to do at twenty-five is folly. Sometimes I am sure of myself, sometimes distrustful...” Foreign Missionary work appeals to her and then, due to her father’s influence, she changes her mind when she writes on February 14, 1912: “A few months ago I had my mind made up to be a foreign missionary. But dad changed that.”
Although Fred Albright and Evelyn did correspond occasionally during this time his name gets only a brief mention and then only when he is with others. The longest entry relating to him is that of November 14, 1908: “I had a letter from Fred today. He was going to tell me something, and then didn’t. He makes me feel badly, for some unknown reason.”
Throughout the diary Evelyn seems only to hint at issues that are troubling her, without divulging too much detail. An example of this being towards the end of her last entry for February 14, 1912 when she cryptically reveals: “I had a letter from my mother to-day. How dearly she loves me. And how I am paining her. Am I wrong? Who is to blame? Anybody or circumstances. Somebody must have sinned...”
The diary ends somewhat abruptly with the words: “Goodnight good night, Parting is such sweet sorrow. What I could say tonight until tomorrow.”
Also included are three Letters of Recommendation, regarding Evelyn, written by Faculty Members at Victoria College in the summer of 1913 as well as a personal letter to Evelyn from Margaret Addison(4), which was enclosed with her Letter of Recommendation. In this letter Miss Addison comments on Evelyn’s poor health during the past year and advises Evelyn on measures she must take for her future well-being.
These four letters form part of the Albright correspondence. They have been placed at the end of the diaries.
1. Information about students and events at Victoria College that Evelyn Kelly writes about in this diary was obtained from “It’s Late and All the Girls Have Gone: An Annesley Diary, 1907-1910,” by Kathleen Cowan. Edited by Aida Farrag Graff and David Knight. Toronto : Childe Thursday, 1984.
2. This card is not in the Collection.
3. John Edward [Jack] Brownlee, close friend of Fred Albright. Brownlee was born on August 27, 1884 in Port Ryersee, Ontario. He was was Premier of Alberta from 1925-1934.
4. Miss Margaret Addison. Dean of Annesley Hall, women’s residence at Victoria University from its founding in 1903 until 1931.