Helen Hunt Jackson 2-2-25f transcription
Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 2, Ms 0156, Box 2, Folder 25f, two letters
from Robert Lamborn to HH, 1875.
My dear Helen,
This is the only letter I have written from the Holy Land. Pardon me if it is short. Everything has been deserted here, and I have had but few sensations. How I came here was this - I went to Suez with Mr. Warner. I found travelling with the party so pleasant that when it was suggested that I should come on to Jerusalem, I gladly joined them, tho' it was not in my program. - But to be within two days of Jerusalem and not visit it, and the Dead Sea, seemed an omission I would always regret, and then I had come to like Mr. & Mrs Warner so well that the prospect of travelling anywhere with them was a pleasure not easily put aside - Just now I was interrupted by a German engineer coming into my room, (with some maps - he had heard that I was interested in railroads and he wanted to show me the plan for a road from here to the Holy City. - I examined his plans, and gave him what encouragement I could, and then he left - he made a speech that at first I did not understand so I made him speak slowly - when I found it to be - "The engineer who shall build a railway into the City of Jerusalem, will certainly have a special place made for him in Heaven" -. I have no objections to his view of the reward due to engineering work, but have yet to see why a road to Jerusalem should secure more celestial favor than one to Pueblo. It is twenty days since I went up to Jerusalem, through this place. Most of this time I spent with Mr. & Mrs. Warner. Visiting the celebrated places; the Jourdan [sic], the Dead Sea, the regional churches and ceremonies. They went a week ago to Damascus. I did not care specially for any more of the mysterious East, and made my plans for Alexandria and Italy. In an hour I shall sail in the Austrian Steamer for Port Said. Then to Alexandria, then Naples which I shall probably reach in seven or eight days. The Warners go via the islands and Constantinople to Venice which Mr. Warner expects to reach by June 1st and where they will remain several weeks, perhaps thro' much of the summer. He has written some letters to the N.Y. Times which if you happen to get those may interest you. The Miss Stearnes I found in Jerusalem - They were staying at the Latin Convent, had made the overland Journey from Damascus, and a week ago they sailed from this port for Italy, which they expect to reach on their way to Paris. Yesterday I spent in examining the first great effort in the recent time to regenerate Palestine in the practical plan, by using example instead of precept. Mr. Bergheim of Jerusalem has bought 5000 acres of land on the Plains of Nicesore, a-n-d- including an Arab Village. He has nearly all of it planted with wheat Barley, [Dource?] and sesame. Gradually he is bringing some system into the careless Arab methods of culture. He has no especial idea to carry out, except to make his farm profitable, and he therefore depends upon his own exertions for success. He has introduced machinery, and fertilizers, and h-i-s- the substantial reward he has gained makes it probable that many other wealthy men will follow his example. Nearly all the religious communities that have been founded here have proven failures.
I write you now from the midst of the great Orange Orchards of Joffa, Hundreds of acres in every direction are covered with trees loaded with fruit, and white with flowers. As I approached them yesterday the air was heavy with perfume a mile before I reached the shady borders of the plain. The wind carried the sweet fragrance across the fields of crimson popies [sic] and snowy daisies. There are more flowers here now than ever in Colorado. I have seen acres crimson with popies near other acres black with phlox and surrounded by hundreds of acres as white as tho' three inches of snow rested where only daises were growing. My trunk has gone to the boat, and I shall follow in a few minutes. Your picture lies on the table near me to be packed with my books in my bag - If you were here Dear friend, we would not go away for days but would wander among the flowers and brush, the sweet fields and the sky larks.
My dear Helen, I know I am a very bad correspondent, and don't tell what I ought, and sometimes tell what I oughtn't, but for you, I am willing and glad to try to do. better tho' its such a harrowing thing to tear out a mental tuber by the roots. I wrote you from Joffa - from the sweet orange orchards. Thence I came to Alexandria, where I found the French boat just starting for Naples - full - I told the captain I was going nevertheless, the officers had me a bed made in the cabin, and really came to Naples more comfortable than most of the other passengers. On the boat were many pleasant people, but particularly the Babbitts, - for whom I had letters from Gen.l Schuck of London. Mrs. Babbitt was Mrs. Hoffin - ne' Jenkins - one of the bluebloods of Rhode Island. - She had met you I think at or with Mr. Beecher. With Mrs. Babbitt not sick I found it an interesting voyage. The strangest thing and most memorable of views on the way was Stromboli - A great island just north of Sicily, t-h-a-t- under the shadow of which we passed, w-h-i-c-h- It's simply a volcanic cone rising out of the sea, cultivated to the very edge of the lava, and green with vineyards. The smoke hung in white clouds on the edge of the crater, the sky was deep blue overhead, the sea deep blue beneath, and the t-h-e- waves broke in a white fringe around the rocky coast, beyond all, the sun sat in a glory of gold.
At Naples the winter was gone, b-u-t- summer not yet come. How charming it all was - like a dream in the cool morning, when you sleep in a garden among singing birds - How I wished for you in Capri at the blue grotto. The little boat shot in an instant from broad day into the mysterious under-world of liquid, flowing translucent, gold and silver and amber and saphire[sic], and bronze. - you floats [sic] in color, and each varying tint is a new center of radiant light. You touch the surface with your oar and thousands of glowing pearls burn upon the surface of the water, fathoms below fish, like living flames float aimlessly. - Why were you not t-h-e-r-e- with me there! I would have drawn you nearer and nearer for the very joy of knowing that you saw and felt it all. And there we would have gone to the pretty hotel over the sea, and taken lunch as I did with the pleasant English ladies, and then w-e-r-e- to the top of the cape on which once was the castle of Tiberius, where we would have looked down hundreds of feet to the sea - beyond the rugged cliffs, and the floating gulls - and have traced the far sweep of the Neopolitan bay, b-a-y- from Ischia to Castleware, and Sorrento, with great Vesuvius and its beacon of cloud, telling through the quiet, the story of the grand scenes that have made this the most memorable theatre of the world. You would have enjoyed too the little hotel into which I wandered to spend the night. - Hotel Pagano, the favorite stopping place of the German and French artists who come here to study and dream. The landlords sons wait on you, and everything is cozy and homelike. Each artist leaves some memento and the house if full of beautiful sketches, some exquisitely wrought on the panels of the doors, some on the window frames and shutters, some on the looking glasses. In my chamber a beautiful spurt of the air floated toward me from one corner, in another corner two brilliant birds were singing on a bending reed. Then there is a german caricaturist from Berlin who spends his summers here who amuses himself in taking off in a huge book his fellow artists and the strangers who pass a night or two among them, all good portraits but with the wildest exaggeration. People who come to Capri find it hard to get away, and some end by marrying a Capri girl and ending their days among the vines and Mulberry orchards. I think I never saw such a happy people. All are full of the sunlight that brightens the air. - I came over to the Main land in a boat filled with old peasant women. - in northern countries they would be sad and quiet - here a sober old fellow with a pipe kept up a courteous fire of some dry humor - I think about some chestnuts that one carried in her pocket - and the old creatures held their handkerchiefs over their faces and burst with merriment every five minutes during the whole voyage - I had a strong feeling that it would be a good thing to go t-o- back and find one of their daughters, and remain in Capri myself to the end of my days.
I found I might afford it too very nicely for on two thousand dollars a year people here live with fx a family and three servants and all the comforts the island permits, while for 6 francs $1.25 per day one may have a nice room among the artists in the Hotel Pagano, with indefinite comfort and content.
Sorrento too is charming, with its gardens hanging over the sea, and its Orange bowers, and five clean hotels - (All for $2.25 per day) From Sorrento I drove to Castlemare where I took the cars for Naples.
I had telegraphed to Rome to have all letters and papers sent me, and the mail at length brought 20 packages of papers and about twenty letters. Three from you dearest, that I laid aside and spent the whole evening reading and reading - Mar. 3, Mar 9 and March. 19 - and then since coming up to Rome, the letter of Apr. 15th has reached me, so I have here at one moment six weeks and more of your life. How said I was to know you were sick, how very glad to know you were well again, and that the beautiful spring days that we enjoyed together when we first knew each other were again around you to bring strength. I am daily becoming a more devout sun worshiper and a Devotee of all the great luminary brings - flowers and showers, and light & shades and singing birds and [ ], and I believe, in the value of his ministrations for you. So now in May I feel that you are well and happy and joyous - I need not tell you more that I am well. I go everywhere and do everything and enjoy as much as is usual. I have been going around the Galleries and palaces, and have looked out for [Carpacciones?] as yet have not found him, but when I go to Venice, will look further and carefully.
You will find with this a letter from Miss P. Stearns. She was more successful than I was in her search for your father's grave in Jerusalem. Mr. Warner told me of it and I went to the place after searching through the English and Catholic Cemeteries, and saw i-t- the grave from the wall above, but could not get into yard, except by jumping down a steep place out of which I feared I could not climb. I found a boy at the English school to go down, and he read the epitaphs as well as he could but not being a native of England his scholarship was deficient and I did not feel certain I had found the right place. Warner by this time had left Jerusalem and I could not get more definite information. Miss Stearns description assures me that I was right and I wish I could send you some flowers that I had plucked on the spot but did not keep. Miss Stearns wrote you a little note with the flowers, which is kind and gracious and characteristic like herself. She feels that you have forgotten her, and was not going to send this note, but would have waited until she saw you in America to give it to you. Will you not write her a note and thank her too for her kindness to me. But I must tell you about them (the Stearns.) I found them at Rome in apartment with Miss Bartletts-. They expect to stay a couple of weeks now and then go to Florence. We have been together to the Borghese palace and yesterday we went to Frascate; a party consisting of Mrs. Tilton (wife of the artist), Miss Bartlett, & the Misses Stearnes, but by rail to the hills where you spent so much time when you lived in Rome. The day was charming beyond description with a gentle soft breeze from the West and scattered white clouds that dropped their shadows all over the Campania and the edges of the sabine hills.
