April 26, 1849 (Thursday)

Pleasant day.  Was called on by an old acquaintance Luther     M—n who is after a job at printing.

Passed the evening reading a very interesting book, very proper for young folks to read before getting married, called “Three Experiments of Living.”

This is the first mention of Luther M—n by Nathan. Presumably, Nathan became acquainted with him in Norristown, when Nathan was in the “type sticking business.” See the entry for January 2.

Three Experiments of Living, written in 1837 by Hannah Farnham (Sawyer) Lee (1780–1865), was inspired by the economic hardships brought on by the Panic of 1837. The three experiments are “Living within the Means,” “Living up to the Means,” and “Living Beyond the Means.” Ms. Lee dispenses advice for thrift and sound economic living through her main characters, Dr. Frank and Jane Fulton.  The Fulton’s are newlyweds at the start of the book and are determined to live within their means regardless of their penury.  Through hard work and altruism, though, they not only make ends meet, they thrive.  Along the way they encounter others, apparently rich, who live on credit and who don’t pay their bills.  Plus ça change…

This little book, the copy at AAS is 4 ½ inches by 3 inches, went through at least thirty printings in the United States and ten in Great Britain. It takes about an hour to read the entire tract. An 1837 review in Monthly Review said, “There are proofs, not only of talent but of originality in the production, and originality is the criterion of genius. . . . The lessons it contains are excellent.”

Three Experiments of Living was by far Hannah Lee’s most successful book.  Ms. Lee, who did not begin writing professionally until she was fifty-two, followed Three Experiments with a sequel, Elinor Fulton. She also wrote non-fiction, educational books such as Historical Sketches of Old Painters (1838), Rosanna, or Scenes in Boston (1839), The Life and Times of Thomas Cranmer (1841), and Memoir of Pierre Toussaint (1853). She does not appear to have published anything after 1854 and she died in obscurity in Boston in 1865.

The AAS has many items by Hannah Farnham Lee, including an 1849 edition of Three Experiments of Living. For a complete list, click here.

Three Experiments of Living has been digitized by the Internet Archive and is available at the Hathi Trust. Click here to read the digitized version.

Sources:

“Art. XIX.” Monthly Review 3, no. 2 (October 1837), 305.

“Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee.” Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936. Accessed through Gale Biography in Context.

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