It’s boating season! What’s more, it’s wedding season. What better way to, yes, marry the happy pair than to examine a timely gift to the Archives and Special Collections of a rare copy of “Mr. Hardy Lee, His Yacht.” This slender volume is by Charles Ellery Stedman (1831-1905), who published a limited number of copies in 1857. Stedman was a doctor by profession, but he knew his way around a boat and a drawing pad. The book, said to be “the first American book on the sport [of yachting],” contains 24 sketches illustrating how a young man might gain a fortune, a yacht, and a wife, all in one season.
A superficial inspection of the volume provides an amusing little story; a more careful inspection discloses a concise lesson in boating terminology (consider first Mr. “Hardy Lee”: “hard-a-lee,” “a command to bring a boat about on the opposite tack”); social customs (including a suggestion that a glass of porter and a sardine might be beneficial to seasickness, and much matching of boating terminology to mating ritual); and 19th-century slang and humor (“Has he got any of them botherin’ women along with him, Cuff?”). A nice way to get at the details is to examine the published version against Stedman’s sketchbook “Windseye,” which is in the collection of the Boston Athenaeum and already digitized: http://cdm.bostonathenaeum.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15482coll8/id/231.