Main Contents & Search
    
List of Correspondents
1873    1875

Sarah Orne Jewett Letters of 1874



SOJ to Theophilus Parsons

     Springfield 7 Feb. 1874
 

     Dear Prof. Parsons --

     I have wished to write you dozens of times since I saw you but I have always been in a hurry so I have had to be like "the parrot in the story-book who, though he talked the less thought the more!" You see my visits are lengthening out, and I still have two or three short ones ahead. I enjoyed my Newport visit so much, and do you know that after telling Kate* one or two of the things I have learned of you about the New Church,* I discovered to my perfect joy that she has been getting interested as well as myself, only she hasn't had so good a chance as I, and I had the satisfaction of helping and teaching her a very great deal. We had such charming talks together and of course we never got so near each others hearts before. And I found through her that Ellen Mason* has been learning as fast as she could, but doesn't know anyone who can tell her more. I shall see her when I go back to Boston and I know we shall enjoy so much together. And Grace Gordon* my other friend knew enough of the thing to wish to know more & I could help her, you know. It seems so wonderful that we all should have thought of the same thing and have waited without saying a word to each other until the right time has come. It is so pleasant to be able to help these friends of mine because they have helped me so much -- and I have more reason than ever to thank you. I am only going to be in Boston a night of two on my way home but I am going to try very hard to see you again. I have so many things to tell you, and to ask you. There is one thing I will ask you now: Kate said that she and Ellen Mason had been puzzling themselves about Jonah -- the last chapter in particular -- about the gourd that came up and then withered away -- you know?* She says it seemed as if they ought to understand it and as if it meant a great deal -- I told her I would ask you if there was any interpretation of it printed, or if not, if you would tell me what it meant. I have been reading some essays of yours that I did not have before -- the first series -- but I have only had time for the one on Correspondence and the New Church, & parts of the others.* I was sorry that I could not go to church with you that Sunday morning -- I wanted to so much but I found my friends wished me to go with them & it wouldn't have been kind -- I must say goodby now, though I could write on and on -- all day! I have had such pleasant visits everywhere and everybody is so kind, and the thought of you and what I am trying to do, [& and] what I am living for -- keeps coming oftener and oftener in to my heart, and the thought is always like sunshine -- I know you will ask God to help me grow stronger and truer. With my best love

     Yours most sincerely

     Sarah O. Jewett
 

Notes

Kate:   Kate Birckhead.  See Correspondents.

New Church:   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 (1688–1772)."

Ellen MasonGrace Gordon: For Ellen Mason and Grace Gordon Treadwell Walden, see Correspondents.

Mason

Photograph of Ellen Mason from Harvard/Radcliffe Archives
Reproduced from St Michael's Country Day School History (2014)  by Jeff Day

Jonah ... gourd:   In the Bible, see Jonah 4:1-9.  

first series … Correspondence … New Church: "Correspondences appears in Parsons' Essays First Series.  There is not in this collection an essay entitled "The New Church," but there is "The New Jerusalem."

The manuscript 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

     South Berwick 3 M'ch. 1874

     Dear Prof. Parsons --

     I am at home again you see and though I never had such pleasant visits before I never was gladder to get back to my own particular corner of the world. Unluckily I have a horrid cold and am not fit for anything in the way of work, but then I never can end my holidays with a jerk as some people do.

     I went to the New Church rooms* before I left Boston and got several books, but I have not read them yet. I don't feel like it and it is no use to crowd such things upon oneself. I shall enjoy all my books all the more for having waited a little. Ellen Mason* was so delighted with your having sent the book and paper to her. I was with her a long time Monday and we talked until late at night. She went down to Newport next day and I have not heard from her since I left, but I think there will be a letter within a day or two. I miss all my friends so much, and I can't help feeling a little lonely. I wish there was just one girl in Berwick whom I could go to walk with and be friends with but there isn't, and I suppose it is a great deal better for me. I am rather blue today but I do not confess it to anybody but you*! There is a very old gentleman here whom I go to see every little while, and last night he told me that the first time your father held court in York he went with his father to see and hear him. The sheriff and other officers & lawyers all dined together at the tavern and Mr. Lord said after dinner was over Judge Parsons said: "Mr. Sheriff, you have given us a capital dinner, but there's one thing more I should like and don't see," and the sheriff asked what it was and if he could get it. The Missing article proved to be an after-dinner cigar and the sheriff departed in quest of it! I laughed to myself as I thought of your cigar boxes on the shelf by the fireplace. This Mr. Lord used to live in Portsmouth and knew the Buckminsters and Daniel Webster and the men of that day, intimately, and I always enjoy his stories so much -- He likes very much to tell them, beside!*

     It is time for the letters to go to the postoffice and I think I will send this to you, more for my satisfaction than yours. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing you in Boston and at your own home, nor how much good it did me. Thank you so much for all your kindnesses. With ever so much love

     Yours sincerely

     Sarah

     I nearly forgot one thing I wanted to ask you about. There is a very nice boy whom I saw at Jamaica Plain who is in the Freshman class in college. His mother is very nice and was left a widow several years ago & has been educating him and he is doing the very best he can for himself. I took a great fancy to him. I think he means to be a lawyer -- I was speaking of you one day and Mrs. Walker said she wished James could know you* -- & I thought I wished the same thing but I didn't say anything of course -- Would you mind his going to see you some afternoon? They never will know that I ever thought of it again, and I know your time is always taken up, so don't mind saying so if you don't care to be "bothered" with him! But I thought it wouldn't do harm to ask you! --


Notes

New Church roomsWikipedia 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)."
    In 1874, The New Church Book Room in Boston was at Number 2 Hamilton Place, which also was the location of the New Church Union, founded in 1860.  See New Church Review 20 (1913), p. 285.

