Helen Hunt Jackson 2-1-6 transcription
Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 2, Ms 0156, Box 1, Folder 6: HH to her guardian, Julius A. Palmer, approx. 50 letters, 1848-57
[A few empty envelopes]
260 Greene St. Wed Morning March 18 [1850?] [this penciled-in date may be wrong – March 18 was a Wednesday in 1846 and 1857, but not 1850 – this letter is probably from 1846]
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I received your very kind and gratifying letter last week, and have embraced the first feudal moment to reply to it. I say feudal but it is rather a misapplication of the word, as the time can hardly be called feudal, which a teacher spends at her desk, continually expecting that some pupils will make her appearance with a long list of difficulties in Latin or Arithmetic. I presume that you received my long epistle which was mailed, I thing only the day previous to the receipt of yours. I regretted extremely that I did not receive it before sending my own.
I thank you much for your kindness in relating to me the circumstances of Professor Peabody’s last illness. As I alluded in the close of my letter to his death, I hesitated, with a desire to know the particulars, and almost penned the words requesting you to write them to me, but was deterred by the fear that it might be taking too great a liberty, or asking too much. I am on that account, doubly grateful for the kindness which lead you to anticipate my interest and desire, to know all the circumstances if so sand an event, so deep an affliction.
I did indeed ask myself, as you had supposed I would, “What will Mr. Palmer’s Christian faith, strong as it is, see of mercy in such a dispensation a this?” And another question too, dear Mr. Palmer, which is often below my mind, and is always presented with renewed focus on any such occurrence as this, “why is it? Is God kind in all his government of his creatures?” Who can see any reason why one so useful to talented, “so loving and so loved” should be this take from earth, and thousands be left, whose lives are no blessings either to themselves, or to others? But you are a Christian, and it is not kind for me to speak this to you. The dispensations of Providence are often more mysteriously dark to me; “clouds and darkness” veil very often the arrangements of that Ruler, “the foundations” of whose throne, I have not the faith and the love to discern, but I ought not to express such feelings.
Will Mrs. Peabody return to Dorchester? Or, has her mother left that place? When you see her, or in any way communicate with her, please to remember me very affectionately to her. Her husband was so valued a friend of my parents that I feel his death deeply, and I became so much interested in her also, during the few days that I spent in Amherst, that I feel a strong desire to express to her my warm sympathy in her loss. I well remember the very kind, cordial invitation to which Mrs. P. alluded, which he gave me, on the morning of my departure. Its kindness and sincerity affected my feelings deeply at the time, and I have often recalled it since, little thinking that he was so soon to exchange the “home” of which he spoke, for a celestial one.
I regret much to learn that you have been afflicted in your own family circle, though more lightly. I hope the restoration to health may be a permanent one.
Please remember me very affectionately to Mrs. Palmer, Hattie, and Lucy, and accept my affectionate regards for yourself. Excuse the freedom and tedious prolixity of my last letter, and write, dear Mr. Palmer, whenever you can find leisure, to,
Yours, sincerely and gratefully,
New York Mon. Dec. 31, 48
My dear Mr. Palmer,
At last, after encountering so many obstacles, and passing through so many vicissitudes, here I am at the round study table in the back parlor. It seems like a dream. I have not yet begun to realize that I am here. Every thing seems natural, and yet, everything seems change, how, or in what, I cannot tell. But I met with a most cordial welcome, not only from Mr. & Mrs. Abbott, but from all the members of the family. I think I lost a great deal, by not being here on Monday evening last. My tokens however, were all laid carefully in my room for me. A ring from Mrs. Abbott with her own & Mr. Jones hair. A little pin from Jennie with her hair in it, an ornamental box of note, paper and an inkstand from Mr. John. The Christmas tree now stands in the yard & its branches drooping under the damp snow which fell last night, and its whole aspect looking very much as if it was discontented with its new situation. The midnight mass owing to some unknown cards did not take place, so the girls were (very fortunately) prevented from their late walk.
I feel now quite rested, and am anticipating a pleasant walk down Broadway this afternoon. But I think very often of Boston, and to see you in New York, in a few weeks. My love to Mrs. Palmer. I shall not soon forget my pleasant excursion to Amherst with her. Remember me to Lucy and Hattie also, if you please. I should be most happy to hear from them at any time.
I should inflict a longer epistle on you Mr. Palmer where it not there the post boy will be here in a moment, and I must dress for dinner.
Yours very affectionately Helen
Envelope: Julius A. Palmer Esq.
Charlestown Thursday Aug. 9 1849
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I have written a note to Mr. Snell, which I enclose, of which I am very much ashamed, and of which you would be too, could you see the inside. But I suppose it will accomplish its end, namely the starting of our rocking chair on its journey east, and that was the most I had in view, in writing it. Everything is in such hopeless confusion that it is anything but a favorable time for letter writing and such business which requires a quiet room and all your apparatus on hand.
The painting is all dry. The paper nearly on, and the carpet to be put down this afternoon, so that all will be in readiness for the furniture at the appointed time, and I think I never longed more fore anything than I do to see the room “put to rights.” We are living now in a fashion somewhat akin to that which new settlers at the West are obliged to adopt, and which Mrs. Kickland humorously calls “living anywhere, everywhere, and no-where in particular.”
I enclose two bills from Dr. Gregg, which were left the other day at uncle Vinals. There is no immediate necessity of their being paid. Indeed I should think they might as well be defended as not. But I suppose that Miss Brown will expect that when we begin on the new arrangement, the old bill will be paid. I believe I mentioned to you the other day that she had told me so. Grandpa said yesterday that he should think the house had better be sold, but if enough can be raised by disposing of stocks &c, it would be for pleasanter to me and I do not doubt also to Annie. I love that old home, and cannot bear the though of its becoming the property of a stranger.
I cannot conclude dear Mr. Palmer without thanking you for the kind sympathy, counsel, and assistance you have given us. I feel that we are and ever shall be under lasting obligations to you, and I am sure I do most earnestly hope that neither of us will ever do anything which shall render the charge you have so kindly taken, unnecessarily burdensome.
With affectionate remembrances to your wife and daughter, I am,
Helen M. Fiske
[Perhaps sent with previous letter]
Dear Mr. Palmer,
Sister Annie was so unfortunate last evening as to give the finishing stroke to the chimney of our Polar [?], which on the evening previous she had cracked in attempting to light a paper at the top of it. I do not know to what sort of store, to go for another. It had occurred to me that possible you may keep them. If do will it be asking too much for you to send us one if not convenient today, any time during the first of next week?
I presume your daughters have mentioned to you the request of Mrs. Coombs, that we should pay in advance for our lessons. If you will be in the store on Monday forenoon, I will call then for it, as I shall dine in the city. You cannot imagine how glad I am that I took up the study! I feel very grateful indeed to you for the kind advice which led me to do it. I hope, dear Mr. Palmer that you will always, as in this case suggest at once any matters, which you think will be for my improvement in any respect.
I am almost inclined to sway you, the having been to New York this week! However I have it still in store, but I forgot that I must not anticipate too much in the future. It is hard however to change the habits of being, which a life time has strengthened. I hear every week from my friends there. They seem to be looking forward with almost as much interest as myself to the coming of December.
Anne is waiting and I must close. With sentiments of the sincerest respect and gratitude, I am,
Charlestown, Friday Morning [Nov. 30, 1849?]
My dear Mr. Palmer,
The cry is “still they come”! I fear you will be tired of the sight of those Charlestown board bills. You probably recollect that our last bill, by some little oversight, which like oversights in general, belong to nobody in particular, ran over one week, becoming due for five weeks instead of four. The one which I now send, as you will see, is for three weeks. Miss. Brown said that it would be an accommodation for her if equally convenient to you, to have this paid now, and then pay as before, on the last Friday of every month. I have made out our bills separately, as mine is one dollar more than Annies, that amount being for some sewing which I was obliged to hire, last week and which Miss. Brown did for me.
Annie tells me that she mentioned to you, the continuation of the melancholy series of catastrophes which seems to attend our poor Polar [?]! I look upon it quite in the light of a judgment up on me, for my want of sympathy with Annie, in her distress, when she broke it before! What shall we do, Mr. Palmer shall we give up our Polar [?] and use pewter, or shall we “go to bed in the dark,” as we used occasionally to do as a punishment for childish naughtinesses, in years gone by?
You do not know, how disappointed, I was, not to be able to spend Thanksgiving with you. My sore throats always happen exactly so just at the times when I can the least put up with them. And they are as contrary as some animals we read of, for they will go, when I am not particularly desirous to have them. Now, today, my throat is very much better, so much so, that if it were yesterday (excuse the insertion [?] of that expression) I should go to Boston, without hesitation. However I do wrong to speak this, for I ought to be very grateful that it seems to be getting well, without such a siege, as I often have. But I spent a dull Thanksgiving eating only those things which the endless dictator rules of Homeopathy will allow, and sitting round “with my neck muffled up in a Homeopathic embrocation” of cold water, and the whole surmounted by a green scarf!
Three weeks from today is the twenty first of December! Am I to go to New York or not? The question seems lately to have been a little unsettled. I am willing to abide by your decision in the matter, as of course I should be in all cased.
But I am writing you an epistle instead of a business note, and your time to say nothing of your patience, will I fear be surely taxed in its perusal. With many thanks for your kindness in times past, I am, as ever
Sat Evening Dec. 16, 1849
My dear Mr. Palmer,
Enclosed is a letter which I received from Mr. Abbott, yesterday forenoon. I thought of brining it over to you, and having some conversation with you personally, on the subject to which it relates, but I have concluded that it will be better to write, for in conversation, many things escape attention, and besides, as you have often see, it is a subject on which I cannot speak, without too much emotion to make it pleasant for me to allude to it. Mr. John mikes me an offer of a situation in his family, as teacher, with a compensation which is more than liberal, and dear Mr. Palmer, I may as well say in the outset, that I am very unwilling to decline it, without making at least one more strenuous effort, to arrange matters so that it may be accepted. As you can easily imagine, I have though of little else, since the receipt of this letter. Will you bear with me, while I tell you, a few of those thoughts?
In the first place, I thing of the advantages of a residence in Mr. Abbotts family. In an intellectual and literary point of view, what could be more desirable? My education, in many particulars, is now very deficient. There, besides the experience and mental discipline which I should gain by teaching, I should have an opportunity to attend to some studies. My duties in school would be such, as to require little or no preparation at home, and I should have time to make progress in, at any rate, some one, of the many branches, with which I need a more thorough acquaintance. Then, one must, of a necessity, improve by daily intercourse with persons of a highly elevated literary character, and varied attainments, such as Mr. John, and Mr. Jacob, their teachers, and the society in which they move. To give their pupils an opportunity of becoming acquainted with men, and things, to see the world, to improve in mind and manners also, to acquire an ease and maturity of acting, as well as thinking, is in a measure the design of the institution. Where else in the world can I find such an opportunity? What situation can I be in, which in all these respects, would be so perfectly adapted to fit one for any circumstances, in which the changes of future years may plan me?
So far as the cultivation of the moral affections is concerned, it is a delicate point for me to touch. But I can say, and I ought, in justice to my dear friends there, to say, that never, since my own home was closed, have I been in any situation where home influences in all their sacredness and strength, were so binding on my heart. Indeed, before I went there, I asked often to wonder whether I had any heart. I found little, in my wandering life, to call it out, if I had one. I would not speak ungratefully of my friends and relatives here. They have been kind, very very kind to us, and I am deeply grateful to them. But between the, and me, has always been a wall. It has been my fault, I do not doubt; has been owing to my peculiarities, peculiarities which I perhaps could have overcome; but at any rate, it has always been so. There has been a separation, a want of congeniality, an utter impossibility of sympathy, which has made me sad, how sad, you cannot know, which has often made me weep, simply because I was “all alone.” At New York, I found another world, where all was happy, open, confiding, sympathizing, and congenial. To Mr. and Mrs. Abbott, I could reveal my whole heart, my joys and sorrows, hopes and fears with the same trustful love, with which, as a child, I ran to my mother. It needs no argument to prove that such a state of things is more favorable to the heart and disposition, than a life of distance and reserve to all about you.
In a pecuniary point of view, there can be no doubt, I presume, of the eligibility of this office. To be in New York, with a salary of $100 per annum, is certainly better than to be here, at an expense of $4.00 per annum, and that amount coming, not as income from a large property, but annual deductions from a small capital!
And now, dear Mr. Palmer, come the disadvantages of my being here. It is not a very bright picture, but I will try not to color it too strongly. I will try to be impartial, in my statement of facts. To begin as I did before, with the literary advantages in the family in which I reside, that question is soon disposed of, for here, I have none. Miss Brown keeps a very good boardinghouse, and her boarders are very punctual at their meals, which they take, in almost quaker solemnity and silence. There are four in the family, besides grandfather, and of the four, three are, so far as intellect is concerned, certainly, not above mediocrity. Neither do I know a single literary or even educated gentleman, in the place, if we except the Rev. Mr. Tappan when I cannot better describe to you, them by comparing him to Mr. Samuel Adams, Annie’s teacher. I have made a careful estimate of all my acquaintances here, and find that there are just seven families, besides Aunt Vinals, where I can call. With four of these, my acquaintances amounts only to having received and returned one call. With none of them, should I think of spending the evening. So you see that my society is rather circumscribed. I will now give you a brief sketch of a day, with me, “for as is on, so are they all.” Immediately after breakfast, Annie must hurry away to school, form which she does not return until two. Then I have the forenoon, on my hands. It must be spent alone, for there is no one in the house, but Miss Brown, who is always where you know I am not fond of being, in the kitchen. Grandfather is either in Boston, or buried in his books. I can sew, read, write, or practice, by myself. In the afternoon Annie has all her lessons to learn, and I can sew, read, write or practice again. This routine can be varied, but a walk, a call at Aunt Vinal’s, or if nothing else can be thought of, but the breaking of a few lamp shades. In the evening, if Annie has no lessons to learn, we can sit in our room, and sew, or if we choose, go down to the parlor, where the two Misses Brown sit with their work, and the boarders discourse of stocks and politics! What improvement, in minds or manners, can I devise, from such a life as this? On the contrary, will it not be an inevitable consequence, that in a short time, I shall become silent, awkward, uncultivated, ignorant of the sagas of society, the customs of etiquette and politeness, and the thousand little things of that sort, which are so all important to a lady? Indeed Mr. Palmer, I feel the effects of it already. I am sensible of a loss, in these respects. I am painfully conscious of a deficiency in such matters, and I feel tat it will and must be increasingly so, should I remain in my present position. I think that when a your lady has reached her twentieth year, an acquaintance with, and mingling with polite and literary society, far above, rather than approaching to, her own level, is more important for a few years than anything else, and I feel that a residence for that periods, in my present situation will be an incalculable disadvantage to me.
Then another disadvantage of my remaining here, is the expense. Taking in all the extras, it may safely be estimated at $4.50 per week, for my board alone. This amounts to $234.00 per year. Then $40.00 per year for the use of the piano, and my other expenses would bring it up to $400.00, I do not doubt. The discrepancy between an income of $150.00 and an expenditure of $400.00, would, I think trouble a less reflective head than mine. To be sure, the case is different from what it would be, if we had no other expectations, but still those are uncertain, and I hope, far removed. I hope that grand father will live for many years, and that is, now, no reason why he should not. And our property will not support us long, at this rate, and then, to be entirely dependent either on my own exertions, or on his bounty, charity, generosity, or whatever it might be called, would be a hard lot for me to bear. I know he says that “in a little while,“ he shall be clear from debt, and be able to pay his board and ours too, &c. &c. &c., but there is no reliance to be put upon it, whatever. I am writing confidentially to you, Mr. Palmer, and will tell you what I know, on this point, and then you can judge of the probabilities of the case. It has always been “the cry”, with him “debts, debts!” One would have thought that for the last four years, he had been terribly involved in debt, and that there was no prospect of being able to extricate himself. The truth is, he owes a cousin $1000, and he is determined to pay it, from his rents, and in no other way, while Uncle Vinal says that he has in the banks, a large amount, more than sufficient to pay it so there is no prospect of any amendment in this respect. I do not doubt, that as long as he lives he will feel as if he were reduced to extremities, on account of, this very debt, when he might pay it, at any hour of any day if he chose.
I read Mr. John’s letter to him, this forenoon. He made no reply until I asked him what he though of it. He then said, “Why, you can go. I am willing if you want to, and perhaps it will be better for you. It is bad for anybody to be idle.” But I must have a more formal, positive and irrevocable consent, than that. I told him, I should ask you to come and talk with him, about it; he said “Well”, and went out of the room, and nothing farther has been said. I think he is much more favorable inclined to it, than he was two weeks ago, and if you will only think it is for the best, and will tell him so, and see before him some of the considerations which I have mentioned, I have little doubt that he would yield a “cordial approval.” And will you not, dear Mr. Palmer? Do you not think, not so much in consequences of this long epistle, for I am no logician, but from a view of the simple facts in the case, that it will be better for me to accept Mr. John’s offer, than to remain here? Does it not seem as if it would be wrong, to lose such an opportunity?
Annie, I suppose, would be sorry to have me go, and I should be sorry to leave her. But her situation here, is very different from mine. She came here when a mere child, has grown up, with the girls of her own age, and has now a large, I should think, an unusually large circle of acquaintances. She is much engrossed in her studies, and also goes into company a good deal. Her friends call almost every day to see her, and seem to love her very dearly, and I think that as she has lived away from me for the last six years, with the exception of six months, she would very easily become reconciled to it again.
And now, dear Mr. Palmer, I must draw this long letter to a close. I fear you have been sadly bored, but your kind patience under past inflictions, has emboldened me to presume perhaps too much, upon your forbearance. And you, I do not feel as if I had said on half I might. I know I have not said one half I feel. But I do so want you to think as I think about it, that I do not know how to stay my pen. If you can feel that it is best, you can convince grandfather that it is so, I am sure. If you cannot feel so, of course, I could not ask you to plead for me against your own convictions. But I do not think it would be politic to attempt to settle it all with him, before I go. He expects me to go on to make a visit. He will soon find that he is just as comfortable without me, and after I am fairly there, will be more likely to think I had better stay. But I wanted to tell you all about it, and learn your opinion, as soon as possible, for I do not love to be in suspense, and I shall feel that your opinion, for or against, decides the question. Should it be decidedly against it, I shall go on to New York, make a visit of three or four weeks, and then come back, settle down in Charlestown, with a feeling that it is for the next five years, and do not think me childish, or unreasonable, Mr. Palmer, when I add, with the feeling also that all hope of ever being or doing anything may as well be given up. You will say that I might do differently. Might interest myself more in society here, and try to be more contented. I know it seems so. But I cannot. I have tried for the last six months, in vain. Do you not thin k that if I could, I would be as glad to, as my friends would be to have me? I know as well as they, that it would be maul for my own happiness. It is now that I have a blind love for New York. If there were no such place as New York, or such school as Mr. Abbott’s, I could not, any more than now, be happy or even contented in my present condition.
But I will not tax your patience any more. It is now uncertain when I go on for my visit. Mr. Kent is much more unwell, and they will not be able to go, on Friday as we had intended. I think I shall wait a few days for them, and then, if they cannot go, go on alone, or with some one else. I cannot close, dear Mr. Palmer, without asking your forgiveness for troubling you so often and so much, and acknowledging once more, what I love to acknowledge, the parental kindness and interest, you have ever shown to
Your affectionate ward Helen.
New York, Monday Morning Jan 14 
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I have been meaning for the past week to answer your very kind letter, but I have been unable to attend to any such duties. What will you say dear Mr. Palmer to the news that your ward Helen had not literally forsaken the Homeopathic faith in which she was so strong, but so far so as to put herself under the charges of Dr. H. Green, the famous throat doctor, under whose care my father was before leaving the country.
You did not know, (because I did not think best to tell you), that I was threatened with one of my sore throats, on the morning that I left Springfield for New York. By evening it was quite sore, but my good Homeopathic medicines relieved it in a day or two. The evil day however was only put off for a short time, and on Friday I was seized still more severely, and was fairly obliged to give up. For two or three days I was very sick, but I still persevered in my powers and liquids although Mrs. Abbott, I knew, was distressed to see me doctoring myself with sugar and water, and I began to be a little apprehensive myself. On Monday Dr. Green called to see another of the young ladies, and I asked Mrs. Abbott to set him look at me, for I new that as he has a very extensive practice among such diseased, he could tell at once the nature of mine. He examined my throat and sounded my lungs, and said that it was a case of chronic bronchitis, precisely similar to my fathers, except that the disease had not extended so far. He said little to me, but told Mr. Abbott, that certainly should not live long unless the disease was removed, and that it was a wonder that with all the consumptive tendencies of our family, I had lived so long. I have been feeling for some time that I must have something done, and I felt that Dr. Green seemed to understand my case better than any other physician I had ever seen. He made on Tuesday a second examination of any throat, and begged Mr. John not to let me delay the operation, as the disease was fast extending down the bronchial tube.
So on Wednesday morning I seated myself in the Doctor’s chair, and opened my mouth, but not to speak. It was a painful operation but not a tedious one, and when I saw the frightfully diseased parts which he removed, I was more thankful than words ca tell, that it had been done. The right tonsil was so much ulcerated that it separated, and he was obliged to take it out in parts. And both were in a condition of which I had not the slightest conception. Dr. Green says that the disease was worse than he had supposed that with all his practice (and he averages forty patients a day) he had not had so bad a case for a year. He tells me and I cannot help feeling that my general health must have suffered much from the existence of such a disease, and that now, I shall be very much better in every respect. These ulcerated glands were constantly secreting a diseased matter, thus affecting the action of the stomach, lungs, and indeed the whole system. But I shall weary and disgust you with all these egotistical details. I wanted however that you should know the exact circumstances of, the case, those by which I was in the first place lead to undergo the operation, and those by what I am now lead to feel so grateful that it is done, and so sanguine that I shall now have a health and strength, which for the last two years I have known only too surely, where mine only in appearance.
The subsequent part of Dr. Green’s method of treatment is quite painful, consisting of the application of a sort of caustic to the throat, and (don’t laugh, nor be incredulous) to the windpipe. He certainly does (though medical men have violently disputed the possibility of this thing) insect his sponge into the windpipe. No one can doubt it, who has once had the operation performed on himself. This is necessary only in cases of bronchitis, and not in common diseases of the throat. Father was under this mode of treatment for sometime before he sailed for the East, and became much interested in Dr. Green and his wife, who seems to be as much to in him. He gave Dr. Green a copy of the sermon preached by Dr. Humphrey at our mothers funeral, and it gave me great pleasure to find out this fact, because I know that he gave them to few out of the family, and only to those for whom he felt an unusual interest.
It brings an expense which I had not anticipated as all ending my removal to New York, but which at the same time, I cannot but feel will be more than madeup to me, in years to come, by the benefits which I am sure I shall enjoy if I live. Dr. Green’s charge for the first operation is $25,00. I shall be under his charges now probably for a fortnight, and have this application made every other day, but I think $30,00 will cover the whole. I have written to Annie to purchase me an article for the hair, which I cannot obtain here, and perhaps it will be as safe for her to send the money on in the package which she will send by express as is any way. I twill be quite a large package (as I have sent also for a Latin Dictionary, and some forgotten articles of clothing) and will not be likely to get lost by the way. But if you will have the kindness to give her $2,00 for the purchase of which I spoke above, and the money for the Dr’s bill, to be sent either in the package, or by letters, as you may think best, I shall be indebted to you.
I have done what you will call “wicked” dear Mr. Palmer, as you did once before. I have just put into Mrs. Abbotts bright fire, a whole page of my ideas and sentiments, addressed to yourself! But it was only because the date was so old that I was ashamed to finish it. I shall say just the same things in my next letter, which if I gain strength for the next two days as fast as I have for the last, you will soon receive. Until today however I have not sat up more than an hour at a time since the operation was performed. In four weeks my teachers noviciate [?] commences! I am anticipating a great deal of pleasure and some draw backs. I am going to have a class Latin which I shall look upon as a daily oasis, relieving the disects of grammar and spelling! I am happy very happy I feel at home and they are all so glad to have me once more at home with them, that without feeling flattered, I am grateful for such Kind love. Dear Mr. Palmer I was not wrong in the feeling that I could do more in New York than in Charlestown. I have regained my interest in study and kindred things, & you would hardly recognize the girl whom you almost had to push into the French Classes! But I know you are ties by this time, of my rambling letter. Thank you again for yours, so kind, so gratifying. When I get your letters and Annies letters, notes fro she doesn’t write letters, I want to see Boston. Why cannot Boston come and stay in New York!
My love to Mrs. Palmer Hattie & Lucy. Don’t let Mrs. Palmer forget any of that funny things which happened on our way from Palmer to Amherst, because, one of these days I shall want to laugh over them with her. And now with kindest regards to yourself I must say goodbye. It is hardly needful for me to add, that although I would not encroach on your time, I am ever delighted to receive a line from you. Once more “goodbye”.
Your affectionate ward, Helen
New York City- Friday Jan. 17, 1850
My dear Mr. Palmer,
For a week after my return to New York I was wholly incapacitated for any epistolary effect on account of quite a severe inflammation in my right eye, which made it both painful and unsafe for me to use it at all. Had it not been for this, you would have heard from me immediately according to my promise, but since Monday last, which was the first day upon which I could see, I have been so hurried by one thing and another which have accumulated on my hands that I have been utterly unable. We reached New York in safety at about six o’clock, notwithstanding two inches of wet snow on the rails between Worcester and Springfield, and six cross babies in our car, all the way between Boston & New York! Mr. John met us at Thirty Third Street, and rode with us to our fine depot in Canal Street, where we went through the usual routine of engaging “a nice hack sir”, “first rate carriages and hosses, sir!”, and riding up in a ricketty, tumbledown, don’t drive-too-fast, sort of an affair, with horses which cooked as if they had been a recent importation from the place where they put up “frames for horses”, and with a driver who hadn’t change enough, poor fellow, to take six shillings, out of a dollar! Every body was glad to see us, and we were right glad to see every body; so we had a pleasant meeting. Some people who had predicted, you know that I should not be back until Monday, were surprised, and I thought, a little, just the very least in the world, sorry that it did not “turn out”, “just as they said ‘ would”! – but very glad too, that it did not. School began to begin, on Monday but we did not yet fairly under way until the middle of the week. At first I was a little inclined to think of people and things at the East, but the harness, soon settled down again, as easy as, and a good deal lighter than before, and now I can hardly realize that I have been to Boston at all. It is very strange, but true, that now Mr. John has made up his mind to go, every body suddenly remembers that they want to send their daughters to him to be educated. We have had seven new scholars writers the last ten days – four new boarders, and I cannot tell how many applications from others who do not come, because the school is so soon to be broken up! What a strange thing Providence is and how interesting it is to watch the changes, which make up Life to those about us! And what a sad heart, his must be who sees in it all, only the inconsistent, and every varying caprice of chance, and yet how hard it I, always, and undoubting to believe and feel that a just and kind and all wise Hand is ever directing, even in confusion!
