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1869    1873
Sarah Orne Jewett Letters of 1872

Kate Birckhead to SOJ

22 January 1872*

      When these dark days come again remember this, that you have within reach the "Friend of friends" that He knows all you are feeling & thinking, and that He will never "grow tired or disgusted with your weakest efforts, so long as they are efforts;  After this put by self, and set to work to try & be some thing for some body else!  Never mind who or what it is.  This is always the best remedy --------


1872:  Jewett copied this portion of the letter into her diary of 1872. 

Transcribed and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College, with assistance of Linda Heller and Kelly Sanders.

SOJ to Lucretia Morse Fisk Perry

   Sunday evening
     January 28, 1872

     Dear Aunty:

      Thank you for your letter which came in good time, for we were all depending upon hearing from you. I was glad to find out about the essay. You will be surprised to hear that Father1 is going to New York tomorrow, that is, if his cold is well enough. He has been quite ill all the week and I knew from former experiences that he would not refuse going to see people now he is better -- and so he would be tired out and miserable for weeks to come. Anything is better for him than being here -- and Mother2 and I have given him no peace and silenced every argument -- and Mary3 has written appealingly and he has consented to go, and now quite enjoys the idea. I know it will do him good. It will if he is at all like me, for when I last went to Boston I was scarcely able to sit up the day before and had not been 'outside the door' for a week with a bad cold 'on my lungs' and that same afternoon was out shopping minus any extra wrappings and stayed out until dark in the midst of a December drizzle and half snowstorm and have continued in good health to the present time!

     I can scarcely wait until Saturday to see Mary, though I gave up missing her long ago. I 'want to see her' in the same fashion that I do Kate or Grace4 -- only more so. It will be very lonely without Father this week but I have planned a great deal that is to be done. I do hope Georgie5 will not send for me to pass next Sunday with her. I promised surely to go down as soon as she came home, and of course I wouldn't go this week. I have written her a letter to guard against the invitation's being sent, if possible. I did not go the other time that I promised and hardly like to disappoint her plans again. I am to go Friday and stay until Tuesday, and that would be out of the question when Mary has just arrived. Of course though, now I have written her she will not think of such a thing, but I feared I should have a letter from her before she got mine.

     I am overwhelmed at Miss Mathewson's* ignorance of Miss Austen! How much pleasure she has to anticipate -- no -- I don't believe she would enjoy her stories much, do you? Particularly if she has Dumas* and George Sand6 for her intimates. I don't think I remember Miss Austen very well, in spite of my fondness for her.7 It all comes back to me as I read, but I had forgotten the stories almost entirely and the last time I read them I do not remember so well as a year or two before and after. I think one reason was that they were nearly all the same kind of books (novels) and there is no effort about reading them. All the reasoning is done for you and all the thinking, as one might say. It seems to me like hearing somebody talk on and on and on, while you have no part in the conversation, and merely listen. I had a clear idea in my head when I started to tell you my 'views' but I find myself rather involved and consider that I had best leave it! But I have quite a grown-up feeling when I try to re-read some story I remember being absorbed in four or five years ago, and find I cannot get up any interest in it. Not that I have objections to a good novel now, by any means, but I do like other things too and am glad of it. I am glad Fannie8 likes 'the Alice book'9 -- it made a great impression on my mind, and I am anxious to read it again.

     We all dined at the Does'10 last Wednesday and had such a jolly time. The Judge is at home after quite a long absence. There is a prospect of another 'hostility' after Mary comes. Mrs. Edith is as anxious to see her as any of us.
     I am not very brilliant this evening, though Uncle William11 was here to tea and Charlotte and 'Lisha12 have been in since, and they were all agreeable. Oh dear! if one could only remember those letters one composes in bed o' nights! I know mine would be so entertaining that my friends would insist upon their 'being preserved in a volume!'13
     Carrie14 was glad you liked the mats. I am delighted that they are in fashion again, I always thought them so pretty. You know I do not usually appreciate fancy work!

     Love to Grandpa15 and 'our cousin' Prim.

     Yr. very aff.


Cary's Notes

     1 See Sarah Orne Jewett Letters. 2, note 3; 4, note 7.

     2 Caroline Frances Perry Jewett. See Correspondents.  In contrast to the many epistolary and literary tributes Miss Jewett paid her father, she said remarkably little about her mother outside of citing her illnesses and death. 

