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1879    1881
Sarah Orne Jewett Letters of 1880

SOJ to Theophilus Parsons

     South Berwick 13 February 1880

     Dear Prof. Parsons

     It isn't because I do not think of you that I do not write, but I have not been at all well since I saw you last. I came home very tired from Boston, and have had the uncommon attack of rheumatism! I was tired before I left home for I wrote altogether too much last year, and my gayeties were too much for me! However I am beginning to feel like myself again and to think a good deal about my next visits. The doctor forbade my reading or writing much, if at all, so the grand plans I made about my new book had to be given up for the time being. I think it is just as well on many accounts, but for some reasons I am sorry for I wished to write the book as soon as possible. Every year alters the point of view from which one sees life and I do not wish to look at girlhood entirely from the outside. I think that was the reason why people liked Deephaven -- it was a book written by a girl, which is perhaps a rarer thing than seems possible at first thought. I am beginning to like it myself in a curious sort of way, for I am not the one who wrote it any longer and in this last year since my father's death, though I have learned many new things I have outgrown a good deal else -- and I suppose this will always be the fashion of life!

     It is always very unsatisfactory when I try to write to you -- for I think how much better it would be if I were sitting in the sunshine in your pleasant study and we were talking together. It is listening to you that I like best. But I send you this sheet of paper because it will tell you that I think of you often and often and that I am always your grateful and affectionate

     Sarah O. Jewett


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.

SOJ to Henry Mills Alden

     South Berwick, Maine
     February 19, 1880

    My dear Mr. Alden:

     I am going to do something which I never did before and which if I had thought about it at all I should have said I could not do, but I wish you would print that sketch.1 Of course, in a general way an author is always supposed to be in an anxious state to have such a thing happen but I beg you will not believe that I am sensitively confident of my rights! or that I am begging for the money my work will bring. For I have money enough and I suppose I could get the sketch printed elsewhere -- in fact, I am very sure of that.2 But it is just here: I wish to keep the two together, they have always belonged to each other3 -- which feeling I am sure you will understand -- and I read them at two clubs which united them still more closely, and though one club was in Portsmouth, which dear old town is not distinguished as being literary!
     I found to my surprise that almost everybody liked the horse sketch4 best, people whom I thought (to tell the truth) I might be boring with it. And I don't believe it would be out of place in Harper's. I have been brought up to read Harper's, and I wouldn't have sent it to you in that case, though I hesitated at first from knowing that you already had two of my sketches, and though I meant at first to ask you to send me back "The Jacqueminot Rose"4 and take this instead because it is so much better.
     I don't believe I have the usual authorly feeling about what I write. I think about my sketches very much as I do about other people's. And I wish you would change your mind, for I am pretty sure you would not be sorry for it.5 I know that at least a hundred people told me how much they liked it, or told others so, and I think they were a fair sample of your readers. I am very glad you like it yourself, and I thank you for your letter which was very kind. And I hope I am not annoying you now, but I couldn't help speaking as I have because I believe it so heartily.
     Yours sincerely,
     Sarah O. Jewett


     1 "An October Ride."
     2 Miss Jewett had already appeared over fifty times in newspapers and magazines, and had had three books published: Deephaven, Play Days, and Old Friends and New.
     3 "An October Ride" and "Miss Daniel Gunn."
     4 She had evidently submitted two prose sketches, "The Jacqueminot Rose" and "Miss Daniel Gunn." Alden presently sent the "Rose" back and Miss Jewett seems never to have succeeded in getting it published. When she received the rejected manuscript, she sent Alden a third sketch entitled "An October Ride." This too he declined but printed the "Gunn" story under the title "An Autumn Holiday," Harper's, LXI (October 1880), 683-691; collected in Country By-Ways.  Manuscript copies of "The Jacqueminot Rose" are in Harvard's Houghton Library Collection: Sarah Orne Jewett compositions and other papers, MS Am 1743.22, item 52.
     5 Across the corner of the first page of Miss Jewett's letter, Alden wrote: "I ask to reconsider," and appended his initials.

    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.  Notes supplemented by Terry Heller, Coe College.

