[1924-1928]. Wraps. Five handwritten, hand-illustrated journals. Four 8vo., one small 4to. All in paper wraps. Sewn bindings have separated or loosened in places, with chipping and wear along spines and edges and some soil to wraps. 1928 journal not bound.
All pages present in all volumes, with light toning along edges and occasional creasing but generally clean. 1926 journal reinforced at spine with blue cloth tape. Written in crisp calligraphic handwriting in black pen on blank journal pages; some traces of ruled guidelines in pencil remain. Illustrated throughout in black ink over pencil sketches, with occasional flourishes in red ink for emphasis. Volumes includes: 1924: 23 pp. 1925: 57 pp. 1926: [26 pp.] 1927 44 pp. 1928 [19 pp.] followed by a "Major's Supplement [3 pp.]. Very good. Item #22188
Elaborate annual birthday presentations to Florence Gunn for each of her final five birthdays, written by her children and other family members as a lengthy biographical retrospective in humorous verse, illustrated with lively and skillful pen-and-pencil drawings. Gunn was born in the heart of the Victorian age and lived through the First World War and to the end of the '20s. Both an arresting portrait of a strong-minded woman ("The war was not all sadness, for she did so love a raid / And when the bombs were dropping fast, she never was afraid") and an invaluable document of cultural change and women's social history through the close of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
Gunn's children affectionately but unsparingly record both her relentless personality ("For conversation she'd no use / Her best retort was just abuse") and her early struggles with domestic economy as a naval surgeon's wife. Between dramatic episodes, she learns to flirt, ride a bicycle, fire a gun, drive a car, and tolerate the gramophone. The five-volume history encompasses seven decades of youth, marriage, war, catastrophe, and intimate domestic troubles: when newly widowed, Gunn and her daughters lived "a slave to brother wild," who "roars and shouts and calls her names" until at last "An end had come to Harry's screamings [...] No need to creep like frighted mouse! [...] From pure relief we all went mad." Surprisingly unsentimental behind the cheerful rhyme scheme.
The final two journals see Gunn nearing 70, happily frightening her children with reckless driving and beer-drinking in the Tyrols until a concealed health crisis brings her close to death. The last pages close with the exhausted hope that all is well; Gunn would die later that same year. A unique and personal history of a woman made self-reliant by necessity, as independent as her era would allow and sometimes more so.