Helen Hunt Jackson 1-1-8 transcription
Ms 0020, Box 1, Folder 8, Letters from Deborah Fiske (HHJ’s mother) to her cousin Ann Scholfield and others, 1820s-1840s and undated
Transcribed by Gloria Helmuth, October 1995
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of "Isaac Scholfield and son.", Postmarked Amherst, MS, July 4
Tuesday morning, July 2nd
My dear Ann,
Yesterday afternoon as I was out making calls with Adeline and Ellen the question was asked "when do you leave town young ladies" "the last of this week or the first of next" was the reply, thinks I to myself, not as you of. Now you will help me carry my point I know - just think what good friends we have always been, and how ready I should be to ride with you against almost anybody. What I wish is that you will write to the girls to stay longer, and keep Isaac away, not that it will be specially disagreeable to me to see him, in fact it will give me pleasure if he does not come too soon, and you tell him a few weeks hence I shall depend upon seeing him and XX he must come calculating to stop a while, and ride about in this region, and go to see Nancy who is only five miles distant.
I cannot describe to you how pleasant it is to me to see Adeline and Ellen - we talk about you, and everybody, and everything, - praising or slandering just as we please after we have got through with making sport of XXXX all our friends foibles, and wondering at the world at large.
We have thought of opening a book to be called the black book in which a fine is to be charged for every instance of back biting, to be paid over to some benevolent society. This idea was suggested by a Moral reform publication sent by a good lady the other day to reform me, - such an experiment is in process with some of the contributors to that purifying periodical; but it is discouraging to try to do good or be good so many stand ready to prevent XXX useful designs, now your Ellen, good as she is, insists upon it that the more we slander the better if the fine is to go to some good object.
One thing I know - no such account shall be opened while Adeline and Ellen stay - I'll have the full enjoyment of an unbridled tongue and save my coppers; there, if this word coppers is spelt wrong it is Adeline's fault for she is sitting by and says it is ers; - she does not know that I am writing to you - all I said by way of apology for being thus employed was that I had a business letter to write which it would not do to put off.
Ellen is playing upon the piano down stairs; they have had rather a laughable ride upon horseback this morning; feeling rather afraid of stable horses I procured a neighbours to go with ours, and such a sheepish looking creature you never saw, but looks are nothing you know, so I needn't have mentioned this, but he would go like lightning and poor Ellen was obliged to head [tr. note: letters missing] to the stone walk ever so many times [tr. note: letters missing] him from carrying her to Jericho.
I was glad of your letter tho it was not to me, - what a great stroke of business you are carrying on! dont cook yourself to death showing off, it is better to live longer and pass for less, were it not for the practical belief of this I should have used myself up long ago.
How you must have wished to hear from the girls - when they said the agreement was that you were to write first I thought you didn't know what you were about and had a great mind to write myself, but being so happy to be with the girls [tr. note: letters missing] me from the purpose. To-day is Tuesday - we are going to call at Mrs. Hitchcock's this afternoon, tomorrow a gentleman and lady from Hartford, Mr. & Mrs. Parsons are to visit me. The next day is the fourth, and there is to be an oration etc., Friday if it is pleasant we intend to go to Mt. Holyoke XX XX XX XXXX, but we may not go till Saturday so you see there is no day for going to Boston, and there wont be one next week or any time for the present - so you get some interesting books and be just as happy as you can - for amusement write to us. Love to Aunt and Martha and my best respects to your father and brothers, and an invitation to Isaac the prettiest - you can word but add to it you must not come at present.
Yours as ever, Deborah.
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, Ms, Nov. 2
My dear Ann,
Did you know that I have been with you every day, more or less, since you thought I started for Amherst? it is the truth and if little Ann sleeps long enough to give me time, I shall tell you many things I have heard you say, and seen you do. But I will first tell you, what no doubt you have already learned from my father, that I had a very pleasant journey home, having no disagreeable company, sea sickness or camphor bag to torment me. At Worcester, two good yankee ladies beset me with questions and prescriptions, but they were much more amusing than troublesome - one prescription I must tell you, for the lady said every body ought to know it, and to avoid promising to try it myself, I told her I would mention it to my friends, so here it is "white pine bough tea with a little spirit in it, it will work off old complaints when none of your Doctor stuffs will do a bit of good;" so when your complaints are old enough, come to Amherst and you shall have all the pine boughs we can XXXX reach in the woods west of our house.
The last ten miles of my way XXXXX I rode with a trembling heart; - having had such a delightful visit in your family & seen so many old friends, it seemed as if there must be some sad counterpart at home, joy and sorrow are so intermingled in this world. But everything was just as I desired, Mr. Fiske and all the family well. Helen with her stentorian lungs made the house ring with exclaiming "it is my mother, it is my mother" and little Ann stared, and pointed, and laughed, as if she had a strange liking for the stranger, tho she would not trust herself in my arms till the next day. Miss Leonard left us Tuesday, and I miss the care she took of Ann, tho the girls I have are so good, I get along very comfortably and pleasantly. - Eunice the oldest is a good cook, so that I have no solicitude about "what we shall eat;" she is also very neat, pleasant, still and industrious, exactly such a person as I like; Abigail who assists me in taking care of Ann and in doing the work out of the kitchen is pleasant and faithful. It seems as if I had more than my share of good fortune, and yet - human nature is so selfish, I doubt very much if any of my neighbours should propose to share it with me, whether I should not be surprised & perhaps provoked, and up and tell them "my health is feeble and I cannot think of having amy more care of doing any more work. I'm sorry for you, you have my sympathy, but you must go elsewhere for assistances."
Helen talks a great deal about growing up to help me, and if she does not change her mind as her mother did before her, I may always calculate upon having her with me; for the other day at the table, quite to the amusement of a student present, she spoke out in her dear way "Ma, one question is settled, I've made up my mind that I will never be married as long as I live, for I had rather live with you than any body else in the world."
Dr. Humphrey has returned looking very much better than when he left home and he is giving us some very interesting lectures on familiar talks about his voyage and travels - he says he's almost an Englishman, he was very much pleased with England and with money enough to be a nobleman would prefer spending his days there to any other country. I shall not be able to enter into the particulars of what I've seen and overheard in your pleasant circle the past week, but you can write them and then I can tell you whether I had not known them before, I must say however that I've seen Adeline with her never failing ingenuity contrive many a good dinner downstairs while you and Ellen have been putting every thing in the best place up stairs. I love to think of you all doing so much to make your dear father and brothers happy and going on just as you knew would please your beloved mother, not having the least neglect to reflect upon, and being able to see the many mercies mingled with your affecting bereavement, you are spared the anguish which many bring upon themselves, and experience only such sorrow, as brings with it a feeling that God himself has come very near - that death cannot be far off, that nothing is of any value compared with a preparation of heart which shall enable us to say when the last hour comes as your dear mother did "oh glorious prospect." Such our feelings should always be, but they are not such, XXXXXXX and God is kind, even by chastisement, to arouse us from our forgetfulness of the Saviour and lead us to enquire whether we are prepared to die, whether we have a relish for the holy joys of heaven for heaven would be no place of happiness to a soul not renewed and sanctified by the Spirit of God.
Remember me to your father and brothers - I shall always remember their kind hospitality; give a great deal of love to Adeline and Ellen - this letter such as it is, is to them as well as to you and it will gratify me very much to receive a letter from them. Charles of course is sailing upon the mighty deep towards Sumatra; - I trust you will hear from him before long. I was sorry to add to your cares in the midst of your preparations for his departure but I cannot but be glad that I saw him, and I shall think of him much oftener than if I had merely heard of his sailing. Did he leave the next morning? I thought he would and pitied you very much when I supposed you were taking your last breakfast with him for the present.
What has become of your Country Cousin's potatoes? I shall not blame you one atom if you write that you threw them one morning when cleaning up your room, out of the back chamber window into the XXXX yards of your Myrtle St. neighbours; if you have been half as much vexed with them as I was one day carrying them down into your kitchen, I know you have done it - why, each one of them fell and rolled ahead down stairs I verily believe half a dozen times.
Give my love to your good neighbour Mrs. Parker and tell her I shall deliver her message as soon as I see Miss Shepard. Tell Mrs. Anderson I was very sorry not to see her again for I really calculated upon a long talk with her but could not get time to call.
I left my receipt book at your house in your desk, and if Adeline will be so kind as to copy into it, a little from her fund of housekeeping knowledge I shall be glad the book was forgotten and very much obliged to her; in addition to this, when Miss Childs' book becomes an old story perhaps I will print mine and if I do she shall have half the profits of the first twelve editions. I have made one of Adelines potatoe pies ad we all thought it very good. If Adeline is too busy let her just tell Ellen, who is always ready to lend a helping hand, what to write. When I think how essential you all seem to each other's comfort in housekeeping etc. I wonder how it is that any one can keep house alone even in the poorest fashion.
I hope you see Aunt Vinal often. I shall write her tomorrow. Let me hear from you very soon. And when you have a convenient opportunity I shall be glad of your cambric cape pattern and the pattern of Aunt Tufts's cap.
Yours very affectionately & gratefully
Mr. Fiske says give my love to Ann and her sisters and tell them to come and see us.
Be very definite when you write as you know I am interested in all your affairs and that your letters will not be public property, (as of course this will not be for I have been rocking the cradle and playing with Ann half the time of writing, as any one might suppose from reading and seeing what I've written. it is against Ann's principles to have long naps, but she is so good natured I enjoy taking care of her.
My love to Eliza and Henrietta, I fear it will trouble you to read this crossed writing.
Addressed Miss Ann Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, Ms, Dec. 25, Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, Dec 29, 1839
Monday Evening, Dec. 23rd, 1839
My dear Ann
A sound of unloading drew me into the kitchen Saturday afternoon and there stood my band box as big and round as ever in its tow travelling dress - if it only had the gift of speech what a minute and accurate description we might have of the route between Amherst and Boston. But you and I have seen too much of that route to care for an account of it, and beside the gift of speech is very apt to be accompanied by the gift of eating which would prove a most unfortunate one for us in such a capacious body when entrusted with such nice candy as somebody has sent it to me. I wish whoever sent it to accept my thanks. And as for you, in relation to my bonnet and dress, every combination of words comes entirely short if what I wish to express the bonnet and dress too are, precisely what I wanted, yes, precisely, they are very neat and handsome and fit me exactly, the waist of my dress sets like a glove as we often say, meaning of course, a glove that fits well, and the length is just right, the silk itself is beautiful. As long as I live I shall never pay you, but I will promise as long as I live to remember the debt. How rich you would soon be, if in business with creditors all of my stamp! You would soon afford to go with your elbows out, and sooner still, have nothing to cover them with. I was glad of the memorandum, whether I pay for things or not, their cost I always wish to know.
You covered and tied my bonnet so carefully that it came without the least injury, the box, jar, dress and all seemed to be in the very place where you put them. There is just about room to wish you all a happy christmas the word "merry" I cannot like in connection with such a day; it commemorates an event of so much interest to us all that I wish the day was more generally observed whether it be the real anniversary of the Saviours birth or not. But I forgot, this wish will not reach you till christmas is over, never mind, there is one other good wish that will reach you in season, and that is, that you and Adeline and Ellen, and your father and brothers may all have a happy new year; and with this wish I must bid you good bye and good night for it is 10 o'clock, the hour when all people of "steady habits" say that it is time to go to bed.
Yours truly, Deborah
Ann Scholfield Fiske will be five years old Christmas day - I wish I could show you a baby I have made for her birth day present - it is as large as any baby 2 or 3 months old and so natural Mrs. Smith declares she is afraid of it; to see her enjoy it will more than pay me for making it; it is what she has been wishing for a long while - I've made it unbeknown to her while she has been asleep and at school, it has feet and hands, shoes and stockings - day clothes and night clothes (some that were Ann's). Mrs. Hitchcock who paints very well painted a very good face for it upon kid - the hands are of kid stuffed with cotton - there is no prettier play for little girls than baby house play - I thought I was going to bed but I've been spinning out a story about Ann, what a common weakness it is in mothers to make people listen to every little thing connected with their children.
Since I've begun I'll go on, and add that Helen is better than she was in the summer - more ruddy and fleshy. Mr. F. is very well for him and more fleshy than he has been for a year, and I am quite comfortable tho I cough and wheeze, nothing more than I did in the summer. I wrap up and go out almost every pleasant day, and can walk much farther than I used to.
I shall be very glad of a letter from you and Adeline and Ellen whenever any one, or all of you can write, and pray dont write so well, unless you wish to hint me back to writing copies. If you will stop mortifying me I had rather go on, I've so many irons in the fire than go back and reform.
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, MS, May 26
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, 1841 March
My dear cousin Ann,
"Hear, here, you expeditious mantua maker, where is my letter promised, a fortnight ago, when you had cut one more dress" lucky for me I dont meet you in Washington Street, for this is just the salutation you would scream out, and followed by my clamorous defence (defendants in the wrong are most prone to be noisy) would gather so many gaping mouths about us to hear what the matter would be, we should both be glad to run for some back way out of the rubble.
