Collecting Delaware Books
During much of the 19th century, long novels with miraculous plots were common. Such reading was in demand to fill long winter nights before the days of phonographs, radio, or movies. A few authors, like Charles Dickens or Jane Austen, crafted believable stories that are still read, but most wrote dull, heavy pieces we classify as romantic fiction instead of our century's realistic fiction.
Ebba Borjeson, A True Love Story of the Olden Time by Hampden Vaughn is romantic fiction, but it is of interest to the Delaware book collector because of its local setting and author.
This book of 596 pages was printed in 1894 at Costa Print, Wilmington, Del. Publication was probably subsidized by the author. It is 7¾ by 9¾ tall, nicely bound in bright red textured cloth with gold stamping on the front and spine. The University of Delaware Morris Library has a copy with printed paper wrappers as well.
Hampden Vaughn was the pseudonym of Pennock Pusey. Pusey was born September 6, 1825, on the old family farm in London Grove Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. His father moved to Wilmington in 1826 where Pennock was raised. Various Quaker ancestors, uncles, and cousins were prominent in milling, banking, and ship building.
Pennock Pusey's first job was as a farm worker, and he later was part owner of a farm in Maryland. In 1854, we went west to seek his fortune and found it in Minneapolis in real estate. He married Hattie Fowler of Homer, Michigan, in 1867. She died in 1874, leaving no children, and he never remarried. In 1885, he took his assets and retired to Wilmington, where he not only wrote but became active in the Historical Society of Delaware.
Among Pusey's responsibilities was the annual report of the society. He died February 16, 1903. His life is chronicled by Charles B. Lore, president of the society, in Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware (HSD) xxxix, 1903.
The same paper includes "Recollections of the Corner of Market and Tenth Streets in The City of Wilmington" by Pusey, based in part on his childhood memories of the area. Besides valuable historical and architectural information, it includes the following boyhood recollection.
"One warm summer day a sudden and copious shower had filled the gutters with running water, and exposed many small worms in the middle of Market Street which tempted a flock of pigeons to alight there to devour the fresh dainties thus offered.
"No healthy boy of susceptible certain age can easily resist the temptation to dabble his naked feet in a stream of warm rain water fresh from the skies and few of either sex can explain what all enjoy, the mysterious, the unspeakable delight of the first contact of soft tender feet suddenly freed from shoe-fetters with warm mother-earth and the welcoming lap and plash of early summer rain-water.
"Yielding to such temptation at the close of the shower, I joined a companion and with bare feet and rolled up pantaloons began waddling against the currents grateful wash in the street gutter … . "
The book opens in 1681 in an old family mansion in the midlands of Sweden. Ebba hears again from her grandmother how her noble grandfather died by the side of his king in the Thirty Years War. Her friend Halvor tells her he is leaving Sweden to serve on the staff of the Swedish embassador to London. Ebba and Halvor are too shy to admit the love they have for each other.
Ebba's brother Arvid comes to her in disguise. He has been falsely accused of a crime and has been pursued for months by powerful enemies. Eventually he decides to immigrate to New Sweden on the Delaware River. When their grandmother dies, Ebba asks to go with him.
The second half of the book tells of Ebba's life along the Christina River. She rejects a series of suitors, wealthy and otherwise. After five years, Halvor suddenly appears, dreadfully ill. She nurses him back to health, and learns he had been shanghaied and sold into slavery. The two tell of their love for each other, and the book ends.
Copies of Ebba Borjeson are not common, but a determined collector can find one for $40 or so. Its value is in Pusey's interpretation of life in New Sweden and the scenes he described. This was the author's only venture into fiction. Some of his other writings, under his own name, are Crane Hook Church, Predecessor of Old Swedes Church at Wilmington, Delaware (Papers of the HSD xi) 1895, 28 pp Brief Memoirs of Horace Burr, Charles E. Murray, and Henry R. Bringhurst: Deceased Members of the Society (Papers of the HSD xxviii), 1900, 22 p. and History of Lewes, Delaware (Papers of the HSD xxxviii), 1902, 35 pp, 5 plates. There is also the paper mentioned above in HSD xxxix, 1903.