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Letters & Diaries of Sarah Orne Jewett
Sarah Orne Jewett:
Letters to Theophilus Parsons, 1872 to 1881
Transcription by Fraser Cocks,
Curator of Special Collections,
Colby College, 1986.
IntroductionTheophilus Parsons (1797-1882), who was Dane professor of law at Harvard from 1848 to 1870, is remembered chiefly as the author of a series of legal treatises, and some books in support of Swedenborgian doctrines. He was the son of Theophilus Parsons (1750-1813), who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts (1806-1813). An abolitionist, the younger Parsons published an essay opposing slavery, Slavery: Its origin, influence, and destiny (1863). He also wrote a life of his father (Boston, 1859).
1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 20
Paula Blanchard discusses Jewett's friendship with Parsons, especially in Chapter 7, and also elsewhere in Sarah Orne Jewett. See also, Josephine Donovan, "Jewett and Swedenborg." American Literature 65:4 (December 1993), 731-50.To see something of what Parsons may have written to Jewett, see Parsons, The Professor's Letters.
To see actual letters of Parsons to Jewett, see Other Letters 1872, 1873, 1876.
This collection of letters is published here by permission of Colby College Special Collections, Waterville, ME, which holds the originals. No portion of these letters may be reprinted without the permission of Colby College.
These letters are reproduced from a 1986 typescript made by Fraser Cocks, Curator of Special Collections at Colby College. Another unidentified person hand-wrote a page of corrections for the first 1/3 of the collection, through 23 August 1874; these have been incorporated into this edition. This collection, then, may differ from the original letters in the following ways: undiscovered transcription errors and format, since no effort has been made here to duplicate Jewett's page layout. Furthermore, where Jewett apparently made errors in spelling or where there may be errors in transcription, this has been noted by the use of brackets; the text is corrected and the transcribed version is shown in brackets. The purpose of this is to make clear which oddities of these sorts actually appear in the transcription. Also in brackets are notes on some of the errors corrected in the anonymous handwritten corrections.
Introduction to the Transcription
Special Collections has been fortunate in being able to obtain a significant archive of 39 letters written by Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) to Theophilus Parsons from 1872 to 1881. Parsons (1797-1882) was a professor of law at Harvard University and a leading member of the Swedenborgian New Church. He wrote and lectured widely on behalf of the new theology. Jewett met Professor Parsons in August, 1872 at Wells, Maine. He loaned her his books on New Church beliefs and she began to write frequently to him. The letters, some nearly confessional in tone, chart Jewett's growth from a girlish 23 year-old who frets that she is "a very useless girl, very careless about pleasing God" (Nov. 14, 1872) to a mature professional writer who, commenting on the popularity of Deephaven, points out that "it was a book written by a girl … 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." (Feb. 13, 1880) The letters of the first four or five years, often signed "with ever so much love" are long catalogues of her travels, activities, concerns and achievements: wondering at the Indians at an Episcopal Church service in Green Bay, Wisconsin; scouring the Berwick woods for wildflowers; studying Chambers' Cyclopedia; taking language and music lessons; worrying whether she was too much a tom-boy (she did like to gallop a horse, she admitted); wishing for a close girl-friend in Berwick; and always thanking Parsons for his help in her efforts to perceive the meaning of life. However, in the midst of these jumbled impressions occurs a sudden, clear perception of self, linked with close natural observation, that is characteristic of her best writing. "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 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." (Oct. 25, 1874)
That concentration of energies she wished for came in the experience of revising for publication the stories that comprise Deephaven. Beginning early in 1876 through January, 1877, she "had to work very hard all the time" and it bothered her considerably because she was "not used to it." (Dec. 22, 1876) That she was greatly fatigued and often ill during this period is not surprising. She experienced enormous strain as she evolved from a dilettante with unusual powers of observation and a felicitous writing style into a professional writer committed to the new "realist" mode of writing and concerned for the quality of her craft.
For five years she had worried with Professor Parsons about doing good with her stories. Now in 1877, while admitting that Parsons was probably right in wanting to see more "moralizing" in Deephaven, she countered his suggestions with her own aesthetic creed, drawn in part from her discussions with William Dean Howells about the stories in the book. "For myself, I like best to have the moral in the story -- to make the character as apparent as I can ... I always feel as if when I say anything directly as if it were awkward and that if the story itself doesn't say it, it is no use to put it in afterward." The important thing, she went on is "to help people to look at 'commonplace' lives from the inside instead of the outside..." to see that such life "is so much pleasanter and more real, than what one calls 'society life." (Je 8, 1877)
Doing good and pleasing Parsons was no longer her prime concern. "I never wished to work so hard over my writing or saw the need of it so clearly as I do now. It seems to me that I never felt so entirely that I am just beginning and have no end of things to learn and to do. And I see that I must try harder than ever to better myself if I want my stories to be really good." (Jl 28, 1877) As she took up her new role, she wrote far less often to Parsons. In her last letter to him just before he died, she said of her new book, Country By-Ways, that with its composition she had "found out some bits of truth for myself -- and I know one other thing -- that nobody has helped me to think more than you have." (Je 12, 1881)
This collection of letters illuminates an important step in Jewett's maturation. The items stand well by themselves, but they are also an important addition to, and are themselves enhanced by inclusion into, the larger Jewett collection of 205 letters already held by Colby's Special Collections. Jewett's letters to Parsons join the substantial sets of letters she wrote to Louisa Loring Dresel, 1888-1898, Horace Elisha Scudder, 1869-1901, John Thaxter, 1899-1901 and Sarah Cabot Wheelwright, n.d. which, among letters she wrote to others, are preserved and available for research in Special Collections. The Parsons letters were referred to by Francis Otto Matthiessen in his 1929 essay, Sarah Orne Jewett.
Green Bay. Wis. 14 Nov. '72.
Dear Prof. Parsons --
Your letter reached me here yesterday and I am so glad to have heard from you. You understood exactly the spirit in which I wrote you and I am so glad, for I must confess I have had some fear lest what I said might have seemed a definite and final rejection of these new -- and yet old -- ideas, and a misunderstanding of the whole thing. I suppose I have looked at it as merely 'another sect,' but before your letter came and even before I sent mine I was not so sure of that point. I could not help seeing that I had been wrong and while I was writing the thought flashed into my mind. I am sure that your judgment is better than my own in this, and I see that my heart is taking hold very strongly upon what I learned from you personally and from 'The Infinite and the Finite.' I mourn every day that I left that book and the book of Essays at home.** I put them together and then left them after all -- and I am so sorry for I am afraid of forgetting and confusing the things they taught me. I did not have time to read much of the last book for I came away suddenly just after I wrote you last. I was in New York ten days and since then I have been travelling about from one place to another. I am farther West now than I have ever been before, and before I 'go back to my subject' I must tell you of a new and delightful experience I had last Sunday. I went out to the Oneida settlement which is about twelve miles from here. There is an Episcopal church and the congregation is ["is" appears to be written over "are"] all Indians. I never had seen many before and these looked so like the Indians in my picture books when I was a little girl, that I half expected to hear the war-whoops and to be scalped and tomahawked before I knew it! They were very devout and are said to be a most pious community but they certainly do not look so. The rector told me he had lived there twenty years. I had a very nice talk with him. The Sunday before I was at Grace Church in New York, and I was very much struck with the contrast in the two congregations!