And now isn't it "funny" as the children say, when a smart speech or two across the street would make such a staring we can say anything ninety miles apart and nobody be the wiser for it; this writing of letters is after all, a charming handy kind of intercourse, and if it were only enjoyed by people of some other country, we should have a deal to say about the privilege and the gratitude that ought to be felt and the obligation it imposed to make such a wonderful means of communication a way of doing good, but being ourselves the favoured ones alters the case (perhaps you will thank me not to use the plural number) so here is the singular and my confession that I dont feel so very grateful for the privilege of writing letters, especially when paying debts of half a year's standing, and as to doing good by letters the moment I try to call up, out, or down anything substantial, my head feels just like an egg still with the contents suddenly blown out, or like one of Cowper's stiff party "sitting in silent state, like figures drawn upon a dial plate," but the moment I get started with chit-chat about nothing in particular it is like getting home from such a party and sitting down round the fire to talk it over, or rather up stairs going to bed, such weather as this, for Summer has really come, yesterday and to-day we have had all our windows open and until yesterday a fire has been comfortable, at least in the morning. The trees are covered with blossoms, - many of our garden flowers are out and I wonder if it would not do you good to be out in the Country, by out in the country I mean at Amherst. I dont imagine it would be of the least service to you to go anywhere else. I am very desirous of hearing whether you are benefitted by Dr. Gregerson's prescription. Your disease is one which I dont pretend to understand so you will escape any old woman "certain cures," but "I have had it myself" as some X phemy invalids always declare you describe to them fifty diseases, but seriously, two or three years ago, I used to have very severe attacks of what Dr. Gridley called a neuralgia affection; it was generally in my left side and always came on suddenly, and while it lasted it was next to impossible for me to draw a long breath, now how unlike this was to the wearing pain in your limbs, and perhaps there is just this difference between neuralgia and a neuralgia affection, all these medical technicals are, like so much greek to me, and I am willing they should remain so unless I would make such knowledge a means of relief to somebody, and there is no chance for this since strangers would not think of consulting me and to everybody about home Mr. Fiske always says "you had better look out for my wife skins people alive" and if my father is present he begins to rub one of his limbs and add "you had better not let her spread any blisters or make any mustard poultices for you," and these external applications being my chief hobbies my chance for playing the physician is all up. By the way if you happen to see my father give my love to him and tell him I am out of all patience waiting for my visit from him. It is almost a year since I have seen him, he writes to me to come and make him a visit and I should without any delay after preparing my children for summer, if my girl had sconce enough to keep house, but the poor child would know no more which way to move after I had been gone a day or two than I should at a game of chess. But I shall make some sort of plan for seeing Boston if it is only for a week before another winter. How much you must miss Isaac and Charles. I am glad you are able to bear in mind that their life and safety does not depend upon being here or there but upon the watchful care of an everywhere present Protection who can just as easily bear them in safety over the ocean as continue their life under a father's roof.
I have not read the letter of Wilberforce, but your quotation from them is excellent and surely we cannot boast that the age has reformed since he pronounced chatteration the great evil of the religious world, - above all things the habit of slandering and tattling is the most wicked and mean, but I am ashamed to express my real opinion it is so at variance with my known practice of speaking right out, not to everybody, but to you and about a dozen other familiar friends; speaking of this fault reminds me of John Chickering he was so remarkably free from it; - he would always take the part of any one when spoken against, to punish him for not joining with me, I used to tell him it was only to make a great show of charity that he wouldn't, but inwardly I felt reproved. By the way do you hear from John and Martha? the last I heard - Martha was not well. I have not heard from Charlestown for nearly a month, but I must thank myself for it, as I did not answer Martha's letter till the 19th. I wish very much to know how they all are, and how soon I am to see Aunt Vinal in Amherst - tell her when you see her to come quick for I am waiting to see her and beside if she delays, so many lions will get into the way she wont come at all.
For your very kind invitation, limited only by small pox and yellow fever, I am greatly obliged to you - You dont know, for I have no skill in expressing pleasure by words, how much I enjoy being at your house - it is like - I thought I could think of a comparison, but none comes; I wonder if the reason isn't that every kind of enjoyment is so different? if it is so pray observe that I have stumbled upon one idea.
You allude to Mrs. Adams's letters - I have read them, and think with you she was a very remarkable woman. Your remark is very just about "what is called education" it is any thing but education in reality - it is with many a mere habit of going to school to those who have had the same habit before them. Mrs. Adams was educated by intelligent society at home and among her friends, and familiarity with valuable books - how happily she introduces poetry in her letters; her letters to her son are the best; to her sister, the most entertaining, those to her husband are good, only there is a little too much love and veneration in them, none too much perhaps, but it never reads well in print. I do think letters between husbands and wives ought never to be published - if ever so proper, they always seem ludicrous or strange, or rather, they do to me, I may be odd, but I dont like to read very warm expressions of regard, unless they are made to me, I like to be loved as well as anybody.
I was really amused by your mention of the carving knife and towel in connection with my old passionate Irish woman; why she didn't strangle me or cut my head off in some of her fits I dont know, for she declared herself not afraid of me or any living mortal and gave evidence of her sincerity by the most warlike gestures but, she made it all up (as she thought) by kisses when we parted. I did not kiss her, it seemed to me my part to stand and take hers and wish her good places. I really pity the woman for she is made of dreadful materials and has a shocking amount of quarreling before her.
Monday Evening, Bed-time; this has been a dreadful day for wash-women and Myrtle Street babies; the heat was so oppressive this afternoon, it made me declare I would not work so with a thin nightgown, a fan, and Cowper's inimitable letters I established myself upon the bed and managed to endure the heat, owing more to the letters however than the old night gown or fan. How sad it is to think that one who has contributed so largely to the enjoyment of others should have been himself so wretched for years together - he must have written in his brightest moments for they ar full of genuine good humour, and such as are serious manifest a most heavenly spirit, full of gratitude and cheerful submission, his trials were very great and it seems as if they almost originated in early mortification at public schools - a home education might have prevented them, but it would have probably deprived us of Cowpers Poems for had he been a lawyer he would not probably have been a poet.
But I must go to bed so good night - my best love (none but the best is good enough) to Adeline and Ellen and remember me to your father - he will think "Miss Deborah has nothing else to do, to write again so soon. I suppose Ellen received a letter from me a fortnight ago last Friday.
Yours very sincerely, Deborah
P.S. I write thank you not to make any more insinuations against Miss Ann Scholfield's letters - Miss S. is a particular friend of mine and has been these twenty years, and her letters are good, right down good if there is another word of the kind I shall think it time for me to be off - out of such censorous company.
Mr. Fiske would send a remembrance to you but the ringing of the front door bell made him scamper half an hour since to escape seeing any caller, being too tired to talk, he doesn't know the visitor has gone and doesn't appear, he hears an afternoon recitation now for the President, he being in Boston - Mr. Fiske's health has improved very much within a year, and he takes so much more exercise in the garden and barn than formerly I cannot but hope he will continue to be well. As to my health I guess it is just the same as when I wrote to Ellen. I am as lean as a crow but I dont feel near awfully as I look, and there has not been but a day or two all winter, if I recollect right in which I haven't been able to work, and I haven't had a fire in the nursery once - this is being highly favoured for an invalid. Perhaps I wrote this, word for word to Ellen, if so just skip it here.
Tell Addy my shawl is just like good people - it bears acquaintance. I never take it out without thinking "I like this shawl better & better."
The children are both well and complain of nothing but Helen of not having "time to turn round" and Ann of "the old mosquitoes that have come again."
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield., Postmarked Amherst, MS, Sep 20
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, Sept. 19, 1841
Amherst, September 19th
My dear Cousin Ann,
Having threatened to visit you, of course you will like to know when I am coming, and this letter is to set your mind at rest with the explicit information, that I dont know when, any more than the man in the moon; perhaps he does know; it has just occurred to me that he may be the very cause of my delay, his face is awfully big and unfeeling, and there he sits staring down at us, and who knows but somehow he sends the tooth ache here and there, everywhere. At any rate, owing to some foreign or home agency, I have had a most shocking time of it for the last six days with an ulcerated tooth; it took me right down almost like a fever; for two or three days I did not sit up but very little, could get no sleep but by opiates, & looked the very picture of distortion and despair; Ann, after giving me a very pitiful deliberate look, said, "Ma, I know you do love a good many, but your face dont look as if you liked anybody. And is there anything like a hard tooth ache for making one feel insensible to everything. but just the pain. Since Thursday I have suffered less, the swelling is reduced to the size of a nutmeg, I get up to breakfast now; mustered energy to-day to put on a better cap and some curls, and hope to drive off the remainder, but the whole affair has made me feel so good-for-nothingish that I am hardly able to start for Boston, I hope to be by Thursday, but dont you expect me till I appear. I had intended to leave tomorrow, at the farthest, and a letter I wrote to Martha Vinal I thought might make you expect me, and one from her makes me quite sorry not to arrive in season to see Mr. Hooker and Elisabeth - perhaps I shall miss of seeing Aunt Nancy too, but I hope not.
I do hope that you are gaining still; I am sure I'm glad you are suffering less than you did when with me; thank you for your offers of powders, but I beseech you to give me no powders, not one if every so nicely hid in something good, I've been choked with them all the week; when it was next to impossible to open my mouth it must be stretched to take in a mountain of apple, filled with a great powder.
You'll think my temper is hardly subdued by this spell of tooth-ache, and indeed it isn't, I live now upon the thought of taking vengeance if it aches five minutes after I see Boston Dr. Tucker may go at it with his whole drawer full of torturing instruments without the least mercy, and when it is put into my hands it shall be burned to ashes in a slow fire.
Love to Adeline and Ellen, and to all the family an affectionate remembrance. So I shall not see Charles, well, I presume this is that good last voyage, and hope he will come with his boots, pockets, hat, and life-preserver all filled with genuine money to buy that farm with, and live upon with his wife as snug and happy as can be.
Yrs. very affectionately,
Can you let Aunt know of this letter, or send it to her Tuesday, that she needn't be wondering why I dont come.
Thank you for your kind invitation to come directly to your house; I think now I shall stay the first night at Mr. Carters (that is if I can make myself sleep without seeing you first) and the next morning come up to your house, and see whether you are all well, find out how they are at Uncle Vinals, and then decide which to visit first. What a narrow & merciful escape Uncle Vinal had, I wonder that the fright and all has not made Aunt Vinal down sick.
Cousin Abby it seems is married, and making the experiment of housekeeping - it will seem very strange not to see her at Uncle Tufts's, they will miss her exceedingly, she is a fine girl.
Good night - once more.
I have not a bit of love to send you, for my father and Mr. Fiske are out, and the children are asleep.
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield, By the politeness of Judge Dickinson, Postmarked Amherst, MS, Dec 23
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, Dec. 22, about 1841
Sunday night or Monday morning,
which you please, it is 12 o'clock
My dear Cousin Ann,
As a matter of calculation and economy I must write you this very night, for tomorrow this letter can travel all the way to Boston for nothing only "thank you sir;" as to the profit to you, that's your look out, bargains are seldom good upon both sides, and I trust you will lose by this (it is no worse to say it than think it,) at least two sheets of paper, and the length of one split in a good quill. "And that wont be the worst of it either," Isaac will add, "for theres the time it takes to read all this flummery, that is a dead loss to begin with," now you see this is insulting me, and we are friends you know, so you take Isaac and lead him to a little cricket, and set him down, and tell him little boys should be seen and not heard; pray don't say a word in my defence, for he has the advantage of you entirely having truth upon his side, and the only way to manage in such cases in which the offender is the youngest is to put on authority and command silence; with these discriminating, roguish boys and girls I don't know what we should do sometimes, were it not for this summary way of settling accounts or winding up the conversation.
It is just three weeks and two days, since that helter-skelter night and morning when you were helping me pick up and pack up with reference to a start for home, it is not in very good season to say "thank you now, but I do say it, and hope you never be thrown into another such puzzle about any of my old keys, especially when they are as safe as the one we thought was lost. Martha wrote me that you returned that afternoon; by Martha I presume you have heard from me, so you shall not be bored with the detail of our journey, but do let me tell you, even if you have heard it before, how kind my neighbours were, two loaves of bread, biscuit by dozens, a sheet of Buns, a plate of cookies, a loaf of cake, and eight pies were sent in for us to begin with, and having no help but Sarah for over a week, and so many trunks to unpack you can imagine how acceptable such things were.
Sarah's visit home proved a rather sad affair for her, she has been unwell ever since and is now quite sick of lung fever, the result of a bad cough with which she returned, and has had ever since; it is fortunate for the poor child that this fever did not seize her at her father's, for with such nursing as she would have in a miserable negro hovel it would very soon be over with her; and as it is, I fear it is doubtful whether she will be well for a long time. Very fortunately I have another most excellent colored girl for help, the best I've ever had of any colour; she came intending to stay but a week or two, but I hope has decided to pass the winter, my father has had several talks with her, and says she has promised him to stay - we give her more wages than she has had - is that stealing help from others? - a question in ethics for Ellen.
My father, Mr. Fiske, and the children are all well, and I am holding out famously, notwithstanding the dish-washing, nursing, and variety of housekeeping employments that have occupied me since my return. Sarah was sick upon her bed three days Thanksgiving week when we had no other help, I thought how handy Isaac's brown coat would be for my gentlemen men-servants.
Helen did the "odds and ends" and the singing; one day as she was singing "Broder let us leave, Bucra land for Hettee" I could not but laugh at its appropriateness, for there we were at work just like the darkies. I washing a greasy stuck up spider, and poor H. about some other job, as fine, sure enough, thinks, let us leave rocky land for cleaner.
Helen was a great help to me, tho she says she abominates the real kitchen housework, in emergencies she can do it well and quick. Ann was really homesick during my absence, three or four times she says she ran off out of doors to cry where nobody would see her, because it seemed as if I never would get back, and because she didn't dare to talk excepting when she was spoken to; the family were all very kind to her, as I knew they would be, and as she says they were, but she is diffident among strangers.
Remember me to all your family, too many names for this remaining scrap of paper. Tell Adeline and Ellen how glad I should be of letters from them, tell Ann too to be sure and write forthwith.
Yrs affectionately & gratefully, Deborah
Helen and Ann would send love if they were not asleep. Helen was much pleased with her present of shells, and would thank you if awake.
Perhaps you have noticed in the papers the death of Rebecca Snell - it is a most sudden & dreadful affliction to her parents, and we all feel it; she was Helen's most intimate friend, and a very lively bright little girl, only four days before her death she called at our house; her father was absent which made it doubly distressing to Mrs. Snell. I have written Martha the particulars which she will show you if you remember Mrs. Snell with sufficient interest to wish to know them.
