Agatha! presents Susan Snow Lukesh’s study of her great aunt Agatha Snow’s sketch book developed during her 3-month tour of Europe with three companions in 1912. Lukesh studied the images and the brief comments, pulling threads to explore what the cryptic comments of Agatha mean. Agatha’s original images and comments are presented in Agatha! Agatha Snow Abroad: A Sketch Book from her 1912 European Tour accompanied by much more—what did some of these brief comments mean, who were the people she and her friends met and briefly traveled with, and what happened to the various players in this brief trip after it ended as the world moved into the first World War and even beyond? Although their steam ship left New York harbor barely two days after the Titanic sank and before the survivors arrived in New York no comments from the passage to Europe mention the tragedy although there must have been discussions on board as news filtered in.
The ninety illustrations in Agatha! include period postcards that Agatha might have sent, an early 19th c print, and a couple recent photos of places Agatha visited, all of which complement the 71 illustrations of her drawings. Some of her drawings have been enlarged and show how close her small sketches came to the actual objects and sites she portrayed. The small sketch book, not even four by six inches, presents images—some with incredible detail, causing a reader to shake his or her head and wonder how she did it. Her favorite subjects are people and as many folks who travel know part of the fascination and interest in travel is encountering people who are quite different from those we know at home. And certainly, Agatha’s images of people capture her clear fascination with the people she encountered.
Agatha! supplements Agatha’s comments and descriptions with similar diary entries and letters sent home by other contemporary accounts further enriching what first appears a meager offering, if judged only by size. Lukesh also traveled on a couple occasions to some of the very places that Agatha and companions traveled and serendipitously traveled in one of the railway cars restored and on the line now also under restoration, that Agatha and companions traveled on in England. And in that same country in a different year she traveled to see where Agatha had seen and drawn two wonderful sketches of men on the streets of Warwick.
Agatha! not only presents the original sketches and brief comments from over 100 years ago, but includes solutions to puzzles that Agatha left us, such as what’s the story of ‘Mrs. Campbell and the Cockroaches in the Cabin,’ what is A.B.C., and what are horse-tail guards? Agatha! fulfills a reader’s need to know what happened to the folks Agatha and now the readers meet on the trip—both those on the steam ship passages to and from Europe and those met along the way in Europe. As much as possible, using public records, the lives of some of them after the trip, through WW1 and the years after, are traced, as are the fates of the ships that carried the travelers. Not every puzzle is solved, leaving some for readers, but many are, with great thanks to internet resources these days and Lukesh’s ability to use public records for genealogical purposes and answers.
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Agatha! After Words
In Agatha! we read the brief comments accompanying her sketches, some illuminating while others often cryptic—offering puzzles to solve. What did she mean? Some were solved, others still remain. The Postscript to Agatha! lists the puzzles not solved, one of which was “who was Delano Whistler?”