Colorado College Tutt Library

Helen Hunt Jackson 1-1-4 transcription

Ms 0020, Box 1, Folder 4, Letters from Deborah Waterman Vinal Fiske to Nathan Fiske, 1836
Transcribed by Gloria Helmuth, October 1995

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W.Fiske, Boston, Mass, To the care of Mr. Otis Vinal

[1836] Wednesday Evening

Mrs. Strong laughs and says she presumes she shall see me every other night these three months unless you get home sooner; - I was very glad to find your letter Monday night, and the piece of one from Helen. I think you will feel quite like another man when you have been off a while, do not let any anxiety about anything enter your head, and see if you cannot get thoroughly recruited; - forget your Amherst load of cares, forget that you married - only pray not get another wife, for let her be ever so much of a catch, I know we should quarrel.

But I must hasten to tell you about Aroline - you can do as you prefer about bringing her home with you; - Jane will not need her assistance in my absence, as Mary has consented (promised) to stay till I can make a visit at Boston. And I think it very probably Aroline may like to stay at her brother's longer.

The little colored girl I was almost dreading when you left, has not appeared, I presume that speculation will fall through, at least for the present.

Mary seems happy and says she likes living with us as well as she should with any body, but she thinks she not live out any where longer than July - Mr. Hopkins I hear is wishing for her the beginning of the term - and a Mrs. Eustis has sent for her - the family in which she was staying when Dr. Humphrey obtained her.

You did right in going to Aunt Vinal's, and I hope your visit will be a comfort to her. I am greatly surprised at your not having seen my father and I cannot help fearing that he may be sick - I thought he would go out to Weston at the time I wrote him you would be there.

We are getting along well at home. I see that I did wisely to stay. Jane and Mary would have been fairly puzzled with replacing things after such an overturn and it would have been too much for Jane to have had Ann in addition. The garden is doing well a great many things are up - the corn, beans, squashes, etc. etc., and my cucumbers stand it yet. I presume some frost will give them a bite just before you get home. As to the weeds they too are putting up their impudent heads, but I doubt whether it will be best for me to disturb them much, lest the good vegetables may get pulled up with them. The more I look at the subject of weeding the more I am persuaded that it will be altogether the best plan to let the weeds and all grow together till the harvest; or if not till then, till you & Bliss get home.

Little Ann is well excepting a slight cold - she has learned two new phrases "all clean" and "take care" - whenever we say where is papa she says "Bapa?" and looks towards the doors; - the wagon fell back from the front wheels as I was drawing her up the north yard the other day and ever since she cries "bump" "bump" at the smallest jolts as if she rode in constant fear of being turned heels over head again.

Mr. Dickinson can swallow with considerable ease, but seems to be failing. I carried him some asparagus yesterday and I shall carry him some more tomorrow; he can rest himself now by sitting up some, having our great easy chair.

Mrs. Jacobs is alone yet - William has not been heard from. It has been found that three attempts have been made to set Mr. Martin Kellogg's woods on fire. William it is said has confessed that he did it; Mr. Kellogg had provoked William very much by taking from him his winter's wood. XX XXXX XXX XXXX XXXXX Mr. Kellogg did this because William had hired and lost a horse of his. How much better it is to have nothing to do with retaliation.

Mr. Condit I hear moved into the Cottage on Friday. I intend to call on them when we get settled. Mrs. Hitchcock's mother returned yesterday. Mr. & Mrs. Sprague came with her and a crying infant. Mrs. S. told me that her daughter Caroline is studying Latin, has got into Virgil, and is getting on finely. I thought when she said it I would never tell of any great thing Helen might be about if she should be fond of study, but perhaps I should do just so and have already done other things more silly - you often say "ah, you mothers are all alike," and it is too true that we all think more of our children than it is possible for any unprejudiced persons. The bell is ringing nine and I must run with this into Mrs. Thurston's - she will take it, and she is to go in the morning stage.

I was at the P. Office to-night when the mail came in but found no letter. I sent one to you and to Helen at Weston and I have sent Helen and Aunt Vinal one by Mrs. Boltwood.

Write me how Aunt's health is and whether she seems to be comfortably settled whether you have seen Papa yet and how he seems, whether good spirits, health & when is Aunt expecting Martha Hooker? Write very soon.

Much love to Uncle and Aunt and my father - and Martha & the Scholfields and our friends at Weston, etc. etc. I write in great haste as you will see. Jane sends her love. M. does not know that I am writing.

Jane wishes you to leave the enclosed letter for her father at Nathaniel's shop - Market St.

Your affectionate wife Deborah
W.V. Fiske

Tell Helen Mama thinks of her very often - wishes to see her very much and hopes she is a very good girl and says and does nothing improper.

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, postmark not legible

[June 1836] Monday afternoon

My dear husband

Lest you may consider no news bad news I send you a few lines. I am doing as well as I could expect in weather so unfavourable for the sick. The sun has not shone since I have been in Boston till today and today for the first time I have made the experiment of sitting up. I have sat up all day with the exception of two hours at noon and experienced no ill effects from it. Tomorrow if the weather should be fair, Dr. Leach says I may ride to go in a hack and go slow. I shall not allow Papa's antic poney the privilege of carrying me till I am strong enough to be frightened.

