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January 07, 1988|ROSELLE M. LEWIS

Sophie du Pont: A Young Lady in America--Sketches, Diaries & Letters (1823-1833) by Betty Bright and Jacqueline Hensley (Harry N. Abrams: $35).

In 1800, Eleuthere du Pont emigrated from France to settle on the banks of the Brandywine Creek, a few miles from Wilmington, Del. His "gunpowder establishment" flourished, growing into today's mighty chemical conglomerate E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co.

Fortunately for history buffs and lovers of arcane, Du Pont's liveliest, most talented child, Sophie, left an accurate account of family life of this period. This handsome "miscellany," in a limited printing, divides into several categories.

Irrepressible Sophie has left a series of caricatures--or "carics"--cartoon-like drawings of members of the household. These "inhabs" were relatives, visitors, workers and even a pet deer. Her finely detailed small sketches (Sophie was nearsighted) leave an accurate record of the furniture, clothing and accouterments of the times. Although failing to record the visit of Gen. LaFayette or the British attack during the War of 1812, her letters and diaries, written in her hideaway room, reveal her inner life.

"Let not my child be a girl," mournfully commented Sophie before marrying and assuming the role of a proper lady, "for very sad is the lot of women."

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