I do not know what has made me hesitating and uncertain -- to go back to your letter and my own -- was it very natural that I should be? Is it the uncertainty that is apt to assail us -- the usual difficulty when there is a decision of this kind to be made? It was no outside influence which made me lose any interest, but I thought it over and over -- and I grew afraid. You know the reputation which the doctrines of the New Church have -- that they are intricate and visionary: that they are adopted by comparatively few people. If you ask nine persons out of ten what they think they will tell you something of this kind, and very likely follow many of its teachings without the least idea that they know the first step of the way. There was one hindrance: then I found a good deal of discouragement for myself. It was all so plain and 'came home' to me so thoroughly when you talked to me and when I read your book. But I tried some of those tracts you gave me and they did confuse me very much and I did not like them half so well. I had read some of them -- The statements of the doctrines and the Ribbon of Blue and one or two others, and liked them as I told you, but the extracts from Swedenborg's writings and the rest -- I suppose I did not understand or interpret to myself and I had the feeling that it was no use to try to go any farther -- that there was enough in that book of yours, and I would not try to puzzle out the details. I think you will say that I am particularly sensible in expecting to take in the whole grand idea, in one short fortnight -- to
learnknow the whole journey in its details and most minute characteristics, because I have found out that there is such a journey and have taken a few steps! This is my fault is not it? I have learned a great deal; I have begun my journey -- I have enough to show me the way for the present. That is all right; when I need more God will teach me and so I will get on as fast as I can. There is always that verse of mine: "If any man will do His will, he shall know the doctrine." Certainly if I am a very useless girl, very careless about pleasing God and contented to be letting the chances for growing better go by me -- Oh, how much good that chapter of your book has done me! He never will make me very wise or [give me any extraordinary knowledge of Himself. It worried] me very much at one time. I feared that I should disappoint you and that you would think I had no heart in the interest I had shown. I am so sorry you have been ill and I hope by this time you are quite well again. I shall probably not be in Boston or at home until the last of January or February. I am travelling with some friends and may possibly go quite far south and there are some visits to be made in Brooklyn and Phila. after my return. The first time I am in Boston I shall try very hard to see you if only ["only" is erased in the manuscript] for a few minutes. I so often wish to ask you questions, but after all perhaps it is better for me to be alone. It has always been so; I know when I first thought of being good at all it seemed so hard that I so seldom saw the one or two people I depended upon, but I see now how much better it was. Kate Birckhead told me so once when I had written her a most wretched letter telling her how much I wished I were with her and it seemed so hard at first to believe that she was right. I began a letter to you while I was in New York one day after I had had a great discussion with a gentleman a friend of Father's who knows a great deal and could easily upset my arguments. It was not what he said but what he suggested that I could not answer. It is so hard sometimes not to envy some of my friends who never in all their lives had a question of that kind which gave them any uneasiness, whereas I am always instinctively doubting and am sure to be aware of all the opposite side. It takes very strong effort to say 'I believe' when there is such an avalanche of 'unbelief.' But I have seen the clouds go away and the sunshine out so many times that I seldom get much discouraged now as to the result. You have said in your letter just what I needed and I have read it over and over. I brought the first one with me and like it more every time I read it. It was only yesterday that I said to some one some of the things you said to me. Do you remember that you wrote me that suffering never came when there was no chance of its doing any good? I had quite a 'gift of preaching' yesterday, and I really think that I did a very unhappy person whom I happened to fall in with, some good.
I shall be glad [gald] to get back to my hills again. These prairies are like reading the same page of a story book over and over. It seems as if the world I have been brought up in was all cleared away. Here is another long letter after all. I wish they did not seem so long. People can talk by the hour, but a dozen written pages are a great bore to most people -- Not to me! and I am not reflecting upon even that dear girl who once wrote me somewhere near forty! I was 'sort of' moralizing!
14 November 1872
Scott Frederick Stoddart also has transcribed Jewett's letters to Parsons: “Selected Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett: A Critical Edition with Commentary” (Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, 1988). His transcription of this letter differs from the one presented here (pp. 41-46), but my examination of the manuscript leads me to conclude the Cocks transcription is correct. The key difference I note between the two is in this sentence: "They were very devout and are said to be a most pious community but they certainly do not look so." Stoddart substitutes "decent" for "devout." Jewett appears to have marred the "v" in the word, making it somewhat difficult to read.
The Infinite and the Finite … book of Essays: The Infinite and the Finite (1872), Essays, first series (1845) and second series (1866) and third series (1868).
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Oneida settlement: The Oneida Native American community of Duck Creek remains today about 12 miles west of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Jewett visited relatives in Green Bay in the fall of 1872. See her story, "Tame Indians" (1875).
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[give me any extraordinary knowledge of Himself. It worried]: The words between these brackets contain an illegible correction in the original manuscript.
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Kate Birckhead: For information on Jewett's friendship with Birckhead, see Paula Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett, pp. 71-73, and her index for further references.
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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.
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,
17 Apr. 1873 --
17 April 1873Miss Sabra: Ancestry.com lists Mary Sabra Parsons as a daughter of Theophilus Greenleaf Parsons and Catherine Amory Chandler, born on 6 August 1842 in Taunton, MA. Findagrave.com dates her death as October 16, 1910. She is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.
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.
14 May 1873
14 May 1873
the magazine: This reference to a magazine containing an essay by Parsons from around May 1873 remains mysterious. He published a collection of essays, The Mystery of Life and Other Papers in 1879. Perhaps his essay was included in that collection.
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.
14 September 1873Father 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).
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
7 Feb. 1874
Ellen Mason … Grace Gordon: For information on Jewett's female friends during this period see Paula Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett, p. 73, and her index for further references.
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."
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
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! --
This Mr. Lord … Buckminsters … Daniel Webster:Mrs. Walker … James: James Walker, a nice boy, a freshman at Harvard. Jamaica Plain is a suburb of Boston. Can these Walkers be identified?
"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.
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. It appears to mean the comma after "but there isn't" in the passage just quoted.
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 [in ms. "reason" is added, raised above the line] 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 -- [Jewett added "from" over this dash] 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
14 April 1874
[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.
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
26 April 1874
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 problems: Wikipedia 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.
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
4 June (1874?)
read aloud to a woman .. used to be my teacher: This teacher has not been identified.
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.
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.my aunt's at Rye… (Mrs. Bell's at Little Boar's Head): also in July 28, 1877, she reports visiting her aunt and cousins Gilmans and Bells at this location. Her great aunt was Mary Bell. Her great-uncle Charles Henry Bell was a distinguished lawyer, judge and historian. See Blanchard, p. 106.
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
19 July 1874
a story of mine: "Miss Sidney's Flowers appeared in July, 1874. See below.
Wells Beach 23 Aug. 1874
Dear Prof. Parsons
I hope you haven't thought it odd that I have not taken any notice of your letter. I have never cared so mach for you as I have since it came or thought of you more, but I have been 'on the wing' and I always like to write you when I can be quiet. And I have wished also to wait until I knew, somewhere near, the time I could go to Rye. I think it will be in about a week -- somewhere near the 30th. I have a friend staying with me here, who is also to visit me at home and some one else is coming whom I cannot leave very well. I want to see you so much and being here reminds me of you more than any other place. I like so much to go to that window where we had our first talk. I have enjoyed being here with my friend for I have had her all to myself. I want to talk to you about her. And by the way, she has heard a great deal about you from Miss Annie Silsbee of Trenton who is a dear friend of hers.**
I was more happy than I can tell you, when you said such kind things about "Miss Sydney's Flowers".** I felt as if I had really achieved something! You are so good to me and I hope and pray I shall not disappoint you or my other friends. I have made a great many plans about writing this fall and I hope to be very busy. But all this I can talk about and need not write. Will you be good enough to send me (at home) just one line to tell me where I may find you? I am going to Aunt Mary's** and shall spend the afternoon with you if you will have me. I know you will. Please remember me to Mrs. Parsons and your daughters. Always your loving
23 Aug. 1874
Miss Annie Silsbee of Trenton: An acquaintance of Parsons, not as yet further identified. Help is welcome.
"Miss Sydney's Flowers": "Miss Sydney's Flowers" first appeared in The Independent (26:1-4) for July 16, 1874, and then was collected in Old Friends and New in 1879.
Aunt Mary: Probably Jewett's great-aunt, Mary Bell. Her husband, Charles Bell, was a prominent judge, historian, and historian. See Paula Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett, p. 106.
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
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.
9 Sept 1874
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.
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.
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
27 Sept. 1874
"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.
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
25 Oct. 1874
eclipse: Wikipedia 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.
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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.
South Berwick, 6 Jan. 1875
Dear Prof. Parsons.
I hoped to see you long ago or I should have written to thank you for your kind letter. I put off my Boston visits again, until after the holidays; but I have been ill and am just beginning to go out again. It was nothing serious, only I had a shocking 'cold' which, as usual left a cough behind it, and I always have to be careful. I hope it is not too late to wish you a happy New Year. At any rate I do so most heartily. I wish I could see you this afternoon and have a long talk, but I hope I shall see you before very long as I mean to go to Boston about the middle of the month, which is not far off now. I don't wish to go away until I am perfectly strong again. I shall be in a great hurry to get out to Cambridge I can tell you! -- Your letter was such a pleasure to me and I learned much from it as I always do -- but those things are to be talked about soon (I hope) so I will not write a long answer now. I only wished to tell you why I had been silent, though I'm sure you did not suspect that I ever forget you for even a day. And I wished to send you my good wishes for the new year. With much love
I am beginning to feel very grand for I was advertised among the "crack contributors" to the Independent. Isn't that a step ahead!**
6 Jan. 1875"crack contributors" Jewett refers to the Independent beginning to list her among its well-known contributors in advertising future issues.
South Berwick 25 Jan. 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons.