My cough is about the same. I think Dr. Leach is doing all that can be done as perhaps I have told you before, he says external irritants, proper diet and exercise in the open air will be of more value to me than anything else - the difficulty is a bronchial irritation. I have a blister now upon my chest. As you are not to have the physician's fee here is as much as you ought to be compelled to read about the disease. So I will thank you for your letter and ask for another and begin the next before 9 o'clock so as to fill the last page with something more particular about little Ann and Helen and family matters.

The Psalm you mentioned is a precious one, and tho I have never made any sacrifices of my comforts to relieve the poor, yet God has in great kindness strengthened and cheered me on many a bed of languishing. I think I have passed happier hours on a sick bed and in the sabbath school than any where else.

Last night XXXXXXXXX as I lay turning one way and another with my blister, the recollection of those verses "are not fine sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God. But even the very hairs of your head are all remembered; fear not therefore ye are of more value than many sparrows" did more towards quieting my mind and getting me to sleep than any physician's opiate could have done.

Dr. Warren is out of town and will be for six weeks. I am willing to consult Dr. Jackson. But if I do I wish you would write to Dr. Leach about it (thanking him for his very kind and faithful attention to me and then telling him, since my lungs have been so variously affected within 3 years you would be glad to have me avail myself myself of this opportunity for consultation. Adeline Scholfield tells me it is the custom to request the attending physician to invite the one to be consulted. If you don't wish to do this, I feel no particular desire to see any other.

I wish you would write to Papa. It would gratify him I know. And if you do, help me thank him for all his favours - he is at great expense for me. Much love to all the family. I hope you have not all had the dumps together in this dull weather. You must you must do all you can to keep Cousin Sarah from getting homesick, and Cousin Jane from getting discouraged under her cases, and Cousin Aroline from getting out of patience with so much grave orthodoxy. I do think it a Christian duty which heads of families are too prone to forget making home a cheerful happy place to all its inmates. I think a great deal about it when I am away but when I get back I am no more agreeable than ever. There are XXXXXXXX I's enough in this letter for mates to the whole box of hooks in my work table drawer - no, I forgot, the box is full of eyes now, so you must throw these away.

Mr. Blagden is going to Philadelphia.

Do tell me in your next that you are cheerful and happy - also tell me what makes you otherwise. When you feel cheerless quit studying and make some neighbourly calls.

Write me very often - Why don't Jane write too. I shall not go to Weston this week.

Yours truly
D.W.V. Fiske

Addressed: Prof. N.W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, MS, Jul 3

[July 1836]

My dear husband

The weather was very oppressive the day you left Boston and I fear you had a very uncomfortable ride home. Yesterday also it was very warm, but today it is so cool I am quite glad to find some flannels in my trunk to put on. Yesterday I was not so well, but it seemed to be owing only to taking an opiate towards morning that should have been taken on going to bed. Last night I had a very good night free from coughing and have not coughed but little this morning. Be sure to write often, and if the children are sick, don't hesitate to let me know the whole truth, nothing can be more trying than the apprehension of being deceived, or kept in ignorance about the family.

You will receive by Mr. Dickinson the last of the week - your cloak - some phosphate of soda, a letter for Cousin Sarah and a pot of the Confection of Senna. I thought you did not probably have time to get any that morning.

I have sent to Jane for some books & which she will know where to find, and you will please to send them by Mr. Dickinson the next time he comes.

Give yourself no anxiety about my ride to Weston. Papa will be willing to get me there the best way.

I gave your "good morning" to Mrs. Davis and the boarders, they were quite surprised to find that you had vanished. XXXX XXXX X XXXXX XXXX XXXX XXXXXX Somebody has said that most of our happiness in this world arises from not finding things so bad as we expect and from meeting with unlooked for pleasures. I really believe it is true. I could not have met with anything in perfect health that would have made me so happy as your unexpected visit, and the gratitude I have felt for the alleviating circumstances connected with my sickness.

But I am writing a longer letter than you will wish to see as writing is one of the prohibited employments. Much love to all the family.

Your affectionate & grateful wife
Deborah W.V. Fiske

I wish you would help Helen print a line or two to Cousin Ann in one of your letters, thanking her for her present. Tell Helen I shall not forget her doll.

I forgot to send home a little mug that belongs to Mrs. David Parsons. It stands upon the second shelf the north side of the China Closet. It is a very small mug.

If the Publishers allow you any books to give away will you not send Mr. Hooker one, he would value it very much and he is very kind to me. Papa wishes to have his two knit woollen shirts the next time by Mr. Dickinson. Jane will find them either in the drawers of the little table bureau in his chamber or in his trunks. They are in the bed-room chamber or in the front chamber closet.

Cousin Jane

Will you send me by Mr. Dickinson, with the other things I have sent for that you will receive by him a pair of cotten drawers that you will find either in my under drawer in the nursery or else in the Bureau in the front chamber.