I alluded to Mr. Everett, in my note. I had time for but an allusion, for although I had not much to day, I did not wish to day it hastily. I wrote him a note which I gave to him, as I left, telling him that I thought our correspondence had better cease, that I had carried it on, against the wishes of those, friends who ought to be ever consulted as parents, and, for the latter part of the time, against my own gradually strengthening convictions of what was best for us both, that my regard for him had not diminished, that I valued his esteem and friendship most highly, that the most painful thought to me, connected with the affair, was of the possibility of his ascribing my change to caprice, or unkindness, that I should always entertain toward him sentiments of the most sincere friendship, and that if in the coming changes of, my life we should be again thrown into each other’s neighborhood, I hoped we should meet as before, for I should always be his “same old friend Helen.” He wrote to me, in reply, contrary to my expectations and hopes, a note which I will enclose to you. I think it is a noble note and I think too, that neither you nor any of my friends, or indeed his own, do Mr. Everett justice. But I must not write so for I can see that peculiar smile on your face, and I don’t want to be laughed at, when I have just “been being a good girl”! But I am so glad I have done it, dear Mr. Palmer. Mrs. Kexford story of her own marriage was the climax in the way of argument I will admit, but that would never have convinced me had it not been for your advice. I feel light hearted now, when I think of you, dear dear Mr. Palmer, for I do not feel, as I perhaps imagined, that I am ungratefully, and wickedly persisting in my own way contrary to the advice of my best friend on earth the one to whom I know I owe more than any thing now living.
I had no idea when I began this letter that I should to prolong it. I must say two or three words more, although I know gentleman hat cross writing. Please give my love to Mrs. P. Lu, and Hattie, and tell Lu, I owe her ten thousand apologies about her straw hat. It was dent up, and I put it away on a bandboy, and in the haste of parking, forgot it entirely. I will bring it on when I come in the spring, or if she prefers, will send it by express. It was unpardonable careless in me to have forgotten it, but I can offer no excuse. Will you be able to write to me before long, dear Mr. Palmer, or do you legislative duties keep you hurried all the time. Be assured that when the letter does come, it will be most joyfully received by
Your affectionate and grateful ward
No 43 Lafayette Place, Sunday Morning March 3, 1850
[hand written on the top of the page not by HHJ: From N.Y. Abbott School, a spiritual autobiography]
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I have resolved that I will this morning, commence that letter which once I burned and once tore up, and third time left unfinished. Whether on no [sic] this will have a better fate than its predecessors, remains to be proved. I cannot tell why I find it so very difficult to write to you on this subject; it is not hat I am in the least unwilling that you should know easy feeling of my heart on this subject, for never in my life have I had a friend to whom I could speak so unreservedly as I did to you at Springfield. But for some reason or other it is very hard for me to resolve to begin and tell you all the circumstances which have conspired to bring my mind to its present state. However, I will do it. You have been kinder to me than almost any friend I ever had. I can never tell you how grateful my heart is for the affectionate sympathy you have ever shown me, and the least I am do in return, is to give you my whole confidence on all subjects.
I cannot remember the time when my mind was not exercised more of less, at intervals of greater or less length, on religious subjects. I recollect at a very early age having serious doubts of the truth of the Scriptures which I doubted. I mention this fact only to show the degree of thought which I bestowed upon religion & at how early an age. But I do not remember any particular time at which I was especially interested, until the first summer I spent at Pittsfield. I was then in my thirteenth year. There was no religions interest in the school. Nothing to arouse my attention, but the thoughts which were already familiar to my mind recurred more and more frequently until I was in a state of deep distress. I do not know, now, the peculiar character of my feelings, nor how long they continued, but I, as I thought sincerely, obtained a hope, and for a short time was happy, as I have never been since. Mr. Tyler, and others, as I know from letters which I have since seen, considered my case a hopeful one, and my poor father and mother were so rejoiced. In the fall I returned home. I remember distinctly that on that birthday, my thirteenth, I made a written dedication of myself to God. My mother’s death took place in February, and that was the event which showed me only too plainly that my heart was still unreconciled. I tremble sometimes now when I think of the bitterness and opposition which raged in my spirit, as I saw my dear mother’s form laid under the cold wet snow. But there I clung for a few months to my groundless hope. Then, at last, I gave it up in despair, and the sickness, which compelled my father to remove me from Pittsfield during the following summer, was more owing to my mental struggles, than to any of the causes to which any physicians ascribed it. Then you know I went to Falmouth. The last winter that I was there, I revival commenced in Uncle Hooker’s society. I was so opposed to it that uncle H. felt it to be his duty to withdraw me in a measure from society, on account of my influence. This galled me, provoked me, and at the same time frightened me. I was shocked at the depth of my hatred to the cause of Christ. I trembled to think that I was not only far from Heaven myself, but was unwilling that others should be Christians. I strove in vain to conceal all that I felt. As soon as uncle Hooker found out what was passing in my mind, he took every means possible to increase my anxiety. He talked with me, hour after hour, all to the effect that I was the most depraved of all sinners, was in the most imminent peril, &c, &c, until not to weary you with a long detail, I was fairly frightened into what I thought an actual submission of my own will and a resolution to be a Christian. The hope which I obtained at Pittsfield I never could account for on any other supposition than that of the actual influence of the spirit; at Falmouth it was different. As I took back upon it now, I can see clearly that it was merely an excitement, fanned and stimulated to the highest pitch by external agencies, until, from mere exhaustion, some rest must follow. I had been too religiously brought up to find any repose, in deliberately giving up the subject, therefore I must find it in a nominal submission. At the same time, it was more like the physical exhaustion which follows intense and excited mental exertion, than like any thing else. I had wept and prayed, and felt and done, all, it seemed to me, that I could and I felt that if I were not a Christian, I never should be. Still I experienced none of that hope, which I formerly felt. The change if there were any was mostly external, consisting in an attempt to perform all Christian duties, and feel as much like on e as I might be able to. This soon wore off, as a matter of course. I was at this time nearly sixteen. I went to Ipswich, and devoted my whole soul to study. It was my perfect idol, and I had now no thought of religion. My father had a great deal of ambition with regard to my education. I was his favorite child. He took the most unwearied pains in teaching me, and I now ascribe what ever mental culture I may have, to the habits which he formed in me, at a very early age. I did almost worship my father Mr. Palmer. To win a word of praise, to see him smile as he often would when I had recited a lesson remarkably well, and my highest ambition , when a child I can distinctly remember when I was not more than five years old, seeing him look significantly at mother, when I had made some rather old remark. I knew that he was proud of me, and the thought was ever before me. It was unfavorable in its influence, in some respects; it inclined me to vanity and yet it was a most powerful incentive to exertion. And perhaps after all that could hardly be called unfavorable in its influence, which led a child to bend every energy of mind and soul to the gratification of a parent. This motive was ever before me, at Pittsfield and, at Falmouth, but at Ipswich, it sprang up with renewed vigor. I never shall forget a conversation I had with him just before he sailed for the East, in which he alluded (and it was remarkable for him to indulge in any thing like settle [?] building.) To the plan which he had formed of taking me to Amherst with him, on his return from the East and there superintending the impletion of my education. My heart heat high at the thought of it, and I took an instant resolve to strain every nerve during his absence. He left us, and I bade him goodbyes with a heart almost light in the midst of its sorrow, for I saw in imagination the day when he would return in health and strength, and I should come and bring to him all the intellectual treasures I had gained during his absence. I do not think that nine months were ever devoted to study with more misery calculation of the exact amount of labor which could be accomplished in every moment than were those. And I did accomplish a great deal. I acquired a tolerably good knowledge of German. And as I know that he had often occasion to refer to books in that language. I pleased myself with the idea that I might make my knowledge of it, useful to him.) I read three new Latin authors, and so much of French that I could read any work in that language with ease. I made myself [_?] of Algebra. I devoted a great deal of time to Intellectual Philosophy, which I knew to be on e of his favorite studies. I wrote abstracts and essays upon questions in psychology, about which I should hardly dare now to open my lips, and was quite familiar, not only with most of the schools of philosophy in this country, but dipper a little into the speculation s of the german writers. I studied and answered Taylor’s complete Manual of History from the Creation of the discovery of America. I also studied Battles [?] Analogy, and took lessons in Perspective drawing, and took some design sketches from nature, because he had once told me that it would be very useful to him, could I do so. I practiced regularly and made some progress in my music, and particularly endeavored to improve in composition. In July we had a vacation of two weeks, and during the last week I received the intelligence that my father was dead. Mo words can describe the sensations of loneliness disappointment and discouragement in which weighed down my spirit. I fear that I have now no motive to do, or even live. I have a very indistinct recollection of the first six months after I learned his death. It seems now line a painful dream. I am sure that I must must have been in a strange state of mind. Of course my thoughts turned to religion. I thought of my father, and I really believed that I prayed to him, whenever I attempted to pray at all. But I found in prayer and religious exercises the only consolation which afforded any relief to me, and I think now that it was more because I felt that such a course would please him, than anything else. Still I had no marked hope. But there was a great change in my conduct, and my friends were lead to feel that my affliction had been the means of turning my soul to religion. But time that softens all griefs, soothed mine, and with that my interest in religious things subsided, thus showing that my devotion was to the memory of my father, and not to the cause of religion itself. My history after I left Ipswich, is familiar to you, the first summer at Charlestown. Then six months in my dear New York home, then six in Charlestown again, and finally a return here, a series of changes which I think the history of few would equal. And now my dear Mr. Palmer, you know all my past experience with regard to this subject, and it remains only to tell you, how I now feel. I hardly know. There does not pass a day, in which I have not serious and often painful thoughts with regard to it, and yet I can hardly tell exactly what form then assume. I am afraid that now, I am unwilling to head the life of a Christian. I know that a great many things what I now do, feel, and pursue, would be inconsistent with the profession of religion, and I am not prepared to give them up. But I have another feeling apart form all this, which is much more powerful in its influence. I do not know exactly how to express it, but it lies in my mind somewhat like this. At three separate times I have been deeply interested in religion, sincerely so, for I never was guilty of any affectation in such matters, and yet it has all amounted to nothing, or worse that nothing, therefore, I must reasonably conclude that the Spirit of God had in reality nothing to do with it. I cannot hear the idea of being again lead away by my own imagination, to deceive myself, and others, and thus to incur still greater condemnation. And unless I experience something entirely different from anything I have hitherto felt, convictions more deep, more distressing, and impressions more resistless and powerful, I can have no reason to feel that the same delusive agencies are not acting upon me. I do not know that you will see my idea, and yet I hear expressed it as dearly as I know how. I do not wish again to yield to any impressions but those of the Spirit, and unless I experienced something different, I cannot be sure that I do not. And now, my dear Mr. Palmer, I have told you all, I hope that you are not tired out with my long letter. I have never spoken this freely to any person, and I need not day that I speak this to you in the strictest confidence. But to you I can tell anything.
Since I wrote the above, I have seen in the paper notice of Prof. Peabody’s death. How very sudden, and how affecting it is. Why must he be called away from his wife, and those beautiful little ones, and from that newly occupied sphere, which he would have so nobly filled! Please to give my love to Mrs. Palmer, and also assure her of my most affectionate sympathy in her bereavement. It must be a great consolation to her that she visited him so recently.
I am looking forward to the last week in April, with a great deal of pleasure, for though I shall be so buried in work, with milliners and mantuamakers [?], that I shall not be able to see much of them, still it will; be pleasant to look on their faces again.
Shall I not have a letter from you soon, dear Mr. Palmer? I love very much to hear from you, though I am always afraid of drawing too heavily upon your already occupied time.
With much love to Hattie, and Lucy, and also to yourself, I am,
Your affectionate ward,
260 Greene Street, Tues. A.M. Mar. 26/50 
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I received your very kind letter of last week, for which please to accept my most heartfelt thanks. I shall never cease to remember with affectionate gratitude your kind manner of addressing me upon that subject. You are the only person in the world excepting Mr. Abbott, who ever spoke to me on the subject of religion in a manner which did not in any respect, grate upon my feelings, and I have spoken and written to you more freely much more freely than I ever have or ever could to any one, not excepting Mr. Abbott. I cannot repay you for this, any more than for the other numberless ways, in which you have manifested a kind interest in me. I can only promise, that my confidence shall ever be as freely, affectionately, and filially given to you upon this topic, as upon any other, and say what is the deep feeling of any heart that should I ever feel still more strongly than at present, the need of an adviser and counselor who can pray for and with who can point out the path which his own footsteps have so triumphantly trod, I cannot help saying that did I not reverence your character, my love would never make me willing to confide in you as I have. I have not expressed myself well, I fear you will be displeased with my freedom, and yet I know that the real sentiment, which I have so poorly clothed, would not offend.
I suppose you have learned from Annie, or have observed, that we leave off our mourning this spring. It is rather a painful change to me, and yet I feel it to be a very desirable one indeed. We have worn it now for seven years, with the exception of a short interval before my father’s death. Of course making such a decided change involves a good deal of expense, and in consequence of it, I shall be obliged to draw pretty heavily this spring. However I feel that it can be done better now, than at a time when I had all the expenses of a heavy board bill, to consume more than my income. As you know, I have earned and you do not know how important it sounds to me! $25,00, besides my board, since I left C. $ 20,00 of that I have already expended with Mrs. Abbott’s advice and assistance, in articles which I shall need this spring. She makes all her purchases at wholesale stores, and has very kindly offered to take me with her, and afford me any assistance in her power, in procuring my spring outfit. In this way I shall save a great deal, as you will see when I tell you that, for that $20,00, (excuse me, for inflicting such details upon you!) I bought, half a piece of cotton, one dozen pair of hose and three dresses; an amount of goods, which according to a calculation which we made would have cost me at retail prices about $30,00. But there are still many things which I must procure. I think it would be best for me to purchase most of my dresses here, and one or two certainly of outside apparel, though bonnets and other smaller items I can attend to in the intervals of that dressmaking week! Can you send me in the course of this week or next, $40,00? I shall then from that reserve enough for my expense, home, and perhaps, (I will if I can) something more. I do not know how much confidence you have in y judgment at any rate, you will not be sorry that I make no purchases without Mrs. As advice &sanction! She is kind to me, as an own mother, could be, dear Mr. Palmer, as interested in every little detail, and ever ever ready to aid me in any way, and my only fear is that I tax her kindness too much. I am delighted to know that Mrs. P. and yourself will be in the city so soon. I shall depend on a visit from you, and hope we may return together. I go just four weeks from next Friday, that being the Friday previous to the last Monday in April.
Pleas to remember me very affectionately to Mrs. P. Harriet and Lucy, and believe me, as ever, Mr. Palmer,
Your affectionate & grateful ward,
Tues. Am. Apr. 8, 1850 [New York]
Dear Mr. Palmer,
“Oh dear” you will say “another dispatch for me from Helen”! But I will try & make it as curt, as its object will permit. Alas for the stability of human plans when they have for their foundation the intentions of any of the Abbott race! You know our plans were all nicely matured to remain here for a fortnight have to auction on the 20th & then start for Brunswick, Worcester &c. But yesterday morning Mr. John suddenly altered his plan, concluded to have the auction s a week from today, so that every body must be out of the house on Monday Next. Mrs. A. with an infant a fortnight old cannot be moved, but he thinks she can stay here through the auctions, & a little while after it, till she is stronger & they “will get along somehow”! Their furniture will none of it have reached B. by that time, but poor Jennie is to go on there with the three youngest children & Hallie & a servant, & wait till it comes. She & I had just got all our spring work in the hands of the dues maker & she says it is utterly impossible for here to finish it this week. Miss Gilman & Miss Dowse are in the same case & a more perplexed set of damsels you never saw in your life. Then it freaks up all our visits. I was to go to Mr. Foxes a fortnight from today. I cannot go a week from today, both because I cannot be ready to leave the city, & because I do not feel at liberty to anticipate this time fixed for my visit. Both Mr. & Mrs. F. have joined in Eliza’s invitations, but “regret that the time of my visit will deprive them of the pleasure of seeing me” so they do not expect me to be there the week before they leave. Miss Gilman was going with me too, & she is in as great a quandary as I. Now the next question is what is the plan for this emergency. I should have profited little by the example of my associates for the past two years, were my brain dull at conceiving projects of all sorts. The one I have now, though, was suggested, as I think by a sort of Presidential chance. However I will relate it & you my good & kind guardian will judge. I received yesterday a note from my early friend and guardian angel I might almost say, Miss Lincoln (now Mrs. Rexford) of whom you have heard me so often speak, saying that she was staying at the Atlantic Hotel, with her husband (having just arrived from the West) & urging me to come& see her. Mr. John went down with me last evening & I had a most delightful visit. As soon as I mentioned this unexpected change in my plans, she proposed most earnestly that I should come & board with them there for a week. It seemed as if every thing was arranged purposely for it, for the room adjoining theirs, it to be vacated on Saturday. The price of board is $10.50, a week. Mr. John was very much pleased with Mr. & Mrs. Rexford, and says that as she has sustained such a peculiar relation always to me, is a person of such good Christian influence, &c, &c, &c & the Atlantic is a very quiet retired, though genteel house, he say no objection to the plan. I feel strongly enlisted in favor of it, at the same time as ever willing to abide by your decision. I am not sure that I ever have told you all about Miss. Lincoln. She was a teacher at Pittsfield & my roommate when I first went there. She took a mothers care & had almost a mother’s love for me. You know that there my feelings were first interested in religion. She was my pastor & her prayers I shall never forget. Father was anxious I should write to her & wrote a letter to her himself, urging her to write to me. She has always done so, until for the last years & a half, we have both been such pilgrims that we have rather lost sight of each other & written but seldom. But her letters I think have been one of the chief causes of my never having been able to banish religious thoughts for any time from my mind. Just before father sailed for the East, he wrote to her, begging her to continue her kind interest in me & expressing his deep gratitude for her influence. All these things conspire to give me a very peculiar love for her, and I am sure that if you knew her, you would be most happy to have me visit her. Aunt Vinal used to day that f she could only get me with that “Miss Lincoln” she should be really about me (which you know, meant a good deal in those days!)
So, to sum up “the argument” it seems a good plan to me for three reasons. First I shall have a most delightful visit with Mrs. Rexford & have an opportunity to renew our old & confidential intimacy. 2. I cannot go to Mr. Foxes, till week after next & I am unwilling to give up my visit there (By the way Rea. Mr. & Mrs. Smalley sent me a very kind verbal invitation to visit them also.) 3. Last but not least. I have four dresses at Miss. Jones’s & the days she cannot finish them this week & I have a great many other little spring arrangements to make, all of which I have left to do in this fortnight & which I cannot possibly do in the four days of this week.
There are two other plans, one is to go dutifully home to C. & stay there a few weeks & then go back to N. This I need not say to you, is most distasteful to me, I cannot fear the idea of going t o C. at all, & I am dare it will not be well for me to go there immediately after our breaking up. I told Mr. John last night that nothing but perfect solitude, or the constrained of society, can carry me through it. Nobody knows how I feel. Nobody can dream but I must not talk about it. The other plan is to make my visit to Lizzie Gadway in Lowell first. This is entirely contingent, because I do not even know that it will be convenient for her to have me visit her at all this spring. I am going to write to her today, asking her – she has often urged my coming but I do not know how she may be situated this spring. Any thing seems better to me than going back to C. so soon. I f I can go to Lowell & spend a week with Lizzie first then I can go back to Worcester & make my visit there, as I had at first intended, give up my week here & contrive some way, though I do not know what, to get my dresses sent to me at Lowell so at Worcester. It is had however, because the dresses are just the ones I shall want on my visit.
The additional expense of my stay here will be $10.50. Oh I forgot I told you that. Now dear Mr. Palmer, if you will write to me as soon as you get, and just “lay down the order of march” I shall be so grateful! Tell me if I may go with Mrs. R. or if Lizzie wishes favorably if I had better go there, if I had better go to C. Excuse my haste, I fear losing today’s mail. And believe me, your aff. & grateful Helen.
[Written sideways on one of the pages:] Dear Mr. P. these are not tears, Jennie just dropped some water over my shoulders.
[16 Oct. 1850]
New York. Wed. Morning, Before Breakfast
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I have been for several days trying to get tie to answer your long and interesting letter, but for the last week I have been a person of more business, and more importance than ever before! I have not seen such an article as a moment of leisure, during all this time; and this is the way I have been hurrying out of my teens! Only think, dear Mr. Palmer, that your ward is twenty! I feel as old as the hills, and all day yesterday (my birthday) I felt just about as blue, I always am sad on a birthday, and this has been the worst one I ever encountered; such a time as it is of making good resolutions; nobody I believe, can help making resolutions then if they try; and then after a body has lived as long as I have (!) and made so many, and broken them, it comes to be rather a melancholy way of the little prospect there is of your doing any better, in the future.
But, seriously, I feel like twenty! It seems to me, twice as much of an era, as any birthday I ever had, or ever can have.
But I will not expatiate on the resolutions I have made, for I think that is one of the surest methods to break them.
Have you had, this fall, the most remarkable beautiful weather that was ever heard of, in Boston’s annals? If you have, you cha sympathize with us: since our term began, which is now nearly six weeks we have not had but one unpleasant day, and then it was unpleasant only half of the day.
260 Greene Street Schoolroom
The breakfast bell interrupted my in the midst of my dissertation on the weather, dear Mr. Palmer, and I have not bad a moments time to take up my pen since then, thought it is now about half past one o’clock. My time at school is very much more fully occupied than ever before: We have no other teacher in the place of Miss Flint, and though the Senior Department is very small, both Mr. John and myself have our hands full. I hear every day six recitations in Latin, of all grades, from Virgil, down to the first pages in the grammar. But I like it, however, better than any other study.
I was quite surprised to see the notice of your brother’s call to Albany. I recollected when we were that you told me something about his having preached there some time ago, and then having been very anxious to hear him settle, but I had the impression that it was quite a long time since, and that the affair was all over. Do you think he will accept the call? If my home is to be in New York for the next few years, I should like very much indeed to have them residents of Albany. Even though I might not see them during the whole time, I should not have the feeling as I now do, that I have not a single friend (out of the school circle) in the whole state. Before I left Portland, your brother asked me to write to him, and I have never intended more fully to do anything, but it has really been unavoidable. I cannot write to him, in a hurry, and I have been in a hurry ever since the term began. If you write to him soon, will you be kind enough to give my kindest love to him and to Mrs. Palmer, and also remember me to Mrs. Richardson; and say to him, that if he will permit me, I shall still retain his invitation to a correspondence, until I can find time to commence it, with at least some degree of suitableness. I believe I wrote to you about the package which Annie had in Charlestown, which I wanted to have sent on to his eldest little girl, if you had any opportunity.
I hoped to have time to write you a longer letter even than this dear Mr. Palmer, but school is now just out, and I must run. Do not think because I do not reply to all the topics of which you write, that I am either uninterested or hostile. It is not so dear Mr. Palmer. I think much of those things, but my thoughts are not such as should be written. I have read that sermon. I think it a good Orthodox discourse, but it is very repulsive to my feelings, taken in connection with the occasion. It seems to me uncourteous, and unkind, I had almost said unchristian attack on Dr. Putnam, and all who have read it here, agree with me. But we New Yorkers, are not apt, you know, to approve Boston measures!
Give my love to Mrs. Palmer, Hattie and Lucy; I have not time to write to the letter today, though I had purposed it. I will do so by my next letter.
And now, dear Mr. Palmer, hoping to hear from you again as soon as you can find leisure, I am,
Your affectionate and grateful ward,
on embossed letterhead
New York. Wed. Am. Nov. 20th 1850.
My dear Mr. Palmer,
“Write again soon”, as you kindly said at the close of your last letter, did not mean, I presume, “write again the moment you have read this letter”, but as you see, I have so interpreted it. I should not take the liberty to trouble you so very soon again, were it not that I am “all worked up”, with the idea of going to Albany with you, to your brothers installation, but I do not like to say anything to Mr. John about it, until I can learn exactly how long I shall be obliged to be absent. I want to go very very much indeed, but if it will so happen as to take me out of school more than one day, I shall hardly feel as if I ought to do it. Will you please then, to enclose a note when Lucy answers mine, which I do hope she will soon do, and tell me, on what day of the week you propose to be in New York, how much time to spend in Albany, &c. &c. Perhaps I ought to make the expense of the trip a consideration. I suppose that before this time you have received my little note, enclosed in Lucy’s letter, which I suppose you had not received before writing yours of the 18th. You do not know how sad sad it makes me, dear Mr. Palmer, or rather you do know more than any other person, how sad it makes me, to think of leaving Mr. and Mrs. Abbott and Jennie. But I think, taking all things into consideration, it is much the better plan for Mr. John to devote himself to writing for a few years. The sale is really marvellous, of their books. The Harpers say that it is almost impossible for them to meet the orders for them, from England and the Continent. Mr. John has now published three histories - Marie Antoinette, Madam Roland, and Josephine (the last is in the press now) “Kings and Queens” makes another volume, and he is now over head and ears in getting out a new edition of the Mother at Home &c - all of his earlier works in two large volumes. Then he is constantly receiving requests through one channel and another that he will write the life of Napoleon, which he has decided to do. But his plan now is to write it in two small octavo volumes, and make it a standard work, which will take him about a year & a half or two years. During this time, their support must be the books he has already written and their little property. I think he will find the change greater than he anticipates, from a large fashionable house in LaFayette place, and an income of $7 or 8000, to a small house in Brunswick, and an income of $1000. - But time will show. Perhaps he may persevere longer than I expect, but it seems to me that he will get tired of writing quicker than he has of teaching. However, I ought not to speak this of Mr. John. He certainly has been one of my kindest friends, and I am sure, were I in his place - I should do just as he is doing. I need not ask you not to mention all this to anyone. Although all this and more than this has been said, nothing is decided, and noone here knows anything of it but Mr. Jacob, Jennie and I.
It makes my school life rather a hard one, for it robs it of much of its interest. However, school, though it is small, never went half so pleasantly. I am sure that the scholars are all doing well, and that now no one could say with any shadow of reason that “they don’t learn anything at Mr. John Abbott’s school.” Mrs. Abbott has been obliged actually to forbid the young ladies in the family from getting up before five to study, and Mr. John has been obliged to make a rule that they shall walk every day at least half an hour. But all this “availeth me nothing”, so long as Mr. John’s heart is run by his pen handle, and the school not filling up.
