Colorado College Tutt Library

Helen Hunt Jackson 1-1-12 transcription

Ms 0020, Box 1, Folder 12, Letters from Nathan Fiske (HHJ's father) to Deborah Fiske (HHJ's mother), 1835-1836
Transcribed by Gloria Helmuth, October 1995

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Care of David Vinal, Boston
Return address: Amherst, MS, Oct 12

[1835] Sabbath Evening.

My Dear Mrs. F.

Your letter dated Tuesday arrived safely, & pleased Helen very much. She has just left the study to go to bed; she said "tell Ma I have begun to read Joshua to day, & have redeemed a number of my books, & that I want to see her so much I sometimes get almost ready to cry." Miss L. say that Helen is very good about going to bed & also getting up. As to sewing, there seems to be some difficulty in the matter, it does not get on very well; & my time has been so much occupied, or rather broken into pieces that I have been able to give but little attention to her reading. The Latin all vanished the third day; however, I only took it up to amuse or rather employ her while she was so mopish that I thought it best to keep her in the study rather than leave her below. -- Ann is apparently well of her cold, appearing yesterday & to day very much as usual. The weaning & the cold have been the occasions of great indulgence to her, & she is getting to be exceedingly tyrannical. Unless you buy or borrow a new stock of decision & independence, you may calculate on being a slave on your return. Helen has just come back to complete her message - "tell Ma I went up to see Sarah Humphrey & staid two hours & Mrs. H. said I was a good girl, & that Ann was noisy tonight at supper, & got hold of Ma's Bible & tore out two leaves - she wont feel so bad, if she knows who did it" I am sure you cannot feel so bad as Mrs. L. does about it; the case was that Ann was upon the table where the Bible lay seemingly out of her reach, but she seized a corner & tore out the leaves quicker than thoughts.

Two boxes from your father, & a saw were left here yesterday by Mr. Dickenson, who said that he told him he was coming up to spend the winter. If the boxes should be opened before he comes & any thing taken out you will please to give us directions to that effect, I hope he will conclude to come so as to bring you back whenever you wish to come. Eunice is a most excellent girl; it is really a relief to see how admirably, orderly & speedily she moves about cooking; with Ann she is much less successful. Our Joe choose to stay with Mrs. Hubbard, & Bliss is boarding with us to do the work. The cooking stove is the favorite of all the family, not excepting pussy, who I perceive often takes her squat by its cross leg. We have a very good batch of bread baked upon it. Here I think of Miss L's message to you -- it is that "Ann admires to get on her feet, but always moves backward like the poor chicken of the best brood."

As to Amherst matters I have nothing to tell. I have entered no house but my own & Prof. H's since my return from Millington. Among the good deeds of our despised poney, I may mention that he has brought Miss Mitchell down to Mrs. Snell's (how long before he need to have done it remains to be proved); & also yesterday dragged home, six bushels of apples for you; your husband however is to pay for them. My finger is getting well, & has never had any qualms of conscience for refusing the poultice. -- College matters appear encouraging. Mr. Condiet is on the ground, & promises well. Nothing yet heard from the President. -- Mr Beckwith has preached to day in the Chapel, & in the Meeting house a sermon on peace, very smart, & I venture to predict, that if Mr. Crosby gives them a negative, they'll run mad upon Beckwith. -- As to your return I shall only say, you are really missed, & when you come we shall most certainly be glad to see you, whether we say so then or not. I do hope your father & Uncle have settled their matters finally & amicably. Should you happen to meet Mr. Abbott, I should like to have you ask him from me respectfully to take the trouble to look to the state of our Bible Class Book Account. -- May you enjoy much of the light of God's countenance, & I respect your remembrance in your prayers one whose sins you know --

Truly N.W.F.

Whatever may be the penmanship, I believe the punctuation is a twin to yours.

This I shall direct to Boston, but I trust you will visit W. again. Will not Maria come & see us soon? My love to your Uncle & Aunt -- & Mr. Scholfield's family - & all friends at B. & W.

