Helen Hunt Jackson 6-1-5 transcription
Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 6, Ms 0353, Box 1, Folder 5, mostly letters
between HHJ (then Helen Maria Fiske) and Henry Root, 1851-1854 and undated.
Note: these letters, some of them incomplete or undated, contain references to Austin, Lavinia, and Emily Dickinson, and also to Sue Gilbert (Austin's wife and ED's friend)
Yr last note, my dear friend, was rec'd in due time, and with not a little pleasure, I assure you. I have been waiting with a good deal of anxiety to see what would result from the plain-speaking in my last. I had burned yrs, & could not recollect what I had written; so that there was nothing left for me to resort to but my own conjectures, which kept troubling me, till I rec'd yr assurance that I had not in the hurry, & excitement of the moment written & sent to you, what would mar, if it did not break our friendship. I spoke honestly, and it was as ever, I guess the best policy, at any rate, I won't hurt it now by an afterpiece, but let it all drop.
What are you reading now? I have just finished the "Golden Legends" - it did not interest me much, though there were, I must confess, some fine passages in it. It seems to me to be somewhat of a strain; as if its author thought he must publish something, and so sent out this. "Alton Locke" was finished last week. I was intensely interested in it; even more so than in "Least" - it is as thrilling a story, and has more warm heart - history rec'd, which smooths the spirit of its [ ] [repinneys]. There is in it, it seems to me, something which takes away from the frenzied honor of the cruel injustice is subjects are suffering, which is inscribed by "Least", and awakens, in its stead, a calm, deep, ever earnest sympathy, with the sufferer, & a resolution to give him yr humble help. They both give you the same idea of wickedness; one learns from them, and makes the idea feed upon itself upon the other portents gone to a practical remedy - In this it is far superior to "Least" - & owes its superiority to the character of "Eleanor." With what admirable tact she manages "Alton" in encouraging a [ ] independence; but always making him feel that this independence must be governed by calm judgment, & a sacred regard for the [r..hos] of all others - I admire her character, & the book as a whole exceedingly -
But a truce to this book criticism: it takes up too much room, to say nothing of it's being a "terrible bore" -
You have said nothing of Helen F. lately; do you hear from her? By the way, it pleased me not a little, when I was at Amherst, to see how the whole family, at Mrs. E's - seemed to be remarkably conversant with her peculiar charms -
They seemed to take an unaccountable interest in her condition & prospects; or rather, perhaps I should say, in those of their beloved John - But the funniest circumstance, was the[ ] that the [ ] had extended even to "Grandpa." An old gentlemen whom you probably never saw, but who lives in a little back room, by himself - I was in there hearing John tell about his visit to Boston. He incidentally remarked that he called upon your sister Annie when the old man, thinking doubtless it was the time to vindicate the family honor, & interests, took his black pipe from his mouth, and delivered himself as follows -
"Wall! Where's that Tufts gal?
She's the gal for me" -
But I see I am crowded into the postcript; as you say you did, all I meant to say in the letter - I am going to New York tomorrow or Wednesday to stay until Monday or Tuesday of next week. You remember you said you might write me before vacation closed; & the possibility of yr writing while I am there has induced me to ask you, by this letter, if you do so to direct to Care of A.F. Goodnow.
Since I decided to go I have subjected myself to a vague hope, a sort of serious presentiment that you are to be there spending the holiday with yr friend - justly, or unjustly?
I do wish it was so.
But I must close
Remember, my dear friend, that "say" about E.F. which you promised me as a portion of yr next letter though I have what amounts almost to a real hope, that I shall see you in N.Y. - I have been questioning whether it wouldn't be my nature that you should go, & I spend Christmas & New Years there and have fairly as [ ] myself into the fond belief that you were actually going - Isn't it really so? - I can't help hoping so at any rate.
As one - yr constant friend - Many thanks for that poem of [ ] I was much interested in it.
I send you my dear friend, the "Report of the Com. on Service" at the Cattle Show - by John Emerson; thinking that your conversation of those "twenty seven pip" presupposes some little interest in the subject, I had almost said the author, of the piece.
For, you must know, I am particularly disgusted with him this evening; I showed him after tea, the most beautiful passage in "Olin" one on which I had doted, ever since I read it, as the pet portion of that good book - viz - the Statement of things, that a woman's love is sometimes unrequited - closing with that splendid passage - "Olin Rothesay, pale, inferior martyr, fold the [snow?] to thy bosom" it & was waiting to welcome his warm admiration, when I rec'd nothing but a cold, common place - "very good" - I was at first provoked & then disgusted - John E is a fellow of good talents, & a great deal of application, - but, what is talent, what is education worth without a heart.
A heart open to the appreciation of beauty, loveliness, & love - I was sorry to feel my smothered disgust at his total want of nature, or cultivated refinement, rise again in all it's [sic] old power - & as I walked over to my room, I resolved I would never again seek in him the appreciation of any beautiful sentiment - the black heart of my fire-place is warmer than his, & I will seek for sympathy in the brightly burning blaze before I chill my own fervor by contact with his coldness.
Forgive me, Helen, this ridiculous outburst of my own private distemper; I am aware it's rather an equivocal recommendation of his article to yr notice for me to enter this tirade against its author.
But I do have such a unconquerable aversion to intellect without heart, I couldn't help it -
What a description you gave me, my dear friend, of that ride in yr last ! Why didn't you tell me at the time, all about it - I thought Sincerity was the prime beauty of our friendship. You ought to have told me, just as it was, & so saved those bitter tears & my sermon at having been the unwilling, unconscious author of yr trouble - If I ever ask of you again such a favor, which yr own inclination prompts you to refuse, I really wish, Helen, you would tell me of it; since the refusal is a much greater pleasure than your martyrdom -
I took a walk this morning down to Mile Valley - past the home of yr childhood - the bridge at Prof. Snells, under the little arbor, where we halted on that unlucky ride - All of these scenes were suggestion of that pleasant time - need I say they whispered a pleasant hope for it's return?
I have begun already, my dear friend, to count the long weeks before Commencement - & that too with no little pleasure -
I suppose Miss Felicia Emerson will be the companion, or rather fellow traveller of this letter; for I don't know that they have secured her - a safe passage in the mail box - though the old lady is awfully & ridiculously anxious about the safety of the "unprotected female" - I inform you of her passage, so after the reception of this, you can, for the Debt, & like when she passed, if you want to -
That A. of the Edinburgh to which I referred is the Oct. of 1849 if you haven't read the article, & feel disposed to you can find it there -
I suppose, Helen, yr Sister Annie will receive a visit from John Sanford in about a week - he's coming on, I suppose - I wish him success.
You will remember my dear friend, the debt of a long letter & will, I must [ ] welcome it - But for the present - "Good bye" - Believe me as Ever - yrs truly - "Henry D. Root"
Yr. good letter was, my dear friend, received here in due season. I find myself giving it an early answer, and that too, in spite of those "fourteen unanswered." I have sometime feared, after you have told me of the numerous inhabitants of yr. portfolio, it might be an intrusion to write you another letter, & dreaded to send it, lest it should be an unnecessary and troublesome addition to its companions; but you are a real good friend to me Helen, and I do love to write to you; so I'm going to banish my doubts and not let them prevent me from writing you a little note; promising you it shall be a little one, not worthy the name of letter - enuf a truce flag to my misgivings - I have been trying to imagine myself with you tonight, & thinking what I should say to you, if I was - I should first ask you, I suppose, how you were; and then I should tell you how grateful I was for the assurances of yr. note, how happy the thought of our unimpressive friendship made me; how pleasant a thing it was to me to receive it, even from the first night I saw you in Mrs. E's dining room, up to this hour; & that I should thank you again for the scenes of the Friday night; and how I should ask you about "Senior Fox." & perhaps you would tell me a good heart story of a pure friendship; and then perhaps we should glide to "book talk" & discuss some favorite author, "Is Mar'see" for instance, & then on - & on - perhaps even to the "short hours". But no, my dear good friend, this cannot be; you are in Albany, with warm friends, around you I hope, and I am in my good old room at Amherst, and pen, ink & pipe must say what I would say - tis all unjust, - isnt it?
I took a ride yesterday with Emily Fowler, (in a snow storm!) To Northampton, in spite of the snow had a very pleasant time. She talked with me long & earnestly about Mr. March; & she did talk beautifully, too - Her love for him is just as full & passionate as it ever was. Still she has a firm trust in God, & waits calmly in the future - believing that if her happiness on earth is to be destroyed, it is all for the best. - I never saw her where she appeared so beautifully as she did yesterday - Not a word of repining, but hoping she - and I trust with good reason - for to me, though it seems somewhat doubtful about his recovery, still the prospects are quite fair -
Yes it might be regarded quite "vexatious" I think, Helen, for Mr. Carter, to refuse that letter to Brainard - Still I can account for it on this ground - He think most prefer to keep such things secret, and believing students to be an inquisitive lot, he fears to trust them. I have known of his doing it before; for instance he would give yr letter to John E. to no one but John himself; it seems to be a settled plan - By the way, I don't know whether the said John is corresponding with any of Miss Tyler's pupils or not, do you? At any rate he expresses an anxiety, feigned, perhaps, to deceive us. About the mails, which is quite laughable.
But you see, Helen, this little note must close so, for the present, good bye.
As ever, yrs.
I had not been to see Mrs. Moore again therefore I mean to before long; she is a good old lady to say the least - Jenny Hitchcock is here, though I haven't seen her but a moment yet. I am hoping for a drive with her Sat afternoon - She & the weather permitting.
I want to have a talk with her -
"God Speed" to you my dear Helen in writing those "fourteen" letters; I do pity you for it seems an endless work; but still I shall claim a letter of yr pity for me - for in spite of all my efforts I can't help "waiting" -
Again, good night" and believe me now, as ever - Sincerely yrs. Henry
I have been sitting on my lounge, quietly smoking my cigar, gazing into the fire, & thinking about you, my dear friend for some time, and now I have concluded to bring my reverie to a close, sit down & write to you - I have been this evening to see Martha Gilbert, Sue's sister, and have had a very pleasant time. She is totally different from Sue - a very pleasant, good girl; with perhaps about half her sisters talent, and I hardly think twice her refinement of feeling - though I have been told she has much more in reality. She hasn't half the inspiration Sue has, nor does she impart half as much to others - A quiet retiring, warm hearted girl, with great capacity for a deep, simple affection, on the whole a very pleasant girl to be with, at times - for instance when you are very tired, as I am to-night or again, when one chances to be for a time heart sick of the heartlessness of the world. - It will rest you to be with her, & it will convince you of her falsity of yr. troublesome theory. And how is this paying her a very high compliment? I don't care though what it is - it is what I think of her. But, by the way, what a phrase that is "the Heartlessness of the World" in every mouth, at all times, all man & human kind bitterly cursing the heartlessness of the world, apparently forgetting that the "world" - about which they talk so indefinitely, is made up of their hearts - Why is it when all complain so constantly about this universal heartlessness, when the whole world is anesthetizing itself forever, that this same world becomes no better - For my part, I don't believe in this "heartlessness" which we assert is such an insincere characteristic. I believe the world as a good deal better at heart than they think they are. Or at least say they are - I guess if we could see all heart, we sh'd find them better than we think fit - we sh'd find a good many warmer hearts than we give this same world credit for - at any rate I like to think so & I have been confirmed in my opinion by reading "Alton Locke" again.
