Helen Hunt Jackson 2-2-23j transcription
Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 2, Ms 0156, Box 2, Folder 23j, two letters
from Edmund Clarence Stedman to HHJ, 1874-1878.
My dear Mrs. Hunt:
I am greatly in your debt for two of the best kind of gifts (you remember Emerson's saying that a gift shd. be part of one's self) - to wit, a gracious womanly letter, and a copy of the new selection of your most womanly, most gracious, & most exquisitely thoughtful poems. The Osgood collection has long been on my shelves, & very many of its poems have yielded me much comfort & pleasure; and I am now very glad to have, by its author's gift, this enlarged volume - in which are so many of my favorites, old & new. I should venture to name a few of these poems which I sometimes think please me especially, - such as "Love's Largess," "Two Truths," "My Strawberry," "My Hickory Pie," - your ballads (Amreeta Wine, etc.). - were it not that the general tone of your work is so good & polished, that I can hardly set one poem before another. This is perhaps, the distinguishing characteristic of your work to a brother = artist. In your instance, it does not become monotone, as in some cases elsewhere: your tenderness, sincerity, strength, by turns come to the aid of verse after verse. How I would like to see & know you in your lighter & more humorous & your more objective & romantic works, for such moods I know enough of you to know that you have. But, after all, we like our poets just as they choose to present themselves, & no one has the right to come between a true singer & his daimon.
You are mistaken in supposing that I did not learn who you were, before leaving Mrs. Runkle's rooms, after the long-ago occasion of which you speak. I see you now, as I saw you then, sitting at the right of the mantel, & I think that even then I had been attracted by verses signed H.H., and had learned from Church, of the Galaxy, or some other editor, her "name & station."
It is our misfortune that this, the first writer for some years which my wife & myself have passed in N.Y. should be your season of illness & mountaineering. Your letter, the first you wrote after your arrival in Colorado, was not only a very delicate compliment to its recipient, but drew our hearts out to you - in your loneliness, strength, & weakness "Upon the Heights."
By a strange conjunction, I am on the eve of running away southward - leaving a brain so sore with, not dual, but quadruple action - called out by business, overdue literary work, public duties & the rush of town social life - that I must break off at once, or break down. This, too, right in the midst of a two-years art campaign wh. I'd laid out for myself. You see that I have to earn a living for my family, to begin with, & then write what I can, & what can one do of evenings in a N.Y winter season?
You women have advantages, this is true of you who don't have to sew for a living. - And, to assure, as you wrote me your first letter after reaching the Rocky Mts., so I write you my last letter before sailing for Florida, & am, in verity,
Your friend, & fellow craftsman,
Mrs. Helen Hunt.
Of course we constantly see your strong ally, & my dear friend, Mrs. Mary Mapes Dodge - & occasionally Mrs. Runkle, both of whom are always lamenting that you're not hereabout. I conveyed your remembrances to Mrs. Stedman who probably by this time has forgotten, or repents of her characteristic request. As for me, I let her say what she chooses = & no more think of writing it than I would to flatter of a beloved & invalid sister.
My dear Mrs. Jackson:
At least I can take hold of my correspondence. Your "Bits of Travel at Home", warmly welcomed and now greatly prized by all under our roof-tree came to us in a busy time for me. I was writing a long Yale class poem. Then Mr. Argant died, & I had to fulfil an old engagement & prepare for the Post the long paper which I shall send you. Meantime I wanted to read your new book before acknowledging it. And first, let me say that I feel very grateful to you for remembering me, & that you could have taken no more charming manner of showing that your friendship - once given - is as lasting as your admirable work. This volume has been my railroad companion for a few days past, & I now know why my wife, Mother, & sister have been so delighted with it. And for me it has had more interest than even your former prose sketches. I never have been West beyond Omaha, and your racy description, & poetic sketches make up the first book of Rocky Mountain & Pacific slope travel that really has been of much use and delectation. The field is so fresh and so freshly & vividly depicted, that I almost feel, now, as if I had gone over it myself. I should think this little book would be a great success in England. - the English are so crazy over our Far West. & their titled & Cockney travellers have "Done" it so badly for them. A dear & lovely sister of mine married a son of Bishop Hip, & has lived in San Francisco for years. Often have I longed to visit her. Possibly another year may open the way for me, & your book has made me resolve to stop en route, & see Colorado, if such a trip should be made.
I see that you have perpetuated your youth & esprit by your emigration. Why should not I essay to renew a little of my own?
We are passing the summer, as you see, near the Runkles. To-day Noah Brooks & Dudley Warren are visiting them, & we are invited to "tea." So that a group of your friends will be talking of you this eve? - which will account for any unwanted burning of your ears.
Pray give my compliments to your husband, whose acquaintance I hope yet to have the pleasure of making, & believe me very gratefully & faithfully yr.
Edmund C. Stedman
maintained by Special Collections; last revised, 6-2003, jr