I meant to thank you for your kind note the very next morning after it came but I have put if off from one day to another, though I can't tell how many times I have thought of it. It is such a delight to me to have given you pleasure, and it was so kind of you to have sent that little letter. -- I think "Patty" was a nice girl, and I wish I could be as thoughtful always myself, but it is so much easier to put good people into a story than it is to be good oneself!** I am always conscious of some edifying remarks father made once, when I had written a story about a little girl who was orderly and who always finished whatever she began. He mentioned the fact that guide-posts never travel over the roads which they point out etc. -- and it was such an appropriate fact to mention at that time! I wish I had something to tell you. I have finished the Deephaven Excursions** after a good deal of hard work for I foolishly hurried toward the end of my copying. I have sent it to Mr. Howells and am waiting his decision. I shall be sorry of course if he doesn't like it as well as he did the other, but still, I have had a great deal of pleasure in writing it, and I don't expect to have all my stories prove successful. -- I only wonder I have had so many printed. I send you a copy of some verses of mine which were in this month's "St. Nicholas".** Father took a fancy to them and we have had fun over the idea of there being so much moral for so little buttercup! I haven't been out much lately, and couldn't improve the last of the good skating for I have had the rheumatism, and I don't like to be out much in the cold because if I get a great pain in my shoulder it hurts me to write and to breathe and I get everlastingly cross! But for a person of my age -- old and rheumatic -- I have been in a remarkably good state of health this winter and have enjoyed life astonishingly.
The last two or three days I have been reading with all my might. I have had little time for it during the last two months. I have read three jolly novels and two books of poetry and the Duke of Argyle's essays on Primeval Man and a pile of old Atlantics and a bit of some other things** -- lately, and I have felt lazy and had a very good time indeed. The rheumatism has been a good excuse for not doing anything, and then I had a sense of conscious rectitude after my story went off.
Father is very well, and would be delighted to send you some message if he were here, I'm sure but he is down at Saco today. I hope Mrs. Parsons is better -- please give her my love. I wish I could go to see you today instead of sending this letter. I am beginning to wish awfully that I were in Boston -- though I never have been so contented in Berwick in winter-time before. Oh, I was reading a book called "Una and her Paupers" the other day and I found something at the end of it about Miss Emily and what she did in the hospitals.** I always wish I knew more about her work there. I think I couldn't have helped going if I had been older -- but I never could have done such splendid, useful work as Miss Emily did though I would have done the best I could 'under orders'. Goodby with ever so much love
25 Jan. 1876
Patty: "Patty's Dull Christmas," first appeared in The Independent (27:25-27) on December 23, 1875 and was collected in Play Days in 1878.
Deephaven Excursions: "Deephaven Excursions" appeared in Atlantic Monthly (38:277-290), September 1876.
some verses of mine which were in this month's "St. Nicholas": "Discontent" first appeared in St. Nicholas (3:247) February 1876. The February issue would have appeared in January.
Duke of Argyle's essays on Primeval Man: George Douglas Campbell, Duke of Argyll's Primeval Man: An Examination of Some Recent Speculations appeared in 1869 (London). The collection of essays were critiques of Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory. (Research: Julia Hollins).
"Una and her Paupers" the other day and I found something at the end of it about Miss Emily: Parsons's daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was a nurse during the Civil War and founded the Cambridge Hospital. Her father gathered a collection of her letters about her work to benefit the Cambridge hospital: Memoir of Emily Elizabeth Parsons (1880). "Una and her paupers:" memorials of Agnes Elizabeth Jones by J. Jones, Florence Nightingale, and L. P. Brockett was published in 1872.
South Berwick 27 March 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
I have just come home from Portsmouth where I have been spending a few days, and I find your book and note lying on my desk. Thank you ever so much, for I am sure I shall enjoy the book and shall learn a great deal from it. I have been meaning to write to you but I have been sick for a month -- first with a horrid sore throat and afterwards with the most outrageous attack of rheumatism, which I began to think would never be well out of the way. I have done almost nothing, and it is a great disappointment for I hoped to have finished two stories by this time. I suppose it's all right and I shall not fret about it any more than I can help. I feel ever so much better for my visit, but I am not good for anything yet, and I may have the rheumatism again any day! I feel six months older than Methuselah ever did,** and it seems a year since I was in Boston. I have been reading a greet deal since I have been staying in the house, and one book has interested me particularly for it was almost entirely new. It is the Royal Commentaries of the Yncas, and was written by a descendant of the Yncas themselves -- who died early in the seventeenth century -- and who lived in Cuzco** until he was twenty or thirty years old. I was most interested in the account of the government and the religious ideas, and I don't know when I have taken more pleasure in any book. There are two large volumes and I have not quite finished them yet. I should like so much to talk with you about them. I suppose Mr. Prescott's book was taken partly from this.** I have been reading Miss Martineau's "Eastern Life" over again and I find I like it better every time.** Oh dear! I have so many things to ask you and to say to you, and I wish I could see you this afternoon and have a long talk. I am so glad to have the new book -- that will be something like having a talk with you! How is Mrs. Parsons now? I hope to hear she is quite well again, and won't you please give my love to her and Miss Sabra. I must say goodbye -- not having written anything worth writing, I know, but you will forgive it. Yours always sincerely
27 March 1876
your book: Assuming this was Parsons's latest book, it probably was Outlines of the Religion and Philosophy of Swedenborg (1876).
older than Methuselah: According to Genesis 5:25-26, Methuselah lived more than nine hundred years.
Royal Commentaries of the Yncas … Cuzco …Mr. Prescott's book: Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616) published his First Part of the Royal commentaries of the Yncas in Lisbon, Portugal in 1609. Cuzco is in Peru. Wikipedia says: "William Hickling Prescott (May 4, 1796 – January 28, 1859) was an American historian and Hispanist, who is widely recognized by historiographers to have been the first American scientific historian." Among his major works was A History of the Conquest of Peru (1847).
Mrs. Martineau's "Eastern Life": Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), English religious writer and reformer, who repudiated her faith and produced radical writing later in her career. Her travel book Eastern life, Present and Past appeared in 1848.
South Berwick 3 Apr. 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
I have been meaning to write you every day for a week, but there have been so many things to prevent and now at last I have a little time for a talk. I wish so much it could really be a talk, because I have so much to say that I never could get it all into a letter. I like the new book more and more and I have learned a great deal from it as I knew I should. I find that I understand it without much trouble, at least it seems as if I did, though I always have a suspicion that a great deal may escape the wisdom I bring to the reading! But then, it is pleasant that one leaves something for the next time, isn't it?
Last night I was thinking about that first time I ever knew you at Wells, and I tried to remember the first time you ever spoke to me and suddenly it flashed into my head that we were on the piazza at the side of the house looking toward the marshes and 'the point' and we [we we] were looking at a yacht, or a ship out at sea and you gave me your spyglass and pointed it and we talked a little while. It was very odd that that should have been the beginning, for I believe that ever since you have been helping me to know more and see more than I should if I had been left to myself. This has been one of the times when I have liked reading your books, and so many things have come to me. I suppose it is with me as with everyone else: I can't read such things some times -- and I never try to 'make myself'.' -- I want to say a great deal about this last book and I could 'say' it if we were talking, but I think it is hard to write it. It seems to me there must be a great many people ready to learn and longing to learn just what they
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South Berwick 3 May 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
I haven't much to tell you only I felt like writing. -- I have been working like a beaver, trying to get my stories done and now things begin to look a little more hopeful. Mr. Howells thinks I had better not try to have the book come out until next spring, and, though I am disappointed in one way, still it is a great relief. Having been sick has of course hindered me very much and used up the time I supposed should have been for work -- and I should have had to write a good deal in the hottest weather, if the book had come out in September or October -- as I thought it would at first. I can make it better I think by having this summer's experiences to put into the list of "Deephaven" affairs. Just now I have a friend visiting me and I do not work quite so steadily [steadilly] though she goes over to the old house with me almost every day and sleeps or reads while I write awhile, and then we go out for a walk together.** This is just the Mayflower season and we are both very fond of them. We had such a lovely walk down the river bank yesterday!
Since I wrote you I have grown very much interested in another friend -- a girl several years younger than I. She is the daughter of a Methodist minister who has been stationed here -- and I knew her a little in the winter -- but she lived in another part of the village and I never saw much of her -- but after a while I found out that they have had such a pitiful time -- for they are very much nicer people than their parishioners, who took a dislike to Lily's father and have had "no end of a row" all the time he has been here.** I heard of it of course, but I didn't take much interest in it until this spring, and then I felt so sorry and so ashamed that I hadn't been on the look-out for so plain a chance of giving people pleasure and making them have a better time. Other people felt so too, and I think the last of their stay was really much pleasanter. 'The Minister' is a scholarly man who is sensitive and morbid and never had the handling of such a parish as 'the Landing parish' before -- and he didn't understand the people any better than they did him I suppose. I liked Lily when I first saw her, and lately I have seen her almost every day -- and she is such a nice girl. I have tried ever so hard to help her, and it seemed like going over my own nineteenth year again -- for she has been going through with very much the same thins I did then and she gets very forlorn often times -- which I understand perfectly. It is so pleasant to have her care about me. It is the first time I have had a girl so much younger than I for a crony, and I am so glad to be older than she, and to be where I could make things easier. It almost frightened me to find how much she cares for what I say, for I am always getting into snares myself. She went away yesterday and she seemed so sorry to say goodbye and I'm sure I was. But they're going to one of the nicest parishes in the state (Farmington) and she is going to school again, or will go on with some studies at least -- for that is pretty much all she delights in -- beside her music. You don't know how much I am interested in her, and I am sure she will make a fine woman by and by. I only hope she will be like her mother, and I think she will. She is just waking up now to what life means, and it has been hard -- but she seems a great deal happier. I hope you aren't tired with all this long story -- but I wanted to tell you. It has done me good being with her -- and I realize more than I ever did before that the best thing in the world is to be helpful. I must end my letter in a hurry. I believe I don't do anything more than five minutes at a time (except sleeping) for we are to have a fair at the church and there is 'company' at the house -- and I am running errands and scribbling at odd minutes. Please give my love to Mrs. Parsons -- and to Miss Sabra. I think I may go to Boston within a fortnight just for a day or two and I shall go out to Cambridge if I possibly can.
