Helen Hunt Jackson 1-1-7 transcription
Ms 0020, Box 1, Folder 7, Letters from Deborah Fiske (HHJ's mother) to HHJ (then Helen Maria Fiske), 1831
Transcribed by Gloria Helmuth, October 1995
[Note in folder: Another letter from Deborah to Helen can be found in Folder 14]
Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, MS, Oct 18
My dear Helen
If it were proper to spend much time up stairs alone, I should have written to you almost every day since I left home, for everything I see that is new and pretty, and everything I hear of that would interest a little girl makes me think of you.
The other day I saw Little Mary Lathrop's mother, she wept when little Mary was mentioned to think how much and how patiently she suffered and that she would never see her again in this world. Little Mary's papa is very sick, his physician thinks he cannot live but a short time, he is willing to die for he loves the Savior very much and is very happy when he thinks of going to heaven to live with him and with little Mary.
Cousin Ann Scholfield's youngest brother Charles is going to Sea tomorrow to be absent more than a year. Yesterday I rode down to the wharf with cousin Adeline, Ellen and Ann and Isaac to see the great ship in which he is going away upon the ocean; he is going to the island of Sumatra. Papa will help you find it on the map, you must look south of Asia. A great deal of pepper grows upon the island and cousin Charles says he shall come home with a vessel full.
Friday night I slept at Mrs. Palmers and had a very pleasant visit, you recollect Mrs. Palmer staid with us over Commencement. I saw little Harriet. Mr. & Mrs. Palmer enquired for you and papa.
Yesterday I saw a poor woman who was so intoxicated that she could not walk, carried in a cart to the house of correction; the house of correction is a large building where people who are intemperate and lazy are shut up and made to work, and not allowed to have any rum or brandy to drink; it is very wicked to drink rum and brandy, and every little girl should learn to love work, while very young; you must remember that you are five years old, and that if you try, there are a great many little things you can do to be useful. I am writing you from the table under the glass in Aunt Vinal's chamber where I used to sleep with you the last time I came to Boston. Aunt Vinal sends much love to you and to papa. I am very glad to hear that you have done some work. You can make something for your baby when the patchwork is all sewed. You have a little cousin Deborah Vinal that sews very neatly, she says you must come and see her next winter.
Yr affectionate Mother D.W.V. Fiske
I was very glad to hear so favourable an account of home yesterday and in return I can give you a favourable account of myself. I have enjoyed every hour of my visit & think being entirely free from care has been of decided advantage to my health. Were it not for remembering you and Helen and little Ann it would not seem as if I were married. I've seen a great many old friends, and am so forcibly reminded of many pleasant scenes that I passed through more than seven years ago that it seems as if they occurred but yesterday.
You will receive this Tuesday evening and perhaps not see me till Thursday. To avoid making myself sick with excitement & fatigue I have not XXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXX made more than two visits in a day and one or two calls; if I leave tomorrow, I must go without visiting Cousin Albert's family & two or three other friends with whom I used to be quite intimate and as Miss Leonard has signified a willingness to have me delay a little I think you will feel that I do right, it being so uncertain when I shall visit Boston again, or leave home again when I can feel so easy about you and the children; between Miss Leonard and Eunice I know everything will be done that you want & that Helen & little Ann will be taken good care of.
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, Col. Jenkins and Mary, Mrs. Mason & Mrs. Gregory, and several others that I do not think of this moment send love XXX or respects to you. I have staid one night at Col. Jenkin's and one at Mrs. Palmers. I have been at Mrs. Dyers to-day & came here last night - she is very pleasant and hospitable. I was at Mrs. Odionnes yesterday - she showed me some silk Maria (Mrs. Richards) had sent home of her own spinning; she planted the trees, took care of the silk worms, spun and coloured the silk with her own hands and had sold XXXXXX twenty dollars worth - is not this worth while? You mistook the house when you first came to Hancock St. Mrs. Mason says you must come and see her next Winter - she looks very care worn and anxious and says Mr. Mason is buried in his music. I do think he ought to help her take care of such a family of boys. I am sorry Miss Grant came to Amherst before my return. I shall always respect and love her. I never knew a person of so few faults, and so many excellencies. Give my love to Miss Leonard and Eunice. I am glad Mr. Bliss is helping you and I think he is a young man who would make but very little trouble in the family. I shall be very glad to see you all and should start tomorrow morning were it not that my visit is in such an unfinished state.
