Colorado College Tutt Library

Helen Hunt Jackson 1-1-13 transcription

Ms 0020, Box 1, Folder 13, Letters from Nathan Fiske (HHJ's father) to Deborah Fiske (HHJ's mother), 1840-1843
Transcribed by Gloria Helmuth, October 1995

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

[Dec 1840] Charlestown, Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 2

My Dear Wife,

I am truly obliged to you for your letter & journal. I received it Saturday night at Waltham, just after closing my lecture, & am glad to know that you were well on Friday, & in so good spirits. Yet as to the latter I am not sure how the fact is, since your pen always makes the signs of good spirits, whatever the state of the care may be. -- I trust you received a scroll from me, on Saturday last, informing you of my adventures sufficiently, down to Friday. To continue my history to the present moment will require but few words; after lecturing, (without making a perfect failure) I passed the night with Mr. Whitney, preached half the day for him, & in the evening returned home; found Mr. Newhall at the house, he having exchanged with the Methodist preacher; immediately after breakfast carried him home in the waggon; on returning went to the shop of the wheelwright, blacksmith & spent the day in getting a frame for suspending my maps fabricated, & with hard work, & some expence, got one constructed; yesterday noon started off with it & some maps for Medford where I gave last evening a Lecture free to a decidedly numerous audience. I believe it will be a failure very much as at Northampton (by the way this letter is for your eye & ear, & yours alone), although I took care not myself to have a word to say about a course or any compensation, & therefore can feel no such mortification as in that case. -- The folks stopped after I left the room, & appointed a committee to make arrangements for a course of lectures, & perhaps it will go, with pushing. You will know by my next. This morning I packed up my duds (having lost my gloves, for which I am very sorry as they suited me better than any I have found for many years), & come down to Charlestown. The horse & waggon & lumber are in Uncle O's barn. We have eaten dinner; Mr. V. is doing something in the cellar; aunt is in the sitting room at work; Martha is just gone out to walk, & I am writing at her desk & with her implements in the dining room, & what the rest of the world is doing I know not.

I am tired enough, & now heartily wish I had no engagement, & nothing to hinder my sitting right down here for a whole week & be easy; but I must do some business & get this letter into the Office, tonight, & tomorrow ride to Weston, next day fix matters for the next lecture & next day after give it, & next day preach once (& once only) for Mr. Newhall - that is, if God in his kind providence shall preserve me & continue my health, which is perfectly good now.

I took tea last evening at Mr. Lain's father of our Junior Lain; by the way did you not invite him over to tea? She inquired very respectfully after you; said she wished to know you; & that you used to know her Mary Ann, who lately died, & died in the triumphs of piety. I hope you will commission me with a due quantity of regards for her so that if I go there again I may have some ready change to make in return etc.

You spoke of Helen's stories & of sending her to school; I think I said on leaving "do as you please" - but I have repeatedly thought of it since, & my mind is only more & more fixed in the idea that it is not best to risk the school, for the reasons that will readily occur to you. Give my love to her & to Ann. I do wish to see you all. My home, is after all, a good one. - But I must bid you good-bye, let me hear often. Aunt has just come in & says give my love & tell D. "if her house gets too warm (by Irish steam I suppose she means) take the babies & come right down here." Martha also ordered her love.

Very affectionately yours, N.W.F.

Please to direct to Waltham still.

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, Postmarked Charlestown, MS, Dec 26

Charlestown, Dec. 25, 1840

My Dear Wife,

This is to inform you that I think now of availing myself of an opportunity to take boarding for next term with a woman who I understand is willing to take in a gentleman. As to lodging I do not exactly know what arrangement may be made, as nothing was said on that Subject. I shall probably wish to commence boarding about one week from tomorrow at which time you may expect to see something more on the Subject.

I am glad to be able to infer from the letter (which Ellen received while I happened to be there the other evening), that you are all as well as usual. I heard only such part of the letter as had some respect to myself & therefore do not know what else it contained. Adeline was a little unwell, all the rest as usual. Isaac is expected in the next packet from Liverpool. Charles has not been heard from since he last sailed.

Young Gideon's son James is quite sick of fever, & they fear he will not recover. The rest as well as usual. Martha V. is suffering from her head-aches, but seems about as when she left Amherst. Aunt is well, & sends love saying if wishes could bring you, you would be here to night, & I add if wishes could see I should see you & the children tonight.

I expected to hear from you before this. My answer to Helen must have arrived before now. When I wrote that I was beginning to feel something out of order in my system; & I have been shut up at Weston from that time until day before yesterday, when I ventured to come here. My cold is now nearly removed. I intend to return to Weston tomorrow, & next week turn my face towards Amherst, & think I shall reach home by Saturday; you will not feel anxious however if you do not see me; and as to hearing from me, I shall not probably find a convenient opportunity for writing again.

Alto' things have not gone to my mind, yet I am not wholly cut up, nor in despair, nor do I think I have utterly failed.

