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1872    1874
Sarah Orne Jewett Letters of 1873


SOJ to Theophilus Parsons
   

 Brooklyn 2 Jan. 1873

     Dear Prof. Parsons

     I wished to write you yesterday, but New Year day in these parts one does not seem to have much leisure, and I could not find time for even this small note. I wish to send you my wishes for a happy New Year, and there are very few persons in the world to whom I say it more earnestly for you gave me so much last year and I shall be so much better in the year to come, because I have known you.

     I thought when I left home that I should be back again by this time but there is little prospect at present, for I go to Philadelphia from here, and then back to New York and then to Newport, so the campaign seems to extend its limits! I have a great deal to tell you and part of it -- at any rate -- I am sure you will be glad to hear. I wish you the best of all your years and the happiest. -- "all good things that are good for you!" and thanking you again for all you have done for me

     Yours most sincerely

     Sarah O. Jewett.

Notes

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.



SOJ to Theophilus Parsons (17 April 1873)


     Dear Prof. Parsons.

     I should like so much to know if you are well -- and if you have forgotten me! I think of you so often.

     I have been home only two weeks after a jolly long holiday. I was West travelling with some friends in the autumn, and then I spent the winter in Philadelphia and New York & Brooklyn. I was in Boston just a few days but it was impossible for me to go to Cambridge which I should like so much to have done. I was ignominiously 'run over' on Broadway and I have been feeling the effects of my fall. It was the narrowest escape from being killed. I am not afraid of dying at all, but it would have been so hard for them here at home when they had not seen me for so long and expected me home soon -- I hope to begin my writing very soon, but first I am going away for a little change! Grandpapa lays siege [seige] to me for a small visit --

     Six months is a long time to be away from one's home is not it? I hope I have not wasted all the time and I do not think I have. I have ever so many new friends, indeed I am quite bewildered with them sometimes when I get thinking; for I used to have only one, and perhaps she lasted, and perhaps she didn't! -- You never will know how much good you did me last summer. For one thing I have understood better ever since what I am doing -- I think I have lived a great deal more earnestly and have gained more good things myself and done more for other people. And before I went to the sea-shore I knew your reputation and your name, and I should have thought it so strange, if anyone could have told me what you were going to do for me. I like to think about it so much. I know I never shall forget those days -- and those moonlight nights and the high-tide and the Sunday. I wished to go sailing and did not! Will you please remember me to Mrs. Parson's & Miss Sabra* and believe that I am always your sincere and grateful

         Sarah O. Jewett,

     South Berwick

     17 Apr. 1873 --
 

Notes

Miss Sabra
:  Mary Sabra Parsons.  See Theophilus Parsons in Correspondents.

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.



SOJ to Theophilus Parsons  (14 May 1873)

     Dear Prof. Parsons

     I beg your pardon for not acknowledging the magazine before.* I read your essay with the greatest pleasure and learned a great deal from it. I read the other articles also, but I like what you say about the New Church so much better than what other people say! I am reading your book 'The Infinite and the Finite' over again.* I am just beginning to read again, though I am not well yet, and find my head troubles me a great deal. It has prevented my writing either letters or stories. I shall take you at your word and send you my stories. I shall like doing so very much -- but I do not flatter myself that the information you will gain will be very great! I was so glad to have your letter. I do not think you know how much pleasure you have given me since last August.

     I should like so much to see you but I am afraid I shall not until fall, unless you are near here this summer as you were last. I wish you would come to Berwick & if you go East it would not be out of your way. Father had by no means forgotten you and if he were here I know he would send you a message in return for yours. He & my sister have gone down to the sea this afternoon & I think will not get back until late.

     I think so often of questions I should like to ask you. You seem to know the answers to all my puzzles! It seems as if I had more "puzzles" than any girl I know, and I can't tell whether I am glad or sorry. My world seems at present very much tangled up! I grow cowardly sometimes and wish I never had been taught my letters; Please give my love to Miss Sabra.*
   Yours most gratefully

     Sarah O. Jewett.

     South Berwick
     14 May 1873
 

Notes

the magazine: This reference to a magazine containing an essay by Parsons from around May 1873 remains uncertain.  He was a regular contributor to the New Church Magazine, and it seems quite likely that he has sent her a number that includes one of his pieces.  These include two that probably appeared by the time Jewett wrote this letter:
    "Heaven and Hell" (April 1873), pp. 305-315.
    "The Rules of Convention" (May 1873), pp. 401-406.
The April number seems more likely, in the light of Jewett's failure to acknowledge it in an earlier letter.

'The Infinite and the Finite':  Parsons' book was published by Roberts Brothers, Boston, in 1872.
    Wikipedia 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 (16881772)."

Miss Sabra:  Mary Sabra Parsons.  See Theophilus Parsons in Correspondents.