I have been writing a terribly long Review of it for our class, & have fallen again completely in love with it - I do think it the finest thing, of it's kind I ever read - It wakes up all yr powers, & sets you to thinking.
Then, it seems to me just as if I had written, or seen written just that same sentence before - Did you ever have that same strange unaccountable consciousness the present of any time is the perfect reconstruction of old scenes? That the words uttered by a friend, or the scenes of any conversation, are not the repetition of old words, & old scenes? I have it often; & it puzzles me exceedingly to account for it. I am perfectly confident that the present sometimes but the past reviewed; that it has all been gone through with before & so strong is it sometimes that I seem to possess a prim perception, so that can almost anticipate. -- tell from one sentence what will certainly follow it. It is very strange to me. I begin to think quite peculiarly mine own; for I have never met one who was possessed of this remarkable power! Yet still I do remember the fact was mentioned in "David Copperfield"one of those histories of humanity with wh. urchins form his subjects - that the mind is often impressed by such thoughts as these. Isn't it strange?
But I mustn't write any more tonight; I shall have strong feelings still if I don't very unromantically go to bed - so good night, my dear friend.
Thurs. Eve - I am again in my room Helen, & seating myself to talk with you a while - What w'ld I give to see you tonight - how I sh'd love to talk with you. - talk we must every thing. I wonder if you would be obliged to "entertain" me again. I have been tonight to hear Prof Tyler, up to the Chapel - What are such men made for - is it to quote from the words, & actions, upon the sensibilities of others? It sometimes seems to me better to lack most anything than good taste - I sometimes am almost inclined to prefer wickedly wickedness itself, to a total want of refinement. It does seem to me as if the slightest appreciation of so beautiful a Religion as the Christian will inspire me with a spirit of refinement; & still we see the best hearted Christians in the world, apparently destitute of any such spirit. Is this deficiency apparent or not; & if the latter, must then not of necessity be necessary distinctions in the Church, as well as any where else. Must then not be aristocracies of talent, aristocracies of sentiment, all over the world; little exclusion, sympathy, in communities? And are they to be disbanded in heaven? And if so what is to be the leveling principle? It cannot be the common love of a common sovereign for if so, then these aristocracies are inconsistent, with our professions on earth - & I do not believe they are; I believe God meant they shld' be formed in Nature, & be observed in life, perhaps it will be the better understanding of ourselves, producing universal humility, and a willingness to acknowledge, & observe distinctions like in heaven - from the simplicity of an humble, ignorant believer's with the majestic grandeur of a Paul's or the poetic beauty of an Isaiah's faith - How little we know about all these things; it is all indeed a great mystery; perhaps we had better not try to solve it by vain speculations but just go quietly on, observing these distinction we know are natural, thankful for all present perfect unions wherein it can be found, & calmly trusting for the future.
By the way, have I told you about a fellow that rooms over me - Emmons? If I have, I'll reiterate all I have said in his praise, & if not, I'll claim yr. congratulations on my constantly maturing friendship with so noble a fellow - he is certainly one of the finest characters I ever met - proud as Lucifer, about as talented, & a good deal better, at heart - we talk together, & read together by the hours - & sometimes indulge in a besetting sin discussing character - and he's a capital hand at it critical in analysis, & impartial in his judgements.
This reminds of a warning you gave me before going to ride with Jenny H. in one of your letters, & I remember I forgot to tell you in my last what we talked about. We talked about a great many things - South Hadley, last Commencement, yr'self, Helen, & yr sister - though we didn't discuss, "dissect" as you seemed to fear - & finally we talked about discussing character! Whether it was right or no, & concluded - falsely? - that it was, to say the least, perfectly pardonable - wh. satisfied" me, comparatively, for I know I have hated, for doing it, & loving to do it, as in spite of all the hate, I dearly do -
In connection with this we questioned whether, in our own cases, we could bear to hear our friends character discussed & their faults printed out impartially -
What think you of this? - I really want to know; for I had a long discussion in the same point with Martha Gilbert one evening - she saying that she did not, & w'ld not; & I, as strenuously maintaining that I c'ld - wh. of us were in the right, Helen? - I know, in my own case, I want to be loved by my friends, for just what I really am, in spite of all my faults - clearly seen. - & I want to love my friends in the same way - it seems to me there must be this mutual knowledge, or the love cannot be permanent - & if there be such a literal mutual acquaintance why, what's the harm of frankly acknowledging it to others who see the same as you do -
But enough of these discussions - I want to talk about something else - I want to tell you about my sister a little - The plain, blunt fact is just this - she is engaged - What an awfully solemn word that is - You can't tank how I felt, when my sister told me it c'ld be applied to her - I never felt such a serious, settling down sadness - for I never knew how much I loved her till then - & to think that just as I realized it, she was going to leave me alone - it made me very sad, I assure you - Oh, Helen, you don't know what a dear, good sister she has been to me - & how I thank God she has been my sister - even though she is going to love another so much better - God bless her always; she has always been a blessing to me - The gentleman is a Mr. Goodenow; a manufacturer of cutlery, of the firm of "Lamson Goodenow & Co" - of whom you probably never heard - He resides in Brooklyn; is about twenty-nine - of a decidedly literary taste - fitted at Andover, but prevented, by ill health, from entering College - As far as physical beauty goes - unfortunately, quite minus - possessed of a warm heart, a sound well balanced, & disciplined mind, and, of course, - as every body says of their prospective brother - an enviable reputation - Such is the man - heaven bless them in their life together.
But is it possible, my dear friend that I have gone so far without referring to - Lieut Hunt? - (the thought of Brooklyn & New York suggested it to me, now Helen; nothing else - And how does he prove upon a more intimate acquaintance
I would love dearly to see him; see your ideal of "masculine perfection" realized - You must tell me more about him in yr next - you'll remember you hadn't tried, you said, to tell me about his last call - last before you wrote the letter, I mean - it seems to me as if that peremptory "doggedness" if it is any longer visible - might be accounted for again, say, by the necessities of his peculiar profession. I shall want to hear all about him not twice - then in something to me peculiarly fascinating in the life of a military man - something of his vision even in peace -
I wonder whether you are reading as much as ever? - thank you, by the way, for the list of books, most of wh. I had never heard of before - I'm not reading much just now - waiting very anxiously for Dicken's new work - Won't it be welcome to many hearts - What a power he has over everybody; Simply because he is honest - perfectly lifelike - chance for such eloquent moralizing - but I forbear -
So it seems you have had, my dear friend, that long wished for visit from Mr. John - did it do you as much permanent good as you expected? - What a treasure such a friend must be to you, Helen - I wish I knew him; & I wish I knew that Jenny Abbot you love so dearly -- I think she must be a phenomenon indeed -
I see I have almost come to my limits, but have fortunately left good large margins I can fill.
Kate K - or rather Miss Catherine Kitchner was married last Tues. eve. -- the ceremonies "went off" grandly, I have been told - Mr. Stores considers himself without doubt, a peculiarly fortunate man, & wonders that somebody didn't "steal her before he stole her" - as Ik Marsee says - so it seems some good comes out of evil - for by stealing an essay, he has gained a wife - Jane is now at S. Hadley - do you hear from her often? It does seem too bad for her to be kept, shut up in that New England Kitchen, for a whole year - doesn't it? Still she may rescue some; if not all, her native refinement - for what is too often, I really believed, it s practical [sluspation?] house - The more I see of Jenny, the more I like here - she is such a good, sound, reliable girl - with, I imagine, a great deal more in her than the world manages to see -
I went down to Emily Dickinsons a while ago, & read over a host of Sue Gilberts letters to her - they were very beautiful indeed, & make me think still more highly than ever of her - I do think she is very rare character - so much intellectual ability & so much heart conjoined - I am anticipating with a good deal of pleasure her return in July.
I have felt a strong inclination to write her sometimes; but have not yet - however, after what her sister said last night, perhaps I shall take courage - What month is still faithfully persevere, with due sanctity - let's see - of what is an oak leaf the emblem? immortality, isn't it? fitting material for a wreath - especially one of friendship - I wish it were oftener a true emblem of human friendship - w'ld be a good deal happier than we are.
I am sorry Helen, I can't tell yr. sister anything very satisfactory about John Sanford - he hasn't written to me, as he sh'd have done - all I know is - he has had a vacation, & probably Annie did tell me more about him than I did her - He is a splendid, or rather grand good fellow - & I admire him much.
You must kiss that little "Bobbie" for me, my dear friend, & thank her for her remembering me, & tell her "Henry L. Root" thinks often of her -
And now, Helen, I must bid you "good night" - the chapel chimes has just tolled its midnight - [ ] nice to be before Commencement four months & mine - I am trying to hear it chime - you'll ever wish it - Oh! Those pleasant days of last August, can't they be restored? -
I wish I c'ld be with you this [day?] Saturday Evening - but I can't so I'll bid you "good night" now, my dear good friend - Very pleasant dreams to you & a very happy future - So write soon & believe me, as ever so now your finest, earnest friend Henry
In spite, my dear friend, of what yourself, & Charles Lamb say to me about "changing circumstances," & "shifting "scenes" in letter writing, I think I may safely assert, & you reasonably believe that this note has been y'r fellow-traveller from Springfield - & aims to "greet you first" at Albany - may it find you well, & happy - I've been questioning to-day whether I should intrude for a little while, upon your retirement this evening at Springfield; but have concluded not to trouble you - therefore I do wish I could see you before you end y'r "flipet" from our good old Bay Sate - It's probably all for the best"
In my morning walk, of to-day, I yr old homestead [sic]. It brought to my mind those long, good talks; -- whose influence, Helen, is living, & as deeply felt now as ever - I looked at the little opening from yr garden, to Ned Hitchcock's play ground, & so vividly returned the children's scenes, & queer fancies of y'r girlhood, as you told them to me, that from a irresistable [sic] impulse I turned full round & decently paid my morning orisons to y'r pet "Virgin Mary" - It did really look like a guardian angel - standing alone there, & smiling serenely in the old Puritan College -; but still I can't help thinking it is rather unpoetical, & quite a damage to this simile, to remember that the she needed such a doctoring, as this just rec'd - for we've administered all the doses of a fresco painters' pallet - & she seems much bettered by the treatment -
I have finished "Olin", & was intensely interested in it - The ideal of such perfect womanhood is a perfect & beautiful ideal - but, in this world it's too often only an ideal -- Have you read "Least: by the Author of Alton Locke"? If not, do so, by all means - I want to hear y'r criticism upon it --
But what I promised myself sh'd be only a "little note" is swelling to the size of a large letter - & I'll close. Pleasant drams, & bright prospects to you - & the hearty good wishes -
of yr Sincere friend
H. D. Root -
Remember, Helen, you have a long, long letter to answer
Not even the fear of being considered presumptuous, bold, or cold (pardon me) Mary Nance-ish. can prevent my writing you a few words this afternoon. I feel as if I must do, or say, something to lessen the effect of those ill chosen and unfortunate words which I spoke last night -, which I spoke so unexpectedly, so involuntarily, that I can hardly persuade myself that they have been uttered. I have felt impelled to do this, ever since I bade you good night, last evening, and have not dared, but the sadness of your manner this noon, leaves me no longer any power to hesitate. To have caused so deep a feeling in you, I must, I know I must, have expressed far more than was expressed to me, by others. You more than I felt myself, this must be, unless you are unduly sensitive, which I do not believe. - You spoke last night, of disappointment, with a loss which brought tears; but what have you to do with disappointment? - You may have the pain of a delay, of hope deferred, of suspension of labor and high effort, but of disappointment, of yielding, never! Some may call it a sentimental fancy, but I love ever to think of life under some metaphysical semblance; - a Hill Difficulty, - which we climb, but which at intervals, has broad savannahs level and beautiful; - a stage, on which we act, but where the drama is half over, before we have learned our parts! What shadow of reason have you to despair of reaching the summit, because for a brief period, which is but a few hours to the life of three score years, you have taken a more circuitous route; You have not gone down; you have struck out from the path, and those who watch the road have lost sight of you; but you will re-enter it, at a higher point than the one at which they last saw you, for you are a stronger leader, in that you have been for a time when there was no path, and the steps which have wandered, have still, in some places, been tending upwards. - On lifes stage, does it not seem to you, that your part need be none the less thoroughly learned, none the less gloriously acted, but rather the more so, in that you have partly studied the part of another, have delayed for an hour, and gained an experience, which perhaps others will learn in bitter truth, and later, where the lesson will cast a shadow that cannot be effaced from their character? But you will say, as you did last night, that all this is a poetical sort of theorizing, which is very fine to say, or to write, but which amounts to little; well -; I cannot argue; it is not a command promise; but this I know, that I have feelings, faith, knowledge, which are more to me than all reasoning; and Oh, if I could but make you feel, believe, and know, with me, now! - You dwell on the remark, which I quoted to you: but it implied Mrs. Moore of course for regret, than what I have said alone, and is it no comfort that it includes a tribute to talent and capacity and moral worth which would be given to none of your classmates? And I could quote other remarks from other sources, of unqualified praise, had you not so silenced me, lat night, when I began to speak in this strain.
