Colorado College Tutt Library

Helen Hunt Jackson 1-1-2 transcription

Ms 0020, Box 1, Folder 2, Letters from Deborah Waterman Vinal Fiske (HHJ's mother) to her husband Nathan Fiske (HHJ's father), 1833
Transcribed by Gloria Helmuth, October 1995

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, and postmarked Boston, MS, Oct 2


I saw Dr. Warren immediately after you left us, as you requested & when he had got through with his enquiries & prohibitions & prescriptions I asked him what I should write to you & his reply was this - "tell Mr. Fiske you have some fever brought on by a cold but I think with careful treatment it will be thrown off in a day or two" - he prescribed a medicine to be taken once in four hours till it operated - it had the desired effect & today I have discontinued it, he gave me a powder also to take on going to bed. I had a comfortable night & have felt better today but I am not allowed to take any meat or broth nothing but porridge or a little tea & ripe fruit. I mentioned having a blister but Dr. W. said I had better wait a few days to ascertain whether it was really necessary - perhaps it will not be. I have had no pain in my shoulder of chest today & cough less frequently, but am weak & unable to do scarcely anything. I think sometimes I shall always be a burden for some one to carry. I have thought a great deal of you since you left & hope riding in such an uncomfortable weather will not increase your cold. I am counting the days for a letter - unless you write often you will see us unloading very soon at our door. Every thing in the future seems very uncertain & yet I cannot help looking forward to being quietly settled again by our own fireside - how we shall miss our dear little Humphrey - it seems sometimes as if I must see him again & as if I could not be cheerful without him, but generally I love to think of his glorified spirit & am more desirous of being prepared to follow him than of having him return to me. Helen is well as when you left but she is very peevish much of the time. Uncle & aunt are well as usual. Papa has given me an excellent cloak - the kindness of my friends makes me feel ashamed of my unworthiness to receive such favors. Much love to Maria also to Nancy. In haste -

Your affectionately grateful
wife D.W. Fiske
Wednesday afternoon.
Dear Papa
[tr. note: childish scribbles]

Addressed: Prof Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, postmarked Boston, MS, Oct 7

[1833] Sunday afternoon

My dear husband

Nothing since you left Boston has given me so much pleasure as your letter which Papa handed me yesterday afternoon & I hope it will not be doing wrong to spend a few moments today in relieving you from your kind solicitude for my welfare. Friday I had quite a sick day & could not help thinking a good deal of being at home on my own bed & in my own nursery. I had a severe headache & considerable pain. In the evening Dr. Warren came & said it was only owing to the accumulation of phlegm & that an emetic would relieve me. I took one immediately, it operated well & I have since been better. Today I have applied a blister to my stomach, or rather on my left side. Dr. Warren says I shall be obliged to put one on occasionally for some time. I asked Dr. W. this morning about my return to Amherst & mentioned my apprehensions as to the East winds - he said I had better return - that I had derived all the advantage that this change could afford & that the air of the Sea Coast was not favourable for weak lungs - he says I must ride every day that is pleasant, keep much in the air - take some house exercises but not get fatigued with it, live upon rye bread, coarse porridge & little ripe fruit - take emetics occasionally & apply blisters when necessary & be covered with flannel. Aunt Vinal asked him today what he thought of my case & his reply was "it is nothing critical or peculiar - it is the natural effect of the disease." You must not be anxious about me, or suffer yourself to be dejected for any reason. I find it difficult to be cheerful always because my friends are all so kind & doing so much for me & I am too weak & helpless to repay any of their attentions or do any good to anybody but I know this is just what I need. Independence & pride & vanity & self complacency have been at the root of every thing I have done & I have found more happiness in being constantly busy with any lawful employment than in growing in the knowledge of God & relying on the Saviour for salvation; but now I am as it were laid aside & I know you will pray that the time which is thrown upon my hands may be spent in preparing for a better home where there is no sickness or death & where God wipes away all tears from every eye. You ask if I can forgive you & pray for you - as to forgiving I wish sincerely & must entreat you that in relation to me you will forget that there is any such word in our language - I never think of it in relation to you unless it is to ask your forgiveness for the uneasiness you have felt at my foolish sensitiveness about mere trifles. I feel & my friends feel that you have always consulted happiness & been willing to make any sacrifice for my comfort. As to praying for you - I shall as soon forget to pray for myself & I hope you will not shut your eyes against evidence of your being a Christian - What is a Christian but a penitent sinner? God has given you repentance & will he not receive you for a child? Remember the 2nd and 3rd verses in the 16th of Ezekiel, you may find them in the Bible to save room on my paper.

If you can find a girl I shall prefer keeping house with you but if you cannot, or have not the time to look for one I think there is but little doubt that Mrs. Smith will take us for a while & Papa will board there too if she will take him. If Maria Dersey is well enough I should prefer her to a stranger. Papa will stay several weeks & journey anywhere in the vicinity or where it is thought best.

As it is uncertain whether I shall be able to do much this winter I hope Miss Leonard will be wiling to return to our house when her present engagements have terminated. Give much love to Maria & many thanks for her kindness - she will have her reward if not from me. Love to Nancy - tell her Helen talks about her & wants to see her. She said the other day when out of patience with a coughing spell Ma, do put up my clothes and carry me to my home. I am tired of staying here every day and every morning.

Do tell me exactly how you are situated & everything in relation to home will interest me.

I can easily conceive of your feelings at the first sight of our sitting room & kitchen. It seems to me now as if I should always associate them with dear little Humphrey's sufferings. But his sufferings are over & if he had lived many years the dreaded hour would still have come and perhaps found his soul polluted by a sinful life.

Helen was much interested in your letter. I have read it to her half a dozen times & yet she keeps saying "read Papa's letter adin Ma."

I rode out into the country with Papa & Helen yesterday afternoon 7 of 8 miles - the pure sweet air seemed delightful compared with the winds from the salt water.

Should the weather be favourable & nothing unforeseen prevent, Papa calculates to start with us next week Monday or Tuesday. I take it for granted some sort of shelter can be found for us in Amherst.

How are all our friends? Are any sick? It seems like 2 months since I left home. Write immediately on getting this & tell me how your health is - are you getting any strength & does your cough continue - be sure to tell me.

Aunt Vinal is very well, Uncle is as well as usual. Aunt is sitting by & sends much love to you. Papa is well & so with us half the time & wants to be buying something the other half. His spirits are good and Aunt says he seems like a new man.

My Dear Papa, I want to see my chickens. I want to see Papa too. My cough is better. I walk in the garden with Uncle Vinal. Grandpa pa buys me peaches [tr. note: back to Deborah's handwriting] you say I don't want to write any more.

Helen Maria

Addressed: Prof. Nathan W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, and postmarked Boston, MS, Oct 9

[1833] Wednesday Morning

My dear husband

I put a letter in the office Monday which I hope you have got before this. I received one from you yesterday. In answer to your question in relation to unfavourable symptoms it is best you should know the truth & that neither myself or friends should be cherishing sanguine hopes of my recovery - there is no danger in this, but in the opposite delusion there is. I am very much relieved but the symptoms which appeared ten days since are not thrown off & there is little probability that they can be while the whooping cough continues, for it is coughing which effects my lungs. I am free from pain in my side since the application of the blister & I cough less frequently, but it such hard work to cough that it creates a pain between my shoulders that is rather uncomfortable & prevents me, on account of increasing it, from doing scarcely any work. I think I have less strength than when you were here on this point however I can judge better at home where I can use it in my old way "all alone myself" as Helen says; my lungs have been as much effected before, years ago, & I have been restored from coughs of several months continuance so you must not look upon the dark side only, but cast your eye towards it, sometimes & care as little as possible about anything excepting cheerful confidence in God. This world is not our home, we are slow to believe it & when those we love are taken from us it is to make us feel that we must follow; to look back from Eternity upon the difference of a few years would seem a matter of small moment when we shall see things as they are. Let us aim at being with our little ones, a family in Heaven & by cheerfully to do our duty & leave all results with God. I am far enough from doing this uniformly, but it is what I am aiming to do for some reason or other (my heart is so dreadfully estranged from evil & deceitful I hardly dare believe it is the feeling of a Christian) I am contented & cheerful.

I hope M. Dersey will come to live with us. I have got to be riding about so much with Papa that we shall need some one who will go on without wasting, & make things come out right without the constant supervision that I have had of other girls. We must not think of Aunt Vinal's girl for she is thinking of her to go to Aunt Sawyers - she will not go I think - but I must of course say nothing to her. Martha Vinal's opinions & feelings in relation to religion & other serious subjects seem to have almost entirely changed. I hope she will yet be a good Christian rooted & grounded in the true faith - she reads & thinks a great deal evidently. Is there not a great deal of formality abut prayers? How seldom we pray for any particularXX person - she is very self denying & kind in her attentions to me & to Helen. We must pray for her - & some expression of obligation from you on account of it to Aunt & Uncle & Martha & Papa would not be out of place. Why not write to Papa separately on this subject - only a short letter is enough. Do not you think it a duty? It promotes happiness & can do no harm & it is only the treatment we like ourselves. I think we have as it were been out of the world in this matter.

Dear Papa - What was [tr. note: back to Deborah's handwriting] that little girls name? A coughing spell & company will deprive you of Helen's letter.

I have written ever so many questions to ask Dr. W. I shall see him once more to know in relation to everything that will have any bearing upon my health the coming winter. I shall make it my great business - to do everything possible for my recovery, so you need not fear any negligence missing from the feeling you allude to which I have expressed to you, & still have. I do you no injustice. I know that it is what you think a great deal of Papa & Aunt Vinal and have always been striving to save but I do think there are a great many benevolent objects to promote - a great many good men labouring day & night for Christ to encourage & help - in short innumerable things that are a more useful way of spending time than taking care of me; we are so constantly looking at our own affairs we magnify their importance.

I have bought your book

Do make mention of my Amherst friends. How is the President? Much love to him & Mrs. Humphrey & Mrs. Washburn. Is Mrs. Hitchcock's babe better. How is Mr. Hitchcock.

Mr. Arthur Scholfield has honored the house with a call since I have been here. I was upstairs - He said "How do you all do Aunt." Aunt says "all well but Deborah" he made no reply & took himself off in a few moments, so you need not fear having your wife stolen, notwithstanding, I have had several calls from a much better old friend than he - (Charles Atwood). He has gone now to New York & gave me no invitation to go with him tho if he had I should have thanked him & chose my husband for a gallant on the way.
Yours very affectionately D.W. Fiske

Love from the family


Much love to Sister Maria - how I do wish - I will not say it or think of it. Her Mother needs her much more than I do & has the highest claim.

Addressed: Prof. N.W. Fiske, Amherst, Mass, postmarked Boston, Mass, Oct 14
[1833] Sunday evening

I have just received your letter written Friday night & trust you received one from me last evening, but lest it may be hid in some post-office nook I will just mention that I said we should leave Boston Monday, though it is after all a matter of no consequence to repeat since we have decided to start on Tuesday. It will seem to you that we might as well leave tomorrow, & so it would to me if I did not find myself surrounded with so many last things to do that to avoid getting hurried & fatigued it seems indispensable to wait. My teeth too Aunt & Papa, have beset & think I must get them filled tomorrow - my judgment is rather in favor of having it done tho it seems of less consequence than if a long life was probably before me. I feel sorry for the winter of hard labour that is before you. I shall add as little as possible to your care by being careful of myself & you must not be solicitous about me. Of what avail will it be? & beside we both know that in whatever befalls us God is fulfilling some wise & good purpose; however it is much easier to write XXXX XX XXXX XX XXXX XX XXXX about this cheerful willingness that God should do his pleasure than to feel it a case of trial and it is very possible perhaps probably should you or Helen be sick that I should find not one spark of it in my wicked deceitful heart.

I am very glad M. Dersey has consented to live with us. Give my love to her & to Nancy also I hope they will do well together, & that I shall be able to make their situation happy. I want to get home. My friends are very kind, but home is the best place for me & for Helen. Helen has become quite wild but it is not strange, she has been noticed & indulged so much.

I saw Dr. W. last evening to ask him questions with reference to next winter. He says I am better and that going home he thinks will be of decided advantage to me.

Our plan is, unless we find it too fatiguing, which I think will not be the case, to go to Worcester Tuesday - to Belchertown Wednesday & there get a conveyance the next day to take us over to Amherst; - the weather or accidents of course may defeat our plans.

I shall finish this tomorrow - good night.

Monday night - My teeth are fixed. Things nearly packed and we calculate to start in the morning if the weather is pleasant. It is pleasant now.

You need not anticipate any evil if we do not get to Amherst till XXXXXXX Friday.

Yrs truly D.W. Fiske

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