Ellen Mason:  See Correspondents.

This Mr. Lord … Buckminsters … Daniel Webster:
    "Buckminsters" is likely to refer to a friend of Judge Theophilus Parsons, father of the law professor, Joseph Stevens Buckminster (May 26, 1784 - June 9, 1812), who was an influential Unitarian preacher in Boston, MA, and was born in Portsmouth, NH.  See Parsons' biography of his father, Memoir of Theophilus Parsons (1869).
    "Daniel Webster, b. Salisbury, N.H., Jan. 18, 1782, d. Oct. 24, 1852, statesman, lawyer, and orator, was his era's foremost advocate of American nationalism." (Source: Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia).
    Identifying the elderly Mr. Lord who told stories to young Jewett and who remembered this anecdote is quite challenging, the Lords being a prominent and numerous family in the vicinity of York County, ME. However, Wendy Pirsig suggests that John Perkins Lord, Esq. (1786-1877) would be a strong candidate.  For example, he did reside at Portsmouth and may have studied law with Daniel Webster. 

anybody but you: The handwritten list of corrections for this paragraph, includes two corrections that I am unable to make without access to the manuscript. The writer says to note crossed lines at line 21; there is no apparent problem at this point in the transcription, which would appear to include these two sentences: "I wish there was just one girl in Berwick whom I could go to walk with and be friends with but there isn't, and I suppose it is a great deal better for me. I am rather blue today but I do not confess it to anybody but you!" The writer also notes a dash rather than a comma in line 19 of the transcript, but isn't consistent about counting lines. This appears to refer to the comma after "but there isn't" in the passage just quoted.

Mrs. Walker … James: James Walker, a nice boy, a freshman at Harvard. Jamaica Plain is a suburb of Boston. Can these Walkers be identified?

The manuscript 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

     S. Berwick 14 Apr. 1874

     Dear Prof. Parsons

     I began to think I should never have a chance to write you. I kept waiting for a very quiet hour or two and it has not come yet, so I will send you a little letter, and still wait patiently -- I must tell you how dear your letter was when it came and how many times I have thought of it and read it over again. Yes indeed, I could understand it; it was not a puzzle at all and you taught me ever so much. I think the best thing I have found in all these lessons I have learned in the year and a half since I first saw you -- is that I have been taught to learn. I can see now that I get on ever so much faster than I did a year ago -- You will be glad of that I know. And I must tell you too that I am finding out more and more, that I can help other people and have some influence over them. It was so long that -- it seems to me now -- I could not even give my friends pleasure, let alone the rest! -- It is so strange that every one of my best friends should have been taught before this, either consciously or unconsciously many New Church ideas,* so that we are all going on together, more closely drawn to each other than ever we have been before, and knowing each other better. I have so much ^reason^ to be grateful to you, & I think of you so very often when I am with my girl friends. I have had a 'good time' lately if I had not had a dismal cold. One of my friends has made me a charming visit and I came back yesterday from Portsmouth where I have been staying with another. I have had some nice books to read and spring is coming fast. I think when the dandelions come I shall be quite happy! -- if my cold has gone -- I have been off walking today in spite of [it and mud seems to have been a good medicine. I don't think]* you would believe me if I told you how much I think about you -- indeed, I don't know that I could count up the thoughts very easily for what you have said to me, and the remembrances of your kindness are always flying in and out of my head. I don't mean out, exactly! only I was thinking just then how the birds went away -- ^from^ and came back again to the trees. I think the thoughts do go out in one way that is just right; for thinking of your kindness helps me to help other people. Sometimes I wonder why I have such a very good thing for my own as your friendship -- just an almost good-for-nothing girl -- but then luckily the rain and the sunshine do not choose out the very best of the flowers -- and help them to grow stronger -- and luckily you do not mind my being way down below you. But I hope I am 'growing up' -- I hear from Ellen Mason and she always talks about you. With ever so much love

     Sarah  

Notes

New Church ideas:  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 (1688–1772)."

[it and mud seems to have been a good medicine. I don't think]: The handwritten corrections indicate that Jewett has crossed out a word in the manuscript in the line inside these brackets.

Ellen Mason:  See Correspondents.

The manuscript 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

     26 Apr. 1874 -- Berwick --

     Dear Prof. Parsons.

