Works of Annie Fields

Diary of a West Indian Island Tour
Annie Fields

Part 7

Sunday 16 February - Friday 21 February


[ Sunday 16 February ]

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Sunday 16th  Kept on all day through strong seas hardly able to raise our heads.

[ Monday 17 February ]

Mon. Feb. 17th  Came at 3 o'clock back to the quiet harbor of St. Nicholas ^mole^ -- The first point of the island touched by Columbus upon his return from the discovery of Cuba.*  Fortifications in view cover the cliffs on each side of the harbor and give it an interest which the bare comparatively bare hills would not possess otherwise, in spite of Columbus's visit!  Log wood is the export here.  In both our visits we have found ships [deleted wordlading with it and the growth on the hills looks like log wood every way we turn; there are a few cocoa-palms but they are the exceptions and after the fertility we have seen the place looks rather bare.  There is a town not far away however reached by the people by a road over which they carry their goods on their backs which ^it^ seems to be their garden -- there were fruits and vegetables.  The Captain found one little garden here with

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two water-melons which the poor woman was delighted to sell.



St. Nicholas mole:  In Haiti, near the northwestern tip of the island's coast.  Taking a westward route from Santo Domingo, the yacht would need to travel about 500 miles to reach Môle-Saint-Nicolas.
      Wikipedia says: "Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the Americas landed at the site of what is now Môle-Saint-Nicolas on December 6, 1492....  Vestiges of colonial forts can be found in several locations: Batteries de Vallières, Fort Georges, Saint-Charles, La Poudrière, Le Fort Allemand, Les Ramparts. Ruine Poudrière is an old magazine built sometime in the 1750s."

            Nicholas ruin

"Ruine Poudriere" at Môle-Saint-Nicolas, Haiti
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia -

[ Tuesday - Thursday 18-20 February ]

Tuesday Feb 18th  A Norther is blowing which will prevent us from going to sea again today.  When we do start we shall hope to make a steady run through to Nassau.  Unless sea-sickness prevents, we shall do this.

Wedy Feb 19th  The weather distinctly cooler -- like a northeaster in summer.  We went ashore yesterday to find this "city" of St. Nicholas Mole a tiny place now of 550 inhabitants -- all that is left of what must have been once quite a different place: ^Upon^ both sides of the bay are to be seen the ruins of fortifications (Spanish I fancy) while the centre of the town was a wide parade ground.  The church seems to be a repaired ruin* -- it is likely the roof was gone many years, because there is little to be discovered of ancient monuments or inscriptions inside only the usual simple though not tawdry symbols of peasant worship.  It was Mardi gras* and a little procession of a dozen boys ^and girls^ or perhaps they were all boys dressed as women, and a few children ^all^ in the simplest disguises danced fantastically to tom-toms up and down the open ways between the huts -- when their noise stopped a perfectly ^the^ silence of the wilderness settled down.  The gaily dressed figures stood out against the dark mountain-sides, clothed with green to the summit and black with cloud and vapor which lie 

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behind and make a background to the place.  We were landed on the open beach springing from the boat to avoid the waves and we walked through a low growth of cactus and mimosa to the telegraph office where we found an intelligent Frenchman who has the care of the Cable here{.}*  He is serving the French company for three years half of which time was passed at Port au Prince{.}  I told him quite frankly our opinion of the place in which he perfectly coincided but says there are villas and handsome residences in the hills behind the town which we did not see and where the President, Mr. Hippolyte lives.*  Nevertheless the standard is so low that no villas can redeem the place.  He said there [were written over was] about fifteen thousand people there to which I responded that perhaps twelve thousand would have to be put into the sea before the city could be cleansed.  In spite of his long residence there he agreed with this briefly formed opinion.  Surely only by sending them down as the swine were sent into Jordan would it seem possible to begin to reform the place.*  I am thankful for M. Heureaux that he has not so sad a problem to solve at San Domingo.  I trust that a beneficial earthquake will swallow up the present population ^of Haiti^ before the island is laid under one government. 

