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Helen Hunt Jackson 5-1-1 transcription

Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 5, Ms 0351, Box 1, Folder 1, letters from HHJ to her sister Ann (Mrs. E.C. Banfield), 1873.
Transcribed by Nancy Knipe, December 2002.

[1.] Letter from HHJ to AFB. [?Feb. '73 penciled on letter; postmark on envelope, Feb ?]

Mon. PM
[? Feb. '73 penciled in]

My dear Sister;

I have gained since I last wrote you. So much that I ride out on pleasant days an hour or an hour & a half -- & sit up the quarter pas of this day -- but I am very weak still --& have some symptoms which make me fear that the disease has left some serious organic troubles which I shall find it hard to be rid of.
-- As soon as I can, I shall go to Boston or N. York, to see a doctor, as I have no faith in the homeopathic Dr. here.

I was very much relieved to hear from you at last --& to know that you were all well --

I am very sorry that my reply to your invitation last winter gave you so much pain. -- I hope you will try and believe that I am always sorry to pain you --& trust I would never do it if I could help it. Perhaps I am wrong in feeling as I have felt on this whole matter. I thought a great deal about it while I was so sick -- and regretted more than I can ever tell you, all the suffering which I had caused you.

If I ever get well & strong again and you continue to feel as you do now, about my coming to your home, when ---- is at home, I think I shall be willing to come at some other time, if you desire it. I will try to, at any rate -- I most earnestly desire not to cherish any wrong resentment. -- and to do anything in my power to give you pleasure.

Your affectionate sister --


[2.] Letter from HHJ to AFB. March 8, 1873. [year based on note penciled on envelope; postmark Mar 8]

Sat. [Feb. crossed out] March 8

Dear Annie-

I have grown ever anxious at not hearing from you. Did you get my letter telling you how sick I have been? It is five weeks today since I was taken with diptheria [sic]. I got better - rode out - took cold & had a terrible relapse & have been in bed two weeks - only get up now to have it made. I have never been so sick in my life. Last week I had no expectation of living - but now, the diptheria seems to be gone -- & it is only the horrible prostration . - I have a quite good colored nurse, & am very comfortable, considering it is in a boardinghouse. -- I take a little nourishment once in three hours, night & day -- & sit up long enough to have the bed made - that is all.-

Please write & let me know that you are none of you ill -- & do tell Anne when you write to her that I should have answered her letter if I had not been sick - also, I should have gone to see Richie.

Ever lovingly Helen

[3.] Letter from HHJ to AFB. [April 1 73 penciled on letter; envelope postmarked Apr 1]


Dear Annie-

I have been a little worried at not hearing from you -- but suppose it means as usual that you are too busy to write -

I have some bad news to give you of myself. I am sorry to say - I am in bed with my old enemy the diptheria [sic]! -- came down very suddenly on Sunday - though the membrane had been forming for two or three days before the Dr. says -- it was so high up it did not make my throat sore & I could not imagine what made me feel so weak & ill. - I aggravated it by taking a long sleigh ride on Friday! The only wonder is I didn't get my death! -- if I had not been so strong and well to begin with, I dare say I should.-

The membrane has entirely disappeared now, but I am still very weak -- & take cream & whiskey, & beef tea every two hours -- & only crawl out of bed to have my bed made. What a frightful disease it is, to undermine all one's strength so suddenly. -- I have had a allopathic Dr. for there is no homeopathist here in whom I have the least faith in --. This is a real calamity - but his treatment has been very skilful & he has given very little medicine - relying chiefly on iodine applications & on stimulants. -- I hope to get out into the sitting room next week. - but I shall have a odious [?] pull up from it no doubt -- & I am afraid I shan't get back to my California level at all. -- I weighed 120 last week! (in my sealskin jacket) & have never felt better in my life than this winter - if I ever have so well.-- Goodbye - Tell Annie when you write to her that I rec'd her letter & shall write to her when I am stronger -

Love to all-

Ever affly - Helen.
There has been an epidemic scarlet fever here all winter & that is what has given me this, the Dr. thinks - the quality in the air.-

[4.] Letter from HHJ to AFB. April 11, 1873.