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.




SOJ to Horace Scudder


     South Berwick, Maine
     July 1, 1873

    My dear Mr. Scudder:

     You have always been so kind to me that I cannot help thinking of you as one of my friends, and I have a question to ask which I am sure you will be able to answer. So I ask it without making elaborate apologies. Will you tell me about keeping the copyright of my stories? Someone asked me not long ago if I would like to have them published in book form, and, though I did not care to tell him 'yes,' it has suggested to me that perhaps I might like to have someone else take them one of these days. And I know there is something about a thing's being 'copyrighted' or not, which may hinder their being used over again. At any rate, I should like to know if there is anything for me to do about it.

     I have been writing for the Independent since I saw you.1 Not very much, however, for I don't think I need the practice of writing so much as I need study, and care in other ways. I think you advised me long ago not to write too much, or to grow careless? I am getting quite ambitious and really feel that writing is my work -- my business perhaps; and it is so much better than making a mere amusement of it as I used.

     I sent you some sketches I gave a paper published at our Hospital Fair in Portland, not long ago.2 I am really trying to be very much in earnest and to do the best I can, and I know you will wish me 'good luck.' I have had nothing to complain of, for the editors have never proved to be dragons, and I even find I have achieved a small reputation already. I am glad to have something to do in the world and something which may prove very helpful and useful if I care to make it so, which I certainly do. But I am disposed to long-windedness! If you will tell me with the least possible trouble to yourself how I can have my stories copyrighted, or 'keep the copyright' I believe one should say -- or if it is not necessary, I shall thank you exceedingly, both for that and for your other kindnesses.

      Yrs very sincerely,

     Sarah O. Jewett

Notes

     1 Between September 14, 1871, and May 8, 1873, Miss Jewett contributed nine pieces to the Independent (see Weber & Weber, Bibliography, 30-31).

    2Three sketches appeared in The Tonic (Portland, Maine) in 1873: "Birds' Nests," June 11, page 3; "Doctors and Patients," June 12, page 3; "Protoplasm and House-Cleaning," June 17, page 3.


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.



SOJ to Horace Scudder


     South Berwick, Maine
     July 13, 1873

    My dear Mr. Scudder:

     In the first place, I think this letter will need no answer. Does not this announcement help you to begin to read it with a pleasanter feeling? The truth is I wish to talk to you a little about my writing. I am more than glad to have you criticise me. I know I must need it very much and I realize the disadvantage of never hearing anything about my stories except from my friends, who do not write themselves, and are not unexceptionable authorities upon any strictly literary question. I do know several literary people quite well, but whenever they read anything of mine I know that they look down from their pinnacles in a benignant way and think it very well done 'for her,' as the country people say. And all this is not what I want. Then it is a disadvantage that I should have been so successful in getting my nonsense printed!

     I am so glad to have you show me where I fail, for I wish to gain as fast as possible and I must know definitely what to do. But Mr. Scudder, I think my chief fault is my being too young and knowing so little! Those sketches I sent you were carefully written. Of course they were experiments and I could perhaps have made them better if they could have been longer. Those first stories of mine were written with as little thought and care as one could possibly give and write them at all. Lately I have chosen my words and revised as well as I knew how; though I always write impulsively -- very fast and without much plan. And, strange to say, this same fault shows itself in my painting, for the more I worked over pictures the stiffer and more hopeless they grew. I have one or two little marine views I scratched off to use up paint and they are bright and real and have an individuality -- just as the "Cannon Dresses"1 did. That is the dearest and best thing I have ever written. "The Shore House," which Mr. Howells has,2 reminds me of it and comes next. I wrote it in the same way and I think it has the same reality. I believe the only thing he found fault with was that I did not make more of it. 'The characters were good enough for me to say a great deal more of them.'

     But I don't believe I could write a long story as he suggested, and you advise me in this last letter. In the first place, I have no dramatic talent. The story would have no plot. I should have to fill it out with descriptions of character and meditations. It seems to me I can furnish the theatre, and show you the actors, and the scenery, and the audience, but there never is any play! I could write you entertaining letters perhaps, from some desirable house where I was in most charming company, but I couldn't make a story about it. I seem to get very much bewildered when I try to make these come in for secondary parts. And what shall be done with such a girl? For I wish to keep on writing, and to do the very best I can.