But I feel after all, that nothing I can say, that nothing any one can say, can supply the necessity of your mind now; it must be a voice from within, and not from without. And so, if this letter will only serve to lessen some of the impressions which I conveyed last evening, to give you an additional assurance of my esteem and regard for yourself, and to dispel, a little, the shade from your brow, I shall feel that it has answered its end.
I was sorry that I attended the Valedictory honors, last evening; it was involuntary, and I should not have done it, had I not so often heard your name mentioned in connection with theirs. I think, with you, that to make that the end of ones aim, is despicable; but, as one of the many means of an aim whose end is but with the end of life, - at a promise and token of that end, I should prize it.
I ought not to write more; but I think of your peculiar opinions, your critical observations, of the short times desire we were strangers, and I dread to give you this letter. But if you know me as well as I hope, you cannot misunderstand me; you cannot be offended; and if you do misunderstand me, it is but a misfortune I have met before, and I am, at any rate,
Your very sincere friend,
Helen M. Fiske.
Truly - H.M.F.
Worcester Wed. Morning Aug. 26. 1857
[transcriber's note: I believe the letter to have been written August 27, 1851 - from the context she is not yet married, August 27 was a Wednesday morning, and it is just before she goes to Albany -- where she is to meet Edward Hunt.]
I have been sitting with the end of my pen between my teeth for full ten minutes, Mr. Root, debating whether or no I shall call on the irresistible impulses I feel this morning to write to you. So many things have happened since I last saw you of which you really ought to have the benefit - and which I don't believe anybody will tell you if I don't and so many things have occurred to me which I wanted to say to you that I really cannot refrain from jotting down some of them on paper. I yield the more easily too because with true woman's logic. I have come to the conclusion that after all, I can defer the only really important questions in my deliberations of giving myself now the pleasure of writing, and leaving it to be afterwards decided, what disposition shall be made of the document! To go back to the morning of your departure - after I lost sight of you as the stage rolled down the hill, I went back, and finished my breakfast, with your peacefully emptive cup of coffee for company; in a few moments, Mr. Frain arrived, all equipped for Boston, and with a curious expression on his face, which I could not exactly fathom, but which looked a little like the expression I should think a man would have if he were going away, not as much because he was ready to go, as to see how his friends would take it! By some mistake, Helen and I did not know when he made the final leave taking, and when we went down stairs, we found that he had already gone, leaving a message for me, to the effect that he would have been happy to have see the ladies, had they chosen to have been visible. This was quite a provocative, and also a little annoying, as it sounded as if he might have considered himself slighted. So we flew up stairs, arrayed ourselves in bonnets and shawls, and sallied forth, taking the road to the Presidents' and thinking that we might thus see the stage, as it came down from college. At the gate, we met Edward, told him our errand, and dispatched him post haste to college to see if it were still there, when lo, and behold, it had gone! In the mean time, Emily had appeared with a load of sweet apples, and these are all stored in the road eating, talking, and looking in all directions - an interesting group, when suddenly we saw the stage drive from the Hotel, down toward East Street; this was vexatious, for we had had ample time to have overtaken it while we had been talking but it was gone! At this crisis, a bright thought struck both Helen's mind and mine ("instantaneously") that we might take a carriage, and drive after him. It was no sooner said than done; we went Mr. Packard, whom we met "providentially", to Lapley's for a carriage, took Emily with us for ballast, walked on to Kelloggs store where the P. was awaiting us, jumped in, and rode off. I, laughing so at the comicality of the thing, that I could hardly drive. To cut the story short, over hills, and through vallies, and through mud and water too, we drove, without overtaking the stage, till we reached Belchertown. We supposed, of course, that the stage was out of our reach, and were feeling most crestfallen at the idea of giving up; you can imagine therefore, our delighted surprise, when the hotel keeper told us, with a face by the way, on which, amusement and wonder seemed contending for the mastery, that it would not be there, for an hour! We went into the house - stationed ourselves at the window, and waited till the stage drove up, and Mr. Frain with an expression which no words can describe, but which would probably have vented itself in, "Mrs. Parker-r-r" if he had said anything, leaped from the top, and rushed into the rooms, in a great excitement. His amazement was even greater than we had expected, for it seemed, that as he rode out of town, he saw us walking near the Presidents, and waived his handkerchief to us; then, to find us, in two hours from that time, in the parlor of the Belchertown hotel was a change in "circumstancious kaleidoscope", which might well have overwhelmed a man of stronger nerve, than Mr. Frain! In about ten minutes he was again on his way to Palmer and us, on ours, to old Amherst; so do things come and go in this world! Our homeward ride made up for the haste of our first (fifty-seven minutes.) for it was over two hours in length; we walked & in the woods, gathered flowers, and blackberries, decorated our horses with the flowers - wreaths of the Virgin's Bower, (do you remember it?) and, on the whole, had a charming ride. I need not attempt to tell you of the clearness of the day, the bright sunlight, the invigorating air, the whole beauty, which seemed to permeate earth, on that morning, for you were enjoying it too. We reached home, at half past one, - dined, - dressed, - and reached Mrs. Tylers, in season, to make a very pleasant afternoon visit, of which I will not stop to tell you anything, except a conversation I had with Prof. Tyler, as we were going home, and this I tell you Henry, in all sincerity, and gladness, word for word. Mr. Bliss was there in the evening, and I was quite curious to know if he were the one of whom you had spoken. This curiosity led to the conversation which I will quote, exactly as it took place - both for the sake of brevity, and clearness. "Of what class is Mr. Bliss a member"? "Of the Junior". "How does that class compare with the one graduating this year"? "Favorably; they are younger men, but as a whole more talented. You have two or three of them at your boarding house, have you not"? "Yes sir, Mr. Frain and Mr. Root; what is Mr. Roots standing? As the head of his class in most respects; he is a young man of fine moral character, and of a strength and energy of mind far beyond his years; his scholarship too, is far superior to that of any member of his class, except Benjamin; he may possibly rival him, though he has far less native talent; but we consider Mr. Root, on the whole, a man of finer promise for the future than any we have had at Amherst for a long time". Here the conversation dropped and we walked, in almost perfect silence, for the rest of the way. I musing on the words of the good Prof. and resolving that in some way or other, they should reach you before long. Now confess, will you not, my friend, just for once, that I was right; that my letter took the right view - that the feelings which those considerations give rise to, ought to refer to the future not to the past, that your present stand is one, singular, I admit, and almost anomalous but nevertheless just such an one, where there is stern necessity for change, but little if any cause for regret, none, for remorse.
In the evening we attended a pleasant little party at the Hygeian, got up, (the party, I mean, & not the Hotel, though from my bungling expression you never would know which was designated) in quite an informal and indefinite sort of way. Austin D. was prime mover, I believe and there were present nearly all the youthfuls of the place; the evening seemed to pass pleasantly to all - and did, delightfully to me, with the one drawback, of an excessively disagreeable conversation which I had with C. Fowler, and which if I do not forget before next summer, I will tell you all about, then. I thought, at the time, that he was nearly, if not quite, insulting, and of course, manifested something very like resentment, on the spot. But I learned afterwards that he merely intended to be witty, and indulge in a little bantering, and was quite amazed, at the dignity which I thought it necessary to assume. Early the next morning, Tutor D. came down (or over, or up; which is it?) to invite us to join a party to Shutesbury, and this I will not attempt to describe, for I do not believe the memory of it will have died away before you reach Amherst; Austin D. will give you an account of it, if nobody else will. I will only mention in passing, that I never knew thirteen people to be brought together, who were so illy assorted, and who in their attempt to enjoy themselves, and each other, failed so egregiously. There were parts, however, of the day, and of the party over which no cloud resided; and those which were sunny to me, were a pleasant talk at the Hotel with Austin, and a long ramble in the woods with your good friend Sue. I do love Sue Gilbert and admire her too; I am glad you have her for your friend. We were engaged at Prof. Fowlers in the evening, but to our dismay did not get home till eight; however we called to mind our cavalier refusal of E's former invitation, and my cool reception of the ex-Prof. on a certain day, and concluded that go we must. No entreaty would induce Annie to stir one step, and so Helen and I went alone with Mr. Emerson, and Fanny, and found, without any exception, the most formal, awkward, uninteresting handful of people, that it was ever my fate to encounter; there were, possibly, a dozen and a half, in all. for gentlemen Prof. F. Charles, William, Mr. E. and that bridegroom brother of Miss Harriet Merrills; and all the rest of the company were oldish young ladies, with a sprinkling of married ones. (Mrs. Aiken by the way, forming a happy exception to the general tone), and these poor desolate few were stranded here and there along the shores of those two great parlors! You can but partially imagine the scene and you cannot at all, conceive, the almost apathetic despair, with which Helen and I relapsed into two chairs, and yawned behind our fans; we found it literally impossible to keep awake, and on the plea of excessive fatigue, withdrew, in about half an hour, having acquired a most unaccountable, or rather, a perfectly accountable aversion to everybody there.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, vanished like dreams, and left only a confused impression of calls, and callers, tea parties &c. You would have laughed to have noticed that every body who invited us seemed to be impressed with the idea that they must also invite the two Lamfords - also, how well my dear sister liked the arrangement, and how Helen and I didn't! Thursday evening, we all went with Jennie H. to take tea with Mrs. Moore; but Good old lady, how she enjoyed it; and still there was an air of lonely sadness about all her arrangements and in her own manner, which made me think. If I was not now in danger of inflicting on you a perfectly unconscionable letter, I should love to tell you some of her conversation, and about her tea table, and her front parlor, where all the furniture stands against the wall, exactly as it has stood since her husband died, all looking as if it would talk in the night, like the strange ... Dickens uses so beautifully. But there was one thing which did impress my mine more strangely than anything I have seen for a long long time. On one side of the room, stood a small table covered with a piece of snowy muslin, which hung half way down to the floor. The singularity of such an arrangement, in a room meant for company, excited my curiosity, and while Mrs. Moore was out of the room, Eve-like, I ventured to lift the veil; and there with a few other little articles, were most methodically set out, six wedding cake boxes, all tightly closed, and, with the wedding favors nicely tied and apparently sealed, on the top. You cannot imagine how strangely they looked; I dropped the muslin cover and went back to my seat, but I could not refrain from looking continually at the veiled table and the dim outline of the bridal tokens, and making all sorts of conjectures as to the import of an array so seemingly unfitting in the midst of - as it were - an assemblage of the memories of the far Past, until at last I half expected to see the bent form of the old woman come in, like a character in some ancient play, to lift the covering and with some mystic pomp, explain the riddle! I love Mrs. Moore, with all her oddities, and if I spend some time in Amherst next summer, I mean to go and see her often; I am sure, that in a life like hers, a kind call from a young friend must be a blessing of happiness. Will you not help me in my benevolent intentions, by calling on her some afternoon? You know with how much interest, she spoke of you to me.