     3 Miss Jewett's elder sister Mary Rice, to whom she dedicated A White Heron and Other Stories. See Correspondents.

     4 Katherine Parker Gordon, wife of the postmaster of Boston, and her daughter Grace, who later married the Reverend Treadwell Walden, for many years rector of St. Paul's in Boston. Miss Jewett was a recurrent guest in the Gordon home at 5 Walnut Street during her teens and twenties. See Correspondents.

     5 Georgina Halliburton (1849-1910), a lifelong friend of Miss Jewett from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was the daughter of Mrs. George Wallis Haven by her first husband, James Pierrepont Halliburton. See Correspondents.

     6 Miss Jewett's adulation of the Frenchwoman lasted over the years. In May 1888 she ordered a copy of Mme. Sand's letters from a New York dealer (see Sarah Orne Jewett Letters. 31); in December she declared, "I am willing to study French very hard all winter in order to read her comfortably in the spring!" (Annie Fields, Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett [Boston, 1911], 38); in 1890 she cried out ecstatically, "I really know Madame Sand," after reading her letter to Mme. d'Agoult (Fields,Letters, 75); and in 1893 she quoted from Sand's Légendes Rustiques to support her impassioned defense of provincial values (Preface to Deephaven).

     7Miss Jewett's attitude toward Jane Austen oscillated. In childhood she dodged her father's thoughtful recommendations of Sterne, Fielding, Smollett, and Cervantes for "the pleasant ways of Pride and Prejudice" ("Looking Back on Girlhood," Youth's Companion, LXV [January 7, 1892], 6). At the present juncture, Austen's attraction seems to have faded. In her fifties, the tug of nostalgia brought about another change of heart. "Yesterday afternoon I amused myself with Miss Austen's Persuasion. Dear me, how like her people are to the people we knew years ago! It is just as much New England before the war -- that is, in provincial towns -- as it ever was Old England. I am going to read another, Persuasion tasted so good!" (Fields, Letters, 185.)  In Sarah Orne Jewett Letters.

     8 Frances Fiske Perry, daughter of Aunt Lucretia (see Genealogical Chart) was ten years old at this time and an omnivorous reader. Of serious tendency, she earned the soubriquet "Miss Prim," by which Miss Jewett alludes to her in the last line of the letter.

     9 In Frances Perry Dudley, The MidCentury in Exeter (Exeter, New Hampshire, 1943), Fannie observed that "The first copy of Alice in Wonderland to arrive in town was read by young and old until its binding was broken."

     10 The Honorable Charles Doe (1830-1896), appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court of New Hampshire at 29, retained his rustic clothes and manners during sessions. A raconteur of uncommon facility, he punctuated his stories with earth-born phrases and laconic flashes of philosophic insight. Behind his rugged humors lay a vast kindliness and tolerance.
     His wife, Edith Haven Doe (1840-1922), formerly of Portsmouth, was the daughter of Mr. George Wallis Haven, and the stepsister of Georgia Halliburton. Of superior intelligence and engaging personality, she was renowned as a helpmeet and hostess. The Doe home at Rollinsford, a frequent anchorage for the Jewett sisters, was about a mile from their own.

     11 William Durham Jewett (1813-1887), her father's brother, conducted a diversity of business enterprises in South Berwick, dabbling in real estate, banking, law, and running a drugstore. A childless widower, he kept bachelor hall in the family dwelling which he inherited from his father, and generously indulged the three Jewett girls. See Correspondents.

     12 Elisha Hanson Jewett (1816-1883), first cousin of Miss Jewett's father, was a prominent railroad and building contractor, a bank director and state senator from South Berwick. His first wife, also named Sarah Orne Jewett, was the daughter of his uncle and business associate. His current wife was Charlotte Tilton Cross.

    13This was not the first of Miss Jewett's faint intimations of immortality. Five years before she had speculated whimsically, "I think it would be funny if, a hundred years from now, some girl like me should find this diary somewhere and wonder about me. I guess I will write my journal with a view to your getting some improving information, young woman!" (Manuscript diary, Houghton Library, Harvard.)

    14Caroline Augusta, Miss Jewett's younger sister, who married Edwin C. Eastman, a South Berwick pharmacist.  A Native of Winby and Other Tales is dedicated "To my dear younger sister, C. A. E." See Correspondents.

     15 Dr. William Perry. See Correspondents.

Additional Notes

Miss Mathewson's:  The identity of Miss Mathewson remains unknown.  Assistance is welcome.

