Reading #4 – Charity and Sylvia

Charity and Sylvia by Rachel Cleves details the marriage-in-all-but-law (from the front cover) of Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake in the early 1800s in the Northeastern United State. Cleves does a good job by detailing not only Charity’s life before Sylvia, but Sylvia’s life after Charity’s passing in the 1850s. This book may be nonfiction, but it reads more like a fairytale – of Charity’s hardships in past relationships and unkind gossip, and the way that the two women were finally happy together in their small town, with that town’s blessing even.
Cleves uses the language of the time to explain the relationship between Charity and Sylvia, not putting modern constraints on it, and explaining the period language in a way modern readers can understand.

I personally adored this read. Most of what one thinks of when one thinks of gay relationships in the past is the forbidden nature and the hardships the participants faced. You don’t think that in some towns, most people were, if not fine with it, not quite ready to tar and feather at a moment’s notice. The idea of romantic friendships that Cleves discusses is interesting to me, and I think we should bring that sort of thing back – a close friendship can be extraordinarily beneficial for one, and as I understand them that is essentially what a romantic friendship was. I also love the way that the past language was couched to acknowledge that these women would be very important to each other, but without forcing the issue of acknowledging homosexual relationships. The way that these relationships were acknowledged-but-not in the language surrounding them was incredibly interesting to me.

1 Comment

  1. Make sure that you demonstrate that you have read the book as well as reflected. Partial credit.

Comments are closed.