“Alas for mortal ambitions!”

Caroline Crane Marsh didn’t just write about serious things in her diaries, and when she writes about her personal life, we get a view of her personality, which is often gently self-deprecating.

The Tebbs were English friends that CCM and her family socialized with frequently. In mid-November 1862, CCM marveled at some water color paintings that Mrs. Tebbs had done:

Mr Tebbs, who came in alone for a few minutes, brought some most exquisite painting, of flowers done from nature by Mrs Tebbs. I have never seen any thing of the kind more perfect both in drawing and colour, and what surprised us most is that Mrs Tebbs had not painted a flower for more than thirty years until this summer

CCM November 14, 1862

Perhaps CCM and Carrie already had a prior interest in water color painting, but in any case in early January of 1863 they are

trying Ruskin’s experiments with water-colours

CCM January 26, 1863

Ruskin is John Ruskin, a contemporary art critic and serious painter himself.

One thing leads to another and in February they are experimenting with colors:

C. & I occupied ourselves desperately all day try ing to outdo Mrs Tebbs in painting an orange truly in water-colors. I ground the paints and advised while C. operated. Our success was not discouraging.

CCM February 20, 1863

I like her use of “desperately”, and “not discouraging”, indicating that she does not take herself too seriously when it comes to painting. Which is wise, since they pay the price for their desperation the following day:

Alas for mortal ambitions! Our triumph in the affair of the orange has cost C. an attack of inflamation of the eyes and we are both of us compelled to utter idelness to-day – I in bed she by the side of it.

CCM February 21, 1863

A wonderful sense of self-deprecating humor! And you can rest assured that CCM and Carrie were not dissuaded from further efforts in water colors, as they continue painting at least into the summer.

I have really just dipped my toes into the diaries, seeing bits and pieces as I prepared this version of the diaries, and getting distracted exploring people and things I stumbled across while testing the browsing and searching capabilities. I already have a stock of interesting things to share, though I hope I will not come to rue my own “mortal ambitions” …