DumasAlexandre Dumas (1802-1870), author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

This letter is edited and annotated by Richard Cary in Sarah Orne Jewett Letters; the ms. is held by Colby College Special Collections, Waterville, Maine.  Additional notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.

Maggie Baker (Hunt) to Mary Rice Jewett

Covington [KY]
Mch 24th 72

Dear Mary

   I have just looked at the date of your letter and find that it was written just a month ago.  Well 'tis time it was answered surely but I thought it had been in my possession longer than that!  I suppose it was because I had it on my mind that I wanted to write you.  But haven't I been over head and ears in business.  Oh! my!  Will you just get those white kids* and pack the rest of your worldly goods and come out here and I will tell what I have been busy

[ Page 2 ]

about.  You know you promised to come, didn't you?  The Dr.* and I have been engaged over a month and the 30th of April is decided upon for the wedding day (D.V.).*  You remember I told you I did not favor long engagements.  Of course it gives us a great deal to do in a short time, but I rather like it.  I expect Katie W.* in about a week and then wont there be some excitement.  Mary I do think I am the very happiest girl in the country.  The Dr. is so good and I have so many many blessings.  I do wish that you and Sarah could be here, but I can scarcly [intended scarcely] hope for it.

[ Page 3 ]

We may include Boston in our trip and if we do wouldn't you come down to see us?  I should love to see you both.

    I expect this letter is scarcely readable, but I hope you will excuse all for I had only a few moments in which to write.  I had to write to Katie before I began this and now it is six o'clock and time to dress for supper.

    Father & Mother are both well and join me in love to all.

    Let me hear from you soon.

Truly your friend



white kids:  Wikipedia reports that kid leather, the skin of young goats, typically used for gloves and shoes, is particularly valued for flexibility and thinness.

Dr.:  Dr. William Hunt.  See Maggie Baker Hunt in Correspondents.

:  This transcription is uncertain,  Baker may mean "Deo volente," or God willing.

Katie W:  This transcription is uncertain.  In her 1869 diary, Jewett mentions two women named Kate who spent time with her and Maggie Baker in Cincinnati and Covington:  Kate Burt and Kate Scudder.  This "Katie" appears to be someone else known to both of them.

The manuscript of this letter is held by the Columbia University (New York) Library in Special Collections, Jewett.  Transcription from a microfilm copy and annotation by Terry Heller, Coe College.

Cora Lee Clark to SOJ

629 [Marren / Marion Street ? ]*
Boston Highlands
April [11th ? ]
[ c. 1872 ]

Dear Sarah

    I was very happy to receive your welcome note, and only sorry that the last time you [ were in Boston ? ] I did not have the pleasure or opportunity of seeing you.  I saw you at Trinity church* in the distance on that memorable Wednesday evening, and [ as ? ] I first saw you come in with Grace* was quite startled for I thought you were Georgie.*  There is certainly a very strong resemblance between you two girls.  I told

[ Page 2 ]

Grace who sat in front of me that I would come in and see you the following day if I possibly could, but the next day I was [ three or four unrecognized words ] at home --

    I wanted to speak to you after church but as you sat behind me you had left before I could get out.  Thus I think dear Sarah the best thing for you to do, is send me a time the next time you come to Boston and and I will make it an especial point to come and see you.

    I should have answered your note before but I expected to be in possession

[ Page 3 ]

of a photograph which I am going to send you provided you return the compliment when you have a picture to spare.  I would like one of  [ three or four unrecognized words ] for I think they were so good.

    I have enjoyed hearing Mr. Brooks* so much this winter.  There is something very grand and at the same time very simple in the truths he utters.  The strongest intellect can be [ unrecognized word ] and [ unrecognized word ] by his words, and the mind of a child can be strengthened and purified by listening to such a preacher.  He is truly a

[ Page 4 ]

[masterful ?] man and the good he must have done to the men and women who have heard him is [inestimable ? ].

    Georgie spent a night with me about a fortnight ago.  She is taking [ the remainder of this sentence seems to read:  somebody will and appears to be one such grand spirit.]

     Let me know dear Sarah when you publish anything new as I am always interested in what you write and enjoy reading it.

    With much love for your sister* and yourself

Cora Lee Clark


629 [Marren / Marion Street ? ]:  The transcription of the address is uncertain.  There is a Marion Street in contemporary Boston, but not in the area of Roxbury, formerly Boston Highlands.

c. 1872:  Cora Clark married John Hamilton Rice before the birth of their first son in 1875.  As the letter indicates that Jewett has been publishing, it must have been written after 1869, which also was the year when Phillips Brooks became rector at Trinity Church, Boston.  Because Brooks has been preaching at Trinity for some time, 1872 is a reasonable guess for the year of composition.