     This [is] a dismal day out of doors, but luckily I have come to a very sunshiny state of mind & have been enjoying myself very much. I don't know that there is any special reason for my enjoying myself! There is one reason why I should not! I took so long and fast a horse-back ride yesterday that my lame shoulder fairly howls for mercy every time I reach out for more ink. I wonder if there is anything to tell you! you see I didn't begin because I had something to say -- only because I 'felt like it,' but you said I might write when I liked. When I asked for that -- I didn't take into account the times when I should wish to talk to you & have something happen to hinder me. I think one of the best things about Heaven would be that we should know what our friends were doing and thinking and be able to talk to them any time. I believe I have read something about this in your books. But how much better it is, that we are separated from our friends here, for we should be in perfect distraction all the time. If I know always all about the many girls I am intimate with! Perhaps I think about them too much now, and not enough about my present work, but if I had one of them living here in town she would take more of my time than all my letters do to the whole. I am very dependent upon my friends and I am so glad to be. I don't think I mind being "under obligation" to people. And this makes me think of something I have been writing this week. It is an attempt at an essay on Outgrown Friends* -- the 'friends' being both people and books. I like to take some subject of that kind something that I have to think about, for it does me so much good, & I wish to learn to think and to write, more than I care to have the things put into print. It is not reasonable to suppose I can do anything very noticeable yet. I should like to help people by what I write by and by -- and I should like to write bright, nice stories about nice people too. But if I don't get on successfully, I don't think I shall be cross about it, I shall try and do whatever work I have just as well as I can. I heard of a sermon once called "Every man's life a plan of God."* I don't know even the text, and I never saw the sermon; but I have thought of that sentence a great many times. It is such a comfort to know that things don't come by chance & however puzzled we may be at first -- everything is really right, unless we make it wrong for ourselves.

     I have been out of doors and in the woods a great deal unless these provoking little snow storms come and keep me in for a day or two. The flowers are very late this year and I have found no hepaticas [hepatcas] at all, & only a few Mayflowers. I am so fond of the woods and I don't think I ever could be contented to live anywhere but in Berwick for it would be so hard to learn the woods and fields in a new place. I know my way all about Berwick. Sometimes I get discontented because none of my own best friends are here. I have been thinking a great deal about living in Berwick lately. I used to keep by myself and not care for the people at all in one way, though they are very nice & I am attached to them. But when we have our homes in places I think God must mean us to have something to do with the other people. I am growing much more interested in what is going on than ever I have been before, and I really enjoy the interest. I am afraid I never have given my love for my neighbor much chance to grow. Neighbors in general I mean; for nobody can accuse me of not belonging most thoroughly to my friends! I told you I had taken a Sunday School class: it was so hard at first to talk to them, for I have only talked about those things with my own friends, but now I find it much easier. I didn't enjoy that first attempt, I think it made me use what courage I have. I read not very long ago the memoir of Mrs. Somerville and I did like it very much!* Her life seems to me such a simple, direct one, & she was just as careful to take care of her children's primer lessons as to solve the most intricate astronomical problems. She did all her work so well. Her life was not in the least like any one else's -- and yet she makes me think of you, for you have done so much and done it all so carefully. It seems to me that nothing I do has the least 'finish' given it. I hope it is only because I don't know how to do my work, and not that I will not. I do not mean writing, alone; I mean everything about my life seems careless and wilful and thoughtless -- half finished -- and there are so many things I ought to have done that I never even began. Well, I think I will say* good bye, though that is just a formality for the ending of letters. Why should one 'take leave' of a friend in this way, as if one stopped thinking of him when the letter was done? I wish I had one of your photographs. Have you any? I have tried several times to get one in Boston but I could not. Do you mind my asking you?

     With ever so much love

     Sarah --
 

Notes

Outgrown Friends:  This essay was not published until 1996, when Marjorie Pryse transcribed and edited it from a Houghton Library manuscript.

Every man's life a plan of God: Horace Bushnell (1802-1876) was a well-known Congregationalist clergyman and author, who for many years served North Church in Hartford, Connecticut (1833-1859). "Every Man's Life a Plan of God" is from Sermons for the New Life. The sermon was published separately in 1876.

memoir of Mrs. Somerville ... astronomical problemsWikipedia says: "Mary Fairfax Somerville (26 December 1780 – 28 November 1872) was a Scottish science writer and polymath, at a time when women's participation in science was discouraged. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was the second woman scientist to receive recognition in the United Kingdom after Caroline Herschel."  Her posthumous Personal Reflections appeared in 1873.

say
: The handwritten corrections indicate that this word is crossed out in Jewett's manuscript.

The manuscript 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

     South Berwick. 4 June (1874)?

     My dear Prof. Parsons.

     I have been hoping to have a talk with you but I have been hindered from going to Boston. It has been a great disappointment for there are several people who have left the city or will do so within a few days whom I shall not see now until next winter. One would think there could be no reason why I should not take the three hours ride at almost any time. But we have had many visitors and for sometime I was quite ill with one of the horrid sore-throats which I hoped I had outgrown. Now my father and mother are in Philadelphia and it would be too lonely for my sisters if I went away. I have wished so much to see you and I hope you will come to Rye this summer as you thought of doing. I get very discontented sometimes when I wish to see my friends so much and it seems hard that I should be with them so little, but I know it is all right. I do little enough of work now and I am afraid it would be less. But I should learn so much more from a talk with you than [then] from a week's [weeks] studying. I have been reading a good deal this spring and have read aloud to a woman here who cannot use her own eyes. She used to be my teacher when I was a little girl, & though she is thought a "peculiar" person and rather hard to find out, we have 'got on' famously, and she seems so glad to see me always. I am much more interested in the Berwick people than I ever have been before.* I have tried to be -- I know you will be glad.

