Words from the Chair by Singer Gammell '48
Cousin Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown, the amasser of the military collection which bears her name, never did anything by halves. And should you think I would dare call her "Anne," even after her death and considering my august age, you would be sadly mistaken.
She was not one of those ladies noted for a heart of luke-warm oatmeal beneath an impressive exterior. Cousin Anne was awe-inspiring clear through.
The members of her family, immediate and peripheral, do not know if her childhood in a rectory and descent from a family which has been described with only slight exaggeration as "replete with bishops" had anything to do with her dynamic personality and her tendency to see everything in terms of black and white, or with her endless ability to surprise friends and family by her sudden engagements in new fields and activities.
It was she who was the original sailor in the family (no stink-pots, please!), who got Cousin John (John Nicholas Brown) started on their succession of boats, all named -- if I remember correctly -- for dances. It was she who was the vigorous supporter of the New York Yacht Club, continuing her membership after Cousin John's death. And she, furious that their last boat, the Malagueá, had not been left to her, bought it from the estate, sailed it and lived on it at times during her stays in Florida.
According to family history, on her first date with Cousin John she arranged that he escort her to a concert in New York. She persuaded him to learn to play the cello. She was already an adept at the violin. She had a major and unpublicized role in founding the Newport Music Festival.
It is well known that the Military Collection began as a result of her interest in costume but its present distinguished and exhaustive eminence is the result of her curiosity, hard work and passion for thoroughness. She enjoyed expanding her horizons. Flexibility in embracing new fields was as natural as breathing.
Providence gossip occasionally had Cousin Anne and Mrs. Henry Dexter Sharpe (Mary Elizabeth) as rivals. I remember one of what were probably many big parties at which the two ladies were seated opposite each other on either side of a glowing hearth holding court as their respective and mutual friends and relatives came over to make their bows.
In fact, the two ladies admired each other. During a long cruise on the Caronia one year, Mrs. Sharpe became known as Cousin John's "vice wife," this because she was as eager as Cousin John to go ashore and explore the local sites and customs while Cousin Anne wanted to stay on board and catch up with her reading. (Which shows that there can be more than one sort of vice.)
Her liking for new fields led Cousin Anne to develop an avid interest in the stock market, this after Cousin John's death. On one occasion, while hospitalized with a fractured wrist, she asked her daughter, Angela, to bring in the Wall Street Journal. She then, to Angela's amazement, proceeded to list from memory, in alphabetical order, the considerable number of stocks she was following so that Angela could read her the day's prices. Cousin Anne did not do things by halves.
She was, of course, a striking looking woman who had a way of surprising those who knew her only slightly by actions at first apparently uncharacteristic but later seen as entirely appropriate to one who fit no known mold. I remember during the recessional at Cousin John's funeral, as she led her family back down the aisle she caught sight of my father, William Gammell, who was then ninety-four. Cousin Anne pulled the family procession up short as she stopped, held out both hands and exclaimed delightedly "Why Bill, how lovely!"
It is one of my warm memories of a great lady.