To explain the date of this letter I sit up late and my girl rises early in order to dispense with watchers for Sarah. I only do it once in two or three nights and make up for it with one of my naps of two or three hours in the afternoon, she is some better and I hope may not need any one much longer, but if she should, you need not think I am watching for Mr. F. says he wont hear a word about it; he is at Enfield to-night or I doubt whether you would have this letter.
[tr. note: this following was written atop the letter contents after the letter was closed up]
Sarah about the same, no better, unable to sit up, high fever, bad cough. Only think of it, brought back by mistake, no money saved.
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of mr. Isaac Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, MS, May 10
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, May, 1841 or 2
Dont think me so mean as to drag you right into debt again before you have hardly wiped and put away your pens. This is an extra, for my own pleasure, and like extras we have seen upon wheels, it will carry everything or nothing just as it happens, drive up, and ring as if the governor himself had arrived, and all this to enquire "does a Mr. Scholfield live here," this is not my enquiry for if I dont know where Mr. Scholfield lives, I dont know who Deborah Vinal is, but you may call it an enquiry of similar magnitude to be asked how you came to send me a good letter in the very best time, why, it was like East Boston sugar to Isaac. I was in a store helping a Miss Stearns do some shopping. Helen brought in your letter, and held it up as if it were a ten dollar bill she had found, "you can be looking at things," said I, to my young lady, and drew off to a pile of cheap calicoes to lean against, and read every word you had written without one stray thought to Miss Stearns, or lawns, or cravats, or anything in Amherst. Tell Adeline and Ellen, as they are interested, in my peace and comfort that this Miss Stearns is not that Miss Stearns, from whom I had such an affecting visit the summer they were in Amherst but only a niece of hers and apparently born free from her aunt's dolorous peculiarities.
You are correct in your suspicions as to housecleaning, and rejoice with me the topsy-turvy job is over for when my gentlemen are away I can work like a spider and dispense with so many formalities in connection with eating and drinking, that there is more time for extra work in one day than in two of term time, but after all, I dont like to live so excepting for a few days, to get through with a great job, and though I ought to be glad to have Mr. Fiske have more time to journey and rest, I secretly rejoice (so of course you will not blaze it abroad) that the vacation is so near out.
Poor Martha Hooker, I am sorry for her, if she feels disappointed, but after such indications of a local disease, this sickness may be the most fortunate thing that could have happened; I did not know a word about it, and I am going to tell her that this is to punish her for not letting me into the secret, and I want to tell her she should have guarded against this sickness by taking all along, those darling little pills, but this wont do, she would jump right up, whereas she ought to keep perfectly still, as I did when I had "the same disease in Hanover St." as you most ludicrously say. I presume Aunt Vinal will feel really sorry, she is so fond of children, and there is such a dearth of babies among her nieces and nephews, ten, at least, were calculated upon from Martha, and I was probably expected to add an equal number, this makes me think of my two, and Ann tells me, in answer to your questions, to give her love to you and say that she looks just as she used to, that she is studying about old Sir Edmund Andros, and the witches that pretended to go through key holes in Salem, and that she is making patchwork for a bedquilt that wont get done, she knows, these forty years, it was only the other day that she spread her squares to see how many more would be needed, and though she has quite a pile, she found a discouraging number wanting. I promised to help the matter XXXXXXXXXX with ever so many whole squares. Helen also sends love with information that she is as "homely as ever;" the children have, both of them, grown considerably since last summer. Helen is stout & fleshy, Ann, tall and thin, Helen is anticipating being a young lady with a deal of delight, and Ann wishing herself a little bit of a baby so that she could get all into my lap and go to sleep upon my shoulder; they are as unlike as can be, but each a great comfort to me and I tremble almost to think how soon we may be separated; poor Mrs. Snell can hardly look at Helen without weeping and then she turns to me and says "how grateful you must be that Helen is spared to you." Rebecca and Helen were very intimate.
That elegant and lively Nancy Brown of whom you have heard me speak is gone; she died a week ago last Saturday at Hanover N.H. I attended her funeral at Hadley last Tuesday - looked upon the countenance that only last October was so beautiful and full of expression, when we said "good bye" and parted, but, oh the change that death had wrought, I wish I could forget it.
Dr. Humphrey visited Miss Brown the last week she lived, in immediate prospect of death she was perfectly calm, and gave delightful evidence of being prepared, although a great sufferer the last 6 weeks of her life, she was uniformly patient, and her room all winter her aunt told me was the most cheerful place in the house.
I see this affair is not dated, so here I write May 9th, Monday afternoon and in addition for the sake of enabling you to think of my front room carpet without involuntarily ripping whatever may be in your hand there is, should you happen to think of the carpet. I will inform you that I had ripped all those wrong seams and had it made over right and put down in the sitting room this vacation and I'll promise you to make a new one right for the front room next week, so you need not dream some neuralgiac night that everything in our house is wrong side out or wrong side up.
I am very sorry you have that afflicting disease yet.
Good bye for Helen is waiting to take this to the office.
Much love to Adeline and Ellen and a remembrance to all that sit round that pleasant table in the breakfast room and to Charles when he appears.
Now you are not to think this is a letter to be answered for I have not answered yours yet and shall write again soon. But you know how glad I always am to hear from you.
I am rejoiced to hear you confirm what I've heard of Uncle Vinal. I hope C. will live many years, Caroline I mean, but I think she is just such an one as is often removed early.
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, MS, Nov 14
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, Nov, 1843
Nov. 9th, Thursday afternoon.
My dear Cousin Ann,
What a girl you are for giving away jelly, I never heard of such a thing as sending a sick woman more than she could lift. When my father laid it in my lap I couldn't imagine what it could be but concluded it was some kind of a game upon a marble slab that you thought would be better for me than doing absolutely nothing. But lo, it is all to be eaten, and it is that nice kind of jelly too which I prefer to all acid jellys, and though there are four pounds and a half it will get spoonfulled away I presume before Spring, after medicines, and to prevent coughing etc. etc.
I was very sorry not to answer your very acceptable letter dated September 20th but Ann was very sick at the time so that every moment of my time was taken up with her. Without waiting to hear from you, I had been upon the point of writing to make you and your family the offer of my Beauty. You know I said a deal to you about keeping two girls so as to have one to save steps and going up and down stairs which was so bad for your limbs last summer; well my Beauty it seems to me was just fit to be going up and down stairs, it is true she would want time and now and then fall up and spill everything; but so cheap as I'd let you have her I did not know but you would like to trade - even for nothing, and her passage paid, and all the improvements I made or caused to be made in her - deeds gratis.
But, Ann, to be serious, nobody every was so took in by a face, there is not a single vestige of anything in her character that I thought I saw in her countenance; and she cheats everybody here in the same way; I dont know how many friends have said to me why what a pretty girl you have for chamber work and to wait on you."
So let us have this for a rule in future (for I wish you to get advantage too from my experience) that if anybody looks better than you and I we may know at once they are no great.
But in spite of the creature's laziness, awkwardness, and temper I contrive to turn her to account, and get along comfortably with her, by making her do some of Mrs. Powers work in the kitchen, and taking Mrs. Powers to do things for me.
I did not intend to spin the subject of help to this length, but I never knew how to be short. I am rejoiced to hear that you are so much better, my father says "Ann looks nicely," and this, with your testimony as to your feelings, makes me hope that you are greatly improved. Ellen too I am very glad is better, does she eat in these days, or live by sitting down to the table and seeing the rest of you as she did last Summer. Addy I trust is still "equal to anything" which was the last report she made of herself to me. More love than there would be room for, if it took room, in this letter; to Addy and Ellen and an affectionate remembrance to all the household, and tell Charles to let the rest of travelling be on land, and settle down at home now and take comfort and spend his money, else he will be in the same trouble with King Solomon by and by, obliged to leave it to the man that will come after him, without knowing whether he will be a wise man or a fool.
And now I must tell you about myself particularly, because if you were sick I could not put up with a letter that did not tell me particularly about you. Having given up everything else, I feel under special obligation to begin to keep the gold rule. Well, in the first place (I shall tell the worst first) I have never been so thin, or so weak, since I was so very sick ten years ago; my pulse are quite too rapid, varying from 85 to 90. I cough considerably every night, towards morning, from 3 to 5, and XXX XXXXXX XXX XXXX XXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXX XXX XXXXXXX XXXXXX XXX XXXX XX XXXXX XXXXXXXX When I came into the nursery 3 weeks ago last Saturday, my pulse varied from 100 to 105, for a week after I felt much weaker than I do now. Dr. Gridley says my countenance is better, my tongue also is better, I relish my food as well as you or anybody, and relish such as is nutritious and plain, I have no uneasy craving for anything I ought not to eat. I am refreshed by my sleep, I am perfectly free from all nervous restlessness, and sit in a beautiful, easy low, stuffed chair that my father brought me, hour after hour sort of dosing or reading, enjoying it as much as a baby would sitting in a mother's lap. I am perfectly free from pain, all I suffer from is weariness, sometimes from coughing, and a troublesome concert on all sorts of out of tune keys, in my throat, and sometimes a slight general closeness which Addy can understand, in breathing. For the last ten days the Dr. has kept up a constant irritation upon my neck in front, and chest, which has been of decided service to me.
Dr. Gridley is very attentive, and I have perfect confidence in his prescriptions, he understands all my peculiarities, and I am sure you will say he was wise in prescribing perfect quietness and entire rest from talking, walking, working and everything, he prohibited all company, and now I only see one friend in a day and that one in the forenoon. You know how it will happen when you see any friends, some bright day four or five will call in succession and though you love each one, and enjoy seeing them, when they are gone, if you are feeble, you are about gone too - dont Ellen say "it is exactly so."
I was never so conscious of being benefitted by anything as this three weeks of quietness, and I have not felt lonely one half hour. I dare say Aunt Vinal is wishing me in the west Indies, but I would not for all the world be any where but just at home with all my family about me, situated precisely as I am, for I have every comfort and convenience that any one could desire, and and as to friends, they are so kind it absolutely makes me cry to receive so many favours; your letter would have been finished last Friday but for notes I have been writing to send home in dishes that came to me filled with chicken broth, Tapioca pudding, jelly, apple sauce etc etc. By the way, your enormous present of Guava jelly I am distressed about, why only a little round box costs half a dollar, and I broke both my garters weighing your box and had to call for a piece of good tape. You see I call for what I want instead of jumping up to wait upon myself. Another thing I do which I used to cry out at greatly in other people. I take my breakfast before getting up; from coughing, I feel the need of something warm and nourishing early. Mrs. Powers is as bright as can be mornings, gets up early, and her tea kettle always boils, so she gets my breakfast the first thing, and I feel like a new creature after it. I dont go out to breakfast with the family, but dine and take tea in the sitting room.
My father has put up a fine air tight stove in my nursery so that I am in the same warm temperature all the time, we have one in the sitting room also. I sit out there a while morning and towards night and have my window and the bed room window set open so that I have fresh, pure air, as well as warm. Isn't all this equal to the West India's.
The causes that have reduced my strength since returning from Boston were first Ann's sickness, which was so severe, I really trembled for a day or two with the apprehension that she would die, she was as yellow as a lemon, could keep nothing scarcely down, took no notice of anything, and said nothing only "thank you very much" when anything was done for her. of course I had to give up riding out, and be with her all the time excepting nights when Mr. Fiske relieved me entirely, and he did all he could days, but I did not think anything about myself I was so distressed about her at first, and then so busy preparing drinks and things for her when she was getting better, for you know a world of Irish helps cannot help you about such things. Then I had a quiet week when Helen came home - then the Misses Adams came to fix her to return but I felt no care of their work and put them in the front parlour by them selves, and was not with them half the time. But then came the Influenza almost as bad as XXXX I had it at Charlestown, only I did not cough quite so much, however I had fever enough to make up for it, well this last affair took the rest of my flesh and a good deal of strength, and now I am sure you must be wondering how I do look and I must confess somewhat shadow like, but nobody starts back when they come in so I conclude that I am not a perfect fright.
Helen is a very great comfort to me. I can not but think the change that occurred in her feelings at Pittsfield will prove a change in her character, she is very yielding, obedient, and considerate, and takes a great many little cares from me. Ann is quite well, she does not look like the same child she did at Boston, she has grown so fleshy & her complexion is so much more healthy. Good bye by dear Ann may you never have such another letter as this as long as you live.
I enjoy seeing my father very much, he talks of returning the last of this week. Do write very soon. Can you send this letter to Aunt Vinal soon? All this dull stuff about myself is just what she has told me to write to her, and I have wished to write before, but between getting up late, and going to bed early, and taking naps, and doing nothing, I could not get time. None have so little leisure as the idle.
Love and thanks to Martha H. and love to all the rest of the house.
I really fear you will never be able to read this. I have written upon the bed with my atlas upon my knees in a very easy position.
Yrs. truly, Deborah
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, MS, Mar 1
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, March, 1843
My dear Ann,
What a shame that you should put up such a golden package for me and mine the first of Jan. and not hear a word from a soul of us till the first of March; it is perfectly mortifying to think how odd I must have seemed to you all this while, the only alleviating consideration is, that Martha may possibly have happened to tell you that it had not gone to Amherst. My father fully intended to call upon you before leaving Boston, but found himself in such a hurry at last packing up things to carry, and things to leave behind, that he could not find a minute for anything else. That he was very sorry it happened so, I am quite certain from the fact that almost the next thing after "how do you do," he said "I came off after all without calling upon the Miss Scholfields." I was so glad to see him that moment to feel or express any regret about anything, but hearing afterwards that a package of letters only I supposed, was left behind, I felt quite like sending a man after them, and a man I did send last week, that is to say he was going, and by a letter to Martha I secured the pleasure of hearing from you by his return last Friday afternoon, which was three days ago and during which time my desk has been opened and a steel pen fixed three times to write to you but the bell has rung, just as door bells do in Boston and the writing apparatus hurried away. But thus far it has kept still this time, and I think it will the rest of the day as it is Monday a day when Amherst ladies are seldom seen abroad, having full exercise enough at home, enough to make some of them "tired of housekeeping." By the way, I would like to read the story with this title and having gone through such a variety of domestic adventures myself with black, white, and Irish helps I should be a real judge of the merit of the work which I suppose must consist in natural descriptions of the provoking but sometimes amusing blunderheads we are generally obliged to depend upon for kitchen work.