My dear Helen
A very good man died and was put into a sepulchre or tomb; afterwards a dead man was thrown into the same tomb and when his body touched the body of the good man he revived and stood up on his feet. What was the good man's name?
A certain great, but wicked man, was caught by his hair in the boughs of a great oak tree. A person who hated him thrust him through his heart with three darts; then ten young men surrounded him and killed him and threw him into a great pit or hole in a woods and laid a great heap of stones upon him. Who was this man? And what very wicked thing had he done, to deserve such a dreadful end?

Your mother

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, MS, Jul 7

[July 1836] Thursday forenoon

My dear husband

I have just returned from a delightful ride in the country and am left at Aunt Vinal's to pass the day. I am writing you from the very chamber and table that I wrote you so many letters from before our marriage. But if I make ever so many sentimental observations upon the subject you will skip them all to find something in relation to my health. And I hope you will understand me that I am really considerably better. I may say a good deal better than when you were here. I have more strength and my cough is less troublesome. I have reason to hope that if I can pursue my present easy mode of living for a few weeks it will be entirely removed.

I shall go to Weston tomorrow or the next day and am going in the Stage for I have rode from 9 till 12 o'clock repeatedly with Papa and am not so tired as to be at all restless after it. Cousin Martha Vinal is going out with me. She is rather feeble and Aunt Vinal thinks it will do her good. Maria has invited her repeatedly and I thought we could sleep together and should make Maria but little more trouble than I should alone. Martha will not stay long. I shall stay till week after next on Tuesday, then I am coming into Boston to get my mouth repaired. Papa says he will cheerfully pay for all I will have done. I am astonished at the kindness of all my friends. I feel under obligation to every body. I feel sometimes as if I could not receive another favour from any body or eat or drink again till I know that my heart is right in the sight of God. All my mercies are from him. He has given me favour in the sight of my friends, and how mysterious it is that blessing should be thus heaped upon such a hardened sinner.

I am glad to hear you say that you watch Ann closely. Cousin Jane I know is careful but not having had experience she may not detect symptoms that you would discover. Has she any teeth nearly through? That will make her rather feverish and unwell. Let her take the air a good deal when the weather is just right, not to hot or damp.

As to other matters all my anxiety is on your account. Let nothing trouble you more than you can possibly help. I trust it will all come out right in the end. I see no other way for the present than to make the best of what cannot be helped. I shall come home as soon as I think I can come without making more trouble than I shall make by staying away. If the children continue well and you hold out too, I should like to get my left side rested from the effects of this cough before lifting Ann again, as of course I must do when I get back if Jane leaves. But if I find that I am not gaining by staying away I shall be for starting for home, for I can spare you with all I find to enjoy here (and it is not a little among so many old friends). I do want to see you and the dear children more than I can describe.

I smiled tho I pitied you when I read your letter. Do you remember how often you have told me when things have gone wrong and people have not seemed suited when I have tried to please them? "Never mind - do what you think is right - and let it all go and not care." It is not so easy not to care; - I've been unhappy many a time when I have XXX XXXXXXXXX done my very best from seeing that those whose opinion I have regarded have either thought that I have done foolishly or nothing to deserve any commendation. You will ask perhaps when have you deserved commendation, and to be sure, I cannot say when. I've never done more than my duty and times innumerable far less.

Perhaps it is a weakness but I believe it is very common for people to be made happy and unhappy by feeling that they have or have not the esteem of their friends.

I suppose you will be disappointed in not hearing from me tonight, and it worries me to think of it. You put such a dark construction upon everything that is doubtful. As soon as Mr. Purington left your bundle, I wrote you and put up a little box with a letter to you and Cousin Sarah, some medicines (Confection of Senna and phosphate of Soda) etc, he called yesterday for the bundle. I was at Cousin Ann Scholfield's. Papa was at home. Mr. P. thought he should not have room for the box tho it was nothing but my hair box and Papa did not think as I had not told him to take out the letters and give him. Papa says Mr. Nims XX is going to Amherst Monday, and he will send the box by him.

I want to have Jane send me my cotton drawers. They are in my under drawer, or in the parlour chamber bureau. I want also the calico I purchased for a loose dress - it is in my upper drawer. I want also the Young Christian - it is in the closet in Jane's chamber - and "Is it well" this is on the book case. I wish Jane to send me the measure in your next letter of Ann's skirt and belt. She can measure by the yard stick and say whether she allows for seams. You can take the measure yourself (I forgot this was intended only for you) - let the cloth matters go. I'll write to Jane for them next time.

Aunt Vinal sends a great deal of love to you and says she cannot pity you so much but that she hopes I shall stay ever so long yet.

Yours very affectionately D.W.F. Fiske

Love to Mrs. Humphrey, Hitchcock, Snell, Washburn and all my kind friends. Cousin Sarah will show you her letter. I am not certain but I wrote for the books and things in her letter. I write so fast, I don't remember a day what I've written.

Alonzo has called to see me. He is quite a spruce young man.