SOJ to Henry Mills Alden

     South Berwick, Maine
     February 23, 1880

    Dear Mr. Alden:

     I send you the sketch,1 though I have been thinking that it would be better not, and I must say that you are very good to take so much trouble about it. I have been reading it over for I thought I might not remember it exactly, and seeing it now might change the old impression of it. But I must say honestly that I like it still! and I think in some ways it is one of the very best bits of writing I have ever done. There is more in it to remember and though there are no 'characters,' it has the spirit of this part of the country. But the question is, I can see, whether it will give pleasure to a sufficiently large proportion of the people who would read it.2
     There is one point in its favour which I never thought of before: and that is, a sketch which has something to say about a girl's 'rough-riding' is a little of a novelty in magazine literature. This has at least the virtue of being true, of my horse,3 the 'farm' and the old parsonage -- which is more than I can say for my sketches usually. Isn't it a curious thing that most people who read the two would probably call this made-up, and the one which you already have, drawn from life?
     I am afraid I said some odd things in my first letter about my two small audiences, but I meant that I was not trusting alone to my highly critical friends in Boston, because what many of those would like would be pretty sure not to be 'popular.' But the second time I read the sketch, my friends were mostly people who like to be entertained better than to be puzzled, and I thought both together would be a fair example to judge by. And I couldn't be 'taken in' by the polite speeches which anybody tried to make to me out of kindness alone! But I have made my 'last appearance on any stage' unlike my New York namesake.4
     I hope to be in New York for a day or two either just before or just after Easter, and I should be very glad indeed to see you, and I hope nothing will happen to prevent it. I am glad just now that we never have met, for I should be sorry if I ever thought that any personal feeling hindered the sway of justice (which ought to have been written with a very big J!).
     Yours sincerely,
     S. O. Jewett
     Indeed my heart will not break this time and you must not think of that at any rate!5 I am so glad that Mrs. Alden likes my stories! I am always forgetting that anyone reads them except the people I know, and it is always a delight and surprise to find a new friend. I hope you will pardon this postscript to my long and unbusiness-like letter.


     1 "An October Ride."
     2 Alden duly reconsidered the sketch, fortified his opinion that it would not do for Harper's and declined it again. But Miss Jewett, equally convinced that it deserved to be printed, included it as one of the eight chapters in Country By-Ways.
     3 Miss Jewett's horse Sheila was her principal means of transportation on journeys of up to fifty miles. She drove as far as Exeter, New Hampshire, to visit her aunts, and to Amesbury, Massachusetts, to talk to Whittier.
     4 Sara Jewett (1847-1899)was the leading lady of Augustin Daly's Union Square Theatre company. Miss Jewett of South Berwick recounts drolly that upon several occasions during her travels she was mistaken for Miss Jewett of New York, then considered one of the most beautiful women in America. In an ironic extension of the parallel, illness and enforced retirement became the lot of both thespian and literary Jewett. Sara Jewett's last appearance as an actress took place in the spring of 1883.
    5 Alden's editorial judgment was not swayed by Miss Jewett's eloquence. Although they met soon after the date of this letter and became friends -- he was one of the group that saw her off on her first trip to Europe in the spring of 1882 -- he accepted no more of her sketches for nearly five years. He printed five of her poems, but no prose until "Farmer Finch" in January 1885.

    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 Mary Bucklin Davenport Claflin

South Berwick*
29 February 1880

Dears Mrs. Claflin

    I was so glad to get your letter and I wish to tell you that I fully appreciated your writing such a long one in the long "week before Lent"* -- I am gaining very fast now and begin to feel pretty well again, but it was

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discouraging to be so forlorn for so many weeks and I got almost out of patience.  I dont write or read much yet, but I take long drives every pleasant day and that uses up a good deal of time!
    I meant to go to Philadelphia this month, but of course I could not, and now it will be getting so

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hot there that I am going to put off my visits until autumn.  I hate Philadelphia in Spring.

    I am so glad you have had such a pleasant winter.  I think my wishes came true!  I have thought of you all so many times and I shall be so glad to see you again and to hear 'the particulars' -- I saw that Mrs. Ellis* was with you by the Saturday Evg Gazette* and that

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must have been so pleasant for her and for you --  I am afraid little Mary Davenport* will put on a few airs after so successful a season, but I would n't be long taking them out of her, if I had the opportunity & you might tell her those particulars!  Mary* sends you her love and so do I.  I am going to Boston as soon as I am well enough -- to stay three or four weeks (or more!) until it is settled weather here.  Mrs. Fields wanted me to spend last week there but I didn't.  I saw that you and Mrs. Goddard had been

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to see Mrs Hayes* together, and I hope you had a pretty time.  I am so fond of Mrs. Goddard [deleted word?]  Do you think you shall come home early this year?  You dont know how much I wish I could see you.

Yours always lovingly

Little Sarah


South Berwick:  all of the pages of this letter are black bordered.

lent:  In 1880, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar, fell on February 11. 

Mrs. Ellis:   Emma Harding Claflin Ellis.  See Correspondents.