3 May 1876
the old house: In May 1876, Jewett was living in what later became the Jewett-Eastman House and the South Berwick Public Library. It appears that she sometimes went next door to write, at the Jewett homestead.
another friend … daughter of a Methodist minister …Lily: Lillian Munger (born c. 1862), daughter of Charles Munger (1818-1898), who served as a Methodist minister in South Berwick (1874-1876). See Marti Hohmann, "Sarah Orne Jewett to Lillian M. Munger: Twenty-Three Letters," Colby Quarterly 22 (March 1986) 28-35.
31 May 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
I have been meaning and hoping to write you ever since I came home but I have been so busy with visitors and sewing and getting ready for my N.Y. and Philadelphia visits that I have been in a continual hurry. I am to leave for New York the eighth I believe, but I must confess I am not enthusiastic -- for it is so pleasant here, and I dread the hot weather. Both my sisters are going with me and I dare say we shall have a jolly time after all, and I think it is very naughty to dislike going, especially when so many people I know wish to go to the Centennial and cannot! --**
I liked that novel "The Three Feathers" ever so much and I was glad I did not read it when we had it in Littell for it was so nice to have it week before last, one day when I was tired and felt exactly like reading it.** I will send it back to you soon. I wish I could have stayed longer that day when I went to see you, but I was an hour late at Ellen's as it was! I had a very nice talk with her that afternoon only I wished to stay longer there too. I hate having to hurry about as I did while I was in Boston! There are ever so many things I wish to tell you, but the stories are too long and I must say goodbye. I wish I could see you this beautiful day! Yours ever lovingly
31 May 1876
the centennial: During May through November 1876 an International Centennial Exhibition took place in Philadelphia to commemorate the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. See Jewett's story, "The Flight of Betsey Lane," in A Native of Winby.
that novel "The Three Feathers" ever so much and I was glad I did not read it when we had it in Littell: Three feathers: a Novel by William Black (1841-1898), appeared in 1875. Black authored a Jewett favorite, The Princess of Thule (1874).
12 July 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons.
Did you ever know such hot weather? I am very glad to have seen the Centennial, but the heat was awful and if I had had to stay two or three weeks longer I think I should have hated the Centennial and Philadelphia with an undying hatred and never wished to go back there again! This is not very sensible I know, but every time I go out of reach of the sea in summer I solemnly declare I never will again. -- But I don't wish all this to make you think that I didn't have a good time and enjoy a great deal. My visit in New York was charming. There were six girls visiting my friend at once, at the Windsor Hotel and we were as jolly as any six girls you ever saw!** I was there two weeks and then in Philadelphia between two and three. I learned a great deal at 'the Centennial' and saw it as carefully and faithfully as possible. I wish I were with you and could chatter about the sights. When I try to tell you what I liked best it is very hard, because I liked so many things 'best'! There was a big bronze vase in the Japanese department with its handles made of cluster of swallows snarled together as only a Japanese could snarl them. -- I think this comes first but how can I forget a picture called "Betty" and another picture of a donkey out in a snowstorm and a Japanese picture of a triumphal procession of grasshoppers and a bust of Helen of Troy, and some Norwegian wax figures and a lovely Florentine mosaic and some old Peruvian pottery and then there was a bewitching machine over in Machinery Hall which made peppermints all day long. I could go on with this list all day** -- and I may as well stop here. I shall have no end of things to tell you when I see you again. I meant to write you and thought of it almost every day but I was so busy and so tired that I hardly found [fround] time even for writing shabby little notes home. I haven't much to tell you beside this (which I fear is hardly worth telling). We are having visitors constantly now and I am stupid and lazy since I came home and have not touched some copying I meant to finish as soon as I got back. I am hoping to go to the sea shore for two or three weeks by and by. My aunt and cousins whom I have visited at Little Boar's Head in July for several summers, are all abroad -- and so I am waiting longer than usual and I miss the sea. Yesterday some of us went out to the Shoals and that was delicious.**
I have not said a word about your letter which came just before I left, and which I carried with me, and thank you for most heartily. I wish I knew some better way to thank you for it than by writing a few words on a sheet of paper.
I am hoping to see one of my Deephaven sketches in the Aug. Atlantic which is due in a few days now.** It is one I wrote in the winter and I think I told you about it. I wonder if you are to be anywhere near here this summer? Good by Yours lovingly and sincerely.
12 July 1876
Windsor Hotel … New York: Wikipedia says: "The Windsor Hotel was located at 575 Fifth Avenue (at the corner of East 47th Street) in Manhattan, New York. The seven-story hotel opened in 1873, at a time when hotel residency was becoming popular with the wealthy, and was advertised as "the most comfortable and homelike hotel in New York. It burned down in 1899 with great loss of life.
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the Philadelphia centennial: Jewett provides a number of details that impressed her at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. For further information about the exposition see Wikipedia, particularly the bibliography.
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the Shoals: Isles of the Shoals off the coast of Portsmouth, NH.
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one of my Deephaven sketches in the Aug. Atlantic: "Deephaven Excursions" appeared in Atlantic Monthly (38:277-290), September 1876. The September issue would have appeared in August.
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24th August 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
Your letter was a God-send, as I believe your letters always are -- and since it came I have been thinking a great deal. It is exactly what I wish to do, this being in earnest about my work and being helpful through the stories I send away to be printed -- and those stories of mine which I like best are the ones you speak of in saying that "in some" I am "on the way". And I hope with all my heart (I believe, too) that I can go on learning faster and faster and may have more and more that grand gift of using my knowledge and the good I get -- to help other people. And besides this I hold on fast to one sentence in your letter 'The best we can do is the thing we ought to do'. -- Through the times of carelessness and indifference, I do try never to lose sight of my work and what I wish to make it. I am not contented with anything short of the best, and I can see how you are discontented with those Deephaven sketches. I wish I could always write things that would do people good and that I could always have a meaning underlie everything else as I did in Miss Sydney and the Dull Christmas, but those successes seem to come rarely and you may be sure I take fast hold of plans like them. I want to say a word about Deephaven though, and particularly this one you have just read. The first sketch I know has nothing in it beyond mere entertainment -- but I felt a much deeper interest in the others -- they are both 'true' and I know you would have felt better satisfied with the 'funeral sketch' if the authorities had not left out a few paragraphs which I wrote carefully and which held for me the meaning of that pathetic breaking-up of a pitiful family. I don't remember it very accurately now, but I know I said something about our lives having two sides and although we might be apparent failures in this world still there was a chance that life had been a grand success. And I said how few in this world poor or rich touched satisfaction, and how this man's hopes and wishes might all have been realized in a decent sort of farm and a thousand or two dollars in the bank, -- and I said that when his wife died his world had come to an end, as it were, and he was bewildered and discouraged and could not fight so hard and so useless a battle as life seemed to him. There was something, too, (which followed the man's saying that he had 'gone' -- when the funeral had left the house -- ) about the invisible world's being so near -- but I can't remember that at all. I was very sorry when I found these things had been left out, for (to me) they gave more character to the sketch. In writing the sketch of Miss Sally Cutts the most touching thing to me was her perfect faith in God, and her being so uncomplaining when (to 'worldly' eyes at least), she had lost everything. I do like writing such stories as these of real lives -- and I think there is no reading which interests me so much. I learn from a life more than from preaching and you don't know the lessons I get every week from the country people whom I see and talk with. -- It seems to me if I lived in a city, all the time with the same set of people, I should like knowing the way people felt and thought out of my set and particularly country people and simple people who are a great deal out of doors and know nothing about 'society'. -- I suppose it is because I feel this so strongly that I have enjoyed 'Deephaven' -- And yet the pleasure of making a study of life, does not compare with the consciousness that one has known a life well enough to see where one may help to unravel a snarl, or to make. it interesting and worth while, where it seemed dull before; -- and to bring more purpose, and the thought of God oftener -- to help the life to be a more Christian life. --
When I try to think about myself it frightens me to think how likely I am to fail in doing this. So many days seem to be lost in careless drifting, and even in doing the best work I often do not have the best motive for I like to please my friends and not to disappoint them, and there is a great deal of pride which would let me worry and be sorry if I failed, even though I had done the best I could and God did not mean for me to succeed. Sometimes I wonder why I do not know myself better, when I find it so easy to know other people. If I try to "think myself over" there is almost always something which stops me -- and I can go no farther. There is one thing; I am sure I don't get discouraged as I used with myself, and I understand better now that I am here to learn lessons, for one thing. I came across something in Fénélon the other day that I liked very much -- 'We ought not to be discouraged because the harder we try to be good the more wickedness we discover in ourselves. It is because the sun is coming up and we see clearly all the things that were indistinct or hidden while we were still in the dark'. -- I do care to be loved and I have a great deal to make me happy as you say in your letter, but I have had a great deal that is hard, and the hardest has been myself -- to fight against, and yet duty does not seem so much of a cloud as you think it does -- and it seems less of a cloud every year. I do long to be better and my being able to write gives me such a chance for being helpful -- but it seems often as if I tried to be generous to people when my purse was empty. Getting closer to God: that is the great thing, and I don't think of Him half enough -- I am always forgetting Him and what I am trying to do -- and the more I realize that He is our Best Friend the less it seems to me I know how to gain a way of living that will let me understand better and be more filled with love for Him, and more earnest in doing His work. It is always 'through a glass, darkly', with me -- and I suppose it must always seem so for He is so great and there will be so much beyond us. But nothing makes life seem better and more worth while than to think we are always to spend it in finding out more of the love of God and more of his wisdom.
You never will know how much I thank you for taking so much interest in my work and in me -- and for helping me as you have, ever since I have known you. You do not know how much you have done for me, or how much you have helped me to do for myself. I have written a long letter but I wish I could burn it and have a long talk with you. I have read your letter over and over and there is more in it every time than I saw before -- I am sure that in heaven I shall find some new words -- for there are some things now, I can never say for lack of them. Goodbye and God bless you
24th August 1876
Miss Sydney and the Dull Christmas: "Miss Sydney's Flowers" first appeared in The Independent (26:1-4) for July 16, 1874, and then was collected in Old Friends and New in 1879. "Patty's Dull Christmas" first appeared in The Independent (27:25-27) on December 23, 1875 and was collected in Play Days in 1878.
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the 'funeral sketch" … breaking-up of a pitiful family: See "In Shadow," in Deephaven.
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Fénélon: François de Salignac de la Mothe Fénelon (1651-1715) was a French writer, theologian, and bishop. Having served as tutor to Louis XIV's grandson, the Duke of Burgundy, Fénelon was intimately connected with the French court, even after he was fell out of favor with the king. He submitted to the Church's condemnation in 1699 of his Maxims of the Saints, and continued as Archbishop of Cambrai (1695-1715) - in exile from the court - until his death. He is well-remembered in part for his great acts of charity during the War of the Spanish Succession. (Sources: "Life of Fénelon," by Lamartine, in Fénelon, Adventures of Telemachus. O. W. White, editor, 1886; and Voltaire, The Age of Louis XIV, Ch. 38).
The source of this quotation is unknown; assistance is welcome: 'We ought not to be discouraged because the harder we try to be good the more wickedness we discover in ourselves. It is because the sun is coming up and we see clearly all the things that were indistinct or hidden while we were still in the dark.'
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'through a glass, darkly': Corinthians 13:12.
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26 Aug. 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
Have you any idea whether they keep the manuscripts of the magazine stories? I find I have not any copy of that part of the sketch which was left out, for some of it I wrote 'out of my head' when I was copying. I should like to get it, and yet I don't like to bother Mr. Howells** and find fault with him, since he is so kind and has taken so much trouble for me. I was very sorry that the sketch had to be shortened but I thought that Mr. H -- knew I was wishing it would be published, and it was too long, and those passages would be less missed than any of the narrative. I wish he had told me for I could have easily shortened the article five or ten pages and not have done it so much harm. I know they keep some of the articles in Manuscript and perhaps I could write to the Riverside Press and get mine. Do you think so? Indeed I wish to know what you have to tell me about it, and I am counting upon seeing you. I probably shall not see Boston until late in the month, -- I can't tell exactly. I am to visit a friend in Concord and I wait her summons. I am to be at the sea-shore for awhile first -- and I can't make any definite plans until I hear from my friend. I am not to stay in Boston for a visit I think -- but I shall see you. Yours sincerely
The reason I want the ms. is if I put the stories together in a book I should like to have the whole of this.
26 Aug. 1876Mr. Howells: William Dean Howells (1837-1920) was editor of Atlantic Monthly from 1871-1881, after serving 5 years as a subeditor. Jewett's first Atlantic publication was "Mr. Bruce," published under the pen name of A. C. Eliot in December 1869. It was collected in Old Friends and New in 1879.
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25 Oct. 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
I went to see Mr. Osgood and Mr. Niles and found them both very kind.** I had a long talk with them both and they both were ready to take the sketches if I chose to get them ready. I think your note and Mr. Howells's did the business and it was plain to see that they wondered why they never had heard of such a shining light before! I am very much puzzled to decide between the two. For some reasons I incline toward Mr. Osgood but there are equally strong arguments for going to Robert Boas. They both said they would give ten per cent on the copy- -- after the expenses had been paid -- Mr. Osgood said; and Mr. Niles said after the first edition, but if the book were sure of a sale they sometimes gave new writers the percentage from the first, as they did the old writers. Mr. Osgood talked rather more fully than Mr. Niles did with me -- and seemed to take a great interest in the thing -- though I told him I was not going to decide at all at present and that I was going to see Roberts. He told me I was quite right in getting settled to my mind and that Roberts would be as safe as anyone could be. I am to write him in a week or two -- and in the meantime Mr. Niles is to look over the sketches and tell me what he thinks. He said something about it being safer usually to begin with a new book, which I know very well, still my point is to publish the Deephaven book and I mean to make it longer and better than it is now. I suppose in a business way Roberts is more flourishing and more go-ahead. I have the greatest confidence in your opinion of him but I only wish you and Mr. Howells had settled upon the same publisher. Mr. Howells has always spoken of Mr. Osgood and it is natural that he should advise me to go to him since they are good friends and Mr. Howells's [Howells] books have been so successful and so well managed. I like the company at Mr. Osgood's [Osgoods], but one must not sacrifice too much to that -- and certainly the Roberts have never published any but the nicest books -- and I am sure that whichever I take I shall be in good hands, and cannot regret much. You see I am more undecided than ever! The great point is whether Osgood is going down and Roberts going up and whether Mr. Niles is so sure and permanent a person in his firm as Mr. Osgood in his. If Mr. Niles should go away, the Roberts's would be a very different firm. I could not write you before for I stopped on the way and did not get home until yesterday. My father is away until tomorrow and I can't talk with him. It is not much in his line at any rate! Do you think Mr. Howells would mind my not taking his advice? He has been so very kind to me, you know -- and I should be sorry to do anything wrong. I don't believe you will find what I say at all satisfactory. I seem to be waiting for something to turn up! Perhaps Mr. Roberts or rather Mr. Niles will not want the sketches after all when he reads them over and thinks about it. I wish I could have stayed longer the other day -- but I am glad to have seen you for even that time. It was dark as a pocket when I got back to Jamaica Plain, and it was lucky I did not stay longer for I was staying with a most punctual family -- and it would have been mortifying if I had been late to dinner you know! Good-bye Yours always
25 Oct. 1876Mr. Osgood and Mr. Niles … Robert Boas … Roberts: Wikipedia says: "James R. Osgood (1836-1892) was an American publisher probably best known for his partnership with Mark Twain and his involvement with the publishing company that would become Houghton Mifflin." Wikipedia also says: "Roberts Brothers (1857–1898) were bookbinders and publishers in 19th-century Boston, Massachusetts. Established in 1857 by Austin J. Roberts, John F. Roberts, and Lewis A. Roberts, the firm began publishing around the early 1860s." Wikipedia reports that Thomas Niles joined the firm in 1863 and eventually became a partner. See Blanchard's account of Jewett's dealings with publishers for Deephaven (80-81).