I am sorry to hear that John is thinking of coming East on account of business, as it is probable he can succeed better there, with such an education as he has, than in New England, but I would like right well to see them all and hope there will be some good opening for John if they come to stay. I suppose however it is a bad time to get started at making money.
Ann is delighted with the Golden [base?] and has charged me over and over to "thank you very much" for it; for an hour after it came, she did not stop reading it, and has hardly taken it up since without some exclamation of delight at the cover or contents; she has nearly learned the "firefly," all the pieces prose and poetry are very good. Miss Gould writes very much like Mary Hewitt who almost equals June Taylor in writing for children. A [base?] of real gold would not have pleased Ann so much for she insists upon it that she has got money enough, while there is no such thing as having enough of pretty stories and "verses that go so nice" as she calls smooth poetry, and even rhymes.
Martha seems to be having a miserable winter, do you know that she is trying the wonderful powers of mesmerism upon her face? but after several attempts of experiencing mesmerisms she only loses, she says, "some of her senses; she is exceedingly interested in the subject, says she has no patience with people that laugh at it; but I have spoken for the privilege of laughing, and cannot help it whenever the ludicrous manipulations of the mesmerists come into my mind. Dr. Packard, an old gentleman larger than your father and as dignified in his ordinary movement tried some time ago to put me to sleep, he soon concluded me to be "one of those cases not susceptible of the mesomeric influence," and added beside "there isn't enough of you to be mesmerised;" the children were present, and in spite of both hands held over their mouths with all their might laughed out about once in five minutes; of course the circumstances were somewhat unfavourable for the success of the experiment.
You judge right as to the addition to my happiness from having my father with us and I am thankful to see him hold out so well at his age. Mr. Fiske tells him that he is the youngest man among us. Every day he gives lectures upon drinking cold water, sitting straight, not wearing so many clothes, not putting feet to the fire and keeping out of "these ruinous rocking chairs," the result is I have straightened out the curve of a semi-circle; and have put the rocking chair into a corner where it looks just as if it couldn't be got out without tipping over a whole stand of plants, and the tea I am thinking of giving up, as to taking off clothes and not warming feet these two improvements I have decided to defer till May and June, when I shall have more time to devote to reformations.
I am rather busy now preparing Helen to go to school at Pittsfield the first of May, to remain five months; there is a select family school there under the charge of Mr. & Mrs. Tyler and Mr. Tyler's brother, both the gentlemen are fine scholars; and friends of ours, having graduated at Amherst a few years since. I cannot but think it will be an excellent place for Helen. As soon as I can shut up after Helen goes, my intention is to take Ann with me and go East, to Boston, Charlestown, and Weston, and isn't this a pretty move after all I have said and still think about visiting with children? the truth is I dont like to leave her, knowing how badly she would feel to be so far separated from both of us, and beside the apprehension that she might be sick (as some of us have been every summer or Autumn for five or six years) would keep me rather anxious. I know I cannot keep her well, nor run away from disease but whatever befals us there will be comfort in being together. Ann attends Miss Nelson's school steadily, and judging from her weekly reports is going on unto perfection considerably faster than the rest of us; Helen is taking lessons in singing, and playing sacred pieces upon the piano, of Mr. Woodman, a student in College from Boston, a fine teacher - one of Mr. Mason's pupils, for recreation she reads History or Biography or Travels -anything that is true - for work she assists me about house a little while in the mornings and sews and practices the rest of the day excepting some play time with Ann and a walk out. As for my department I sees to everything in the house, excepting Mr. Fiske's book making and Papa's hammerings. I fix (how Dicken's laughs at us for using this handy word) I fix the breakfasts - the dinner, the bread, the pies, the stewed apple, the sewing, the knitting, and the playing too Saturday afternoons. My girl is one of these "cranks," neat and diligent, but slow and as ignorant of cooking as any gentleman.
So I have helped you to the important knowledge of our movements and employments, perhaps however I ought to mention having killed a mosquito in our sitting room a few weeks ago, a real summer mosquito, who first stung Mr. Fiske in his studying corner by the book case, and then flew straight over the Stove to me where with one blow upon my face his career was stopped. A bright green youthful grasshopper was brought in the other day by Helen to have a warm home upon the stand of plants, but not caring for roses and geraniums as we do, he hopped we dont know where and has not been heard of since.
Remember me affectionately to all your family and thank Adeline for her note which I was very glad to receive - it was the first definite account of her disease I have had though her being very unwell has been mentioned in several letters. But I am thankful she has recovered so finely and hope she will long hold out "to be equal to anything."
Helen is greatly pleased with the pretty Cravat you were so kind as to send to her and tells me to give her love to you and say that she is very much obliged to you for it, she has been wanting one these six weeks, but there being none in town but such as everybody had selected from I would not hear to buy the homely things.
My health about which you dont seem to get tired of enquiring, is about as it has been, through the Winter; in the Autumn, my cough took a new start and has been more troublesome ever since, but as I am well in other respects, eating and sleeping like anybody, I hope Spring weather, and having nothing to do but run about out in the air and enjoy it, will renew my title to the convalescent list.
My dear Adeline,
Since my message to you by Ann, I have thought of a want which you will be so much more apt than anybody else to supply well that I will avail myself of your kind offer to do more shopping still for me. I have noticed more good black marking with indelible ink at your house than anywhere else, so you probably know the best manufacturer, and where the best ink can be found; if the place is within the limits of your walks and you can conveniently buy me a bottle (with the wash) this week it will oblige me very much; Dr. Humphrey is going to Charlestown Saturday and will return to Amherst next week. I hate to tax you with carrying or sending it to Charlestown, but will venture to ask the whole favour while I am about it, with the hope that somebody out of compassion to you as City Agent for the "back woods" people, will offer to carry it over to Uncle Vinals if you will only buy it. With the money left will you get a couple, or one common linen pocket handkerchief, two if the money will buy them for Helen's every day use.
Although your penmanship is always extremely provoking, I was glad enough to see some of it addressed to me and your advice to come to Boston I admire - whenever I want advice you are the competent person I shall apply to and may you always hit my wishes as grandly as in this case.
Now that you are so well wont you take care to keep so, I think it may have been attending too indefatigably to housekeeping that made you sick, and your physician prescribed walking to take you out of the way. No more paper,
Good bye Yrs. aff. D.W.V.F.
My dear Ellen,
Martha wrote me that you were quite unwell which I was very sorry to hear. Dont burden yourself with answering the letter you say by Ann you intend.
Let that go entirely, and when you are better, begin again.
I am always treated by letters from you all, and should write more frequently to get them, if the days were longer and less work not always all cut out for each day as it comes. I would like a writing letter day in each week let's put it in and cross out washing day. Helen says she has read or heard that Job was born washing day, and that was one reason he wished it blotted out.
Yrs. aff. Deborah
One more word to Adeline,
The reason I make any disturbance just now about ink, is because all Helen's clothes must be marked with her whole name, and I can get none here. The next time Ann writes to me I wish you would take your knitting and sit down and make a business of jostling her for her letter to me looks just like copy hand from beginning to end, and I feel very much cut by such letters.
And now my dear Ann you have come to the end of this jumble of a letter which has been going on simultaneously with watching a dinner, hearing practising, and keeping a sort of general look out, such as dont help keep ones wits concentrated; so you will please to give me credit for more sense than any one would dream judging only from this affair. I care less for this however much than for having you know and believe how sincerely I am, and always shall be, your true fried, Deborah.
Mr. Fiske sends a "little love" to you in return for your "little love" to him - this is swapping even as the boys say.
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, Ms, Oct 14
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, Oct. 1841 or 2
Amherst, Monday Evening
My dear Ann,
I have not stopped to tell you so, but every time your poor limbs have come into my mind, I've felt as if I must sit right down and ask you if they are aching still; how can I but be sorry to have them in pain, when they have so often, for years walked with me and for me all over Boston? I cannot but hope you are suffering less than when Martha and Caroline came to Amherst - the cold weather may have made a favourable change in your system; you have never thought, I believe, there was any disease in your limbs, but that they suffered from some other cause - your liver, stomach or something, you couldn't tell what. We are indeed a complicated piece of mechanism, and I sometimes think physicians might as well prescribe for watches that are out of order by looking at them, feeling of them, and harking to their ticking as to prescribe for us without seeing the parts that are diseased. It is a foolish wish because a vain one, but I do wish I could take a peep into Adeline's wind pipe, Ellen's lungs and mine, and your joints that ache. But what good would it do? like a thousand other gratified wishes, the result would bring nothing but vexation - the pain I shouldn't find in your poor knees - no dust that would explain Adeline's wheezing, nor apple cores or bits of flannel that would account for my cough or Ellen's and nothing left for me but a sense of hopeless ignorance - the most uncomfortable of all senses, but one from which we suffer much less than those who are always diving into unsearchable things, we are necessarily accepted, mind and hands, most of the time, with things we know, or can know, "a deal" about, as my Irish woman says; and most of us enjoy the opinion, whether well founded or not, that our way of doing things is about the best, but tho this feeling is so common, how odd it seems to hear it expressed in so many words. "Missus Fiske," my woman says, "I understands coooking better than any woman in all Canada, and you'll find nobody anywhere that washes and irons so well as I can." and I is very conscientious, it was always material to me."
I almost laugh, and she seems as happy I presume she thinks it is because I am so delighted with getting such a remarkable woman to do my work. I have a prejudice against the Irish that makes it impossible for me to place much confidence in any of them, and I shouldn't be surprised to find out almost anything about this woman but if she holds out as well as she has done, I shall keep her; she is affectionate and kind apparently willing to work in the kitchen, and not aspiring to anything else, neater than most domestics, a good cook in many respects, and gets done in the course of the week all I want her to do; her temper is very passionate, but when the explosion is over she is "so sorry" and is mortified that she should spake so to such a good mistress "that we make right up and are as good as pie. Do tell me if you are fortunate now as to help; it is a subject that needn't be despised for how much our comfort yes, even happiness depends upon domestic peace and regularity in the kitchen, if things go wrong there, it is impossible to sit down in the parlour and forget it.
Caroline or Martha told me that wonderfully good girl you had when I left, threw off her mask of piety, and was a real trial to you, what is woman! surely good women are even more scarce than in Solomon's day.
Remember me affectionately to all the family, but how much less the all is, for having Isaac and Charles away - I should think you would push your table up against the wall to hide their places at meals. Isaac's three months will soon be out but I presume you will not see him short of fire there are so many places and things he will wish to see in England; of course you have frequent letters from him which must be worth everything to you, - put in my love when you write to either of them, and tell them what I needn't tell them, nor anybody needn't tell them, to be good boys till they get home. Where is Charles now, and when do you expect him?
Give my love to Aunt and Martha, Abby and Caroline & Aunt Tufts; what a fine girl Caroline is. I enjoyed her visit very much; she was so kind to Ann when she was sick, and to me too, and so disposed to make the best of things, & so cheerful that I shall always love her and love to think of her character. You cannot imagine how well Martha seemed the first part of her visit; I almost forgot she was an invalid, she could walk and eat and sleep apparently just like the rest of us, but the last week a cold brought on that difficulty in her face and she was rather afraid of the fever that was prevailing, and she was really unwell, but she is better again I hear, and I have more hope than ever before that she may yet enjoy comfortable health; those little pills have given her stomach a good resting spell from medicine, and half the time it is all people need who have been in the habit of taking large doses; this explains Dr. Vanderburgh's fame.
I have recently had a letter from Martha Hooker in New York - under Dr. Vanderburgh's care, she has great confidence in his skill and the Homeopathic system; she says the more she studies it the more she thinks of it - I am sorry she is studying anything connected with diseases for it is the worst thing an invalid can do, let the physician study and pay him for it, and the patient play. Have you heard whether Martha has returned to Falmouth? tell me when you write and wont you write this very week - I haven't heard from Boston for a long while excepting by Mrs. Anderson from whom I had a very pleasant visit, about a fortnight ago, poor Mrs. Hill is at the Insane Hospital in Worcester as you probably know, she wished to go there herself, - said it was the only proper place for her, she was certainly sane in that opinion, for she must have been a dreadful trial to her family from what Mrs. Anderson told me, so contrary and full of complaints it was impossible for Mr. Hill to please her - his greatest efforts to gratify her would be met with "now, why couldn't you have done this three months ago or else "how would you imagine this would please me." I think Mrs. Hill was always nervous and rather eccentric. Dr. Woodward thinks she may recover.
Ann is recovering very well from her fever. Helen is perfectly well and more fleshy than she has ever been - not going to school, but studying at home Latin and Arithmetic with her father and writing (you see I writes like a teacher) and sewing with me? Ann Scholfield is attending to eating and loved reading XXXXX XXXX XX XX and walking and mantua making. Miss Dolly has more drapes than any of us, and of more modern fashions
I do not cough any more now than I did in the Spring, and feel as well as before I gave out, only not quite so strong, and hope to have a comfortable Winter. I wish you could come and see us before the snow banks will shut us apart for months.
Tell Ellen I have not forgotten that I am owing her a better letter than I could write to save my life, and she needn't say that I don't know what I'm saying to speak so for I read over every word of it the other night; and hesitated whether to write to her or to you - your limbs made me decide to begin with "my dear Ann: but whatever name I begin with I always feel as if with you all, you are one in many respects.