Your father is deeply engrossed in the house, etc. does not go to his dinner now for some days. Yesterday I went to his boarding house - at dinner hour - waited till the dinner bell rung, but he did not appear - Mr. C. said he would be in in a few minutes - & I sat down to dinner - then waited until after 2 O clock without seeing him - then went down to the house & there found him hard at work - told him I had dinner with him without seeing him; he appeared more pleased at seeing me than before.
He said he should get up to A. in February.

Give my love to Helen & Ann. I wish to see them much. I shall not buy Ann a tea set this time for two reasons, I have no room in my waggon to put it - & I have got down to my last dollar, & must get to A. by borrowing at W. (but do not mention this last reason to either A. or H. perhaps you have said nothing about a tea set before them, & will not need to mention it at all). I have bought Ann a box of dissected Maps - & Helen a curious set of puzzles which I cannot explain, but they will amuse her I hope.

I have obtained Mrs. W's tracts & the silks you sent by Mr. D. -- Mary V. said something about a dress, which I did not understand, only that Miss somebody had been sick & not yet able to make it but would get it ready to come by your Father.

I feel somewhat ashamed of this letter, but I assure you the emptiness of it is partly owing to my being very tired. It is very cold weather, I hope for milder next week. Tell Sarah & Mrs. L. I trust they are doing all things well - & keeping you safe.

Very sincerely & affectionately
yours N.W.F.

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Care of Otis Vinal Esq, Boston, Postmarked Amherst, MS, June 1

Amherst Thursd. Morning

My Dear Wife,

Ever since you left us, it has been dreary & cold enough here, & last night it was topped off with a frost which I fear will injure all the fruit in this region. I think this great cold must be owing to your departure from your customary orbit; at any rate the darkness & gloom of this house must be ascribed to that aberration. However there were strange noises in it yesterday; while I was sitting here in my study, it seemed just as if your old piano was tuned up in high glee & half a dozen voices were singing out not "happy", "happy" etc. but a loud & long "goodbye"; I am not given to superstition & I don't yet believe the house is haunted.

But as I have only ten minutes, before I must run to breakfast, or not be punctual (& then you know Mrs. M. will not take me home again, when you run away), I will hasten to tell you all the news I have. Mrs. Hitchcock is better; Mary has your plants; & I have seen Senior Temple there both times when I have called. My interviews with Mr. Cannon & family were very pleasant. Friday evening we had tea at Mr. Fowler's. Saturday they went to Mr. Snell's but I did not get invited. On Sunday Mr. C. preached in the morning at Chapel, in afternoon for Mr. Colton; in evening at Academy. Good Mr. Ferguson & Lady were here, at Mr. Tyler's, on Sunday, & he preached in afternoon at Chapel.

Monday evening we took tea at Prof. Tyler's, Tuesday they left for South Hadley & Mrs. Moore went with them. Yesterday morning, they started from S. Hadley for Albany via Springfield & Pittsfield, & took Helen's bundle with them, very cheerfully. Mrs. M. returned yesterday, & told me at tea last evening that they were all delighted with Miss Lyon's Pangynaskeum; the oldest daughter was very desirous to remain there. The judge has received your XXX remnants of old-herring, & Mrs. Bent your superfluous ham. Proof-sheets still abound, & there is much clutter hereabouts, respecting which I need not be particular.

Mr. & Mrs. Fowler left here on Tuesday, having heard of the dangerous sickness of her Father. Yesterday we had intelligence that he died on Sabbath, & was to be buried on Wednesday. Mrs. Shephard has also received the painful intelligence of his brother's death.

The bell rings & I must close. Give much love to Aunt for me, & to all friends.


My little Anne, how do you do, & how do like to stay away from home? Pa misses you very much. He hears no little girl crying "I am hungry" or "I want to go somewhere". You must write to me in Ma's letters. Goodbye.


I am expecting a letter by the President. If you have not written to send by him, please to meditate anew some of your homilies about "writing"; & if you have written, write again very soon; remembering that I am not in the midst of a host of friends "ready to me service", but a lone man. Tell me your plans.

Affectionately yours N.W. Fiske

Addressed: Miss D.W.V. Fiske, Boston, Care of Otis Vinal Esq, Boston, Postmarked Amherst, MS, Jun 10

Saturday Morning, June 10, 1843

My Dear Mrs. F.

I waited very patiently to hear again from you, until last night, & then I had occasion to remember what I have heard in my life about two things; one is about "writing soon & often", & the other is "preaching & not practicing". But when I went to the P. Office for nothing I was on the way to Mrs. Tyler's for tea; she very kindly remembered me, & sent her husband (the Prof.) down to invite me, as she was to have the Rev. John Humphrey from Charlestown & the Tutors, Prof. Fowler & daughter, & the President's family. I arrived in season to sit down to table with them & eat a grand supper, with an appetite very much sharpened by reason of having been engaged all day in carpentering & house-cleaning; & "this brings me" to speak in the "third place", of my plans according to your request; they are as follows 1st to see the finis to the Manual as soon as possible; 2nd to put any books & study etc. into some order, & this 2nd thing I have already commenced; the books & papers are all over the floor in elegant confusion in both rooms; the shelves are washed clean, & ranged in a new & decent manner, the doing of which has cost me two days hard work, but it has me sweat & so according to Dr. Gridley's prediction has carried off that blue matter from my system (Mrs. Slater will call it yellow I presume I hope she will not catch the fever so called) and to tell the truth I am really in better health than when you left & Mrs. M's food now (I cannot say much about the first days I was there) has a fine guest. But "to return" -- 3rd to look into the condition of the garden 4th to collect bills of merchants etc & see what I can do in the way of paying them - & then 4thly I shall sit down to a deliberate inquiry (That is when I have finished the 4 things) to determine what duty demands as the 5th.