We lunched at the hotel and took carriages and donkeys for Villa Mondragone, where Miss Priscilla and myself left the remainder of the party and rode over to the site of Old Hisculum, where we read our guide books and traced out the historic points on the Campania which lay under us like a map. Then at 5.30 we took the train for Rome. Miss Priscilla is much the most interesting of the two sisters, and has a manner that at once gives one confidence in her. Nellie has indomitable energy, and in an excursion is always full of spirit. They will soon go to the north of i-n-t-o- E-u-r-o- Italy and then to Paris where they want to replenish their wardrobe and this fall, they return home. They do not think that they have finished Europe. Both want to go to Norway again.
How horrid you are about Mrs. Norton - just to think you made the same remark about her communications that Miss Brewster did - Why did you not look between the lines and see the most delicate and hidden of compliments to the American gentlemen to whom all these grand developments were made. I did not set Miss Brewster right however,. She still - if she has not forgotten it takes the narrow worldly uncharitable view. I was at her reception a short time ago - The grand personages were a princip. Lecturer, and one of the Trollops - not Anthony - and a great-partizan of the Pope - The great duty of the Hostess appeared to be to keep the Pope hater, Trollop, and the Pappalini from meeting. - Miss Brewster has taken a warm fancy to me and I have a standing invitation to drop in whenever I can do so - She is a wonderful woman. - with the unflagging spirit of 20 years and a memory extending over half a century. I have learned more of Philadelphians from her than I should have learned t-o- of the same families had I staid in the city itself for years. She dresses very prettily, and in excellent taste - black silk & lace,a-n-d- tells her age to everybody. Knows all the scandal and gossip. Keeps up a dozen warm friendships and as many violent quarrels - patronizes, affiliates and snubs, in the most interesting manner.
I have called on Miss Clark twice but until to-day she has been out of town. I have a note from her just now - thanking me for some Egyptian presses - papers squeezed into the reliefs in Egyptian tombs - which are quite the fashion now among artists and of which I brought her at her request, a number from [ ]. I hope I shall get twice to call again on her, especially as I learn she has Parnassus and I want to see the book. Miss Brewster told me that Emerson had put a number of your poems in - (you remember I knew it before (I had told Warner) ) and Mis. B. added - E. did not put in a single one of Storys, and he's dreadfully cut up about it - he would have given his head to have been mentioned."
By the way - in thanking you for taking all the trouble to copy Warners letter, I must tell you about Saxe Holm, - one day in our tent - Mrs. Warner said - "Did Mrs Hunt ever discuss the Saxe Holme stories with you." I was unprepared - but answered promptly and distinctly as you would have me, and afterwards explained that I knew of them somewhat by the Scribner stories of a [Tourmative?]. They did not pursue the subject, as I feared they would. Warners are probably now in Venice, and I am planning to go up to see them in a few days. Everybody is leaving Rome, just as the weather is becoming so fine. Miss Brewster goes to the Tyrol probably before long - Lancini will go to his villa in the Alban hills - and a weeks ago the hotel people told me the season was over. Thank you many times for your sonnets. I read them again and again sometimes for the Poetry, sometimes that I may catch from their spirit the wonders of your inner life - I want so much to talk with you, and kiss you again, and tell you of everything, and know what you are thinking of - You must not place so much stress on my signature - it is such a habit to write it in full that I do it unconsciously - This time I will not however. Not one of your scraps or papers have reached me. I think a newspaper package w-i-t-h- filled as they would be would probably be opened by the Post Office & retained - better send in envelopes. I wonder what you are doing - and where will I find another letter soon at my bankers. Now I must go and call on the Miss Stearns.
I have been to a number of receptions and have twice as many invitations, as I can accept but I am tired of that sort of thing - our good hearts friend is worth all these Storeys and Dahlgrens and Marshes. Good bye dearest
Yours lovingly and trustfully always
P.S. The little milkweed seed came at Naples and when I had rec'd your
letter, I carried the bit of feeble life into the garden on the bay, and
placed it in the earth among a- b-i-g- the pansies - and beneath a dancing
fairie. Next year who will wonder at the strange American flowers and
leaves that may come up under this warm Italian sunshine
maintained by Special Collections; last revised, 11-2017, jr