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149. R[ANDALL], I[sabelle]. A Lady’s Ranche Life in Montana. London: W. H. Allen & Company, 1887. viii, 170, [2 ads] pp. 12mo, original blue cloth decorated and lettered in gilt and black. Spine darkened, extremities chipped, slightly shelf slanted and binding moderately worn, ink date stamp and two small pencil notes on p. [iii]. From the library of noted Texas collector Dorothy Josey, with her bookplate.
     First edition. Adams, Herd 1860. Hanna, Yale Exhibit. Howes R49. King, Women on the Cattle Trail and in the Roundup, p. 18: “An Englishwoman’s letters about ranch life in [Moreland] Montana [in Gallatin Valley] in the 1880s; presents a lively portrayal of American customs and social life in the West.” Smith 8493.

     The author in her preface states, “The letters were written to friends at home by a young bride who went out with her husband immediately after her marriage. They are a faithful and unvarnished record of a settler’s life. We find in them a description of the daily record of work. There were hardships to bear, and struggles to be made.”

     Randall was among the early English emigrants to the Gallatin Valley in Montana, where she moved with her husband (James “Jem” Randall) after sailing to New York and taking a train cross country.  Her descriptions of her experiences deeply reflect her English roots, including the stiff upper lip, the gentility, and the snobbery that often marked English visitors to this country.  For example, a disastrous barn fire in which her favorite horse died is almost shrugged off and followed quickly by a description of a jury-rigged tennis court upon which she plays the game with a visiting countryman.  She concludes by regretting to a certain extent that she is back in England and longs to see Montana again.  One unfortunate aspect of her English reserve is that she generally does not use people’s names, but rather refers to them in code (e.g., “Mrs. M---“). For an interesting article on the author, see Phyllis Smith’s “Montana Episodes: Isabelle Randall and the ‘Natives’” in Montana: The Magazine of Western History (Spring 2002). ($100-200)

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