Customer Reviews: Mary Chesnut's Illustrated Diary: Mulberry Edition (2 Volume Set)
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VINE VOICEon March 23, 2012
This is a nicely bound two volume set consisting of Mary's Diary in volume I, 400pp, and an accompanying photo album in Volume II 457pp. The set is printed on high quality glossy paper, which helps the 200 plus B/W photos included in volume two to stand out. They are mostly carte de visites, but as with the smaller size of graphics in volume I there are a few paintings, etchings, drawings and other forms of art included.

Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut was as southern grand dame of the civil war era. She was a confederate sympathizer as one would expect due to her lineage and the fact that her husband was a US Senator representing SC who resigned to take a position in the Confederacy and also held a position as a Maj. Gen in the CSA. The primary period covered by the book was from about 1840-1880, although historical facts and diary entries were made before and after those dates. It should be known that although Mary strongly supported the South's right to secession and states rights, she stated she was against slavery and found it abhorrent, although she and her husband and their families owned slaves throughout much of the period of her writings. The reader will have to rectify those opposing opinions for himself/herself.

Mary's husband James died in 1885, followed five days later by her mother, with Mary following on 11-22-1886, due to a heart condition.

Mary's writing always seems to be in a superlative descriptive voice e.g. ( he was the grandest, most handsome, most talented; she was the loveliest, and etc.) This may seem a bit overdone today, but would have been a more typical speech pattern of the times when written. One of the interesting facts I learned was that a derogatory term for a Confederate to be forced to pledge allegiance to the Union was called "SWALLOWING THE DOG".

This 2 volume set makes a nice adjunct to several other books about the period including the Pulitzer Prize winning historical book about Mary Chesnut by C Vann Woodward written in 1981 and called Mary Chesnut's Civil War and another book the I also especially enjoyed about Charleston History of the approximate same period and written about another Charlestonian named Mary and called Mary's World : Love, War, and Family Ties in Nineteenth-century Charleston. These books are all for the history minded of the aforementioned periods, and I can recommend them all for those inclined to such study.
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on June 1, 2013
This publication has two volumes in a handsome boxed set. Its accomplishment lies solely in the volume that contains a set of photographs belonging to Mary Chesnut that had been lost to her descendants for decades until 2007. For those who have read her account of her experiences during the Civil War, it is a valuable contribution, because most of the people in the photos are mentioned in the book. The photo album not only reproduces the photographs, but also includes well-written mini-biographies of the persons in the photos.

The other volume is a major disappointment. It is a reprint, on fine-quality paper, of a woefully deficient edition of Chesnut's manuscript that was published more than a century ago. Chesnut had kept diaries of her experiences during the war, and after the war she wanted to publish the accounts in a style that was more literary than the jottings in her diaries. She died in 1886 before she was able to finish the manuscript, and her close friend Isabella Martin finally published a version of it in 1905. The published version, however, contained only one-third of the manuscript and deliberately omitted passages that Martin was afraid would give offense to Southerners. This, unfortunately, is the version of the manuscript that is reprinted in the boxed set. It was rendered obsolete and misleading more than thirty years ago by the Pulitzer-prize-winning 1981 edition of the manuscript by C. Van Woodward, which restored the vast amount of information that is missing in the Martin edition of 1905. Moreover, soon after he published his book, Woodward collaborated with Chesnut's biographer Elizabeth Muhlenfeld to publish an edition of the original diaries from which Chesnut worked while developing the manuscript that she wanted to publish. It contains fascinating information that Chesnut had excluded from the manuscript.

By including an expensive new edition of the Martin version of the manuscript with the photographic album, the price of the combined volumes is very high for what the reader obtains. It is a shame that the outstanding photo album was not published in a stand-alone volume so that readers could supplement it with Woodward's "Mary Chesnut's Civil War" and Woodward and Muhlenfeld's "The Private Mary Chesnut: The Unpublished Civil War Diaries." (For further clarification, the Catherine Clinton version of Chesnut's work, published by Penguin in 2011, is also a reprint of the Martin edition; the version edited by the novelist Ben Williams was originally published in 1949; it includes more of the manuscript than Martin did, but he inserted material of his own without attribution and made many mistakes in the transcription.)

The inclusion of the Martin edition of Chesnut's work in the boxed set was a regrettable decision in light of the needless expense it entails for purchasers of the product, but the photographic album is so good (its value is enhanced by a list of the page numbers in the Martin version, the Woodward version, and this reprint of the Martin version, where the reader can find the passages in which Chesnut mentions the individuals in each photo), that I feel compelled to give four stars, rather than fewer.
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on May 9, 2016
There are at least three different published versions of Mary Chestnut's journalized view of the civil war- this one is slightly longer than the other two I've bought and the pictures help put it even more in the context of its time. A personalized view of the horrors of war- and a detailed view of the feelings being there brought out in one woman. One of the better readily available personal diaries from this period that isn't just gathering dust in an archive somewhere.
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on March 11, 2012
After Several Editions of Mary Chesnuts' seminal work, the Mulberry Edtion finally discovered out how to present this incredible history. Meshing obscure and famous people's photographs alongside the pertinent texts makes context and content more fathomable than any previous rendition. In 70 years of reading, this reviewer has never previously seen such clear, crisp, insightful biographical sketches;each quickly identifies the individual, relates him or her to the diarist, to others and to the Civil War usually in a single poignant paragraph. If you want to "live" the civil War through the eyes (and heart and head) of somone who lived at the center of it, these two great volumes are a must must read!!
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on November 26, 2011
I was lucky enough to meet Ms McDaniel's recently at a book signing. She brought the diary alive through her wonderful presentation and background history of the compiling of such a personal look at a tragic episode in America's history. I would highly recommend this book to anyone - non-Civil War readers as myself and especially recommend the set as a must for all Civil War collections.
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on July 25, 2015
It is a shame that this lovely set of books contains the diary as edited for publication in the late 1800's rather than than the one that C. Vann Woodward put together with that diary and fragments of other writings of Mrs. Chesnut. That has been noted by other reviewers, however if one can only get the photographs of Buck and others with this purchase so be it. Putting faces to many of the names in Mrs. Chesnut's diary makes it all worth while to me.
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on June 17, 2013
After reading so many "Mary Boykin Chesnut" quotes in almost every book I've read about the Civil War, I finally purchased this set, and it was worth every pennny.

Really gives you an understanding of what life was like in the south during the war, and how even the wealthy families had to make significant sacrifices.

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on May 14, 2013
Mary's a winner

What a wonderful civil war memoir
as a special lpresent for someone.
Anyone with a civil war interest
will want to study this.
I love it.,
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on May 17, 2013
This 2 Volume Set is absolutely beautiful. High quality printing. A must have for one's Civil War Library. Book arrived in great condition.
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on January 31, 2016
I'd read the Diary before but the photo album and the notes that go with it are a real worthwhile addition to any Civil War library.
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