Sat. morning, at seven, my trunks were strapped and in the hall, and after breakfasts, I set out for one or two particular calls; had a charming talk with my Mother's good old friend, Miss Mary Shephard - Made one or two [panhades] in the village, saw Prof. Fowler and Mr. Boyden, of course, and then went down, to Sue Gilberts, to spend my last moments in Amherst, with her. I had made my parting calls on Thurs., but she was out, so of course it was rather an informal procedure to race in, at nine in the morning, to see her again, but she had sent me word on Friday evening, that nothing but the rain had prevented her coming over to see me on that evening, and I was determined, etiquette or no etiquette, to see her before I left. I think she was glad to see me; we talked fast, and made more progress towards an acquaintance in that half our, than we should have done, in a fortnight of afternoon calls, and I came away feeling happier for having seen her. I am almost certain that Sue and I should be warm friends; I like her character, in some points, better than that of any young lady I know; it is a refreshing and a stimulating one, and I think there are some elements of native nobility of thought, and feeling in her soul, which are not common. I want to write to her but hardly think I shall. With me, to write to a friend, is as easy, and pleasant, as to speak, and my correspondents, form as much a part of the society in which I live, and more, as those whose tones I hear, and whose hands I clasp, daily; but I know few have just that feeling, and I can easily imagine that letter writing can never be an indifferent matter, it sill be either an exquisite pleasure or a terrible bore.
Worcester is bright, pleasant, still, noisy, incongruous, as ever; my
friend Jennie, just as good, gentle, and deep, as I have ever loved her
for being. She and I have already talked years full, in the seclusion
of our quiet rooms, and the withery of the summer night, and now I feel
that I know her completely. Some curtains have been lifted, and I think,
more, and more, with a sadness which does not fit youth, "On, life!
Your true friend,
Helen M.. Fiske.
I have concluded to send this letter, and I wish you would send directly to the Post Office and get it. H.M.F.
Amherst College -
You commenced your last kind letter, my dear friend, by telling me it was to act as a safety-valve to an excessive fit of melancholy; & drain off an attack of the blues. I know not how successful it was in your case, but I do know, that if its effect upon y'rself was at all like it's effect upon me, you were immediately, & entirely freed from all traces of that disagreeable disease - It came to me, as all your good letters do, a kind, welcome guest, & an effectual antidote to all rec 'd - if you only knew how highly I value them, I rather think you wouldn't tuck in at the close such an apology for a "long letter" for as you say there was a positive agreement to banish apologies from our letters - & I shall not apologize in this, though I greatly fear my pen will run on sometime to-day; for I have just been reading over yr letter; and my heart is in the work of answering it - I was not a little interested in in [sic] your description of your journey, & the scenes of your new home; things at one paragraph of the former, I must confess, I was a little surprized, to say the least.
You say there must have been some other reason for my self-denial, (Yes I assure you it was a self-denial) which kept me at home on the evening you spent in Springfield, than merely the fear of troubling you - & you say that you did half look for me - About that which is now past, I'll say nothing; for the future, let me warn you, that, if I ever know of your being placed in similar circumstances again, it will be y'r part to look for me not half, but wholly; for I should never have the heroism to deny myself another such an opportunity; so, Helen, let me but know of your being in Springfield again, & you shall see whether the fear of "absence marks, or something else" will be sufficiently potent to hold me in dull, quiet, good old Amherst.
You think of Albany, just as I do - I never could like the vulgar, democratic way those houses are jumbled to-gether - it always reminded me of Hartford, a city I perfectly detest - But still you seem to have located yrself quite pleasantly at your accustomed seat, & to have begun already to make serious comments on the character, and condition of those families opposite - I'd love to look in, just for single moment, Helen, upon y'r brain, as it receives its peculiar impressions for what outward scenes you might meet with for just that moment. I wouldn't care much when it was - but I should love to see the first, spontaneous thoughts which spring from any scene - then see them change their form beneath the influence of your reason & experience; see them taken from the crucible at last with some decided, (yes, if I must use the word) some decided character of their own. Then see them laid carefully away in some nook just fitted for them - and if I were to go further & look round in that magazine a little, should I not find it a "museum" of strange, peculiar, ridiculous notions? I wouldn't wish, of course, to intrude upon your cranial sanctity, but I should love to take just one peep - to satisfy a mere curiosity; feminine trail, I'll admit -
But by my own wishes I am reminded of yours - that I would give you a little history of my life this term - I will gladly do it -- I believe I told you what a strange vacation I had - one full of the pleasure of memory, rather than of hope, of present satisfaction - what strange thoughts kept coming to me - new resolves - new views - new emotions - &ct &ct - Well it was just the most natural beginning to the term which followed it - It has been, Helen, a new life to me this term - I am going to tell you frankly, just as I always do you - I came back here, not expecting to meet sympathizing friends; but not caring much to meet them - I had resolved that the influence of some few companions should be visible no longer in my own life - & consequently at once, by my actions, showed to them my decided preference for solitude, as my society - I used to go to walk alone - & the thoughts of a pleasant past, & new views, or rather old views, in part, remind, of a future, about which I know nothing, but could only hope, these joined to the pleasing consciousness of doing something formed for me a very pleasant life - I began to be more thoughtful, as I once had been - to study myself more carefully, & constantly, to strive for a practical, as well as a pleasant life - & the natural consequence was, that the practicality became a pleasure - I enjoyed myself exceedingly, & almost constantly - I used to read a good deal - "[Relefir?] Medici" (Have you read it?) & several other books and try to talk them over with anyone who should come into my room -
Thus I lived - more seriously, soberly, practically, & happier - was just enjoying myself as much as possible, when, by some unaccountable, but [nesiltess] fate, I was taken sick with a fever - have been out of College since a fortnight from to-day - at home one week of the time - studies, & all habits of study & thought - all broken in upon, & confusion - and I am in this letter commencing again my college life -
The prayer bell tells me so, at any rate, & I must go, & see the "[begin?] May" - for the present - good bye -
It is now seven of the evening - I am sitting alone by a cheerful hearth in my room, & commence finishing this letter.
Now I have told you a little about my life this term - You see, I have no particular friends - I do not talk a great deal with any-one, nor are there around me the associations, which are often deemed necessary to a pleasant life - still I am happy - quite happy; and my prospects for this term are as pleasing as I ought to wish them.
Now, my dear friend, what is the cause of this? Is it not (I say it, not to pay a gross compliment) is it not that I have found a new friend? Is it not, that the higher aims, the noble purposes, the mild reproofs, & the kind words of that friend are enough to cheer, & gladden, and encourage me? My heart says it is - & bids me thank again that friend, for her friendship - Yes, Helen, I do not, as some do, thank you formally, & from necessity - but I am made by your letters, heartily glad; heartily grateful.
I was impressed permanently by that remark of yr's in one of y'r letters some time since - perhaps you have forgotten it - when you spoke of the "vast differences" between the "high aims," & "proud consciousness" which sometimes make up our esoteric being - and the little foibles of the "ten minute acts of life." which constitute our esoteric selves - It is true - true as life itself - and, Helen, why did you say it? Was it not a kindness, peculiarly your own, which almost made you say, "Henry - be careful lest you make your self-respect an end, rather than a means - show a consistency between your inner, & your outer life - & be not satisfied, till your noble thoughts, be embodied in noble deeds" - The gentle hint was needed; may it be regarded.
I have not read "Lenis Arnauld", about which you are so enthusiastic - & I have been unable either to read, or write, or think for so long, that my ideas of it, if the characters were [ ] before me, would not probably, be just in any respect; however, if I had any - you should have them, even in spite of that insinuation of yr's which argued my timidity in advancing my views first - the extracts, which you kindly sent me, pleased me exceedingly - they gave me, by the perfectly natural description of her, a clear, definite idea of the life & character of Miss Livingston. & the next novel I read, is to be "Lenis Arnauld"
The criticism on "Olin", with which you favored me, I must confess I liked quite well, although you say the author "ought to be impaled, for want of soul to feel" - I admired "Olin" very much indeed, but I did not fall in love with her - though I can say this, which is certainly praise for any real character; she improves constantly as I think more of her - I love to think of her dearly, & perhaps it would be rather dangerous for me to meet with her in real life - however, I don't think I shall be troubled, at present, with the acquaintance of any real "Olin" -
You say, I did not give you my views of "Least" - it is just because I had no clear ideas about it - When I shut the book, I felt that I knew about it almost nothing & am going to read it again - for I do admire the enquiring mind of Lancelot - which would not let him believe against reason - & the longing heart which would not let him rest without belief - Tregarra too is a splendid character, & the last chapter, is as full of deep, pure, practical metaphysics, as the most spiritual philosopher could wish - I'll read it again, & tell you more definitely about it - but in the mean time, Helen do you read it, & tell me what you think of it - I have a notion you'll like it much -
Now for the piece "The Consecration" - I hardly know what to say - It seems to me rather to be the production of a man - I don't know why - but it don't [sic] seem to me that such expressions are too strong for a man's love - Are you so skeptical of man's devotion that you believe him incapable of such affection? I am not - and who's the best judge in this case?
There is in it something which does remind one of the "Heart of Unbelief" which I'll send you - I have been trying for a long time to get the Periodical which contained that piece - for it also contained an article on "Reason & Faith - their Claims & Conflict" - I wanted to send it you [sic] - but I can't find it - & must give it up for the present - perhaps you have seen the article -
I rec'd a letter a short time since from John Sanford - He is at the
head of a large
Amherst remains the same as ever - the same quiet, but eloquent subliming to its mountain prospect - & the same pleasing reminiscences awakened by its scenes - We are all here plodding on, looking for the day of the year, next Commencement - some of us with great pleasure too- for, Helen, I want to see that character book of yrs, as well as y'rself - I wish you were going through Springfield again - I should give you a call most certainly & gladly -
You asked me to send back that "Consecration" so I will - but you'll remember that upon the same sheet is a criticism upon it - now I should like to keep that, with the rest of yr good letters - Will you copy, & send back?