I ought to apologize for this long rhapsody about Mr. John’s plans and our school; and yet, I will not, for it is what is apparent in my thoughts, and of course, I must write it, as I should speak it, to you. I am sorry that you see Annie so seldom. I never write to her without urging her to go to see you. I think that you are more acquainted, with me, at a distance of two hundred and forty miles, than with her the other side of the bridge, over Charles River. Can you devise any ways or means of making her more careful of her eyes? I feel more anxious about them than ever. I seems to me that there is great danger of its becoming a chronic affliction, of which she will never be rid. Such a thing would be a life long calamity, and one which she from her active and energetic mind, would feel most keenly. Yet if I implore her to be more careful she thinks Helen is so old maidish and so “school-ma’am-y” - &c. - I wish she could be, for once, frightened a little -
It is now nearly recess. Mr. John is sitting on the sofa reading an essay on Webster’s Dictionary (!) for the sake of keeping a promise which he made to me last week, that he would not bring into school any of his book works! - Give my love to Mrs. Palmer, Hattie and Lucy, and believe me, dear Mr. Palmer, as ever your affectionate and grateful ward.
New York Dec. 15, 1850
My dear Mr. P.
I received duly your kind letter from Albany, for which I thank you much, the more, that it was so wholly unexpected. I have been unable to answer it until today, but as I wish principally to refer to one subject of which you spoke, it may be not improper for me to do so, today. I am certainly dear Mr. Palmer disposed to speak ever freely to you, on the subject of religion, on the feelings which I myself entertain. But I never felt in such uncertainty what to say, as at the present moment. I am not sensible of any change at all since I wrote you of my new resolves; and yet I suppose it is philosophically impossible that I should be today, in precisely the same place in which I was six weeks ago. This thought troubles me, for I do not think I have advanced, and I cannot bear to think that I have gone back. Btu I am as firmly resolved as then that I will live in the daily observance of Christian duties; that even if I am never saved, I will expect as much of good influence in the world as I can. But I do not wish to make any announcement of such purposes. You will think me very strange, and perhaps inconsistent, when I tell you, that I was almost pained by the thoughts that Lucy should have observed any alteration in me; not that I am unwilling that dear Lucy should know of my feelings; not that I am unwilling all should know them, so far as the simple fact of know them is concerned; but I have (do not think me irreverent; you know I would not intentionally be so) of being regarded as a person in any of the states denominated by uncle Hooker “anxious,” “under convictions,” “hopefully impressed,” &c. &c. &c. &c., and a still greater aversion to being addressed in the way in which such persons usually are. You spoke of my conversing with Jennie. I do not think I could by any possibilities do it. Jennie knows that my private habits now are widely different from what they have been, during the last two years, and we often make remarked to each other, and have conversations with each other which would once have been most foreign to my tally [?]; but as far sitting down to a formal and explicit statement of feelings, hopes and fears, I could not do it. We kneel at night (as I once used to alone) in perfect silence, for one prayer. Each prays for the other, I am sure, and we both know, without a work’s being said that we love each other more dearly because both pray. I fear that I fail of expressing my exact sentiments on this point, and I am very anxious that you should understand them exactly; I know that they are peculiar; perhaps they are entirely wrong, but I cannot cannot help them.
In this connection, the question of my returning to Charlestown at New Years comes up; I thank you very much for telling me so fully your fears with regard to it, and if you really prefer that I should I will relinquish the plan. But I look at it in an entirely different light; it seems to me that if it had any influence in a religious point of view, it would not be an unfavorable one. Indeed I had thought of that myself, and had rather the feeling that it would be quite as well for me to spend the time there as here. A week of vacation here would be a week of trial to me, in more ways than you probably imagine, and some of which you little dream of. I want to see Annie very much, I also want to see our good Aunt Vinal. I might perhaps visit Weston for a day, as I shall have, if I go at all, more than a week’s time there. Mr. John very kindly insists upon my going on the Friday night before Christmas, ie, Friday of this week, as thus I lose but two days of school and gain four at home. This letter will reach you on Tuesday Am. And now my dear Mr. Palmer, I am willing to be guided entirely by your advice. If you feel that I have better not make the visit. I hope you know me well enough to be sure that I shall cheerfully acquiesce. But if you think it on the whole not unadvisable, will you drop me a line by return of mail; it will certainly reach me on Thursday, in ample time for all preparations.
Should the weather be pleasant I should come by the Fall River route, as I prefer it so much, the car ride, always making me so tired, sick, and miserable, but if it be stormy I shall have to come by the cars on Saturday. And now, my dear Mr. Palmer, I must bid you an affectionate goodnight. I shall add a few lines tomorrow morning, on a topic of more secular interest. Till then, believe me, your affectionate and very grateful ward
[Written on side of page:] My love, if you please to Hattie, “Lu”, and Mrs. P., I ought to apologize for taking up you precious time, to read so long a letter as this Helen
[Written on same letter:]
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I commence my letter again, to speak of my bill at Mr. Arnold’s which will be due, I suppose on the 1st of Jan. I spoke to you of it before I left Charlestown, and mentioned my wish that it should stand until that time; partly for my accommodation, in case I might wish to send for anything to be got by Annie. Since that time have added to it but about $8 or 10. I do not know what the amount will be, but I fear, large. It dates back to the last of June, and I think that during the summer, I was, not intentionally extravagant, but thoughtless in regard to expenditures. After your talk with Annie and me the first of August, I did not purchase a single article which I did not think indispensable. But my outfit for winter was necessarily a very heavy one, because having worn mourning the last season, I had not one winter dress. I purchased all my winter dresses and every thing of that sort at Mr. Arnolds, and determined that my “salary” should meet all the expense of making, of outside garments &c. &c. I hope that it will not be an “outrageous bill” but because I have some misgivings as to the amount, and because I do feel that in regard to part of it I was extravagant, I write to you my dear guardian, in all fullness and frankness about it.
And a word about Mr. Everett. Miss Lincoln’s story, (Mrs. Rexford’s) which I told you half of, and a long talk which I had or rather from Mr. John about it, added to your advice, have convinced me that I had better not correspond with him. But Mr. John said that I ought not to discontinue it suddenly without assigning any reason & he advised me to gradually drop it. So I have began, and have dropped two opportunities in succession of writing him, and I shall not write him before I go (if I go). Am I doing right? You must forgive me for so long holding my own foolish opinions! When I see you, I will tell you all about my conversations with Mrs. Rexford, and how convictions dawned on me at every step. Dear Mr. Palmer, if I am ever or ever anything good or right, next to those who sleep now, but who have left their teachings in the heart of their child, so that she cannot long do wrong, and be at ease, I shall owe it to you. I do every day thank God, for making you care for me! Goodbye! Yours ever affectionately Helen
[Please note: this letter surfaced in a pile of papers in CC Special Collections in 2012; we believe it was originally part of this collection but somehow got separated somewhere along the line.]
Friday Eve Jan. 3 1851
My dear Mr. Palmer
I can find nothing with which to write, but some bad ink and a worse pen, and I fear that what I write will be perfectly illegible. But I must write you a few words tonight, to give you in the morning. Mr. Everett has brought up my bill tonight. It is just about as large as I feared: I am sorry, but repentance is not cash! To do a very little towards redressing it, will you take this diamond ring, for which I care nothing, and deduct its value from the amount of the bill? If you wll do so, I shall be very very much obliged to you. I was offered $15 for it in exchange, in New York, perhaps however that is more than its monied value.
My visit at C. is at an end for the present! I have enjoyed a great deal, and am sorry to go back. Yet it is “all for the best” – oh, if I could only have your unshaken equanimity in view of the Future, I should be happy.
I know where you will tell me to look for it – and I hope that my eyes are turned in that direction – I do try, and do want, to look upward – but sometimes, dear Mr. Palmer, the sky seems so thickly shrouded, that I almost feel as if my faith could never be sufficiently strong, nor my gaze sufficiently steadfast, to pierce through the clouds.
But goodnight and goodbye, my dear Guardian. I shall write you as soon as I get to New York for I have just had a few words of conversation with Mr. E., of which I must tell you. I shall not write to him any more. My best love to Mrs. Palmer, Hattie, & Lucy. I am sorry not to have bid them goodbye.
New York Tues. P.M. Feb. 25, 1851
My dear Mr. Palmer
I received your letter in due season, and very joyfully, for I had been awaiting its arrival. You must excuse my replying after an interval so much shorter than the one which elapsed between my last letter and your answer, for I have one or two matters of comparative moment to discuss. You ask in you kind letter if you shall not hear from me as some as anything turns up for the future; most assuredly, my dear Guardian, everything that happens of any important interest to me, I tell you, and perhaps I ought to have written to you before this to say that I could say nothing, in regard to our plans. Until last week it was not absolutely certain that Mr. John would leave New York before the first of July, and in that case, of course it would have been unnecessary for me to make any new arrangement before the fall. There have been plans and projects innumerable and indescribable for remaining here, until summer, but now I think it is beyond all question that the school will break up on the fourth of April, and although it is a better thing to me to leave New York, I believe I am glad on the whole that the matter is settled. Suspense and uncertainty are so uncomfortable. I expect to remain here for a week or ten days, or perhaps longer, and come on with Jennie when she goes on with children to Brunswick, as she will be obliged to do on account of her mothers health. This will put the terminus of my New York life for the present, at about the middle of April. Where next! This has been the thought with me for the winter, sometimes in sadness and almost discouragement; sometimes in hope and lust. I thought at first that I could not leave New York and for a time I had a hope (with also a strong presentiment that I should be unhappy there) that I could go to Mr. Gorham’s. This seems out of the question. He is so full of teachers, that he cannot make room for their cousin Miss Gilman, and will need in the spring rather to diminish those increase his number. And moreover, I am now convinced that my situation there would not be a congenial one at all, and not one adapted to the formation of such a disposition and character as I wish to cultivate. It would have suited me admirably two years ago when my happiness was all in myself, and my element solitary study. Other situations in New York I might perhaps obtain; still I know it is difficult, to obtain them, and again, I do not feel willing to go anywhere for the sake of staying in the city. And of late my thoughts have rather turned to Boston and particularly to Mr. Winslow’s school. I have thought so seriously of it as to hold quite a long conversation with Mr. Ishes [?] in regard to it, and he has of feud to write to him, if I write to go there. But of course I should not go so far as that without consulting you, and it is a boarding as well as a day school? And if I go there, can I have a home in his family? I cannot cannot cannot unless circumstances force me to it, bear the idea of going again to live in Charlestown. I am sure it is not wise. And especially should I dislike to go to Miss Browns. But how will it seem supposing I can get a situation in Boston for Annie to be one side of Nassau [?] Bridge, and I, the other and still more how shall we feel, to be separated in so seemingly needless a way? Annie is sure that Grandpa would pay my board. I think it doubtful. Fee perhaps he would in that case I should save the $2.00 per week which you now pay for my board, and which would go towards my support. However, I have tried the two experiments of living in idleness, (or at least with no stated employment) and of working hard, and I prefer the latter. The life of a young lady in a boarding house, with no one to care for but herself, I believe must be a miserable one, if she have any feeling, (and worse if she have not.) Where a girl has home cares, duties, and joys, there is a world wide difference. I have thought some times that I would try to procure a situation in some place, as perceptives [?] of an Academy or something of that sort, and launch out into the world “to try my fortunes”. Such a situation I have no doubt could get before fall. But my judgment questions much whether my physical mental or work or social constitution be fitted for such a life. I think I am in rather a singular state of mind. I never knew the time before in my life when I was not bent upon attaining some particular and in the future. Now, I can scarcely tell even what I wish. I feel disposed to be guided entirely by your advice so far as my own steps are concerned and I think I feel that the same Providence which has taken care of me for twenty years will do so still.
Your speak of Annie. I feel all and perhaps more then you express. I do not think her situation at all a favorable one. Still I cannot see that her character is even tarnished by all the adverse influences around her. I know that she is constant in all her religious duties; she is filial in her kindness to Grandpa; and though I think she has lost some of her simplicity, and a great deal of her willingness to be advised by anyone, still, I look at her, in perfect amazement. I have often told her that she has a stronger head as well as a better heart than her sister, for I am sure, had I spent the years between fourteen and sixteen, as she has spent them, I should have given my friends even more cause for distress than I did. You ask me to influence her. Dear Mr. Palmer, I wish I could make you realize that I cannot. Your do not know the peculiarity of her constitution. No one in the world can influence her, by advise or precept or any thing of that sort. Continued example I think would affect her, but that I am little fitted, even were I so situated as to exert. I think s he is peculiar in her quiet invincibleness, perfectly pleasant and amiable and yet unalterable in her course. Take this for an illustration. You have more influence than anyone else over her; as much more as you have more over me than, Mrs. Hooker! I think you told her decidedly last fall your views about her going out evenings, and with gentlemen; I understood you to almost specify the number of evenings you thought it better for her to spend in amusements. But she has done no differently. I think indeed she has gone out more frequently than last winter the only change being, that she goes seldom with Mr. E. And still she loves you much very much, and is deeply sensible of your kindness and would not for her right eye do anything wrong. But I am prolonging my letter to a most unconscionable length, and I fear writing so hurriedly that you will not be able to read it. I feel unpleasantly to think that in the midst of all your cares this winger perplexing questions about young lady words should come up. But I can only promise to be very submissive, and so exactly what you advise, or incline to advise, try to get a situation here or in the country this spring (through Mr. Wilcox the School Agent,) apply to Mr. Winslow, stay quietly in Charlestown and Weston till fall, or anything else. Almost any plan that you can propose, (if it be not to go to Falmouth or Ipswich) will find me ready for cordial adoptions. In fact, I am at times almost ready to draw lost for my next place of sojourns. Such a home such friends such happiness as I have known here, I never shall find again, and I neither expect nor desire it!
In addition to my other duties, I have been taking private lessons in French from our French teacher, for the last two months. He very kindly offered to give me private lessons, for the same price that he charges classes, and Mr. John advised me to attempt it. I am extremely glad that I did, for the knowledge may be now of great value to me and M. Lagwix is one of the best teachers I ever knew. He gives me thirty six lessons for $12.00 which is very low indeed. His terms for private pupils are $30.00 for that number of lessons. I do not expect that my salary for next quarter will cover all the expenses which I shall have before leaving the city, including this though I hope it will all else. I shall therefore be obliged to call on you for that amount and I suppose also that I have a bill at Dr. Green’s for he inflicted a gash on my poor eye in January and called to see me the other day, when I had a slightest feverish attack. These are the only extras of which I know.
Will you pardon me, dear Mr. Palmer, for having written you such a document? I did not intend when I commenced to write nearly so long in one, but my pen has run on almost involuntarily. It is now nearly dinner time and I must hurry home, else I fear I should fill this sheet.
Will you write me as soon as you can spare time from your many avocations, and with love to Mrs. Palmer, Hattie and Lue, (and Fweddie), believe me as ever,
Your affectionate and grateful ward, Helen
260 Greene Street March 5, 1851
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I have just received you letter of yesterday and am robbing my employer of a little time to commence a reply to it. I am hesitating a little as to the possibility of making you understand exactly, by letter, my feelings in regard to you proposition of my going to Albany. I appreciate highly you kindness in suggesting and Mr. and Mrs. Ray Palmer’s kindness in adopting it, and offering so readily to invite me there for a while and still I should feel very unpleasantly at the idea of going under the circumstances, indeed I do not think I could go. I am aware that this may strike you as a great want of gratitude to you both; but I hope that you will better understand my feelings. It is not that I am not attached to both Mr. Ray and his wife; nor that I have the slightest doubt of this perfect sincerity cordiality, and kindness; perhaps I am unduly sensitive, but I have a horror of forcing myself or being forced (either by other people or by uncontrollable circumstances) upon persons who are bound to me by no ties but those of common acquaintance and friendship. I have a still greater horror of soliciting in any way, any situation in the family of friend. So be obliged to seek the situation of a teacher I find it more humbling to my pride than I had supposed it possible, for so professional a step to be. So you must forgive Helen (if it does not meet your views) for saying that under the circumstances, the plan (though a most generous and kind one) of here going to Albany, is one, which it would wound her deeply to accede to.
My mind has now about settled on these plans! (quite a definite settlement by the way is it not?). The first is to obtain if possible a situation in Mr. Winslow’s school in Boston. If it cannot be done this spring, to apply now for next fall. So this end, Mr. John has kindly written a letter to Mr. Winslow who is a personal friend of his, making divers statements about me, some of which, it may be confidentially whispered are very highly colored; How ever, I believe that is the principle on which all advertisements are worded! I enclose the letter to you, as I thought it possible you might think it better to see him, and dive the letter with the additional weight of your ability to ensure necessary questions “as to age, qualifications for business &c. &c., or, at any rate, would be more likely to ensure its reaching him through the City Post there, than through the post office. Could I get a situation there with a good salary I should be glad. Should you approve, I think I should be happier in Mr. W’s family than elsewhere, always excepting the contingency of Annie’s and Grandpa’s moving to good quarters in Boston. I might perhaps temporarily board at Miss Ann’s and walk over with Annie, trusting to time and perseverance to move Grandpa back to Boston. (This is case I could go there in May). In case I should not go there till fall, I should prefer to come on in April and spend some weeks at Weston and divide my time till September between Weston Charlestown (and Amherst? Annie has a strong Amherst project for the summer, as usual!) and perhaps traveling some ( and Brunswick – I forgot for the moment, strangely, that Mrs. Abbott has invited me to visit there at Commencement time.) (This is my third plan also, in case, Mr. Winslows school fail, and another plan which I am now to speak of with the exception of course that instead of resting quietly in anticipation of going to work in Sep. I shall be looking about for a situation.)
The other plan is this. Mr. John reserved a letter last week from Pennsylvania, making inquires for a teacher to take charge of some sort of a school in Wilkesbarre in the valley of the Wyoming (poetical, you know!) The letter contained few particulars, the only one of much interest being the statement that the salary would be from three to five hundred dollars, according to “ the skill and popularity of the teachers”. He has written making particular inquires, and we shall probably hear in a few days. Perhaps it may turn out a situation which I should much dislike, and it may be a pleasant one. At any rate, if I cannot get a situation at Mr. Winslows, and this promises tolerably well I had rather take it, that wait all summer in suspense looking for another. Do not shake your head dear Mr. Palmer, I really believe I could succeed if you were once fairly enlisted, and at any rate I feel a strong inclination to make the attempt. However, this case be discussed hereafter. But I thought better to write at once, and tell you all this, before you had written that longer letter which you were kind enough to promise me.
And now dear Mr. Palmer, if in addition to all you other kindnesses, you will procure for me a decisive answer from Mr. Winslow, and also write me word (if I cannot go to Mr. W’s) that I had better go to Pennsylvania, and if I cannot go there if you will pardon my coming home instead of accepting the kind proposal of my sojourns in Albany. I shall be (as I shall be if you do not do my premises do not amount to much after all!) Yours most gratefully and affectionately
I can be in Boston if necessary or desirable; the eighth of April. But I should prefer much to have a vacation till the first of May. My kindest remembrances to Mrs. Palmer, Hattie, and Lucy. And if you see my good sister Annie, tell her that I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of some evidence of her existence either a letter, or certain articles which I sent for ten days ago, and which have not yet made there appearance! H.M.F.
Worcester April 29, 1851
My dear Mr. Palmer,
When I left New York on Friday evening of last week, I expected most fully that at this time, a letter would have reached Boston informing you of my change of residence. But all day Saturday and Sunday I was sick by way of making a favorable impression on my friends and enjoying myself into the bargains! And yesterday I took two rides, and felt board to make myself agreeable the rest of the time! I left New York, as I expected to leave it, with an aching heart and a full eye. Mr. John very kindly in the midst of all his hurry went to the depot with me, and rode as far as Astor Place. After he was out of sight, I closed my eyes, and did not open them till we were far far from New York. I had realized it before, but not as I did then. Since the auction, and my removal to the Atlantic, New York life had seemed so strange to me that it has taught me more fully then weeks would of residence anywhere else, the truth that my La Fayette Place home is no more. But as I bade Mr. John goodbye, and felt that we should probably never again meet in New York, the whole weight of the words, “separation” and “forever” fell upon me. I do not believe it is common for people to love a place where they have resided so short a time as I love New York! I do not believe that I can ever love another home now that I have lost a second.
Mr. and Mrs. John left New York last night for Boston but the Fall River route, and proceeded to Brunswick today or tomorrow I suppose. At least Mr. John wrote me on Saturday that such was his plan. The vessel which sailed first with the greater part of his furniture on it has been wrecked. There is a possibility (but little prospect) that the think may be recovered, though of course in a damaged state. The organ, secretary, carpets (new) for the whole house, piano, Mrs. A.s whole wardrobe of dresses, were in it. Such facts as these admit of no comment!
I am enjoying every moment of my visit and do not feel in any haste to see Charlestown, though I do want to see Annie, but I suppose I had better return sometime next week. Eliza and all the family declare I shall not think of going until three or four weeks, but of course I should not think of staying quite so long on a first visit especially as I have no home in which to return the courtesy. They are a very pleasant family plain and unaffected as Hadley farmers, but living in the midst of everything which wealth cane supply. The house is a beautiful one, much in the style of some on the Hudson, and in the vicinity of Boston, large grounds, quite tastefully laid out though as yet new, carriages, horses, &c, &c. I think the house is planned on the whole better than any in which I ever was, for convenience and elegance united. But I must not stop now, to give you plans of houses, for I must write to Annie tonight as I have really neglected the child, and it is growing late.
I received the $40.00 in your last letter, for which I thank you, ever deploring the necessity of the favor! If these be any immediate necessity, in regard to Mr. Winslow, or any other matter, why I should hurry home this week, or the first of next, will you please to write and let me know? Or, in case any such necessity do not exist, but you have a space moment from the dates of trade and legislation, you known how delighted I should be to hear from you. Address simply, care of Wm. B. Fox Jr. Worcester, and I shall not fail to get it.
With love to Mrs. P. and L& H. and much very much to yourself. I am as ever you grateful and affectionate Helen.
P.S. I have just go t back form a long drive with Mr. Fox in an open buggy, like the one I rode to Bath in. We took that so that I could see the country. Worcester is a beautiful place, beautiful, still I would not live there. “Not here, oh not here!” Helen
Worcester, May 14, 1851
My dear Mr. Palmer,
One more letter from Worcester! And only one for I really begin to feel that you will thank them too frequent. I have been here just three weeks, and shall have written you just as many letters which is rather a rapid rate of correspondence. However you will perhaps pardon my prolixity, as it is the last flood of it with which your writing desk will be visited, for some time to come, since the distance between Charlestown and Boston is hardly sufficient to provoke epistolary communication. But the other mode of expression which must take the plan of letter writing, will perhaps be as unendurable! I write in the “office” of the great woolen mill, as you will perceive from the date of my letter; (by the way have I ever forgotten to date my letters since you spoke to me of it?) because we have just been going over the buildings, marking the devastation of the terrible storm of last evening, and Mr. Fox said if I would write my letter here and leave it he would have it sent right up to the office. Did you have a thunder storm or rather tempest last night? We had here one of the most violent which have ever been known in Worcester. It was really magnificent; and my only request is that I was not in a good situation to enjoy the full grandeur of the scene. The day had been sultry and summer like, and towards night the heavy gray and white clouds begin to gather in the horizon and overhead, while conspicuous in the midst of them, came one large and blacker than midnight darkness. This was about five, and we supposed we were at once to have a shower, but it passed over, seemingly with a heavy shower at the north, and the sky partially cleared, and the brightness of the setting sun gave promise of a pleasant evening. After tea Eliza and I started for a walk into town to put a letter into the office, (a distance of about a mile,) expecting to have a delightful walk and return in the clear moon light. We had gone but about half of the distance, when suddenly the air grew still almost frightfully still; the heavens assumed the strangest aspect, dark clouds with glistening white streaks in the midst of them, rising with startling rapidity in the south west, in the west and north west, banks of clouds of a fiery red, overhead a confusion of light and dark clouds, hurrying back and forth as if shuffled by a hasty hand for the amusement of lookers on, through the whole a pale glimmer from the large white moon, always quite high and in the midst of the strange stillness, a low murmur like very distant surges on the sea side. Just as we reached the office, for we thought it better to keep on and reach Main St where we could find a shelter at every stop, it began to sprinkle, we dropped in our letters, and then ran “for dear life” a little farther up, to the office of Dr. Rufus Woodward (son of the hospital man) who is very intimate at Mr. Foxes, indeed so much so that he seems like one of the brothers. We found the outer office empty, and the inner door locked, he had gone to tea. However at that instant, came the crack, ran in furious torrents, thunder, lightning, and rattling hail all in our warring Mass; it was dark so dark that we could hardly distinguish objects in the street though it was not 7 o’clock, and the wind shook the windows with terrific violence. We sat alone in large arm chairs, awaiting our fate. In a moment more, a rally of hail stones against the windows broke panes of glass in both of them and then the scene in the little room was really startling; the darkness deepened, until nothing could be seen but one torrent of water torrent of water rushing down like a cataract let loose, the hail rattled like musketry and in the entry below lay piled up like nuts after an autumn gale. The thunder sounded above the whole like the hideous laughter of some demon spirit who had looked all these terrible elements to carry out his own purposes of destruction; while the lightening flashed incessantly, and disclosed here and there a form flying as if pursued by and avenger, and lit up the sky above which seemed literally torn in the conflict. This lasted for about seven or eight moments and then subsided into a hard shower. Dr W. soon returned and admitted us into his parlor where we found better quarters and from the front windows had a much better view of the scene. As soon as the storm had abated sufficiently we sent for a carriage and rode home. Here we found Patrick (the man) just starting after us in the carriage. But we lost so much in not being at home during the tempest. Mr. Fox’s houses is situated on elevated ground and the storm was very much more severe in this part of the town than it was on Main Street. Jennie said she took refuge in the middle of the hall, with her little sister on one side, her brother on the other, and the Irish girls in the rear, and then they stood in darkness listening to the driving of the gale and the cracking of the glass. The horses in the barn too were almost frantic, as the windows were all dashed in just under their very noses, and it was impossible to go near them. I believe there is hardly a room in the house in which the glass is not more or less broken and the glass in the front door which is beautifully stained is sadly marred. The mills are a curiosity, and the buildings about them. One would thing that there had been a siege or a mob; it reminds me of the poor Opera House in New York the morning after the riot. In the two mills there are between two and three thousand panes broken! Some of the windows not only have not a whole pane left, but have not a fragment of glass left in them, a volley of musketry could not have riddled them more completely. The hail stones were many of them large as birds eggs, round and polished and hard adamant. But the worst destruction is in the garden; all Jennie’s beautiful verbenas are either broken or torn up buy the roots. The fruit trees all half stripped of their flowers, the shrubs broken and defaced, and every thing wearing the most melancholy tired out expressions. It is quite an “era” in my life. I have now one thing less to see for the first time!
