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re-publication.  In response to inquiries from the Steck Company in 1935, George N. Sears advised his cousin Dr. E. N. Gray to seek more remuneration than was offered and "to have the Diary properly edited."  By this Sears meant adding an introduction, footnotes on the "minor personages of the revolutionary period," and maps "to delineate Colonel Gray's travels."  Further, he suggested that a new edition would be more complete, although A. C. Gray had written in his 1909 preface: "I determined to print it, just as he wrote it, changing nothing."  Sears indicated that, considering the diary "more personal than historical" and not wishing to antagonize descendants of individuals described disparagingly by Gray, "Uncle Charlie," had in fact made "certain deletions . . . from his father's account."  Family oral tradition hinted that those omissions "were extensive."  Sears made the case for printing the diary in toto for the sake of history.[ 6]

Not only did plans fall through for a comprehensive new edition, the family soon lost control of the original manuscripts.  In 1940 the widow of E. N. Gray, pressed for cash to pay debts and taxes from the estate, sold the originals to Earl Vandale, a collector working on behalf of the University of Texas.[ 7]  A facsimile edition by the Fletcher Young Publishing Company in 1965, whose proprietor was himself descended from a partner of A. C. Gray, was done without reference to the manuscripts.  The original handwritten diaries languished in the Vandale Collection for over half a century without attracting the attention of scholars.  They now serve as the basis for this entirely new edition, with text corrected, explanatory notes appended, and maps added, just as Sears had hoped.  However, family folklore was wrong about the work of the original publisher -- A. C. Gray in fact printed a reasonably complete and unexpunged version.

Of course, the diary of William Fairfax Gray succeeds so well not because of editorial presentation but because of the quality and ability of its author.  He was a man of considerable cultural refinement.  The incomplete record of his early life cannot obscure the fact that he was the product of a privileged upbringing.  Born in Fairfax County, Virginia, on November 3, 1787, Gray went to school in Alexandria.  The man we come to know from reading the diary has the character of an aristocrat.  He was extremely absent-minded, repeatedly leaving behind articles of clothing or personal belongings as would a person accustomed to being served rather than managing for himself.  His responses to outdoor activities reflected a gentlemanly disposition.  In the midst of a hunting trip in Mississippi he wrote, "I never before in my life, that I recollect, picked a duck or washed a shirt."[ 8]

Gray took up residence in Fredericksburg, Virginia, as early as 1807-09.  By age twenty-three he made his living as a bookseller and publisher.  Financial distress forced him to surrender much of his merchandise in 1834-35, but he

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The Diary of William Fairfax Gray, from Virginia to Texas, 1835-1837
Copyright 1997 William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas