Colorado College Tutt Library

Helen Hunt Jackson 1-1-10 transcription

Ms 0020, Box 1, Folder 10, Letters from Nathan Fiske (HHJ's father) to Deborah Fiske (HHJ's mother), 1830-1831
Transcribed by Gloria Helmuth, October 1995

Addressed: Mrs. D.W. Fiske, Care of Mr. Otis Vinal, Boston
Return Address: Amherst, MS, Jany 2.

[Jan 1830] Amherst Friday Evening

I am indeed not only almost, but quite & altogether vexed. Yet I sincerely thank you for the letter from Weston. It will save me another hour of ------ I will not tell you what, for you will only laugh at me.

If it depended on you alone whether to return or stay at B. I know there wd be no occasion for this letter; but it will undoubtedly find you still waiting, because the boxes are not in the waggon.

You must not speak about seeing your way clearly for getting back, with any implied insinuations, for you have a letter from me wh. made the way very clear for yr getting here last night - you were to satisfy yourself whether yr Father would certainly come, & if there were any uncertainty, XXX my word was given as to what be done by me. Your Father was not under the least obligation to come, or say he wd come. I did not ask you to urge him to come, nor even to propose it unless you approved it. But I requested you to get a certainty. Now unless you were deceived, or deceived me, your father did promise, & it is not indecision simply to delay, it is something more; & it is perfectly proper for you to urge the promise. Your Father was under no sort of obligation to make the promise; but he was under solemn obligations to keep it; & reasons such as have been mentioned are no reasons at all for not keeping it, above all the last, wh. I confess drained & wiped dry the last drop of my patience.

The reason I gave for not coming to B. unnecessarily, was a good one, -- but not a good one to hinder my coming, if necessary; & I would rather have made double or treble the sacrifice of the kind involved in that reason, than the sacrifice I have made in feeling.

But away with this. I shall expect you Tuesday night, Mary will come to the C. on Monday, & begin to right things.

The bell rings for nine, & I must run to get this into the mail.

Remember Mr. Dickenson will not leave Amherst under a week, & vacation is wasting away.

Yrs. N.W.F.

[Jan 1830] Saturday Evening

The Stageman's Horn just sounds in my ears, & in a few minutes I shall expect to read a letter from my dear wife, whom I truly desire to see & be with. In mean time, before the mail is opened, I will turn over, & put down some items for your Father, wh. I could not get yesterday on account of being obliged to prepare for a Lecture last evening.


Your letter has arrived, & mine I trust has reached you, & you will not be disappointed at certain precise calculations of days in it, since you promise to come at the time I specified. You will however remember not to ride in the night. Let me give you the plan. Leave B. for W. on Wednesday in the 10 O clock stage, & pass night at W. Thursday take the stage (thro Brookfield & Belchertown, & if it reaches Belchertown after sundown stop there, & let your Father come on to A. with the baggage; but I believe you cannot do this, you must come) thro Enfield, & if you reach there late, stop, let your Father come on to A. with the trunks, & very early next morning I will breakfast with you, & take you home. You must be very careful of exposure in returning; it will be sad if going to B. for health proves the occasion of losing it. You have the Buffalo, besides that, ask yr Father to procure for yr feet an oak block. Before you start let me know all about your plan.

I wrote Maria a long letter last week, & hope some time or other to get an answer; you must go out to W. if you can easily, & give my love to them all, & get some Turkey-wings, etc. --

I have nothing to say under head of news. Your sewing circle keep up their meetings, which is all I can say on the subject. My washing is done at Mrs. M's, mending is reserved for your privileged hands. The cuffs look rather too bad, but I shall put on my other coat to preach in tomorrow. And this reminds me that I must put aside my letter. I am to preach at Hadley Mills, & have not yet selected my sermon, & it is nearly nine o'clock. - I will add a word after my return.

Sabbath Evening 7 O'clock. I rose at 1/2 past 5, made my preparations for the pulpit before breakfast, immediately took Mr. Adams's horse & chair, rode to Hadley Mills, preached all day on Hebrews 13.8. & here I am now safe returned, with my fire just kindled, with my pen in motion. It has been a very pleasant day to me, & could I have found you here with a blazing fire, & a cheerful face & heart to welcome me it would perfect my happiness. It is clever enough in talk to be a batchelor, but I choose most heartily to have even such a wife as I have.