Good morning (it is Tuesday now
Yrs. very affectionately Deborah
I really fear this crossed scribbling will trouble you, I never can stop to write well to you, any more than I could wait and puzzle myself for choice language if talking. I hope it will come into your hands by daylight.
Give my best love to Adeline and charge her not to kill herself keeping house better than anybody else would, for we had all rather have her longer; this is a time when she is getting everything ready for Winter and the days are growing shorter, and all but the lazy are in danger of doing too much - "time enough" "time enough" is their song and it is what my Irish woman is famous for singing out if she hears us getting up before she gets out of her room.
My love to my father if you happen to see him and make him see you; he is full of business building a house.
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske, 1842
My dear Cousin Ann,
I should have written to you by Mr. Fiske but for being quite busy, and for having the thought in my head that writing to you would be a fine bit of recreation for the vacation, when Amherst is perfectly vacated by gentlemen, and only inhabited by a few lone women what cleans houses, and takes care of the fires - one of such a population who wouldn't be glad of a letter to write, especially to an old friend the very sight of whose name brings up such pleasant associations as yours.
I dont know what exactly, but something makes me think of a book called "the glory and the shame of England," which I have read recently. I presume you have seen it, but if you have not, you will be interested in it, though exceedingly pained to think of such suffering among the poor, the poor children especially. Ann said on hearing two or three of the narratives, "I only wish I knew that not one word of that book was true," and I thought the same, not thinking then, nor till now, of the bearing of such a wish upon the author's veracity. but isn't our own a blessed country for the poor? down to the babies, all can get enough to eat, and as to "rising in the world," as it is called, who does not stand a chance for promotion, and almost expect it? A girl left me last week after a sojourn of three days, whom I dont doubt has a hope of yet being Mrs. Major Somebody, her airs were all ready for the office. But for my own part, as a general thing I think it is better to remain in the sphere we are born in than to be tilting up for such as neither nature or education has fitted us; a barberry bush that is ornamental by the road side would only be laughed at in the centre of a beautiful flower garden.
I can hardly believe it but the clock insists upon it that it is almost nine, so I must bid you good night, tho sorely against my will, and run with my package over to Mr. Hitchcock's.
Much love to Adeline and Ellen and a remembrance to all the family, has Charles returned from the south?
Martha writes me that you are still troubled with neuralgia. I hear there is a great change in Uncle Vinal, Aunt and Martha both hope he has become a Christian.
Is Martha up for Falmouth?
Do send me one of your good letters, and Ellen one of hers and Adeline one of hers; this vacation they would be worth a dollar to me. The children are both well, Helen sends love and Ann Scholfield is asleep.
Yrs. sincerely Deborah.
Addressed: Miss Ann Scholfield, Boston
Return address: D.W.V. Fiske [Jany?} 1844
Helen says "give a great deal of love of Cousin Ann and thank her very, much indeed for my book" and Ann thanks you very, very much for X the Busby game, and the dear little card case of cards for dolly and the little mite of a box of mites." (it amuses the children very much.) Remember me very affectionately to Adeline and Ellen, how is Ellen bearing the Winter. I think of her and of all of you very often, and should write more frequently if I were not so good for nothingish; since my fall however I really have not been fit for anything, I was more generally injured and prostrated than I was aware of at first, but I believe the Dr. hopes I shall recover from its effects.
Good night, yours truly,
Dr. Gridley said I had the real neuralgiac pain in my so I know now how to pity you. The nerves of my arm were injured, at first it was as numb as wood, while I was trying to get out from under the Carriage top, then so sensitive I could hardly bear to see one coming towards me for fear they would touch it, and after that there was steady pain in it till I put on a blister. I had no idea before the left arm was so useful. I told the Dr. I was going to write you half a page to call your attention to the value of it, he replied "when you get through tell her the right hand is of much more value, and to look out well how she disposes of it, if it is one of your cousins I presume I've seen her."
Dr. Gridley is as kind and attentive to me as a physician could possibly be, and it is worth a great deal to me as you can judge, he is cheerful & amusing too.
Addressed: To the Ladies of the Falmouth Sewing Circle.
To the Ladies of the Falmouth Sewing Circle.
You will see by Mrs. Perkin's letter how very useful fancy articles would be to distribute as rewards among the Westonian pupils under the care of Mr. Perkins. With us, little presents do much towards creating feelings of kindness and affection for teachers, how much more among the heathen, who at first, and for some time, regard their missionary instructors with fear and suspicion.
Will not the Ladies of Falmouth prepare a small box of fancy articles for the Westonian mission at Ooroomiah? Trifles requiring very little work will be considered fine gifts by the Misses in Mr. Perkins's school. And needle books such as we are all tired of seeing, and still more tired of trying to sell, will have great value in the eyes of Mohammedan Ladies; receiving presents when they call is the best of evidence with them that the Missionaries are good people. If a good name can be purchased with needle books, surely Missionaries should have them always on hand. It would be well for us in this country if that which is so valuable to every one could be bought at so cheap a rate.
Should the Ladies decide to send anything to Ooroomiah, the way to have their donation go safely, will be to have it carefully packed in a strong box, nailed up, directed to the Rev. Justin Perkins Ooroomiah, Persia, and left at the Missionary Rooms, Boston.
Yours very respectfully, D.W.V. Fiske
P.S. There are four families connected with the Ooroomiah Mission; Mr. Perkins's, Dr. Grants, Mr. Hollidays & Mr. Stickings. Mr. Perkins and Dr. Grant have little sons that were two years old last April. Yarn socks that would fit them would of course be very acceptable; to be sure of overtaking the size of their feet, it would be necessary to knit them large enough for children three years and a half old.
February 11th, Monday forenoon
My dear Ellen,
After all the scolding about the ills of life I am inclined to think there are advantages sufficient in their train to keep us in very good humour. This idea is suggested by finding myself so agreeably employed, writing to you, washing day, that worst of all days in the whole year; had Job wished this day blotted out instead of the one upon which he was born millions would have approved the wish, or at least said "I don't wonder at it." If as well as usual I should be in the kitchen this forenoon, but this not being the case, instead of the splashing of suds I hear no noise but the noise of the good fire; instead of wash-tubs and heaps of clothes not clean I see this nice paper and your note and letter, and Ann's letter on my desk near by, and there is nothing else in the world I wish to see till a long letter to you is all ready for immediate transportation to Boston. And here let me tell you why you receive one in this shape. You have always seemed so ready to oblige me, I have presumed that you would be equally ready to accommodate my right elbow, and to be accommodated, this elbow must have some sort of resting place, which it cannot have if a whole sheet of paper is spread upon the Atlas which I use as a desk, because I can write with more ease.
Of late my attention has been very much given to finding out the easiest way of doing things, and I have some hope of making discoveries that will be of great advantage to housekeepers and invalids; I will not specify them here, but if you see a work advertised with the title "good news to hard workers" you may suspect that you know the author, and I advise you to buy a copy, but the worst of it is, good news of this sort I fear will come too late to do us much good. And yet why need it be so when every other sort of invention is so common? I seriously think something might be thought of to make housekeeping less laborious. Adeline must set her wits to work she is so famous for finding out things.
I fear you have been having trouble in relation to help this Winter; Martha in her last letter speaks of your being over to spend the day and being obliged to return because you had only a little girl to rely upon. So I suppose Miss Henrietta has taped up her head and tilted off, and if you have found a decent piece of human nature to take her place, I am not sorry. I used to think when at Boston, that considering the years of good training she had had in your family she relieved Adeline of very little care, and then the burning up of that beautiful trimming of Ann's without feeling any worse about it made me put her down for a hard hearted very bad girl, Ann had done too much for her to receive such return; there is nothing half so trying as such indifference & ingratitude from those you have really tried to benefit.
Although it will help you to the date of your letter, which it would be far better for me to have you forget, I cannot help alluding to Stephens travels which you had just been reading. Was there ever a better book of travels? I cannot but hope the love of seeing and describing new things will drive the man off again; what is so amusing to others must have amused himself, and anyone who writes with such ease and vivacity must enjoy writing exceedingly. You remember his visit to [Scio?] I presume, and the description of its desolation, the curious love affair of that German Missionary, or rather his curious derangement upon the subject of love; his acquaintance with that old French gentleman in Moscow whose friends he knew in Philadelphia. It gratified me very much to see Mr. Stephen's testimony in favour of the labours of Missionaries, his account of Mr. & Mrs. Hill's influence at Athens I presume you recollect; the opinion of a man so evidently free from all prejudice in favour of anything serious is worth a great deal.
Campbell's Algiers (for which you will tell Adeline I am very much obliged to her) I am now reading and am much interested in it as far as I have gone. The little book you sent me I have read with much pleasure, and here you must accept my sincere thanks for it. I imagine the greatest goodness is often found in obscure individuals like Philles whose poverty shuts them up from many temptations by which we are assailed and overcome, I suspect I am wrong in this idea of temptations, for I this moment remember a remark of some good old divine Divine (Dr Owen I think) which struck me as very just when I met with it, it was this, "temptations put no new evil into a man but only show what was there before, ascending to this, pleading a temptation is making a miserable excuse for an offence, and surely it is, for a "way of escape" is provided for all who remember the prayer to be delivered.
Tell Ann her "Thomas a Kempis" I count a real treasure, and ask her how she came to know that there is no other book of the kind I should value half so much. I have several pages of tracts I copied from a borrowed copy three or four years ago. If ever a man loved the Saviour Thomas a Kempis did, and his heart was so full of love there couldn't have been any room for the false notions of other Catholics about praying to Saints and the virgin Mary. Blaise Paschal was another eminently pious Catholic; his thoughts upon religion and other subjects I believe I lent to you a good while ago.
The guava jelly Ann sent to me is very nice. I did not open the box till yesterday through fear of being actually killed with good things, my father brought me so many, and so often asks why I dont take a little of this, that or the other, that it seems as if I had been eating two thirds of the time; the oranges and hoarhound candy are dispatched and the jelly now takes their place. I expected my stomach would resent such frequent down pourings, but thus far it has received everything without a word of complaint.
I was very much disappointed in not being able to send to you ten days since, when for want of anything better I sent cousin Martha a helter-skelter journal I had been keeping. The very days I was calculating to write to you and to Ann I was on my bed more than half my time. "But what is the matter," I seem to hear you say, "when you are better why don't you keep so," the reason is, everybody else is not better at the same time, and forgetting what a nobody I am for strength, I take hold of nursing with a zeal not according to knowledge, and to pay for it, find myself down at once. Helen had an idle turn, and needed some attention in the night I sat up in bed a few moments and waited upon her doing this after a day of more than ordinary exertion taking care of her, brought on the spasms in my back and side to which I have been subject so long. I suffered very much for two or three days, and had a good deal of fever; a large blister covering half my back and side seemed to be the means of removing the difficulty, so that now I call myself comfortable again. I am not however so well as before, and have made the resolution, that nothing short of seeing the house on fire shall make me expose myself again to the night air.
My father, Mr. Fiske and Dr. Gridley have given me such lectures upon the folly of attempting to take care of anybody but myself, that I have no doubt but my own dear self will from this time be the only object of practical interest.
But when children are sick no one seems to them like mother, and I always feel so sorry to see them suffer, and so desirous to keep them quiet and happy, that perhaps I do more than is really necessary; when Helen is unwell it makes her so nervous I feel especially anxious to keep her calm; and Ann is so grateful we cannot help trying to please her, "how kind you are," "I wish every little girl had such a good Ma and such a good Miss Smith," and "when I get well I'll read to you, and go and get you water, and do everything for you," these are the words of Ann Scholfield; I should not repeat them to every body, and feel ashamed of this repetition to you; I can remember of being so much disgusted and sickened with silly mothers long stories about their wonderful children, I never begin to sound the praises of mine without thinking what a fool I must be considered, however justly, I don't care about knowing the time when the sentence is pronounced.
At the risk of a fit of sneezing I have just read over your description of the influenza; whenever I have any thing special to describe I would like to be seized with it, if it would be so obliging as to stop only long enough to enlarge the organ of language for my purpose. I used to suppose mental stupidity was one of its worst symptoms, but the opposite was manifestly the case with you.
Well, here I am at the bottom if I am sure I don't know what page, only it is not the first, second third, fourth or fifth, it is certainly time to "draw to a close" as tedious speakers say to their half-asleep and half-dead hearers. But you must let me ask a question or two and then you must answer my question or two just as soon as convenient.
Did the influenza affect your lungs? how is your appetite now; and do you still persevere in not drinking too much? I sincerely hope so, or the idea of it in a young lady is dreadful. Do you have any pain in your side? do you sleep well? do you walk out every pleasant day? Now when you write be sure to tell me exactly how you are, and how Adeline is, unless she will tell me with her own pen which will be all the better. Your father I hope is well this Winter - remember me to him and to your brothers; how pleasant it will be to you to have Charles at home again, the time of his absence will soon slip away. I have frequently thought of him since he sailed and I always seem to see him in his cabin standing by that organ "grinding out tunes" as he used to call his playing; the "orphan girl" has been in my head every since my head was in Boston; and many a night when I've been a little wakeful, I have put myself to sleep thinking it over; it is a very pretty tune, and I have one rather similar in a Juvenile choir that I play to Helen and Ann. Ann's voice is pleasant but she can sing no tunes; Helen's is not pleasant but she can sing several tunes very well, and is quite enthusiastic about music, very fond of some tunes and thinking others dreadful.
You will think there is really no end to this letter, it is just like one of my calls at your house which were often spun out and spun out till they ended in staying all night. But to show you that I have a little decision left I will say good bye on this very line. Yours very sincerely and
Addressed: Miss Adeline Scholfield, Boston
Londonderry, July 11, 1825
My dear Adeline,
The good book says "a word to the wise is sufficient" and I am sure this is exemplified in you for only mentioning a sour apple reminded you of your promise to write me.