     I wonder if I ever have told you how much I enjoyed that essay of yours on the External New Church?* I cannot remember ["saying" was inserted here by Jewett] anything about it. It seemed so true and right to me. It is a great delight to me to notice how the ideas have spread and crept into people's minds, it is so wonderful the way one finds them at every turn. Father amuses me particularly, for as far as I can tell he 'believes' almost exactly as I do, and yet he declared one day with great solemnity that there was a great mysticism to him in Swedenborgian ideas. I didn't dispute him but it seems as if people must find it all out before very long some [some] people must at any rate. It is so wonderful the way it has all come to me. Oh dear! when I begin to write I always have so many things to say, and such strings of questions to ask! I wish I could see you --

     I think of you as enjoying this spring weather. I wonder why one never gets used to it? Spring is just as new to me every year as if I had never seen it before. I am delighting in my beloved dandelions just now, and I have such a lovely bunch of lilies of the valley on my desk. I think there are more wild flowers this year than ever -- I am reading among other things the Life of Margaret Fuller, and I find it very interesting.* I knew very little about her before, except what everybody knows -- for I purposely put off reading this book. I am always so sorry for anyone who does not look back to a simple natural childhood as I do. It is pitiful to read of her knowing Greek and Latin when she was such a little thing, and if I were given to such things I should have cried over the memoir of John Stuart Mill. It must be such a wrong way of starting, and just think of having no memory of one's dear playthings, and those long sunshiny pleasant days when the whole world was new to us. I believe I am never going to outgrow some of !!! my childish ways. But the other life is like beginning life grown up. Good bye and God bless you. Always your loving

     Sarah

Notes 

read aloud to a woman .. used to be my teacher: This teacher has not been identified.  This sentence is divided into two sentences by Fraser Cocks, but Scott F. Stoddart transcribes it as a single sentence, which seems more likely to be correct.

essay of yours on the External New Church:  It is likely Jewett refers to "The Church in the Wilderness," which is collected in The Mystery of Life and Other Papers.
    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 (1688–1772)."

Life of Margaret Fuller ... John Stuart Mill:  Horace Greeley's Margaret Fuller was published in 1869.   English author and philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) published his Autobiography in 1873.

The manuscript 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

     South Berwick, 19 July 1874

     My dear Prof. Parsons.

     I have been on a long journey since I wrote you last -- and am now home for just a few days, as I go to my aunt's at Rye on Wednesday. (Mrs. Bell's at Little Boars Head)* I think you told me that you should spend part of the summer at Rye, and so if you are there now or are to be there soon, would you be so very kind as to let me know, so I can go and see you? It seems a great while since I knew about you though by my saying this I don't wish you to think that I mind your not writing. You know we arranged all that and I don't expect letters, but have the privilege of writing to you -- I have been thinking a great deal about you lately -- and I have been learning much in the course of my western journeyings. I wish I could talk them over with you and get you to answer a long string of questions which are puzzling my mind. If you are to be at Rye later I shall try and go over as I meant to do last year. That is if you would not mind. I send you by this mail a story of mine which I hope you will find some bits of good in. I think I told you the plan of it when I saw you in the winter.* With a great deal of love. yours most sincerely and gratefully

     Sarah
 

Notes

my aunt's at Rye… (Mrs. Bell's at Little Boar's Head): Jewett's great aunt was Mary Bell.  Her great-uncle Charles Henry Bell was a distinguished lawyer, judge and historian.  See Blanchard, p. 106, and Mary Olivia Gilman Long in Correspondents.

a story of mine:  "Miss Sidney's Flowers" appeared in The Independent of July, 1874.

The manuscript 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 Mellen Chamberlain

August 5, 1874

            Thank you for the autographs and for your letter which came yesterday. You were very kind to me, and I don't believe it possible that you enjoyed the week at the Cove* as much or have been as homesick since you went away as I! I have thought of one thing after another that you could have explained to me, but then it was not good by [sic] for always and I like to think I shall see you again before very long. And I must say here it was very good of you not to send all the autographs! I think you have been very generous already however.
            The next day but one after I saw you I had a telegram from some friends and went in a hurry to join them at Wells beach where I stayed until Monday night. To-day our friend Anna Fox* is to come, and I wanted a day or two before this to myself; for I had any quantity of letters to write, and wished to have a slight "house-cleaning" of my desk and get somewhat "straightened out."
            Mary* came home last night and after I brought her from the station I had the jolliest of horseback rides. I wish you had been with me: indeed I have wished for you again and again. You must surely come to Berwick! I must say goodbye now, but may I write to you sometimes?   Not a "debt and credit correspondence" for I don't wish to impose upon so busy a man, but I shall like to think I may ask you questions and "be friends."
            I venture to send my regards to Mrs. Chamberlain as I think we are sure to be friends one of these days and there must be a begin¬ning to everything!


Note

the Cove: The summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Bell.  See Chamberlain in Correspondents.

Anna Fox:  The identity of Anna Fox is not yet known.  A contemporary person of this name in New England was Mary Anna Fox, who is mentioned briefly as the adopted daughter of Mrs. Eliza Baylies Wheaton's sister, Mrs. Judson, in The Life of Eliza Baylies Wheaton (1907).  Mrs. Wheaton was a founder of Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, MA, now Wheaton College.

Mary:  Mary Rice Jewett.  See Correspondents.

This letter, transcribed by John Alden, originally appeared in Boston Public Library Quarterly 9 (1957): 86-96.  It is reprinted here courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/Rare Books.  Alden omits salutations and signatures in his transcriptions.