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, MS, May 2

[1836] Weston, Friday 2 1/2 O'clock, P.M.

My Dear Wife,

I am truly desirous to see you & little Ann. I have again reached home, & yet it is not home. My friends are exceedingly kind & every where evidently glad to see me. And I have been very happy in meeting them, & happy at my Father's & especially with Maria. But at every turn my thoughts are with you, & I heartily say, within, as Helen, in the abundance of her politeness, says aloud, I wish I was at home; or rather I wish you were with me.

Here I will give you a history of my last (second) letter. It was written here & contains our travels at the time with which I shall begin in this, viz. my departure for Bedford, with Helen & Maria, on Wednesday forenoon. We proceeded to Bedford, over hills & rocks, & dined with Cousin Obed, Timothy's brother, 5 ms. Thence 3 ms we advanced to another cousin's, Mrs. William Stearns, widow of a cousin herself also a cousin, where we remained to tea. After which we called on another cousin married to a Mr. Billings a few rods only distant, & then on our ride to Billerica called on a cousin of our mother, & reached Timothy's Mother's about sunset. Here we found Sarah & her mother; but Timothy was still at the place named by him in his letter to you. His brother Sewall, a bachelor of 40 is just about being married to a young Miss of the upper side of 30, & the whole house was in the transition state, undergoing that process of tearing down, & turning over, adding to & taking from, which was needful to accommodate an antique mansion to a mock imitation of modern style. We remained over night very kindly treated indeed; but poor Helen found nothing to cheer her; the great cause of education, the claims of the west, the Journal of Reid & Matheson, & kindred topics were all Hebrew to her, & she with a mortifying perspicuity exhibited her willingness to be going. We stopped a moment at Cousin Franklin's, the next house, & moved on by the residence of Sewall's intended to Mr. Whitford's husband of the cousin Mary, who staid with Father once to allow Maria to be with us. Here we found one little boy, at sight of whom Helen's gloom vanished, & she was perfectly in glee, in which condition I left her with M. to be carried in the afternoon by Mr. W. to a Mr. Perkins in the middle of Billerica. There I took them again at 5 1/2 O clock P.M. (having in the mean time been to Andover (12 ms) & back) & hastened over a miserable rocky & sandy road (for part of the distance) to Woburn to my Cousin Mary's, about whom I can tell you my return. We were kindly welcomed & in the evening we were reminded by a Miss Swan of a thunderstorm that once occurred but which we had forgotten, & which I will tell you, when I have time, if you will put me in mind, & here let me beg you to remember that it is no secret (any more than many other things which I happen never to mention simply because I never think of it from the pressure of study or business). After breakfast this morning, to which my story has brought us, we rode a half mile to Uncle John's my mother's only remaining brother, & at 11 o clock started for Weston, where we arrived at about 2 O clock; & now Maria is washing some of Helen's things that tomorrow we may go to Boston, where I design to stay until Thursday & then return to Weston & on Friday start for home at Amherst, to reach there on Saturday night. Should nothing special forbid I may yield to solicitations to prolong Helen's visit of Boston so as to reach home not till Tuesday night.

Please to go back to the first page.

Very affectionately
& sincerely yours, N.W.F.

I forgot the history of the letter & have given my own instead. Well, I took the letter to Bedford, hoping to find a mail there for Boston so as that it might reach you on Thursday. But there was no such mail and I took it on to Billerica with no better luck. So I ordered it to Worcester by way of Lowell under some encouragement from the Postmaster, that it might reach its destination by Saturday night. But I have since thought that the Lowell Postmaster will in all probability send it to Amherst, New Hampshire & so you will get it about the time of my return, or after. Helen's cough remains, but she is pretty well, and is generally good. I expect to find a letter in Boston tomorrow. Helen says tell Ma I wish to see her & little Ann very much, & just as soon as I have been to see Aunt Vinal, I shall come right home.

