September 19, 2008               

AMHERST, Mass.—On Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 4 p.m., Robert L. Herbert, professor emeritus of Humanities at Mount Holyoke College, will give a talk on the diaries of Orra White Hitchcock, a well-known resident of the Pioneer Valley in the 1800s, in the Archives and Special Collections of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College. Herbert will read the diaries’ heart-rending accounts of slavery in Richmond, Va., and passages describing what the writer saw on the streets of London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Frankfurt and Paris at the time.

Hitchcock and her husband, Edward, were notable figures in the Pioneer Valley in the mid-19th century: he was a famous geologist, teacher, theologian and president of Amherst College from 1845 to 1854, while she was the chief illustrator of his books. Previously unpublished and unknown, Hitchcock’s diaries reveal a natural writer who wrote frank observations about the people and places the couple visited in Richmond in 1847 and in Western Europe in 1850. Her European diary offers, for example, fascinating behind-the-scene accounts of a scientific conference in Edinburgh and an antiwar conference in Germany. Herbert will talk about this and her views of various aspects of life in Europe, as well as her depiction of the romantic landscapes of Wales, Scotland, the Rhineland and Switzerland.     

Herbert’s book, A Woman of Amherst: The Travel Diaries of Orra White Hitchcock, 1847 and 1850, was recently published and is available online. His work on the Hitchcocks continues a life-long interest in the relationships between art and science. Also author of several well-known books on Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists he was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Lifetime Achievement for Writing on Art from the College Art Association.