Eliza has just come down for me to go into town with her and as she is impatient I must close my long letter. You will think perhaps that I wrote for the express purpose of giving you a bulletin of the storm, but I did not; that was merely accessory; and the object of my letter was to ask you to be kind enough to send me $3.00 by Thurs. or Friday and to assure you of my arrival in Boston on Sat eve. next at six o’clock, “unforeseens always expected.” I need not say that it would give me the greatest pleasure, if the first features recognized in Boston, be those of my beloved guardians, and I need not repeat again that nothing would pain me more than to have that pleasure conferred at the expense of inconvenience to you. I am an “ancient pilgrim,” and dread not any species of railroad “way fare.” And now, goodbye dear Mr. Palmer. You will owe me, three good long afternoon visits after I get home, shall you not? However, I expect I shall have to rob the treasury and pay myself, by making the visits myself! Please give my kindest regards to Mrs. P. Hattie and Lu, and believe me,
Yours, as ever, affectionately,
P.S. excuse my manufacturers envelope! Helen
Charlestown Sat. P.M. Sep. 20, 1851
My dear Mr. Palmer,
Having a letter gap this afternoon, some things being done, and there not being time to begin others, I have concluded to sit down and write you a letter. I do not see how I shall be able to have very much of an interview with you, during this week and still I have mush much to say. But there, you know I am quite accustomed to doing business with you, but means of much pen as an interpreter, and indeed, there are some things of which I can easier write, than speak. I hope however that you will not anticipate a letter of even ordinary interest, for the matters of which I must treat, an common place, dull, dry, to me hateful: you will at once infer by the adjectives in the above line, that I refer to money matters. I have been for the last few days thinking over all the questions connected with my “affairs” as the merchants say, and I have wanted an opportunity to talk at length with you about them.
I do not want to be extravagant; but at the same time, I think that I have been, very much so, in some particulars, and I think that it will be the hardest thing in the world for me to begin to be tolerably economical. And it is peculiarly hard to begin when I am going as I am this fall, to spend a winter in a fortunate city, and go into more society probably than I have every been in before. But still I am willing to try; at any rate to do is much as this, to fix on a certain amount, beyond which, in my personal expenses (by which I mean dress &c,) I will not go. But there are a good many reflections in connections with it, which I want to state fully and frankly to you, so that you will see all that I see, in helping me come to a decision.
In the full plan, I have looked back for the last two years, and endeavored to make some accurate estimate of my yearly expenditure. I had $100 a year from Mr. John; (and this always disappeared like dear in sunshine.) Then I had at least $150 from you, for you remember, I had each year nearly $100 worth of things at Mr. Arnolds, besides the money you sent me. The money grandpa used to give me, would be moderately estimated at $75 a year; for the last half year it has been in a greater proportion, but then I have not had my salary, so perhaps the average would be pressured by counting it at $75. Here are at least, and I know I have made a moderate estimate, $325, which I have spent each year, myself, and for what, I must admit, I am sure I cannot tell. My wardrobe does not at all correspond with such an expenditure. I am confident that if I had calculated on such an amount, and had it regularly, it would have been laid out to better advantage, but the trouble was, and has been with both of us, that we have had a sort of feeling that all the money in grandpas purse, was a fund by itself, sometimes accessible, and sometimes not, to be spent on notions, while all real wants were to be else where supplied. This, it seems to me, has been our great fault. Then another is, that I have spent too much for little things, like (example details) ribbons, collars, &c. which cost but little in themselves, but which amount to a good deal. This I am sure, has swallowed up a great portion of the $300. There the third thing is not a fault exactly, and I am sure I don’t know how I can help it, and that is the unfortunate rapidity with which I wear out shoe leather. There is no mistake about the fact that I, of necessity, spend about twice as much for boots as most girls do. I remember while I was in New York, I paid two bills at Wads (my shoemakers) of over $20 each, and that did not include all I had either year. Since I came from N.Y. I have paid Mr. Carleton $12.50, and I must pay him $5 more, before I go away. But in this one particular I do feel that I can acquit myself of any needless expenditure. It is a misfortune and I must get a long with it. I am not sure, but I had better keep a carriage as a cheap way of remedying this evil! These are the three great evils of which I have thought in regard to the past. The first I shall not have to avoid, during the coming year; the last I cannot help, and the other, I must and will strive against.
In view of all these facts, and of all the ten thousand things which a girl can foresee. I really feel as if I were undertaking quite an arduous task, to strictly keep myself within a specified and reasonable amount, for the next year, especially, just as I am going to be situated. But do not understand me, dear Mr. Palmer, as pleading off. On the whole I decidedly prefer to try the experiment. But I want you to appreciate all the lions in my way!
I have felt as if in consideration of all these circumstances, I might do myself the kindness, of getting a good outfit this fall, before starting on my self denial system. I have looked over all the ground, and I can tell now very nearly what my expenses must be, before starting for Albany. In the first place I have procured me a good outfit of all under garments; the materials for all there I purchased a Mr. Arnolds, and they together with some other articles which I have purchased along through the summer, when you were away, or grandpa was short &c, will make a bill of perhaps between $20 & $30. I shall be obliged to get one pair more of boots, and that with one pair for which I always owe, will be $5. I think I shall actually need at Albany a handsome dark silk, and the idea of getting a silk dress this winter, out of my allowance, seems actually preposterous. What this will cost, I cannot of course tell, no, but I shall purchase it early next week and bring the bill to the store. It certainly will not be over $25. Then I shall have a dressmakers bill, which I am afraid will not be ready to be paid till the day before we go. I have only three dresses to be made, and under Boston dressmakers are very much more exorbitant then Miss Jones, it will not be over $10. Then there are two articles which I shall want, if you do not think them too superfluous, from the store, one of which I wrote for this summer; a handsome fan, and a nice shell rack comb. A heart pin too of some sort, I really think I need. The one I wear is an old one of mother’s, and the little anchor I got, has no point to the pin, besides not being anything more than pretty, after it is dressed [?] in! Then there is one thing to be done which will be an item of expense to both Annie and me, in the line of Daguerreotype Aunt Vinal and Helen Tufts both want me of each of us; each of us must have one of the other. $10 will cover the whole I think. I owe some still for sewing, but Mr. Charles Vinal says that he will pay that bill to Miss Brown with the house bill, as it will do no harm, and will save us a little. These are all the expenses which I shall have to meet before I consider myself as fitted out for Albany. There is one thing more which I shall need, but cold weather, and which I do not see how I can afford to get “an allowance,” and that is, a set of furs. In the climate of Albany I shall certainly need them. You know nice furs are very expensive, and I do not want any that are not nice. I think I shall have to stipulate beforehand, that they shall be thrown in!
And now comes the great, great, all next year involving question how much shall I restrict myself in my personal expenditures? I want to be guided by your advise; by your ideas of what I ought to do, of what will be consistent with my situation, my age, my expectations. I do not want however to set my mark so low, that I shall be continually cramped, harassed (for I will keep within the sum, I finally set, if I have to go ragged!) and made uncomfortable, by the thought, “when withal shall I be clothed”! Lucy tells me that she and Hattie have $150 a year, but that they are relieved by parental presents, from some of their heavier necessities, cloaks &c, and that also a good many little gifts like collars and handkerchiefs find their way home from New York, free of cost. Now, such things as these make a whole world of difference. I do not know but I will promise to live on $150 a year, if you will promise to let our estate make me a present of $5 worth of collars and cuffs now and then, and cloaks and furs in their season! And yet I do not believe that, even then, for the first year, at any rate, I could get along on that. It would be less than one half, of what I have been in the habit of having, and a reduction of one half, is a pretty severe descent. I am sure the idea frightens me of when I could save $150 a year! Girls at home can do more economically in ten thousand ways than one can situated as I have been and shall be, on the whole would you think that I was unreasonable if I ask (for this year at least) $225, as my allowance for dress, and such little matters a would naturally come into daily expenditure. I do not know but I could live on less; and if you really think I ought to, I will try to try, but it seems to me, as if even on this, I should often have an empty purse by the end of the quarter. Grandpa pays me $400 a year; of that, $250 goes for board; on a rough estimate $50 for washing; that leaves me just $100. Thus I take of my own monthly only$125 a year for dress &c. My traveling expenses in the summer, and my tuitions in painting on any other branches that I might want to pursue, would not be more than $100. And in the summer, while visiting, boarding in the country (Amherst!) &c, I should save somewhat from the first amount $250 specified for board. So I should spend at the outside only $250of my own money, a year; and I suppose I have enough to last, at that rate, at least, three years. Within that time some change will most likely take place. It is not pleasant to anticipate, and still in some circumstances a person seems to be justified in so doing. If grandpas life should be continued as long as that, his mind will be entirely gone; indeed I think it more than improbable that at the end of another year, he will know whether he is the possessor of thousands or a beggar. His faculties have failed perceptibly during each interval that I have not seen him.
And now my dear, dear, kind guardian, I believe I have gone over all the ground with you, that I have gone over, in thought alone. I love to have a good, full, fair laying down &out or all such practical matters; and if I make mistakes I want to be told of them! But I need not in closing this long letter, accuse you, that whatever you may see reasons for advising in regard to any point herein mentioned, I shall at once and cordially adapt. I hope you know, dear Mr. Palmer, that that point is forever established in the head, and the heart of Your ever affectionate and grateful ward
on embossed letterhead
Albany, Monday Eve. Oct. 13, 1851.
My dearest Guardian -
Hattie tells me that she told you in her last letter of my warm intentions towards your head! However a much less benevolent impetus than that one, prompts my pen tonight. I write - not because I had resolved to write, but because I cannot help writing. Oh, how much I wish that I could sit down tonight on my cricket by your side, and talk - or rather, listen. Tonight is the last night of my twenty first year, dear Mr. Palmer! Is it not a dream, that three years ago, I went, a sad, unamiable, half-misanthropic, silent girl of eighteen, to my new home in New York! Now like a living procession, all passing before me tonight - all the [s...ts ], all the changes, of the interval; I am a mystery to myself - perhaps to others; my life before that time seems to me now, just like one great hurried confused medley of mistakes, wrong doings - wishes - aspirations, vanities, absurdities, miseries; and yet it passed along year after year, very much like lives in general; and the thought of the time since is but little happier; externally the life has been more correct, though it has not suffered, I find, to do away some of the impassions of the older follies. I know that my spirit is more in tune with humanity than it used to be; but it is little more so with itself; such hours as this tonight, just take me by force and sit me down, way back, with all fancied improvements, and fancied acquiescents, and fancied superiority, out of sight. I wonder if mine is but the common experience of every model who has head enough to see what life is made of, and heart enough to feel what he himself is, and is to be; I know just what, and just all that you would say, my dear dear Guardian - were I saying this tonight instead of writing it; and this reminds me of that last long good talk that we had; I thought at the time, and I have thought again and again, since, that I did not then express my idea quite clearly to you. I do not mean that if I were to attempt to live the life of a Christian, I should be distressed by the comparison of my own standard with that of other Christians. Miss Lyon, for example; I should not feel that I must do just such and such things because other Christians had done them, and therefore they were proofs of entire devotion to Christ. The feeling that I refer to, would exist, if there were not another subject - besides myself, under the divine government; as nearly as [one?] can [en..y] it, it would be this, though I despair of being able to give it consecrated and intelligible utterance. “For me - my individual self - there can be no true religion, without the entire - absolute - unconditional, devotion of every power, every energy to it; - whatever sphere others may think their duty lies in, I am sure; - I know - that I could never believe myself a Christian, until, I, literally, steadily, lived for Christ; and it seems to me - now - I am [ent...], that I could never make the simple thing of leading a religious life of ordinary duties - doing just as I used to do before, in most things, but doing it in a different spirit & to the glory of God, even like living for Christ. If I am interested in any pursuit - I devote whole days - evoke entire energies to it; not, to the going about other things, with a sort of quiet mental - and heart - (too) acknowledgment of the supremacy of this one - but with a real intense direct effort for it. If I do this, for the acquirement of a language - of an art - or anything of that sort, how much more earnest and suited ought my efforts to be, when I profess to do all in my power for the cause of religion! Now there are ten thousand things, not wrong in themselves, but which I should feel were inconsistent, at least, would be so, in me, with such a religion as the above, but which I love and which I know, I am not ready to give up; I love dress; I love company, not merely social life, but gay exciting company; I love all sorts of reading; I love simply intellectual exertion, without any view to an end; I love - (and I am speaking dear Mr. Palmer almost as to a second conscience;) admiration - not flattery - but that tribute which I have often had, to traits which I know all the while, are no real [.....] in me; I love, in short - the world; I know I am not willing to give it up; and to “give it up” with me, would and must mean, if it meant anything - such a course as this: I should feel that I ought to [...] just as plainly as a person can, without offending propriety; I should not think that even taste ought to be much consulted; I should feel that I ought at once to engage in active execution for the cause of Christ - in a missionary field, or something of that sort, and devote my life, till the end; then comes up the thought - “all are not required or needed to be missionaries - why are you;” - I know it - and yet, I cannot help the feeling, that of me, nothing less, would be a full remuneration; I must give up all pride of appearance - of wealth and station, (for which my heart does long!) all intellectual vanity - in short, for all this detail amounts to but one thing - I must be another creature. I cannot but know that I am unwilling to do this - yet in the same moment, I say to myself that I wish I was willing to do it; then I at once accuse myself of the absurdity of wishing to wish a thing - of willing to will! - And yet I have to come back after all, to the firm conviction, that till I am willing to do all this, I cannot, cannot, have the slightest reason to feel that I am a Christian. And so all these thoughts and aspirations upward, and slipings downward - and doubts and mysteries, go through and through my heart and brain; sometimes I think I have looked so long at them all, that my feelings, or rather my ideas have become morbid - and unhealthy; but then that seems like a treacherous manoeuver of my head to persuade itself that less is required of me than really is. And with such thoughts as these - such a dear deliberate perception of what my reason tells me I ought to do, but what my equally deliberate and dear consciousness replies, that I cannot do, how must my prayers fall on the ear of God? Can it be, that it is right at all, for me to offer up petitions when in calm deliberation I have to admit to myself that I am not ready to have them granted! Yet I cling to the thought that I will at least obey one command - and I sometimes do feel, as if I could sincerely pray - Oh, Lord make me desire to love thee” - but then a moments reason shows me as before the logical absurdity of such a prayer. And that is the substance of what I had in my heart that day dear Mr. Palmer - but which I know I did not, could not fully say; and it is a train of thought which often often flashes through my mind, in an instant, as it will and which often and often comes also, in the slow sure steps of a long hour of reflection. And in the meantime my life is spending! But my dear guardian, I cannot realize that I have written so unreservedly; I have ceased to apologize for the confidence that I pour out to you; I know now the kindness which receives it; but it is strange to me, that even to you, I should or can speak thus; And shall you think me doing wrong if I ask that this letter may not be shown, even to dear Mrs. Palmer? of I should be happiest to have you do as you think best, and of course you are at entire liberty to do so, but still, this is the most unreserved out pouring of the deepest, most sacred thoughts & sorrows of my soul, and the heart cannot freely and gladly put such a trust in more than one. Oh, Mr. Palmer, what should I do, were it not for you!
My life here is going to be, so far as I can prove, a very happy and quiet, and so far as externals go, improving one. I have plenty of employment - practice, study, and writing, and as soon as an artist arrives, who is expected already, I shall have also, my painting. All this is right, and it fills a great great part of the void in my heart, and yet the thought often saddens me, what is it all for! But do not think that I am gloomy and disheartened, either externally or in spirit, because I have written this. I am not. I have laid out a plan for the winter of industrious exertion, in accordance with the best of my views, of what my character and mind needed, and I ought to be cheerful in its prosecution. The feelings which have welled over tonight are those which under-lie the whole; and which have been tossing there, in greater or less commotion for years. --
I have a plan of giving myself a little treat in the way of a visit of a few days to New York, next month, if you have no objection. Mr. Ray is going down; at least he talks very decidedly of it; I received last spring a very pressing invitation from Mrs. Brown the mother of one of the young ladies in the family, to visit them there. I could not stay there, on account of my visit at Worcester, but more than half promised to visit them at their country residence in Stanford, some time during the summer, which I have failed to do. And I quite fear that I shall lose my welcome if I do not go this winter. Then Jennie is going to be there, too, and we shall plan it so as to have our visits come together which would be a great inducement. I have really felt sometimes since I reached Albany as if I could not sleep another night, within such easy distance of New York. I never look on the blue waves of the Hudson without thinking as they hurry by, that in a few more hours, they will gash against the Battery piers, and break on the shore of Hoboken, and I have countless impatience to float down with them! But my dear Mr. Palmer, I must say goodnight, for it is long past ten, Hattie is sound asleep. I will add a few words more in the morning - the morning of my twenty first birth day! Oh, if it was only the eighteenth! Good night. Yours ever affectionately, and trustingly. Helen.
Tues. Morning. Before breakfast. [On same paper]
We have at last dear Mr. Palmer; a clear bright invigorating day, and I feel already like a new creation. I must not however stop to discuss the weather, now for it wants but a few moments of breakfast time, and I must finish my letter before. My last words are purely miscellany, and therefore will the better bear being hurried. - Oh, this allowance business, dear Mr. Palmer! My money is all gone but about $.2.00, and you cannot imagine how many things I have gone without, that I wanted. I do not dare to have the whole $45.00 sent on at once, for I am sure I should spend it all next month, and have to shiver penniless, through summer! But I should like to have you send me $.35.00 in your next letter; that will leave me a ten dollar bill to fall back on! And there is one thing which I meant to have asked you about when I was in Boston; last spring when Jennie Abbot had her music bound up, by some oversight, mine was all carried & bound with hers; this was quite a loss to me without being anything of an acquisition to her; and it left me destitute of all, except an old book, which I have had for years; however, the only thing which I care about replacing, is my set of Czency’s Variations; that I really want to get, but I suppose the cost of as many as I lost would be at least $5.00, and do you think I ought to take that out of my allowance? It seems to me rather hard. Mr. John, at the time, told Jennie to count the pages, and pay me for it, but in the hurry of them leaving, she very naturally forgot it, and I of course would not speak of it. - So if you think this is a just claim, will you send me the money? If you do not, please tell me so, and I will squeeze it out somewhere else, only I fear the result will tend to diminish the size of my music portfolio.
Our washing bill, or rather mine, progresses fairly. One good lady of the suds, likes to be paid once a week, and I have a pang regularly, as often as I have to take “my money” even temporarily to pay for washing; I keep a strict account though of every bill, and once a month, I shall send it to you, to be refunded. I guess you would laugh, to see how I puzzle over my account book! As soon as I come home, I run directly to it, and put down the items, and then with a sort of nervous anxiety count my cash. I have three pages - commenced in it - one where I put down every cent that I spend - another for a mem. of washing; another for charity, so that I shall know when I have given just one tenth; this last page makes me laugh whenever I turn to it, for it has “charities” in large letters over the top, and then underneath, the excessively moderate donation of 25 cts to the Tract Society! I never can give to the Tract Society with any very good grace, because I always think that my part of the contribution may chance to go towards buying paper for Mr. Bliss to write sermons or reports on! And apropos to paper - I never knew before how much I need; I am really terrified at the rapidity with which it disappears. But goodbye, my dear dear guardian; I have written you a strange strange letter; however, it has come right from my heart, both the sad thoughts of last night, and the almost merry feelings of this clear, bright morning. You have now, putting my two letters together, an epistle of seventeen pages to reply to! Of course I don’t expect a reply of like length, but I do hope to hear from you as soon as you can find time to write.
Oh, one thing I had entirely forgotten. I wrote to Annie to send me a 25 cent bottle of Dunbar’s ink from [Scuress?]; why did she not send it? Perhaps she thought it was no matter, but it is; I cannot get the real article, here, and what I am now writing with is very poor. There is no ink that will compare with it in my estimation; and if it will not be too much trouble, will you give her to send with it a copy of father’s memoirs? I saw Dr. Sprague yesterday, and he expressed a great interest in him and said that he had written several letters to Dr. Hitchcock, to get from him, a letter of recollections [comm...] which he might put into the work which he is preparing “Lives of eminent ministers” or something of the sort. I thought that under the circumstances, it would be perhaps proper and polite for me to give him a memoir. And give me credit dear Mr. Palmer, for curbing my tongue, for when he alluded to Dr. H’s taking no notice of his letters, I did not say one word!
Give my love to Annie, and ask her if this is the way she is going to keep the resolution of writing every other Saturday! Her last Saturday’s letter has not come yet. Once more and finally, with love to all, Good bye, my dear guardian (still!) from
Your ever affectionate and grateful Helen.
On the whole, I think I will say $30.00, instead of $35.00 as I wrote, then I shall be still safer! Helen.
Albany, Sabbath Evening, Nov. 9, 51
My dearest guardian,
I have rarely had a greater disappointment in the epistolary line, than I experienced last Sabbath in not being able owing to an inflamed eye to write to you. I had been calculating for more than a week to write to you on that evening, and I had a heart full of things to say. It has been a little unusual for me to be a debtor so long at least to you; but my hours and days have been so wholly occupied that I have been obliged to write hurried letters to all, and to some none at all. It seems too as if every body in the world had written to me since I came to Albany; I have been obliged to open a letter book, in which I set down all letters received and their dates, and the dates of my replies to them, and since the first of October I have received over thirty. And there are 20 few hours in a day here, dear Mr. Palmer, that we are forced to live, all of us, in one great melancholy search after time; let me give you a little outline of my occupations for each day; from eight till half past nine I practice; from half past nine till half past ten I write on my French translation, (I believe I have not told you about this Mr. Molinaid’s [?] terms for private lessons were $25.00 per quarter which I judged it wholly improper for me to give; and I did not wish to join a class; so I concluded to devote all the time I could span for French to the translation of a book, which your brother recommended to me, and of which he had himself commenced the translations. It is “Essays on the Difficulties of the Pentateuch,” and will as it seems to me a very useful work; but don’t tell anybody of this dear Mr. Palmer, nor laugh at me, if when I see you again, you ask after its fate, and I tell you that it fell through!) From half past ten till twelve I dress and do miscellaneous things, and from twelve tine one practice. At one we dine; after dinner we meet in the study for an hour or so, and read aloud; we are now reading the History of Germany; we take a walk almost every afternoon, and tea time comes before we know it. Our evenings are of course interrupted more or less; when we do not go out, nor have any callers, I write one more hour on my translations. Now where is my painting coming in? For come in it must if that invisible artist ever marks his appearance! I do not want to diminish the time for my music or for my French, but I very much fear that I shall be obliged to. You see dear Mr. Palmer that I am not wholly idle; and you know me well enough to be sure that with such pursuits, and such friends, I cannot be unhappy. My life here is beautiful without being monotonous at all. I have made some very pleasant friends, and I foresee that if I remain here any length of time, I shall have quite a large circle of desirable acquaintance; this you know is just what I longed for. I hope I am not insensible to the kindness of a Providence, which has by so many changes opened for me, just such a home at just such a time. Now my dear Mr. Palmer, I wish I could know just what emotions arose in you heart as you read that last line; I have sometimes have the feeling that I would not express such a sentiment as that to you; that knowing as you do all the state of my unsubdued spirit, it must seem to you either like hypocrisy or like presumption for me to utter a feeling, or to think that I have a feeling of gratitude towards God in anything. Any yet it does seem to me that I have such feelings, such emotions, sincere and true; and this leads me to the subject of part of you last kind letter; thank you dear Mr. Palmer for those, as for all the other similar words you have spoken to me. I do not believe it possible for any one to exactly understand my feelings on that point, ie, the course which it would be necessary for me to pursue, if I were a Christian. Last night is the first time since I came that your brother has attempted really to find out the state of my maid; you know the utter impossibility of my speaking to anyone of such things; I had been dreading the time when he would do this ever since I came and it has been all the while a perfect weight on all our talks, my fear that they would lead to this topic; I could not say one word; but sat and wept, and he relinquished the attempt, deeply pained I know, at what, to a perfectly open soul like his, could seem like nothing but cold reserve and a chilling repulse of affectionate interest; I could not endorse the thought of making such a return for all his kindness, and I sat up until long after midnight writing to him, what I could not say; but it was not a spontaneous confidence, though it was a complete one; and I do not feel happy that it was done; though I knew duty and gratitude and affection all required it. He had written me today, the kindest of all letters, and I am glad on the whole, that it happened for he know now, that my reserve does not spring from a repellant disposition and that I am grateful for his kindness. But he does not understand my feelings at all; and I could never again allude to them to him without pain; what strangely constituted creatures we are, and how strange is this matter of confidence and trust! Hence my dear dear guardian, can I tell you all that I face when I think what a friend I have found in you. Much at I have come to you with tales of all kinds, I do not thing that you can fully realize the perfect rest it is to my heart, to know that you are willing to listen ready to direct. But I would not burden you with repetitions, and weary you of the very idea that you have won my love and confidence.
Various causes have conspired to prevent your brother’s going to New York. Had he gone when he first contemplated, I should not have gone, in consequences of your opinions which Helen told me as directed! Will not some of those opinions be lessened, in view of his going next week and of my going with him and Mrs. Palmer, simply to stay a day and a half at the Hotel with them, and then come back with them, but the way of New Haven to see Charlie, being absent in all not more than four or five days? I want to go for the following reasons, to see about getting a cloak (a common every day article), to get my winter hat, and to get Miss Jones to make a dress; I cannot get anything at all to my satisfaction or to are advantage here; and a dressmaker, tat I would trust, I cannot find. Mrs. Palmer herself is unable yet to get her silk made and thinks of taking it to New York. I have not commenced my painting lessons and there fore I shall not break in upon any engagements of that sort, but after Jones commences taking lessons, I shall be very anxious to keep on without any interruption until it is time for summer recreations. I cannot go to Mrs. Brown’s even were I disposed so to do, for Carrie has not answered my letter, which I think very strange indeed. The fare on the boats is now but $1.00, .50 for fare and .50 for a state room! Which is quite a consideration. But as soon as they stop running, the fare in the cars will be raised they say, to quite a high rate. I have never seen New Haven either and should like very much to visit it. Now are not all these pretty good reasons dear Mr. Palmer? Oh, I wish I were sitting in that little chair by the sofa, and telling them over, instead of writing them, out in cold length, and perhaps tediously, on paper! One thing I have ventured to do, or rather to conclude to do with Mr. Ray’s concurrence, and that is to contemplate taking a few riding lessons; a new school has just been opened here, where the accommodations tell excellent, and they have a good teacher; I thought at first that I would simply go, as we used to in Boston, now and then for an exercise ride; but I found out, by inquiring that the charge of an exercise ride is 75 cts, and only 87 ½ cts for a lesson, if you take fifteen. If you take lessons, the teacher rides with you the whole hour, and devotes his entire attention to you; and it seems to be worth more than the difference; I thought that as I had given up my French lessons. I might afford to take them instead and Mr. Ray agreed with me. So I have partly made arrangements with a Miss. Walker a very pleasant young lady to go with me, but I have not gone any farther in the preliminaries and I should not have gone even thus far, had it not been for that weak eye, last Sabbath evening! However, it is just such a care that I am sure you would not have the slightest objection to it, so long at the arrangements met Mr. Ray’s approval. The lessons are reasonable for lessons, though they are very high for exercise rides. I suppose it must be paid in advance; shall I ask your brother to lend me the money $12.50 and then you send it to me to refund to him, or shall I ask him to “charge it in the bill”?