No words can express the grey beauty of St. Nicholas in the afternoon light, as we strolled up to the 

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old parade ground, crossing the remains of buildings of pavements and of roads.  Everywhere the voice and color of the sea, everywhere the back [broken between lines with no hyphen] ground of the vast mountains, looking as if they were hiding the secrets of the ages.  A few monuments with inscriptions to missionaries and army men were the only signs left of the crowds who must have passed over this strange little place.  The solemnity of it all was increased if possible by the fantastic figures with red masks solemnly dancing in the distance to the sound of the tom tom up and down between the huts.

The storm today continues -- not much rain but a steel blue sea and misty hills.  The ship was swinging all night.  We shall not be sorry to get away, although I am conscious that a few days should pass in cooler weather before we return to the North and our enforced stay here is as well as anything we can do.  T. B. A. is very amusing and free with his wit.  He is greatly distanced by the temperament of the President of Harvard.  I always feel a cold wind blowing when I am in the room with him before I find out what the matter is. He is so cold that I expect someday in a warm room that one leg will drip down into his shoe like part of an iceberg and disappear{.}*  T. B. A. is a keen student of English 

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and he is always [making blotted] a merry hunt after our mistakes.  To use the word "people" for persons as everybody does is a sign of great weakness in English to his eye -- He has even caught Washington Irving tripping in his plural verb!*

A little boat comes ^along^ aside to bring provisions.  The colored man ^in it^ who speaks English well says the storm is not likely to abate for two days!!  he and our Captain mean to go shooting today.  Meanwhile the Captain talks of changing our anchorage{.}  We swing about too much here.

A strong North East storm reminding us of ^Thunderbolt Hill^ Manchester* in summer blew all day.  A steamer came in telling of rough seas and it began to look as if we might be detained many more days here.  There was a drizzling rain from time to time which made it inexpedient to go ashore since there appeared to be nothing there now for to compensate us for the trouble of getting wet.  The Captain went shooting, walked four miles in the wet brush and brought home two tiny birds -- one a kind of wild pigeon, however, the other a little larger with the gayest plumage imaginable{.} I think he called it a wood-pecker but it was quite unlike ours -- nearly the size of a tanager -- a red head and variegated plumage. *

Our hostess grew slowly better -- The Commodore had become anxious about it because she did not recover immediately after her repeated attacks of sea-sickness.  We tried to assure him that discomfort of this kind was not dangerous 

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but he answered gloomily, "if a cheque of any size would carry this vessel over dry land to Nassau he would gladly pay it{.}"  Then he went away, but coming back after a time we engaged in conversation which interested him and before night all was cheerful once more except Miss Jewet{t} who had a headache and was otherwise "out of sorts" -- However he talked as ^while^ he smoked after dinner, most cheerfully, underrating Longfellow, praising Tennyson's poetry, but with a feeling of bitterness toward the man whom he never knew{,} having gazed at his abode "through the grill of his closed gate{"} with Boughton his neighbor who said that "he was rude sometimes to persons who went to see him!"  Well, well, I thought this is a dearly loved poet, let me hold my love and my patience, and so presently I went away by myself to read and write a letter before going to bed.*

Thursday Feb. 20th  The wind has changed the skies are clearing -- we are likely to steam away tonight -- I hear the men singing cheerily as they wash the decks.  It has after all been a pleasanter waiting [ for / far ?] than in most hotels -- We are reading Irving's Columbus with great delight -- This is his ground, the very waters on ^upon^ which the tragedies of that great life were acted --


The church seems to be a repaired ruin:    Barry Proctor's web page, "Postcards from Haiti" on Môle-Saint-Nicolas, includes photographs of the new Catholic Church of St. Nicolas and of the ruin of the old church.