April 11 -

Dear Annie -

I did not get your letter 'till this morning.-The name of the Marble Workers is Casoni and Isola -They used to be on the corner of Broadway & 24th or 25th St.-There is a large enclosure full of marble monuments in the corner - so you cannot fail to see it, if they are there still. I do not recollect to have seen their sign last winter. But they are very dear, if you want merely a plain stone, it could be bought probably for two thirds the money elsewhere. You will not forget dear that when you make up your mind that you can afford to pay half the cost of such a stone, I rely upon your letting me know that I may pay the other half. I shall be glad if you do not decide to do it this spring however, for I was never in so tight a corner financially - this ten weeks sickness has been a most frightful expense: -- a nurse six weeks at $10 a week - doctor twice a day much of the time -- & still coming once a day - 6 pounds of beef a day for a long time - not to mention all possible extras in way of liquors & food - If $200 covers it I shall be thankful.-I hope my book will sell so as to pay it! - But I could have spent the money much more agreeably! -- & had made several air castles as to the disposition of it.-

I am delighted to hear that Everett has been able to pay off one mortgage on the Brooklyn house so that that trouble is all settled. I regret extremely that your experience & mine have been so different with Julius-I like him better & better every day - I do not now mind his little foibles of manner at all - nor his peculiar style of writing--; and I admire his system & promptness, & explicitness very much. He gets 8 pet ct for all my money -- & has it on better security than the Deacon had it -- & he is kindness itself in attending to all little matters. I shall hope that you may come to have as warm & friendly a feeling towards him as I have, & to like him as well for Trustee.-

Mr. Lothrop about whom you ask, I disliked extremely. I have rarely in my life, so much disliked any stranger in a single interview. However I think he must be a dyspeptic -- & that the morning I called in his office, everything had gone wrong with him. Certainly no ordinary causes could have explained a man's being so surly to an unoffending woman who had come solely to do a good turn to his clients! But I am pretty sure you would dislike him also.--

I do not gain strength much. -- though I drive every day, & do not let down. Now this is noon in course of the day, but I have little appetite --& can only eat a very few things: the stomach & bowels seem to have been utterly disordered.-- or paralyzed either by the diptheria [sic], or by the over stimulus of the alopathy [sic], there is no telling which.-- but I rather think it is the diptheria-- for after the injections (without which there is no action of the bowels) -- there passes off every day, a great quantity of singular matter -- like phlegm or old membrane. There is some of it also in the water -- Probably every inch of mucous membrane in stomach - bowels - bladder -- has been more or less troubled by the diptheritic [sic] poison. It is a horrible disease.

If I could get anybody to go with me, I would go to California at once -- that air would set me up again -- if I am not too old! - After [sic] forty two old woman must expect to be more or less poorly for some years.--

I shall go to Princeton again for six or eight weeks, this summer -- from July 15 -- & Molly will go with me. What I shall do before that, I do not in the least know -- Bethlehem perhaps for Rose or Nose cold time -- I must be either there, or in some city, at that time. If you are in Amherst when I am in Princeton, I will come & stay a week with you -- or else in Wolfboro.-- Love to all -- Goodbye my dear sister--

Yours always lovingly


[5.] Letter from HHJ to AFB. July 11, ['73 penciled on letter; postmark on envelope faint: Jul]

July 11th '73 [penciled in]

Dear Annie,

It almost made me laugh to see how entirely you assumed that I must be well enough to come to W. next week. - My dear, -- I have only walked three times since I came here -- & then only a little beyond the first cottage from Mrs. Barretts! -- I am so weak that it utterly disheartens me -- & my throat does not heal. Dr. Sager thinks this air here a little too harsh for it. Half an hour's fatigue makes it swell & grow red & painful -- & last week I was in bed with it three days, & feared it could ulcerate again. - but it passed away. - My nurse is a great comfort. She is good & kind & goes down stairs & makes gruels & broils steaks for me. & gets along nicely with the servants. -- I don't know what I should do without her. - We go to Princeton next Wed. I dread the journey inexpressibly - but hope to get a sofa in the Pullman car as I did coming up. So that I can lie down all the way.-

I only staid in Littleton three days. The river mists aggravated my Nose Cold so I could not breathe or speak loud. - So I moved over here into three little boxes of third story rooms at Mrs. Barretts - but it has been so cool that I have been very comfortable. -

I hope you will have a nice summer in Wolfboro - Perhaps if you go down to Boston, you will run up to Princeton & see me. It is only three hours from Boston. I am afraid if you do not, we shall not see each other this summer at all.-

Address -- Mt. Pleasant House, Princeton, Mass.