I have written to Annie to send my furs on pretty soon, for it is cold cold here already. I suppose you have not forgotten that they were stipulated for, last fall! If I go to New York, I may need them next week. It is better for Annie to get them in Boston, because we know Osgood, and can buy there to an advantage. And New York is no marker for furs, because they need them thus so little of the winter.
I have filled two pages, or rather four, in my account book! Our fooling up comes most gloriously even, and the other won’t balance! I shall have to leave it in its entanglement and start again! I am cheered in my poverty, by the remembrance that there is still a small residue; but how long it will be thus, will very soon become a practical question.
I had a long and noble letter from Henry Root on Friday. He does write magnificently! He sent me a criticism on Emerson which I meant to copy and send to you, but it is too late tonight. He hears from John Sanford quite often, and his letters, I fancy, hear quite constant witness to his interest in one Miss. Annie Fiche! Annie wrote me that Aunt Vinal had made her promise that when he came up at Thanksgiving, she would bring him over to Charlestown to see her! Is it not rather strange? Annie says “it is only four weeks!” I hope they won’t get fairly married before I see them. There, my dear Mr. Palmer, I did not mean to say that’ “it whistled itself” excuse me; and don’t please don’t let Annie know that I told you anything about Mr. Sanford. Henry has been sick with a fever and out of college a fortnight; was it not a hard dispensation in his peculiar circumstances?
It is after ten, and my eyes feel the effect of their last nights toil, and besides that dear Mr. Palmer, I have written you a long letter. I do not think it is a very interesting one, no very well written; but you will excuse all imperfections, and believe that it has come, right from the heart, of your ever affectionate and grateful Helen! My love to Mrs. Palmer and Lucy. I enclose a word to Annie, asking her to get my furs directly. I suppose you will respond to any call she makes on you, in that connection? Once more, goodnight and goodbye, with the sincere love of,
Albany, Tues. Morning, Dec. 30, 1851
My dear Guardian,
I was made quite happy by the receipt of you last letter; happy in more senses than one, relieved from a frightful pecuniary pressure, delighted by a long epistle form you. I hoped to have replied to it by Hattie, but between Hattie, Duke, Annie, and Charlie, I found little time to do anything but talk, and listen to talk! And now this morning, I must write in more haste than I like because my letter is destined to preclude [?] an important event, and must reach you tomorrow morning without fail. You must know that all the interesting occurrences of the last fortnight are to receive their climacteric cap, tonight, by the arrival of Mr. Henry D. Root from New York, on his way East! Of course Annie could not lose such an excellent opportunity such entertaining company, for the sake of two days more of our society here; nor could we think of wishing her to make such a sacrifice; therefore she has decided to go on with him tomorrow. He will leave her at Springfield. I suppose, and so she will be at the mercy of the darkness and the cab men, at the Depot in Boston, unless some one of her Crescent Place friends can meet her. I feel very sorry to have her visit here shortened, even for a day or two; but still I think it is best; she feels that she must have Saturday at home, to make preparations for school; thus she must leave on Friday morning, where there would be barely a change of her finding any company, to say nothing of this unpleasantness of “being put under” anybody’s care! However she does not seem to fancy the idea of being here New Years day, and setting bolt upright in the parlor from morning till night to be introduced to strangers, at which I do not much wonder. So, on all accounts it seems to be not undesirable that she should avail herself of such an unexceptionable cavalier, as Mr. Root, even through his services can extend over only half of the route.
What a strange winter this has turned out after all! First my visit to New York; then Hatties coming back and your and Lucy’s call; then Annies and Dukes arrival; then Charlies; then Hatties and Dukes departure; now Henry Roots coming, next Lucy’s; and then before February, I think Mr. John will come and Jennie Fox may come to make me a visit; and then it will be spring! And so the time and the plans, and the aspirations go! In the meantime, I enjoy a great deal in all this coming, and going, and seeing, and loving; but when I think of all that I have purposed of all that I would and I think, might be and do, my heart sighs, for some “lodge” where I might flee, not to “rest,” but to work. However I have about ceased to make myself uncomfortable by such repining; I look upon all that happens, as a necessary part of a course which is to fit me for what fallows; and though I may sometimes doubt, if a better system might not be followed, still I am gradually growing fatalistically submissive, to the tide of my affairs! I hope I shall not be disappointed in the matter of Jennie Fox’s visit; I wish Mr. Palmer, that you knew here; if her letters were not so sacredly confidential, so much the unveiling of her timid life, I would love to have you read them. I have often regretted since you were here that I did not read to you passages from them; I have done so to Mrs. Palmer and she is almost as much charmed with her character as I, and is very anxious to have her come. I cannot tell you how much I love her’ sometimes I wonder how we happened to live in the world so long without knowing each other! She probably has faults, being mortal, but I do not know them; her character seems to me, perfect. Her piety is different from any I have ever seen in any female friend; oh how you would love that in her!
We are having quite an addition to our social banquet in the presence of Dr. Band, who is delivering lectures here, and makes his home with us. He is certainly one of the loveables; yesterday, I had the honor of copying for him, the articles (only fourteen in number) of an agreement of transfer between his society and the Evangelical Society in France. You would have laughed to have seen how many times I made mistakes and had to “begin again.” Last night we attended his first lecture; it was on France and Louis Napoleon and of course intensely interesting.
Annie’s visit has been quite a sunbeam; I resolutely shut my mental eyes to all prospective views of the darkness which must follow; that is, I try to: nevertheless, I am quite sure that I shall take a short trim in the slough, which all mortals, since the days of Banyan, have been forced to navigate occasionally. I think Annie likes Albany better than she did before; though she has been very unfortunate in having a sore throat ever since she came; it is surely a little singular that the only two she ever had in her life, should have attacked her here. We dispatched Hatties couch yesterday, quite loaded up with a heterogeneous assortment of articles that were life behind! Hope it will arrive in safety and soon.
Annie and I concluded that a pit knife would be the best present for hid Ann; and I accordingly gave Duke an order for one. We also thought that we ought to give Aunt Vinal some thing of the sort; and that it would not do to have much difference between the two gifts; auntie is old and sensitive; we concluded therefore to send her a pie knife too. Duke also has a commission from me for a Watch Key, for Mrs. Palmer a portfolio for your brother, and a tooth pick for Charlie, all of which you will endorse, will you not? Charlie is waiting for this letter and I must close. I enclose a note from Mrs. Fox. I think you will feel as I do, that it is a remarkably well written note, for a lady fifty-eight years of age, and is also a gratifying token of interest. I knew, when I read that partly, what had make Jennie! Don’t read the nonsense on the outside, which Eliza scribbled; she is a harum scarum body.
That note was accompanied by a most urgent invitation from Jennie, W. and E. seconding there mothers; am I not heroic not to go on with Annie tomorrow and stay till Lucy comes on?
Give my love to Hattie & Lucy, and believe me, my dearest Guardian, now as ever, and ever, as no
Your affectionate and grateful ward
Three notes are to be sent with the gifts, to Charlestown. I hope Duke will not fail to have the others reach Albany tomorrow!
Albany Sab. Eve. Jan. 11, 1852
My dear Mr. & Mrs. P.,
I had hoped and intended to take this evening, to acknowledge the beautiful presents which I received from you at New Years. But my good, and dear friend Jennie Fox has been visiting me since Thursday, and we have been tonight to hear your brother’s “Sermon on the Times”, and therefore both fatigue, and the feeling that I ought not to neglect her for a sufficient length of time, prevents me from writing as I had desired.
To say that I thank you both is but an unmeaning expression, though true; to say that my heart is daily grateful for the blessing God has bestowed on my life, you your kind interest and care, is more nearly the utterance of what I feel, though even this is not all. There are emotions which cannot be expressed, and sentiments which are not made for words, and such seems to me, an intense gratitude. It cam be know, but poorly told..
My visit from Jennie is a God send. I wish you both knew her, for I am sure you would love her so well. I do not think I am apt to think all my friends perfect, but I cannot see any fault in Jennie. Of course I have a general conviction that all mortals have faults, and that she, being mortal, is not exempt, but this is the only way in which I am convinced of it.
I shall write to you, dear Mr. Palmer, again, as soon as Jennie leaves. In the meantime, accept my affectionate thanks for the New Years tokens, and believe me, now as ever, in all love and sincerity yours,
On embossed letterhead
My dear Mr. Palmer ,
The solidities of the household, that is, Mr. and Mrs. Dominic, and the Deacon’s daughter have gone to the lecture room, to the usual Wednesday night prayer-meeting. Jennie and I (she being as you know somewhat of an invalid, and I being “indisposed”) are all alone at home, snugly established in our little room, which you remember of old, but which looks now much cozier and more sociable than when you saw it, from the addition of the most bewitching little open coal stove you can conceive. I fancy it is after the same pattern as the one before which “Ik Marvel” sat, while composing the “Reveries of a Bachelor”, and I am sure he must have burned just the same coal that we do, for I see exactly such things, every night, as he describes. So you will not, or at any rate, need not, be surprised if in the course of a few months, a work issues from the Albany Press, bearing no name, but simply the title “Reveries of an Old Maid”! However to go back, as women have to do so often, to my starting point, Jennie and I are most comfortably established before this self same bright coal grate. Jennie is engaged in composing a diminutive epistle, to her little sister, at home, to accompany a ring, (which we bought this morning, not at Tood & Hobey’s”!) and I am, as you see, most delightfully occupied in doing what I have been wanting to do for many days. It seems as if everything has happened since I wrote to you, and yet I hardly know of any one incident which is really worth recording in balck and white. I certainly feel indebted to that lady commonly called fickle, “Fortune”, for she has in one way and another continued to pace in my way, a great many very pleasant things of late. All our New Years’ mirth you have heard the echo of, long before this. Annie’s visit was quite a glance of sunlight, and what is rare in most cases, the Root which followed after was no damper to it all. But seriously though, and aside from that bad pun, I did enjoy seeing Mr. Root very much - and not merely for the pleasure of seeing him. I wish you had been here, or could know and feel all that I do, however this is digression No. 2. - Then came our clerical party; fortune only half smiled then, for she did not take the trouble to put off that raging snow storm which labored from Tuesday morning till Tuesday night to encompass all the highways and byways through which our guests were to come! So we had fewer here. My dear friend Mary Sprague was not able to brave the storm, and thus my enjoyment was incomplete; however we had a very pleasant party, (don’t ministers enjoy themselves, though, once in a while!) Creek and Mohican met as friends - Dr. Campbell and Dr. Kennedy, &c. &c. By the way, I’m very sorry that I took such an unutterable antipathy to Dr. Campbell, for if it was not for the humiliation of forsaking past positions I should like him! We had quite a famous reconciliation on the matter of strict recognitions of each other, and you would laugh now to see how much of the length of Hudson Shed we take up, in preparing for, and finally making, our respective salutes !! - But after all, I cannot quite forget what that worthy old man, General Jackson said of him! - Next came a family dinner at the Hon. Bradford R. Woods’ a week ago today, where we had a delightful time. It is a little singular that Mr. Wood is the only gentleman in Albany whom I really admire, and his lady the only lady whom I love, and they seem to be the most interested of any persons we have met, in us. Reciprocity is a great law, is it not? Then, interspersed along through the whole time, were divers calls from pleasant people, and the good genial presence of Dr. Baird. Thursday night brought my dear Jennie! - I feel like filling up the rest of my letter in telling you about her, and yet I do not feel like saying anything about her, for all I should say, would be so inadequate, both to her, and to my feelings. I thought, last summer, that I loved her as well as I ever could, but it seems to me now, that I regarded her then as only an acquaintance. You will smile, and ejaculate internally something about “these girls, and their rhapsodical friendships, as you read this, I suppose, but, Mr. Palmer, it is no such sort of a thing, in regard to Jennie, and if you knew her, you would think her just as perfect as I do, I am morally certain, and you could love her too, in some respects better than I can, for there would be such harmony in your spiritual natures; she is more like you , in her religious feelings, and in the peculiar manner of their expressions, than any person I ever knew.
William came on with Jennie - and spent Thursday night and Friday in Albany. (not here however!) Friday afternoon I went down to a fur store here with him, and selected a set of furs for Jennie, just like mine, as a New Year’s present from him. We look quite sisterly in them I assure you - and I think all the more of mine because she has some like them. - Oh, how the hours flew by Saturday and Sunday and Monday! Monday, Mrs. Wood sent word that she was very anxious to have Mrs. Palmer take “her young ladies” to call on the Governor’s lady, who held a general levee the next forenoon, and if we would go, she would call for us in the carriage, and introduce us! Was not this very kind? So at twelve o’clock yesterday, we stepped into Mr. Wood’s elegant sleigh, all arranged in our “very best” (we, not the carriage! I think it is a favorite blunder of mine, to disarrange all descriptive clauses!) and drove to Elk St. - In five minutes we had been in - out - and off - and I had given vent to my feelings in a remark as follows - “Well, I’ve seen a live governor’s lady” at which Mrs. Wood apparently was a little uncertain whether to let her aristocratic sentiments be shocked, at such naivete, and green simplicity, or to permit her common sense and appreciation of the ludicrous, to be amused, at the idea! - After the call, we took a long ride, up the Troy road; to be sure, the winds were strong enough to topple over an iceberg, and the thermometer had gone down after [mo--] zero, and the sun shone in our eyes half of the time, and the driver kept poising his elbows against the crowns of our hats, but then, it was a sleigh ride in a Senator’s sleigh with a span of bay horses and a driver, too, and of course it was glorious! What with the overwhelming - ity of the call on the governor’s lady, and the effect of the subsequent ride, I was quite “used up”, to use a colloquial vulgarity, and took a nap after dinner which lasted till nearly tea time. Just before tea, Mr. William Sprague happened in - (on the very important errand of inviting us to a grand sleigh ride, which came off, on Friday evening.) And, after a little urging, staid to tea. And then ensued a scene which if you had witnessed, would I really think, have aroused in your mind serious apprehensions for the sanity of your brothers’ family. I never saw Mrs. Palmer so near hysterics, and I am sure I never more narrowly escaped them myself - while as for the rest, they laughed till the tears rolled! The simple mystery was - we couldn’t eat up the New Year’s cake! I suppose you have seen these cakes, here or in New York, if not, Annie or Hattie can describe them to you; and I will go on to state, though I can never enable you to half conceive, how ever since New Years’ day, a plate of New Year’s cake has been a fixture on our tea table - how last night, it came on time to its office, and piled up in lines higher than usual - how, with one accord we all fell to work, with the firm resolve that it should be fairly demolished - how we passed it back and forth - and forth and back - and by means of copious draughts of water, and much striving, actually emptied the plate save two pieces - all the while laughing at ourselves and each other, so that we could barely swallow and moreover having literally eaten almost to the limit of human capacity! Here ended the first act of the comedy, by our adjourning precipitately to the parlor. In a few moments Mr. Sprague left, and we sank down upon chairs and sofas in a state of complete exhaustion. - this state of things continued for perhaps half an hour, when a sudden ring at the door was followed by the delivery of a large package directed to me, from which when opened, rolled out - a huge New Year’s cake - round and brown, and bearing among other marvelous designs, the similitude of a horse and his rider! A daguerreotype of the scene might give you an idea of it, words never could - Mrs. Palmer on the floor - Lucy and Jennie clinging to chairs for support and I, volunteering scarcely extempore performances, such as jumping up and down, whirling round, screaming, and the like! Oh it was a rare combination, I assure you!
This forenoon Jennie & I spent at the Daguerror’s room, and we, or rather I have had such excellent luck that I am going to by [sic] again tomorrow. I feel that I really achieved quite a triumph in getting Jennie, for she has never before had one taken for any friend. Will you and Mrs. Palmer accept one of my poor despicable photos, if I succeed in getting another good one tomorrow. I have wanted to give you something which should mark my appreciation and my love, but I could think of nothing which would be of any worth as a present, and therefore I have selected something entirely worthless, knowing that it will testify more than any thing else, the one feeling in my heart - the happy trust that, you do love me - faults and all - a little. If it speaks truly the thoughts which will be in my heart, as I did for it, it will say many loving and grateful words to you.
And now my dear Mr. Palmer - goodnight - I must say. It does my heart glad to think how much you are in my debt now, and what a beautiful letter I shall one day get. Do not let it be “long looked for” - I shall await its coming impatiently.
Annie’s letter for this week has not yet made its appearance, give my love to her, and remind her of this fact. Lucy sends love, acknowledges your letter, and says she will do as you directed about answering it. “Once more” “at length” “finally” with much much love - goodnight.
Yours ever affectionate Helen.
P.S. - This letter is a rambling and a laughing one, dear Mr. Palmer, but you will take it, as a handscript of our mood, for you know I have others!
[To Julius Pamer, Esq.
On embossed letterhead
Albany, March, 1852
My dearest Guardian,
Your last letter came like a rich as [yosy?] from some fabulous Tyre, freighted with all materials for the erection of most gorgeous castles - in the air! - And in the vaults and dungeons of those same castles, (if there be vaults in air castles!) do I deserve to be chained for a while, to punish me for not, ere this, replying to your kind and more than welcome letter! I do not know whether to apologize or not; reasons innumerable have conspired to prevent me from writing; - all good and substantial and wholly insurmountable at the time - and yet most of them too vague to be condensed into the form of a “written excuse”. So I shall throw myself on your mercy, and faith in my good intentions, and proceed to the discussion of matters more interesting than apologies!
This journey to the West! Oh, my dear Mr. Palmer, do you know how glorious a project it seemeth unto me? I have spent long hours in thinking it all over, and projecting all the little details; it will be so peculiarly pleasant to me, too, from the fact that so great a portion of the distance will be by steamboat and stage, my favorite modes of locomotion. “the ducats” Alas - “the ducats”; their grim visages peer at me occasionally, with a sort of “you’d better-count-us-up” expression which makes me feel a little uncomfortable in the region of the place on my head where the bump of prudence ought to have been put in! However, I do not think such calculating ought ever to interfere with plans for travelling! - There are some other matters however on which they bear - and in connection with which I have a few statements to make, but shall defer them until tomorrow morning and then “subjoin” them on a separate piece of paper - partly because I do not care to go very deeply into such details tonight, and partly because I cannot do so satisfactorily without a reference to your brothers cashbook! - That woful [sic] bill of Mr. Arnolds I shall send back by your brother tomorrow, instead of sending it by the mail; it would seem a pity to pay postage on it! I suppose it is all right, for I have perfect confidence in the honesty of the firm, and of course, after this interval of time, it is utterly impossible for me to recollect whether on such and such dates, I purchased a skein of silk, a yard of cotton &c; but yet I must admit that I was completely amazed at the amount.
As to the details of our trip, I have only two observations to offer, above and beyond my unexpressible gratitude for the opportunity. The first is that I most sincerely hope we shall not start before the 12th of April; and the second - the humbler of all petitions that you will not be inexorable in the matter of the addition of a small hat-box (not bandbox.) to our “one trunk”; for Luly and I both consider it indispensable. Of course on such a journey we must wear old hats, or ruin new; and of course, in the lapse of six weeks we shall have occasion to attend church, which would create a necessity for the conveyance of suitable apparel, to say nothing of the demand for it, in consequence of our stay in New York - Philadelphia &c. &c. ... Oh, I have ever so many things to tell you dearest Mr. Palmer, which I can’t tell in a letter, at least, which I don’t want to tell you in a letter when I am going to see you in a month, and can talk them all over. I have led a strange kind of a life for the last six weeks; I am glad we are going away so soon; I need it sadly. I have almost come to the conclusion that it is of no earthly use to plan for anything here, except to have all your plans broken up; if you start with that end in view, you’ll not run much risk of failing to attain it! Yet Life looks very differently to me now, from what it did last fall. I have seen very many new phases of men and things, and there have been times in the course of the winter, when the whole world - society - humanity - have seemed to me like a great babble which would bust in a few minutes more, if I only stood by long enough to see! Dear Mr. John’s visit was a substantiality however in the way of pleasure, which might make one a believer in realities! And now - he is on the far wave - his first Sabbath night at sea! How little he realized the “viewless companie” which travel over and with him - or warm and loving thoughts, and best wishes, and blessings in the shape of prayers. I doubt if any ever went away from his own country, bearing about him more of such talismans than he. - He proposes now to return in six months, but I presume it will be nine before we see him again. - In that time how many changes may be written!
We are having quite a disagreeable postscript to the winter just at present. Anything but a March snow and blow storm! I feel it peculiar being confined to the house by an Albany malady in the shape of a cold - with sundry attendant symptoms of rash which are intolerably intolerable! I cling to Homoepathy still, in spite of your brothers shrugs and shrinks and insinuations! What a queer compound his medical theory is! I never knew anything half so anomalous; turpentine and Castor oil one day - belladonna and Nax the best -; calomel, the third; then Hydropathy -; then camphor and hot applications - and then some heterogenious pills or other, made by a doctor in Oswego! It is I think most earnestly to be hoped that he will never “leave off preaching for practice.”!
But my dearest Guardian - I must say Goodnight - for the hands of my watch are ominously near the long hour; I have written you a poor sort of a letter I think, but the things that I am thinking most about, as I told you - I cannot tell you in a letter; but I do want to see you so much! And my outside thoughts are desultory in the extreme! In the morning I will add a few lines more; till then, Goodbye - and Goodnight - from your loving and grateful - Helen.
The sun has made his appearance again to my great joy; still it is rather a livid and hesitating light, and does not betoken very pleasant weather. And moreover my appreciation of the sunshine is rather clouded by the excuse of my physical discomfort this morning. I do not think I ever had anything much harder to bear than this Nettle rash. - The “nettles” to which I alluded last night - were simply those connected with the allowance question; I appreciate most fully all your remarks on the subject of “giving” -; but still you of course understood the sense in which I asked the word. - Among the other things which have “gone by the board” for the last two months, are my accounts. I can vouch for nothing except the amount received. - The forty dollar party bill - I do really think must go to the list of extras, for all the reasons which I specified before - and still more, because I do not see any prospects of my ever being able to at all redeem it from my allowance. - I have received from your brother my Feb. allowance, also most of that for March, and I shall be obliged to forestall April funds, in the preparation for our journey. - Melancholy considerations are these - I know - but they are comparatively swallowed up in others, at present. - I must not, cannot write more now, I long to see you. Goodbye.
Your ever affectionate Helen...
[To Julius Palmer
on embossed letterhead
Albany, Tuesday Noon, April 6, 1852.
My dearest Guardian -
Lue and I have just been having a good long cozy talk over old times; the days when a poor distressed circle of relatives fairly at their wits end, endeavored to lay upon your shoulders, a live load, which wouldn’t lie still, and be carried on theirs; - when you called at New York one evening to inspect the oldest, and, and, as reported, most [ufractory?] portion of the parcel; - and from thence down - through the long months to the present, when that unmanageable, untrust-able, unloveable, survivor of Falmouth Boston and Ipswich massacres, is her chance - about to take, in company with herself and you, a long journey out West - though the cause of which, surprising to say she is neither to be manacled, nor attended by a police guard, but is expected to encounter the world like the rest of its citizens - of which she is, in more senses than one, most emphatically one! Ah! Those were queer times! Do you know that sometimes I look back upon that part of my life as a confused dream, whose memory is every hour becoming more and more indistinct! Oh, there must have been something very strange in me, to have to baffled the comprehension and defeated the sanative theories of such a legion of the wise and good! And now and then, a thought flashes through my mind, when I read that hideous Past, that perhaps after all, I’m not one bit better yet; only I dwell among Samaritans instead of Levites, and they in their kind pity, let me live along in peace, simply as a matter of expediency and sufferance! And have learned, what all reformers do not, (or did not) know, that it is of little use to white-wash Ethiopians, or to try to brush the spots out of a leopard! Then again - a dim doubt on the question of personal identity - follows - with a whole train of sequences which would make Prof. Cowles despair of his pupil. - In one sense of the times I don’t believe at all, in personal identity; if I go on for the next three years, altering as much as I have for the last, I shan’t believe in it, in any sense. But this is “eggatism” as “Jellow Bush” says. By the way do not use your visible muscles too much before our journey, for Mr. Sprague has made Luly a present of that book, and we are going to take it, for you to read! Oh, it is so inescitibly droll! I cannot resist the temptation to copy one passage: he is giving a “setting out to a young lady who made most violent attempts to ensnare the affections of his master, and then describes some of her manoevores. - “Law bless us! How she used to ogle him, and quot bits of pottry, and play “best one by moon-like”, on the old gitter!” --
I wonder if it is snowing in Boston today as here; - all the day long, it has been at work patiently pouring itself down, over and over and over again, thought the wet ground soaks it all up as fast as it falls, and it will be morally impossible for it to “make” anything but mud, let it persevere ever so long. - Dreary it is too, for it makes the April air raw and disagreeable, and the dark steaming roofs have a forlorn look in their every shingle, and the sky is but a reflection of the state of things below. - Anything but postscripts to a winter, which have to be brought in the Spring mail! - Have you seen anything of that same last mentioned existence, last winter? - He has fled from before me, like a dream-ghost, fairy, or any other intangibility you can picture;- wrapped his old cloak of dirty snow around him and stolen out of the land, as noiselessly as a thief. I heard he has not plundered the rest of the world of as many things as he has me; else I fear much, his bark will break beneath the load of his illgotten gains, before he gets past Labrador! Alas, I wish I knew the road to that sunless cave, near the Poles, where he kept all his stolen treasures. I suppose, in the summer, he looks them all over, as housekeepers in a rainy day, tumble out all sorts of strange forgotten things from old musty trunks in the garrett! Quite an interest some of us would feel in divers articles of the assortment; imagine him dragging out my French translations from underneath a pile of withered party flowers, and visiting cards, and manuscript editions of Sewing Circle gossip - (the only press, I fancy from which said humiliation will ever issue!) Or imagine the india rubber case in which he must stow away resolutions! or the metaphorical gutta percha which he must use up, in wrappers for new, old, recent, partial, polite, intimate, hypocritical - true - friendships and acquaintances! Heigh ho! I think I could write a description of the goods and chattels on exhibition there, over which the world would both laugh and cry! - I wish you could see my last letter from Henry Root. - In speaking of himself, and the one great error of his college life, he states in the most earnest language - the one thing which I know has been the deadly and victorious foe to my highest life - which he mourned over as his - which I believe, is the worlds; - the being satisfied with a consciousness of capability, without doing! - “dry ambition has been for the sense of power, rather than for the exercise of power; when I have been confident that I could do a thing, I have stopped there, and failed to resolve I would do it; I have measured myself by powers possessed, rather than by powers exerted; by duty that could be done rather not by duty done; and so when I have had this honest consciousness, it has satisfied me, that is to say - selfishness has ruled!”