Evg Gazette:  Which newspaper Jewett was reading for social news about the Claflins is as yet unknown.  Assistance is welcome.

Mary Davenport: Possibly the daughter of Emma Ellis and step-granddaughter of Mrs. Claflin, sixteen-year-old Mary Agnes Ellis has been enjoying the legislative term in Washington, DC.  See Emma Ellis in Correspondents.  In the absence of any other known "Mary Davenport" connected with the Claflin and Ellis families, it seems possible that Jewett refers to Mrs. Ellis's daughter by this name, to distinguish her from her step-grandmother.

Mary:  Mary Rice Jewett.  See Correspondents.

Mrs. Goddard:  Martha LeBaron Goddard (1829-1888) was the compiler, along with Harriet Preston Waters, of Sea and Shore: A Collection of Poems (1874).

Mrs. HayesRutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) was President of the United States 1877-1881. HIs wife was Lucy Webb (1831-1889). During his presidency, William Claflin served in the House of Representatives from Massachusetts.

The manuscript of this letter is held by Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in the  Governor William and Mary Claflin Papers,  GA-9, Box 4, Miscellaneous Folder J.  Transcription and notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.

SOJ to Emma Harding Claflin Ellis

34 Union Park*
[In another hand Apr 15, 1880] [or 1885]*

Dear Mrs. Ellis

    I had a letter from Mrs. Claflin* this morning asking me to make her a little visit on & after the 26th and I have just been thinking what I should say!  I write [unreadable faint script] to see her, and yet I am not by any means well yet and I am afraid I

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will take very small part in the festivities she suggests. 

    [Perhaps an unreadable word]  I can only promise myself the pleasure conditionally and I am going to do that.  If I feel as well on Friday as I do now, I think I shall go out in the train to see you for an hour or two.  If you are to be in town that day or especially busy would you please send me a

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line here?  I should probably go out early in the afternoon.

Yours always lovingly


    You wouldn't let my coming interfere with whatever you were going to do you know!


34 Union Park:  In Boston's South End (2004), Anthony Mitchell Sammarco notes that Alexander Hamilton Rice was at one time a resident at 34 Union Park in Boston.  Alexander Rice was the father of John Rice, who married Jewett's close friend Cora Clark Rice. See Correspondents.

:  In 1880, April 15 fell on a Thursday.  With this letter is an envelope addressed to Mrs. Ellis that was cancelled on April 15, but no year appears in the cancellation.  It seems unlikely that Jewett would date her letter a day later than she mailed it.  Therefore, this 1880 date is uncertain.  The closest year to 1880 on which April 15 falls on Wednesday is 1885.  Therefore this letter is placed with others of both years.

Mrs. Claflin
.  Mary Bucklin Davenport Claflin. See Correspondents.

The manuscript of this letter is held by Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in the  Governor William and Mary Claflin Papers,  GA-9, Box 4, Miscellaneous Folder J.  Transcription and notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.

SOJ to Anna Laurens Dawes

28 Aug 1880

My dear Anna

I meant to answer your letter at once though I don’t think “yer desarved it being a wretch,” but I am getting more and more lazy about writing, and since I know the less I do of it the better I have a good excuse for my laziness. I am by no means well yet -- that is I do not feel at all strong and I have to be very careful. I always think that if I could write stories I should amuse myself and get on very well with being ill -- but, as it is! --

I have been out at the Shoals* this summer, and next time you are tired out you must go there. I never had stayed for any length of time before, and the air is magnificent and you feel so sleepy and good natured all the time: that is, I did, and it was a great pleasure! I was at Rye, had a week also with my aunt -- and now I am going to be by the sea again for two or three weeks, and I am glad enough of it.

We had a most charming visit last week (from Wednesday until Saturday) from Mrs. Claflin and Mary Davenport.* I was very glad to see them and particularly glad to see Mary and hear all the news -- which she was delightfully ready to tell. Mrs. C. said you are to be there in September (I think) and if so I hope I shall see you. Thank you very much dear Anna for your kind invitation but I am afraid it will be impossible for me to visit you this fall, though I wish I could see you in your home and on your own ground. I drive a good deal when it is cool enough, but I have not been ready for riding all summer, yet I hope to have some scurries by and bye. Write me when you can -- you made me very jealous when you told me of all you were doing.

Yours most affly

Dont you think one day lately Elinor Norcross* turned up in Berwick and came to dine with me. She was on her way to Mt. Desert with a Miss Pitman, whose grandmother was here. It was very nice to see her again. Please give my kind remembrances to your father and mother.



Shoals:  The Isles of the Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire, near Portsmouth.