For your kind wishes for my good (as kind as ever they were) - recovery, my dear friend, my sincere thanks - & hoping soon to get a good long letter from you, believe me
As ever - your earnest friend
Henry D. Root -
P.S. Sue's address is
I hope you will write her - She is a very fine girl - I love always to think of Susan - there is in her something so different from other Amherst girls --
In haste, yr's
157 Hamilton St. Albany.
My dear Henry -
I have been watching the mail anxiously for two or three days, expecting the arrival of an indignant philippi from you, for having so long delayed the acknowledgement of your kind welcome home; in truth I believe I have half wanted that you should scold me a little, that I might have the pleasure of answering back! But you are friendly and amiable, and I have nothing left but to meekly tell my story - all certain that it will go to a good place in your heart. I have been waiting day by day, for definite news from Mrs. Peabody in regard to our Amherst projects, as I intended troubling you with the commission of securing rooms for us. &c. - But it turns out very provokingly after all, that she did not wish to go the Hygeian House, but would prefer a private boarding house, probably Mrs. Emerson's! My mistake originated in a misunderstanding of the first message which she sent me through Annie, for which I suppose nobody was at all to blame, though it is rather vexating to waste as many hours writing and planning and talking, as I have, over that Hygeian project, and then have it all result in moonshine at the end. - I think Mrs. Peabody is quite firm now in her intention of spending some weeks in Amherst, and I am only waiting to hear once more from her, a little more definitely as to the rooms she will require &c. Before writing to our old friend! Mrs. Emerson to see if she will accommodate us. On many accounts I much prefer Mrs. Emersons - annoyances and all - to the Hotel; I shall much enjoy living over some of the old scenes there - our rooms had gained quite a hold on my affections - and the alcove seats in the Hall also have a memory linked with them. I wonder much, if at any eventide again, will sit just those four, there, who kept such long vigils one night last August! That was a read childs farce, Henry wasn't it though? Oh I have laughed so many times since at the bare thought of the ridiculousness of the whole proceeding! And how mortally sleepy everybody seemed to be the next morning - and how much indebted you were, or ought to have been, to somebody that waked you up in season to take the stage that day! - Ah well - byegones have a strange life of their own; - a wide storehouse that in which we go on piling up treasure after treasure, through long years - ; fancy an old pilgrim - say seventy years -; what a surrounding he must have, of world within world, all independent of the outside externals about him; I think, in pitying old people, we do not give sufficient prominence to this enjoyment which seems to be the peculiar and full heritage of age; yet after all, the past is a cold realm to dwell in; - I have always hoped that I should not live to be old - not even to reach that age which men call "prime" ; even that looks "old" to me; however that is a vain wish, or I mean rather, a superfluous one, because I have no reason to dread a life as long as that; it is not my destiny. But what a gloomy transition: How did I ramble off into this churchyard path! I meant but to speak of reminiscences of last summer. -
Your two good letters Henry both reached me safely, in the course of our devious wanderings; I feel a little compunctions too at the recollection that during all that time you received from me only two wee bit notes in reply; but you can hardly conceive how difficult it is, in the midst of all the incidentalites and exigencies of traveling, to secure much time for epistolary communication with friends at home. - It was much never so than I had supposed - ; and with two or three exceptions, I entirely neglected all my correspondents, for that time; even to Mr. John. I have written but twice since he sailed for Europe, and you may imagine that after that precedent, other claims were easily set aside. - Yet in traveling, ones spirit communion with the absent, is more than ever quick and mindful; scenes and incidents which please and impress your own mind and eyes, always by an inherent magic I believe, call up the thoughts of some one who would sympathize in your appreciating of them; and again, the beautiful in Natures external aspect, all the world over, is so allied, and similar; and interwoven, that almost every landscape has a power to suggest some other one, else where seen -; a power even sufficient to link the wooded shores of the bright-little Illinois river, with the dark banks of the Connecticut - the shady streets of Cleveland - the "Forest City" on Lake Eries bound, with the admired of my childhood - the elm arched drives of Northampton. - There is a line somewhere - by somebody - something like this -
And earth is more to Heaven like,
Than mortals dream -; and I have thought often, this spring, that different and widely separated parts of earth, were more "to each other like" than we are in the habit of supposing. - One beauty however dwells in the West, which I do not believe is equalled elsewhere, and that is the beauty of flowers; - As language can tell the glories of those prairie blossoms; I have heard them compared to the tints of the richest Turkey carpets - and perhaps that is as good a comparison as can be made to meet an earthly eye - but it seems like comparing stars in heaven, to the spangles on a ballroom dress. She rode for nearly two days, through wild wood paths, and over long stretches of meadow, on the rolling prairie as it is called in the upper part of Illinois, and I felt all the while as one transported to some other realm; if flowers grow in Heaven, I believe the seeds fall on the plains! Yet the people all along our route said in answer to our raptures, "Oh these June flowers are nothing; they are not particularly beautiful; you ought to see the peonies in July or August." -I would not quite dare to see them then, actually - for I should almost look that my soul would fly away and make home for itself in some hummingbird or butterfly tenement, and spend its life in hovering over their dazzling beauties. But Henry do you love flower? - If you don't - all this will seem to you like a ridiculous shodomontade. I do not remember ever to have heard you express any fondness for them; but if you haven't .. And bespeak it, as a late gift - from Nature, for it will make you happy almost - and in truth -- I have sometimes been almost ready to say of a person, who has no love for flowers, what Shakespeare says of the man who has no music in his soul! (Don't be afraid though to tell the truth, about your own case - for that would be an exception you know to the above denunciatory speech!) - Well, my dear Henry, I have a sort of feeling that I ought to tell you something a little more tangible and traveler like, about our trip, than this flower-cheer. But really, I don't think I was cut out for a tourist-letter, since all the scenes of those months, live in my memory, but I could not word them; had I been able to write you during my absence, you would doubtless have had some quite vivid impressions of the places where I chanced to be while writing; and next month, I doubt not we shall have many a good talk of all these things -; but I do not know how to begin to manage them in letter style. - The West is a world - in itself - and with all reverence be it spoken - on in which I am decidedly grateful that Providence has not ordained it my lot to live yet, it seems to me, peculiarly, the field of action, for the next fifty years; - every feature of its physical and human countenance seems as it were, instinct, with the consciousness of a great, and on-coming destiny; the very trees in the burnt-fields seem to toss their blackened arms, like seers, mutely telling of the new era. I can conceive it a glorious mission to plunge into the midst of the crude elements there, and hasten on the fulfilment; still it would be a mission, bearing the life long character of martyrdom or at least, one - like "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" -- and clothed in the skein of goats, with food ruder than wild honey! -
At Cincinnati I met Annie Tyler, she is certainly a sweet girl, but her lot seems to me to have been rather a trying one; the position of a lady of refinement and cultivation, brought into daily contact with the roughnesses of Western character, and obliged by her position, to bear with, and at the same time try to remove those roughness-es, must be a toilsome and a weary one. I think, though you must not repeat this, that she is almost ready to abandon the experiment of Western teaching. Yet, poor girl, what has she at home? That coarse father of hers, must be enough to make her home distasteful; and home too seems almost a misapplied word in their case, as they have led so roving a life; I think for a man who had no professional duties to make a wanderer of him, and with such a large family of children, to change about this from one quarter of the globe to another, just for whims and caprices, is really wicked. - I have a peculiarly pleasant time with Annie. She spent a night with me in the Burnett House - and there is nothing you know that pulls down the bars of conventionalities and formality, like sleeping together - besides - I think old friends in childhood, always meet through life in a peculiar and confidential intimacy, even if as in our case, a long separation has intervened - and so we laid and talked the night out - about everything conceivable. I believe I know now Annies heart and inner history, as fully as it is possible to anyone to know another - and I have a peculiar regard for her. - Without of course feeling a warm personal love - I think her one of the most lovable and loving girls I know. We talked a good deal about Paulina Bent, one of our old clique, now Mrs. Dickinson of S. Hadley. You know her slightly I believe. I have never seen her but once, and there in the cars, since I left Amherst; if we go over to S.H., again this summer I must go to see her; she is a good girl, but I should shrink from such a life-destiny of work, as she has no doubt to meet. - Poor Sabra Howe! I never have heard you say anything about her, I believe. Do you see her much? Did I tell you ever, about the terribly unfortunate mistake last summer - in my not knowing that she had called on me? I regretted that very very much, for they are so proud and sensitive, and so easily made uncomfortable; and it would have cost me nothing to have gratified them by calling - except a few moments longer use of John Emerson's horse and buggy! You knew about that, did you not? Oh, it was the dullest round of visits I ever paid! The rain pouring at intervals - the streets all mud - and J.E. for a calling companion! But it was excessively kind of him, especially as I always thought he did not like me very well. By the way, you have not told me anything about his Tutorship; how does his dignity hold out? And "speaking of" Tutors - I have had many a good laugh since Charlie came back from Yale (he is at home now for four weeks on account of his health.) Over the jokes in the Yale Tomahawk and the "Banger" on those poor Yale tutors; "I'd be an Irishman and carry bricks, before I would take a post as Tutor in a College." - I cannot conceive what ever induces men to desire it. - Tutor Dickinson was the only Tutor I could endure at A. - and there is but one at Yale who does not seem to have been ruined by this office. And do let me tell you where I think of it (speaking of Tutor D. reminded me of it.) that Henry Parker is at last married! To a Miss Helen E. Fitch - a very remarkably fine girl, they say. - Can you imagine any thing in the shape of a woman's heart which could find its earthly complement in Henry Parker's soul - what there is left of it, rather; for I can believe that he had to begin with, great depth of feeling, and a great capacity for loving. - But he has frettered it all away on his ten thousand poet-fancies till I do not really believe he is any more capable of making a true whole souled woman happy, than he is of controlling himself, and that is the strongest comparison, which could possibly be used. - I fear that with her, the case is like this: she knew nothing of his past life - had never heard that volume of poetry, in which he immortalizes (?) Emily Fowler, and deifies about ten other loves - finally carving the unheard of principle that Love the divine sentiment, is rather desecrated and made common and sordid, by being centered forever on one: - she was fascinated by his genius for he certainly has it - and she has married him! To find misery, I am sure, if she is what she is represented to be. - Oh dear! What a world we live in! - Lucy's friend, Julia Carter, of Bedford, who sent you that poem, you remember - wrote Lucy, while we were gone, that they, ie. Mr. & Mrs. P. - have been at Bedford - and that she won all hearts at once - and on the whole, they thought that Mr. Parker and his wife would make them a very good minister! - If they can raise the salary to the amount he requires he will go there; and if not, he will still remain in Dansville; what the "Dansville Democrat" will do for poetry, now that "H.W.P." is married, and the young ladies no longer send him most baskets and bouquets to rhyme over, remains to be seen! His friend, Mr. Dickinson I have not seen since the middle of the winter; but he will be at Amherst at Commencement. - I am anticipating a great deal also, in seeing Mr. Story there; he exchanged with Mr. Palmer a few Sabbaths since, and we had a good long talk about old Amherst. What a peculiar feeling is this love for their Mater, which all students keep fresh so long! "We girls" never have such love for boarding schools I am sure! But I think though they have more of it at South Hadley than at almost any institution I know of - that New English kitchen" as you call it, and most rightly too! Mr. Story is a remarkable man and my opinion of him as a writer, is very much elevated since hearing him here; still he will not electrify us, as Henry Ward Beecher did last year. -
And now - Henry - woman-like I've left until the last thing in my letter, the longest perhaps, and at any rate, the chiefest thing. - One passage in one of you last letters has recurred to me quite often of late, with a little power to trouble: You say you never would dream of accusing me of being in love &c. - because of course I would tell you of it, if it were so, at once. This is true in one sense, for certainly I should tell you any such thing with all the whole frankness of a sister; but do you not know that a woman must not say that, sometimes, until long after it is true! At least she will not, if she be truly highminded, even to her most intimate friend. So now, I must tell you, what was just as true, at the time I wrote that laughing disclaimer, as now, that that strange part can be predicated of me after all! Now my dear friend are you astonished? I expect you are. - You have more than once half laughingly, half seriously alluded to my "ideal"; but you did not fully comprehend it, and I did not feel exactly at liberty or inclined to attempt the full explanation. Now, I can tell you in all fullness, just how and what it had dwelt in my mind -- and that it is realized and more than realized. - I have always felt and known that it would be perfectly impossible for me to love any man, unless I had a most intense admiration for his mind; possibly I throw intellect too high; yet I think not for is it not the most God-like thing on earth? - At any rate such was my feeling; but mere intellect, however grand, would not fill my heart - let it win ever so great homage; yet where in the world, would I ever find, in one nature the blending of an intellect which could command admiration, and a heart which could love and be loved! Just the union of all unions in attributes, which is most rarely seen in man or in woman, as you know well. - This is the precise thing, which has kept my heart my self - all these long years, wholly aloof from all -- which had made those who knew me, like you and Mrs. Rexford, (you remember that letter?) conscious that a conception of a character came ever between me, and the living characters about me. - still I have seen small reason to believe in the actual existence of such nature - I have chided myself again and again for the presumptions of exalting such a need in my own being; I have even almost tried to make regard in my heart for those who were not my soul's ideal ; but it has all been useless; - amid strange chance and strange associations, my life has rolled on - till I was, as you know me!