I wish you could know Henry Root as I know him. If he does not make one of the noblest of men, I shall be slow to trust again in the apparent promise of any mind or heart. And I wish still more that you could see - Henry Root - ten years older - and in some respects of a loftier nature, in the person of no less a hero than “Lieut Hunt” of whom you have “by parcels something heard but not distinctly.” -- But I shall not try to describe him to you. The Fates seem to ordain a veto over my having any further acquaintance with him, since you will not even allow us one evening in New York, which was our last hope of meeting agin, as he returns to Washington permanently the last of May. “all for the best” doubtless!
But my dear Mr. Palmer, I am writing you a long long letter and my journey - work is at a stand still; I did not expect to write again before we left, but though I should reply to your last kind letter a week from today, “viva voce”. But this snowstorm has made me write - why, I can hardly tell! ---- I have empowered Annie to ask of you $.10.00 for me, which she has doubtless done before this time. Your brother is in New York - consequently our bank has closed! --
And now, my ever dear Guardian - Goodbye! - I am so impatient for next week to come; I long to be on the wing! Love to all. --
Yours ever gratefully and affectionately -
Have you read the accounts of the steamboat disaster on the Ohio, this last week? How many life preservers shall we take apiece? --
157 Hamilton St. June 28, 1852 [Albany]
My dearest Mr. Palmer,
Although I have not time this evening to reply much at length to your kind letter, I cannot send my dispatch for Boston without a few words of acknowledgement. You must accept, and Mrs. Palmer also, my sincerest thanks for your pleasant and inclusive invitation; I should think with much less intensity of my eastern trip, did I not hope that it would afford me the opportunity of seeing you all again; and it occurs to me often in this light, than as are opportunity for convenient stoppings, I assure you; still I appreciate the consideration of the latter feature in you invitation also, and I do not doubt, shall be much obliged for it, in the course of the summer.
As to our Amherst plans; what you said did not delight me very especially; and I don’t suppose you wrote it, with any particular expectation that it would! So far as the propriety of Mrs. Peabody’s going is concerned, you will remember that I did not make the suggestion; but merely acted upon one from her communicated through Annie. In wishing to go there with her children, she feels exactly as I should, in her circumstances; it may be a feeling which few would have, and yet I think not; it seems so natural a wish that her children should have a birthright feeling early associated with their native place, and the scene of their fathers last labors and death. Moreover then is a community sentiment among the families of a college Faculty, which is very strong and lasting; and I know as a stranger could not know, that aside from the circle of her own relatives, Mrs. P. can never have, any where, a circle who will have such a warm and abiding interest in her and her children.
I am sorry that there should have been any misunderstanding as to her preference for the Hotel. I supposed from what Annie said that she wished to go to the Hygeian. On many accounts I should very much prefer going to Mrs. Emersons; and I have written to her, Mrs. P (as reply to a letter I received from her yesterday) relative to making arrangements for going there.
Our boarding there would probably more meet your approval, from the fact that there Lieut. H. would not be with us. But what you said about that whole point surprised me much; when I alluded to in the course of our journey, to his going, you expressed yourself very decidedly in favor of it, and I supposed the plan would be a pleasant one to you. However you know I never can “see into” all their questions of propriety; I believe that never more than three quarters of me “grew up” & the rest is all “child” still; for now, the idea that thus is any earthly reason why he should not go to Amherst with us, in all honesty and plain dialing, which his relation to me understood, and see all our old friends and my old home, is to me incomprehensible. Perhaps it is the boarding together at an Hotel which seems objectionable to you; that would be obviated by our being at Mrs. Emerson’s. As to journeying to which your allude in the same connection, I should never be tempted to take a journey under such relations, not because I think there would be any “harm” in it, but because the ten thousand emergencies and necessities of boarding would make it often embarrassing and inconvenient. But, in case it should so happen that we should go to Amherst at the same time, I should feel as if it were needless to avoid taking with him, a ride which I have taken, at one time and another with three other gentlemen. But it is probable that he will not be able to be there till Commencement, & it is my plan to be there at least a fortnight before, if it can be so planned. But, Mr. Palmer, I don’t believe I understand you letter exactly; I wish I could see you tonight, and have one of our good old talks; then I should have a clearer brain on some of the “knotty points”! I cannot give up the prospect of my Amherst visit but I cannot bear to have it planned and executed in any way meeting your disapproval. It seems to me, that for Mrs. Peabody and her children, with Annie and me, to go to Mrs. Es. About the first of Aug., thus having a fortnight before Com. for Lieut. H. to come then and stay perhaps another fortnight, at the end of which time Annie can make her visit at Jennies, would be an unexceptionable programme. And I shall be sadly disappointed if on the whole, you do not think there are fewer grounds for objecting to it, than you see at present.
I had a charming visit at Mrs. Wood’s last week; my position is now clearly defined, very pleasant, and I do hope permanently tenable! There are, and probably always will be, a great many laughables, connected with my relatives there, but still I love Mr. & Mrs. Wood and shall always prize them as friends. I do think that your brother does the whole family great injustice, in over, estimating faults, and weaknesses, and under rating excellencies. Charlie Clark has risen ten steps in my estimation; oh I must tell you one of Mary Sprague’s speeches in regard to him’ I was dilating the other day, on my wonderfully bettered opinion of him since I returned when she coolly commented thereupon, “yes, blessings brighten as they take their flight.”!! Taken in the connection, and in the droll way in which it was spoken it was really a very funny speech.
Your brother is quite “under the weather” today, by reason of a severe cold on his lungs. He preached with great difficulty this morning, and was obliged to omit all services this afternoon. If Mrs. P. could only leave the Vice President for a few days, and go with him, I think he would take a short recess. But she is effectually confined, and he seems to have little interest in going alone.
Lieut. H. is here at present, to my complete satisfaction of course; he would send to you as comprehensive a list of remembrances, as yours to him, did he know of my writing. Annie tells me that you have had a talk with Aunt Vinal about the momentous subject! I am very glad you have but you did not tell me anything in regard to the interview. She is about the only one among my kith (I have no kin, but Annie!) that I care to have see him; and I do wish very much that she might see him once before she dies. Perhaps it may be, this summer.
And now I must say goodbye. I have written so much more of a letter than I expected that I shall make yours the letter after all, and Annie’s the enclosure. It is a queer idea of hers, that she don’t want to go with us to Amherst because she had rather visit Jennie. I thought the understanding was that she was not to visit J. till after Com. and by my plan, she would have had a fortnight there before, and her visit afterward. I want her to go with us more than I can tell here. So once more, goodbye, with love to all,
on embossed letterhead
157 Hamilton St.
My dearest Mr. Palmer -
I know now that I have some good news to tell you; at least they will seem so to you, if they make you half so glad as they have made me. I received a letter from Edward (you see I have at last mustered courage!) - day before yesterday containing the intelligence, and I have been impatient ever since to sit down and write to you all about it. - He has been engaged more or less for several years in some philosophical studies of a very scientific and profound nature - exactly what I could not attempt to tell you, for the very good reason that I don’t more than half understand them myself; - but they are very [abstense?] and yet tending to eminently practical results, and to a wide field of discovery and distinction; - of course, for the satisfactory pursuit of such branches, more time and permanence must be secured than he has heretofore had, and with a view to obtaining some position providing for this, he wrote some short time since to Maj. Stevens, and Prof. Bache, partially communicating the import of his designed studies and inquiring if there was any method by which he might be so stationed as to pursue them. - In consequence, he was summoned very suddenly back to N.Y. - last Monday evening, to meet Maj. S. who had gone on from Washington to see him; and after talking the matter all over, the prospect appears to be as follows: that he can confidently rely on two years (and perhaps three) permanence, in Washington - and that his duties at the Coast Survey Office, will be so so[sic] ordered that they will not consume more than a third of his time - leaving him free all the remainder to continue his researches independently. - Now is not this enough to make me very glad? Why three years looks like a little eternity to me, for I have not remained so long a time as that in any one place, since I was thirteen years old! - I am sure I think I have a good reason for being very grateful. - His duties in N.Y. will keep him there till the first of Aug. - on the 18th of Aug. is the meeting of the Amer. Ass. (Scientific) at Cleveland - which he must attend and he thus wishes his visit at Amherst to be before Commencement rather than after. - Then he returns to Washington the last of August. ------ and - then - I’ll tell you what he says - “How long do you think I can stay there without you? And how can I possible persuade you to go there except by appealing to Mr. Ray Palmer as a medium? Can I any way survive, if we wait longer than until October”! - Now - I don’t believe you will put on a look of greater astonishment than I did, at this! It seems to being actuality, so right into ones very face! - I exclaimed at once that it was impossible - yet on after thought, I am more inclined to agree - putting the time the 1st of Nov. - or even the middle. - In accordance with this expectation I have arranged a programme somewhat as follows - To come on to Boston and intrude myself on your hospitality, for a week or ten days previous to going to Amherst (which will be the 1st of Aug.) - I can make all my preparations, except dresses and furniture (!!) - better in Boston than anywhere else, as I feel familiar there with the stores, and more particularly, know several excellent seamstresses. - During this week or possibly fortnight, if you can bear me so long, I will procure materials, and do cutting out and fitting, and put all the plain part of my work in the hands of the seamstresses. Then I will go to Amherst and stay a fortnight or three weeks, and then to Worcester for a week, and then to Brunswick for a fortnight (farewell visits Alas!!) and then return to Boston the middle or last of September - collect my books &c. from Charlestown & Weston - and my wardrobe, which in that time will have all been nicely completed, and return here. - Then for my dresses and other outfitting I must go to New York - and I have always told Luly that I should depend on her going with me, for the assistance of her taste, which I should rather have than that of any other acquaintance I have; but how we shall manage this, I don’t know. - we can talk it over afterwards. - In the matter of furniture (Oh dear! How old I feel! I’m about ready to put up my hand and feel to see if a cap hasn’t opened in my head, or spectacles on my nose, I feel so eminently consequential talking about buying furniture!) Well, as to furniture - I shall not have so very much to get; but that little will be most exquisitely selected, I assure you. The furniture I have here would nearly furnish one room - and I should only have besides the parlor to fit up! - For we have relinquished all thought of housekeeping, to my infinite delight! Edward says that housekeeping in Washington, “even with the most notable and experienced housewifery (wasn’t that sarcastic in him?) is very expensive and troublesome, and is little gain in the way of privacy &c. I should have known that it would be so, from the character & aspect of the place. - So - after all - think of me “Helen Fiske” - going to be married, and settled in two rooms!! Heigh ho!
Well, a straw for all my old fancies! I could be as happy as a bird, I know, in our room, six by ten. (if I didn’t have to cook in it!) with such a noble, intellectual, and affectionate nature as is his! - Oh I never knew until since I have seen him again, half how much he could and must be admired and loved! - But there! That is silly to say! Let it go. “You know me”!
Well, the money! - Who is going to move grandpa’s tender mercies, and impel him to give me a right good outfit? Will you untie the strings and hold the purse open while Mr. Charles puts in his hand? How much do you think he ought to give his elder grandaughter[sic] as a marriage portion? - I think he ought to make a handsome settlement - especially as he has left my property so tied up that I shall never again have at command more than enough to buy salt with! - And as I am going to have a home so long - and so small an establishment as two rooms - I want to have things just as delightful as taste and some money can make them. I don’t want to clash in anything. I only want to indulge my taste - and make a little kind of a Paradise upstairs in a small quiet way - a place where Edwards’s literary friends will love to come - and where he will love to be - and when I can appropriately receive “our friends Gen. Scott & Lady! Ahem! - Well - all this we can talk over soon, in the mean time, I want to do something here, in the way of starting preparations. I can plan and arrange enough fine work, embroidery &c, to take with me and keep me busy during my visits - and I can do that much better here - Mrs. Johnson our tasteful neighbor has [END OF LETTER MISSING]
Portage, Hunts Hollow.
My dear Mr. And Mrs. Palmer -
It is a week since I bade you “goodbye” - that peculiar goodbye which I shall never bid you again! I did not think that seven days would have passed before I should have written you some of the many things which I felt, but could not say; and it would not have been so, but for Edward’s sickness and our detention at Albany. ...... While there, though I had three full days full, of minutes, it somehow seemed perfectly impossible to write - and I reported progress to none of my many anxious friends throughout the land, excepting Luly & Jacob; (and you through them.) ..... Now, we have reached this quiet haven among the western hills - and in the silence and rest, my heart sends many thoughts back. It is perhaps a well ordered feature in such scenes as those of last week, that they have an absorbent hurry in their details which veils for the time their full significant meaning. The “goodbye” which I said almost smilingly - has power to start tears in its memory - tears, not of sorrow -, but through joy - of earnest deep feeling. - But I am falling into a strain, perhaps too serious; and I am delaying to give utterance to the strongest feeling in my heart, as I wrote your names - one of the true gratitude and thankfulness for the many kindnesses of the last two months. - I can never forget them - and though I can never repay them in kind, or in full, I hope some day to prove more than by words that they were not in vain. - And now too, as in some sort, I take leave of the peculiar relations I have sustained - I must once more say to you, my dear guardians, in particular - , that I shall never lose for a moment the affectionate memory of your fatherly care; I owe far far more to you dear Mr. Palmer than I can ever tell: - if I have seemed sometimes thoughtless and capricious, or even heedless of your words, it has not been the true action of my soul, and never have my steps turned so nearly to the road of right faith in Heaven, as when my heart has been touched by your earnest affections, and my doubts shamed by your life. - You will not feel that this new relation has made necessary any change in the freedom with which such topics are to be spoken of? And you will let me still feel - as I never can cease to feel, that I may “ask questions,” and seek counsel still? - The Future seems coming with a fast tread now - there is a strange mixture of perfect happiness and deep solemnity in my life - I think daily that if this last pure blissful light which God has given to my path, as not make clear and chosen to my soul the One right way - I shall indeed have left for me but one possibility of redemption, and that “through much tribulation.” - But it is hard to distinguish between the vaguely grateful overflowings of a heart more than filled with joy - and a true and thankfulness to the giver of the blessings. ....
We shall probably remain here until Tuesday or next week, when we start for Niagara - thence by Lockport to Albany. - I shall be impatient to get home, as Washington already begins to look to my thoughts & I do not believe we shall stay more than four or five days in Albany. - I shall look confidently for some sort of communication from you while there - even if it be but a line. - Luly will not consider my poor note [.atislty] unworthy of a reply, I hope; - my very best love to her and to Hattie; - and an affectionate goodbye and goodnight, from
Yrs. now as ever lovingly - Helen.
I forgot to speak again of Miss Jones’s bill, before I left - but I should like to have you send her a check for $140 - as soon as you can - if you have not already done it. I have written to her in regard to it so that it will be all right. Helen.
Washington. Sabbath Eve.
My dear Mr. Palmer -
Yours of the 29th ult. has been like an uneasy ghost in my writing desk for the week past. I have been almost ready to sit down and acknowledge its receipt, and attend to the business items therewith connected - every day; but I was so unwilling to do this until I could have time to write more than a mere line, that I have waited until now. I will do myself the justice to say, that I have been two thirds sick - and one third dissipated - (I suppose I might in this case to have put the smaller fraction first! Causes before their consequents!) - so that it has been a real gain to you so far as the quality of the epistle you were to receive, was conserned[sic]. And now I will just attend to the two business items, and then have them off my hands; the bill from Stewarts is correct - though I cannot imagine why it has been so long delayed. - Miss Jones is to be paid the amount of the two bills lacking $125, not $140. - The $15. - subtracted, Annie gave to me, and like most of the “ready” which gets into my hands, it was disposed of long before Miss J’s second bill was made out; - I reflect with a queer sort of satisfied melancholy, on the fact, that these are in all human probability, the last “nice” bills I shall have for dressmaking! The other point touched upon in your note, is one in regard to which I am as you can imagine, very much interested: I shall write you further information: it seems to me, that there ought in all equity to be some way by which in event of my dying, say within the next summer, my husband should succeed to my interest in the estate; but “law is law” - as I found out to my cost, you know, some time since; - and so goodbye to business! - (for this time.) -
It seems a perfect age, dear Mr. Palmer, since I saw you - or wrote to you - or really heard from you. Old habits are still so strongly binding on me, that I often find myself thinking in regard to any place or scheme - “I must ask Mr. Palmer” - or “I will write to Mr. Palmer;” - and stronger still than the old habits which bring such thoughts as those, are the pleasant memories which bring frequent wishes to look in at No. 3, and see the same dear group that we left in October. I do not know that the last few months of my association with you and yours made me any dearer to you - (with the exception of Luly - we learned to love each other I believe most truly.) - but it made you all far dearer to me. You were so kind so patient with my impatience and did so much to help me in my cares, that I look back on the days as having been indeed happily freighted; - and there is no place - not even among Edwards own brothers - where our thoughts turn so often as to your house - and to your brothers; - yours more particularly, as having been the scene of the consummation; - his especially, as having been the scene of all those nameless numberless but never to be forgotten “first tokens” of that which was to come after. I is not devoid of omens for the future perhaps that you and yours should be thus inseparably connected with the portion and events of my life which I can least of all, ever learn to forget. - My new life seems now hardly new; but with the novelty has gone no charm, no joy; on the contrary, the novelty was rather painful, and I rejoice in its wearing off. We have already a large circle of acquaintance - and I have I think, a few friends; but society in Washington is not of the kind that gives rise to frequent friendships; it is too mixed - too changing, too hurried, and too gay. We shall lead I doubt not, a very quiet and domestic life through the winter, for I have the feeling whenever we do go out, that Edward makes a sacrifice of his own tastes to mine, and I do not love to require many such. On New Year’s day, we made with Prof. And Mrs. Baird, the circle of New Years calls, on all the dignitaries; it is a pleasant though rather a tiresome custom; we called at Gen. Scotts of course, and I was gratified to find the house literally jammed; they say he had more calls than the President. Such attention must be soothing to the smart! Last week we attended an evening reception at Secretary Kennedy’s, and at Mr Hubbards - (the P.M. General.) - Also, a party at Brown’s Hotel (By the way, Browns is a little ahead of the National, this winter.) This was very dissipated, but we are going to be secluded this week, to make up, only going Monday evening to Sec. Cowans. - At last, I have the opportunity of seeing the kind of society for which I used to long - and shall I confess it to my dear guardian - in the midst of it all, I am tempted to exclaim “fruits of Sodom”! - But the decree of my wandering life seems to be that I shall taste of the social waters of almost every cistern - and, I begin to believe - remain athirst after all! - In our quiet little room, which looks fit for a retreat of two allied hearts, I find what is nearest to filling my soul - what does fill it at times, with an enjoyment more than earthly; - A strange thing, is it not, to find in our true heart and lofty nature, more than in all else that God’s universe can hold! - I stand often in amazement before the near mysteries of my nature. But I have written you a letter all about myself - however, its not that what you most wish to hear? One thing I know your heart would ask and that is - of the religious element in our blended life - My husband has a better conscience than I, in regard to the Sabbath - the Bible - and all matters of right; and as to a place of worship, I really think he is readier than I, to attend a dull but evangelical preacher. Edward is not an Unitarian, Mr. Palmer! But if there is any place in the world, where a person of intellect is implored to be one, it is here, for Dr. Dewey is the only preacher in the city of any marked power. Dr. Bathe is monotony personified; Dr. Paul is a ranting theatrical - a pain of ecclesiastical bellows which would blow the Church sky high if possible, and moreover after several trials of the Episcopal form, I am convinced that I could not endure it as a permanence; there is far too much machinery; I grow tired and sleepy long before sermon time! The Presbyterians are nobodies; though Edward is willing to attend any of their churches; but I think we shall attend Mr. Sampson’s -a Baptist church. I abhor the Baptist notion - and they have always seemed to me a sect of the narrowest minds; but he is by far the most earnest interesting preacher I have heard; he has been settled in Boston, and you may know him. - But now - my dear Mr. Palmer - I must say Goodbye - though I have not said one half I intended to say. - I need not say - do write me when you can - for you know I dearly love to hear from you. My best love to all - Luly is my creditor - but I shall write her in a day or two. - Edward sends his kindest remembrances - & says he has only been waiting to answer your letter, until a time when he could write to suit himself. He is really very much driven with all sorts of things - practical - Coast Survey-i-cal and scientific. - Goodbye. - Yrs - now as ever - most affectionately. Helen.
Washington. Tuesday morning. March 8, 1853.
My dearest Mr. Palmer -
I really did not think that it would be four days over a month, before I replied to your business letter “of the 4th ult.” as a business woman would say - (which as you very well know I don’t pretend to be! -) - I might with truth quote the opening lines of the letter, in regard to the abundance of “excuses and reasons for not writing” in my own case - but I can also give something more definite -: I have really for the last month been too much on the invalid list to feel at all in the mood for turning my mind towards details of the sort to be discussed in this letter. - I think a slight sickness - one of those half-off-half-on ailments to which flesh is heir, is of all things in the world, most potent; in scattering all interest in the petty matters of life; what one shall eat and drink, and wherewithal one should be clothed, are tiresome and disgusting thoughts, when that same body which necessity the questions, is saving its purpose so unsatisfactorily, that you hardly care what does become of it. - However, some of the points touched upon in your letter are of too real an interest to be long un-cared for. - At the amount of my accounts I was somewhat surprised - not much though; You remember the story of the man, who was “sorry for the sufferer, five dollars worth!” I believe I was surprised, about two hundred dollars worth! - But I see that this amount was of just those nameless things which I could not realize beforehand. It is strange - this arrangement of Providence that every body must buy their wisdom, with the bitter “cash-down” of their own experience! There must be some good end attained by it, I suppose, or it would not be so universal a law. But you have now found me unwilling to “own up”, I think, when time has brought conditions of an error - and I freely confess now, that if I had known what I was about, I should have “saved the five hundred.” Still, I do not very much blame myself. I was acting too much in the dark; there is an uncertainty about preparing for a new place and a new position, which makes it very difficult to hit the right course, and I do not think my mistake was in not being bent on doing, what was best, but in not knowing. - I hardly see how I could have saved quite that amount, and have been prepared for our position here, yet, I might have saved more than I did. However, you will be thinking of the adage in regard to “spilt milk”, if I prostrate my regrets much farther, and there is really no use in it, - only to let you see that I appreciate now the kindness and judiciousness, which would have held me back - I almost wish it had been joined with authority so as to have accomplished it in spite of me! ~ ~ The contingency that you speak of, in regard to our yearly allowance from grandfather’s estate, filled me with dismay! I am sure I do not know what would become of us, in case it should cease, unless Edward is ordered somewhere, where living is cheaper than here. - It is impossible here, for us to save more than $200. a year of his pay - and we are not living extravagantly at all. - As we live, at present, hiring rooms, and having our meals sent to us, we reduce our expenses to $60. a month, instead of $70. which you remember we paid Mrs. Reed. - This does not include washing - fuel - nor lights; and you can easily see how much would remain of $1400. a year at this rate! However - I ought not to intrude these details on you; - you can infer that I have learnt to “reckon” and “calculate” - and not to throw away the quarters; I do not pretend so soon to be a perfect economist - but I am sure I have “done without” more things that I wanted, not needed, this winter than I ever did before in my life; and I think that is the main spring of living economically. And I am willing and happy to do, and to do without, all that I have done. I should distrust my own capability of anything good, - if such a husband as mine, did not make it impossible for me to feel otherwise. I despise myself almost, for even remembering that there was once a time which the wealth of money seemed more to me, than the wealth of such a heart and head; but I bring myself there, wealth never did seem more to me than such a heart and head only, more than such hearts and heads as I have known. But this is - - is what people call sentimental - isn’t it? I suppose it is - for I am conscious that the romance is not weaning out of me a bit, but the rather gaining strength from each day’s experience of my new life, and I cannot think or speak of him, without its gushing over! Don’t laugh at me - if you have been married almost thirty years - You have never known, not even you, - how I love him. Oh, What an episode for a business letter! - (I presume you don’t file mine with those of your firm!) I believe I was going to close my paragraph on the allowance topic, by saying that I could not bear the thought of a still further limitation of our means and I can hardly believe that there cannot be some way of securing is continuance. For Annie too it seems absolutely necessary; and I cannot see why or how, but putting grandpa under guardianship should invalidate his provision for that payment, any more than it should everything else which he had done previous to losing his mind. - If you think of it, will you explain this point to me when you write again. But I shall not make myself unhappy about it: I know that both you and Mr. Atwood have Annies and my interests warmly at heart - and that everything will be done that can be. Still it does seem rather tantalizing sometimes to think of a prospect of Learn your [ ] before the years of twenty! Tis n’t according to Scripture!
In regard to the well matter, I was not much surprised for on reflection I saw the improbability of my having any such “power” before coming into possession of the property. But it is an unpleasant thought to me that in case of my death before grandpa, which does not seem [ lly] unlikely - for you know I do not consider my life lease very certain - Edward should have no benefit from that property. If I understand rightly, also - my living children would not directly benefit him, as the property would be theirs, [ ly], and not to be used by him, except for them. One thing I am fully resolved upon - and Edward most fully agrees with me - and that is, the instant application to the Legislature, when I do hold the property - for power to change its form to deal out that South End tangle - and have it all in a more profitable shape than the wooden houses in out of the way streets. --- However this is anticipating.
