Today at Houghton, July 8, we celebrated the birthday of our beloved patron Mary Hyde Eccles (1912-2003) with cake and a song. The cake, Eccles cakes to be specific, were spiced currant puff pastries, made (sort of) according to Mary’s own recipe (see here for more details on them!), which is housed here at Houghton in her papers.
The song, for countertenor and viola da gamba, performed live by our Public Services colleagues James Capobianco and Emily Walhout, was a birthday song for Mary. Admittedly, the song was originally for Queen Mary II of England, but the text seemed perfectly suited to this occasion, despite the fact that it was composed more than 300 years ago by Henry Purcell:
“Strike the viol, touch the lute,
Wake the Harp, inspire the Flute.
Sing your Patronesse’s praise
Sing in cheerfull and Harmonious Lays.”
In 2003, Mary Hyde, Viscountess Eccles bequeathed to Harvard a gift of tremendous generosity, including a world-class collection of 18th century English literature, the family papers that document a lifetime of collecting, and a substantial endowment to permit Houghton to catalog, preserve, utilize, and add to the collection. This gift was the culmination of decades of generosity toward Houghton by Mary, her first husband Donald Hyde, and her second husband the Viscount Eccles.
Houghton is supported entirely by endowed funds. We literally could not open our doors every morning, nor would we have any reason to, without the generosity of donors like Mary Hyde. After the Harvard College Library was destroyed by fire in 1764, donors from throughout the colonies and Europe gave the books that rebuilt the library. They have been our indispensable partners in the work that we do ever since. Harvard is grateful, Houghton is grateful, we are all grateful.
Happy Birthday Mary Hyde, and thank you to all our donors.