There is a probability that Mr. Hooker will be settled at Danver. He is going to commence preaching as a candidate next sabbath. He is the the editor of the Recorder for a fortnight while Mr. Fray goes out of town.

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, MS, July 8

[July 1836]

My dear husband

Before beginning to pack up for Weston I will just write you another line. I suffered no ill consequences from spending yesterday at Aunt Vinal's. I wrote you a letter from there that I trust you will receive this evening. It is said that yesterday was the hottest day, and last night the hottest night that any body can remember to have suffered in Boston. But I slept pretty well and the morning rides near the salt water and out in the country I enjoy very much. Write me very often while I stay at Weston. Maria told Papa I could ride as much as I chose. I shall choose to go to the Post office very often. When you forward my things Papa wishes you to send his linen (white linen) jacket. Jane can find it among his clothing (I presume it is in one of the drawers in her chamber.

Much love to all the family.

Yrs truly D.W.V. Fiske

My dear Helen

I hope you will be a good girl all the time I shall be away. I hope you will not eat any meat or butter till I get home; if you do not I shall bring you a little baby for your new doll to hold in her arms. I wish to give you one caution, when I was at home you were very fond of playing with Sarah Ann. When Mary goes away Cousin Jane will need her help very much and I shall be very sorry to have you try to get Sarah Ann to leave her work to play with you. She may play with you when Aunt Sarah or Cousin Jane think best. You must ask them instead of asking Sarah first.

Can you answer the Bible Questions I have sent you? Be very kind to little Ann. I am very sorry to hear that she is weak and pale. You must lead her very carefully or she will fall.

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass
Return address: Weston, Ms, July 18th

[1836] Saturday afternoon

My dear husband

I was rejoiced to get your letter written Tuesday afternoon but I am sorry to think of you at the head of such a perplexing concern and I have no hope of making things go right when I get home. Much as I wish to see you and the children, I almost dread the idea of coming home to preside in such a snarl. I have written a letter to Alice. Martha and I both decided that it was a very proper letter, such as would lead Alice to send Aroline some good advice, but I keep it in my trunk fearing it may raise some sort of a breeze that will blow no good to any body. As Aroline feels and is situated now I doubt whether advice would do her much good. One thing is certain, if she is not industrious and continues to treat religion with disrespect and sets any kind of bad example before Helen & Sarah Ann she must go home. But I feel interested for her and pity her mother and if she will do well I shall be glad to have her stay, however, feeble as my health is now I cannot stand a very long trial with her and sometimes I feel as if I could barely begin to try & get along with her for help.

I think I had better say nothing about her sitting in the parlour chamber lest it may be thought that you are an informer of everything. I am sorry she does not know that no head of a family would wish to have spare rooms kept in confusion for nothing.

Aroline probably sees that you dislike these things in her and dislikes you in return. I hope you will do all you can to keep Jane happy in her department. If anything is not cooked well say nothing - if it is good say so - any encouraging word about things that are faithfully attended to will not be out of place. You know you are not very apt to praise any one for doing well. We ought always to say of ourselves we are unprofitable servants, we have done no more than our duty but it is not a good plan to say it to others or by a silent indifference of manners to make them feel that you think so. Have you said anything to Jane about staying? How long do you think she will be willing to keep house? I should like to know. If I was well enough I would come tomorrow no Monday, but I feel as if there would be no chance for my recovery to come home in such weakness and commence taking the care of the family and the children. I can assure you I am disposed to do all that I can do and the last thing I shall wish to avoid is the care of my children.

I find it at times difficult to be patient. I am so anxious to get well, and get well quick.

Papa has just rode up to the door. I've been down to see him, he called on Dr. Jackson on his way out (he lives at Waltham) and has made an appointment with him to see me. I am about the same as when I wrote you last (not any worse, and I don't know that I am any better. Dr. Leach says my lungs are not diseased, but my opinion is that the left lobe is in some way affected by this cough. Still I don't wish to give my friends any needless anxiety. I was certainly much worse three years ago and you know I have had very comfortable health since. Your father & Maria are very kind - as kind as if they were my own father & sister. Your father says whenever I cough "I don't love to hear that cough, it isn't a bit pretty one." One thing I know God can prolong my life just as long as he pleases, and will as long as he has anything for me to do. I am doing nothing now but making work for my friends. You do not tell me whether my letters reach Amherst. I have written for a number of things to Cousin Sarah & Jane. I wrote last week to them both and I think they must have my letters.

Is Helen's throat swollen any now? Does she go to school and seem to be learning? Is she pretty happy for her at home?

I feel as if I could not be sufficiently grateful now that I am necessarily separated from my beloved children, that I have a husband in whose judgment and watchfulness I can place perfect confidence. I know you love them and will do all in your power to make them happy. I can assure you too that I am grateful for all the sacrifices you have ever been willing to make for my comfort.

The unkindnesses you allude to in one of your letters think nothing about and be just as happy as if you had never inadvertently hurt my feelings; human nature is very imperfect. The best of friends find a great deal in each other they must forgive & forget.