Of course you have noticed the passage of the fortification Bill; it is a big thorn in my flesh - and will keep on pricking for a month or more I suppose - by the end of that time we shall know our fate. It will no doubt make great changes in the Engineer Corps; - whether we shall escape remains to be seen. The only work E. would like - taking me and all things into account, is at Rocksport. That I should be heartily glad of, for this climate will be the ruin of me - and I have no fear of one too cold. He should be there at least three years - as the appropriation is $55000. should have better pay - and be able to live very very cheaply. Maj. Stevens and his family was there some years. If we go - we may be packed and off - before I write you again! So much for army life! I dare not think of the other possibilities - the Tortugas where I could not go - California where Edwards pay would not support him alone - for they do not make increase on anything in offering salaries there, except a paltry allowance for quarters - which one of the officers who has just returned says is barely enough for the briefest necessaries - roof - and salt to the potatoes! I suppose there is a chance of Edwards taking Maj. Stevens’ place here should he be ordered off. That would give us $200. a year and a house - but would necessitate housekeeping and entertaining, and be a very fatiguing confining duty for E. - By the way, if we go to Rocksport - can Edward have Grandpa’s horse, for its board? - I suppose of course Mr. Charles is charging for it - and the horse is being ruined. - Edward says he would be particularly glad of it, if we should be ordered there and would willingly keep it, for its use to him as a saddle horse; - of course I should never risk my neck in riding with it; - I have endeavored to terrify him with its bad name; but you can’t convince a West Point-er that there is such a thing as an unmanageable horse. ~~ Oh, what a letter - specimen of the highest class of egotism! - To one who had shown less interest in us than you, it would be almost impertinent. --
And I must close without saying much to atone - or be of a different stamp: - The winter has almost gone - and the President come - what next! Do we not spend our lives in waiting for the answer to this one question - ever given - ever sought again. I long yet fear to have the Spring open; I remember the warm sun of late April here - but it cannot be worse than the capricious, rainy, debilitating winter. There is the least climate, and the most weather, here of all places I have ever known! - Goodbye. Do write to me as soon as your cares will allow - and I will write you a different letter from this. Write me one of your Saturday night letters, dear Mr. Palmer. It is a long while since I have had one of them. - My love to Mrs. Palmer and all; I wrote to Luly Sunday night - which she has no doubt received ere this. - I hear from Annie regularly; she is very very happy. I hope not too happy. Edward would send some message, were he here. I believe he is expecting a letter from you daily. - yrs. as ever - affectionately - Helen.
P.S. - A postscript after all! But if the letter had gone without one, you would not have believed I wrote it! - And it must be a long one too, for I had forgotten the two most important things. In the first plan - the $196. - now in your hands, of mine - I should like to have invested - if it is enough to invest - in some profitable way. In the second plan - if the taking out letters of guardianship must cut off an allowance - can we not be secured for a year, at least, ahead? For instance - cannot $400. apiece be transferred to Annies and my account this spring - for the year ending next spring - say, April 1st In this case, I would like to have $104. put with the $196. for investment - , - the other $300. to remain in your hands subject to my order, to meet the exigencies of the year. - If we could not do this. - could not the half years payment be secured - for instance the $200. which you say will be subject to my order between this spring & fall - be virtually paid me at once! - Once more - Goodbye - H.M.F.H.
Tarrytown, Sab. Eve. May 21/54.
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I wish you were up here in this glorious place - really, my soul is so filled with its beauty tonight that I cannot think or speak of anything else. - We have been out since sunset on the river-bank, looking up and down and around on a scene of such beauty as is not often seen. Tarrytown is as you know, on the east side of the Hudson just above Piermont. Piermont & Nyark are both in full view on the opposite shore; the prospect south is very fine, having a sharply defined headland on the right & a wooded point & railroad gorge on the left - but the northern view is the finest - giving a glimpse of Tappan Zee, I think, - and hill after hill rising higher & higher, till, blue & hazy in the distance loom up the real mountains; the place itself is the most picturesque I ever saw - a succession of hills & vallies[sic] & ravines - charmingly wooded, & quite thickly dotted with fine country seats. The Irving House where we are is a large house with two wings - quite embowered in trees, & situated on a hill commanding a fine view up & down the river. The house is as nice & clean as a Shaker meeting house from top to bottom, & everything about the establishment, exactly what it should be. I should feel that it could not all be real & lasting if we had not the testimony of old boarders. Mr. Oscar Irving from New York (a nephew of Washington Irving) who recommended the place to Mr. Hunt, has spent five summers here, & he says that he never heard one word of complaint from any one of the seventy boarders! So I have settled down for the summer with the most comfortable feeling that I have enjoyed for some time - and only want Annie here to make my satisfaction complete. - Murray takes solid comfort with his rich country milk - fairly yellow in its richness - and his long rides in the open air - and I expect that he will grow out of your memory before we come to Boston; - and Mr. Hunt’s old enemy dyspepsia seems fairly driven back by our long wood rambles, & good country meals, at country hours too, which is most essential, seven - one - & seven. - I believe the late dinner system is the worst thing for dyspeptias[sic]. - I wish now that some of you good people at the east, would just come on here & take a whiff of all this beauty; we are only two hours from New York, & there are any number of trains a day - ; I hope that if you are in New York this summer you will certainly give us a call. --
As I shall not be in Boston now before fall, I suppose there will be some business questions which we shall have to discuss by letter; - I await with the greatest interest your decision in regard to the trusteeship - of course it is a point on which I feel that we have not the slightest right to interpose any wish that we might have, to affect your action - ; you have already bestowed more time & attention on our affairs and us than we could look for from any one not personally connected with our family - and it would be simply ingratitude in us now to urge you continuing the oversight, when the condition of your own business affairs as you said, requires so much additional care. - If you do decide to give up the charge, I do most earnestly hope that there will be no objection raised by any party to Mr. Sanford Hunt in your place. (I take it for granted that you have the same confidence in him that we have, & would not hesitate to appoint him.) - It would be just like some of the Vinals or Becks to make a “time” about it for the one only reason that he is my husband’s brother - but they would be acting against their own interests in so doing. - Sanford is willing to take it, should the necessity and the opportunity occur - though he says he “wouldn’t do it for anybody else” and I have no idea that he would. - Mr. Hunt and I have had several business talks lately - and I have rather settled in my own mind this plan - to take $300.00 a year as my allowance” for myself & Murray - Mr. Hunt proposed $300. for me alone, but I think for a year or two at least, I ought to dress Murray out of it too - & I mean to try at any rate, - - $300. a year, we think we ought to lay up - & the remainder to be used for contingent purposes - of which we shall have enough no doubt, if that odious “little giant’s” bill keeps off our Army bill till next year! - I shall not now want anything more till fall I think - after this bill of Miss Jones’s is paid - which I will thank you to pay by a check if you can conveniently, as Mr. Hunt thinks I ought not to run the risk of having so many small sums sent by mail. Her address is 133 Greene Street - Miss M.R. Jones. --
If you see Annie (as I suppose of course you do very often) please give my love to her & tell her I shall write to her in a day or two.
Monday morning - I was very suddenly broken off last night by the discovery that it was half past eleven - and as we breakfast here at seven, we cannot afford to make very long evenings, so I hurried to bed. This morning the full glory of a spring day is about us, and we have been ever since breakfast, at work in my garden - my own - a kingdom which I haven’t had the luxury of reigning over since I was a child. - Mr. Hunt bought me a trowel & a great variety of seeds in N.Y. and in a couple of months I hope to have a fine show of “wild-blossoms” as you used to call those gorgeous prairie flowers! Oh what a man! - But you can hardly conceive what a perfect wealth of enjoyment there is for me, in my love for flowers; the wild flowers here are beautiful - I have now two vases of them in one room, and their fragrance is quite strong - the lilacs are in full bloom in the yard - and their perfume comes in on every breeze -; and soon quite a little grove of locust trees will be in blossom, when we shall live & breathe in the midst of odors sweeter than any Lubin [dur?] distie - I have actually thought I ought to put away my homeopathic chest on account of the fragrance of the air! - But what a long letter I am writing. - I don’t believe you’ll pay me in half so good measure -. - I enclose a note for Mr. Sanford Hunt - which I will thank you to drop in the office - I enclose it to you, because I don’t want Edward to know I have written to him; Will you be a party to such clandestine correspondence? - I have written to Sanford to order some summer clothes for Edward at John Earles. Don’t you wish you had a wife to see to your tailor’s orders for you? - I am sure I don’t know what sort of a looking couple we should be, if I hadn’t more vanity than Edward - enough (?) for myself, & a little to spare for him - for he would never think of his dress, if I did not think for him. - I shall tell Earle to send the bills to you, made out to me - Goodbye - with love to Mrs. P. & the children - & yourself - affly ever - Helen.
P.S. I omitted to say that Mr. H. received the $50. for which I wrote. -
Newport. Tues. P.M.
My dear Mr. Palmer -
I have a little better excuse than usual this time, for my delay in sending back that receipt. It arrived in the midst of a chaos in our affairs which it would take Mrs. Stowe’s pen to describe - & was lost. I have waited day after day, as one place after another has got cleared up, thinking that in the next place it would be found; but I fear it is uncoverable. - and it just occurred to me today that I might sign my name on a blank piece of paper & leave it to you to fill up above; so I enclose the important little cognomen, - trusting to your kindness not to put in the space above any renunciation of my husband, or declaration of faith in the Pope, - or any other thing not conforming to truth & my intentions! --
I am surprised to hear of your plan for going to Europe - & truly glad Hattie is to have such a journey among the pleasures of her life. I think she will enjoy a great deal. - May you both come back safely - & find all here well, at the end of the three months. It is a long enough time for many changes! - Goodbye - & a “God speed” - from - Yours ever affly -
P.S. Mr. Hunt says he shall hope to hear better accounts of you than of Horace Greeley abroad!!
My dear Mr. Palmer -
Please find enclosed the receipt you forwarded to me - also my own receipts for the same amounts; - and please give me credit for once answering by return of mail. --
As to that $500- loaned me - if you will examine the correspondence between Augustus & myself on the subject, you will see that I expressly avowed my intention of not giving up the same till we left Newport! - I suppose it would not result in more than a six percent income, let it be invested in anyway it might - & it is perhaps as well to have it as at present, we paying yearly interest. -- As we have an opportunity here of keeping a horse at Fort Adams, with no expense, it seems a pity not to enjoy it; & as all the money my husband has, is invested in Erie & Kalamazoo stock, which is bringing us in nine per cent - & is to bring in ten per cent soon - It would seem also a pity to be obliged to transfer it to any less profitable shape. -So I hope the exigencies of the estate will not drive you to instituting a suit against me for that amount! -
In haste - Yrs. Truly -
Helen M.F. Hunt.
Postmarked: NEWPORT R.I., APRIL 9
Newport, Tues Norm. 7 o’clk
Dear Mr. Palmer -
You see I have made the astonishing effort requisite to writing a letter before breakfast, to ensure your receiving the enclosed document by return of mail. I had been looking for a day or two, for the check, & am glad to get it; money never comes amiss, in my hands as you may possibly remember! --
My little “whats his name” is sitting very gravely in front of me, in a new wicker chair I bought for him yesterday & which I suppose constitutes as complete & new a world for him, as another planet would for me. - His name is Warren Horsford Hunt - for Prof Horsford, & our friends Col. & Mrs. Warner; we call him Rennie, for a pet name, as Warren is rather too dignified. He is as “good” as it is possible for a sensible baby to be - & as “fat” as it is desirable for any baby to be weighting now a little over twenty pounds! - This climate is the perfection of a climate, & I have no doubt will do a great deal towards preserving his good health; - for my own part, I don’t know what will be the effect of a continued residence here, on me, for I have already reached the weight of 136 1/2 pounds, & gain as steadily as Rennie! - You may see [END OF LETTER MISSING]
Newport, Thurs. Eve.
My dear Mr. Palmer. I rec’d your letter of the 21st inst. & looked into it with both eyes open to welcome the draft for $125!
- Really Mr. Palmer I hardly know what to say about this; I am sure I should never have borrowed that $300. if I had anticipated any such contingency. I did it on the strength of a conversation I had with you about the time of Annie’s marriage, in which I asked you if you wouldn’t let us have the use of our funds then in your [fi...] if we paid the same interest for them, & you said you would. As we had the chance here to keep a horse & carriage at the Fort,) & as you know it is so essential to the enjoyment of life in Newport, to be able to drive,) it seemed a pity not to have one while we were stationed here, & that was the only way in which we could have it. - The receipt Augustus sent was a printed one of Palmer & Bachelders & was a promise to pay “on demand”, but I signed it unhesitatingly, thinking that it was a mere form between friends, & telling him at the same time that I didn’t mean to pay it till we were ordered off, & sold the horse & carriage, & that what I wished to do was to borrow from our estate & not from “Palmer & Bachelders”.
However of course you have a right, as I did sign it, to demand the repayment of the loan at once, & if you must do it, we will sell the horse & carriage & make up the balance as well as we can, but I have an idea that you ought to give me notice. - a demand to “pay up” - or something to that effect, before proceeding to such an extremity as to “attach” my poor little stipend of an income!! --
As to that Russell St. investment, you know I have always had a horror of Russell St. - & as “them air houses of mine” as poor grandpa used to say have never brought in & never will, more than 6 per cent, I can’t see why it isn’t just as well to have that amt. realized from interest on a loan as from a rent; besides, I understood Everett last fall that there was not enough anyhow all told, to do the whole of the building - but that it would have to be done on contract, the builder to supply deficient capital & then take a lease of it - & in that case would $200 more or less make much difference?
I feel very sorry about this - & am almost sorry I borrowed the money - but I guess that taking all the circumstances into consideration you will conclude to let the Russell St. claim on me have the go-by, just for the little time we are likely to remain in Newport. - & at any rate, till I know to the contrary. I shall hope for a letter from you in a few days with the check which didn’t come tonight. --
In great haste - Yours as ever affly - Helen M.F.H.
Albany, Sat. P.M. Oct 4, 1857
My dearest Guardian -
Here we are at last in Albany, that Albany which has been the terminus of the railroad of my anticipations for so many weeks. You have heard through my letters to Annie and to Jennie of our journey and its safe termination - and of the non-arrival of our furniture at just the precise point of time, which we should have designated, had our wishes been consulted at all, in the arrangement. However, fortune, the railroad man, and the teamsters, have on the whole, treated us very well, for the articles are now all nearly disposed in our new rooms, and very pleasantly they make it look too. My bureau did not arrive until this morning, and I began to fear, with feminine impatience that we should not get “fixed” before Sunday; so as soon as it made its appearance, Mr. Ray not being at home, I armed myself with child and husband, and marched to the shed, where I engaged in a most furious work of demolishing from which I ceased not, until, with a little of our portly Annie’s help, the box was fairly in ruins, and the bureau was accessible. The unpacking of that huge wooden box (which you did not see) and the carrying of the things up stairs in the bureau drawers, and the final re-arrangements after the whole contents had been brought up, occupied every moment of the forenoon, and left us sadly sadly tired. - But now everything is in order, and Hattie and I are impatient for next week to come, so that we can begin something. Our room is pleasant; the large closet opening from it, is an invaluable addition, and appreciated by both of us, from the fact that we have been so accustomed to narrow quarters. - Mr. Ray received a very formal note from Prof. Snell, stating that he had sent the bureau, which I enclose (the note intended to refer to and not the bureau, though, from my bungling sentence you would never know which!) You will see that he mentions the price of the box in which the bureau was enclosed, as a hint (?) I suppose that the same be refunded. Will you send it to him or will you send it to me, and let me enclose it in a note? If it will be an inconvenience to you to send it directly to him, I will write enclosing it, but I cannot help feeling a little hurt at the excessive formality of his note, and the neglect to acknowledge in any way, the receipt of the long and friendly note which I wrote Mrs. Snell, and in view of all that, I am not unwilling that the formality should be kept up. Now you will shake your head at this I know, and if I were on the [..ket] at your side, would tell me that it was wrong; - perhaps it is, but the feeling was there, and it would out. - I paid the bill for the transportation of the bureau, and also for that of the other furniture, out of the portion of “my allowance” which I had with me, but you know such expenses hardy come under the head of dues & etc., and I therefore enclose them, so that you can refund their amount to me! -
We have taken but one walk in Albany, the weather having been as I suppose it has been with you, unfavorable. But I have seen enough to convince me of one thing, and that is, that I shall never like the place, in itself considered. The streets are just as dirty and out of order, as they can be, from beginning to end, in spite of the increased efforts of a most efficient body of city scavengers, in the shape of a countless army of pigs; - then you cannot go to any place nor firm any plans, without climbing a high hill; the plan seems literally to be built on ridges. And as far as I can discover from all my observations, there does does[sic] not seem to be the slightest order, or arrangement, or anything of that sort in the disposition of the houses; they seem as if they had all been built somewhere overhead, and then let down, in one great promiscuous tumble, anywhere and everywhere below - here a flat roof, and there a steep one - here wood, and there brick. - here slate, and there shingles-, here two stories, and there five - , here freestone, and there white wash, - in short here one thing, and there, another just its opposite. But do not think from this, dear Mr. Palmer, that I am disposed to be dissatisfied with my new home. These are only my joking criticisms on the externals of the city; and yet, I must confess that I have been sadly inclined to be homesick - not homesick, however, that can hardly be, if one has no home; but something very much like it indeed; in the coming alone - or comparatively so into a city of strangers - a new home - the tenth that I have had; (did you know, dear Mr. Palmer, that I had been quite such a wanderer as that) -; the perfect uncertainty that hangs over the winter - all conspired to make me sad and lonely; and I have missed you my dear guardian so much. All through the summer it has been such a consolation to go to you with every question - about every thought, that now I feel, in a sense alone - Mr. Ray is very kind, and I do not doubt that I shall love him very dearly, but he is so different from you. I hope to begin my French lessons next week: Mrs. Palmer has been very kind in making all inquiries for me, for my painting, I shall probably have to wait a few weeks. A very fine artist is said to be coming, within that time, one much superior to any here now, and I shall probably wait. We find that we shall be obliged to hire another piano, to be placed in the sittingroom, because practicing annoys your brother, when he is in the study, and the hand when he is out, would be a scanty supply for those such musical people as Mr. Palmer, Hattie, and myself. Last not least, we have engaged a washerwoman who lives quite near, and will take our clothes. - This is a point which I was anxious to have settled. I have no doubt that I shall have a good winter; and I hope Hattie will not be homesick; we are doing a good deal toward getting acquainted.
Their was one thing, dear Mr. Palmer, that I meant to have told you before I came away - one of the things which had rather tell, than write. - I accidentally found among Annies things, as we were packing up, a daguerreotype of Mr. Sanford. I cannot believe that he had given him hers, and I cannot imagine how she came by his. Perhaps all do not feel quite so strongly on the subject of daguerreotypes, as I do, but I have always regarded the giving of your own likeness to a friend, as the strongest proof not only of your love for them, but of your belief of their love for you. Annie does not know that I saw it, and do not, dear Mr. Palmer, in any way give her the idea that I have alluded to it, or to anything connected with Mr. Sanford.
When I arrived, I found a letter from Julia Brooks, awaiting me - ; in the evening came a short, but beautiful note from Henry Root, greeting me in my new home, and yesterday, one from dear Mr. John, kind and good as ever. Mr. John has been a good friend to me, Mr. Palmer; - next week I shall look for one from Annie & Jennie; may I hope for a line from you? For a time, my letters from the absent, will of necessity be the dearest companions I shall find, and the writing to them, my pleasantest society. - As soon as I am fairly under way in my avocations for the winter, I shall write to you again. (If you will allow me to intrude so often) whether you have found time to reply to this or not. - Alas - the day draws near, when I shall have to admit myself, fairly launched, on the wrong side of my twenties! It makes me said to think of it, and I only speak of it, dear dear Mr. Palmer, that I may ask you earnestly, and affectionately, never to allude to it again, as you did once or twice, just before I left; - I am sure you would not, if you thoroughly knew my heart So long as you are willing to be my guardian in the whole sense of the word, do do be it, if I am thirty! I do not think that I shall ever give to any other the confidences I have given to you. Would that I could hope to repay, either to you, or to yours, the debt of gratitude that I owe. Goodbye - and goodnight, my dear guardian.
Your ever affectionate ward. Helen.
P.S. - I have asked Annie to buy me some ink, to send with my check next week; and Jacob to get me some [char..s] in place of some which have mysteriously disappeared from my possession. I don’t know how it is, but all my [char..s] are very evanescent in their nature. Helen.
Albany, Friday Eve. Dec. 12, 1857
My dearest Guardian,
It is after nine, and Hattie, in a pleading look is urging upon me [...] reasons why I had better not write to you tonight, such as the impossibility of your getting the letter until next week, the danger of my sleepiness tomorrow morning, the physical necessity that our fire should be allowed to go out at about this hour, the danger that the light will keep her awake, &c, &c... But I am deaf to all her entreaties - “immovable”, to all her “irresistibility,” for I must write you before I sleep. You do not seem inclined to consider my [last?] note in the light of a letter; you know so well, that I should get into some sort of trouble before long, and have to write to you, at any rate! Did you not? - Well whether you did or did not foresee the evil, ill has come; I am insolvent - bankrupt - suspended - under heavy liabilities - in short, not to multiply details, groaning in body and mind under the pressure of the possible pecuniary woes. Now don’t, oh don’t shake your head and look ominous, and think that I was a sad spendwife; upon all reviewing the past, I cannot see wherein I have failed; it seems to me that I have nothing since last October, but just [con...] how to [....] my allowance, and for all that, here I write! However, there is no use in tarrying on the subjective side of the question now, for facts stare me in the face. I feel that I must “make a statement” to you, as the broken merchants do to their auditors, and then leave myself at your mercy. - To begin with - that luckless New York trip; there was a bad fate in every thread of that week! My bonnet has not yet appeared from Mrs. Deals; I have written to her; I have sent to her; and I am fairly concluded that I shall never see the hat again; there is a strange mystery somewhere; in the mean time, I am in an emergency for a bonnet to wear, inasmuch as we have two days-full of calls to make, which I positively cannot and will not make, in my old one! Under these circumstances I have thought it incumbent on me to see what I could do towards[sic] getting another, and owing to the kindness of Mrs. Johnson, one of my friends, I have found a woman who makes bonnets (though not a regular milliner) and very pretty ones, and very cheap; so that I can get one, as good as I feel that under the circumstances I ought to have, for $4.50 - Now, my dear guardian - don’t you seriously think that “under the circumstances” - taking into consideration the perplexities and losses I have sustained, you will be justified in making me a present of that small amount, beyond my allowance? Else, I don’t see how I shall survive (in a pecuniary sense, you understand,) the month of January; since I actually must take my Jan. allowance now, and shall need every cent of it, for Miss Jones’s bill, and for new years gifts &c. My allowance for Jan. is, I suppose, $.18. - That $5 which I sent to you the other day, you will return to me, won’t you - at least, I mean, another one, in its place; I must pay Mrs. Scott the washerwoman, the last of this month, between $4. & $5.; and if you do conclude on the whole, to give me my second hat, (since you didn’t my first!) that will make $33. which if you will send me next week, I will promise not to broach the subject of money matters, till the first of February! This will be no small inducement, I fancy, for I know you must be tired of the continual croaking, as bad almost as that of Poe’s raven, which you know croaked, ever more - ever more”.
Oh, my dear dear Mr. Palmer - I wish I could see you tonight, and tell you all about my last letter to Henry Root and his answer. I feel uneasy and troubled after you went home; you know, I can’t disagree with you, without being unhappy; and at length one night, I sat down and wrote him just the plainest letter imaginable - perfectly open, [un....], and yet, I think, perfectly delicate; - general, and yet, specific, enough, to be understood; and he wrote me immediately an answer which has quite set my heart at rest, so far as my relations with him are concerned; I am sure now, of what I was confident before in regards to the light in which he regards me; in regard to the character of our friendship; and I cannot help feeling that now you would look at it in a different light; that, knowing and seeing, as you would, that there was not the slightest danger of his, to use plain terms, “falling in love” with me, other objections would lessen.
I hear, through Lucy, of John Sanfords triumphant campaign through all of your hearts! Well, if it must be, it must, and if I am destined to have him for a brother, I shall try, (and I most devoutly hope I shall succeed) to overcome my dislike. But if you had heard all that I have, of his attentions to others, and knew what I knew & saw for myself, of his relations to Jane Hitchcock, you would not wonder that, independently of my personal prejudice against him, I have a feeling much akin to indignation, whenever I think of him, in connection with Annie! However, I should think he might consider himself as quite as accepted (virtually) having been introduced to the guardian and the aunt! - Apropos to such affairs, I had a letter from Wm. B. Fox, Jr. this week! And a much better epistle it was too, than I had the slightest idea he could write; I fear he neglected his business to “get it up”! Perhaps he requested his bookkeeper to write it for him; however, I answered it in a much more summary way, than I did Mr. Fisher’s and I presume I shall not hear from it again.
Today Dr. Sprague sent me a very pretty volume; I think I have been quite fortunate in forming so intimate and pleasant an acquaintance with his family. Our circle is fast increasing. Yesterday, we had three callers. Tuesday evening, at the opening of the young mens associations’ rooms, I made five new acquaintances, (one of them by the way, was Miss Stevens, daughter of Col. S. of the Revue) and today; I have heard of two more who are coming to see us. - Pretty well, for one week, is it not! This morning I took my fifth riding lesson; in default of my paintings, I have concluded to take them twice a week. I enjoy it much, and think I improve somewhat; and now my ever dear guardian, I must say goodnight. Give my best love to Annie and Lucy; and let me hear from you, as I know you will, as soon as you can conveniently to yourself - and believe me.
Ever, your affectionate and grateful Helen.
[BEGINNING OF LETTER MISSING – content suggests it was written after Rennie was born in Dec, 1855 and just before the Hunts moved into their own home. They are in or near Boston (Rebecca goes to church in Boston)] [Cannot find 10/31/12]
one on exhibition get to pay twenty five ds. for it!
I trust that Augustus & Lucy will have a prosperous, pleasant trip; I have no doubt that Lucy will enjoy it very highly.
Please remember me to Mrs. Palmer & Hattie, it would give me pleasure to see any or all of you here at any time: I believe one of your pastory has some connections here - I do not know the family however; almost all our friends, singularly enough, are in the Episcopal church - old Trinity - although we attend Mr. Brooks’s. Thatcher Thayer, the Congregationalist minister here - & a very intimate friend of my father’s & mother’s at Amherst - has shown such inexcusable narrow mindedness in not coming to see me for four months after he knew we were here, because Mr. Hunt had taken a pew in the Unitarian church, that when I do not go to hear Mr. Brooks, I go to Trinity. Mr. Brooks is a truly good man, & without being especially brilliant, preaches unaffected, earnest & practical sermons which cannot fail to do good; Mr. Moore, of Trinity, is also very much such a preacher; - but Mr. Thayer is of a different school; my little Rebecca (colored.) who goes to Mr. Blagden’s in Boston, delivered herself of a criticism on Mr. Thayer last Sunday, which made me laugh heartily to myself: “well now Miss Hunt” she said, “I don’t know about Mr. Thayer - he’s dreadful hard on the people; I don’t think he’d ever convert me - now, today, he was down, upon em, the text was something about selling themselves to Mammon, - he did give it out hard; to be sure, he wound up all nice at the end - but that wouldn’t never do me no good - to give me such an awful scolding & then slick it all over afterwards! Now Mr. Blagden ain’t that way - he is gentle & kind o’ persuading! Rebecca is a remarkable intelligent girl & really much interested in religious things; she attends all the prayer meetings, at home, & is very fond of her Sunday school, & I believe never goes to bed without reading her Bible; - I have never had such entire confidence in any servants principle - before & when in addition to this, she absolutely idolizes Rennie, you can see that she must be invaluable. She is also one of the neatest & most expeditious seamstresses I ever had.