I had to settle a question of duty yesterday; the students requested me to give a Eulogy on Noah Webster for the 4th of July, & as I believe it was a sincere expression of confidence in me as well as of respect for Mr. Webster, I felt very sorry to decline, but I could not think it my duty to undertake the work; & I believe you will justify me although I fear others will charge me with being too backward to exert myself.

Whether it will appear duty in the 5th place to take kitty & leave the house etc to perfect loneliness for a while I cannot tell; it seems just as if I should like to go with you & Ann on a tour of cousins but you know, when we think it over in the study, we leave out the dust, the hot weather, the stormy weather, the accidents etc. etc. On the whole I think you will do safest to lay me out of the account in your schemes for visiting, & embrace your good chances whenever they come.

I have not heard a word from Helen except by your letter. I hope you have.

There is nothing important so far as I know to tell you as village news or talk; there may however be a vast deal of it; since it is not very likely to come to my ears.

Mrs. Hitchcock seemed quite well the other day when I called in there; but she has had the doctor since, & does not go out except to take a little ride when pleasant.

I must not bid you goodmorning, as Mrs. M. will have break-fast ready at the second, & I am wonderfully punctual, as a man always will be, when the "cook" is; I tell Ann the peone's look very beautiful in the garden & the lilacs both white & pink; & take & give a great deal of love.

In great haste from yours

N.W. Fiske

P.S. I forgot to tell you that I have had a real sore throat, the old attack in full; for two days I kept at work digging on my legs to revive the incitation there, for it had left them entirely; it has now deserted my throat & gone over again to the ancles; it was a bad cold.

Addressed: Mrs. D.W.V. Fiske, Care of David Vinal Esq, Boston, Postmarked Amherst, MS Aug 4

Amherst, Aug. 4th, 1843

My Dear Mrs. F.

You have ere this learnt by my note to Uncle V. that we reached Barre in safety. And now you may know that we arrived her yesterday about half an hour before your letter from the Earl House. We should have been in season for a dinner with Mrs. Moore, had I not lost some hours by cruizing on the way in search of a "woman". I got the track of one in Stovesville, a part of Dana, & finally found her at her sister's; the girl was pleasant in her looks, not over bright; but her sister was all spunk & wanted to know "how we treated girls" -- "now" said she, "Priest Fiske of New Braintree won't let his girls eat at the table with him nor sit down in the room with him; but he'll call 'em in to prayers, & for my part, if I wa'n't good enough to eat with him, then I'm sure I shouldn't be good enough to hear pray & I wouldn't". I talked Turkey (as the boys say) both ways to her, but told the girl we should let any body whom we thought fit to come into the house do just as they pleased about eating; the girl seemed herself better disposed than her sister, & said she might be willing to come about four weeks hence for $1.50 per week. So I left their ladyships & shall not think it expedient to trouble them any more. "Help is very scarce", I have heard again (Oh those wonted, hated sounds) more than fifty times I believe in two days.

I found things all untouched (except the berries) at home, but had to break in to the house, as we could not find Mr. Armstrong, to get our key. Ann was very cheerful, got her doll, & tried on her new frock, & herself proposed to go up & see Mrs. Hunt; so away I drove, & the first sentence of Mrs. H. was to tell me what she had been thinking of that very day; Mr. Temple had told her about your sickness etc. & she had been meditating to write to you & offer to take Ann etc. I left Ann having taking up her night things, & to day shall carry up her clothes.

I met Mr. Jessop on the hill, the first person I saw, & learned that he & the neighbors are well; but you will understand my feelings on being told that College Exercises were suspended; in order to attend the funeral of Tutor Miller, who went home just after I left to attend the funeral of his sister, & was taken with fever & died on Tuesday last. Thus is that promising young man hurried away in the very first days of his usefulness! Truly in the midst of Life are we in death. -- I had scarcely got in to my house from supper with Mrs. M. when a dozy minister that knew me at College called, no doubt to pass the night, & had I had time to look to the bed clothes, I would have given him lodgings; but he kept me from going to the Thursday evening meeting (& so I have not yet seen one of the Faculty), & I let him go to the Tavern to sleep, but made up as well as I could by taking him to breakfast this morning with Mrs. Moore.

I must close this & run to the call of the Bell, in order to see the President & take my orders for it is "Examinations" .

My love to all, let me hear fully abut your movements. You must engage one of those girls if possible.

Affectionately yours

N.W. Fiske

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