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Amherst, Mass
Return Address: Billerica, MS, May 19

[1836] Weston, Wednesd. Morning

My Dear Wife,

I returned yesterday morning from Boston, & after diner with Helen rode over to the Post Office & found your welcome letter. Helen was greatly pleased with hers, & has read it with much satisfaction to the people in both parts of the house. Mine to you was perhaps received on Monday, it would have been sent on Saturday, had not the weather been too cold to allow me to ride on Friday. I presume your Cucumbers were hatched out of the world by Saturday morning, for here the ground was actually frozen. Has the garden began to start? It is now very warm.

Helen has been in general a good girl; but I find her with a bad cough, & it is impossible to manage her diet. I shall not be willing to leave her in Boston without being with her on that account.

We propose to ride to Bedford & Billerica to day, & leave her & Maria there, while I go to Andover tomorrow & return to Billerica for them & on Friday, go to Woburn, & then either home again or directly to Charleston.

My object in going to Boston last week was to see Mr. Robinson in reference to my Book, in which I failed as he is absent on a journey. I shall fail in all my schemes respecting it, & must leave it to its fate. I am sure however of all the toil it has cost; as to the rest I will try to leave it, with all XXX XXX that pertains to our temporal condition to the wise disposal of our heavenly Father. I have been very kindly received by all your friends, who rejoice to hear of your health, & are I find expecting soon to see you.

On Sunday I went in the morning to Pk. St. & sat with your Father; a Mr. Smalley preached, the colleague of Dr. Emmons & said to be preaching on trial; many of the people liked him. In afternoon I went with Martha to hear Mr. Winslow, I heard one or two things with pain, but the rest with great pleasure, there is a freedom from formality & a degree of directness in manner which secures attention; the revival is considerably interesting.

On Monday forenoon I rode with your Aunt to see the ruins of the Nunnery, & called at Mr. Tufts', on our return. Abby has united with Mr. C's church, & they have hope respecting her Father. In the evening I took tea at Mr. Scholfield's. Ellen is unwell, but getting better; I did not see her. All the rest were at table, & were more than once edified by a wise saw of Mr. Arthur.

Of yr Father I have seen but little; I called three times on Saturday, but could not find him, & then left my name; in the evening he called at Otis's; but would not go up stairs where the family were. Sabbath evening I called again but could not find him. Monday morning I caught him in the sheet, & engaged him to stay at his room in the evening, but when I called he was in the common room of his boarding house & did not seem to wish to see me alone. He has just expended $12.00 for a little bit of land adjoining his house in Russell Street, & feel I really believe poorer than I do; which you know must be, therefore, bad enough. I think it is very desirable that you should be with him, or he with you; I am sure his most important interests suffer very much from the society which he is sometimes in.

Aside from my being at the bottom, it is time to be getting ready to start.

Very sincerely & affectionately
yrs. N.W. Fiske

Love to Jane, Anne & all
Helen is playing & I cannot wait to get her message

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Amherst, Postmarked Boston, MS, May 26

[1836] Boston Wednesday Morning
May 25.

My Dear Wife,

Your letter by Mrs. Davenport was a welcome treat, & you must have recd one or two from me about the same time. -- I hardly know what I have told you in my last; but I have felt very badly to be here at Mr. O. Vinal's while they are so situated. Martha is so as to be about a little, but the girl is still confined to her bed, & yr. Aunt has no help.

Helen I believe makes but little trouble to them & I think I do not make much, excepting the necessary attention to the chamber.

But the weather has been cold damp & dreary every minute since Saturday, & Helen has scarcely been out. She says tell Ma that both of her children have a bad cold. She is by me printing a letter for you, which I will enclose, if she does not stop with "Dear Mama: --

I think now of being at A. Saturday night; but you need not calculate much on seeing us until Tuesday. Aroline will be with me I expect.

As to the plan for a move, you must make it, if it is ever made. I can say to you XX what I may not properly write.