I have been out to see Mrs. Abbott. I went before your message came for Mr. Abbott. Mrs. Abbott has only a little girl to help her and her health is feeble. Mrs. Abbott likes living in Roxbury very much and is much attached to the little church under Mr. Abbotts care.
Papa says there is nothing in the box that needs any attention excepting to be kept in a dry safe place - it contains a carpet, etc. etc. etc.
Yr affectionate wife Deborah W.V. Fiske
Addressed: Miss Helen Maria Fiske, Boston, Mass, To the care of M. Otis Vinal, Postmarked Amherst, Ms, Dec 3
[Dec 1835] December 2, Friday Evening
My dear Helen,
It will gratify you so much to see your father, I am glad to be able to tell you that he is on the way; he started to-day about one o'clock, will reach Weston if no accident befals him, tomorrow night, and Monday or Tuesday will ring at Uncle Vinal's front door, so you may run when you hear the bell, but hold your face in subjection, so that if it should prove some other friend or a stranger they need not XXXX XXXX XX XXX XXX turn and run crying "there's a bear, a young bear in Mr. Vinal's front entry."
As to Ann's birth-day, about which you are "curious," I have formed no definite plan, only, intend that he shall have some kind of "good time;" there is nothing she enjoys more than a real play with her school mates. Thanksgiving day afternoon, although, only five came, and two of those were Charles and Emily, she was as full of glee as a kitten with so many balls of yarn. Emily is so queer she makes about as much sport as those that can play; before she had been over long she spoke out to nobody in particular "I'm hungry, I be," soon after, I placed them all in a row, setting upon the bocking spread down in the kitchen, and gave each of them a little squash pie, then they played with the letters with my help - by the way, did I get them before you left or not? No matter, we have them now, all nicely pasted on to paste board, and the children are amused with them.
I gave out little words to them, such as horse, squash, water, Amherst, etc., but XXX to such maturities as you
and cousin Sarah, I should give out, procrastination, philanthropist, equestrian, etc.
I shall expect you home week after next, either with your father or grandpapa, and as there have been such delays about your new cloak, first about the cloth for a cape that came back again, and since in, your father's starting, and your time is out so very soon, that I concluded not to send it to you, merely to wear once or twice perhaps, and then be all jambed up in a trunk to be brought home again, for of course you would not ride in that but in your old one, which is still respectable, though not the thing for your best all winter. Your new cloak is cut, not XXXX to be belted down, but with arm holes, but you will like it, it is both handsome and neat and is well cut and made, and I XX hope will last you a long while.
As to being lonely you need not think of us as three poor scattering calves lowing about in a desolate pasture, but as three queen bees in a good hive. I have got enough to do, or see to, to keep six people happy, or at any rate, to keep them from thinking whether they were miserable or not. Mary is apparently quite contented, and she is just such a person as I like to have with me, talking enough, and not too much, and now and then really amusing in her Irish way of saying things. And as for Ann, she is so much engrossed in getting "all fives" and so tickled because "Helen is coming so soon, good" that you need not imagine her face long. But although we are so delighted with ourselves, we shall be extremely glad to see you, and Papa, and grandpapa, and in your very next letter, tell me how soon grandpapa thinks he shall be ready to start and tell me about the ordination, and all the news - you are not half particular enough; there were but just three items in the whole of your last letter. The weather, Thanksgiving day, your visit at Boston, Cousin Martha's head ache, your visit at Aunt Tuft's, oh yes, this last makes four, these were just stated without a single incident connected with them, just like the bare heads of a sermon. Now you send me a graphic description of your Papa's arrival, so that we shall seem to see it ourselves, from your picture.
Give my love to your Papa, and tell him his property in Amherst was all safe, Friday night at quarter past nine, doors locked, register closed, and the chest of money in the bottom of the well where no mortal will find it. Saturday morning - still in good condition.