I need not tell you much more; you cannot fail to supply all the rest, only I feel a sort of heart-reproach at the remembrance of a little slander in one of my old letters - You doubtless remember it - bearing reference to an arbitrariance of manner or character which I thought unlovable; it is not a mere commonplace to say that I am amazed that I could ever have had so false a fancy; it is one of the last attributes really ascribable to his character.
You have such an horror of the word "engaged,"as I gather from your [ ] after your sisters information in regard to her new relation, that I hardly dare make use of the unfortunate expression; indeed I have always had rather a prejudice against the word myself; there is no need of such a term; when hearts love, it means nothing, and when hearts don't love - I'm sure it means still less! - Still it has passed almost into a "technical" which one cannot well avoid using sometimes. - Now, I have written you dear Henry, very frankly, as I ought; but I am going to be more frank still; you and I have talked and thought too much in common, about such matters, to have anything left partially defined. XXX I know perfectly well, the [ ] model of regarding such connections which the world has; and I know that the thought will naturally occur to you, not from any perception on your part of a necessity, but from the recognition of the world's theories, and your comparative ignorance of Lieut. Hunt, - of how this is to affect our correspondence; - as to our friendship, I said all that need be said on that point, in my letter in regard to your sister, though in this case, I could say very much more; I take a little delight and a little pride (because I know this will give you a good idea of his nobility of nature) in saying that Lieut. H. - is almost as much your friend as I am, and would be pained to have me any less so than I am. We often speak of you, and I hope very much that he will be able to spend a few days in Amherst next month and see you. If you become as good friends as I anticipate, you will have been gained too! And now my dear friend, you know all - except that which no one can know but myself; - and in conclusion of this tale -- I can say nothing more revealing my present self - or more betokening my true warm regard for you - than that my most earnest wish for you would be that one day in that good future coming, some one may, as I right well know some one will, be caught by you, to love, as I love now. - And now, Goodbye - for this long letter must speed on its way tomorrow, write me very soon, will you not, and just as of old - for I am still as ever,
Your true earnest friend -
I forgot to say that it will be best to you to direct to the care of Palmer & Barhelders, for I am going to Boston, to spend some time, before going to Amherst, (which will be the 1st of Aug). Cannot you be there a week or ten days before Commencement?
I send this to Greenfield - supposing that you must be there, though you did not remember to tell me. -
I feel very wicked, Anne, my conscience tells me that I have done wrong, that I have broken the golden rule - But I am not quite certain whether the time which has intervened between your letter and this is longer than the time between my last and your last. However all that is past, and we have to do with the present; at least we ought too. I never do, however, I am always looking behind, or before, and I know you do also, for we have talked about this very thing long ago -
John tells me you are in Charlestown, and I wondered if you would not be lonely without any young people in the family but he thinks not. How is it? And how do you occupy your time? For my own part I do not want anything so much as the privilege of sitting out of doors, and seeing the flowers and trees grow. The longer I live, the more I love these things, and the better sympathy I find with nature, "the kind mother of us all." I wish I was a gypsy, and could live all the time in the woods, unfettered by the rules of society in civilized life. Once in a while a sense of the rarity of human life comes over me with so much power, that I am entirely unreconciled to my existence, and have very wicked thoughts and wishes.
In such a mood I am this morning, but I think the reason is that I am tired, and do not feel as well as usual - I spent last evening at Prof. Tyler's, in company with three or four other girls, in entertaining a company of Sophomores. Charlie's class-mates - I think Mrs. Tyler is a nice lady. She has certainly the faculty of understanding people's characters pretty well, and accordingly is able to adapt her conversation to each one. She almost always inquires about you, and seems to feel a sort of motherly interest in you.
Speak of Mothers. Have you see your mother-in-law yet, since she went to your part of the country? I am really sorry Mr. & Mrs. Sanford have left Amherst, there are a great many other people I should rather have had go than them. How do you think John enjoys boarding at the Amherst House - I was quite surprised to hear him say it was pleasant to him, for I had an idea he would scarcely be contented.
I was just called to the door to see a committee of three young men of whom Willie Fowler was spokesman, who came to invite me to go to ride this afternoon. It is a beautiful day, and I said yes, of course, for what else could I say? Though, honestly I am very little inclined to go, because I am afraid they will put me into a carriage with some one I don't know, or don't care for. However, I will hope for the best. I met Mr. Washburn last week at our Festival, and was introduced to him for the first time. He said he took dinner with you a few days before, and I looked at him with considerable interest on that account. I should enjoy his society very well, for I think him truly agreeable, were it not that I always remember his opinion of the young ladies in the faculty.
I have a few things which I want great to say to you Anne, but there's no use in attempting to write them. The old world jogs on with you pretty much as it does with me I suppose. Scarcely ever bringing anything of great or startling interest at the time, but filling up every day with trifles, which make the sum of life. The days seems very long to me, not that I am in haste for time to be gone - for "I cling to life" as fondly as Miss Patty Pace did.
Emily is in Ipswich - She does not write us very freely - Her letters are short, and rather formal, still I think it is a habit from which she will recover - She is contented, and improving. I think you ask about Martha & Underhill - They never have, and never will overstep the bounds of sincere friendship - They have a regard for each other which will last, I am sure, but not grow into live, in the particular signification of the word as usually applied to it.
Vinnie Dickinson returned a day or two since. I have hardly seen her yet. She seems glad to get home again, which I hardly expected after her being away so long.
My Dear Anne, I want to learn all about your trials if you have any - and as much of your joys as you are willing to tell me. Being in Charlestown you must see a good deal of old friends.
Washington, Sab. Eve.
My dear Henry - I can't write you a very good letter nor a very long one tonight, for it is late and I am "over" tired - but as the boys say "Im bound" to send you some sort of a missive tomorrow, so I begin. - I am all alone in my glory here now - for my gude mon's awa in your village of Gotham. Don't you imagine at once just how lonely I feel and how if it were not for my baby boy I could not endure it at all? But you don't imagine though what I am going to do because it is so lonely - I am going to pack up, and come to New York to board somewhere and somehow with Edward for two months or so before going into summer quarters! Now isn't that a gratifying piece of news - for I know you would like to see me, and I'm sure I want to see you. - Well, so it is - and I think I shall succeed in getting ready to start by week after next! I rather dread the journey - but I dread staying here more. I shall have both of my servants too as far as N.Y. though I am going to keep only one through the summer - the other is to go cousining to New Bedford. - I have just thought what a very awkward opening this is for a letter - but I have just finished a long letter to E. all about plans &etc. - and was so full of the idea of going north, that it came out head-foremost! - No matters - studies for effect & rhetorical flourishes are banished from our letters aren't they? And now what of all the things I want to say to you, Henry, shall come first - Oh, Emily Fowler, I think - for I am still quite excited on the subject of her marriage. I am very well acquainted with a Mrs. Nesbitt here (an eccentric but very interesting person) who knows Prof. F. & some of Emily's Hartford friends. Through some of them she heard that March refused to marry Emily on account of his health - that he finally refused to answer her letters! And that she nearly (did anybody ever quite?) died of a broken heart! But that now she "seemed to have got quite over her love scraps with him"! & was very happy with her new husband. (Upon my word Henry that expressions was inadocited - but it is very good for all that - her heart was widowed). Mrs. Nesbitt says E's friends are delighted with the match - but she was much surprised to learn that he was an uneducated man. Oh how could Emily Fowler marry an uneducated person! I cannot conceive of but one greater misery than to be unable to reverence your husband's intellect - to entirely lean upon the better stronger head! But perhaps "strong minded women" feel differently - her love of rule will be gratified - no doubt - but what is to become of his pride? - And how will she bear the deprivation of cultivated and intellectual society, to which of course, Gordon Ford cannot introduce her. - I do think Amherst girls turn out (excuse me - ) horridly! Either old maids like Sarah Ferg. & Harriet Merrill - or standard flirts like Mary Warren - or - - you can supply the third class! Jennie Woodward & Emily Ford! - What wives! - I am glad sad as the fate was which broke up my house, that Annie & I did not come to womanhood then. - If I ever have daughters, they shall never live in a college atmosphere! The more I see of such results the stronger is my feeling. - Some may say the evil is in the individuals, but I do not think so - a capacity for being spoiled in that way is to a certain degree inherent in every woman - it is the necessity of the relating between the sexes -; so much the great reason that all undue or unnatural influences be avoided! - There! Don't I talk like an old woman ? I feel old on such points; but younger too in other points, so I guess the average is the same as when I had to change my seat at Mrs. Emerson's table! I do not think now much of going to Amherst - I believe I could be more comfortable at the hotel in Williamstown - Mr. & Mrs. Ray Palmer were there with their family last summer & they were delighted with the place - people - climate - & everything. I must make Murray comfortable somewhere, for you know - no - how foolish I am, you don't know - but he will be "teething" this summer & that is a trying period for both mothers & babies. - You will hardly believe he is my own baby - he is so large; he weighs "all but" twenty pounds! I often try to imagine how you will look when you see him - amused - incredulous - indifferent - or what! - What, I guess!! - He is crowing away now most lustily - I am afraid he is going to keep me awake all night for he is in one of his frolicsome veins. - Let me see, there are nine lines about my baby! Too much to have written to you!
