Where Charles’ biographers and others who wrote about him addressed him with reverence and precision, Stedman was open, honest, and not afraid to poke fun at his friend:
“By this time no doubt you are reveling in your enlarged quarters […] so that more books [can fit].” Sadly because we know the outcome, he frequently tells Charles to visit him. He writes, “I can make you very comfortable now, and surmise that it mite [sic] be better than ‘sleeping naked on ice.’ I have got a little house, and can really offer you hospitality.”
According to the biography, London was Charles’ only successful vacation because, “An attempt at another proved a failure; he was back at his post before the week was out.”
Was Charles’ failed vacation an attempt to visit his “attached friend?” What did Charles want to remember as a result of saving these letters? What story did the letters tell to his brother George who, as executor of Charles’ estate and primary heir, would have undertaken the task of sifting, sorting, and inventorying the contents of Charles’ private collections? What didn’t George save? When building mnemonic bridges to remember ancestors, what was being forgotten?
At this moment in my investigation, I must take my cue from Charles himself and show the Hoadly/Hoadley brothers the conscientiousness he showed his own subjects. As described in a biography by the Acorn Club:
“As scholar and historian he occupied himself with the minute details of severely restricted fields of historical and legal investigation; preferring to work therein with care and accuracy than to treat larger subjects with brilliant inexactness.”
This statement sets up a kind of posthumous challenge to future researchers; we are encouraged to avoid broad generalizations and instead focus on care and accuracy when attempting to reconstruct histories. However, in a manner that is almost capricious, the historical materials left behind by Hoadly, and his brother George, are filled with moments so enigmatic that the temptation to draw massive, and sometimes salacious, conclusions is overwhelming.
Instead, I must avoid the thrall of “brilliant inexactness” and instead focus on what I know: Charles and George were brothers who lived together for most, if not all, of their lives. Charles’ will entrusted George with the bulk of his estate and made the modest request that a “handsome wrought, not cast, iron fence” be built around the family’s plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery. We know that in the years following Charles’ death that George stepped into the role of public historian and shared their collection and resources, the “gifts of Charles and George Hoadley” (per the bookplate), widely and generously. We know that somewhere between 1885 and 1887 Stedman’s family erected a monument in their plot, which was also in Cedar Hill, in the section adjacent to the Hoadley’s.
Courtesy of the Hartford Courant’s “City News in Brief” section, we know that on December 22, 1911, George “at his home on Fern Street yesterday picked a number of blooming dandelions.” In 1921, he gave Windsor Historical Society 320 volumes, 186 pamphlets, and 175 miscellaneous gifts, a huge amount for the Society, but which was only a tiny pittance compared to what he gave to other institutions. And finally, for now at least, we know that in an autobiographical account, Charles chose to conclude the listing of his professional accomplishments and associations with the short sentence, “He never married.”
It really is a lovely bookplate.