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Thackeray's Gift to Annie Fields Comes to Houghton

A small card, written and signed by Annie Adams Fields and inserted into the case of the rose-colored cameo proclaims the piece, decorated with angel and child figures, as a gift in 1856 of William Makepeace Thackeray. Now, nearly 150 years later, the cameo is the gift to Houghton Library of Paul Garber '56, JD '61. "The cameo," states Leslie Morris, curator of manuscripts in the Harvard College Library, "is a physical manifestation of the friendship between Thackeray and Mrs. Fields. It has a close connection with the manuscript and book collections at Houghton and is the kind of object that can make an exhibition come alive."

Annie Fields was the wife of James T. Fields, owner of Boston publishers Ticknor and Fields. She was a renowned hostess whose salon was frequented by the preeminent literary and political figures of her day. Houghton's collection includes a substantial number of her letters, papers concerning the settlement of her estate, and records of her husband's firm. Houghton also has extensive holdings of the British novelist Thackeray, including drawings, manuscripts, books, letters, and original sketches in an ivory-leaf sketchbook.

Garber, Consul Honorario de Chile in Boston, had acquired the cameo in 1982. A brief footnote to an article by Houghton's Elizabeth Falsey, "From Boston to Cambridge"—which was published in the Fall/Winter 2001 Harvard Library Bulletin—inspired him to give the cameo to Houghton. According to Falsey's note, the College Library was regularly given a copy of every book published by Ticknor and Fields. When Garber discovered the depth of the Fields and Thackeray holdings at Houghton, he decided the cameo could serve scholarship as a complement to the library's collections.

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Last modified on Tuesday, November 19, 2002.