I should be glad to cheer yr father if I knew how; although in order to get at him I must stand all day with him over his drain in the back yard. I went twice down at the time allowed to in my last to find him, go & dine with him, but he was gone; - yesterday I determined to get a sight of him, & found him in the yard -- he seemed displeased that I did not dine with him, said he went to his boarding place to wait for me etc. I then asked him what hour he took tea, thinking that certainly that would be a time when I might safely go to his boarding house expecting to find him there - but he said that he frequently did not go till sundown & took his tea after the rest; he could not tell when he could leave the drain; but I could go just as well, for he had spoken to Mrs. Adams!

As to the squashes, it will probably be too late to do any thing, when this arrives, unless you have put the boxes over them; -- what you mention is the work of the bug, from which the boxes defend the vine, & I am sorry you have not put them on; do it immediately if you can, or Mary can, & if there be a few plants more free from the eating & injury than others, see that the boxes cover the best plants; the earth should be drawn up a little around the bottom of the boxes, on outside, so that the bugs may not crawl under.

I dined yesterday XXX at Mr. Palmer's. He sends a great deal of love, as do such of yr friends as I meet. -- I attended some of the meetings yesterday, -- there is no stirring spirit as yet except in the Anti-slavery convention, where there is much spirit, whether pure & good I am in some doubt. I cannot now enter into particulars. -- I must wind up my business here to day, so as to start tomorrow, if possible, & you may not hear again from us till you see us.

Give a kiss to Ann & tell her papa hopes her cold will be gone when he gets home. I intended to call on Jane's Father, but fear I shall not get time, & so of some other intended calls. -- Poor Helen has had rather a dull time at Boston, & is getting a little peevish.

I do not know that I have told you that I shall have some cloth to make up when I get home; all the ministers I see, seem to have got their new coats before coming to Boston; I think my method the wiser on the whole. I expect Maria to send in to day my old cloak ripped in pieces for dying, & I shall have them have more work for Jane. But do we think how much we need to be clothed in a Saviour's righteousness -- to put on the Lord J. Christ -- be clothed with humility?

Your affectionate & grateful
husband N.W.F.

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, Ms, May 27

[1836] Boston Monday Aft

My Dear Wife,

I arrived here, via Waltham, West Cambridge, & Charleston, about 2 O C P.M. Saturday. Helen made some noise in the night, crying for the ear ache, which was the more painful to me, as both Martha & the girl Mary were sick with the sore throat. Mr. & Mrs. Vinal were much fatigued. Yesterday I staid at home in forenoon so as to be with Helen, as it seemed too cold & threatening for her to go out; in the afternoon I took her to yr father's pew, where she slept to my mortification. Your letters were very welcome & I am much obliged for mine which I found on my arrival.

As to your Father, I feel quite sadly; he will not call at Otis's; I have spoken his riding with us, but his drain which he is digging occupies him too much; he asks to me to come down to his boarding house; I have made two appointments to go there, expecting to see him in his room; but found him in the common room, & among a number of persons, so as to utterly spoil my visit, as I cannot talk about family matters in public. I ventured to say that I thought he had his own room; he said he had; but it was a mere sleeping room, & that he was in it only when sleeping, or little more. -- Last evening we called on Nathaniel & found Aroline come; I told her she would go with me. I decided so in view of what I thought would be best on the whole, she can attend school with Helen, if not wanted at home. -- We all called at Uncle Gideon's. -- All well & send love.

Returning yr Father proposed to me to come down & stay with him to board, etc. I told him I would go to day & dine with him; he said he could not leave his workman perhaps at the dinner hour, he generally supped in to an oyster fish etc. -- but I could just as well go there notwithstanding that!! -- However I thought I would find him, this morning & if he should go to the boarding place go with him, but I searched in vain.

The sick at Mr. Vinals are better to day; but Mr. Scholfield & Ellen are quite unwell. The meeting begins this evening; I am at Pierre's bookstore writing, & there is a cloud of black coats about me, a gathering from all points. I must close this now & expect you will get it about the same time with two others -- I wish to be at home,

Very affectionately yours

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