What a fuss it will be to pack up your things - do all you can about it, yourself and if that is next to nothing, do something else that you can do, that will help aunt and Martha.
Yr. aff. mother D.W.V. Fiske
My dear Aunt,
So you have still another from our house, making just half the concern upon your hands - may you be rewarded somehow (I dont see how, nor when) for all your kindness. I long to see you all, and but for the risk of getting broken up for the Winter I would have spent Thanksgiving with you and uncle as in old times. If alive and well I shall come in the Spring with Ann when Papa returns, and Mary will visit friends of hers in Boston at the same time, and she says "indaad if I go with you, plase God, I will return with you, for all being married or running away - as I told her I was afraid she would. The other day as I was making some holders it came into my head "who knows but Aunt Vinal's are all giving out like mine, so I just run a few more together, one for you, and Martha, and Mary, to iron with, and a coarse affair to wipe irons on, the black holder is for all hands to use about cooking, and the one with a blue side is for Uncle Vinal when he gets hot water to shave with, and nobody else is to touch it to crack it up, it must hang by its ring in some handy place. Mr. Fiske has these things, if he dont hand them out, ask what it means that he dont deliver packages people send by him; he has also XX XXX XXXX a collar XX XXX for you from me, which I hope you will like, the ruffle is only caught on slyly upon the wrong side so that if you prefer to wear one of your laces with it you can. I wish the work was heavier, but our merchants dont keep costly muslins because they would not sell, no more room. Yrs. Aff.
Addressed: Miss Helen Maria Fiske, Hadley, Mass, To the care of Deacon Dickinson, Postmarked Charlestown, Ms, Oct 4
 October 4th, Monday Morning, Charlestown
Down in Aunt Vinal's dining room
My dear Helen,
I was as much delighted yesterday, when your letter was put into my hands, as you were to see window curtains in Hadley like our bed-quilt at home, and were you only within reach, you would have the greatest kissing and pooring of any little pup in the valley of the Connecticut. Your letter I can almost recite from reading it over so many times. Bill Trainer seems like an old acquaintance from your graphic description, and I was not a little amused, that your civility in saying "Sir" (for which you have not been particularly famed) should be met with a threat of imprisonment, never mind, say "Sir" notwithstanding, and should such an odd thing happen, as that you should be thrown into prison for politeness, I will engage to secures your release, and see that you have honours which shall more than make up for the mortification.
You are a good child to write me so definitely, and if you continue to do so, and to behave well till I return, I shall thank you for full half of all the pleasure of my visit. I shall love to think every day from 10 to half past that you are writing to me, and beside the gratification of hearing from you, if you write carefully I shall see a manifest improvement in your penmanship, and you will find it more and more easy to write; keep on with your journal, for if it is "the same thing over" as you say it will be, I shall love to read it, if it shows me that you are going on regularly and industriously with your lessons and work. You are very fortunate to have Miss Harriet for a teacher, and I trust you will learn every lesson well, for it will be very trying to her to hear stammering guessing lessons, and now is the time for you to store your memory with useful knowledge; you know you have some on hand that is not very useful; that you must sweep all up into a corner, close by the door, where it will blow out, so that there will be a nice place for other things - be sure and have a whole row of arm chairs for the kings of Judah, and how many have you waited upon in? two at least I hope, for I became quite well acquainted with Rehoboam and Abijam yesterday, say in your next, what you think of Rehoboam's address to the people, what you should have said in reply, had you been one of the people, and your address to the people had you been in Rehoboam's place!
The apron for Ann's doll I think you will find on the work box; the thread to make yours I fear is with me by mistake for I have a brown spool. You have some fine black silk, and you can try that, and see if it will do. Your tooth brush, I dare say, is at home, by the sink window, but you must clean your teeth - ask Miss Dorothy if she will have the kindness to give you a piece of old cotton, and then you take a little piece every morning, over the end of your finger, dip it in water, and then in your [chareval]; and give those teeth of mine a real scrubbing, rub off that green streak round one side tooth, if possible, for it will make it decay, and you have none to spare, and enough to ache. I hope you will not have occasion to use your hop bag or [dorers] powders, or salts either, but you are faring so sumptuously every day, you must be careful and not overload your stomach; XXXX it may become discouraged, and declare "I will not digest any more of these squash and pumpkin pies, the harder I work the faster they come down and there's no end to them." So keep on good terms with your XXXXX friend Stomach.