South Berwick 21 Nov. 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
I would have written you before if I could. I know you will believe me when I tell you that. I have decided to go to Mr. Osgood with 'Deephaven Cronies' (I hope you will like that title?) for it seemed best to do so after I had thought of it, until I was tired and had tried to find out everything I possibly could about both firms. I found that Mr. Osgood's standing was as high as a publisher and that the firm financially was all right, and that there was nothing to fear. Several people told me as you did that Mr. Niles was best in helping a book along, and that I should probably be surer of the book's becoming popular if I let him have it. But I finally have come to look at it in this way. The book will not be a very popular book anyway, and it must be decently successful if either firm has the management of it for they both have the best facilities for publishing. Mr. Howells was the cause of its being published at all -- and he has always inclined toward his friend Mr. Osgood. I think it is right and kind for me to do what will please him most and since I have found that out beyond a question, and I know he has no fears of my being unlucky, I think I shall carry out the old plan. I do not think Mr. Howells wishes me to be so much influenced by his preference -- and I know he wishes me to decide for myself without regard to him, but that doesn't alter the case, and so I shall trust the book to Mr. Osgood and my own 'good luck'. The Atlantic is after all the mainsail of my craft, and Mr. Howells has always been the kindest of friends to me and it seems the best way to decide as I have done. I do not believe I am running any risk either. I found Mr. Osgood very pleasant and kind that day I saw him and I think it is safe to trust Mr. Howells's [Howells] opinion of him as a publisher -- though I realize the truth of what you have told me about Mr. Niles. I have such confidence in your opinion of such things that it has been very hard to go against it -- Still you said in your last letter that you rather inclined toward Mr. Osgood, and that was a great encouragement. I think the sorrow of saying no to Mr. Niles takes away a great deal from my pleasure in saying yes to Mr. Osgood! I have had the kindest letters from them both. I hope your eyes are well again. I was so sorry to find they were troubling you. I cannot write more now as I fear I am already late for the mail. I will tell you just as soon as I can whatever else there is to tell and what my plan is for the book. Please don't tell Mr. Howells that I was guided so much by him -- though it was silly in me to think I need caution you!! Yours with much love
22 De. 1876
Dear Prof. Parsons
The reason I have not written you is that I have had to work very hard all the time. Mr. Osgood wants the book 'copy' to be ready as early in January as possible and I did not suppose that I should have to send it before the middle of February. I find it hard work, for I was tired when I began, and this rearranging and rewriting bothers me a great deal more because I am not used to it. However, everything is going on very pleasantly and Mr. Osgood is very kind, and I am contented. I don't do much except write, as you may imagine -- and I shall be glad to take a little vacation by and by -- for I have never worked so [to] steadily for so long. I shall take the copy to Mr. Osgood myself when it is ready, for I think it will be a much better way than to arrange the business by endless letter-writing. I am going to try to have some pretty covers on the book -- and to have it nice looking -- for I think it makes a great difference with many people. I am trying my best to make the inside of the book good -- you may be sure! I have been writing some other stories since I wrote you last -- one for the Independent called Patty's Long Vacation -- which is about the same "Patty" who had a "Dull Christmas" last year -- and another is called Lady Fery [story title is "Lady Ferry"] -- which Mr. Howells is looking at now. It completely fascinated me, but I am not at all sure that the story is a success. I have begun some other things but I had to leave them just where they were when I found how I must hurry with the Deephaven Cronies.
It was a great satisfaction to me to know that you approved my deciding to go to Mr.Osgood. I ought to have written at once to thank you for your letter and I meant to do so. Just at that time I had to be pretty careful for my eyes were not strong, and I have been neglecting my letters at any rate, for one can put those off until 'tomorrow' always. But if I did not tell you so, you may be sure I am none the less grateful.
I am getting rather low spirited about the book. I dare say it is because I am so tired of it myself that I am perfectly sure it will seem as dull to everybody else as to me. One needs to be very fresh and to feel very 'jolly' to do such work as this, do not you think so? I wish it were in October and that I had just come home from York. I am out of the spirit of Deephaven life -- though I am more interested and it seems more real to me than it did a week ago. I'm going down to Portsmouth to spend a day with Georgie Halliburton!** I think that will be a great time. I suppose I shall be in Boston to see Mr. Osgood about the fifteenth of January -- but it will be only for a day and night, and I am afraid I shall not get out to Cambridge -- the days are so short. But I am to make some visits in Boston and one in Concord in February and I shall hope to see you then certainly.
I hope your eyes are better, indeed I hope they are quite well. Will you please tell Miss Sabra that I hear once in a while from Mrs. Coale and that she and Miss Julia** seem as delighted as ever with their travels. Mrs. Coale is always so enthusiastic about Rome -- which seems to be her heart's delight. I wish you a merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years. With love, yours always sincerely
22 December 1876
"Patty's Long Vacation" …"Lady Ferry": "Patty's Long Vacation" appeared in The Independent (28:25) on May 23, 1878. "Lady Ferry" first appeared in Old Friends and New (1879).
Georgie Halliburton: See Paula Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett, p. 73, for a list of Jewett's female friends, including Georgina Halliburton.Mrs. Coale … Miss Julia: Julia would appear to be related to Mrs. Coale, who have been traveling together in Italy in late 1876. More information is welcome.
7 Jan. 1877
Dear Prof. Parsons:
I have not much that's new to tell you, but I feel like writing to you. I am getting on very well with my book though I have been sick since I wrote you last, and am getting tired. I hope to get through sometime next week and I shall be delighted. I have been in Deephaven altogether lately, and not in Berwick! If it had not been for my taking such a horrid cold it would have been easier -- still I believe it was a great deal better that I had to stop for a little while -- and I really am not so tired now as I was before. I like what I know of Mr. Osgood very much indeed and am quite contented which is a good thing. As for the new writing: I have one chapter about the widow Jim Patton -- who was a factotum of Miss Brandon's -- "Kate's" aunt who owned the house -- for I thought there ought to be one old woman gossip -- as I have so many old sailors and 'longshore men. Then I have a new beginning and a new last chapter -- and ever so many bits to put in all the way along. As I told you, I am going to Boston to see Mr. Osgood myself and attend to whatever business there is. I think the 'copy' will make two hundred pages of the size we had in mind -- and I am glad, for Mr. Osgood at first thought there might be hardly enough. I am going to make a point of having pretty covers. I did not know when I wrote you before how near I might have been to a worse complication about the publisher. I wrote to Houghton and Co. for permission to use the printed sketches in the Atlantic thinking it a mere formality -- and while they gave permission most cheerfully and wished me good luck -- they said they had intended to republish Deephaven themselves but had no wish to keep me waiting for it was uncertain as to time! It would be a pity if the book should be a failure. But I never have expected it to be 'popular'; it is not that kind of book. If my friends like it and Mr. Osgood loses no money I shall be very glad -- and of course I should like it to be a pleasant success. I do not think I am sensitive about my work. I can understand those sketches being dull to a great many people who like a plot rather than a plan -- and more of a 'story'. When I am in Boston in February I hope I shall see you more than once. I am looking forward to my visits with the greatest pleasure. Goodbye Yours with love
I hope Mrs. Parsons has no return of her last winter's illness.
7 February 1877
Dear Prof. Parsons --
I wish I could have gone out to see you week before last when I went to Boston with the book, but I was so tired and sick that I came home in a few days without finishing my visits. I overworked myself, and have just begun to feel like myself again, though I am not yet strong. I did not know how very tired I was until the book was done. Everything seems to be going on nicely, and I like Mr. Osgood very much. I have never repented of my choice though perhaps you will say that it is rather early to know the practical result of it, and that I shall be surer of my publisher when l know how the book sells (not that he will be to blame for its failure!) It is to be out before long: in March probably. I have had two packages of proofs, and the book is to be two hundred and forty pages long -- the name is to be simply Deephaven. I called it at first Deephaven Cronies as I told you I should, and I still have a lingering fondness for the name though perhaps it is not quite so 'high-toned', as they say in Philadelphia! I am going to Boston to see Mr. Osgood, (if I am well enough) next week and afterward to Concord for a little visit and then I shall be in Boston again for a few days. I shall hope to see you -- there is so much I wish to ask and to tell you. It seems a great while since I saw you and it was for only a few minutes anyway -- in October. I hope that your eyes do not trouble you as you said they did when I last heard from you. I think it the hardest thing to be patient about, at least it is harder for me -- not to be able even to read!
I have a great deal to tell you about my book, and I wish so much that I were talking with you! I have thought so often of your telling me to be careful, and to make it just as good as possible in every way. Truly, I have done my work as well as I possibly could and if it is not lucky I shall be sorry of course, but not half so sorry for myself as for my friends who have been so kind and taken so much interest in me and what I am trying to do. I think you know just how I feel about it.
I should like to write longer, but it is growing late and I am tired and stupid. It is an odd thing to happen to me but I find it takes a great effort to write at all lately. I begin with so much to say, and think I will cover three or four sheets but I can only say there is more affection than letter! With love yours sincerely
24 April 1877
My dear Prof. Parsons
Thank you for your kind note which I meant to answer before. I am very glad you like the book and I hope some time that you will tell me a great deal more about it. I should like so much to have a long talk with you this morning. I suppose you must have seen some of the many great compliments which have been paid Deephaven. I am more and more astonished at them and I am pleased -- in a way -- yet I must confess to you that I find it very hard to realize that this praise belongs to me and it all seems very vague when I try to 'take it in'. It seems almost a little sorrowful sometimes, when I think how I used to build castles in Spain about this very thing and now that I find the 'castles' in finer array even than [then] I had expected. I don't seem to care so very much for them after all! I beg you not to think that I am ungrateful, but the pleasure is such a different pleasure. I have been very busy since I came home and not at all strong. I find that I do not get rested much and the spring weather takes away the little bit of energy I had left. I wish I could see you. You do not know how much I enjoyed my long call upon you that rainy day -- or how much I learned. I wonder if you are to be anywhere in this region in the summer? I wonder if Miss Sabra has read Deephaven and if she likes it at all? I was so sorry not to see more of her. Will you please give my love to her? I am going to read more this spring for I have had so little time this winter -- and just now I am reading again some translations of the Greek tragedies -- Eschylus and Sophocles. I have always liked Antigone and that was the only one I knew much.
2 May -- I would not have believed that this letter would be so many days unfinished and it does not look as if I had been thinking of you a great deal every day -- which I have! I am either very busy or very lazy nowadays and I am quite distracted when I think of all the letters I wish to write. I wonder if you noticed in Deephaven the additions to the chapter called "In Shadow" -- Perhaps you remember that it was shortened in the Atlantic and I was sorry about it. I rewrote it for the book. I don't know that my chief thought in Deephaven is very evident -- but I think I tried most to show the truth of what 'Kate' says on page 244 -- that success and happiness are not things of chance but of choice -- and they might so easily have had a dull summer. It was certainly not at all the kind of place that most young ladies would enjoy for their summer's campaign -- but didn't they have a good time! And there is another thing. I wished to show how interested they became in the town's people, and how interesting these people were. I am so sorry for girls who are shut up in their own set of society. I should be so glad if anybody had a better time in the country this summer because she had read Deephaven! I wonder which chapters you like best? There is something -- to change the subject abruptly -- which I wish to ask you -- and that is what it means about Elisha and the children who called him names and the bears who devoured them. It was the Sunday school lesson a while ago, and it was very hard to understand. I never had thought of it before -- but the punishment seemed out of proportion to the offence. I have been meaning to ask you about it. I am always wishing I could ask you what the Sunday school lesson means! I wonder if I have told you lately about my class? I am more and more interested in it and lately I have had some new scholars whom I like and wish to help very much. I get frightened at the thought of my attempting to teach those girls, but I do the best I can. They're about twenty years old (or in that region) and they are very bright -- and all girls who have a good deal of influence here. I wish I could write longer but it is time to take my letter to the post. I always have so much to tell you and more to ask you. I wish I could see you. Goodbye, from your aff. and grateful
S. O. J.
I suppose you had a note from Ellen herself, but I believe I never have told you how delighted she was at your remembrance of her and your sending your book to her. --
South Berwick 8 June 1877
Dear Prof. Parsons
I have been a long time in answering your letter which I was so glad to have -- but I found at first little time for letters, from one reason or another, and lately I have been ill -- and am just beginning to crawl out again like an old fly in the spring. I just said this to someone else, and it told my story so well that I repeat it to you: I am so glad that you told me some of the faults you found with Deephaven -- for as you say honest criticism helps one after all more than praise. I think it would have been better to have put in a little more 'moralizing' and I should do it if I wrote another book of this kind. For myself, I like best to have the moral in the story -- to make the character as apparent as I can, as one feels instinctively [instinctively] the character of the people one meets. I always feel as if when I say anything directly as if it were awkward and that if the story itself doesn't say it, it is no use to put it in afterward. I think this is a mistake with me often times. I should be sorry to miss doing good because I carried out my fancy and pleased myself in the fashion of my writing. I hoped Deephaven might do two things -- the first to help people to look at 'commonplace' lives from the inside instead of the outside -- to see that there is so deep and true a sentiment and loyalty and tenderness and courtesy and patience -- where at first sight there is only roughness and coarseness and something to be ridiculed. And beside this it seems to me that such a life as I told about in Deephaven is so much pleasanter and more real, than what one calls 'society life'. I think so many girls I know care so little for out-door life, and its pleasures and see so few of its beauties. And do you know I made 'Kate' say that she can see how easily they might have had a dull summer -- only they chose not to have it? -- I meant to teach that if I could. I should like to write more -- but I cannot to-day. I did not wish to leave your kind letter any longer unanswered, and I wished to thank you for it and for all your interest and kindness always. Yours sincerely and affly
Sarah O. Jewett
28 July 1877
Dear Prof. Parsons
Thank you so much for your last letter. I have wished to write to you but somehow I keep putting off writing letters this summer, day after day. I have not felt at all well most of the time and I am lazier than ever! When your letter came I was staying down at Wells where I first knew you and I meant to write you from there at once because I had been thinking about you so much. It always carries me back at once to those days, when I go to Wells -- and I wished I could see you -- again and again. But how much there must be to enjoy in Nantucket! I want to go there and to Marblehead more than any places I can think of -- and I hope to make the two journeys in the course of time, neither being very long!
Didn't I tell you that I had promised Mr. Osgood to get ready a book of children's stories? I have given up the idea for the present, for I did not feel a bit like working over it all through August -- as I should have had to do. Mr. Osgood thinks it is just as well to put it off though he says the book shall be published whenever I say. I am in such a hurry to have September come for then I shall feel well and go to work again. I am so hopelessly tired and lazy all this summer and my lame shoulder and chest have troubled me more than usual. I think I hurt it while I was at Wells for the last day I was in swimming I got dreadfully used up before I knew it and I think I worked too hard on that occasion which will be a most profitable lesson to me! I am to have a jolly long time by the sea this year if everything goes right. Next week I am to spend with my aunt and cousins the Gilmans and Bells at Little Boar's Head in Rye -- They have just come from abroad and I have only been with them part of a day, so I shall have such a good time. Both my sisters are to be there too. After that some of my friends are to be here and about the middle of August or perhaps earlier I am going to York to stay with Miss Preston two weeks at least.** You don't know how very fond of her I have grown or how very kind she is to me. I am still having a great deal of pleasure from Deephaven and I don't know when I have been so proud and so glad about anything as I was of getting a letter from Mr. Whittier a few days ago. Wasn't he kind to take the trouble to write to me and to say that he had read my book three times and that he thought there was nothing better in our literature of the kind and that he thought it a complete success -- and things of that sort? I don't think a letter could have been pleasanter and I have enjoyed what he has written so much ever since I was a little girl, that I am delighted to know that anything I could do has pleased him. I have had some new notices in Magazines which were very kind. I wish you would look at one in the June Eclectic if you ever come across that number** -- for it was such high praise -- and praise that went to my heart -- and will make me try to come up to the high-water mark which the writer seems to think I have reached, and which I certainly think I have not. For I must tell you and all my friends -- again and again that I never wished to work so hard over my writing or saw the need of it so clearly as I do now. It seems to me that I never felt so entirely that I am just beginning and have no end of things to learn and to do. And I see that I must try harder than ever to be better myself if I want my stories to be really good. I am always remembering what I have often spoken to you about -- the bit from a notice of one of Miss Thackeray's books** "In short, the tenderness of a loving womanly heart pervades the whole story. It is Miss Thackeray herself in Old Kensington that makes it so delightful a book" ----. You do not know how much that taught me -- and I want to tell you again because you have helped me so much -- that I am more than ever glad of the help, and I beg you to teach me and to scold me and to show me my way, because alone I am always going wrong though I do wish to go right. How much I wish I could have a long talk with you! Good-bye -- Yours sincerely and lovingly
Please give my love to Mrs. Parsons and Miss Sabra --
28 July 1877
Miss Preston: Harriet Waters Preston (1836-1911), a writer and translator, was one of those from whom Jewett sought advice early in her career. See Blanchard, pp. 108-9.
a letter from Mr. Whittier: This letter is reprinted in Paula Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett, p. 112. Whittier reports that he is reading the novel for the third time and recommending it to his friends. He says, "I know nothing better in our literature of the kind...."
June Eclectic: This review appeared in The Eclectic in June 1877.
from a notice of one of Miss Thackeray's books: Miss Thackeray is William M. Thackeray's daughter, also a novelist, Anne Isabella Thackeray, Lady Ritchie (1837-1919). Old Kensington appeared in1873. This review has not been located. Help is welcome.