SOJ to Mellen Chamberlain

August 27, 1874

             I hope you do not think I am rude not to have answered your note before, or at least to have acknowledged the receipt of the autographs which were most gratifying. I hope, now that I have settled down at home that I shall find an opportunity for making a more definite plan of my collection than I have had hitherto.
            I have not told you yet what I wish to say at the very first: that your letter was delayed as I was down at the seashore, and that since it came I have either not felt in the mood for writing or have not had a chance. I have just looked your letter over and though it seems unaffectedly kind and interested, it seems to me, that, as in the first reading, I do not quite catch your meaning, that you had some purpose in writing it and were somehow puzzled about our having known each other. I am very glad if I have given you pleasure, for you have been so kind to me, and I am never apt to forget a friend. Besides this, I am, as you know wishing most heartily to do my work better and to learn as fast as possible and you cannot doubt that I am ready to take all the help I find. And when this help is given me so kindly and cordially as you have given it, it is all the pleasanter and better for me. I appreciate your friendship most heartily. I do not know that my saying this an¬swers you satisfactorily, but I may understand you better by and by.
            I am writing in a hurry this afternoon for I have little time to myself as we have some visitors and I am continually on the wing. I had a charming week at the beach, indeed I do not know when I have been happier. I had a friend with me whom I am very fond of, and it is not very often I get one of my cronies all to myself. I think I have not written you since that pleasant day you gave us. I enjoyed it very much and hope it will not be the last. It was so nice to have you like Berwick so much. I hope to have a very satisfactory autumn. I like it best of all the year and I mean to do just as much as possible. Thank you for saying I may write you and ask you questions as much as I please. That is a great privilege.


Note

This letter, transcribed by John Alden, originally appeared in Boston Public Library Quarterly 9 (1957): 86-96.  It is reprinted here courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/Rare Books.




SOJ to Theophilus Parsons

     South Berwick

     9 Sept 1874

     Dear Prof. Parsons

     I was dreadfully disappointed that I didn't see you at Rye! I was waiting at first to hear from you, and then I saw Dr. Peabody in Portsmouth who told me that he was quite sure you had gone back to Cambridge, but it seems that you were there a week or more after that.* However it is all right, as you say, though I must confess it seems hard to believe that it is better I should not have had that day with you. I hope to be in Boston early in the winter. I have been away so much of the summer that I ought not to leave home at present. And beside, my friends will not be back in the City for some time. I wanted to talk with you about so many things: there are one or two friends of mine whom I knew you could help me about, especially the one who has just left me, (Miss Annie Silsbee's friend).* I am very fond of her and now she tells me that I am helping her and have made her see things differently, and I grow frightened and want to have you tell me some things I do not know myself. It is just what I wish to do most: help my friends -- but in a case like this it worries me very much, for I feel how very weak and good-for-nothing I am. But God knows best and I can only try to keep in the right way and be good and true, and He will take care of the rest. I have had a very happy summer and I hope it has not been an altogether useless one to me or to the people I have been with. It seems to me that I have learned a great deal in these last few months, but there is so much to be dissatisfied with. I'm glad of it, too; and yet I get so provoked with myself for not climbing faster.

     I was afraid that after so long and jolly a holiday, I should have trouble in settling down again to my work, and I miss my friend so much too. But I have been writing steadily these last few days and it has not been at all hard. I have been at work on a [childs] story for "St. Nicholas".* I hope I shall not make a bad use of my good luck in being able to write fast, and having no trouble in getting my stories printed. I try very hard not to be careless, but when I am telling these stories for children I remember my own childish thoughts and ways so clearly that it is no trouble at all and I am never at a loss for something to say. I must tell you again how glad I am that you liked "Miss Sydney's Flowers."* I have read over that kind letter of yours and thought of your kind words so many times! And I am so glad other people liked the story too. I was a little afraid it was too "preachy" and wished, after it had gone away to the printer that I had not moralized so much. So I was delighted to have some of my friends whom I suspected of laughing at me, say how much they liked it all through and praise even the things I was sensitive about. I am learning that if one says such things and acts such things honestly and kindly that there is always something gained. You told me once that there should be something positive -- something to be really learnt, in my stories, that they ought not to be just written for amusement, though that was a good object enough in itself -- And I am finding it true. I know you will not misunderstand me and think I am ashamed of trying to be good and wish to keep it to myself. I know people often used to say good things to me in a most disagreeable way, and I don't wish to follow in their footsteps -- or lessen my friends liking for goodness, even the least bit. It is perfect weather here and I am very well. I have grand plans of work laid out, but life doesn't seem to be drudgery by any means, and I have ever so much more 'time' than I used when I was drifting -- I go into the woods after cardinal flowers which I am crazy over this year, and I row down-river, and ride horseback too fast for good manners, but it is some times a little lonely. Five people left us on Saturday but I only wish one of them back, and perhaps with my usual perversity, when more guests come I shall wish I were alone again! But that depends! I must say goodbye now and I always have to say "Thank you". Always your loving

     Sarah

     I have been up among the mountains since I wrote you and have been a better girl ever since. I spent my birthday there. I always like to go once a year at least. I wish you had been there.
 

Notes

Dr. Peabody in Portsmouth: Probably Andrew Preston Peabody (1811-1893), pastor of South Parish Unitarian Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and eventually a professor and acting president of Harvard University. He was editor of the North American Review, 1853-1863.

