Helen Hunt Jackson 2-2-24g transcription
Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 2, Ms 0156, Box 2, Folder 24g, Charles
H. Nevill and Mary Nevill to HHJ, 1883-1885, 2 letters.
Dear Mrs. Jackson
This is a picture of our new home -- it is over 300 years old -- it has a ghost & a private chapel.
If you are still in this lower world it will be quite worth your while to come & see us NOW, -- apart from the welcome you will receive. If you are by this time a ghost -- & we are afraid this may be so as we have not heard from you -- I am afraid the one already in possession might object to the visit of a rival.
With all good wishes
in pencil: [June 14, 1885]
14th June 8/5
My dear Mrs. Jackson,
A great desire comes over me to write to you. - Do you know any cause or just impediment why the desire should not be gratified? - I don't. You have been talking to me for the last two days - (thro your books) & I feel as if it were my turn now to gossip a little. -
There is so much to tell you that I hardly know where to begin first. (You perceive that I flatter myself you will care to hear all about us though it is so long since we saw you, but then, that is your fault!)
Shall I tell you first about the photographs which accompany this letter? Being a woman you surely are curious about them! - They are pictures of different portions of our house. Are we not truly a fortunate young Couple to live in such a delicious place?
The owner sold it about eight years ago & after passing through the hands of several people my father-in-law purchased it two years since & gave it to my husband & here we are for the remainder of our lives I trust! - Can you imagine a man selling a place that had been in his family four-hundred years! It passes my comprehension.--
It is a house known all over England & to all the Antiquarian & Archaeological Societies as the best-preserved specimen of "Black & White " architecture extant.
It has been talked written - lectured painted & photographed about and now I live in it & dream about old days in it. When you were in England did you visit Chester? - If so I expect you saw many specimens of "Magpie" houses there. Houses built of white plaster & oak painted black in curious patterns as you see from the photographs. -
No. 1 is a view of the house as you will I hope see it when you drive up to it from Stockport one of these days. - I hope you may see it on an evening like this when the Sun as it sets throws great shadows of old old trees on the sloping glades in the park & the rooks are coming home to roost "cawing" in a sleepy & country-fied fashion. Truly it is "A haunt of ancient peace" at this time.
There is a little river running thro the back but you can hardly see it in the photograph. It is just at the other side of that row of small trees, between there & the carriage drive.
No. 2 is a view of the other side of the house. - It was once built round a quadrangle like most old houses, but about 150 years ago, the fourth side became so tumble-down & ruinous that it was removed & now the house has only three sides. - This is our "front" door. (Our front door being at the back of our house!) On the lawn I have my wicker chair & my books & work these Summer days, & when I want to know the time, I get up to look at the Sun-dial. (Does not that sound deliciously mediaeval?) -
That little belfry with the cross upon it is over the Chapel. - The wing projects a good deal on the other side of the house as perhaps you can see in No 1. & that is the Chapel in which for generations the old family was married & buried. We have not yet restored it but when we have done so we hope again to have Service in it. - The prayer books are chained to the Seats by long iron Chains of great age, & are very curious.
The rest of the wing is a billiard room & a ball-room. - All the
glass in the windows is latticed in curious patterns which chops Nature
up into fragments but which is truly lovely.
The little open window belongs to our dressing room - our bedroom is
out of sight but next to it is the room you shall have if only you will
come to see us. - A room wainscoted up to the ceiling with old oak panels
& where all the old family were born. - think of that now. -
These little "bobs" round the Cornice are the coats-of-arms of the different families into which the Original owners of Bramall married. - The walls are dark oak-panelled & I hope you notice Charlie's photograph on the centre table! -
This drawing room is upstairs and No. 5 the Great Entrance hall is beneath it & is my pet place in all the house - The photographs only give just half of each room so you cannot realize that they are really so large. That open door leads into the library & the door to match into the chapel & oldest part of the house. That patch of light seen thro the door comes from a window on a funny old staircase. The "Moose-head" in the middle of the wall came from Norway! - in Winter I burn great yule logs in that cavern of a grate, & sit before it seeing visions & dreaming dreams. I have not yet seen the ghost which haunts the old place, but perhaps I shall someday. -
That oaken seat running beneath the Moose head is the old "High Seat" where the lords & Ladies sat in ancient days. - I sat there the other evening alone. - The sun shone through the latticed windows (the side opposite the fire is literally all window & front door.) - there was not a sound in all the house, - I shut my eyes & saw the vision of a Mediaeval damsel in a russet-gown & a quaint-kirtle cross the hall - she looked at me and I immediately felt myself a base, nineteenth-century intruder. - I opened my eyes & she vanished. - You don't believe me? Oh! But indeed - I saw her.
