The Tree of Life


  • Roberta D. Hamm Tennessee Technological University
  • Josephine Ann McQuail (Editor) Tennessee Technological University



Charles Oldfield was a late 19th century resident in Historic Rugby, a village still preserved on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau. His ghost reputedly haunts the Newbury House, one of the surviving original structures in the village. Oldfield came from London to conduct business at the settlement in the Plateau. Copies of letters from Mr. Oldfield to his wife in London (she remained in London even after his death) are held in the Rugby Archives to this day. No letters from Mrs. Oldfield survived. Using the mannerisms, language, and the over the top rhetorical style from a Victorian’s perspective, Mrs. Oldfield’s identity and story have been recreated on the basis of factual evidence and are presented here as a conjectured record of the untold story of a typical Victorian woman of the time.

keywords:   Charles Oldfield; Rugby, Tennessee; Victorian womanhood, Historic Rugby, Tennessee Board of Aid

Author Biographies

Roberta D. Hamm, Tennessee Technological University

Roberta D. Hamm is a senior English major at Tennessee Technological University, originally from Woodbury, TN. In Spring 2017, Roberta took a Creative Inquiry course at TTU, "Death and Dying in Victorian Literature," co-taught by Drs. Josephine McQuail and Laura Cruz.  The class involved an "immersive experience" -- a stay in Historic Rugby over spring break -- and this piece is its product. After graduation, Roberta hopes to work in an editorial field, whether editing fiction, nonfiction, or generally working in publishing.

Josephine Ann McQuail (Editor), Tennessee Technological University

(editor) Dr. Josephine A. McQuail is Professor of English at Tennessee Technological University.  She has received several Creative Inquiry grants for her classes, as well as Quality Enhancement Plan grants for enhancing the teaching of English literature.  She serves on the Board of Directors of Historic Rugby, Tennessee. In 2015 she was a Fellow at the University of London's Institute of English Studies.  She is also Trustee for the Blake Society of London, active in the American Association of University Professors and on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Education Association as Higher Education representative.