(Miss Annie Silsbee's friend):  Miss Silsbee's friend probably will prove nearly impossible to identify, and Silsbee also is difficult.  A contemporary New Englander of that name is Annie Jean Silsbee (1839-1920), daughter of Rev. William Silsbee (1813-1890) and Charlotte Silsbee of Salem, MA, sister of Henry Bellows Silsbee and Joseph Lyman Silsbee.

story for "St. Nicholas": This could be "My Friend the Housekeeper" but it appeared in St. Nicholas (1:650-653), September 1874 and was collected in Play Days, 1878. Jewett's next story in St. Nicholas was "Marigold House" (2:571-575), July 1875, and also collected in Play Days.

"Miss Sidney's Flowers":  "Miss Sidney's Flowers" appeared in The Independent of July, 1874.

The manuscript 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

     South Berwick 27 Sept. 1874

     Dear Prof. Parsons.

     I don't seem to be getting on very fast with my work yet, for we have been busy with more visitors. Not that I wish you to think I consider my writing my only work, but I was making grand plans just at the time I wrote you last. And I delight in having our friends here, particularly when they are my own especial friends. It would be such a satisfaction if I could always throw my whole energy into the work of the moment but it must be a long time before one learns to do that perfectly, judging from my own experience!

     I think life has seemed very different ever since I learned definitely from one of your books that everything that "happens" has the possibility of good or bad in it and that it is for me to choose which shall be mine. It makes things so much plainer -- but I think I have told you this before. It just flashed into my mind that I have entirely out-grown a feeling I used to have -- of waiting -- that I was to have some work that would take up my whole mind so I could work "with both hands heartily"* -- I know I said once that I felt as one does when one is waiting in a railway station -- you watch the people and read the notices and wander about idly, but the question is -- When will that train come? Somehow I was very much interested only once in a while -- but now it is all changed and now I try harder to do the [days] work -- and let the grand tours take care of themselves. -- I have been doing a good deal since I came home -- and am making great efforts to be systematic though I think there is no immediate prospect of my becoming radically so! I am studying Chamber's Cyclopedia* with diligence and I have music lessons and German lessons but I'm pretty sure it is better not to neglect some other things for the sake of my studies. I learn fastest (particularly such things as help about my writing) by observation, and I never should be much of a student of books -- not that I have not always read a great deal and always shall but I mean real study -- However one must row with both oars and so I shall go on. I can't imagine a person's learning a language just for the sake of knowing it -- when it will be no practical use -- and as for Mathematics -- Why, words fail me! Yet I do like dearly to learn, as you know, only I suppose I like to have my own way about it. I have done a good deal of reading lately in spite of my interruptions for I am so fond of it and can read so fast that there can always be a little every day, at any rate. I have been at Sir Thomas Browne* again and I have had a new little work at Geology which Father got lately. And I have been reading Cranford* over again which piece of news will amuse you I think -- but it is just as new every time and more delightful than ever. Dear Miss Matty! and do you remember Peters rigging himself up as a lady and calling on his father -- as 'she wished to see the author of that admirable Assize Sermon' and the rector's setting Peter the task of copying a series of twelve discourses on Napoleon Bonaparte for the appreciative guest after she had left!! I have had some delightful drives lately with Father who has been very busy -- and we have had some nice talks. It has always been one of my grand ambitions to be able to talk with 'father' and it is so pleasant now that he talks with me as he does to his own friends besides its teaching me so much. We go from medicine, and theology, and law, down -- and sometimes talk nonsense and tell each other 'yarns' all the way! I would give almost anything if I could see you this afternoon. Don't you think it is very hard sometimes to wait -- when one wishes so much to see a friend? I wish some body would invent private telegraphs so we could talk with people at a distance. But perhaps this is a foolish wish for our thoughts would wander frightfully, at least mine would -- and we shouldn't pay even the attention we do now to our own affairs which nobody else can do if we leave undone. But I do want to see my best friends so much sometimes. There is one thing I wish I could talk to you about. I have been reading 'The Infinite and the Finite'* over again, and I find I understand so much more of it than I did at first, though I thought I understood it then. And I have no doubt that a year from now I shall find a great deal more. I can't possibly write all I could say if I were with you. Only it is so pleasant to re-read a book after a year or two, and then see how much one has learned from it and has been unconsciously putting into practice. I mean now to be in Boston for a day or two in November if "the girls" are all at home then -- and I hope it will 'come true' -- , that visit. All my summer plans did. I hope you are well and are enjoying your writing which you told me of. I think of you everyday I'm pretty sure, and I'm very sure that I am always your loving

     Sarah.
 

Notes

"with both hands heartily": "with both hands earnestly" appears in Micah 7:2.

Chamber's Cyclopedia:   This may be problematic.  Jewett specifies the Cyclopedia, which Wikipedia says is easily confused with Chamber's Encyclopedia. According to Wikipedia: Cyclopædia: or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (two volumes in folio) was an encyclopedia published by Ephraim Chambers in London in 1728, and reprinted in numerous editions in the eighteenth century. The Cyclopaedia was one of the first general encyclopedias to be produced in English.On the other hand, Wikipedia says: "Chambers's Encyclopaedia was founded in 1859 by W. & R. Chambers of Edinburgh and became one of the most important English language encyclopaedias of the 19th and 20th centuries, developing a reputation for accuracy and scholarliness that was reflected in other works produced by the Chambers publishing company."

