Helen Hunt Jackson 2-2-25i transcription
Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 2, Ms 0156, Box 2, Folder 25i: five letters
from Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard to HHJ, 1870 and undated.
April 7, 1870
I have mistakenly written on two sheets
Dear Mrs Hunt.
I had seen the report, but it did not fasten either eye or thought, for I am not such stuff as dreams are made of. I read Weiss again however to please you. There are two points I much hang on, or pivot rather, and on the two I'll have to swing like a poor old imprisoned parrot. The spring of my life has twice been broken and I am 46 years old! My physical powers are turned into one engine of suffering, and my mental powers are a medium for darkness and unbelief - these are my pivots. I swing from one to the other so beautifully and so evenly, the transition is so easy, that I hardly know which is which -
It would give me pleasure to have you read my poems - Did you see my last blank verses in Putnam's - Memory is Immortal? - or farther back the Sea Side Idyl, and older [jobs?] in Harper's Unreturning. I am sure Miss Eliza Barston has those with her in Washington. Are you a woman's righter? I hope not I am still boiling with wrath because Laura Bullord has just told me that she went with that Apostolic humbug Theodore Tilton to a meeting of the 5th Avenue, to make a "movement" towards joining the two branches of women's rights. Heavens! How humiliating to our sex all this business is!
I can do all that is necessary in this would provided I have original power enough, and if I have such of what use is it to attempt to bolster up imbecility?
If I had more brains than I have I'd go into a crusade against these egotists, and guide them, but alas, I am not logical.
Bethlehem looms up in my mind since you spoke of it - Once on the raging sea I rode - that is, all the time, and I ought to go there. Let me know about it in time.
Thanks for your friendly note, I too am glad that we have met. [text missing] I adore clever women, and should worship them if they were thieves and swindlers. Much more if they are all that the unities require.
Stoddard has come in, and sends his love to you.
Dear Impossibility that is A Female Sonnetress,
That ever you should make a fuss over the Dinks business, when you have
had a book of mine unread by you for months! I shant forget you, we are
something alike, that is, we have as decided opinions, and as forcibly
express them, I do not know my match as a contradiction except yourself.
I hope you wont keep travelling round in feeble provincial towns, but
come to New York, and in forgetting your stomach by your stomach be forgot.
It is so funny to see you careful to the uttermost of your health while
expressing a readiness to die. You remind me of Mr. Bounderby, who roared
and thundered at everything in creation and all the time cherished and
fondled a mite of a canary bird on the top of his head, or on his fingers.
Oh dear Pain is dreadful though, I have been so ill with the worst cold
I ever had catarrhed and everything else. Stoddard has the same thing. We have
been in this lovely spot ten days - here is a country to feed the eye
on beauty. Taylor has two hundred and twelve acres around the house -
every point and combination of tree shrub & meadow are perfect. Each
room has enormous windows commanding these views. I wish I could give
you the effect of the one view from the window while I write. A binder
of noble primitive haunts; inside uplands, dales, groups of trees - near
me a garden - a picturesque covered stone wall on one side, then a wide
smooth mall, at the end of which are two of the longest oldest chestnut
trees in Penn. In front of the house is a natural lawn dotted with cedar
trees - then a fringe of Virginia pines, oaks, tulip trees, &c. -
a fine terrace with flowers and beautiful shrubs on the bottom of the lawn
a still white pool.
What keeps you to Bethlehem, because you have abstracted nine pounds from its thin dismal air? Never did I fall upon such an ugly spot. I mean the neighborhood of Barrett's. I did not taste, smell, or see anything good or beautiful there - There is an entire death of all that my sensuous soul loves. Laura Bullard got the horrors as soon as I left, and went to Littleton. I took a repast at her house by the way the Sunday before we left and met Tilton and Reid. I believe that she will prove entirely sick of the task she has undertaken. We are tolerably literary here - Taylor is writing up his notes to Jarest. Stoddard has written a fine poem, Caesar, that is L. Napoleon, who has lately been tossed out of his throne. He, Stod, read me this poem last night and I perceived that it was a greater and stronger poem than he has written for a long time. You shall see it. I am trying to pule out a tale forfeitly here. Trowbridge sent back the 3d Dinks story said it has a delicious picture of mother and child, but he feared all the little folks might not understand and like it! I would be much pleased to have you by in one of the occasional tussles I have with my friend Bayard. The other day he said it was such a delight to him to read his proof. I replied that he must feel very satisfied with his work, whereupon he told me that I had not the true author's temperament. Then I said cat's foot, that he should wander himself alone and apart from every other writer. Oh yes, you are all the time talking about your genius!