Mrs. Claflin and Mary Davenport: Fro Mary Bucklin Davenport Claflin, see Correspondents.  For Mary Davenport, see  Emma Ellis in Correspondents.  In the absence of any other known "Mary Davenport" connected with the Claflin and Ellis families, it seems possible that Jewett refers to Mrs. Ellis's daughter, Mary Agnes, by this name, to distinguish her from her step-grandmother, Mrs. Claflin.

Elinor Norcross:  Almost certainly, Jewett refers to the American painter Eleanor Norcross (1854 - 1923)Wikipedia says "Ella Augusta Norcross, ... studied under William Merritt Chase and Alfred Stevens. She lived the majority of her adult life in Paris, France as an artist and collector and spent the summers in her hometown of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Norcross painted Impressionist portraits and still lifes, and is better known for her paintings of genteel interiors."  She founded the Fitchburg Art Museum and, in her will, made Sophia Lord Pitman (1855 - 1943) a trustee of the museum. 

This letter was transcribed C. Carroll Hollis.  It appeared in "Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett to Anna Laurens Dawes," Colby Library Quarterly No. 3 (1968): 97-138.  It is in the Henry Laurens Dawes Papers in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.  Annotation by Terry Heller, Coe College.

SOJ to Annie Adams Fields

                                Little Compton  R. I.*
                                      8th September 1880

Dear Mrs. Fields

    I have been wishing to tell you how much I like to think about the days I spent with you and how much I missed you after I came away but this is not a land where it is easy to write letters.  I cant help being idle except in thought and I think I never knew so quiet a country. It is all like the places one goes to on the way to sleep!  There aren't any high hills but you look over the fields which are so like the moors, and you look and look and there is nothing you have to stop and wonder about.  The big round-headed windmills are all still and to day is a gray day which cant make up its mind to take the trouble to rain, and here we are sitting by the fireplace and I was busy watching the smoke until I thought I would write a letter or two.  And whether I drive or sail I am the most placid and serene of all your friends, and I forget that I ever was a girl who couldn't get to sleep at night.

           There are a great many things I wish to tell you.  One is that you are going to see your Gosport church in Harpers* one of these days.  I think Mr. Alden* was good natured to take it for this makes four articles he has on hand already.  I feel that you and I are partners in these verses.

    I shall be here until Saturday or Monday.  I hate to think of going away -- and then I am going over to Newport as I suppose I told you to stay with Ellen Mason* a little while.  Cora and I send a great deal of love to you and to Mr Fields and Eva.  Wont you give my affectionate regards to the handkerchief doll and be careful that nobody treads on the little teapot.  There are great opportunities for making tea pots here.  Eva wants one I made yesterday.  It was a tall and slender one.  You see I left a bit of my heart behind me in Manchester by the Sea!  I did not mean to write all around the corners of my letter.  Good-bye and I will not do it next time.  I will always [rest illegible]


Little Compton:  Why Jewett was staying in this Rhode Island resort village is unclear.  Assistance is welcome.

windmills:  There are several traditional windmills remaining in Rhode Island, two at Little Compton.

your Gosport church in Harpers:   Jewett refers to her poem, "On Star Island," which appeared in Harper's Magazine in September 1881, almost a year after the date of this letter.   Jewett and Fields had explored Gosport on Star Island in the Isles of the Shoals together in July 1880. 

Mr. Alden:  Henry Mills Alden.  See Correspondents.  After the date of this letter, the next story to appear in Harpers was "An Autumn Holiday" (October 1880).  This was followed by three poems: "Two Mornings" (December 1880), "Sheltered," August 1881), and "On Star Island."

Ellen Mason:  Ellen Francis Mason.  See Correspondents.

Cora: Cora Clark Rice. See Correspondents.

Mr Fields and Eva:  For James T. Fields, see Annie Adams Fields in Correspondents.  Eva may be Eva von Blomberg, but this is not certain.  Assistance is welcome.  See Correspondents.

This text is from transcriptions from mixed repositories, Letters from Sarah Orne Jewett, 1875-1890, folder 63, Burton Trafton Jewett Research Collection. For more information about the individual transcription, contact the Maine Women Writers Collection. Notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.

  Annie Adams Fields transcription of a portion of the above letter.

     Little Compton, R. I., 8 September, 1880.*

     Dear Mrs. Fields, -- This is not a land where it is easy to write letters. I can't help being idle, except in thought, and I think I never knew so quiet a country. It is all like the places one goes to on the way to sleep. There aren't any high hills, but you look over the fields which are so like moors, and you look and look, and there is nothing you have to stop and wonder about, the big round-headed windmills are all still,* and today is a grey day which can't make up its mind to take the trouble to rain, and here we are sitting by the fireplace, and I was busy watching the smoke until I thought I would write a letter or two. And whether I drive or sail I am the most placid and serene of all your friends, and I forget that I ever was a girl who couldn't go to sleep at night.