Sir Thomas Browne: Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), English author of The Anatomy of Melancholy and Religio Medici.

Cranford: Mrs. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810-1865) published Cranford in 1853.  Miss Matty Jenkyns, a rector's daughter, is one of the main characters.  The episode in which Matty's long-absent younger brother, Peter, plays a joke on his father -- by dressing as a woman and visiting him -- appears in Chapter 6.  Peter's father then sets him the task of copying a number of sermons to give to this fictitious lady.

'The Infinite and the Finite':  Parsons' book was published by Roberts Brothers, Boston, in 1872.

The manuscript 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 Mellen Chamberlain

September 29, 1874

            Will you tell me sometime where I can find out something about "Roger Bacon"?*  I know very little, and don't know where to find more. I have been very busy since I wrote you last, and instead of having been hard at work at my "writing" I have been driving with Father, and enjoying the friends who have been visiting us. Two or three have been my especial cronies, so you will know I have been happy! The two Aunt Marys will be here next week I think and after them Helen and Persis [Bell], and don't you think that (to quote from one of our favorite Rye Ballads) "five of them will be foolish"?*  I am sure it will be a very "good time" -- I have not had much time for study, though I have begun German and music lessons, and am reading Chambers' Cyclopedia.* I have always read it, but never consecutively and I think this will teach me much more than any amount of disconnected reading.
            I don't have a great deal of time to myself but I shall by and by. There is no one in the parlor but Father who is taking his after-dinner nap so I can give you no messages. I hope you are well and I am sure you are enjoying this fine weather.


Notes

The two Aunt Marys ... Helen and Persis [Bell]:  One of Jewett's Aunts Mary was Mary Olivia Gilman Long.  The other was Mary Bell, second wife of Charles H. Bell.  Her daughter was Mary Persis (Mrs. Hollis Russell) Bailey (1864- ).  It appears that Mary Persis at least sometimes was called Persis.  See Mary long in Correspondents.

Roger Bacon
Wikipedia says:  "Roger Bacon (1214-c.1292), OFM … was an English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empirical methods. He is sometimes credited (mainly since the nineteenth century) as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method inspired by Aristotle and later scholars such as the Arab or Persian scientist Alhazen. However, more recent re-evaluations emphasize that he was essentially a medieval thinker, with much of his 'experimental' knowledge obtained from books, in the scholastic tradition."

one of our favorite Rye Ballads … "five of them will be foolish"Rye is a beach town in Rockingham Country, New Hampshire.  It seems likely Jewett refers to a gospel hymn by George F. Root, "Too Late: And five of them were Foolish."  The hymn is based on Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, "Late, Late, so Late."  Both derive from the Parable of the Ten Virgins, or the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, which Jesus tells in Matthew 25:1-13,

Chambers' Cyclopedia:  Chambers' Cyclopedia, according to Wikipedia, was one of the first general encyclopedias to appear in English (1728, with numerous later editions and revisions).

This letter, transcribed by John Alden, originally appeared in Boston Public Library Quarterly 9 (1957): 86-96.  It is reprinted here courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/Rare Books.  Notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.