Now you will be tired I am sure of hearing all about this place but cannot you imagine how we revel in & love it. - I know too how well you would love it. Won't you come & see it for yourself. - If you searched America from North to South from East to West you could not find a house like mine, & there are only two others here in England & neither so perfect. - Do you remember in one of your books, saying you were thinking of advertizing for an English family in whose house you could spend a Christmas & where ancient customs were kept up? I answer that imaginary appeal! - Come to us, really & truly dear Mrs. Jackson. We will gladly put you up for three months - this next winter, you shall write when & where you like & be "at home." I'll promise you too a Christmas of ancient customs, Yule logs & Wassail-bowls, "Mummers" & "Maskers" - You shall dine of roast peacock & drink "Metheglin" & oh! Wouldn't you have dyspepsia next morning! - I have a charming Cook who excels in dainty dishes for delicate folk, & her bread is a thing to be daily thankful for. - Now, I really want you to think seriously of this invitation. - Come over in August & stay over Christmas, & live right in the middle of an English family at home. - In all the wide world I don't believe there is anything so comfortable! - Now, Come, Come, Come! -
Shall I tell you a little of all we have done since I saw you? Are you tired? - If so pop me into the waste-paper basket! -
In 1881 we went again to Norway & in 1882 we took a Cruise to Madeira - & the Azores, the Canary Island & home by Gibraltar & Lisbon. - For 1883 we went a third time to Norway & enjoyed it more than ever. - In 1884 we were so busy getting into this house & settling down that we had no desire to go anywhere in the Summer. Then in the Autumn I was very unwell & when I got better, Charlie became very ill. He had overdone himself & became subject to awful attacks of acute Neuralgia in his lame leg for weeks & weeks he was either in bed or on his couch, unable to stir a step without his crutches, or sometimes not even with them. - We did not spend all our substance on physicians, but we began to be in despair & after Christmas made up our minds to escape the rest of the winter & fly to Sunnier climes. -
So we packed up & went in search of health & Sunshine, both of which we found - I am thankful to say. First - we went to Madeira - & Oh! The passage across that Bay of Biscay in January! Nine days instead of four or five were we in reaching the haven where we would be! - We rolled & pitched - & tossed & groaned - The second day a heavy sea carried away one of our boats & the third day (or rather night) the sea was so tremendous & the wind dead against so that we had to "lay-to" and in 8 hours we only went 2 miles! The fourth day we broke a hundred tumblers, & a man went out of his mind with fright, and by the time he reached Madeira I leave you to imagine what the rest of us felt like! - However neither Charlie nor I were sea-sick in the least & we were altogether ten weeks at sea) so I think we were fortunate. From Madeira we went to Barbados, & Trinidad, then down to South America & up again to Jamaica, - Visions of loveliness were those West Indian Islands & Oh! The delicious perpetual Sunshine in February! - Next we spent a week at New Orleans & often we speculated upon the chance we had of rushing to Colorado Springs to see you but we found it could not be done. No! Not if you had met us half way! Then we called for a peep at Cuba, & so home, by the Azores again. We had contrary weather all the time & a big gale on our way home but one forgets all that now. It is always surprising to me how one's miseries do become like waters "passed away" when one looks back upon them.
Next January we hope to go for a cruise up the Mediterranean. - Gibraltar & Malta & Naples, Greece & the Holy Land & Algiers - In the same vessel we have just been in to the West Indies, The Ceylon." She is an old P.& O. which cruises about the world as a pleasure yacht. The most delicious & lasy way of travelling possible! - You take possession of your cabin unpack all the "Things" you can find room for hang up all your photographs & peacock screens & settle down for three months "at home on the briny deep." - You have no worries about "changing" steamers, no bother about packing up, or sending luggage on to await your arrival (not know whether you will ever see it again) You call at one lovely spot after another - see what you want, or don't see it as you like, & life passes like a dream) We have been twice on the "Ceylon" & only wish we could go each time she sails. Now you see if you spend the winter here you too can join her, & go with us, & see the world easily!
But I must stop or you will be worn out! Charlie would send you many fond messages I know but the dear boy is at this moment in Paris, en route for Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp! - At the last moment I was prevented going with him. So he has gone with a clever young artist, a great friend of arts, Herbert Schmalz, who, by the way, is going to America before long. He is one of the rising artists of the day.
Now, dear, "HH" (whom I should love for "Verses" if I did not know you) write & tell me you will come about September to us. - I wish I could write strongly enough to show you how really & truly I want you here. The voyage across is nothing & you could do plenty of good work here I know. - So, do do come, there's a dear woman before the Sands of Time run out much more.
Do Do Come!
maintained by Special Collections; last revised, 2-2006, jr