One thing I have seen to day, wh. affected my feelings very much. It was a boy about 5 yrs old whose eye was sadly disfigured & also the whole face about the eye, & the fore finger of his right hand nearly wanting, in consequence of being burnt while a nursing infant. Can you believe it, his mother was intoxicated & dropped her infant from her bosom into the fire!! Who, that can feel, would wish to make, sell, or drink, or even touch the poison?

The little hall where I preached was crowded, & I enjoyed the services much better than I had any reason to expect,

[tr. note: page two of letter missing]

Addressed: Mrs. D.W. Fiske

[1830] Friday Morning.

I have but one moment. I am tired out & chagrined enough, having had an agrevious failure at lecture last night. It is good for me to be humbled.

Your letter arrived. Mr. W. will tell you about general matters. When I shall be at home is uncertain, perhaps not till the last minute, altho, I most earnestly wish I was at home this morning.

I think I shall go to Lowell again, but have not since I wrote from Weston.

It is prodigiously cold. Mrs. Vinal wishes you to write the name of your daughter immediately to her. Helen Maria, is it? I have no objection, & the folks seem to like it.

Mrs. V. will see to getting your braid & kerchief & perhaps cotton etc.

I hope you will remember me in your prayers. The distractions of this journey have dissipated all my mind & heart.

Affectionately yours
N.W. Fiske

Addressed: Mrs. D.V. Fiske, Amherst, Will Mr. Strong be kind enough to forward this, Postmarked Boston, MS, Dec 27

[Dec] Boston, Mond. 27th, 1830
3 O clock

My dear Mrs. F.

Uncle, Aunt, Martha & your other self are occupying the sitting room & all write first in sending love to you & Mrs. Chickering, & the little Helen. This is the first head.

What a pen, & what ink! When I write again I hope for better preparation. I shall say but a word as your Uncle is hurrying me in order to ride with him.

I reached Boston safely & happily about nine o'clock, spent Friday in laying my plans, on Saturday rode to Lowell, yesterday preached twice & reached here about 12 O'clock to day, this afternoon I shall get Burgoyne's expedition & tomorrow commence map-making.

The Family are all well & I feel as if I could remain contentedly, if nothing occur, at home to call for me.

I expect to hear from you to day or tomorrow, & promise more lines & hope to give better matter, in my next, wh. shall be soon.

Aunt says "take good care of Helen," I say tell me all about her, & give my love to Mary.

Very affectionately yours,

Addressed: Mrs. D.W. Fiske, Amherst, Postmarked Boston, MS, Dec 30

Boston, Dec. 30, 1830

My dear Deborah,

Mr. Fiske has given me permission to commence a letter, since he is to finish it. I will give you leave to skip over the first page, until you have read the remainder. I could easily fill the whole sheet, telling you what a good visit we are having from your husband, there is nothing wanting to make it complete, but yourself, and little Helen. We were very glad to day, to hear that you were getting along so comfortably, without Mr. Fiske, and hope you will continue to do well, so that we may have a long visit, as well as a good one from him. I suppose you have a little curiosity to know where we are, and what we are doing, now I will tell you, in XX the morning one goes to the counting room, another to the prophet's little chamber, and another to the school room. You will have but a very little letter as I have been interrupted twice since I began. Last evening Ellen and Ann drank tea here, and to night Uncle and Aunt and Mr. Fiske drank tea there. We have had a good full letter from Martha this week, she has got comfortably situated in the new house, likes it much, has a very good girl, prospers very well in her Bible collections, etc., she found Sarah well and happy to see her. An Elisabeth was well. Mr. Abbotts school was examined for the second time to day, three committees and a great many spectators were present, so that both rooms were full to overflowing. You must write us soon. Helen must write us a letter next. From your affectionate cousin Martha B. Vinal

We are all as well as usual

Thurd. Ev.

My Dear Wife,

I have just returned from a pleasant meeting of consultation about SS matters at the Cowper Com. Room., & in fifteen minutes am to go with Mr. O.V. to Mr. Scholfield's to tea.

I have been busy since XXX I wrote, in the little chamber writing a Lecture on Burgoyne. I think I shall deliver the Battle of N.O. at Lowell & perhaps here.