I am very glad Mr. Everett has said a good word to give your book a lift. Can you not give me a sight of it in some way. I want to see also what Mr. Edwards has written.

Another thing I wish you to do is to find out nearly how much behind hand we are and tell me in your next letter.

Is it nonsense for me to be obliged to write two letters every time I wish to say a word to you that all the world must not see? Say in your next why I may not write one half sheet to you to tear off and keep and let the family have the other half. When you are gone away I read what I choose of your letters to the family and keep the rest to myself.

How do you get along for butter? Jane will not be able to make enough when the weather becomes warmer and you will do well to get some family to engage to supply you regularly and insure some for Commencement. (Perhaps the Smith's in East St)

Give my love to Sophia Parsons. I am glad you called on Mrs. Washburn; all I've said about leaving Amherst has been in a sort of spot when people have been talking of going to the West. Then I may have said "You won't catch me any farther west - I shall be for going East when I make a move. I would however jump at the chance of living in Boston or very near Boston, so as to be with my father where he can be happy. It is so dull for him in Amherst that he cannot endure it. Boston is the place for a man of his habits and tastes, he seems very cheerful for him, and don't like to hear me say anything about going back. I can get him to read a little - and he sits with me a great deal in my room and will make one of a circle in the large room when I am out there. You will ask me next time to write less. In my next I will tell you all Dr. Jackson says.

Yrs truly D.W. Fiske

I shall expect a letter tomorrow.

Your father seems pleased with his Testament, he says it is "grand print." He sits down considerably in his little bed room alcove. Is there not something you could send him to read.

Cousin Martha says remember me to Mr. Fiske and tell him I am having a grand time at his father's, growing fat upon his father, his hospitality and Maria's kindness. Martha seems mightily pleased with all the family and intends to stay longer than I shall, or come out again. I am going to Dorchester at Uncle Gideon's to stay a few days.

Mrs. James, the Dr's wife, and Mrs. Fiske, your uncle Isaac's wife, spent yesterday afternoon here. I was pleased with them both. Your Uncle Isaac did not come and Martha (Sewal's wife, says the Fiskes never go to see each other till they are sick and not expected to recover or else dead.

Martha and Papa and Maria have gone up in the pasture for blue berries. I stay at home to write you which deed I hope you will consider an equivalent to the "good and great letter" you were disappointed in not getting Tuesday night. Write me very often and tell me all the particulars of home.

Look out for Mr. Dickinson next time he returns to Amherst. We intend to send something by him.

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmark partially illegible...20 MS

[July 1836] Tuesday afternoon

My dear husband

I left your father's yesterday morning and went to Newtown - passed the day very pleasantly with Cousin Ellen and came into Boston last night. This forenoon had a visit from Dr. Jackson (Dr. Leach seemed glad to consult with him). He examined my lungs and said his opinion was that they are not diseased, tho possibly there might be disease which his ear could not detect. He said it was very important that I should be taking exercise in the open air every day as much as could be taken without uncomfortable weariness, he said at this season of the year it will make no difference whether I XXXX am in this vicinity or farther west. But in relation to going home he says if I can feel easy away I ought not to return to any care before September. As to my diet Dr. Jackson tells me to take some animal food, make much use of friction and take some pills every night such as he thinks will have a tendency to remove the irritations in my throat or somewhere below.

I trust Jane will be willing to stay. I could not feel easy to have Ann under any other person's care; if Aroline is not sufficient help for Jane let her go home if you can get some one else. Papa says it is nonsense to put a whole family in to trouble for one that does not do well, that if Aroline is unpromising the best way will be to send her home to her mother & tell her my health is so feeble she is not suitable help for me.

I hate to think of breaking up housekeeping, it makes so much work and is attended with so much inconvenience of every sort and if Jane can be induced to stay till after Commencement I think I have reason to hope that by that time I may be able to take my place again. From what Drs. Jackson and Leach say I suppose it would be presumption in me to think of having anything to do with Commencement.

Travelling will be better for me than anything and it is our plan to start some direction next Monday. With resting in the heat of the day and stopping half a day once in a while I could bear to go 30 miles I think nearly every day and this would keep me from working, reading, writing and everything else which I must confess I am not quite careful enough about. As to home I hope you will have wisdom given you to make a good arrangement. I am sure I don't know what to advise you. Do whatever will be most for your comfort - and best for the children. I shall come home just as soon as I feel at all able to take my place. And before, if the children are sick - If they should be " I charge you" as you told me about being worse, to tell me. Till I commence journeying I shall stay out of Boston nearly all of every pleasant day.

Alonzo passed last evening with me and brought two letters one from you and one from Aunt Sarah. Yours written July 15th.

You have not received all my letters for I remember of writing to you that all your books should be attended to. They were sent as you wished and your interleaved copy is returned and I shall send it to you by the first opportunity, also a present to Jane from my father. I unrolled the bundle from Prof. Stewart hoping to find a letter from you which I have found and turned and directed to you. A man from South Hadley brought me a letter Monday morning and says he will take a bundle back when he goes; he is waiting here for a load of brooms from somewhere, but I believe he hopes to get away this week.