Trinity church:  Boston's Trinity Church (Episcopal).

Grace: Grace Gordon Treadwell Walden, though at the time of this letter, she was not yet married. She married in 1885.  See Correspondents.

Georgie:  Georgina Halliburton. See Correspondents.

Mr. Brooks: Phillips Brooks, rector of Trinity Church. See Correspondents.

sister:  Probably Mary Rice Jewett. See Correspondents.

The manuscript of this letter is held by the Columbia University (New York) Library in Special Collections, Jewett.  Transcription from a microfilm copy and annotation by Terry Heller, Coe College.

SOJ to Lucretia Morse Fisk Perry

South Berwick, Maine

     May 12, 1872

    Dear Aunty:

      Thank you so much for your letter which I read twice with great speed and interest and have referred to since, at intervals. I think you must have been sent into the world with a natural gift for writing letters!

     I have enjoyed myself today very much, for the Bishop1 preached in Dover this morning and Mary and I drove over to hear him, and were repaid by a very fine sermon -- and this afternoon he preached in Salmon Falls2 at the little old Episcopal church -- and everybody went to hear him and was delighted with him, and I was very proud of my Bishop. We had a nice talk with him after church and I think he will come over tomorrow to see us. He promised to do so if he had time.

     Only think of Uncle John's3 going abroad! If it were my Uncle Will4 I should 'put in' to be taken along. (Don't you think he would like to take charge of a party of ladies?) I wish very much to go travelling, and all the English history which I have been reading this winter makes me wish to go to England more than I ever have before. The Walworths sail next month and are to go directly to England and spend a great deal of time there, because Ella5 went there last, when she was abroad before, and could not see so much as she wished. She is coming down for a day or two before she goes. I shall not miss her particularly because she is always up to the mountains or somewhere in the summer and I never think of seeing her. And she will write me just as often, and much more interesting letters probably, so I am to be the gainer after all.

     I did not finish my letter last evening as I intended because Uncle William6 and Father arrived from a journey to Wells, and I had to assist in giving them their late tea. Father went to Portsmouth this morning and then I went to Great Falls with him, and he was just on the point of starting for North Conway when he discovered the train does not go farther than Ossipee except in the morning, and so he must wait.7 I wish I could go with him -- for I am so fond of the mountains -- and it is so delightful to have them only three hours away, now this railroad has been extended. Mary and I mean to go up to Conway by and by.8
     I treasure up all you tell me about studying, and I really have accomplished a great deal lately. I have been translating a French novel, and find I had not forgotten so much as I feared. It was very entertaining and one night I threw down my dictionary; you see, I made a rule to 'look out' every word I didn't know, and read until very late at night, for it grew very exciting! I had great misgivings as to whether I ought not to go back and translate it all as literally as I began, but I had not the necessary strength of mind! Then I read a very nice book about ancient Iceland which I have finished, and I have now Ray's Mental Hygiene and Froude's History of Elizabeth, and a book on Instinct in Animals and Men which is one of the most interesting things I ever read, and I have learned so much from it. I wonder if I have told you that I allow myself a certain number of pages every day, of course exceeding if I like. I find the English history goes off very fast at fifty pages a day, at any rate, and sometimes a hundred, and I read one of the lectures on Instinct. Last week I had also, Loyola and the Jesuits,9which enlightened my mind a good deal. I am beginning at this late day to see the immense advantage of being systematic. Even the small success I have achieved in my 'lessons' has encouraged me, and I mean to keep on.

     Ellen Mason's10 busy ways made me ashamed of myself when I was with her, for she seemed to accomplish so much and I -- nothing. She appears both delighted and amazed at finding out that she has had an influence for good over me, for she says it is one of the defects of her character to be restless and 'on the go' all the time, and so her using her time more than other people do is more a weakness than anything else -- and it is so strange that she should have done me good. The girl doesn't take into consideration, you see, that she uses her time better than other people, only that she uses it more! I am having a very pleasant correspondence with her just now. I don't know whether it will be permanent but I enjoy it very much and she seems to, also. She sent me a very sweet letter at Easter which I answered and we have gone on flourishingly since -- though to be sure there have been one or two subjects under consideration, not very important subjects perhaps, but still we wished to communicate.