As to the Cattle Show I am willing you should go with the young ladies, or one of them, but it would not be proper for you to go without them. I am sorry to hear Mr. Flemming is sick, and as you seem to know how he is from day to day I fear he is at Mr. Dickinson's; if he is there, be very careful not to go into his room, for though the typhus fever is not contagious exactly, it is best not to be about those who have it unnecessarily. Tell me about that white, lean pussy that you thought would be such a comfort to you - about Miss Caroline's visit to Boston, - about George - is he a little boy younger than you? and who is Lecoz? a boarder - a young gentleman, a little boy, or what, and Edward, is he a large or small boy. I hope you will be careful not to play too much or too rudely with them; you know what would be proper for them would not be for a Miss, so if they are ever so good boys remember Ma's caution (you have heard my opinions about so many things you can judge what I should disapprove, and I trust in all respects you will try to do just as if I was sitting by - this will be knowing your father & mother which never fails of being rewarded according to the promise which goes with the command. I do wish very much to see you, and a north east cold storm, makes me very glad that I fitted you out with good warm clothes, put them on as you need them, and be very careful never to wet your feet, your new shoes, when blacked, are good enough to wear anywhere. Do you do any housework? I wish you not to go into Bill Trainer's loft again, not once, it may vex him, and he may insult you, - idiots are always violent when angry, and no one can tell what they will do. As to playing in the barn and shed I would rather have you play in the house; and in the garden when it is pleasant, you will make more washing if you are round in such places, the weather is becoming cold, too, and they are not so proper for Misses as within doors and in the garden. How many pieces do you have washed every week?
When you write, direct your letter "to the care of Mr. David Vinal, Boston, in a large, plain hand. I shall expect to hear next Friday or Saturday. Dont fail once of letting me hear from you every week - if you do I shall fear you are sick.
Yr. Aff. mother
I put a book in the office for you this morning, perhaps you will hardly thank me for such a sad story, but all the other I could find were too small for you, and this story shows no more than what many a poor mother has suffered.
I am staying at good Aunt Vinal's, she sends a deal of love to you and so does cousin Martha and Ann - your cousin Ann is a very pretty girl - you would love her dearly, she wants to see you very much. I sleep with her now. Who do you think I am seeing? that kind aunt Rachel (Mrs. Rogers) who took care of me when I was a little tot 2 years old. Aunt Rachel came to Uncle Vinal's Saturday with her only daughter, they will stay a week. I have patterned my cloak for you and carried the whole to the dye house to be coloured a dark claret.
I had a letter from Miss Emily Nelson Saturday, she wrote "our little pet Anna is perfectly well and happy, makes no trouble and is quiet as a little kitten." - nothing could please me more.
In my letter to you last Wednesday I fixed upon half past seven as your bed time, but if your eyes do not become weak and inflamed and your father & the Miss Dickinsons set your time at 8 you may sit up till then, but I would not put them out reading plays for you will find it dull play to be blind, beside if your memory is full of plays some of my kings of Judah will be obliged to stand up, if not entirely pushed out.
In your letter you call the Misses Dickinson, Harriet & Dorothy & Caroline. I think you ought to call them Miss Harriet, Miss Dorothy & Miss Caroline, it is more respectful. Is their father well and vigorous like grandpapa? Give my respects to him and to young Mr. Dickinson.
Write to Papa, he will be lonely without any of us.
My dear Misses Caroline, Dorothy and Harriet,
In an inch or two of room I must crowd in my thanks for your kind care of Helen Maria, I feel under great obligation to you all, for the "happy life" she writes me that she is leading; - I trust you will caution her just as you would a younger sister, in every respect she may need; she is but a child, and has never been away from [tr. note: letters missing]e before. Perhaps it is too much to ask, but a letter from you would be a very great gratification. Yrs. sincerely, D.W.V. Fiske
Helen Hunt Jackson
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