Mardi grasMardi Gras would have been on Tuesday 18 February in 1896.  In her letter of 18 February, Jewett wrote:  "We went ashore day before yesterday and saw the funniest little mardi gras procession with masks and red things over their heads dancing in the streets with pipe & drum.  Coloured children & some bigger ones who danced ahead and twirled and then went back again.  It was so wild looking somehow."

the Commodore:  Thomas Bailey Aldrich

cactus and mimosa ... the Cable here:  A number of kinds of cactus grow on the island of Hispaniola.  The mimosa Fields sees is likely to be Vachellia farnesiana, a relatively small, blooming tree or bush with abundant thorns.
    By 1888, an undersea telegraph cable connected Cap Haitien directly with New York City
, and a network of other undersea cables connected key points in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.


Vachellia farnesiana, also called Mimosa
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Port-au-Prince ... where the President, Mr. Hippolyte lives: "Louis Mondestin Florvil Hyppolite (1828–1896) was the President of Haiti from 17 October 1889 to 24 March 1896," says Wikipedia.

only by [sending ?] them down as the swine were sent into Jordan:  In the gospels of Matthew (8:28-34), Mark (5:1-20) and Luke (8:26-39) appears the story of the "Exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac."  In Mark, Jesus accomplishes this by permitting the demons who possess an unfortunate man to enter into a herd of swine.  The swine then rush into a lake, where they drown.  None of the versions shows the swine being "sent into Jordan."
    Fields's animosity toward Port-au-Prince seems uncharacteristically extreme and violent in this view of the natives as demonic and in her statement that it would be fortunate if the "present population of Haiti" were swallowed up in an earthquake, for then the whole island could be unified into a single nation and governed by such a benevolent ruler as President
Heureaux of the Dominican Republic.

I always feel ... and disappear:  Probably, Fields is quoting Aldrich in this sentence.

Washington IrvingWikipedia says: "Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820)...."

Thunderbolt Hill^ Manchester:  Thunderbolt Hill was Annie Fields's summer home in Manchester-by-the-Sea, east of Boston, MA.

a kind of wild pigeon ... the other a little larger with the gayest plumage imaginableWikipedia lists eleven species of pigeons and doves as native to Haiti.  The other bird could be a Hispaniolan woodpecker or, possibly, a Yellow-bellied sapsucker


Hispaniolan woodpecker

Yellow-bellied sap-sucker
Images from Wikipedia

hostess ... Commodore ... Longfellow, ...Tennyson's poetry ... Boughton his neighbor:
    The hostess and the Commodore are Lilian and Thomas Bailey Aldrich.
    The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)) and his family were long-time friends of Fields and of Jewett.  In Sarah Orne Jewett, Paula Blanchard notes that the British Poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) as early as 1882 hardly ever received visitors, though Annie Fields was an old and close friend (pp. 141-2).  Aldrich apparently is upset that he was not received by Tennyson, despite his position as a reasonably well-known American poet and editor.  The Aldriches were frequently in England, and I have not yet discovered the occasion when TBA apparently was snubbed by Tennyson.  Assistance is welcome.
    Though Aldrich is hard on two people whom Fields holds dear, she bites her tongue, and by the next journal entry, she has forgiven him.
    The identity of Tennyson's neighbor, Boughton, has not been discovered.  It is conceivable but not especially likely that Aldrich refers to George Henry Boughton (1833 - 1905), an Anglo-American painter and writer, who illustrated some editions of Tennyson. Assistance is welcome.

Irving's Columbus: Washington Irving published A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1828. 


[ Friday 21 February ]