Wednesday morning

I have given your book and letter to Mr. Hooker. He laughed at the receipt and said he would puff anytime like a Steam Engine for it, for he never had such a present in all his life. XXX XXXX XX X XXXXXX XXX XXXXXX XXX XXXX I am ashamed of this tho it looks about as well as Prof. Stewart's. Love to Cousin S. & thanks for her letter.

I feel rather better than I did last week. The weather is more favourable.

I am glad you was decided with Aroline for setting down and leaving Jane with the work. Jane is no shirk and no hand to get work out of anybody that wishes to get rid of it. It is best that Aroline should know before I get home that she must try to make herself useful. I told Jane to have Aroline go to school afternoons after Mary left so that she might have her help in the morning. You had better propose it to Jane if the change has not been made.

Tell me whether to write to Alice.

Mr. Clark of Hadley will bring you your books in one bundle and in the other a little cradle for Ann, a rope for Helen - (you must draw it through the handles to shorten it and show her how to jump), a bundle for Jane from Papa, containing a collar, pair of stockings and a raw silk handkerchief, or sort of a small shawl.

Addressed: Prof. N.W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston,MS, July 22

[July 1836] Tuesday Evening

My dear husband

Owing to riding & I have only a moment to spend in writing to you - Many thinks for your letter which came to me this morning, dated Tuesday. I wish I could say something to put a stop to your fears - you have no occasion to be anxious about my situation. I have the best of care in the family, the best of medical advice, opportunity to ride as much as I please - the kindest of fathers with nothing to do but to anticipate and supply every want - he seems happy and cheerful and this does me more good than all the rest. I have been to Cambridge, Roxbury and Newtown this week and should have gone to Chelsea this afternoon but for the fear of taking cold in my teeth.

Yesterday and the day before I summoned courage and fortitude enough to have two new ones put in and five sensitive holes filled. I am glad the job is over. Papa said beforehand he would cheerfully pay for all I would have done.

I am glad your prospects are brighter as to your book.

We intend to start for Newburyport Monday if the weather should be fair - but you may direct your letters to Boston till I write you not to. Mr. Judson spoke very much in favour of riding on horseback. Papa says he will look out for a side saddle for me at Auctions.

I applied a blister between my shoulders yesterday morning and feel much better for it.

If you think I ought to come home and board somewhere I am willing to do it. I feel perplexed whenever I think of home. I am in a strait betwixt half a dozen; whenever I think of the children. I want to se them, and yet fear the care of them and want to keep house again and yet know I have no strength for anything. I feel the worse for any exercise that is fatiguing - still I am as well as I could expect to be so soon after such a prostrating sickness.

Tell Cousin Jane I saw her father the other day. I rode out to Roxbury to see him - he was as well as usual and was in good spirits.

Love to all the family. Write very often or you will see me one "whether or no." Did you know that you did not mention one word about the dear children in the letter you sent this morning. Now do so again.

Yrs truly D.W.V. Fiske

I've just been dunning Papa for a message to you in my praise but all I can get him to say is that he hopes I am getting better.

Pierce the bookseller has failed, and it is feared by good people that he has done wrong. Mr. Abbot is supposed to have lost by him.

Mr. Abbot has published another large book "the way to do good." I have but just looked at it, but it struck me as being made out of the Corner Stone and Young Christian.

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, Ms, Jul 27

[July 1836] Monday Evening

My dear husband

My head has suffered some in the operation, but I am glad you have succeeded at last in beating in to my stupid brain, how I am to manage in writing letters that shall be exclusive to you. I have no recollection of you saying anything but that I must write two letters, and I did not suppose it would be imagined by the family that two were sent at the same time. Still I may have forgotten what you said. I know my memory is good for nothing - my courage and enterprize too are gone. I can hardly believe myself to be the same person that I was ten years ago. In short, my sun has set and the rest of the way through this vale of tears I expect to grope through thick darkness. My Harp is hung upon the willows and will never be taken down but to play.

I would not live, always I ask not to stay where storm after storm rises dark o'er my way. The few livid moments that dawn on us here are enough for life's woes, full enough for its cheer.

This is a beautiful song which a young lady here plays to me almost every evening and I intend to learn it myself to play alone when i get home.

Tomorrow I leave the City for Uncle Gideon's farm in Dorchester - a fine, elevated airy place. Papa says I shall board there till I go home. As to coming home if I could come to meet you and the children in some little quiet place I should enjoy nothing more, but how can I step into the perplexities that you with all your philosophy and firmness can hardly bear! You know when I am at home I have the place that you occupy in my absence; and when I return I must see all Jane's downcast looks, Aroline's maneuverings and listen to all Cousin Sarah's lamentations, just as you do now. In addition to this have the oversight of all the cooking as soon as Jane leaves. This I dare say you think need not be anything, but it comes three times a day and you know if anything is burnt or smoked or not half done how badly you feel and how badly I feel.