My preaching at L. is rather a failure, but I get a little acquainted with folks. - You are remembered here much more than yr husband, & I am sorry you are not with me, not to introduce me etc., but that I might see you. It seemed a fine thing in prospect to be free for a while from care, but I shall be glad to be home again. Yet I think it best for me to remain as long as your affairs at home will permit.

I began to be impatient to hear from you, as your letter did not come to day at noon. I am pleased with little Helen's epistle, & should like this minute to toss her up to the wall. As to her being stiff necked, don't trust to time & chance, but keep her head constantly right. - I shall go to Lowell again on Saturday & after I return go to Weston as soon as possible; how long I remain there or spend in visiting relations I cannot tell.
Yr Father is still at N.Port, & no one knows when he will return. I wish you to mention, if you wish any things to be purchased & sent by the wagon. Direct your letters to care of Mr David Vinal.

If the Hatfield or Hadley man calls to pay any money, write a receipt for twenty eight dollars, & pay the money not to Mr. Peck, but twenty to Mr. Armstrong & eight to Mr. Benjamin & take their receipts.

I suppose Martha has told you all the news, & I must hurry to a close, altho my letter is not as long as I promised.

Give my love to Mrs. C. & Mary, & a few kisses to Helen.

Yrs. truly N.W.F.

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Amherst, Postmarked Boston, MS, Jan 6

Lowell, Mond. Jan 3rd, 1831

My Dear Mrs. F.

Home is the place, after all, notwithstanding the vexation of smoke, & cold, etc. etc. Yet I have no reason to complain of my visit to these parts. The time has passed off rapidly. Last week I was secluded wholly in the little chamber in Hancock St. engrossed in following Burgoyne in his fatal career. That expedition was attended with many intensely interesting incidents, & if I can succeed in condensing & arranging them, it will make a taking lecture. - Thursd. ev. we had a kind of family meeting at Mr. Scholfield's, & I saw the conceited dullness of your own dear Arthur & other things all wh. I will pass over excepting the awkwardness of your poor husband, who could not hit upon any subject of conversation to interest the good folks assembled. --

Saturday morning I called on Mrs. Homes; Elizabeth is to be married this month; she seems pleased enough with the prospect; they send love to Deborah & Helen. --

Saturday afternoon I took the stage for this place; the travelling exceedly bad on account of the recent rains. Rev. Mr. Potter was in company but whist as a robber, & I care a word was uttered by the rest all the way - Yesterday I preached in the same place as on last Sabbath to an audience rather larger. My preaching here of course excites no attention, seeming all accidental. There is a field for usefulness to one who loves to preach the gospel, & who has the tongue of a ready speaker. But the congregation & church of a pastor are constantly changing, & there is not much desirable society. The mass of hearers is composed of young persons, chiefly females, connected with the factories, & not very intelligent.

Perhaps you will like to hear something about my old friend here. She seems happily married, & is the mother of a mammoth child, altho' herself smaller than you. They board with a Lawyer, Mr. Glidden, whom I knew in College, & at whose house I am now staying. Mrs. Crosby, (that is the name of the lady.) has inquired very particularly about you, & wishes to see you. She seems to have learnt something about you from Mr. Haskell, who I think once boarded with them. She says Mr. H. was one of your many admirers. What a sad mistake you made; you might have been living in Boston!!

You asked when I should come home. I think I shall consume the whole vacation away. Two weeks are nearly gone, & I have not yet visited Weston, altho' I have sent a representative in a budget of dirty clothes. I shall lecture here tomorrow night on the Battle of N. Orleans, & it will depend somewhat on the success of that, what I do next; & as the mail has gone for to day, I will suspend my letter till after that is over. --