I am very sorry to hear that uncle and aunt Vinal have gone to Niagara Falls as they will be absent during the vacation; but as they have left the house behind them and so many other attractions I calculate very much upon coming home.
Do not be discouraged in searching the papers for an account of the General's visit for I think it will yet appear as I have had the felicity of reading it in several New Hampshire papers.
When I first came to Londonderry and commenced the practice of rising early my first speech in the morning frequently was "how beautifully the Scholfields are sleeping while I am here forcing myself out of the bed" but for the future I shall imagine you galloping over to S. Boston Bridge you have become such an early riser.
I frequently have an opportunity of hearing Music; Mrs. Thom is a very good player and singer, so good that I have not been very anxious to display my skill before her; her instrument is very much out of tune but it is far preferable to none.
I am very greatly obliged to you for your letter my dear Adeline and also to Ellen and Ann for all I have received from them how I shall pay you nobody knows unless it is in thanks and sweet apples for it is impossible to send you [tr. note: letters missing] in return.
John will send us a bundle on [tr. note: letters missing]
day and I should be exceedingly gratified to find in it, letters from you and your sisters; I realise that I have not the least claim upon you for letters but they are more gratefully received on this account.
Yours truly, D.W.V.
Love to your mother.
Show this to no one.
The bearer is waiting.
Addressed: Miss Adeline Scholfield
My dear Adeline,
If Amherst College is to be honored with a place in your picture Album, you shall have one that has not been folded, and you will find it in the leaves of Humphrey's Christian Memoirs - the book I promised to lend you.
I cannot say whether I have seen Payne's translations of Thomas A. Kempis but I have read with a great deal of interest his Imitation of Christ, I should like to read it again, for such books do not become uninteresting from being read, any more than a valuable friend from being often seen.
I have another book I wish to send you if you have not read it - Blaise Pascal's thoughts on religion and other subjects with a memoir of his remarkable life; he was distinguished for great learning and uncommon talents and although a member of the Roman Catholic Church a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ's - he was a decided opposer of the errors of the Catholics but adhered to their communion and church forms.
I am rejoiced to hear that Ellen is as comfortable and that she can read to you. You must be having a very happy winter together. Mr. Hooker is passing the day with us on his return from Berkshire County. I am very glad of the prospect of his settlement at Falmouth; his situation there I think will be much more pleasant than at Lanesboro.
Martha must enjoy very much having her children with her and keeping house again. I can never visit with children without feeling in a hurry to get home.
Yrs. very affectionately
I remember often seeing the Miss Thaxters. Mrs. Thaxter is certainly much to be pitied and how much more you sympathize with her than if you had not been afflicted; we must be mad to weep ourselves to learn us to "weep with those that weep.
Addressed: Miss Adeline Scholfield
My dear Adeline,
I am very glad of an opportunity to wish you and your sisters a happy new year, and show you a representation of Amherst College. Another Summer I hope you will be able to judge of the correctness of the picture by seeing the original. But I will tell you beforehand, that the building at the right hand is not yet erected, and the trees in front are not grown. Everything changes so rapidly, it is necessary to make calculations for the future for anything you wish to have accurate a year to come. The house at the left hand is Esq. Boltwood's - Ann probably remembers Mrs. Boltwood - she is a sister of the Miss Shepards.
[tr. note: part of page missing] you were wishing to have done when Eliza returned are all accomplished, and that you are enjoying a comfortable degree of leisure. You must miss the loud reading of Ellen very much I think, for of course she cannot use her lungs much in this way without injury. It is a great comfort to listen to the reading of a friend; a book is doubly interesting enjoyed by two or three together. When reading anything striking sitting alone I almost wish to go in search of some one to repeat it to; little Ann is generally present but notwithstanding her name she is incapable yet of appreciating what would be interesting to me - the most she cares to hear about is little birds, little boys - pussys etc. Having so much to do with the reading of children I have been quite partial to their books. I love the simplicity and variety of stories that are well written for children. Prof. Worcester from Salem is visiting us and he remarked last evening that he had of late been preaching to the children of his congregation and that the aged and middle aged were never so attentive before.
I sent a letter to Cousin Ann a few days ago which she will have received before this reaches you. If I am encroaching too much upon her time and thoughts in asking the favour of so many purchases you must tell me as you have always been somewhat celebrated for courageous honesty in saying what you think and no more. It would gratify me very much to have a letter from you. I have letters of your writing, but the bundle is altogether to thin to pack up conveniently and why not send me some more?
I intend to write Ellen very soon and to send you at the close of the Term by some student, the life of Bunyan to read - you expressed a wish I remember to see it. I should send it now, but hesitate to trouble Mr. Worcester as he will be in haste and have considerable business to attend to.
Yours very affectionately
I repeat it again, because I desire it so much, the wish that you may all enjoy a happy new year. The affecting changes of the past are prone to fill us at times with gloomy forebodings of the future, but our experience testifies that the sad hours of bereavement and sickness can be cheered beyond our hopes and while the promise remains sure "as thy day is so shall thy strength be" let us not allow our hearts to be troubled but cheerfully enjoy the rich blessings which God has so kindly bestowed on your family and ours. I feel that I have special reason for gratitude that the symptoms of consumption which have given me anxiety for sometime do not seem to become worse. I can generally breathe better than before my return - my cough is also better - my appetite good and I sleep well. I wish very much to hear how Ellen is this cold weather. I am often reminded of her by a Miss Greenough here from Newtown - she is the middle one of three sisters, her complaints similar to Ellens.
Wednesday Evening, December 21st.
I intended to have sent this so as not to mark the engraving with folds but found it would be altogether too large for convenience to Mr. Worcester.
Mr. Fiske is well and would send his love to you if he knew of my writing; he is very busy preparing a second edition of the Classical Manual.
Addressed: Miss Adeline Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, MS, Jun 20
Tuesday morning, no Wednesday, just
My dear Adeline and Ellen,
I have just received your letter, and you could not have made a proposition that would have pleased me better. It will be perfectly convenient to us all to have a visit from you just as soon as you can reach Amherst; and I will promise not to "put myself out," but let you come and be one of us; no mantua making or butchering will be done with reference to your visit - I calculate to spend my strength in gadding and talking - my two favourite employments. I feel dreadfully to think how long it will be before you will get this. Your letter arrived last evening, but there was a violent rain, and Mr. Stearns did not bring in our papers till this morning, so you cannot hear from me till tomorrow night, - my letter I hope will find your trunks packed and in the front entry; - I wish the winds would carry the mail and take my letter right along, for they blow violently and you would soon know that I was waiting to see you.
Much love to Ann - I shall send for her and keep her when you have made me a visit - one and about the length of your visit - it must not be short nor limited, pray dont begin anything that you will have to go back to see to - Adeline ought to be away long enough to lose the run of all her cares so as to be obliged when she gets home to ask Ann where things are, and what there is in the house.
I must stop short of the end of this sheet XXX XXXX to prepare some sewing for Helen, and as I shall see you face to face so soon believe I shall just close it with
Yrs. very affectionately,
I must add that John and his lady called upon me yesterday. I enjoyed their call very much, and if I had not stopped for a wonder to think twice, should have run into the sitting room to see them, blazing hot from a baking of milk biscuit with Mrs. Smith - it would have been a pity to have frightened Mrs. Chickering at her first call upon John's friends.
Good bye once more.
How small Ann's family will be with you and Arthur and Isaac away! - she must push the table up against the wall to hide one side of it and spread your father and Joseph lengthwise the other two sides.
Remember me to them both - Why will not Joseph escort you. I should be very happy to see him.
Martha must send me some journals by you to let me know what she has been about this long while. I have not heard from her for a month.
Addressed: Miss Adeline Scholfield, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Isaac Scholfield, Postmarked Amherst, MS, Apr 26
My dear Adeline,
I have all but peppered my tea, and sugared my beef steak the last week for thinking of you, and before another week is out, I shall do it quite, and a hundred other absent minded things, unless a letter is on the way forthwith, thanking you for your note, and for going right out with my father (perhaps from the midst of a baking of pies and cake) to purchase my shawl. I am greatly obliged to you, and the shawl I admire, that there is not another in Boston I could like any better, I am just as certain as if I had looked with my own eyes. As to a reward for your kindness, it shall be this - when you are settled in the country, and I have moved back to Boston, I'll go from the north end to the South end to find anything you will send to me for, and you can please me so well, perhaps my purchases will please you, but I believe this reads like egregious self praise, it is almost the same as saying that my taste is like yours, if it were in pencil, I might rub it out, as the case is, it must go, and I'll go too, from the subject, for fear of getting into some other corner from which it may be still less easy to get out.
I am rejoiced to hear you say that there is not a word about my health in your last letter from me - do keep that letter as a remarkable document from an invalid, not to exhibit among your foreign curiosities, but as a singular production for yourselves to allude to when talking over singular things. I dare say it is the first and last time my standing topic ever has, or will be omitted; it often seems as if my friends must be weary of asking "how is your cough" and "how is your voice," they must wish for their own sake as well as mine, my Ann's wish very often expressed, that my cough and hoarse voice were things she would take in her hands and carry of and bury up in the ground so deep they could never get out. That they never can be thus buried is quite certain and I have become so accustomed to them, and my health in all other respects is so good that I do not mind them much, excepting as I know them to be symptoms of a fatal disease which may suddenly cut me down at an hour when I think not. I am as well, as I was a year ago excepting my voice which is weak and hoarse - it makes every one say who dont know that it is a permanent difficulty "what a bad cold you have." As to work I am able to sew a good deal, oversee bakings, and other housekeeping matters just like anybody, only I am careful not to lift the heavy end of things, and when anything extra is on foot, such as housecleaning, or company, I take a little nap of two or three hours in the afternoon, after which I feel as bright as in the morning. As to going out - if I get started for calls nothing but dinner time or tea time brings me home. I would really be glad, if it were possible to lend Ann now and then my walking limbs, and take her aching ones in exchange to give her rest. Give my best love to her and to Ellen, with many thanks to Ann for her letter which shall be answered very shortly. The kind invitation to visit you I shall accept with a great deal of pleasure whenever I can leave home, how soon that will be I cannot tell, only I must see you all before another winter divides us, and those who do not come to see me in Amherst, I shall make a very great effort to see in Boston. I do hope you will visit us this summer, all of you, and wouldn't it do Ann good to go into the country and be where she could feel at home? I long to see her and I fear she suffers a great deal.
Sarah is waiting to take this to the office, and it is becoming dark and I am writing faster and faster and worse and worse so good bye -
Yrs. affectionately and gratefully,
I have not read the correspondence of Wilberforce, but I shall be interested in trying to get it from what Ann says of it.
I called on a friend the other day who was reading the life of Wilberforce, I look it up and noticed that much of it seemed to be letters, Can that be the same?
If Mr. Fiske call upon you within a few days please to tell him you have heard from his little girls at Amherst and that they are all three very well.
He was detained so long by the weather before starting I don't know that he will have time to visit Boston, the vacation is very short - only a fortnight.
Remember me to your father and brothers. How you must miss Isaac. It was hardly fair for him to go again so soon.
I have just asked the children what I shall say for them and they have give me more love than a dozen letters would hold to all of you by name, and Ann says "give my dear love to Ann and thank her very much for that dear cunning little baby."
Addressed: Mr. David Vinal, Boston, Postmarked Amherst, MS, Mar 20
My dear Cousin Adeline,
You know me too well ever to make a good offer without apprehending that it will be accepted. The kind willingness to make purchases which you have so often repeated will be of great service to me in selecting a shawl, if you are able to go out shopping. But dont give yourself any tiresome walks, nor call down more than half the shawls upon all the shelves in Washington St. I want a large, good shawl (not as large as a tall person, but I dont know how many quarters) with any middle, that you like, excepting red, green black or white - a drab fawn or any colour you would like for yourself but the three I've mentioned and white, would please me. If you suit yourself you cannot but suit me, and I need use no more paper upon the subject excepting to charge you to go only to two or three shawl stores and make your mind right up.
I have been very sorry to hear that Ann is not well, and hope she may be getting better by this time. Give a great deal of love to her and to Ellen. I've thought of you all very often this winter, and have seemed to see every one of you wherever I've seen you in reality - up in the Library, dining room, and all round. You have probably noticed the death of old Mrs. Shepard in the papers; like your good mother she has three daughters by her bedside anticipating every want she would often say, "what should I do if I hadn't three daughters to take care of me," her end was as tranquil and happy as her long and good life; she had her reason to the last moment, and after it was supposed she couldn't see she fixed her eyes upon Mr. Boltwood her son-in-law and said very intelligibly, Mr. Boltwood, you have been a very kind son to me, may God reward you with spiritual blessings" - these were her last words, in a second she was gone. The Miss Shepards very often enquire for you all.
Ann is to be married this Spring and presume Mary will live with her. I am very sorry to have the family broken up - it is a beautiful place and they have always been among our best friends.
Shall I not have the pleasure of a visit from you all this Summer? Your hands are so full I ought not to ask you to write but I should admire a letter from you & Ellen two & Anna three.
Good b ye Yrs. aff Deborah
I should be very glad to know how soon we may be expecting you, and whether you receive this letter. What a year of eating and doing nothing your pony is enjoying.
Tell me particularly about Martha Hooker, when you or your sisters write.