     I was in Portsmouth one day a week or two ago, and have been expecting Georgie up to Mrs. Doe's,* but I believe Mrs. Haven11 has had visitors. Mary* had quite a long letter from Uncle John today. There was no news in it except about some of Mary's and my friends there. I was quite astonished to find it was the fifteenth of June that he is to sail. I thought it was the fifteenth of May -- Wednesday! Mother has been better for the last two days and I hope she will have no return of her neuralgia but it has come on twice, after letting her alone for a day or two, which is very discouraging. She has been expecting to see Grandpa. We enjoyed Willy Fiske's12 little visit very much. I do think he is one of the nicest boys in the world.

     I had a note from Mr. Howellsl3 one day last week asking me to have patience with him, and saying that he should print "The Shore House" as soon as he possibly could. If he had not been so kind and seemed so sorry to keep me waiting I should have been provoked at waiting so long, but he has had good reasons all the time. But I know other people are kept waiting too, and people whom one would imagine would be 'served first.'14
     I have written you a long letter, but I am afraid not a very interesting one! Goodby my love to Fanny, and Grandpa, and Uncle Will, and yourself.



     Mary has just informed me that she wrote you today! You will have all the news! No matter!     


     1 William Woodruff Niles (1832-1914), Canadian-born clergyman, became the second Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in 1870. He demonstrated literary capacity as joint editor of the Churchman and as a member of the commissions for revising the prayer-book and the marginal readings in the Bible. Although born in a Congregationalist family, Miss Jewett was baptized and confirmed an Episcopalian in her twenty-first year.

     2 Dover, New Hampshire, is about five miles west of South Berwick; Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, about one-quarter of a mile from South Berwick, across the Salmon Falls River.

     3 John Taylor Perry was another of Miss Jewett's maternal uncles. After twenty-five years as editor and part owner of the Cincinnati Gazette, he returned to his birthplace, Exeter, New Hampshire, where he resided until his death. A shrewd judge of his niece's capacities, he wrote her on June 11, 1885: "Your forte lies in description. You can hardly improve there. Invention, on the other hand, is not your strongest point." Miss Jewett was well aware of this weakness, nevertheless let Charles Dudley Warner persuade her to write The Tory Lover, a novel notoriously deficient in "invention."

     4 Dr. William Gilman Perry, husband of Aunt Lucretia.  See Correspondents.

     5 Ella Walworth [Little] was one of Miss Jewett's young coterie of Boston friends which included Cora Clark, Elizabeth Fairchild, Grace Gordon, the Horsford sisters, and the Mason sisters.  See Correspondents.

     6 William Durham Jewett. See Correspondents.

     7 Dr. Jewett practiced medicine in South Berwick and vicinity for many years. A graduate of Jefferson Medical College, he became professor of obstetrics at Bowdoin College, consulting surgeon to Maine General Hospital, President of the Maine Medical Association, and contributor of distinguished articles to the scientific journals. Miss Jewett recreated him affectionately in A County Doctor.
    8 Wells is on the southern coast of Maine; Portsmouth is New Hampshire's famous seaport and summer resort; Great Falls, a small mill city on Salmon Falls River, is (since 1893) Somersworth, New Hampshire, connected by bridge with Berwick, Maine; Conway, North Conway, and Ossipee are in the heart of the White Mountain range in New Hampshire (for more about this region see Sarah Orne Jewett Letters. 55, note 2).

     9 The book about ancient Iceland is possibly The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs (London, 1870), translated by Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris. The other books are Isaac Ray, Mental Hygiene (Boston, 1863); James Anthony Froude, History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth (London, 1856-1870, 12 vols.; P. A. Chadbourne, Instinct: Its Office in the Animal Kingdom and its Relation to Higher Powers in Man (New York, 1872); Stewart Rose, Ignatius Loyola, and the Early Jesuits (London, 1870).
    10 Ellen Francis Mason (1846-1930) and her sister Ida resided at the corner of Walnut and Beacon streets. Of substantial means, Miss Mason was seriously devoted to charitable purposes and promoted Boston culture through her patronage of music and musicians. The sisters shuttled between Beacon Hill and Newport, often inviting Miss Jewett to their homes in both places.  See Correspondents.

     11 Susan Hamilton Peters Haven (Mrs. George Wallis Haven), mother of Georgina Halliburton, was a descendant of the John Haggins who built and originally occupied the Jewett house in South Berwick.

    12Mrs. Perry's nephew William Perry Fiske was the son of her brother Frank Fiske, who had married Abigail G. Perry (see Genealogical Chart). Some members of this family used the final e in the cognomen, some did not.