The rest of this letter is for you alone, that is to say it is private matter etc. I am at the little worktable in Mrs. Otis Vinal's sitting room, at wh. I saw the pretty Miss D.W. Vinal counting money, when I first called on my famed expedition to pop the main question -- It was a fair day on Monday, but suddenly at night the wind changed, it became very warm, the roads became soft, & Tuesday morning a storm threatened but I had gone w for to recede in the affair of the Lecture - the night was dark as the Egyptian, & it rained; I made therefore a complete failure - about 150 ragamuffins, however, assembled, & paying 12 1/2 cents (that was the fee of admittance) apiece gave me about 10 dolls, after defraying the expences. Such was the discomfiture of a second attempt (at Worcester, the first) to turn my laborious working on maps to amount. How shall I interpret this? Is it an indication of Providence that I ought not to pursue any thing of this kind? Or is it a salutary check to make me cautious & watchful, to prepare the way for ultimate success? I confess, I feel somewhat dispirited by it. And as it rained yesterday at Lowell, & was gloomy enough to me, I packed all up & hurried to Hancock St, where I arrived last evening very weary. I was welcomed by our good aunt, & cheered by a letter from home. When I told Mrs. Crosby, I was starting for B. she said archly, "you think there's a letter from Amherst?" My Dear Mrs. F. I am thankful I can say that seeing other places, & others' wives only makes me love Amherst & my own the more. How heartily did I wish last night that instead of the letter, it had been yourself & the little Helen. Alas! for the anticipated brightness of those eyes, which prove to be the dull grey of her Father's!

I am sorry that you give such an account of Mrs. Hovey. Send him to Boston with the President, give my respects to the family & all Friends, let me hear soon. Direct as formerly, for altho' I shall go home to Weston shortly, the letters would come to me better by Boston.

Very affectionately yours

Thursday Morning Jan 6th.

Addressed: Mrs. D.W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass
Return Address: Weston, Ms, Jan. 12th

Weston, Sabb. Ev. Jan 9th, 1831

My Dear Mrs. F.

Yesterday morning at 7 O clock I took the stage for home, leaving the good people at No. 39 in bed, excepting Ann (I believe that's the name) who cooked me a fine steak, & Martha who poured my coffee. Reaching the old yellow house, I found the little neat kitchen very much in the pickle in wh. you & I found it two years ago; Maria seemed rather mortified to be so taken, & soon cleared off the rubbish. The family are all well, & desire much to see you & the baby. It was as you intimated, respecting Grandmother, She has usually appeared in her low chair at the fire place whenever I have before visited the house for many years; & has had a series of questions to propose, over & over from this forgetfulness of age; but neither her voice nor face is anymore here, these places will not know her again, nor our departed brother & sister. It seems as tho' gloomy, I ought rather, it would be more christian, to say, serious association were to be [indipobly] joined with the idea of visiting this spot. Yesterday I had not entered the door before hearing that the wife of our uncle the Lawyer has died the night proceeding very suddenly in a fit of apoplexy. Tomorrow I shall join her funeral procession. Such constant admonitions do I receive, that this world is not my home; but my dear companion, what will do us any spiritual good, when the mingled mercies & judgments of our own fine side are unveiling? What faithful parents ought you & I to be to our little Helen. Have we in heart sincerely given her to God & the Redeemer? How much I think of you both, altho' I suspect those around me judge otherwise; if I had not given out that I shan't stay away for the vacation, I verily believe my next movement wd be for Amherst.

We have to day a severe, cold storm of wind & snow. I preached this afternoon for Mr. Desmond to a thimblefull of people, & now as I sit in the middle parlor wh. you recollect no doubt, I am thinking there is a letter from you at B. which as well as Dr. B's lecture I have lost by coming to W. yesterday. But I shall get it on Thursday, when I shall return to Boston, & perhaps go again to Lowell.

I am near forgetting to tell you that on Thursday evening I took tea at Col. Jenkins; & found them a very pleasant family. Mary I like better & better, I had the honor of her arm to the Lyceum, & intend to see her again, & bring from her a letter for you. On Friday evening, as you will hear by Martha's letter to be written to night, your aunt made a little tea party. Mr. & Mrs. Abbott invited but engaged. I like to have more, or none. I find that without you, I am of no importance in Boston, no body has called on me, or sent for me, except poor Dr. Fay who is always prompt to pay his respects when preaching time draws near. I think it likely however, my friends, if indeed I have any, will say that I forget them, as I have scarcely made a call myself, being busy in running to & fro, etc etc. I have written an abstract of the campaign of Burgoyne for a lecture, & there are now lying on Mother's rag carpet here three maps started yesterday, on wh. I expect to go to drawing to morrow, notwithstanding any rebuff mentioned in my last. -- But I will stop here & give Maria a little space to fill, requesting my love to the family & little goo, ala la in particular, & a constant earnest remembrance in your prayers, affectionately yours N.W.F.