I don't think Aroline likes me and I saw very plainly that she had influenced Jane to feel less kindly towards me than she had done. Aunt Vinal seems to think there is very little prospect of Aroline's being anything but a trial to us from the trouble she has given you and that the best thing we can do is to break up for a while and let her go home because we break up. How would it do for me to return about a fortnight before Commencement (or less, if you think best) and take the children & Sarah Ann and Cousin Sarah and go to Mr. Dickinsons in Hadley if they will take us, and stay till Commencement is over. Let Jane go to Cummington to pass the month she wishes Aroline go home. Or will Jane consent to keep house over Commencement, perhaps you may get Aunt Peggy or Eunice or some one for a few days about that time, if she won't. And do you see anything in Aroline that seems to indicate that she will be of any use to us? Is she any less pert, conceited and gay. How does she manage with Ann and Helen? I will cheerfully submit to any plan that will relieve you the most Commencement time and that seems to promise us the most domestic peace afterwards. Your two last letters disappointed me amazingly by having nothing in them about the children excepting the last in which you lose your pen running to quiet them, what was the trouble? And do they keep in trouble unless you are down stairs, or have them up stairs with you? I have asked you so often about them and you say nothing. I shall think you do not more than half read my letters. Pray deliver all the love I send in future and not wait to have it asked for. All who have ever lived at our house have always said that Helen behaved better in my absence and Miss Leonard and Jane have always said Ann was more quiet out of my sight - has it been so this time?

How is Dr. Humphrey? Does Mrs. H keep Sarah Ann's sister yet? Does she come to see Sarah Ann much? Who is preaching in the village now.

Cousin Ann called on me this afternoon and wished me to give a special remembrance to you and Helen.

Has Allen of Newburyport returned to Amherst and did he bring a letter from Eunice to me? It is time I was asleep.

Yours truly D.V. Fiske

What is the real reason why Mr. Hitchcock stays at home. He gave his health in the first place as a reason for going & afterwards for staying. Poor human nature! all the world over in the pulpit & out.

You say you see no reason why I need to trouble you with a question about our expenses and debts. I am sorry that I did trouble you and I will not be so inquisitive again. The reason I asked is Papa often asks me how we stand and whether we are getting behind hand and I don't like to tell him that I know nothing about it because it must seem so strange to him for me to be in such ignorance of what husbands and wives generally have a mutual understanding about. Beside I do feel some solicitude about the future and perhaps it is not strange when you feel so much. The reason of this solicitude is not because I think you will not do as you say you shall, "use the health and ability which God has given you as well as you know how and deny yourself every gratification." but because I have such a prospect of feeble health before me and I am so miserably calculated to live upon a small income.

Write me very soon - direct our letter to Boston. Papa will be coming out to Dorchester every day or two. He seems mightily pleased with having me go there.

Tuesday morning

Mrs. Davis has just introduced me in her parlour to a new lady boarder from Gloucester, and she proves to be a Mrs. Gott that I wrote to two years ago in behalf of the Beneficiaries. I feel almost like old friends, she is intelligent and very pious and benevolent. I feel better today than I did yesterday.

I have just had a very pleasant call from Mr. Hooker - he has now gone to get me a new supply of Tracts. He lives the name of being one of the most obliging men that ever lived and I really think he deserves it - he writes a great deal and preaches a great deal and yet Aunt says he always seems to be at hand with "here am I, send me" whatever needs to be done. Mr. Hooker tells me that Dr. Juckin has declined coming to Park St. The old South have given Mr. Blagden a call. Mr. H. says Mr. Boyce is doing well here. Dr. Beecher is at New Haven now - report says in pursuit of a wife.

I am surprised that Miss Stearns should feel neglected after all I have written to her knowing as she does that I ought not to write so much as I am obliged to, as to love thanks, & I have been sending such messages all the time. The letters she has sent me are full of sentimentalism - romantic regrets, about her drooping spirits XXX XXXXXXX - requests to me to come home and are much about any "best of husbands" soothing voice. I am very glad you have exerted yourself to cheer her up but I hope you will not get crazed with perplexities. I suspect you find it as difficult to steer straight among three cousins as to avoid snags in jogging on with one wife.

In that letter to Jane that Miss Stearns felt so distressed about because it was not to her, I told J. without saying to Miss S. what she was going to do, to go to Mr. Sweetsens and get Miss S. a gingham dress like the one I got just before leaving home which she seemed to fancy very much and give it to her as a present from me. She has done so much for me and you and I thought you would approve of it and that it was no more than right.

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass
Return address: Billerica, MS, Aug. 25

[August 1836]

My dear husband

I was never more glad to see the sun shine than the afternoon after you left us and the next day. I can hardly wait patiently to receive the letter that will tell me who had compassion upon you and taken you for a boarder - how the house seems - where pussy is and whether my leeches are dead. The two horses that I can drive were both gone off on some business together this morning so that I could not go to the office.

I have a great desire to commence housekeeping again and when I think how convenient everything is for work at our house - how pleasant the kitchen is etc. etc. - it seems as if I must come without delay and take possession.