In the course of the last fortnight I have had quite an experience in the way of amateur police business! - I had lost several articles & after a weeks work - assisted by one good fatherly old policeman, about as efficient as Dogberry, & by a Sheriff whose rosette was the only terrifying thing about him - I succeeded in recovering what I had missed & a dozen articles beside; the main offender was a col’d girl who was here only a fortnight - but my Irish Bridget had also been helping herself to some of my fineries; my dislike of her race increases; I believe they all (if no other people) do go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies, & what’s more, they keep at it, too! - But I must close. - - We are to move, May 1st - into a house - this I have never considered more than half a house - though it is one of those beguiling little cottages which look so cozy: - our new home has good chambers - & into one of them I shall be glad to put you, if you’ll give us a call. --
Yours very truly - Helen M.F.H.
P.S. - Mr. H. desires to be remembered to you.
No. 43 Lafayette Place Sat. Eve. [no year]
My dear Mr. Palmer,
To begin a letter with the assurance that you have been for a long time trying to write it, is certainly a very commonplace way of commencing an epistle. And moreover such apologetic assertions are very seldom believed, but nevertheless it is the very thing which sprang first to my pen, upon beginning this note, it is the first thing which I wish to tell you, and it is the thing which I most wish to be believed! I have been for a fortnight, trying to siege or make an hour in which to write to you, but have been unable. You will realize the extent to which my time has been occupied when I tell you that In addition to all my other engagements, I have undertaken the Editorship, or I should say Editress-ship of a periodical! We have commenced the publication of a paper bearing the classical name of the “Portfolio” and displaying as its motto the highly poetic lines
“Portfolio leaves we after here
As Editor, I have the inspection, acceptation or rejection, correction revision &c &c, of all the matter good bad & indifferent, furnished by a class of some twelve in number. And last but not least, have the pleasure of copying all the accepted articles into a blank book, of quarts size, ornamented with numerous designs by our writing master, and called “the newspaper.” The number for this coming week is now nearly completed.
I have been for the past week indulging a sort of half expectation that I should see Mrs. Palmer and yourself in our parlor, some afternoon. But you are still unseen and there remain now only six more days before I shall be once more in the good city of Boston. I can hardly realize that the time is so nearly here, for it seems but a day or tow ago that t I was looking for and some six weeks into the future, as the time for my visit. I am anticipating a great deal of a certain sort of unsatisfactory pleasure while I am in Charlestown. I say unsatisfactory because I shall be there so short a time, and shall be so busy, there I shall not be able to do all I wish to do. But I long to see Annie again. I wish oh, I do wish that circumstances were such that we could be together, where we could both be contented. She has written one very pleasant letters this winter, though they have always been too short. I should think she was making fine progress in her studies.
Is there a possibility of your being in New York this week? I had hoped to see both Mrs. Palmer and yourself here before I returned, but if you cannot come now, please not to come until after I get back again, for I do very much want to be here, when you visit the city. I shall start for Charlestown on Friday afternoon after school, in the boat. I should prefer going in the cars, but I do not wish to be absent from school any longer than is absolutely necessary, & if I do not leave till Sat. morning, I lose the whole day on the road, where as by coming in the boat I have the whole day there. I shall take the Fall River Route, because I can sleep all night!
Please to give my affectionate remembrances to Mrs. Palmer, & also to Harriet and Lucy, and believe me, as ever with sentiments of the most sincere gratitude and affection,
Your ward Helen
PS. Pardon me for not having alluded to the money which I received from you, through Annie. I acknowledged its receipt in my next letter to her which I presume she communicated to you. Helen
I have just received your kind letter and have time only to say that I am so glad you are coming on this week. I had been approaching a lonely time in my home and away.
Excuse this mammoth envelope, I have no others here. Yours, Helen
260 Green St.
New York, Tues. Morning [no year]
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I have been trying for every day since I returned to write you a letter, but have been prevented by one thing or another, until now, I am forced to write in the greatest haste, to secure todays mail. My money, (of which I had but little, you now) has evaporated before New York expenses like dew before the sun. But I should not have written for more, us there are only four weeks more, had it not been that Mr. John contemplates an excursion to Nest Point on Friday of this week, which I am very anxious to take. I am not certain yet that I shall be able to leave school to go, but I do not want to be obliged to say for want of funds, and it is an actual fact that my purse at this moment holds only about 75 cts! Is not for my poverty really to be commiserated? I suppose the expense of the excursion will be between $ 5,00 & 10,00 and if you can send me $ 10,00 by return of mail, so that I hall get it on Thursday, I shall not write again for money, this term, unless we should go to Catskill to spend two or three days at the Mountain House, of which Mr. John has some idea, and then I should be obliged to.
Now, my dear Mr. Palmer will you excuse this hurried note? I am really ashamed to send it to you but it is unavoidable. I will write you an apology for it, in the course of the week.
We enjoy having Lucy with us very much, & hope she will be pleased by her visit. She is a dear friend to me, I love her very much indeed, & hope that the acquaintances so pleasantly began will long continue. Jennie & myself are here roommates now for a week or two, as Mr. John’s two sisters are here, & occupy our room.
With much love to Mrs. Palmer, Hattie, & yourself, I am as ever,
Your affectionate & grateful ward,
New York. Sat. Evening. [no year]
My dear Mr. Palmer,
If any one had told me that nearly a fortnight would elapse after my arrival in New York before I should write to you, I should have been very much surprised, and have denied any possibility. But when I tell you that Mr. John has not been able to go into school at all yet and that Mrs. Abbott and myself with the assistance and some classes of Mr. Faith [?], have taken charge of the Senior Department, you will not wonder at all, that my time for letter writing has been very limited. Mr. John’s hand seems to be getting better, but very very slowly indeed, and he is very weak indeed. I do not mean to be discouraged if I can help it, but it is very hard to look always upon the bright side.
We have had a most beautiful day today, and I have been all day to Dr. Selams’ [?] church. He preached this forenoon, the finest sermon that I ever heard from him, on the strange subject “Rest”, and from the text “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while.” After the services were over I went to him and asked him to let me take the sermon home to read to Mr. and Mrs. Abbott, which he did, telling me however that he was perfectly confident that I could not read it. But I flattered myself that I was equal to anything in the way of bad writing and assured him that there was not possibility of such a contingency. But I was forced to give up conquered, for there were here and there in the sermon, whole sentences of which I could make no sense at all. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Abbott could decipher them any better than myself, and after all my pains I did not have the pleasure of reading them more than two things of the discourse, in an understandable manner. Rajas Choate will not any longer have the prominence in my estimation as an illegible writer, and I think that the same joke which was once played upon him might be more effectually played on Dr. Adams. A lady cut out a sentence from one of his manuscripts, and sent it to an eminent linguist, requesting him to tell her its language. The poor man puzzled over it some time, and finally sent it back to her, with the frank admission that the characters were not those of any language with which he was familiar!
But this is not any very grateful return to Dr. Adams for his kindness in lending me his sermon.
Monday Morning. School room. [on same page as previous letter]
The world looks ten times brighter this morning, dear Mr. Palmer, for it is a most lovely morning and Mr. John is in school. Every thing seems to go on with a new life, and I feel as I should think old Atlas would, if the world should tremble off his shoulders! I hope he will be able to remain and I think that with care he will.
Mr. Palmer, I have heard Jenny Lind! I heard her last Friday evening, her second appearance in public. I had expected to wait until she sung in the new hall, both because I supposed her voice would be more advantageously heard there, and there was a probability that the tickets would be lower.
But I received an invitation from the uncle of one of the young ladies in the family, (Miss Cowan of Knoxville, Tennessee) to accompany him with his niece, which as you may imagine I was delighted to accept. (His name is Perez Dickinson; isn’t it an euphonious one? And – he is a widower.)
But Jenny! The unearthly songstress! You know all that is said about her, I can say nothing more, and still the half is not expressed which it needs more than words to express of her miraculous power to more the soul. I will send Lucy by this mail, the programmes of the concert, that she may have some faint idea of what there is in store for her. You will probably hear her quite soon, as she is to give only four more concerts here, before leaving for Boston. But I am almost miserable because I cannot hear her as often as she sings. Her next concert will be tomorrow night, and I don’t know what I shall do as I sit in our quite parlor and think that three miles away, are floating those streams [?] which almost made earthly air seem an echoing breath of Heaven! Now if I only had a great many strings to my bow, which in feminine parlance means, you know, a great many beaus in a string, only then I could go and hear Jenny Lind every night! Heigh Ho!
I forgot, dear Mr. Palmer, to speak to Annie about returning those books which you so kindly loaned me. One of them, the memoir, I have read partly through, and it is one of the few readables among memoirs; the other I did not commence. I am much obliged to you for them both, and will speak to Annie about returning them as soon as possible. I hope you will excuse my forgetfulness in not attending to it before for I had so very many things to think of at the time. I intended before I came away to have written you a note in reply to the one which you sent me with them. But I do not know what I could have said. I wrote you more fully than I had supposed I should ever write or speak to any one, on this subject, and you know all about my inconsistent heart, that I know myself, and I can tell you nothing new. You would ask probably, if I intend to remain forever in my present state. I could only say, I do not know. That is a question which I often ask myself.
Is there a probability of you coming on to New York soon? I want to see you very much indeed, and I always have the feeling that your “business” is such an omnipresent thing, that you might just as well be doing it in New York, as in Boston, to given day.
Do you ever send packages to your brother at Bath? And if you are sending one at any time, will you be kind enough to let Annie know of if. I left a doll and some paraphernalia in the way of wardrobe, at Charlestown, which I want very much to send to his eldest little girl, Emily, I think her name is. It will probably take quite a large box to hold the whole establishment, and perhaps it could hardly be sent safely, but if there should be and opportunity I should be very glad to send it.
But I must close my long letter, Your will not think dear Mr. Palmer, I know, there it was, from any want of interest, so long unwritten, for you will see that I must have been more than occupied. I shall hope for a letter soon.
My best love to Lucy and Hattie; also to Mrs. Palmer, and believe me, as ever,
Your affectionate ward Helen
Envelope: Mr. J.A. Palmer
Dear Mr. Palmer,
The fact that we were boarding & that our board bill must be paid entirely escaped my mind week before last. So that our board is now due for five weeks ending on Friday last. I should have waited until Friday of this week, but Miss Ann said she would like the money as soon as possible as she has several bills to pay.
You will see that there is an additional item in the bill for care of the fire. The agreement was made originally that we should take care of our own fire. I only wonder that even then we entertained the idea for a moment. We found very soon, that it should be impossible for us to bring up coal, make fires, let down ashes, sift cinders &c &c of the countless operations attending the management of a coal stove. Ellen the girl offered to do it for us for 25 cts per week, and we were thankful for the offer. Perhaps however you will not approve of it. If so, I know and hope you will tell us.
Should you not be in the store where Annie calls with this note, will it be too much trouble for you to do up the amount of the bill in a small package, so that she can call for it, at noon, on the return from school? Miss Brown [?] seemed quite desirous, I think, of receiving it today, but will you send me $1.00, Mr. Palmer? I know I had $10.00 last week but then that was all for one thing. I need a fresh supply of stationary of all things.
Annie is en chath [?], I must close. With sentiments of the sincerest gratitude, I am yours affectionately,
Envelope: Mr. Palmer
It occurred to me yesterday, that you would perhaps soon expect to hear from us, as located at Andover, and that I ought to write, acquainting you with the facts which have in a measure modified our plans.
We went to Weston, on Tuesday of last week, as we anticipated, but after reaching there, the difficulty in my throat, increased so rapidly, that I thought it safest to return to Charlestown, where I could have a physician “of our persuasion.” Consequently we came back on the evening of Friday. But there was, of course, no room for invalids in Uncle Vinals house, already more resembling a hospital, that a private dwelling, and as Aunt was very low indeed, it was not judged prudent to let her know that we had returned unexpectedly, on account of illness. We therefore came to Miss Brown’s directly opposite Uncle’s, where, as perhaps we mentioned to you, we had lodged before leaving town. It seemed fortunate that we returned, for during Saturday & Sunday I was quite sick. I am now however entirely recovered from the disease, though I have not regained all of my strength. We go over to Aunt Vinal’s today, as if just arrived from Weston, for this was the day on which she expected us. I do not like this double dealing, but the friends seem to think it is the only safe course, as she is so very low, that the veriest trifles distress her.
This had seemed to throw all our plans into confusion. Our visit at Weston is in reality unmade. Our friends there will feel unpleasantly should we go to Andover without making it. We cannot return to make it without Aunt Vinal knowing that the first was broken off. And “last not least” I cannot go to Andover without first going to Weston, because I left there, work, which I must have done. How I shall continue to reconcile all these irreconcilable features of the case, I am sure I do not know, but I rather think, but running up to Weston without Annie, and explaining to our friends the whole matter, having my work done, and then making them another visit before going to New York.
There is another subject, on which, I wished to write you, one which Aunt Vinal in my last conversation with her, told me I had better mention to you. Last summer, it was difficult for Uncle Hooker to supply us with the money which we needed, both because he was at such a distance, and because after, at the precise moment when we were in want of it, he did not have any, from the estate on hand. We therefore had through the summer, and while I was preparing to go to New York, an account, at one dry goods store, and one shoe store whose bills were sent in, on the first of Jan. and then there was money enough to pay them. One dry goods bill was at the store of Mr. William Arnold, in this town, where uncle Vinal has had an account, for some time. Perhaps there may be some firm in Boston, with whom you are acquainted and have dealt, where you would prefer that I should go and if so, I am not sure that I should not prefer it , for Mr. Arnold’s assortment of dress goods is not extensive and last summer, I was obliged to go to the city after several dresses. I should like the same shoemaker, Mr. Everett of this town; as he has become now so accustomed to my measure that he fits me very well, and I have all my shoes made to order, as I think they were much longer.
Perhaps you will not approve of this plan. I know some think that accounts are great inducers of extravagance. It has always however seemed to me precisely the other way, perhaps from any residence with Aunt Hooker, whom I have often heard say, that the though of the addition which a sum would make to the length, and amount of a bill, was a greater restrain upon her, than any consideration she could think of when she had it in her hands. I seriously think that I am more economical when I have a bill in prospect, then when I have the money in my purse to spend as I please, but of course I wish to do just as you think best. I forgot to mention that Annie does not wish to share in the management, which perhaps would not be quite so well for her. She has an allowance this year paid to her quarterly, a fate from which I have begged off until any boarding school days are over, for it would be impossible fro me, especially at New York to be all the time occupied in closely calculating the relation of every expenditure to my quarters income, though I might not spend any more in one case than in the other. And I suppose there will not be for some weeks now much money from our estates, and as there will be our board bill at Miss Brown’s, and at Andover, our traveling expenses, and the incidentals, which will require ready money, it seems as if it would be an accommodation, all around, to have as much as possible deferred.
Thank you much, dear Mr. Palmer, for your long and kind letter, and your daughters, for their pleasant call. I am glad that you were so pleasant with the letters of my dear Mr. and Mrs. Abbott. They are indeed very dear friends of mine, and I want every one to love them. I fear I have too much trespassed on your time! But you will not for a moment, think that I expect corresponding replied to any long notes. Prolixity is my besetting sin. I cannot tell a story, in few words, though I would give much for the power to do so. If you wished on the subject of which I have spoken, it is all I ask, and will be received as a favor.
Sister Annie visited with me in kindest remembrances to yourself and family.
I am yours respectfully, Helen M. Fiske
Julius A. Palmer Esq.
P.S. Our letters are directed to the care of Otis Vinal Esq.
My dear Mr. Palmer,
I write in the greatest haste a line to send by Annie, as she goes to Boston in a few moments. I have a request to make, but it is to be acceded to if and only if, you entirely approve. The circumstances of the case are these. Grandpa has, by a marvelous opening of this heart, given Annie the money to buy a silk dress. I shall need one, when I go to New York in December, but I had decided not to purchase it, until that time. But Annie has (as is her luck generally) found some silks at Blamelords [?], which are remarkably low, and I suppose that if we get both dresses together, they will be cheaper still. I have thought consequently that it would be better economy to get it now. If you think so too, will you be kind enough to give Annie $ 10,00, this morning to purchase it?
It may seem a little strange to you to be consulted about dresses. I shall not often write you in this way, but this is an unusual case. I though that you would be able to appreciate the reasons which lead me to think it had better be procured now though as to the matter of any need of the dress then, I have to ask your confidence. I am very sure that I shall, for I have no dark silk at all.
You will see how weak poor Annie’s eyes are. I feel very anxious about them. I wish that you, in your capacity of guardian, would positively forbid her to use them, in the least.
I hope Mr. Palmer, you will excuse the appearance of this miserable note, blot and all, for I have written in the greatest haste, and my ink is half frozen this morning (as well as my fingers.)
With sentiments of the sincerest gratitude and esteem, I am in haste,
Your very affectionate ward!
Dear Mr. Palmer,
Is it asking too much from you, to come up, as soon as you can, after the receipt of this note, to No. 67. Dover St., Mr. Kent’s where I have been spending the week? We are in affliction here, Mrs. Kent (whom you formerly knew as Marie Bourne, in Crescent Place.) has taken sick, day before yesterday, and I prolonged my visit to take care of her. She was not able to suit up yesterday at all, and as I was sitting by her bed, Mr. Kent came into the room so lame bruised and exhausted that he could scarcely walk, having been thrown from the train which it was going at the rate of 25 miles an hour. His escape is almost miraculous. Last night he was delirious all night & today he is so at times. Mrs. Kent is just able to walk about the room & I feel as if it would be healthier to leave her there.
But my Charlestown friends will feel very unpleasantly I know for reasons what I will explain to you here. And if you will be so very kind so very very kind as to see them after you have seen me, and tell where that I am needed there, & that you have been up here & seen Mrs. Kent, it will satisfy them, perhaps.
I don’t know as you can read or understand this hasty scrawl. But I will tell you all here. I hope you will not think I ask too much. It is a fathers office which I ask of you to fill for me now. Mrs. Kent wants you to come very much, for she fells as if she could not be left alone, & she realizes that I cannot stay unless, some such plan is followed.
Dear Mr. Palmer excuse this freedom. I feel that in this case or in any one of trial or difficulty you are the only one to whom I can look for help.
Pleas excuse it & believe me
As ever yours apply.
My dear Mr. Palmer,
Your letter of last Wednesday, included its evil growing contents, came safely to hand for which please accept my most sincere thanks. Ever since then I have been trying to get time to write that apology. But even at the risk of having my own prophecies unfulfilled, a most terrible calamity you know to vain people, I have been unable to steal either from duties or pleasures a moment, and so the apology is yet among the events of the future. And the offence for which I was to apologize, has perhaps in some degree faded from your mind, and if so, a brief acknowledgement will suffice to alone therefore, and then I may proceed to the Thousand and one things of which I have to speak. I am very sorry that I was obliged by my haste to send you such a miserable scrawl for a note, and I do assure you that I have never though of it without serious compunction. And now may I consider myself as forgiven?
To think dear Mr. Palmer that after all, I did not go to Nest [?] Point! Oh how sadly my inclinations did war with my judgment! Mr. John decided to start on Friday Morning and not to give up school, and therefore, of course, some one must stay to teach the scholars. He was very kind indeed and said that he would make arrangements so that the school could be taken care of if any of us wished to go. But none of that other teachers went, and so I would not go. Did I do right?
But you cannot imagine how perfectly forlorn school was on that Friday. All the boarders being absent the school room looked deserted and cheerless, and my mind which was roaming over the cliffs and through the shaded walks of Nest [?] Point, could find little of interest in the demonstrations of Euclid, or the only of Latin grammar. But I have not seriously regretted my decisions, though I cannot help regretting that I was obliged to make it. This is my first of “The trials incident to the profession.” But if Mr. John makes a similar arrangement with regard to Catskill next week I believe my patience will forsake me. I shall be more disappointed, because I feel that as I saved the $5,00 which it would have cost to go to W.P. I can better afford to go to Catskill. And if we should go, as I am speaking of it I will mention, I shall be obliged to ask you to send me the balance of $7.00 (the excursion Mrs. Abbott tells me will probably cost $12.00). If you answer this note as I do hope you will be able to, (for it seems a long time since I heard from you.) The first of next week, you may if you thin best enclose it, or, if we decide to go, I will drop you a line, in season. I think most probably I shall go, school or no school, for I am not willing to give up the opportunity of visit the Catskill mountains, under so pleasant circumstances.
I suppose Lucy has written you of the Nest [?] Point party. I believe that she enjoyed it very much though I was sorry on her account that neither Jennie nor I went as she would then have enjoyed it more than with strangers. The other night we had a little company to witness a few Tableaux and after they were all over, of course music was to be the next thing. After much singing (very little however compared with young lady performers in general!) I prevailed on Lucy to let me bring down her guitar. And then we sat in the parlors in the dim light which we had had for the tableaux, for an hour, listening to her sweet singing, and if all felt as I did, there was not one heart which did not wish that she were Lucy Palmer! Oh if I could but sing as she does, I would give up years and years and years of intellectual acquisition for it. I think there is something a little peculiar in her singing. It gives the most exquisite pleasure to a brightly scientific eve: the Messrs. Root were delighted with it; and it also is just as attractive to those who do not pretend to have a alleviated taste for music. But “there is a diversity of gifts” that of the power to produce sweet sounds, is not Alas on of mine. I must be content. I would not sing unless I could sing will very well. I should not like to have people quote with reference to me, an epitaph of Sterne’s [actually Coleridge]
“Swans sing before they die;
But I must close this long long note. Were it to anyone but Lucy’s father, I might apologize for my long rhapsody on Lucy’s singing. To him I need not.
And now, my dear Mr. Palmer, will you not write me one good long letter before I come back? I do not wish to intrude either on the time or on the attention of one who has already so kindly devoted so much of both to me, but I do love to get your letters, and I cannot help asking for them.
Give my very best love to Mrs. Palmer, and to Hattie. Lucy tells me that Hattie think s of leaving home for a short visit. I hope she will return before I do.
And at last, goodnight. I am expecting every moment that Mr. John will strike the bell, for it is after nine. Pleasant dreams, and refreshing slumbers, to all the dear friends in Massachusetts, goodnight,
Your affectionate & grateful ward,
A lady’s business, in a post script of course and when I write mysterious postscripts, you know what their subject is most likely to be! Frankly, dear Mr. Palmer, I have written this here, because I do not want any body to know it, because I don’t want it to be kept in a letter, because if you are disapproving I want you to forget it! But I am coming to say it as if you were my own father, (or my own guardian). I should whisper it in you ear; and I am ashamed to say it, and sorry to say it, and don’t want to say it, and yet I don’t believe you will blame me. A quarter amount of perplexity and irresolution, and hesitation has been crowded into the few hours since tea than I ever felt before in a short time. Your must know, that tonight came an invitation to both Mrs. Hunts (“the governor’s lady”!) great parties, one next Friday eve, the other Feb. 3. Then are the great affairs of the season; nobody can go higher than a card to there levees; and it was for the very purpose of getting in this invitation that Mrs. W. took us to call. It is a passport into Society here at once. Of course our heads are a little full of it but I have never had a party dress in my life (indeed you know I never went to a really large party; so this will be my “coming out”)(to go into detail, I have but one light silk, & that the one which we got last spring when Mrs. P. bought Lucys & Hatties, at Bowen & McNamces; it is absolutely impossible for me to go without a dress suitable for the occasion, and that must be a new one. Now you can imagine that it was a little sacrifice of my pride to come and tell you this after all my resolutions; and I thought at first that I would not, I would give up going; but then I thought of the pains Mr. & Mrs. W. had taken to obtain us the opportunity of the really invaluable introduction it would be to the society here, and of the probability that Mr. Wood is intending to go with us himself and I could not resist. Do you wonder? I would prefer trusting to Miss. Jones to select me a dress in N.Y., to making a selection myself from tired poor stores here. Her taste is faultless, and she has advantages for purchasing, and would be willing to accommodate me to the utmost. I have therefore written a note, giving her directions and sent it to you, herewith, that if you do acquiesce with me in the necessity of this emergency, you may enclose $29.00 and send it immediately to her, so as not to consume the time necessary for me to hear from you. And then if you will send me $10.00 I will make that meet the trimmings & making &c. Now my dearest Guardian, I have written this in perfect uncertainty as to what you will think the only time, I believe, that I was ever unable to decide in my own mind, what your opinion wld. be.
In either and all cares, you know I am ever yours affly & gratefully, & acquiescing-ly, Helen
P.S. Miss Jones’s address is
Tues. Noon 260 Greene Street [not dated]
My dear Mr. Palmer,
As I get no letter from you today, I conclude that perhaps you wait for me to drop you a line with regard to the Catskill expedition; Mr. John to my great joy has decided to go, and we start on Friday morning. So if you can send me the money by return mail I shall get it before we go which I should prefer to do, though if not convenient, I can just as well “settle” with Mr. John after our return.
But I shall have to ask you for the whole sum. The money which I saved from not going to Nest [?] Point, I am sorry to say, must all go to a dressmaker to pay her for altering the dresses which I received from Charlestown last week. I don’t know that I can feel more tired in my life. There was not a single dress that I could wear, until it had been altered. But I will not trouble you with details of this sort. But when occurrences make such a draft as this our patience and purse too, it is really provoking. My dressmaker was inexcusable, for she had every pattern & direction necessary.
What a dream it seems that our term so soon closes! Has Annie said anything more to you, about our Amherst visit? Would it not be best for us to write & make inquires about board, or will it be time enough, when I see you? In three weeks my first season as teacher is over! But I must not cannot write another word. School is out, and a crowd of my scholars are about me waiting for me to walk home. Such an escort, is rather oppressive, these warm days. Goodbye with much love to Mrs. Palmer & Harriet,
Yours Affectionately Helen
maintained by Special Collections; last revised, 11-2012, jr