     It is rather discouraging to find I lose my best manner by studying hard and growing older and wiser! Copying one's self has usually proved disastrous. Shall not I let myself alone and not try definitely for this trick of speech or that, and hope that I shall grow into a sufficient respectability as the years go on? I do not know how much real talent I have as yet, how much there is in me to be relied upon as original and effective in writing. I am certain I could not write one of the usual magazine stories. If the editors will take the sketchy kind and people like to read them, is not it as well to do that and do it successfully as to make hopeless efforts to achieve something in another line which runs much higher? You know the spirit in which I say this, for you know my writing has until very lately been done merely for the pleasure of it. It is not a bread and butter affair with me, though such a spendthrift as I could not fail to be glad of money, which has in most instances been lightly earned. I don't wish to ignore such a gift as this, God has given me. I have not the slightest conceit on account of it, indeed, I believe it frightens me more than it pleases me.

     Now it has been a great satisfaction to have said all this to you. Please look upon it as a slight tribute to your critical merits which no one can appreciate more heartily than I, and remember that I told you in the beginning there would be no questions which would need answering.

     Thank you for telling me of your engagement, though I had heard of it long ago from some Boston friend and I had half a mind to speak of it when I was writing you. I am very glad now to send you my best wishes. I shall like exceedingly to see Miss Owen,3 and I congratulate you both with all my heart.

     Yours most sincerely,

     Sarah O. Jewett

Notes

     1 "The Girl With the Cannon Dresses," Riverside Magazine, IV (August 1870), 354-360.

     2 At long last the story found its way into the Atlantic Monthly, XXXII (September 1873), 358-368; collected in Deephaven.

     3 Miss Grace Owen (1845-1926) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, whom Scudder married later in the year (30 October 1873).


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.


SOJ to Theophilus Parsons


     South Berwick 14 Sept. 1873

     Dear Prof. Parsons.

     I don't know why I am writing you unless it is that I remember you so often and I am a little afraid you will forget there is such a girl in the world as I! -- I heard in a roundabout way that you and your family were at Rye Beach during August. I was there myself the very last of July and I was very cross to find I had missed seeing you. I meant to go over to see you but I could not.

     I have had a strange sort of summer. Father was very ill indeed for weeks,* & we were afraid at first that he would die, and then, that he would be blind. He is not quite well yet but he only needs time and rest -- but he never can be prevailed upon to take much of that. I wish I were like him. That was an awful time to me, when he was so ill. I think I never knew before what real sorrow is. I used to think of you so often; I suppose it was because I am always sure of your sympathy and knew you would be so sorry then. I did not feel like myself for a long time afterward, and added to this, I never have gotten over the effects of that accident in New York in the Spring. I was at Wells Beach three weeks not long ago and that did me a great deal of good. I think I was growing stronger and happier all the time and I found some pleasant new people to know, and one real friend. I used to wish for you a great deal and so many things reminded me of last summer. I used to sit in the hall window by myself and round the corner of the house on the piazza, & think about what you used to say.

     I wonder if you saw "The Shore House" in the September Atlantic? I would have sent it to you but it came out while I was there and I had no way of getting it. "Deephaven" is all perfectly real to me. I hope you liked it a little. I am very proud because I had some very pleasant things said about it, and even one kind little 'puff' from "The Nation." Wasn't that nice? -- I want to get on faster with my writing but I have been able to do so little this summer. I am wishing more and more to be useful in the world -- to be learning and working. I know I ought to do a great deal and I grow so sorry and discontented when I find myself so useless, and continual carelessness and thoughtlessness pulling me back. The days come and go, and I tell myself over and over again the same story of coming short of the mark. But isn't it something that I am sorry, that I mean to do better? I am 'getting on' and growing a little and I thank God for it. I have done good in one way -- I sincerely believe I have helped some of my friends, and I know you will be glad of that. I think you would tell me too, that it is all right that I am so dissatisfied, that it is the only way to make me climb higher.

     Do you remember giving me some little books last summer at Wells? I told you at first that I could not understand many of them -- the extracts from Swedenborg particularly. Do you know that every time I take them they seem easier and easier, and so I find that I went to work the wrong way! I could not understand them because I was not ready I had not lived enough, but every time they make something clearer that I did not see aright before. There is one with an extract about the Atonement that was a godsend to me. I read the other books -- your own books -- and there is always something I did not see before, which helps me. I am growing very ambitious about my writing, but I care most of all to be a pleasure and a help to people by means of it. I wish to be so good and true myself -- that myself in my stories will be sympathetic; I hope they may never fail to be interesting and helpful and strong, because there is no life or reality running through, and my own heart cold and selfish. I wish I never could finish a story without putting at least some little word that will show people how to be happier and grow better. There is one thing I am always glad to think of -- that if I am wishing to be good; no matter how much I am hindered, I shall surely find some chances when I can be what I wish. I can't tell you how much I have always thought of one thing you wrote of in The Infinite in the Finite -- that in every event there is a chance for us to learn God's lesson and find good, or a chance for us to lose all this. I see it now so often for myself. Ah! you never will know how much you have taught me, and done for me. I do not know it all myself yet.