I think you can find somebody in the vacation - you will give this sentence an awfully discouraged look I know, but there are so many things in the way of boarding with children and there are so many of us to board that I don't believe we shall be more than half contented or save much by it. Sarah Ann is a very good child - very useful to Maria and very pleasant with the children, they wish to have her in all their plays.

Abba the other day said something about a nigger in my presence. I told her and told Helen they must not speak of negroes before Sarah. They both insisted that Sarah was not a negro, that she was only some black and that they like her better than if she was white.

I am some better than when you left, I have put on a blister which drew well.

Yesterday, no, Saturday, I went over to the village, called on Mrs. Fiske - she expressed surprise that you had been here - it would have been better if you had called. Sunday I went over to the Methodists' - heard a sermon upon the Christian's entire freedom from the power of sin - a strange subject - I would be a Methodist if it would make it true for now while I think sometimes I delight in the law of God after the inward man I always see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

I am just about starting for Billerica with Sewall and his wife.

Billerica Wednesday morning

[tr. note: part of page missing] had a pleasant ride over here
yesterday afternoon tho about as circuitous as the route of the Israelites. This morning I am going to a famous examination at the Academy - and shall put this in the office hoping you will get it as soon as you will expect to hear. Old Mrs. Stearns sends much love to you.

Lewall Stearns is quite unwell, under a physicians' care, he has some difficulty in his chest that his family think he has brought on by working too hard. His new wife I like pretty well but I think after she has been married seven or eight years she will appear better, - she laughs a great deal. Martha says it is something new and it is because she is "dreadfully pleased" at being married.

Yrs truly D.W.V. Fiske

Helen is well and happy

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Boston, Ms Sep 4

[Sept 1836] Saturday Morning

My dear husband

I am not staying in Boston only stopping for a day or two at Uncle Vinal's. Aunt Vinal, Mrs. Hooker and two of her children are at Newburyport. I came in from Weston yesterday afternoon and shall return to middle of next week. Papa came out merely to see me, but I wished to see Cousin Martha and Ann and two or three other old friends so returned with him for this purpose.

Your friends at Weston are well. I was glad of your letter by Mr. Howe, and to learn from it that you are having so good a chance to study and enjoy it so much - it is the best opportunity you have had this long while.

Cousin Sarah almost wept* to think you should be so glad to be alone but Maria said if anybody cried it ought to be me because I must go back to break up your enjoyment of solitude. But no tears will find their way upon my face for this I can assure you.

*and said she felt much interested in her cousin and could not bear to think he would be glad to get rid of her. I wonder she is not broken hearted with Lewal's wife's hard jokes. I know I could not bear them and I can see that they are trying to Sarah, but there she is and must bear them. I think single ladies are more to be pitied for their loneliness in going about from place to place than those who are married for their cares to domestic perplexities.

I am enjoying as much as most people independent of you, and I am glad to have you happy independent of me.

I presume you will get a huge pile of volumes upon Moral and Intellectual Philosophy and be married to them before my return, and I give my cheerful consent, for I think such a sister wife will be more companionable than the old Greek books that I have been putting away from one place to another for seven years. This is no reflection upon you, for few if any gentlemen I presume are more careful in keeping books in place than you, but who wishes to see much of books written in an unknown tongue.

I was very glad that I came into the City last night on my father's account. On my way he told me that his back was very lame in consequence of being thrown from his horse last Friday returning from Weston. He said it had become much worse or he should not have told me of it and he would like to have me stop one night at Mrs. Davis's and see what I could do for it. I made a preparation of wormwood vinegar and scum and bathed it and bound it up; this morning when I left him he was better and I think will get over it by keeping still - still it is a very bad bruise and in a bad place upon or about the spine. Papa says the horse was not to blame - that he was driving carefully but I think he is an unsafe animal for so old a person to drive and I wish some one else had him.

I am not surprised that Ann does so well. I have always noticed that Mrs. Parsons has perfect control over her children; we had better let her take Helen I think. I have no talent of this sort, either natural or acquired and it sometimes seems mysterious that when there is nothing in the world that I can not do better this should have been my employment. I feel that I have wasted my time and ruined my health in a fruitless attempt to perform the duties of a wife and mother. As much as I love Ann and wish to see her I shall almost dread to take her home for fear she will be sick or grow ugly in my hands.

I hear by Cousin Martha that Mrs. Hitchcock has a son and am very glad to know it. You either forgot to tell me of it, or else no one has told you. Jane and Aroline have not arrived unless they went to Nathaniels. Martha has not seen them. You will be out of patience with this dully, flat, awfully written letter but I send it lest you may think I am sick if you do not hear.

Yours truly D.W. F. Fiske

Martha Vinal send her respects to you - she is very glad to have me here because she is all alone. Dr. Humphrey called this morning but I did not see him, it was before I came up to Uncle Vinal's. My health is about the same. Dr. Leach advises me to use the Jautan emetic ointment upon my chest for the difficulty I find in breathing; I never expect to be free from it, or much if any better than I am now.

Top of Page
Brown bar

Click here to return to the Colorado College web site.
Helen Hunt Jackson

Special Collections Home

maintained by Special Collections; last revised 4-02, jr