With flashes of humor and close attention to detail, Ashley describes a broad range of activities and experiences in the small village of Deerfield and the surrounding towns of the Connecticut River valley. Articulate as well as observant, this former schoolteacher conveys a sense of immediacy that brings even the most mundane daily events to life. He discusses medical theory and practice, revolutionary politics, farming, his family, his circle of friends, and amusements ranging from singing and dancing to sleigh riding and bouts of drunkenness. He also writes about his love life, including a dalliance with the older sister of his fiancee, Polly Williams, while the latter is away visiting relatives in the Berkshires.
For Ashley, personal relationships and politics were the prominent issues of 1773 and 1774, as events in Massachusetts drew the province toward rebellion. He discusses the gathering of angry mobs in response to the so-called Intolerable Acts, the stoppage of the courts in Hampshire County, the anarchy that ensued, and the persecution of loyalists, with or without the sanction of law. When the revolution breaks out in April 1775, he describes the departure of companies of minutemen as they set out for Boston to challenge the British Army.
Six months later, in November 1775, the journal abruptly ends. By then, however, Elihu Ashley had already bequeathed to posterity an extraordinary firsthand account of life in rural New England in the years immediately preceding the War of Independence.
"This book provides the reader with that rare and wonderful thing—a window on the lives of ordinary people in a time of high historical significance. Vivid, entertaining, and moving, it chronicles the coming to manhood of a high-spirited young New Englander bound for the medical profession on the eve of the American Revolution. . . . Richly detailed and superbly edited, Romance, Remedies, and Revolution is both an important addition to the historical literature of the period and a delight to read."—Robert F. Dalzell Jr, author of Enterprising Elite: The Boston Associates and the World They Made
"An important, largely unutilized source for studying eighteenth-century social life and the coming of the American Revolution. Even more notable is the fact that the journal can stand on its own as a piece of literature: it's readable and entertaining and it has an implicit plot line tracing Elihu's ultimately successful though often rocky courtship of Polly Williams. It has something of the flavor of both Samuel Pepys's diary and an eighteenth-century English novel."—Kevin M. Sweeney, coauthor of Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield