Helen Hunt Jackson 2-2-22b transcription
|Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part
2, Ms 0156, Box 2, Folder 22b, five letters from Martha LeBaron Goddard
to Helen Hunt Jackson, 1873-1882.
Transcribed by Jaclyn Donovan, 2006.
What a long story! I thought I could do it in a page.
Mr. Goddard is not well. I meant to go to Princeton last Monday & run the risk of finding a place to sleep: but he is better off at home for the present, & I should not leave him, of course. This makes our plans quite uncertain: but I do not give up my hope for a glimpse of you.
Miss Preston & I think of making a small collection of Ocean & Forest poetry for next summer. So much has been written since Thalatta was published!
May we use your "Spoken: Locusts & World Honey' and perhaps another? The plan seemed pleasant enough when we only talked about it, but the work looks formidable.
I am most affectionately
M. LeB. G.
I return the L.C.M. which I think good excepting the sentimentalism. I don't like 'oak & rose' for man and woman: it is neither true nor poetical: but I highly approve becoming clothes, & wish I had some. As you have cluded the Woman's Journal, I cut this leader by Mrs. Howe, from the last number. How funny it is to think of Miss Phelps as a John the Baptist, and how much funnier to remember that the very fashion the dress reformers are abusing is the same that the stern male reformer adopted, "raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about the loins." Why doesn't somebody advertise them as "fashionable John-the-Baptist suits"! Then too the first question of the series which Jesus asked, & which Mrs. Howe omits is much more suggestive of Miss Phelps than either of the others: tho' I can not forget the exceedingly 'softness' of the silken raiment she wore when I heard her lecture. "What went ye out to see, a reed shaken with the wind?" That is the true symbol of the slender, shadowy, voiceless creature with her strange beauty, who is to lead the army of converted women out of the "rose-hued palace" (is n't that it?) that stains their souls, into the "hollow-eyed prison", where they will be starved into the pallor of purity, wear trousers as a sign of chastity, and stand triumphant by the ashes of masculine passion, from which the fire has gone out forever for lack of fuel; the lace & jewels, drapery and biases with which suffering woman has hitherto fed the flame of her out dishonor and misery -
Upon my word, that sentence has rounded better than I thought, I did not plan it -- but that would n't be a bad cartoon. How I wish I could draw! If I could, I would never write a word. To see pictures, & then have to describe instead of painting them, is a trial. I hope you are still improving: tho' I consider your violet silk/wrapper a great mitigation of sickness, &
[text missing, closing in corner of first page:]
I am cordially
[postmark: BOSTON, JUL, MASS.]
I wish you would come back. I had felt so sure of seeing you this summer that it was a real disappointment when I heard through Mr. Niles that you were to stay in Colorado. I don't know how to write letters, & I want to talk with you. There is no end to the things to be laughed at or scolded about or enjoyed. Business is said to be very dull, but men are immensely active in making fools of themselves or perhaps in exhibiting the foolishness hitherto hidden from the world, by their comments on women's dress -- women's health and women's education. I think the present literature of women's functions is a most melancholy exhibition of masculine weak-mindedness, conceit & ill temper. Why men should be so unwilling that women should have a collegiate education I can't see. It does not follow at all that they will know anything. Crowds of men come out of college without in idea in their heads, and have cultivated nothing but profanity, insolence and neck-ties. Of course an equal proportion of women will do the same: the supply of idiots will never cease while there is such a demand for them. The trash talked about the whole matter exasperates me, as you may have discovered. Though I do think it would be a good plan for women to use the opportunities they have, before they make such a turmoil about Harvard (where, by the way, nothing would induce me to go myself, or to let either a son or a daughter go).
Then, please tell me what you think of "Some Women's Hearts." I have grown to like Mrs. Moulton she is so thoroughly admirable, & she thinks it is a compliment to put you in a newspaper. She could n't understand that I grew red from head to foot & gnashed my teeth when she wrote in the Tribune about "Miss Goddard the accomplished wife of the Editor of &c &c." She meant to please me, God forgive her -- I feel badly to hurt her feelings as I did, by calling her stories sentimental, she says that is the one thing she is "determined not to be." But these seem to me the profoundest depths of sentimentality, & very unjust to men & marriage. Yet all the papers praise them & her & the Atlantic says "the book is distinguished by superior fiber" & "Mrs. M's method of story-telling is wholesome in its simplicity and reserve."
Is this good criticism, & have I lost my senses? I wonder if you have ever absolutely denied writing the Saxe Holme Stories. I never read them till a week or two ago. I think the first two wonderful, I cried like a baby -- no-like a woman -- over them. Their power is tremendous, their literary merit very great, I think; & they must have been written by you or your double. Then I want to talk with you about [Turgonieff?]; I read the admiring notices of him with amazement. Years ago I began with Fathers & Sons, & have read most of his novels since. They are interesting: concise vigorous, with bold drawing of character: but they are bad -- utterly sensual.
Beecher & the Fetons would be more tyros in Russia. Licentiousness there is a science, & seems to be the only science that the nobles have any knowledge of -- women apparently take the [lead?] in it. The men seem to be beasts.
There is nothing going on here now -- I have not heard of even a ripple of excitement excepting a slight disagreement between Osgood & Co. & Gill, poet, publisher & elocutionist. They have both published Jules Verne's stories (Dr. Ox & the other short ones). Gill thinks he had the prior claim, & that the inexplicable thing called the courtesy of the trade ought to have prevented Osgood from publishing this volume, altho' he has published all the others. Osgood pressed his Edition, & politely invited Gill to withdraw. Gill was willing if Osgood would take his translation, made by Miss Alger, & his plates, at cost. Osgood had the Eng. Translation & didn't want the plates, so declined -- Then Gill advertised a novel by Gaborian, and Osgood sent him a printed announcement of all G's novels, by their house, & requested Gill to withdraw.
Poor Gill did withdrawn but as he is a young & struggling house, he feels injured. He sent the correspondence to Mr. Goddard, with a request that he would read it, & I found it quite amusing.
These are only the beginning of things -- Come back & let us get deep into them. Only I'm afraid we shall move before you come. We are going to renounce our life of freedom here, & go into the harness of a regular family, & a six o'clock dinner. We are to board with our friend Miss Ireland at 92 Mt. Vernon St. and have three rooms up two flights of stairs. We know all we [see?] by the change: our friends think it an unpardonable injustice to them, for us to give up this convenient corner; but we gain something, & it seems best to go. So we shall move early in September.
Good night -- I am affectionately
Yours Martha LeB. Goddard
It was good to get a word of greeting from you, after all these months; for I had heard nothing since you went away, so my letter must have been one of the lost ones. I wish you would put your stories in a book. I never seen Scribner, & when I go to the Athenaeum to find it, for something of yours, men have it, no matter what the hour is, & seem determined to read every word in it. So I must wait for the new stories all at once & read them, as I like, alone, in my own room, with space to think, & to cry, if I want to. Not long ago radiant Miss Woolsey came for a call -- It was very good in her to remember me, & seeing her was almost the cheeriest thing that has happened to me for a long while. She surprised me by saying that "The Great Match" was written by a shy & fastidious man, who probably did not know Greenfield or Deerfield. I had never for a minute doubted that it was by the Mary Wells of [Deerfield written over Greenfield]? Who is married to somebody at the West, & calls herself P. Thorne. The descriptions of the towns are a most singular hit for a man who did not [mean?] them. The book is said to have a large sale amongst base ball players, but as I have not seen Mr. Miles for ages, I know nothing from him about his authors or his books. Miss Preston is doing nothing -- & we have no plans for the summer -- we never have plans, or rather we never get beyond plans, for we never put any of them into execution. Delano has had ups & downs all winter, is now having a long up, after a series of down: & I -- well, I am restless as I always am with the first signs of spring: I kick against the pricks, & at my age that is very tiresome.
Just now we are wholly given over to art & charities -- About two hundred water colors are on exhibit at Doll's & Blakeslee's -- at Doll's a loan collector (from the Back Bay) exhibited for the Benefit of f St. Lake's Home for Convalescents -- At Blakeslee's a charming 60 or more from New York & abroad -- Some of the lent ones are lovely, others are hideous [especially?] a monster with a lobster shell, sharp claws & a human head, by Wm Blake, the only thing of his I ever saw, & abominable in design & execution. The training school for nurses is to be helped by a loan collection of bric-a-brac exhibited at the Art Club: & the hundred mouths of as many causes clamor to have the hundred empty treasuries filled for the welfare of humanity. By the middle of April it all grows horribly tiresome & the monotony of self-culture and philanthropy is beyond my power to tell. -- Do you know about the Indian long ago, in the time of Gov. Andros, who saw one of the Gov't. officers in a furious passion, & said "he is drunk" -- "no," was the reply, "he never takes strong drink--"
Said the Indian "I did not mean drunk with liquor -- he was born drunk." That's not bad for an uncontrolled temper, is it?
The other day Sallie Bowles & 'Tom' were here. She was thin and worn, but as lovable as ever to me -- Tom looked well, but was unnaturally quiet, not solemn however. Sallie said his head ached all the time, & that the last of next month they were going west, to try the climate of the mountains. Of course you will see them, if you don't come East earlier than usual.
Mr. John T. Sargent is dead: so all the gatherings in that house have come to an end. How I wish we could have the house, repair, refurnish, & have a gay time there. What a nice place it would be with its big rooms, & its easy stairs, & its huge kitchen -- I believe I would have a kitchen party once a-month, where the young folks should come in short dresses, & dance square dances from 7 to 10, to the music of a good fiddle. Would not that be fun, in the midst of trains & Germans & bands of music. -- Paul has imparted some wonderful Japanese things, carved ivory vases thousands of years old, & inlaid with gold & silver, steel & pearl -- beautiful Satsuma vases, & lots of enamel things, & [Cinnabar?] red lacquer. The ivories are $5000, for the three. The Satsuma vases $1200, a pair. You know we don't often have things like that, but they belong with Paul's furniture, you know also. Then we have a Swedish artist, who has brought his pictures here to sell -- They are above the average, & he is a tall baron: but nobody knows him, & I guess he is having a forlorn time here. Yesterday it snowed, to-day it is raw -- tomorrow I've got to go for a funeral at Mount Auburn. It chills me to think of it. Miss Prestin sends her love to you. Remember us both affectionately to Mr. Jackson. I am warmly yours
Last night we drove to Bristol Ferry on business. It was sunset when we started, & dark when we came home: a sudden fog had wrapped everything in its mysterious gray. John stopped in the middle of the bridge, We could see nothing but one tall slender column of fiery light: a strange effect produced by the fog and the large light in front of the hotel: we could hear nothing but the rush of the water against the piers. I can not bear such solemn, solitary times: they some how crowd my heart till the physical pain is too sharp -- & then came the miles of quiet road with the huge black trees.
I like to drive at night when the sky is bright with stars, and the earth
gay with fireflies -- but without light of some kind I actually suffer.
To-day there is a great soft wind -- a wind like one's ideal human being
-- not harsh & cold like the novel-hero: or capricious & demoralizing
like the novel heroine -- but steady, sweet & irresistible. How the
trees delight in it. It was so delicious that I started for a walk: but
it was too strong for me: I could not face it for more than half a mile
I have nothing to tell you of myself. I shall spend the rest of the summer in visiting. I know how kind it is in people to ask me -- perhaps the necessity of cheerfulness that is laid upon me is good for me -- but oh! The sense of homelessness -- of nobody & nothing to go back to -- and no certainty that there is anybody to go forward to. If home & love were waiting any where, it would be comparatively easy to live: but I do not yet see my way. I hate the thought of a city boarding house -- I should like part of a house, & to take my dinners with the people in the other part; but I know of no such place. Tomorrow I shall go back to Boston, 15 Joy St. see a dressmaker, & I hope find a dress ready to wear: do errands, and get ready for a week at Swampscott, one at Manchester, & 10 days at Beverly Farms. I have several indefinite visits promised that will crowd August & September : & excepting in September when I must be in or near Boston, I will meet you almost any where for a week.
I want to see you -- to look into your face, to hear you talk --
I know how kind it was in you to subscribe to the "Fund" raised for my benefit: but you would never have done it, if you had dreamed what a burden, what a torture that fund is to me -- & how I have argued with, & prayed to the men that raised it to free me from the crushing weight -- & all in vain.
When I see you, I will tell you all about it, & perhaps you can help
me a little out of the trouble, for I am quite sure that you will understand
me, & sympathize with me.
I enclose a bit of London news, that I cut from an English paper. What can a man like Hawer's mean by exhibiting old bloody rags! I suppose he is husband or at least brother-in-law to the Mrs. Hawer's who writes art books to elevate & purify the taste of the community -- and then think of the whole Guiteau matter.
And we glory in our enlightenment, & boast of our advancement & education!!
At least we have just begun to be civilized, & are forever falling back into savagery -- What would a civilized community be like! Do you think we should enjoy that condition of existence? What would true civilization give, & what would it take away -- I am inclined to believe that a portion of what counts for morality now would be shed in the civilizing process.
If you have not read Guerndale, pick it up somewhere & read it --
I am just in the middle of it, & have no idea whether its purpose
is serious or mocking -- but it is quite out of the common course, &
sown thick with good things, both sharp and tender. And who is the author
-- Such a fellow at Denver ought to be known to you --
You would shout with laughter at it. It is the funniest thing I ever saw. It must have been suggested by seeing angry child sitting on a high bench and kicking furiously -- The machine seems light, just a seat & two wheels -- but between the wheels are 5 skeleton legs, and outside of each axle there is one -- and the 7 all kick at the hay & toss it up in the air -- at a little distance they are just like them, bare legs, kicking in fury or in fun.
Come East soon -- I want you -- I want you more & more as I write. I am glad that you think of me, for I love you.
Give cordial greeting to Mr. Jackson, please --
It is so hard not to say "Delano sends love." If he knew that I were writing I am sure that he would.
maintained by Special Collections; last revised, 3-2006, jr