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Friday -- Feb 21st  Still at St. Nicholas Mole!  We were to have left yesterday but the seas continued to be rough so we have deferred until today (Moon changes -- seas are smooth) -- Wonderful cloud scenery yesterday afternoon and evening -- The pelican fishing at sunset casting a flitting shade on the rock coast as he rose and sank.  The rain clouds behind the mountains were black with storm while lights were breaking and playing through the light slight films which dressed rather than covered the nearer heavens.  Presently the moon rose and the stars came out while we sat on deck and watched the divine pageant.  [* T. B. A.'s wit and pleasant company never fail -- he is so natural, finding fault at times, without being a fault finder, and being crusty like another human creature when out of sorts -- but on the whole a most refreshing companion, coming up from below every morning with a shining countenance, his hair curling like a boy's, and ready for a new days. He said yesterday that he should like to live 450 years -- shouldn't you -- "No," I said, "I am on tip-toe for the flight."  "Ah" -- he said with a visible shudder, "we know nothing about it!  Oddly enough I have strange impressions of having lived before -- over in London especially -- not at St. Paul's or Pall Mall or in any of the great places where I might have been deceived by previous imaginations -- not at all -- but away {in} some old streets where I had never been before and where I had no associations. ---- He would

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have gone on in this vein and would have drawn me into giving some reasons for my faith which would have been none to him, but fortunately we were interrupted.  He is full of quips and [cranks corrected] in talk -- is a worshipper of the English language and a good student of Murray's grammar, in which he faithfully believes.*  His own training in it he values as much as anything which ever came to him.  He picks up the unfortunate of which I am chief, who say "people" meaning "persons" who say "at length" for "at last" and who use foolish redundancies, but I cannot seem to record his fun.  He began to joke Bridget early in the voyage about the necessity of being tattooed when she arrived at the Windward Islands, like the rest of the crew! Fancying that he saw a sort of half idea that he was in earnest he kept it up and told her that the butter-mark of Ponkapog* should be the device! The matter had nearly blown over when yesterday he wanted her suddenly and called, "Bridget," at the gangway rather sharply. "Here, sir," said the dear creature running quickly to mount the stairs -- "The tattoo-man is here," said T. B. with all seriousness -- Bridget paused a moment, wavered, looked again, and then came on laughing to do what he really wanted. "That man will be the death of me -- so he will," said B. as she went away on her errand. She is his slave; gets his clothes and waits upon him every moment, but his fun and sweetness with her "desennuie de service," and more, changes it into pleasantness. *

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T. B. A. is a most careful reader and a true reporter upon the few good books of which he is cognizant.  He has read Froude's history twice though and Queen Mary's reign three times* -- He has read a vast number of novels, hundreds and hundreds -- French and English but his knowledge of French seems to stop there.  He also once knew Spanish but that seems to have dropped -- he never, I think, could speak much of any language save his own -- Being a master then [two deleted words] ^is^ so much more than [deleted word] ^some^ of the rest of us achieve [deleted word] that we feel he has won [deleted marks] his laurels.

The sea is smooth this morning and there is talk of sailing!  This experience has been a strange pause in our busy lives; but I can see that it is not without purpose; I do not feel as if we were drifting on a rudderless sea, but as if we were here, also, in the Divine Hand.  "Let not your heart be troubled" brought to me today a strange peace* -- But it is a curious change for busy minds and hearts such as Sarah's and mine and we have to hold on hard not to be impatient.  We have been reading Irving's History of Columbus with the greatest joy -- The inspiration of his greatness still breathes upon us from that book and as I stood in the sunset yesterday watching the birds in the harbor I thought it might have been yesterday that Columbus with his comrades dropped his anchors by our side -- Men fade and pass but the eter^n^al hills and the vast restless waters remain -- They are not altogether speechless witnesses after reading such a book -- It was Mr. Pierces idea to bring the book and it has proved more valuable and 

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interesting than anything else we have had with us{.}


Mark M. A. DeWolfe Howe quotes the account of Aldrich in the above entry in his edition of Memories of a Hostress (1922).  Probably the parts added to this passage, clearly by another hand, were inserted by Howe.  See notes below for details.

not at St. Paul's or Pall Mall:  Wikipedia says: "St Paul's Cathedral, London, is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present church, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren."  "Pall Mall is a street in the City of Westminster, London, and parallel to The Mall, from St. James's Street across Waterloo Place to the Haymarket; while Pall Mall East continues into Trafalgar Square. The street is a major thoroughfare in the St James's area of London... The name of the street is derived from "pall-mall," a ball game that was played there during the 17th century."