This letter appears in Annie Fields, Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett (1911),  Transcribed by Annie Adams Fields, with notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.

SOJ to Eben Norton Horsford

South Berwick, 15 Nov. 1880

Dear Prof. Horsford

I was so very glad to get your kind letter today, only it makes me wish so much to see you and your household that I am quite homesick! I did get your letter from Loch Katrine and I asked Lilian for your address, but she was wicked and never sent it to me, so I never wrote to you -- but I thought of you and Kate and Cornelia often enough, if I did not say so!* I have not got well yet, but I have been better the last week or two than for a good while before and so I have great hopes of myself, and I shall be the happiest girl in the world if I can write again by and by and go back to my old tracks. I was so miserable all summer that I hate to think of myself and indeed I am not very strong yet. I was in Belmont and Newport and Roxbury, and I also made Mrs. Claflin a little visit in September, but I spent a good deal of time on the sofa and could not go about much, or I should certainly have seen Mrs. Horsford and Lilian. I am so glad you had such a pleasant journey, (I only wish I had been with you!) and I shall hope to hear all about it this winter, beside seeing the pictures! Please give my love to all the family and thank you so much for writing to me.

Yours sincerely

S. O. J.


Transcriber note:  This letter follows a trans-Atlantic trip by part of the Horsford family.

Loch Katrine ... Lilian ... Kate and Cornelia:  Willoughby identifies the members of the Horsford family:  first wife, Mary L'Hommedieu Gardiner, and four daughters: "Mary Leila ("Lilian," 1848-1928, who married the renowned biologist William G. Farlow in 1900), Mary Katherine ("Kate," 1850-1926, who did not marry), Gertrude Hubbard ("Trudie," 1852-1920, who married Andrew Fiske in 1878), and Mary Gardiner ("Mamie," 1855-1893, who married Benjamin Robbins Curtis, son of the Supreme Court Justice, in 1877)."  With his second wife, Phoebe, Professor Horsford had another daughter: "Cornelia Conway Felton (1861-1944), who did not marry."

Belmont and Newport and Roxbury, ... Mrs. Claflin:  Rather than attending the Belmont Stakes in June, when she probably was too ill, Jewett probably means that she has visited William Dean Howells at Redtop in Belmont, MA.  Newport, RI was a popular resort town in the Gilded Age.  It is not yet known why she would visit in Roxbury, MA.
    Mary Claflin was married to the former Massachusetts governor, William Claflin.  In 1880, he was representing Massachusetts in Congress.  Their home was in Newtonville, MA.

According to transcriber John W. Willoughby, the manuscript of this letter is in the possession of the family of Andrew Fiske, Eben Norton Horsford's great-grandson, "heir to Sylvester Manor, Horsford's Shelter Island estate, who graciously offered to share with the public the letters from Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Fields to Eben Norton Horsford and his family."  This letter was published in John W. Willoughby, "Sarah Orne Jewett and Her Shelter Island: Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Fields to Eben Norton Horsford,"  Confrontation (Long Island University) 8 (1974): 72-86.  Annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.

Sarah Orne Jewett to Lyman Abbott

[ 1880 - 1881 ]*

Dear Dr Abbott,

    I send some verses* which I think you may be ^able to^* use in your young peoples department.  Can I have an answer at once at Mrs. Claflin's,* Newtonville.

Yours sincerely

Sarah O. Jewett


1880 - 1881:  As indicated below, nearly all of Jewett's known publications in The Christian Union appeared in 1880-1881.  As these include no poems addressed to children, however, it is not yet possible to date this letter more precisely.  A letter to Mrs. Claflin tentatively dated Friday Afternoon 1878 suggests that Jewett may have met Mr. Abbott as early as 1878.

verses:  No Jewett poems for young people are known to have appeared in The Christian Union, where Abbott was editor.  The magazine did publish two Jewett poems, both of which were "love" poems: "A Night in June" (July 1880) and "A Day's Secret" (January 1881).  Jewett placed one other piece with Abbott, "The Quiet Scholar" (August 1881).

able to:  This insertion appears to have been added in pencil, and it may not be in Jewett's hand.

Mrs. Claflin's: Mary Bucklin Davenport Claflin.  See Correspondents.

This manuscript of this letter is held by Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library, in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection.  Transcription and notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.

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