Oh dear, am I a damned fool after all my pains? Yesterday he told me
that he could have told me Temple House could not be popular the characters
vexed one so, and one hated them so - oh dear, again. Taylor by the way
says he never saw you. Lorimer Lolly is far happier with his playmate
Lily than he is anywhere else - he lives an idyllic life out of doors,
I dread to uproot him He is very sweet, and do you know that he is developing
an angelic voice - I hear singing to himself in a tiny seraph style. Miss
Taylor came to me to ask me to listen to the child's heavenly voice. I love
that child with a pathetic passion. I am sorry it is going to be so long
before we meet.
It is a piece of fine art you absconding from Barrett's to leave mourning and longing friends behind - I would not give a sous-marquee, whatever that may be, to remain here without my Huntress. Well we go tomorrow and I dread getting the Stoddards back to N.Y. Especially as I have had some mysterious drawback since Sunday. The Excursion's have hurt me, and it is owing to your Words-worth that made me so, for Stod did never approve of em. I must thank you again for your thought and kindness to me. I shall not forget you. If my stomach ever ceases to ache, my heart will continue to beat for you. Yesterday at the Profile we had a nice time, and a nice dinner, would it not have been as well to have ordered that ere lunch from the Profile House, to save trouble and expense? You will please send the bill for the wine to 75 - 10th. The freight and telegraphing Stoddard paid for amounted to four dollars and thirty cents, so you may take that out, especially the 30 cts. Stoddard told me not to mention this, but I do & why not? Please, send me Lolly Dinks also for I have no copy. Mrs. Bullard will return Tuesday and I hope you will see her - She is truly good and sweet, so faithful to me that it makes my spirit bow to the law of Friendship - Bethlehem adieu! ringed with thy azure mounts I staid, and like a collapsed ball I fall on yonder city far. Think of me, Helen, as one of those Has Beens, at once the admiration and terror of a small but select circle - Now I will to my packing.
Dear Mrs. Hunt.
Stoddard is very ill I fear with his cough, I do not know when we shall be able to get to Mattapoisett. Our days are dear enough.
[Clipping of "A Sea-Side Idyl" enclosed with letter]
75 East 10th St.
Dear Mrs. Hunt,
I was torn with remorse at your reminder of my debt. I believe it is the first time I was ever so guilty, but I must have depended on Stoddard's remembrance of it - and he has nothing to say for himself. We both rushed out within five minutes of the arrival of your letter and traced the wretched Gradot to his secret lair. I hope they will suit you. I hate to buy things for anybody.
We came back here last Saturday from the Bay Laurel state and are in agonies of getting to wrongs. We are poorer than goats milk cheese and have got beautiful big rooms. Miss Wager said last night that she knew Mrs Dodge got no 3000. Mr. Putnam told me he paid female Ames 5 a page for her serial - what do you think of that - of course Tilton did not lie to me about Mrs Ames, nor did Reid. You must let the mts tranquilize your contradictory spirit. The Independent is going to give me 15 for a sketch - liberal pay isn't it? Stoddard sends you his poem of Caesar - I know it is grand, at any rate, for a wonder he made me admire him for once - it is a noble poem.
I am going to send with this, the cuffs in another envelope. I got a letter from Mrs. Moulton the other day, in a ps she asks -
"What do you think of Helen Hunt." What shall I say? With Thackery shall I answer - we don't think. But I do - I like your opinionated, obstinate, self - I never called you names, except in fun - Stoddard sends his regards and wishes, since you are to publish a vol. that you had taken that alexandrine out of a sonnet of yours, which he read. If you were near him he would help you as he has me. Whether I have any genius or not without him, I do not believe that I ever should have written one correct poem. Not in substance I mean, but in form, what ails women? Their genius runs away with them - I swear mine does not in prose. If I live - I will write. Of course Taylor's prose is stuff - and I have told him so and made his leviathan blood boil with fury. Now be good and write me. I have seen no one you know yet. Mrs. Bullard has mis-carried, can you imagine so, with an editor of the Revolution - Tilton is at the Curtis' house a great deal - She thinks him a noble, generous man - well - a- day.
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