Addressed: Mrs. Martha Vinal, Boston, to the care of Mr. Otis Vinal
Return address: Amherst, MS, Sept 24
Amherst Wednesday Morning 23 Sept 1829
My Dear Aunt
I Know you are desirous of hearing Definitely how we do & With Pars assistance I resort in Brother Plaisteds manner of letting you Know The last you heard I was considerably fatigued with unsuccessful efforts to nurse the infant I tried one day after you had this information and then gave up becaus my physician & nurse Mr Fisk & Mrs Humphry thought it unsafe both for me & my child The Child has since been staying With Mrs Humphries & we shall Bring him up by hand if he lives he Seems much better since he has bin fed with cows milk and has not bin freted & exhausted with attempts to nurse. I am better inconsequence of having had the child absent and being Still & quiet - last Sunday I was rather fevourish & Doct Gridley has Kept me on Very light nourishment on that account so that I am quite weak but yet in a fairer way to recover then if I had more Strength & more fevour I am satisfied with Doct Gridleys proceedings my nurse has bin Very Kind & attentive and So have the neighbours Mr Fisk Mariah and Mary do all they can or all I can probably wish to have don you must not Give your Self any anxiety about us in any respect My two last nights were very Comfortable I relish my food well I Drink Shells & eat nice & Simple Custards - The last medicen I took Opperated Very well I have a XXXX XXXXXXXX good deal of milk that I get rid of by two infants one about fifteen years Old - Anne Mary & the other about thirty a Great Dianness a Domistc of Mr Boltwood,s
I shall be Very Glad when the time Comes for weaning these great Children and presume they will be quite as willing to be weaned I Shall Keep my milk for Sometime because it is considered rathr Dangerous to have it dried up - I Set up a bout an hour in the morning and an hour at night I could sit up more but but Doct Gridly has wished me to lie in bed the most of the time on acount of lameness in my back Which does not trouble now I am Very much Obligeed to you for the oranges - the box with the letters and Something Else in it was left at Brookfield or Worcester It has bin Sent for but has not yet come I Shall expect letters to night or in a day or two by Some of the Boston Students - let me hear from you Very Oftin you must not think hard of Us for not having written oftiner for Mr Fisk and Maria have had no leasure Give much love to Jane Martha Uncle & John aunt Scholfield & the Girls - You must not Regret my not having Speedy Restoration to helth becaus it is Just what I needed to teach me its Value and make me humble for not having prised and made a Good use of it when I had it - Mr Fisk Maria are well - I will not tax XXX my amaneunses any longer than to assure you my that Gratitude for your Visit and other favours and that I am your affectionate nice
D W Fiske
To Mrs Martha Vinal
I red a line from Jane in which Some Surprise is apprised on account of my returning or not writing to Boston - You have all forgotten I presume that I am a man of the world without a home & move when it Suits my Own Convenience or the convenience of others to Get rid of me - if I write to any one it is to those I wish to Converse with whom I can with prosperity Consider my friends
I expect to be in Boston next
[tr. note: this letter, written when Deborah's first child, the boy, was first born, is in the hand of her father, David Vinal. He is taking down her words, but the spelling, punctuation, etc. are his. The added note is his own.]
Addressed: Mrs. Martha Vinal, Boston, No. 39 Hancock St., Care of Otis Vinal, By Prof. Hitchcock
[2 Jan 1833] Wednesday Evening
My dear Aunt
I have only 15 minutes to spend in writing, but I am unwilling to have Mr. Hitchcock go to Boston without carrying a letter, even if it has nothing in it. We are all well, and have been since my letter to Papa - I should have written to you last week as I promised in his letter, but the heavy affliction which has befallen our friend Mrs. Washburn occupied every leisure moment. You of course anticipate what it is. Mr. Washburn is not living - he died last week, Tuesday afternoon without a moments warning and apparently with but little suffering - he has been failing fast for 7 or 8 weeks, but was able to go up stairs to sleep, and lie on a sofa in the sitting room through the day till the Saturday previous to his dissolution. I never knew a more glorious and tranquil sickness and death than his. With perfect composure he made every arrangement for leaving his family, and conversed with the greatest affection and faithfulness with all who saw him. His family are deeply afflicted but remarkably sustained; his aged parents arrived the day after his death and were almost inconsolable at not being permitted to see him once more in the flesh - I must write you more particularly next time about him; he was buried from the Meeting house Friday afternoon - Mr. Fiske preached the funeral sermon - Mr. Washburn requested him to do it 3 or 4 weeks before his death. Mr. Fiske's last intimate friend is gone. I feel now as if the impression it has made on my feelings could never be obliterated, but it is so easy to get immersed in the cares of life, it would not be strange should no visible effect be produced on my character.
Your little grandson H. Humphrey is as good a little boy as you ever saw - he begins to be quite playful - I often wish we lived near enough together to exchange work half an hour - you might tend him and I would take your knitting work. Much love to Uncle, Papa and Martha. I shall if possible send to you by Dean Leland next week. Let us hear very soon. Your & An's good long letter was a real treasure for Eunice and I - we read it over and over & talked it over and over, and now we want another. - Helen talks a great deal about you and Unter Vinal and has written you two or three letters to-day; what ever I am talking about she wishes to do - I meant to have saved one of her letters but it has found its way into the fire. Helen begins to embarass us with her honesty, she says whatever she thinks; this afternoon she went with Eunice to see a poor old woman, a nieghbour, and as soon as she was in, XXX said to her - "You are not pretty" "it is dirty here" "'tant pleasant here Eunice" Yours D.W.F.
Addressed: Mrs. Elisabeth Washburn, Middleboro, Mass. To the care of Mr. Philander Washburn, Postmarked Amherst, MS, May 24
My dear Elisabeth,
You will doubtless be filled with wonder & amazement at receiving a letter from your old friend Deborah after an unbroken silence of more than a years continuance; & she is as much constounded at finding herself writing to you, this being the only time for a period ever so long that she has penned anything to anybody excepting "family" news to "family relations." The truth is, my dear E. I have thought of you much more since our separation three years & a half ago, than you have probably imagined & have planned to write more letters than any sane person would have answered but the thousand employments in housekeeping have kept me trotting in so many different directions I have seldom stopped at my desk excepting for such letters as I mentioned a few times above.
I was sadly disappointed in not seeing you at Boston last Winter; were it not for three or four "ifs" I should have visited you at Middleboro for it is very uncertain when we meet again unless you will gratify us with another visit before the appendages to your establishment become too numerous to carry or leave behind as is the case with ours.
Your mother told me of your sickness after returning to Middleboro & it gave me a great deal of solitude lest it might be the beginning of continued feeble health as it is a frequent consequence of such misfortunes; the Spring previous to Helen's birth I had a similar sickness & it was only by keeping almost entirely motionless upon my bed for nearly ten days that her little life was saved through the Summer. I was very cautious about exercise to prevent a premature confinement, I mean exercise that is fatiguing; perhaps yours was an entire miscarriage & that you are quite well now & laughing as you read this account of my proceedings for your imitation - you must write me immediately & tell me whether this letter might as well have been kept at home or sent to some one else, at any rate, I will suppose, as perhaps there is sufficient reason for such a supposition, that you are looking forward to a confinement in two or three months & let me assure you dear E. there is no occasion for dreading the event so much as I know you naturally will from the misrepresentations, exagerations & awful cases with which your memory has been filled; it is true there is suffering, but think of the millions who have endured it with safety, & of the joy that will make you forget it all should God kindly spare to you a living son or daughter. It is God who sustains us in being from hour to hour while in health, & it is just as easy for his omnipotent hand to hold us in safety through a moment of apparent danger as when we are anticipating no evil. I hope dear E you will if you have not already done it now give your heart to God - this will ensure to you a calmness of mind in the anticipation of sickness & other changes that nothing else can give, thus far your barge has glided calmly & smoothly along but life is truly called a "tempestuous sea" and we must not expect to complete the voyage without many fogs & calms & high tides & rough winds to make the passage less pleasant than a sanguine light-hearted youth anticipates. I have not yet lived long enough to feel the truth of this (or much of it) but I see it is so with others & expect a similar lot; just now however I happen to be in a "fog" & I will tell you of what sort it is - a fog occasioned by the steam of hot dish water - such a fog as you may expect to lose sight of your head in, at some unlucky "petre period". I have no help this week & sister Maria & myself are XXXX XXX XXXX doing all the housework, it is one of the most difficult things imaginable to get help in this region, unless you consent to have them in your family as the most intimate friend to introduce them to company etc etc. I do hope you will not be troubled in this respect - & if you can find a good little girl you will do well to take her in, bring her up to do just as you wish; the one I took on commencing housekeeping lived with me more than two years & was a very valuable domestic & would not have gone away but for a smile of Providence upon her mothers family that enabled her brothers to send her to Miss Beechers school at Hartford. You will find it a pleasant employment to teach a little girl & take care of her. Mr. F. said Mr. Washburn's house he thought would be very pleasant - you will of course tell me whether you have commenced housekeeping & all the particulars of every thing - if it is any inducement for you to answer this I will promise to write again very soon. You enquire for Helen's age in your letter before me dated March 19th, 1831 - she is now rather more than 17 months old - runs about like a spider into all sorts of mischief, can say "How do you do" "nice" "flowers" "I kiss you" & many other wonderful words & do so many wonderful things as every mother thinks.
I agree with you perfectly in the opinion that the marriage relation when formed from pure motives brings with it a great deal of happiness - enough to overbalance the cares & labours that always come upon wives & mothers. Do you recollect Pollocks description of conjugal & material affection in the 51st book on the "joys of Time"? they are beautiful read them again when you get this letter & think of Deborah.
You will be tired of all these questions but I hope you will take some evening the very week they reach you and answer them. give much love to your husband & read just as much of this letter to him as you would be willing to have me read to Mr. Fiske supposing you had written it - (of course this will not include the second page).
I intended to write a P.S. to Mr. W. to reward him for his short, but polite and acceptable one, there is however not an inch of room.
Yours truly D.W. Fiske
Do you not pity our poor friend Sarah Watts thus suddenly deprived of her nearest friend? I hear she is inconsolable - we can form no adequate conception of the desolation of heart she is suffering - no affliction can be half so keen as the separation of husbands & wives, mothers & children.
Some of the Miss Washburn's I believe have been married since you went to Middleboro, which of them, or how many remain at home? have you any intimate friend or friends of your age in Middleboro who are married? it is a great comfort to have some female friend with whom we can talk freely & confidentially. Mrs. Abbot was such an one for me till she went to Boston, since then I have talked to myself, chiefly, tho there is a very pleasant circle of ladies left yet with whom I have much pleasant intercourse.
When did you hear from Dorcas & how does she do?
[note letter] Addressed to: Mr. Peabody
Mr. P -
You recollect my promise of a pie - here it is, and since it happens to be such a small affair you shall have another some baking day, large enough for you to afford to give half of it to afford half for your brother Field.
You said something about going with us to see the wonders of Amherst college - Should the weather be pleasant could you go this afternoon? We are intending to go, so if you are at liberty you can have the pleasure of our company, but if you are busy or have the head ache there is nothing before you but the most bitter regret over your hard fortune.
[note letter] Addressed to: Mr. Peabody. At Mrs. Moore's.
The exercise after dinner, please to walk to your brother tutors rooms and invite them (the tutors, not the rooms) to come down to our house tonight after prayers with you and take tea with us.
[note letter] Addressed to: Mr. Peabody. At M. Rockwood's.
I presume you would rather see anything than an invitation to another party this week, but pray summon all your benevolence and say you will come down and take tea with us this evening. I have invitationed (here is a new word for you) sixteen young ladies, and we shall all go fast to sleep in our chairs, and perhaps not wake till morning, which would be very ridiculous, unless you, and Mr. Hitchcock, and Mr. Clark and Mr. Stearns are present to enliven us with some of your "eloquent, practical, & refined" addresses.
I called at Mrs. Tyler's the other day hoping to see Miss Heath, but she was engaged. I was sorry, wishing to invite her to-night. If any one of you is willing to "take the responsibility" of waiting upon her dorm and introducing her to me I shall be very happy to see her - the enclosed note may be disposed of according to your decision, carried to Miss Heath, or thrown into the fire.
Yrs in haste,
We shall have tea at 1/2 past 6.
[note letter] Addresed to: Mr. Peabody.
Wont you try to love some beef tea, for it is amazing strengthening. I have boiled a few "wegetables" in it, as you said you loved the "wegetable broth;" so if you said you loved it out of politeness, you are well come up by a whole pitcher full more.
[note letter] Addressed to: Mr. Peabody.
We are going to have roast veal and Tapioca pudding for dinner, and wont you come in and dine with us, and you shall have toasted bread if you prefer it.
Yrs in haste,
[note letter] Addressed to: Mr. Peabody.
We shall be happy to have you come in and take tea with us this evening immediately after prayers - I will not tell you who else is coming, but it is a young lady that you have great respect for; ask your brother tutors to come with you.
Yrs. in haste
[note letter] Addressed to: Mrs. Walker.
I am a poor lonesome creature, tired of my existence, and yet too conscientious to end it by suicide; therefore will good Mrs. Walker be kind enough to wear me out in her service, so that my life may be short and yet be the means of doing a little good.
Yours sincerely, One Night-Cap.
[note letter] Addressed to: Mr. Peabody. [tr. note: handwriting of HHJ: Notes of my mothers -]
If you are not engaged elsewhere, and would like a cup of tea to-night short of the Cottage, we shall be happy to have you call at our house immediately after prayers, with Mr. Field and Mr. Clark. Please to invite them, and I will pay you for the trouble with three slices of toasted bread.
Prof. Worcester is staying with us - you are acquainted with him I believe.
Addressed: Mrs. Mary Bennet, Woburn.
Amherst, May 6th, 1834
Dear Mrs. Bennet,
I understand by Mr. Richardson, that you have been quite sick the past Winter, and it makes me hesitate very much, whether I ought to write you upon a subject, which otherwise, I should feel quite decided about. If this finds you in feeble health, you will not, I trust, trouble yourself with one thought or effort in relation to my request; and if you and your husband have recently been begging your people thread-bare for any other object, you will of course consider it inexpedient to vex them with another immediately. But if your health admits of visiting your parishioners, and you think it best, and can find any spare time and yarn among your good young ladies, or good old ladies, may not the Beneficiaries of the Education Society in Amherst College hope to receive some good socks from Woburn before another Winter?