SOJ to Theophilus Parsons

     South Berwick 25 Oct. 74

     Dear Prof. Parsons

     I'm sitting up to see the eclipse* and I'm tired reading so I will write you now instead of waiting until tomorrow. I have been trying to find time, for many days, but I seem to grow more and more busy and to really accomplish less and less. I have to put off so many things every week and it seems as if the things I really do are not half so satisfactory as the work they hindered me from doing would have been. But perhaps I'm not the best judge of that. I get almost no time for my writing and that is a sorrow. I amused Mary* very much this morning while we were driving together by saying a certain apple-tree in a field was just like me. It hadn't been pruned and was a wilderness of "suckers" and unprofitable little scraggly branches -- I said; "I wish I grew in three or four smooth useful branches instead of starting out here, there and everywhere, and doing nothing of any account at any point." I seem to have 'so many irons in the fire' (to use an old fashioned proverb) and I grow worried when I think of it. I must ask you about this when I see you. It's hard for me to know what to do: I don't like to shut myself up half of every day and say nobody must interfere with me, when there are dozens of things that I might do. I have nothing to do with the housekeeping or anything of that kind, but there are bits of work waiting all the time that use up my days. I hate not to do them and I'm afraid of being selfish, and shirking -- and yet -- well, I'll not talk any more about that, but let it wait. Its a hard question to me just now, and it will be so nice to talk it over with you. I'm almost sure I shall see you within a few weeks. And there is something else I wish very much to ask you about, and I think perhaps you can tell me some of the New Church books* I can read. Its the question of praying for other people. I never thought about it until this summer, but one day somebody said to me, that she wished she could pray for her friends, but she couldn't, and she didn't think there was anything said about it by Christ -- that it seemed to her we must each pray for ourselves and that if we would not take the gifts of God and were not ready for them -- no amount of anybody else's asking could alter the case. I don't know whether that idea of prayer is right, that just so fast as we are fitted to receive, there comes the feeling of need and the asking, and "prayer" is merely a signifying of our capability for reception. That seems to be my friend's idea, and I think I may have had some such idea myself if I had tried to think it out. But I have always prayed in the most childish fashion for all the people I care for -- and no amount of theorizing could reconcile me to giving it up. I have tried very hard to remember if I ever have heard you say anything about prayer, but I do not think I have. It has troubled me very much lately -- and I have wished to help my friend too -- I want to tell you about her, when I see you. It is so provoking sometimes that I can't see more of the people who are dearest to me and who help me most, but I know it is all right. I have been ill lately -- no, not exactly ill, but I hurt my knee one day in the saddle in the course of a hard ride and that made me lame for a week, and had an abominable rheumatism in the shoulder that got hurt when I was run over in New York* -- so I was shut up in the house and was very unhappy in my mind. I like to stay out of doors all I possibly can and I have been riding and rowing often. I met with a great affliction one day last week, and it will be very consoling to tell you the particulars! I was going cunner-fishing* down at Dover-Point, half a dozen miles down river, and my heart was entirely set upon it. I was to stay until the middle of the afternoon and it was the first chance I had had, and the last day the tide would be right. I was going joyfully down to the boat with my lunch in a basket and the bait all ready when I met father who told me I mustn't go, for the wind was coming round north and I should get cold, and be late home and it wouldn't be a nice day for fishing. Wasn't that hard? For I had waked up at least two hours earlier than common and it was the perfection of weather apparently. However, it was windy, and I was glad I didn't go, for a few hours later I came home and tried to settle down to my 'copying' -- but it was utterly impossible to smile for sometime! I think I should have made a grand fight and have gone, perhaps, at an earlier period in my life but I seem to grow slightly more reasonable as I grow older. And there's nothing that is much harder than being hindered from having one of my wandering, out-door days. I am so happy when I can be out in the woods or open fields and I hope I never shall outgrow my fondness for such days. I try not to let my boyishness (if it is that) make me rude and unladylike. I don't see why it need do so, and my feeling of real friendship for the hills around here, and the things that grow in summer, is very deep, certainly. There are certain trees that seem to have as much character and much the same kind -- as people have, and I know them and am glad to see them again when I have been away. They mean a great deal to me that houses never can. I have told you often how much I lived outdoors in my childhood and how I was contented -- even when I was quite alone which was oftenest the case -- and I'm almost sure I could live the same life now -- though I'm not sure that I should find the infinite satisfaction I used in damming brooks! That used to be one of my chief pleasures I believe! But I mustn't chatter any longer. Ellen Mason* asks me about you when she writes. She never will forget our call upon you last winter. She is not home from Newport yet; they stay very late. She is one of the people I wish to see most. I must say good night, or rather good morning as it is between one and two. It seems like the old days when I used to write at night, and I am so wide awake. I am afraid Sunday will not be very profitable for I shall be too sleepy to like the sermons much -- but I couldn't sleep when there isn't to be another eclipse for eighteen years. I have been reading about this lately, and about the transit of Venus which I am very much interested in. Goodbye. Always your loving

     Sarah


Notes

eclipseWikipedia lists the lunar eclipses, including that of 25 Oct. 1874.  New York Public Library has published a photograph of this eclipse, though the location where it was taken is not specified.
    About the transit of Venus, Wikipedia says: "A transit of Venus across the Sun takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth (or another planet), becoming visible against (and hence obscuring a small portion of) the solar disk. During a transit, Venus can be seen from Earth as a small black disk moving across the face of the Sun. The duration of such transits is usually measured in hours (the transit of 2012 lasted 6 hours and 40 minutes). A transit is similar to a solar eclipse by the Moon. While the diameter of Venus is more than 3 times that of the Moon, Venus appears smaller, and travels more slowly across the face of the Sun, because it is much farther away from Earth.

Mary:  Mary Rice Jewett.  See Correspondents.

New Church booksWikipedia 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)."

run over in New York:  Jewett reports this event in a letter to Theophilus Parsons of 17 April 1873.

cunner-fishingWikipedia says: "The bergall, also known as the cunner, conner or chogset, Tautogolabrus adspersus, is a species of wrasse native to the western Atlantic, where it is found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland to the Chesapeake Bay."

Ellen Mason:  See Correspondents.

The manuscript 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

     South Berwick 12 Nov. 1874

     Dear Prof. Parsons:

     I hoped to have seen you before this, but I have had to put off going to Boston until later. I do wish I could see you -- and I wonder if it will trouble you too much if I ask you to send me some day the least little note so I shall know if you are well. I know how much there is to take up your time, and I hate to ask this, but if you only knew how much I think about you and wish to hear. I haven't written lately because I expected to see you, but there isn't a day that I forget you. I am busy all the time though I haven't been able to resist taking holidays during the perfect weather we have had -- and I sometimes go down river rowing and sometimes go riding -- and sometimes into the woods which have been lovely all the autumn. I have not found much time for my writing, for there seems to be a great deal else to do, but I am all ready to go to work when I do have a chance. Are you getting on well with your book?* I often think of it, and you don't know how often I have wished I lived near you so I might help you about the copying -- and the writing sometimes. Oh, wouldn't I like it! I write horridly when I write letters for I hurry so, but I can copy with most surprising elegance!! -- I shall have so much to tell you when I do see you, that I shall make you very miserable. I wish I could have gone to Boston, but Mary* and I couldn't very well go together just now, and, I wanted her to go. Goodbye. With much love yours always

     S. O. J.

Notes

your book:  Parsons at this time was working on Outlines of the Religion and Philosophy of Swedenborg (1876).

Mary:  Mary Rice Jewett.  See Correspondents.

The manuscript 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.



Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.




Main Contents & Search