    13William Dean Howells (1837-1920) was editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1871 to 1881. An assistant to James T. Fields, Howells was "the Editor with the fine handwriting" who accepted Miss Jewett's "Mr. Bruce," her first story to appear in the Atlantic. Later he urged her to make a collection of her stories and gave her an introductory letter to James R. Osgood, publisher-partner of Fields. The result was Deephaven. Miss Jewett often called at the Howells' Boston menage on Berkeley Street and was a familiar dinner guest. Howells became enamored of Maine after spending a summer at York harbor, built a cottage at Kittery Point, and exchanged visits with Miss Jewett in summer and fall, going by way of the now extinct Portsmouth, Dover & York trolley line. See Correspondents.

    14The sketch appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, XXXII (September 1873), 358-368. Upon reading it, Aunt Lucretia wrote: "I do not think I ever have told you how much I enjoyed your lifelike 'Shore House.' It was as full of good things as a Christmas pudding, of plums, and I liked nearly as well your very graphic account of your visit to the old women in Kittery, in Mary's letter. You have that charm of naturalness in telling your stories, which seems so easy, yet is so impossible to catch if one is not to the manner born. I hope you will always stick to your own style."

Additional Notes

Georgie... Mrs. Doe's:  Georgina Hallliburton and Edith Haven Doe.  See Georgina Halliburton in Correspondents.

Mary:  Mary Rice Jewett.  See Correspondents.

This letter is edited and annotated by Richard Cary in Sarah Orne Jewett Letters; the ms. is held by Colby College Special Collections, Waterville, Maine. Additional note by Terry Heller, Coe College.

Theophilus Parsons to SOJ

Cambridge -- Nov 4 / 72

My dear Miss Jewett --

     I have been ill, too ill to write, and am not well now. This is one reason why I have delayed answering your very interesting letter. Only one reason however. I was also quite willing that time should do a little of its work. I hoped you would think over some of the topics you wrote of: and I thought you would think about them [2 stricken words] to more advantage, if I let you alone.

     One error under which you labour, was perhaps inevitable. Nothing that you knew of the history of religion, prepared you for viewing the New Church* system of belief, as anything but another sectarian system; taking its place with [Episcopal], or Orthodoxy or Unitarian, and accepted or [respected?] as it seems better or more than they. If accepted, to be taken as a whole which sets aside the rest; if not so accepted [then to be respected?].

     This is true of all the other forms of Christian faith of which you know anything; but it is not true of this. For this is a universal system; it is a new way of thinking about every possible topic of thought. True it has its essentials; but they are few and simple. The divinity of our Lord, the sanctity of the Word, & the necessity of a life in accord with the Word. These are all. And all these you believe now. But if these are all, what more can there be? My answer is this. Every thing else is subordinate to these, & for the sake of these. All other truths are intended to enlarge & clarify our comprehension of these truths, to strengthen our belief of these, & help us to live what we believe. This is an infinite and eternal work. But it is not just the same work for any two persons; they can no more think just alike, than they can occupy the same space physically. They may repeat the same word, or subscribe the same creeds. But each one must be himself or herself.

     You have read enough already to recognize the truth, that man has a twofold nature, one affectional, one intellectual; & these however related or conjoined, are still distinct.

     You have read too, & perhaps will understand me when I remind you, that man has a yet another twofold nature, the natural & the spiritual. It may be that you will understand me, when I say that Christianity in none of its forms or developments, has ever appealed to or offered food to the spiritual intellectual, while in all of them it has appealed to & nourished the spiritual affectional. Let me try to present this intelligibly. Every form of Christianity has declared that there was a God, & has presented the truth that to love Him with the whole heart & soul is the one thing needful. [It has?] invested the Scriptures with a sacredness, which until our own days, was almost universally acknowlegded & respected. And it taught the commandments of the Bible as laws of life.

     All this appears to & nourishes the affections & the life.

     But what has been told, what known, intellectually about any of these things? I have not space to exhibit this at any length. But must ask you to reflect, & tell yourself, how much any religion has told to the reason of man, clearly, definitely, & satisfactorily, of the Father or the Son, or the relations between them; of God & man or their relations; of the other life, & its nature, laws & forms.

     But for all this mankind [one or two deleted words] were preparing. And in the fullness of time, the fullest information has been given on all these points, and on all topics connected with them.