You are probably aware that the sum which the Beneficiaries receive from the Education Society is but $75 annually, and that it is by keeping school, the kindness of friends and the charities of the benevolent that they are enabled to meet the expenses of books clothing and board. Articles of clothing are sent to Amherst occasionally from the general Depository at Boston, no doubt the proper proportion are sent here, but there are so many (75) to divide the articles among, it is like trying to feed five thousand with five loaves without any miraculous power.
It is a long time since many socks have been sent, and a great many applications have been made since there has been one pair on hand to give; I can assure you they are very much needed, and will be very gratefully received.
Should you wish to send us anything at any time, a box or bundle left at Mr. Raymond's Elm St., Boston, directed "N.W. Fiske Amherst, To the care of Mr. Dickinson the wagoner" would be safely forwarded.
Give my best respects to your husband, it will gratify us very much to see you both in Amherst whenever you can conveniently journey this way. Mr. Fiske's health is good, he would request a remembrance did he know of my writing. We have been deeply afflicted within a year by the death of a beloved child as perhaps you have heard by our Weston friends. Three months since I was very dangerously sick from a pulmonary attack, but now my health is comfortable, tho feeble. We feel that we have great reason to be humble and grateful that God has dealt with us so kindly in his chastisements while we deserve to be pursued to the grave with the heaviest judgments for our ingratitude and hardness of heart.
I shall be very happy to receive a letter from you by the return of Mr. Richardson, and if you write, do tell me if you have seen anything of our old friend R. Edes since her marriage; it must be very trying to her feelings thus to be moving about from place to place; Mr. Beecher has been settled in two places, Newport and Middletown, and now he is the Agent of some Society. K. and her two children are boarding in Boston now, but Henry, William's brother, told me the other day that it was so difficult for W. to support his family in Boston that he was going to take them to Hartford to pass the Summer, and in the Autumn go to the West. I feel sorry for K. when I think what a different lot she would have preferred to the one that has fallen to her, but perhaps she needs just such trials to prepare her for Heaven and if so they are but "blessings in disguise."
I might make some apologies about this letter but I have very little respect for them, and beside, never yet made one so good as not to feel immediately after that I had better have held my tongue.
Yours affectionately D.W.V. Fiske
Addressed: Mrs. Mary L. Bennett, Woburn, Mass, Postmarked Amherst, MS, Jan 18
January 12th, Sat. afternoon.
Dear Mrs. Bennett,
I opened the valuable box of clothing from the ladies of your Sewing Circle, yesterday afternoon, and was very happy to find a note from you among the articles. You will please to assure every one who has aided in filling the box that every article will be useful and very gratefully received. The sheets are specially acceptable, for recently there have been many applications for them and there were none on hand till yours came.
I am rejoiced that your health is so much improved; I trust you will be careful and not use it up too fast trying to do good among your people. Remember me to your husband, we should be very happy to see him in Amherst against with his wife. Mr. F. would request a remembrance to you if he knew me to be writing.
You will excuse this hasty letter as I much occupied in various ways to-day; but I determined not to put off writing till next week that your ladies might not be compelled to wait for an acknowledgment of their noble present - as valuable as we have ever received.
Yours affectionately, D.W.V. Fiske
I attended school at Saugus with a Miss Abigail Mead. Is Miss Abby Mead who sent a letter with your note and an inventory of the articles the same person? If she is please to give my respects to her
Addressed: Miss Martha B. Vinal, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Otis Vinal. Postmarked Amherst, MS, Sep 18
My dear Martha,
A violent wind prevents me from taking a good ride on horseback this afternoon so I treat myself with a call upon you to make up for the privation. Now pray be patient and agreeable, for I shall stay all the afternoon and make a real Eliza Coverly visit; and if you dont give me all your attention, and say "yes'm" and "no,m" just in the right-place, and with the proper emphasis, I shall wish you had happened to be out, and Aunt at home in your stead, or else, that I had staid by my own fireside and finished off a great job of nice night-caps that has hung on beyond all endurance. I started for three or four with a great deal of enthusiasm about three weeks ago; the fourth and last is nearly finished, and if it were not I believe I should crowd the whole into some bundle bag as a bad bargain. I have become so weary of hemming mile after mile of ruffling. You are so much alone compared with what you have been I suppose you feel as if you had leisure enough and good long days. My time is so broken up with sleeping and riding that I accomplish work very slowly. My cough for three or four weeks has been more troublesome and compelled me to be very careful. Dr. Gridley thinks it owing to the unusual chilliness of the March winds, and sometimes I am of the same opinion, tho I do not feel certain but the difficulty that has troubled me for a year, is affecting my lungs more permanently and seriously, the mild weather that will soon come will enable me to decide. I feel much better for riding, and wish you or some other good old friend could take Papa's place when he will return to Boston, the beauty of all jaunts is to have good company, I have no great fancy for my own.
You will be sorry to hear that two walls of Mt. Holyoke Seminary have fallen down; they were up to the third or fourth story and down they went all in one heap last week. The building was erected upon made land in a low place, and this fact with the rains and the frosts occasioned the overthrow. Poor Miss Lyon will feel sadly; it was only a day or two previous that she called on me in fine spirits at the success she had met with this winter in obtaining funds and the furnishing of rooms. Miss Grant is in very feeble health; Mr. Bliss (our boarder) who has a sister at Ipswich tells me that she was able only one day out of the four set apart for the Examination, to be present.
I wrote to Jane and Alice a few days ago. And I have heard so much about Aroline's rudeness and disrespect manifested towards religion, since my return that I thought it best to tell Alice of it, that Miss Aroline might know that she cannot behave in such style without suffering herself as well as making others suffer. The laughing used to be heard over at Mr. Cooleys, and Miss Emmeline Prevear said to me that every time she called at our house during my absence she thought she would not come again. Aroline showed such contempt for anything serious and expressed such dislike towards Mr. Fiske and Helen. I told Alice that her conduct gave rise to the enquiry among my neighbours "what sort of young lady was that staying at Mrs. Fiske's "last summer" The students that boarded at Mr. Cooleys took notice of her being out in our garden with nothing upon her neck or head when they were coming to their meals. It was certainly very fortunate for me that Mr. Fiske made a plan for her exit before my return home.
I shall hope to hear from you very soon and do tell me how your health is - whether you have those miserable head-aches, and drowsy feelings. I wonder why it is that every body almost is so sleepy in the Spring. I suppose vegetable eaters would say because you stuff yourself with meat all winter and your stomach is tired out digesting it, and cold water drinkers would say because you have poisoned yourself with tea and coffee; "oh that I were made judge in the land" that every man which hath any dispute might come unto me and I would settle it.
Papa is beginning to make arrangements for returning to Boston, I shall hate very much to have him leave Amherst, but he says he must do something to some houses, and he wishes to see about the distill house. I wish you would write immediately and tell me if it has been let, for if it has, I think I may perhaps persuade him to stay a while longer with me. Mr. Fiske is very much driven, preparing for a third edition of the Manual. Papa rides with me and on every account I wish very much to have him stay; his intention now is to return the first of May.
Monday afternoon, April 17th.
Yours very affectionately, D.W. Fiske
Write me what you hear from Falmouth. I had a letter commenced to Martha that will be in the way in a day or two.
Give much love to Uncle and Aunt Vinal, the Scholfields, Abby Tufts and any other friends that you know I love and nobody else - I charge you not to give one thimble full to any tedious callers for talks sake; spin out the weather and then tell them about the Mt. Holyoke Seminary's falling down and then ask them to excuse you a few moments, and not go back into the room again.
Well Miss Martha I have had a very good time this afternoon, my imagination placed you before me in a neat dress with agreeable manners and in a sociable mood - I shall be quite inclined to visit you again very soon.
I shall look out for a letter from you Saturday night; if it does not come I shall go to bed for how silly it would be to set up and wait for it.
Addressed: Miss Ellen Scholfield, Boston
Londonderry, June 23, 1825
Nothing would give me great pleasure my dear Girls than to take a sheet of paper as large as the Spectator and fill it entirely, in answer to the letter you have been so kind as to write, but as there is no time in Londonderry I must submit to this little piece, cross as it makes me to do it.
I never was so hurried before; we are in the Academy from eight until twelve and from one until nearly six; our lessons require every moment out of school and the rest of the time I devote to writing letters.
But notwithstanding this I am very happy and I think this the most pleasant as well as the most strict school I ever attended.
Strangers frequently come into the Academy to hear our recitations and I am never very happy to see them for I always feel and act as Cowper says of a certain man
He would not with a peremptory tone
Assert the nose upon his face his own
With hesitation admirably slow
He humbly hopes - presumes - it may be so.
Ellen's account of the 17th of June makes me wish I had been at home - but I wish full as much that you had been in Londonderry last tuesday for Gen. La Fayette was here and came into the Academy and we (one hundred young ladies) were individually introduced to him; it was allowed to be a very interesting sight by all present. We were all dressed in white with pink belts and arranged according to our size on five seats which extended across the largest room in the building.
It happened to fall to my lot to be the first one who marched out to be introduced and you cannot imagine how blushfully I felt; however I was very much gratified for there was an excellent opportunity of seeing him and the Trustees and Clergy who were present gave us the credit of behaving with a great deal of propriety. An account of this is to be put into the Public Papers which will make all of us Academicians feel six inches taller.
I wish very much to see you and the time will soon come when I shall have that pleasure; - our vacation commences in about a month and my time is spent so profitably and agreeably and I am so much hurried with all that a month seems like but a few days.
That gentleman Ellen was so kind as to enquire about is a widower 75 years old, but he is so very aged and so decrepit I have done thinking of him and begun to think about somebody else; viz. Christopher Thom Esq. - a bachelor of sixty - I sit in his pew at Meeting and buy my stationary at his store - pray do not mention it for I would not have it be the Town talk until I have decided for or against him.
I am so sick today in consequence of eating too many Strawberries that I am unable to attend school and the reason this note is so flat is because I am writing when sick.
If I had a sour apple I would send it to Adeline. Give much love from me to your mother. I would give you ever so much if I could only spend this afternoon with you - it seems as if I should talk faster than ever if I could it would be rather unmerciful I will allow but I doubt whether my tongue would care enough to keep still.
Show this to no one. I think you will excuse this knowing under what circumstances I have written.
Your very sincere friend
Misses A E & A Scholfield,
Martha sends love to you all.
Oh dear: It is composition time; do not you pity me, for it will be read before a hundred girls & 4 teachers - tell your father if you please that I would give more for fifty good new ides than all the carpets in his store.
Write very often - send your letters by mail - when Aunt does not send News papers. I wish I had taken a whole sheet of paper, I will next time. Love to Sarah.
Be very particular when you write - tell me every body you have seen that I know - what they said etc etc.
Copy of a letter from D.W.V.F. to Elizabeth Holmes Washburn - Written when she was very young.
My dear Elisabeth,
There is something unpleasant in the idea of showing one's resolutions but your good being in question I have at once laid aside this consideration thinking that seeing them in connection with other causes might prevent you from passing by so favourable a starting point as the anniversary of your birthday without adopting some of these or making others for the regulation of your nineteenth year.
I am daily more and more convinced of the utility of having written resolutions, of having some settled plan for every day, and I do believe, though I may not be correct, that as much evil arises from the want of resolution to do well as from the deliberate intention to do wrong, and so far as my own experience is concerned this has been the root of more than half my sins. This ________ assumes such an appearance of_________ that it is dangerous in the extreme.
We must ever try to remember that however small the sins of omission appear to us they are as simple in the sight of God as those sins of commission which we should hardly dare look in the face - for Sin as we have heard time out of mine is transgression of the law "in any way. My resolutions are: -
1. To rise every morning as soon as I am awaked or forfeit one cent to purchase tracts for Sabbath Scholars.
2. To set apart a portion of every morning and evening for reading the Bible and occasionally at other times of the day.
3. To act under every circumstance from a conviction of duty rather than from momentary impulse.
4. To select some verse of scripture every morning for meditation during the day.
5. To improve every opportunity of hearing Religious Instruction which can be done with the performance of other duties.
6. To read daily unless necessarily prevented only of such books as are calculated to improve the mind and mend the heart.
7. To write a composition once a month or oftener.
8. Visit some poor family once a month or oftener.
[tr. note: I believe this copy to be in HHJ's handwriting.]
Addressed: Mr. Otis Vinal, Boston.
My dear Uncle,
Lest you should fail of your portion of trouble in settling Deborah, she makes known to you some of the things that her stomach will shortly crave and that you can supply her with better than any body in Amherst. These things are Bacon and Head - rice. Will you be kind enough to purchase for us two good Hams and as many pounds of Head rice as will fill a large firkin - and when you buy the firkin for the head rice will you buy one more firkin not so large to send up with cold water crackers in it, Aunt will buy the Crackers to fill it, of Mr. Jones. We cannot get these things good here, and therefore you will confer quite a favour in purchasing them for us. Mr. Fiske requests me to say that he will send you the money for them by Papa's next return to Boston - you will send the Bill by Papa.
You will not defer reading this I hope as you did Mr. Hooker's letter since such hungry results would be the consequence. When we get settled with our rice, hams and crackers it will give us great pleasure to see you at the Cottage, and when you come take all your clothes, and your knitting work, remembering that we spent six whole weeks under your hospitable roof last winter.
I hope never to forget the Parental care and numberless kindnesses received at your and Aunt Vinal's hand.
Your affectionate niece
In addition to the hams, rice and crackers, will you send as many good salt fish as you think we ought to buy XXX at a time, you know best, how many, we are "poor young creatures" to dont know.
Helen Hunt Jackson
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