I shall leave this at the Weston P.O. tomorrow & you will get it perhaps Tuesday night. Write me again as soon as possible. I am glad that you sustain family devotions; it is important, & will be of the best influence in the family.

Dear Sister, as Brother has left me a corner of his sheet of paper to fill, I will begin with telling you, what I suppose he has already told you, that he came home yesterday with a high map fever upon his brain, and if you could but look into our room you would see what confusion it has thrown us into, but then Professors you know what they be, so I will stop here, and ask you if you have thought since your husband has been absent, of last winter vacation when he was alone in the cottage, I hope you will be more patient in your widowhood than he was, and not hurry him back as he did you. I have only room to send a great deal of love to you, and a kiss for the little girl. M. Fiske.

Addressed: To Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, MS, Jan 17

[1831] Boston, Mond. Morn. Jan 17

I returned on Frid. Afternoon from W., recd your letter by the President, & hurried off to find Mr. H. & learned that he had left for Worcester at one o'clock.

I had a pleasant visit at home excepting the melancholy death which I mentioned in my last. I worked hard upon the maps, & did not talk a great deal; yet I think I did nothing to make any body unhappy. Your kind cautions however came very opportune, just as I had reached Boston, as much so as my instructions frequently about the dinner after it is cooked. -- I expected to find here a letter requesting me to preach at Lowell yesterday; but no such thing. I believe I have utterly failed there, & shall soon fail every where. Mr. Abbott is exceedingly popular. Mr. Hitchcock is lauded to the skies. Mr. Worcester, people are asking whether he will not consent to become a minister. Poor Mr. P. no body names, & on poorer Mr. F. every body turns an eye of a sort of condescending respectfulness.

But nevertheless your unworthy F. has been loaded with providential mercies & blessings, for which he ought to be more grateful, than to despond & murmur at little matters of trial; not the least of wh. blessings is it by any means that I have a companion so manifestly interested in my welfare, & so kind & affectionate, & whom I love & trust so sincerely & happily.

Your Father returned last Saturday, & appears to be in good health, but in no special hurry to visit Amherst. He is puzzled in law-suits, & with distilleries, & I think is far from being happy. I really wish there were some thing to interest his mind at Amherst.

Your Uncle Otis is the same as ever, except that he never asks me to drink, but is continually proposing things wh. he never dreams of doing, & would be exceedingly perplexed if I was to take up one of a dozen of his offers. Mr. Vinal has had a bad cold for several days, & on Saturday night was taken sick, & did not come down yesterday, but is better this morning.

I took a slight cold on Friday, thro' the egregious folly of washing my feet in warm water abut 2 hours before getting into the stage. Fortunately it has passed off with no injury.

On Saturday it began to storm with snow more furiously than I have known it for many years & continued all day yesterday, scarcely any body could get to meeting. I alone represented No. 39. The snow is in many places in the streets 10 or 12 ft deep. I have been continually thinking of the banks which must surround you at this time; but Mr. B. will soon dig you out.

I have seen Dr. H. - he says you find no need of me, that Helen grows finely. The petition is referred to a special Committee, who will give the Trustees a hearing on Thursday evening. I learnt Saturday, that Col. Jenkins announced at the last lecture of his Lyceum, while I was at Weston -----

X X X this pause for breakfast. Yr. Aunt came down & is now washing the dishes, Uncle said don't you eat much, & then took another cup of his tremendously strong coffee; aunt says "remember me to Deborah, we have had a package from S. by Mr. S. They are all well etc." --

That Col J. announced that I shd deliver the next lecture - this was wholly without authority excepting that being asked by him whether I would lecture I told him No. Now what shall I do? I am half inclined to lecture and then try a trick of my own with no body's knowledge, i.e., put it in the paper that "Prof. F's lecture given at the Lyceum last night will be repeated to night - & tickets at the door 25 cents." I wish you were here to advise.

I shall make a movement in some direction soon, either to Lowell to make matters better or worse, or towards home, or some point I know not what, but will immediately inform you. In mean time love to all & write as before, but soon.

Yours truly N.W.F.

This letter must be seen by no body, but burnt.

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