     We may [deleted word] now, if we will, profit by this information. Especially may we learn not only that but how we live here to prepare for angelic life; & we may [deleted word] learn just what angelic life & character are, that we may turn to account the opportunities afforded us for acquiring that character; and we may learn too & see that our life on earth is composed of & consists wholly of such opportunities, poorly and feebly as we profit by them.

     We may learn all this. Shall we? None will learn much, few will learn anything. It may be that many will learn a very little, & turn that little to account. Men & women will go on, improving their spiritual affectional nature, as they have done, & more than they have hitherto done, from the indirect effort of these new revelations. I see evidence of this all around me.

     But who will profit by [them?] as to their spiritual intellectual nature? Only they whose love of truth cannot be satisfied with merely natural truth boundless as are its stores in arts & science, & the true & the beautiful on its own plane. Only they who want something more than this; and want it enough to [pay/face?] the cost of it.

     Are you one of these? I do not know, and let me say you do not know yet. I believe you are, although for a time you may be led to reject or disregard these opportunities. The enemies of your soul will present every obstruction in their power. But your friends are more than your enemies. They will not do your work in your stead. But they will protect your freedom, & help you if you will accept their help. And I [hope,?] faithfully [ys?]

Theophilus Parsons.


New ChurchWikipedia says:  "The New Church (or Swedenborgianism) is the name for several historically related Christian denominations that developed as a new religious movement, informed by the writings of Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772)."

The ms. of this letter is held by the Houghton Library of Harvard University: bMS Am 1743 (174).  Transcription and notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.

SOJ to Theophilus Parsons

     Green Bay. Wis. 14 Nov. '72.
     Dear Prof. Parsons --

     Your letter reached me here yesterday and I am so glad to have heard from you. You understood exactly the spirit in which I wrote you and I am so glad, for I must confess I have had some fear lest what I said might have seemed a definite and final rejection of these new -- and yet old -- ideas, and a misunderstanding of the whole thing. I suppose I have looked at it as merely 'another sect,' but before your letter came and even before I sent mine I was not so sure of that point. I could not help seeing that I had been wrong and while I was writing the thought flashed into my mind. I am sure that your judgment is better than my own in this, and I see that my heart is taking hold very strongly upon what I learned from you personally and from 'The Infinite and the Finite.'* I mourn every day that I left that book and the book of Essays at home.* I put them together and then left them after all -- and I am so sorry for I am afraid of forgetting and confusing the things they taught me. I did not have time to read much of the last book for I came away suddenly just after I wrote you last. I was in New York ten days and since then I have been travelling about from one place to another. I am farther West now than I have ever been before, and before I 'go back to my subject' I must tell you of a new and delightful experience I had last Sunday. I went out to the Oneida settlement which is about twelve miles from here.* There is an Episcopal church and the congregation is ["is" appears to be written over "are"] all Indians. I never had seen many before and these looked so like the Indians in my picture books when I was a little girl, that I half expected to hear the war-whoops and to be scalped and tomahawked before I knew it! They were very devout  and are said to be a most pious community but they certainly do not look so. The rector told me he had lived there twenty years. I had a very nice talk with him. The Sunday before I was at Grace Church in New York,* and I was very much struck with the contrast in the two congregations!