     I have written much more than I intended, but I always find so much to say to you. I think I would rather see you than anyone I can think of. I hope to be in Boston for a day or two late next month and then I will go to Cambridge. I was so glad to hear something about you. It was merely that you were in Rye, but I did not know even if you were well before. Please give my love to Mrs. Parsons and Miss Sabra.*

     Yours most sincerely

     Sarah O. Jewett.


Notes

Father was very ill: Paula Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett, mentions Theodore Jewett's life-threatening illness in 1873 (p. 120). See also Elizabeth Silverthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett (p. 64).

Miss Sabra:  Mary Sabra Parsons.  See Theophilus Parsons in Correspondents.

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.



Theophilus Parsons to SOJ

Cambridge -- Sept. 18, 1873

My dear Miss Jewett,

     You begin your letter with confessing that you did not know why you wrote to me. Perhaps I can tell you. It was because you knew I should be very glad to receive the letter. We passed the month of August at Rye Beach. Soon after I was there, I learned from Miss Hilliard* that you had been there. I came as near being vexed, as I permit myself to be with a fact which is not my fault, -- that I had not been a little earlier or you a little later. But I learned also that you were coming there again; nor did I wholly lose the hope of seeing you, until you I left the beach. Now you half promise that you will be in Boston the last of October. You make long visits elsewhere. Must your visit at Boston be only a flying call? You say you will come out to Cambridge. We shall all be glad to see you, but could you not draft me a line, as soon as your plans are determined upon, telling me at what time and what place I may find you in Boston?

     I have not yet read the Shore House.* I have but little time to give to our periodicals & they are very numerous, so I take none but the professional ones that I need. But shall get that number of the Atlantic, at once, & read that story; and when we [deleted word] meet you may be sure I shall tell you just what you I think of it. The last story you sent me in the Independent* was a very pleasant story. One who began it would be sure to finish it. An editor would know this & ask for more. But a reader who looked over his paper to find the next story from your hand, would, by that time have forgotten all about the story he had read, except that he liked it. Is it not just so you read the pleasure giving literature of the day. What I mean is, that your stories lack -- what it would now be impossible, perhaps, for you to put into them; and that is, positiveness, substance. You learn easily, think quickly, & write excellently. The time will come when you will never write without knowing that you are going to say something which will make your readers wiser & better, -- unless they reject it, which is not your affair. And that thought or truth you will do your best to give access to the minds of your readers. Then you will rejoice when you feel that you have succeeded in clothing a valuable truth with a beauty that is at once attractive & transparent; -- that wins reception for the truth & does not obscure or disguise it.

     You say "You are growing very ambitious about your writing." Of course you are; & your success will feed your ambition. Is this right? It may be or it may not be. Ambition is the love & desire of honour. What is the honour that you seek for? John says,* "How can you believe who receive honour one of another, & seek out the honour that cometh from God only." I am not about to write a sermon on this text, but let me say in a word, what it means. If you believe that God doeth good always, & infinitely desires to do good, & does all the good that is done and does this by His instruments that He may bless them in doing the good, & strives always to enlarge & elevate their capacity for doing good, that He may honour them more & more, -- then you will know what is meant by seeking the honour which cometh from Him. I hope that through eternity you will see more & more clearly that this is so, & what it all means.

     But my sheet has come to an end, & I have not touched the many topics your letter suggests. Let me however express my sincere regret that your father has suffered* so much, & my pleasure that he has recovered, -- and my hope, that your suffering, now & always, may be the blessing it must have been intended to be. The rest I will leave until we can talk "face to face."

Sincerely y's

Theophilus Parsons
 

Miss S. O. Jewett [This appears in the lower left corner after the signature.]

Notes

Miss Hilliard:  Miss Hilliard remains unidentified.  One remote possibility is Miss Laura Hilliard of a prominent Cleveland, OH family.  Though, according to her diary, Jewett made at least one extended visit there in 1873, there is as yet no record that she met the Hilliard family.  Laura was the youngest daughter of Richard Hilliard & Sarah Catherine Hayes (or Vermont), born before 1853, the year her mother died.  She likely was close to Jewett in age.  She was living in Cleveland in 1914, where two of her brothers had remained and were prominent in the community.  See The Pioneer Families of Cleveland 1796-1840, Volume 1, pp. 278-9.

Shore House: Jewett's story, "The Shore House" appeared in the Atlantic Monthly for September 1873.

last story you sent me in the Independent:  As of the date of this letter, Jewett's most recent story from The Independent would have been "The Desert Islanders" in November of 1872, but she may have sent him any of six other stories that appeared there from 1871 to the present.

John says:  In the King James Bible, John 5:44 reads: "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?"

father has suffered:  See Jewett's letter of 14 September 1873.

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



Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.



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