I hardly knew how to answer your question as to my belief in your having loved Sue Gilbert. - You have never loved any one yet, as you will love - as I believe I have told you before. - But there was always a something puzzling in your relation to Sue. I would not believe you loved her, rather than "did not" is as near the truth of my thoughts as I can come. But did not you yourself once tell me something like this - that you tried to love her! - Sue Gilbert is a thoroughly selfish girl - see if this be not proved true, and I could have more quickly entertained the thought of your loving almost any other one in Amherst! - Oh, Henry - I do wish you did love somebody as I know you can love - & that somebody did love you now a somebody will!! Isn't that a vague wish? - But this is quite a discussion of love - perhaps more than I ought to say; but I believe my ideas of propriety of speech are all confused when I write to you; our freedom to say all things is a glorious element in a perfect friendship. Henry, I want to burn all your old letters - & that you should burn mine. Do you consent? And not to preserve any that may be written hereafter. I am sure it is best; our letters are too personal & too peculiar to be understood by a third person; & we are both liable to losses & mischances. I meant to have burned yours before Murray was born, but I was too sick to write you & I would not do it without.
I shall write you aline as soon as I know when I shall be in N.Y. & where. - in the mean time - write me some letters are more than welcome now. Goodnight - dear friend - God bless you.
As ever - more truly,
Dear Henry - You must wonder that such a letter as your last should be unanswered for a week - especially when I told you that my previous note had been lost. - but I have waited from day to day dear Henry, more because I knew not how to write than for any other reason; last night however I had determined I would surely write - and I was sick all day long with a violent headache. - You tell me to write to you just as I always do - & not be anxious about you -! I am sure I need only to ask you to imagine for one instant, our positions reversed - to make you realize the absurdity of dreaming such a thing possible. Were you the one strong & well, & I in suffering & danger - could you write me one of our old laughing face, rambling & speculating letters - & not be anxious about me! - Ah Henry - I believe you love me as well as I love you - & that your heart would dwell as mine has - fearfully vaguely constantly on the fore-shadowed evil. - God keep you in the hollow of his hand my friend - and if it may be His will, & your best good - let the cup of such great suffering pass from you! - I wrote you a note the day after I received our last letter - & gave you the address of Dr. Peters my Homeopathic physician - & begged you to write me immediately after consulting physicians of that school; - for that letter I was "waiting: - and was on the point of writing to you again when your other came - last Saturday week. - And now I expect you will think I am very very inconsistent - but dear Henry I am so afraid that my influence has led you to try Homoepathy, & that it may be only lost time - which would be worse that lost, of course. - In any affection positively conscious, I should have little faith in any system of medicine; from the nature of the case, an operation seems to me the only safe & certain remedy; - and I cannot express to you the anxiety I feel but you may be making a fatal delay in this trial of Homeopathy; - do not but clear unmistakeable certainty that the treatment is doing you good, make you keep on. Do you entirely give up smoking? I cannot conceive of any real effect from Homeopathic remedies taken while tobacco in any form is in the system. - Oh, Henry, how I wish I were in New York now! - I suppose we shall certainly get orders in the course of a month - as after Congress adjourns there will be no longer any reason for a delay; - we hope strongly that Newport will be our station; in that case, I shall certainly stop a day or two in New York - & shall see you; even if you are invalid enough to be kept at home. I shall come to see you; - I take it for granted that you are at Jane's though you have said nothing of your whereabouts; it is the greatest joy to me that you have this love of a Mother and of a sister to surround you now; but one love could exceed theirs - no - even that love cannot exceed a mothers! Oh, how well - how sadly, do I know that! - Yesterday I thought of my precious little Murray all day - I read over all the letters which were received after his death - & looked at the pictures of his beautiful face, until it all seeded so real - so recent - that it was more than I could bear. - I feel at times the keenest suffering in the thought that I have been made so little better by the great blessing - and the great woe.-- I know that my child was taken to Heaven for his greater & more perfect bliss - and for my chastising - ; but I have so great a fear that through my failure, the discipline may prove no furtherance of my goal towards perfection; - that I am not growing more & more fitted for companionship with his pure spirit! Oh, what such future punishment can there be, as that Mother be unworthy to dwell with her child! - Forgive me dear Henry for dwelling on these sad thoughts; - were it to any other but you, they would have been unwritten. -
Do you know Rufus Saxton, a Lieutenant in the Army - & a cousin of Sue Gilberts? - I have been very much amused by his remarks to Minnie Hunt, as to Miss Gilbert - yourself - & me. I suspect she has not told me half he said - but I am sure that he has a very one-sided idea of the falling out, if so it could be called, between Sue, & me; - of course what he knows (or believes.) he knows from her & it only confirms my previous opinion of her character. - Among other facts he states one which may be of some interest to you - that you were engaged to Sue for a time - but that it was broken off - though you were very much in love with her! - also, that you were very very "wild"!! - I was anxious to see the young man myself to cross question him - but I have a shrewd suspicion that he was not at all anxious to see me. He is reputed to be slight "cracked" & very queer - & I tell Minnie she has no reason to be proud of her conquest - (He addressed both - her & her sister last winter!) I wish you could see Minnie - I have adopted her as my sister, so of course I should like to introduce you to each other. - She is the most thoroughly disinterested girl I ever knew - & her life has been a romance indeed. But Henry she is - I regret to say - only one month younger than I - Ergo - too old for you to fall in love with, even should you meet! - All my friends are to old! Is it not a pity? - For I can't bear the idea of your marrying some one I do not know; I want to know her first; for I am afraid if I don't, she won't love me at all - & that I could never bear!
I saw some days since the arrival of E. Dickinson & daughters at Willards, - but I have not called on them. I have a good excuse, as I do not pay any formal visits this winter - nor go out to parties - or anything of the kind. - still my conscience troubles me a little because they are from dear old Amherst, but personally it would be a great piece of hypocrisy for me to go to see them. Mr. Saxton told Minnie that they were "very common" - but that the brother his cousin was to marry was rather superior! I shall never forget that "huckleberry party" where Sue & I made such a sham of friendship - & she & Austin were having an "incipient"! - Oh, what a stupid day that way - I remember that - & my disappointment at not seeing you at Groat's corner, on my way back to Boston, more vividly than anything else except our horseback rides - & observatory talks. I never told you I guess how awfully disappointed I was that day - & jealous, too I expect - for I knew Sue Gilbert was at the bottom of it. I [was?] meditated the most quixotic & improper expedients for seeing you - I thought of stopping at some of those little towns over one day - & writing to you! - What should you have thought if I had! - I am glad these old memories are dear to you now - they are very pleasant to me for moments of reverie. We were certainly younger then than we are now - & not to wise - or we should have know that we were playing with dangerous capacities in each of our natures, in allowing ourselves so to love, & not to love! - but the present finds us friends still. - Now Goodbye - dear dear Henry. This letter is but a poor voice for the fulness of my heart just now; - but I have once written you all; - I shall wait with a greater meaning than the word used to have till I hear from you again. God bless you - & save you from ill.
Yours - ever as ever - Helen.
Washington, Tues. Morning
My dear Henry -
It is the great reception day here - Presidents' Secretaries' and all -- the day on which sarcastically speaking, one half of Washington goes to see the other half just because they know the other half is "not at home." - The great system of carding, which prevails here is a queer sort of insult on a large scale, I think - and I am more and more disgusted with it and the state of social feeling it induces. But perhaps it is unavoidable here, where everybody knows everybody and the nobodies are the most clamorous of all; the New York upper two-class-ism, of wealth and fashion is quite creeping in here now, where it is least of all to be tolerated, because one third of the citizens of Washington are salaried men, and another third, men whose devotion to a country's necessities should not be interfered with by paltry [trikins?] of daily life, - Mrs. Senator Guinn is about to make an illustrious display of her husbands' Californian treaties this month, by giving a grand fancy ball at Larkson Hall. Her own house though one of the most elegant in the city, being considered inadequate to the occasion. - Mrs. Gwinn dressed for the night - all Chinese, four in number - of different-designs, and their making up alone cost over $400. Of course nobody talks of anything else but Mrs. Gwinn - her dresses - and her ball. - Of course the whole will be described in newspaper paragraphs like the grand entertainments given in Fifth Avenue - and then of course up will start envious competitions and we shall have a series of imitations all the way down the descending scale. - I visited Mrs. Gwinn last winter, but have not seen her this season except accidentally - last winter she amused and interested me, by the constant struggle evident between all art and nature in her; she is naturally a good warmhearted woman, but she is fast growing a mere show puppet; in the course of my last call on her, she told me that the highest ambition for her daughter was that she should acquire Madame Chegany's manner!! It seems her ambition has vaulted since then, for she is going to sail for Europe immediately after this ball to spend two years in Paris with the young lady as she cannot find any suitable schools for her here! - In direct contrast with Mrs. Guinn the beauty of Mrs. Senator Fiske's character is remarkable. He, as you doubtless know was brother Washington's predecessor as Governor of N. Y. - They are immensely wealthy and live in a style fully equal to Mrs. Gwinn, but there is not a shade of artificiality about Mrs. Fiske. She is a noble mother - and a glorious woman; a perfect ideal, in short, for I have just happened to think that all this talk about people you don't know cannot be very interesting. I began to speak of this being the great reception day, because I had made all my plans to go out too on the same foolish business at which I have been laughing but the air was so raw I gave it up, and hence this letter; it is very seldom that I write letters by daylight. I find so few hours for the uninterrupted flying of my needle, that I feel as if I could not spare any of these for letter writing which I can do as well in the evening. It is just a month since your letter - longer than I thought it would be - however I know you will not think a month so very long an interval, for a young mother! Ah Henry, my days fly like the weavers shuttle - and I almost realize now, how before I fairly know it, my pet baby boy will be perhaps tall as you - and a man in the world! God keep him and me till then! I would not die now, oh no, not for eternities of bliss; you were right - not to strangle your New Years wish; make it a prayer instead, my friend! I want to live many years yet. Murray is a large, strong, healthy baby, and he is so constantly played with that he is very frolicsome; I dread the summer for him - but try to keep all such fears out of sight. You will know, some day to come, how more than pleasure such a little life can be, and if you chance to keep any of my letters till then and read them over, you will not wonder any longer, but understand these few words which will come, even to you!
I was most awfully befogged by your allusion to Emily Fowler's marriage and your comments thereon. I had not heard she was married at all - and I could not imagine that if she was married,, it could be to any one but March - so I wrote post hast to Annie to find out, and she, provoking child, had so little sympathy with my curiosity that she forgot to tell me for two letters - ! Last night I had another letter from her, and the long deferred story was in it. Who and what is he, Gordon Ford! As you speak of the marriage being a fulfilment to the letter of a prediction of yours, you can doubtless give me all the pros and cons of the matter, and I shall rely on your doing so in you next letter. Don't leave me as Annie did, now, and forget all about it. Annie wrote that some people said Emily would have married him three years before if it had not been for her engagement to March! What does the world matter? I always supposed Emilys relations to March one of the most purely and strongly love-inspired and love upheld that ever existed? Tell me all you know about it. Annie wrote me something else too, Henry, about you; I believe I will tell you though I'm half afraid it will make you angry; - but you must tell me if there is any shadow of foundation for it. Emily Dickinson said that you loved Sue Gilbert! Did you? If so, I can only say that to have known the attachment of a heart like yours, and then accepted that of Austin D. - is proof of a shallower soul than I ever supposed Sue's to be, even after I became convinced that she was neither true nor good; and I must also upbraid you a little, my friend, for a want of confidence in me, in the whole matter; but tell me now all about it, won't you. I met the Esq? the other day on the Avenue, with a vol. from the Congress Library under his arm - proof positive you know to all he met that he was a "Member at least and very possibly a Senator! He is as upright - and such as ever; promised to come and spend an evening with us, through the whole of which I shall feel as if I was on exhibition. He is going to bring Vinnie on here the last of the month. I do hope she won't expect me to lionize her at all, for really, independent as I am, I should be a little unwilling to assume the responsibility of the presentation, she is such a fat little country lassie! Don't tell of all the ill natured things in this letter, Henry, I beg. I have very few safety valves for my sarcasm, and must use them occasionally to prevent an explosion! A Mrs. Anderson from Brooklyn is visiting here - a quiet pretty little lady, who thinks I am a paragon (at least so my friend Mrs. Col. Warner with whom she is visiting says) & if you want to hear the latest news of me and mine, you must call on her with Mr. Goodenow. She knows him. And so it seems, Jane is not his "first love" & I infer from a hint you once gave me, he is not hers. So they are equal! I wonder if anybody but me, ever did marry their "first-love." My portfolio of heart mysteries is filling fast! I hear new stories of one sort or another every day; if I hadn't a baby, I should certainly write a book! Lucky, isn't it, I have?