     I do not know what has made me hesitating and uncertain -- to go back to your letter and my own -- was it very natural that I should be? Is it the uncertainty that is apt to assail us -- the usual difficulty when there is a decision of this kind to be made? It was no outside influence which made me lose any interest, but I thought it over and over -- and I grew afraid. You know the reputation which the doctrines of the New Church* have -- that they are intricate and visionary: that they are adopted by comparatively few people. If you ask nine persons out of ten what they think they will tell you something of this kind, and very likely follow many of its teachings without the least idea that they know the first step of the way. There was one hindrance: then I found a good deal of discouragement for myself. It was all so plain and 'came home' to me so thoroughly when you talked to me and when I read your book. But I tried some of those tracts you gave me and they did confuse me very much and I did not like them half so well. I had read some of them -- The statements of the doctrines and the Ribbon of Blue and one or two others, and liked them as I told you, but the extracts from Swedenborg's writings and the rest -- I suppose I did not understand or interpret to myself and I had the feeling that it was no use to try to go any farther -- that there was enough in that book of yours, and I would not try to puzzle out the details. I think you will say that I am particularly sensible in expecting to take in the whole grand idea, in one short fortnight -- to learn know the whole journey in its details and most minute characteristics, because I have found out that there is such a journey and have taken a few steps! This is my fault is not it? I have learned a great deal; I have begun my journey -- I have enough to show me the way for the present. That is all right; when I need more God will teach me and so I will get on as fast as I can. There is always that verse of mine: "If any man will do His will, he shall know the doctrine."* Certainly if I am a very useless girl, very careless about pleasing God and contented to be letting the chances for growing better go by me -- Oh, how much good that chapter of your book has done me! He never will make me very wise or [give me any extraordinary knowledge of Himself. It worried] me very much at one time. I feared that I should disappoint you and that you would think I had no heart in the interest I had shown.* I am so sorry you have been ill and I hope by this time you are quite well again. I shall probably not be in Boston or at home until the last of January or February. I am travelling with some friends and may possibly go quite far south and there are some visits to be made in Brooklyn and Phila. after my return. The first time I am in Boston I shall try very hard to see you if only ["only" is erased in the manuscript] for a few minutes. I so often wish to ask you questions, but after all perhaps it is better for me to be alone. It has always been so; I know when I first thought of being good at all it seemed so hard that I so seldom saw the one or two people I depended upon, but I see now how much better it was. Kate Birckhead told me so once when I had written her a most wretched letter telling her how much I wished I were with her and it seemed so hard at first to believe that she was right.* I began a letter to you while I was in New York one day after I had had a great discussion with a gentleman a friend of Father's who knows a great deal and could easily upset my arguments. It was not what he said but what he suggested that I could not answer. It is so hard sometimes not to envy some of my friends who never in all their lives had a question of that kind which gave them any uneasiness, whereas I am always instinctively doubting and am sure to be aware of all the opposite side. It takes very strong effort to say 'I believe' when there is such an avalanche of 'unbelief.' But I have seen the clouds go away and the sunshine out so many times that I seldom get much discouraged now as to the result. You have said in your letter just what I needed and I have read it over and over. I brought the first one with me and like it more every time I read it. It was only yesterday that I said to some one some of the things you said to me. Do you remember that you wrote me that suffering never came when there was no chance of its doing any good? I had quite a 'gift of preaching' yesterday, and I really think that I did a very unhappy person whom I happened to fall in with, some good.

     I shall be glad [gald] to get back to my hills again. These prairies are like reading the same page of a story book over and over. It seems as if the world I have been brought up in was all cleared away. Here is another long letter after all. I wish they did not seem so long. People can talk by the hour, but a dozen written pages are a great bore to most people -- Not to me! and I am not reflecting upon even that dear girl who once wrote me somewhere near forty! I was 'sort of' moralizing!

     Yours sincerely



Scott Frederick Stoddart also has transcribed Jewett's letters to Parsons: “Selected Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett: A Critical Edition with Commentary” (Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, 1988).  His transcription of this letter differs from the one presented here (pp. 41-46), but my examination of the manuscript leads me to conclude the Cocks transcription is correct.  The key difference I note between the two is in this sentence: "They were very devout  and are said to be a most pious community but they certainly do not look so."  Stoddart substitutes "decent" for "devout."  Jewett appears to have marred the "v" in the word, making it somewhat difficult to read.

The Infinite and the Finite … book of Essays: The Infinite and the Finite (1872), Essays, first series (1845) and second series (1866) and third series (1868).

Oneida settlement:  The Oneida Native American community of Duck Creek remains today about 12 miles west of Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Jewett visited relatives in Green Bay in the fall of 1872.  See her story, "Tame Indians" (1875).

Grace Church in New YorkWikipedia says: "Grace Church is a historic parish church in Manhattan, New York City which is part of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The church is located at 800-804 Broadway, at the corner of East 10th Street.... The church ... is a French Gothic Revival masterpiece designed by James Renwick, Jr."

New ChurchWikipedia says:  "The New Church (or Swedenborgianism) is the name for several historically related Christian denominations that developed as a new religious movement, informed by the writings of Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772)."

"If any man will do His will, he shall know the doctrine":  In the King James Bible, John 7:17 reads: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

[give me any extraordinary knowledge of Himself. It worried]: The words between these brackets contain an illegible correction in the original manuscript.

Kate Birckhead: For information on Jewett's friendship with Birckhead, see Paula Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett, pp. 71-73, and her index for further references.

The original of this letter is held by Special Collections at Colby College.  It was transcribed in 1986 by curator Fraser Cocks, with some later corrections by an anonymous hand.  Further corrections, notes and annotations by Terry Heller, Coe College, with assistance as noted.

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.

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