[:  Very likely this bracket was inserted by Howe.  It marks the beginning of a passage he quotes in Memories of a Hostess.

Murray's grammar:  Wikipedia says: "Lindley Murray (27 March 1745 – 16 March 1826), was an American Quaker who moved to England and became a writer and grammarian."  He wrote several books on English grammar and usage.  Aldrich probably refers to English Grammar Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners. With an Appendix, Containing Rules and Observations, for Assisting the More Advanced Students to Write with Perspicuity and Accuracy. 1795.

Fancying that he saw a sort of half idea ... the butter-mark of Ponkapog:  It seems likely that Fields meant to write "Fancying that she saw..."  "Ponkapog" appears a second time inserted above the original, almost certainly in a different hand and intended to clarify Fields's handwriting.  Probably this was added by Howe.
    Wikipedia says: Ponkapoag ... is the name of a Native American "praying town" settled in the western Blue Hills area of eastern Massachusetts during the colonization of the Atlantic seaboard of the United States by settlers from Britain in the 17th century. It is the name given to the winter residence (and subsequently to the tribe) of the group of Massachusett who lived at the mouth of the Neponset River in summer. Ponkapoag is now contained almost entirely by the town of Canton, Massachusetts....
    "The name is derived from a nearby pond 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Great Blue Hill; Ponkapoag means "shallow pond" or "a spring that bubbles from red soil."
    Henry Pierce and Thomas B. and Lilian Aldrich were neighbors in this area, south of Boston.  The Aldriches called their rural residence "Ponkapog."  Apparently butter was churned on the property and placed in a butter mold until cool and firm.  Soft butter could be stamped with a distinctive mark to identify it as coming from the Ponkapog dairy.   

desennuie de service: Jeannine Hammond, Emeritus Professor of French at Coe College, says that this fairly obscure phrase comes out of the French romantic tradition.  It is an opposite to ennui as understood within that tradition, the opposite of a physical and spiritual lassitude and fatigue in a social world without challenge or stimulation.
            It is a masculine noun, as are most nouns derived from verbs.  Fields has chosen (perhaps in error, perhaps in playfulness) to add an "e" to the correct spelling, rendering it feminine, presumably because it applies to Bridget, whose eagerness to be of service may seem to Fields both affectionate and feminine in character.

    This story about Bridget and T. B. Aldrich appears in Howe's Memories of a Hostress (1922).   It seems clear that Howe has added marks to this passage in the manuscript, changing punctuation and printing some words above Fields's lines that he may have thought unclear in her handwriting.  The result is the following version:

The matter had nearly blown over when yesterday he wanted her suddenly and called, "Bridget," at the gangway rather sharply. "Here, sir," said the dear creature running quickly to mount the stairs. "The tattoo-man is here," said T. B. With all seriousness Bridget paused a moment, wavered, looked again, and then came on laughing to do what he really wanted. "That man will be the death of me -- so he will," said B. as she went away on her errand. She is his slave; gets his clothes and waits upon him every moment; but his fun and sweetness with her "désennuie de service," and more, charges it with pleasantness.

Note that Howe very likely added the accented é to désennuie de service, placing the accent in Fields's text and then, above her text, printing the word out again, with the accent.

Froude's history ... Queen Mary's reignJames Anthony Froude  (1818 - 1894) "was an English historian, novelist, biographer, and editor of Fraser's Magazine," according to Wikipedia.  His History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth (1856–1870) included twelve volumes.  "Queen Mary I (1516 -1558) was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death...."  She was the only child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to live into adulthood.  Froude's The Reign of Mary Tudor is volume 6 of the History of England....

"Let not your heart be troubled":  John 14:1-3 reads: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also."

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.
The original of this diary is in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  My copy is from a microfilm, available courtesy of the University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence Kansas:  Annie Adams Fields Papers 1852-1912. Folio PS 1669.F5 Z462 1986, Reel 2.

Works of Annie Fields