Now, Goodbye - dear friend - Write me soon - & tell me all you are about & answer all my questions & it shall never be more than a month, unless I am sick, before I answer. You did not answer my question in regard to Janey views - do not think I shall forget it. I shall interpret your silence, if you do not reply to it. -
As ever most truly - Helen M.F. Hunt.
Washington, Wed. Eve. -
My dear Henry -
I wonder if you would rather have a letter written on the bed & with a pencil than none at all! - I guess you would, and I've been thinking so all day long, but the lazy indisposition has prevented my starting to set on my belief, until now, when the sun is almost down & I shall have time only to scribble a few words. However, I'll begin - and tell you, a few whys & wherefores, & then say goodnight till the morrow. - First let me tell you that I am writing on my portfolio, laid off on the pillow, to the left of my fan, so that I have to write as it were in streamers at right angles to my nose. So that you will be found to excuse my very inelegant orthography - (There! You'll think I've surely got the brain fever to make such a blunder as that; of course I meant to say [elint?]ography! - Well, I haven't the brain fever nor any other fever - but only some sort of a inveterate trouble in my throat which has been making me miserable for a fortnight, exactly what I don't know but I believe the doctor thinks now an abscess will form & then I shall be well at once - Bad & undesirable as this is, I like it better than the fear which I have begun to have, that it was one of my old sore throats, which I believe I have told you about, which were the haunting misery of my life from six to eighteen & which, thanks to Dr. Green, I have not had one of for four years. - But enough about throats - it isn't an interesting subject, only I must thank you for all the sympathy I know you will gush right up in your heart as soon as you read that I am sick - ; what you say about the looks of sympathy written out on a page, is very true - it is almost of necessity, flat. But not so yours; I have always thought your power of really & acceptably sympathizing in little (as well as great things) ills - I don't know but the physical ones especially - was very remarkable. And I am not sure but it is the only one of your good human kindlinesses, which those you don't love, can get a fair glimpse of. - You do really often feel "sorry" for people that you don't care a fig for, and to whom you don't shew out another winning sentiment, Don't you? - or am I mistaken? - But don't be too sorry for me - I am very luxurious an invalid - living on iced lemonade & choice broths, reading novels and keeping my husband & my darkie dancing attendance on me all the while! Enjoying the green leaves and singing birds from my open window - and fresh flowers by my side. - This is a glorious spring - if it would but last - ! You are still shivering no doubt - & don't even dream yet of radishes & asparagus & lettuce, and - t o m a t o e s - Mr Root, which we have but to ask for and have! -
There! I hope I've made your mouth water - I felt just as if I should like to, that minute. - But I must say goodnight - a long delicious twilight is coming on - through which I shall lie still & think, for I am alone this afternoon. - I guess I'll think about Amherst and old times and friends - they are good company. Goodnight dear Henry. -
I need not tell you I know that nothing but clear sheer inability has kept me from finishing this poor scrawl before. But I have not been able to do anything but gasp for breath and try to be patient! Day before yesterday I had my throat lanced in three places! So you can imagine it - has been no ordinary matter. Today I can speak quite clearly - am sitting up, and going out to ride after dinner; do think of me as on the high road of recovery; - and understand too my friend that I only mention these dreary details to prove to you that no sham of forgetfulness or want of intent has had to do with the weeks' interruption in my letter. - I hesitated some about sending you the miserable thing - but concluded that very possibly you might pity it after all, more than some more labored production. I know I should seek an [ord?] from you; and by the way I have had a floating fancy for the last ten days that you might be sick yourself for I thought that this little note-bundle of mine on the reception of your last - would draw out another from you, without waiting for me to write again. - I am so sorry I have lost our first letter from Bloomfield, telling about yourself and your surroundings, but I suppose it is of no use to look longer for it. The winds may treasure its ashes up by the North Pole somewhere by this time - perhaps a few of them have found ghastly lodgment in one of the holes in Sir John Franklin's skull, bleaching on some dark ice berg! - But you have been twice in the same cross (which ought not to happen to a sensible fellow as you - ) of supposing me a person of such vast importance in a large city that my name alone would ensure the delivery of a letter. You know that was the way I lost your Boston letter. -
I have been dissipating my mind woefully this spring - I don't pretend to read anything but stories. - Villette - by Currer Bell you have read no doubt - & I hope you don't like it. I think it is flat. I think Currer Bell has been playing a diminuendo on her author influence - of which I do trust the weakest note has been realized. - Jane Eyre was glorious - Shirley, hateful but still great & strong to a degree, Villette common. If you have not read "Ruth" by Mary Barton (Mrs. Gaskell) do get it. - It is holy and beautiful and womanly; - you love it and her - and are glad that this earth exists, when you read. It is much finer than the Maiden & Married life of Mary Howell, by the same author. Of old novels I have read a score - some of
[rest of letter missing]
No return address
I thought it wld. come, my dear Helen, that note of yrs - or at least, I strongly hoped so - & was not disappointed. Yr. plan for calling on Annie & Luby, as you call her, strikes me very favorably I assure you - & it shall most certainly be carried out. There is only one objection in the weather, now-a-days is as fickle as - a woman? - & under circumstances, wh. may be, I shall not know how to act - i.e. whether to come for you, or not - I don't consider myself at all a good judge as to the degree of cloudiness, cold, or rain incompatible with a lady's appearances out doors - Nothing but the intensest cold, ever keeps me from a plan & if it shd. be "dark & dreary" on Sat. I shd. be non plussed - There is no telegraph between Roxbury & Cambridge, so I don't see but you'll have to write me a little short note, & tell me if I had better come, if it sh'd be cold, & dark, or "look like rain" as the funnies say - also tell me what time to be there - Probably nothing will hinder me from coming - if I sh'd not be there however at the time you will appoint in yr. reply you may infer that I am not coming - I say this not because of an uncomfortable dread that I shall be prevented, but to relieve you from a more uncomfortable "waiting" for me -
How singularly inappropriate seems a letter of dull plannings to you - the old thought just comes to me Helen, how bright & blessed a thing it is to keep personally of such a friendship as ours. - friendships doesn't seem a good enough word - does it? I used to have an idea of such a relationship, but never dreamed of a possibility of feeling it realized - (the word "feeling" I can't abide - I have heard it so often enunciated without any "y" in it - still it sometimes seems the only possible word -) - I am sorry you have lost that note - but still it can't be helped - It is a consolation wh. you may take home to yrself, that anyone unskilled in hieroglyphics will hardly, by this time, have succeeded in deciphering it - You spoke if I remember rightly, of putting it in yr. pocket - perhaps if you were to look there you might find it even yet -
But I mustn't write any more tonight. Now please answer this at once that I may know "intact."
Good night, my dear good Helen, & may our kind father bless, & keep you always -
As of old -
Tuesday night -
finds me at Cambridge again, my dear Helen, & though I have been travelling all day, & it is now nearly Eleven O'clock, I must first report myself to you, & ask you if you want to try that ride again! -
If you do, (& if you don't) write me at once, tell me when, & where to come for you - Any P.M. nt - maybe convenient to you & I am at yr. service, & with great pleasure -
Of course, I shall at any rate see you before a great while, for I can't let you be so near & not take advantage of it - How I hope this won't have to be sent to Newport, or any other quarter, but Roxbury - I shan't believe you are yet gone -
I am some better I think than I was when you were in Cambridge -
Dr. Parker is caring for me, & if I faithfully follow his prescriptions, I am hopeful of a full recovery - Still it is quite uncertain what will be the result, & I am waiting for further developments - How explicit I am with you, my dear Helen - but you are glad of it - & so am I -
Good bye, my dear good friend, & God bless you -
Yrs. As Ever
West Chester - June 8/55
You will have seen by the heading hereof, my dear Helen, that I am in the country - & by the Enclosed samples of paper that I rec'd yr last in due season - I shd. have answered before had I not been too weak, & this morning I must not attempt much - And first I tried at Tiffany's for the paper, & they had none of the kind you wanted - at least, no letter paper & I shd think not much quantity in the sizes of note paper. - So I tried at Beale's - & he has only the enclosed - of wh. the largest size is the same in quality as that you sent. - If you wish, I can get more of that & whatever size Tiffany may have of the note - or can send note paper of the kind enclosed - If you will tell me in yr next I will order it the next time I go down, for I am obliged to be in town twice each week, to consult Dr. R. - , & it will occasion me very little trouble, so don't fear in that score -
As regards the present state of my disease, it is almost impossible to form any decided opinion - I certainly lose, rather than gain strength, though I do not know that I ought not to expect it, such the influence of such powerful medicine.
By the way, you saw whom misapprehended me a letter in my allusions to arsenic - it was not at all from fear of it as a remedy, but only to account for the sudden swelling in my face that I suggested its use as possible. - I shd. not fear the deadliest poison in careful hands - This swelling in my face has quite increased, so that you wld. hardly recognize my picture -- when it shall have abated, I will send a daguerreotype - My preferences are the same as yr. own to this regard, a photograph seems too distant and public to me for private enjoyment -
I shall not attempt to write you more this morning, my dear Helen, for I shall be better if I rest - & yet I have so large a faith, that I shall right [sic] in the midst of it. That it had seemed where, that in case my desired tormented fatally we shd meet, after my death, to see you more than any one else - But I mustn't write any more - Good bye my dear Helen, & God bless you,
care of L.G. Root
1. Addressed to: Miss Helen M. Fiske, Care of Rev. Ray Palmer, 157 Hamilton St., Albany, N.Y. Postmark is CHESTERFIELD, MS. [Most of the letters are obliterated] [no date]. Reverse shows the letter was sealed with wax and a crosshatched stamp used to emboss the wax.
2. Addressed to: Mrs. E.G. Hunt, Washington, D.C. Postmarked: BLOOMFIELD N.J. [no date]. Reverse had been sealed with wax.
3. Addressed: Mrs. E. B. Hunt, Care of Edw. C. Banfield Esqr, 11 Court
St, Boston, Mass. Postmark: Cambridge MASS [no date]. Written in pencil:
46 Court. Postal stamp on reverse: 3 O'CLOCK DELIVERY. The envelope had
been sealed with sealing wax and a cross-hatched stamp used to emboss
maintained by Special Collections; last revised, 7-2007, jr