Love to all the children -

Yours lovingly always


[6.] Letter from HHJ to AFB. [7-24-73 penciled on letter. Envelope postmarked Jul 24].

P.S. - Please pay the Express am on the Shawl, & let me know how much it is.-

Monday -

Dear Annie -

I forgot to ask you when you were here - what I had been meaning to write & ask you, if you would be so kind as to send my camel's hair shawl to Hoveys for me; -- I am sorry to take it away from you - but I shall need something to have always at hand, this winter to throw over my shoulders-- & I am going to have a black centre & fringe put to that ; -- if I die, it will be all ready for you again; and if I live, I shall need it very much! -

I will enclose a note to them - for you to send in the package -- & will you please be very sure & take a receipt from the Expressman with the value marked in it $100.-Don't fail to do this, for without it, we cannot recover the value, if it is lost.-

I have had a sharp sore throat since you were here -have not been out of bed - nor able to swallow anything but liquids. I am about disheartened.-

I think I shall go down to Boston Oct. 1st - so as to be there before the next time to be unwell (the 3rd & see if good medical care can't tide me over it, without another such break down.-And I must decide at once about my winter, Colorado is the plan, no doubt if I can get there. - but that is the question; --

I am so glad to have had just that little glimpse of you. It was a great deal better than nothing; -- but I shall always regret very deeply that you could not stay a little longer. If can never see each other again, it was a great pity. Love to the children & Everett -

Goodbye - Yours ever - affly - Helen.

[7.] Letter from HHJ to AFB. [Sept. 23, 1873 penciled on letter; envelope postmarked Sep 23]

Princeton. Friday Morn.
Dearest Annie.

I am thinking strongly of going to Amherst! -- & I want you to write & tell me what you think of the situation of Mrs. Potwin's house & the house itself. She is very anxious to have us come, & I should enjoy being with her very much - but I am afraid the air may be damp, as she says it is near the Episcopal church - I am very uncomfortable here, for the Whitrakers have cheated me gravely [sic] in regard to rooms -- & the room they had kept for Emma is one I could not put a beggar to sleep in! -- & besides is so far off from mine that the bell they had rigged up won't work -- & I have to have a cot brought into my room every night for her to sleep in & she has to sit in my room all day -- & it rasps & tires me beyond endurance. So I wrote at once to Mrs. Potwin to see if she could take us -- & she is delighted with the plan & urges me to come. -- My only hesitancy is about the air. This air here is so high & dry - almost as good as Bethlehem -- & I have always had great misgivings about Amherst.-

It does seem as if every single thing big & little was ordered to work against me. I am half discouraged. -- I bore the going down here much better though than I feared -- & now the Nose cold is over, I really think I shall gain. It was that which kept me down so, -- setting in immediately after a third diptheria [sic]. Dr. Lager thinks I have done wonderfully not to be more broken down than I am. - I suppose I have - but I am tired out of being so weak. -- & my throat swells up & reddens & aches on the least fatigue.-I am taking now the Pyro phosphate as a tonic for now -- & mean to keep on with it unless I have to take homeopathic medicine for some other trouble. - I had to take that for Nose cold, & for symptoms of return of sore throat, all the time at Bethlehem. - I have had asthma from my Nose cold this year -- the first four nights here, I could not lie down at all! -- But it is all gone now, & I only sneeze occasionally - so I hope the cold is over. I never have had it after July 20th-

Do write at once & tell me just what you think about Amherst air, & about Mrs. Potwin's house.-If I go, I want to go next week or the week after - Goodbye - love to all the children - lovingly ever - Helen -

P.S. I have been clinging all along to the hope of still being able to go to Colorado this fall - but Judy Brown writes me that the western RRs have revoked all fares!! -- So my passes are of no good - & I can't possibly afford to go -- for my long sickness has swallowed up every penny I had - (over $400 for doctors bills!) -- & you can imagine what it cost to be sick with a nurse , at the San Denis - or Parkers! -- Julius is advancing money for me now -- & it worries me about to death to be running in debt. Six months -- till this last month I have squeezed out two or three poems just for money! - ….

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