17 Sept. 1877
My dear Prof. Parsons
I have just come home from York Harbor where I have been staying for two long, delicious lazy weeks -- and I wish I were back again. Isn't that a lack of decent civility to my family! But I miss the sound of the sea and the out of door life and I miss my friends with whom I have been. The sorrow is never in getting home but in getting back -- which not very plain sentence, I think you will understand. I wrote you some time [sometime] ago and sent the letter to Nantucket where I hope you had a pleasant vacation. I wish I could go there. It is one of the places I most wish to see. I shall ask you ever so many questions about it when I see you again. I hope I shall be in Boston a good deal this winter -- but I hope that every year without my visits growing much longer. If I am only well I shall do a great deal of writing but my shoulder has troubled me more than usual through the summer and it tires me dreadfully to write more than half an hour or so. I stopped just after I wrote that and imagined your telling me there is a purpose in all this hindrance -- and I am already very sure that it is sometimes better for one's work to be hindered. But don't you think it is very hard to have to be idle, when one wishes to be busy? I have had a pleasant summer all except not feeling well. I have been by the sea a great deal, and I have seen a great many old friends and have made some charming new ones. It has made me very happy to find that I have been making friends 'unbeknownst' through Deephaven and I am so glad people like it, and yet I am more sober than ever when I think of it. But I have told you that in every letter! -- never mind! I should say a great deal about what I mean to try to do, if I were with you and a bit of it will get written down, whether or no.
I must tell you of something which has made me very happy, -- My friendship with two younger girls. I think I have spoken to you of one whom I have known for a year, but the other I have only had to do with this summer and I am so glad that I have 'helped' her to help herself. I think I have no greater wish or ambition than to be a good friend to younger girls and I hope to be of more and more use in this way as I grow older. I don't feel as if I were ready for it yet -- but I have already learned that God can do good works with very dull tools. I wish I could have a long talk with you. I do so often wish for that.
I have been enjoying one of my newer friends so much this summer. I wonder if you know much of her? Miss Preston. I know I have spoken of my fondness for her to you but I have been with her lately and I was very happy. I am very fond of her books, and to know her is a thousand times better than reading those. I am very glad to have such a friend, indeed I think there never was a girl so lucky in her friendships as I have been. You know I mean a great deal when I say 'lucky'!
I am thinking a good deal nowadays about that old plan of mine for writing a book for girls. If I were feeling better I believe I would begin it at once. I am sure of the truth of what you said once -- that perhaps I could do it better now than if I waited until later -- when I am older and may have forgotten what troubles and helps a girl. I wish I could talk with you about it. I am very glad I did not try to do this bit of work three years ago when I was thinking so much about it.
I believe Deephaven is still getting on well. I have had so much real pleasure from it, and I am so glad to have done anything my friends like, -- they have been so good to me. I want to do a great deal better next time -- but I don't wish to get that restless ambition that drives and puzzles and discontents and disappoints one. And I don't wish to get so fierce a liking for my pen and ink that all my other work will seem stupid and not worth while! There are so many things to say to you -- but good-bye! Yours lovingly and sincerely and in the hope of growing good and useful
S. O. J.
Dear Prof. Parsons
My dear Father died suddenly yesterday at the mountains. It is an awful blow to me. I know you will ask God to help me bear it. I do not know how I can live without him. It is so hard for us.
SaturdaySaturday: Jewett's father, Theodore Herman Jewett, died on Friday, September 20, 1878.
12 Nov. 1878
Dear Prof. Parsons
I was very glad to get your letter and to hear what you had to say about the book. And I certainly agree with you when you say I ought to do something better. If all goes right this winter I shall write a new book and I mean it shall be the very best I can do. I think I can write a story for girls that may help a good many who have thought and felt as I have in the last few years. I don't say this with too much self-confidence or boastfulness -- it is only that I am sure I ought to do such a thing -- if I can.
As for Playdays** -- Mr. Osgood wished to bring out something of mine this fall and I hesitated between a collection of grown-up stories and this. People have always seemed to like these and I have been urged a great many times to put them together. At any rate I think -- though they don't take any high flights of fancy or eloquence -- they have nothing in them to do children harm. I meant there should not be and I tried to make them stories of everyday life and possible things! Some of them I wrote years ago and all of them have been printed before. I have always remembered with so much pleasure that you liked one of them: "Patty's dull Christmas."
I sometimes dread the winter here very much -- not only from the loneliness which I suppose I should feel just the same everywhere -- but because I am so apt to be ill in winter. I do not mean to leave home for any length of time if I can help it. My youngest sister has just been married and that leaves only three of us at home now. I wish I could see you and talk about my plans for writing, but I think I may be in town in December. You do not know how glad I am to hear anything you will say to me. You have taught me so much already. I think of you very often and I am always yours most gratefully and affectionately
Sarah O. Jewett
12 Nov. 1878
Playdays: Play Days, Jewett's collection of children's fiction, appeared in 1878.
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
12 June 1881
Dear Prof. Parsons
I have been thinking of you a great deal lately. It seems so long since I saw you or heard from you by letter, but I suppose that is partly my fault, though when I tell you that I have been ill for a good deal more than a year -- you will be able to account for my silence. I was in Cambridge for a few days in March, and I meant to go to see you, but I was sorry to hear that you were quite sick just then and I was prevented from doing as I wished. I am very much better now, but I had a dismal long siege all last year. In the first place I got used up by writing too much and doing everything else beside! and I somehow could not grow strong again but went on month after month with a good-for-nothing head and a foot that acted as if it never meant to go of its own accord; I was really very much used up, and though I wrote a little once in a while because I couldn't help it, I had to stop all my plans and be as idle as possible. I think it has done me a great deal of good in many ways -- it was like keeping a long Lent -- and when I am quite well again I shall know even better than I do now "the gain of the loss". I wish so much to have a long talk with you that it is a little hard to write a letter. I wish I could talk with you about my stories. Just now I am making up a book which is to come out in the fall -- called Country By-Ways. It is mostly sketches of country life -- and of my own country life. So far I have simply tried to write down pictures of what I see -- but by and by I am going to say some things I have thought about those pictures. I don't know whether the pictures or the meditations will seem truest, but I know that I have found out some bits of truth for myself -- and I know one other thing -- that nobody has helped me to think more than you have. I was thinking of you in church this morning while I tried to listen to a most (to me, at least) tiresome sermon. I believe there must soon be a new-unifying interpretation of the New Testament made public or preaching will lose its hold more and more. The explanation of its contradiction, and of the letter of it, is in most men's [mens] pulpits very trite and feeble. Thoughtful people are getting very tired of the sermons they hear, and of the imagery that is taken for reality and boldly explained by worn out phrases. It is only when clergymen get hold of the spiritual meaning of the Bible that they really teach or help us; I can see that plainly enough; and I grow so impatient of the other thing that sometimes I think going to church makes me wicked! It isn't that I hear things that I know and am tired of hearing, but it is so far-fetched and false and one has the feeling that so many ministers have got into the habit of preaching, and they are not teachers of good -- either by their lives or doctrines. I believe I hate sham more and more every year! I will not scold any more, or make you tired, because I was tired myself of that poor parson! When shall I see you again? and you do not forget me, do you? for I am always yours sincerely and affectionately
Sarah O. Jewett
Sunday morning [ March - April 1875? ]
Dear Prof. Parsons --
I have been thinking I would write to you for ever so many days, but the days all seemed to be in inch pieces and I don't like to write letters I care for, in a hurry. I had a very bad cold that first week after I got home, and this last week I have been writing a little, working hard (and that is the best thing for me). Yesterday I got a little tangled up, and went off horseback riding in spite of the mud. I found two or three strips of dry sandy road where I could have a 'hurry' -- and finally after careful avoidance of mud puddles for an hour or so I pulled up my long skirt and splashed home delightfully 'through thick and thin'. The Berwick roads are not models of smoothness at the best, but Major and I didn't mind! And today I am a marvel of good temper and general amiability. I thought of you so much in church this morning. We have a new minister in the Congregational church where I go, and I like him so much. You see I am pretty sure he reads new church books very diligently, for he never could hit on so many of the ideas by accident. But I don't say a word of course -- only some day when I have a good chance I am going to try and find out from him. This morning he preached a very fine sermon from the text "The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" -- and said a great deal about God's using the children of Israel to teach the rest of the world. I had read it all and understood it before, of course -- and it seemed so odd to hear the people get so excited over the sermon and say how fine it was. Even Father was quite excited and came up the pew before the benediction was quite through with, to ask me if it wasn't very able! He usually is apt to be rather critical on the poor parsons that fall to our lot in the country -- though he never makes fun of people and is always very 'kindly disposed' as you know. But it wasn't Mr. Lewis's sermon so much as its just being the simple truth, and as you said the other day, it always interests people.**
I had a charming letter from Ellen Mason last week. She has been down to Newport for a few days and is busier than ever now. She told me such a touching story of one of her hospital acquaintances. I am so glad you liked her and that she cares so much about you. She says when I come up this Spring we must go out again to Cambridge -- but I am a little afraid I must say "if I come". It would be so nice though! She says "I am so glad to hear whatever you can repeat to me of what he said about my mother" -- and I am so sorry that I do not remember all of it. It is so strange that you should have known that about Ellen -- her intense love for her mother and her reference to her and the influence. I have known her a good while and I never thought much about it though I did recognize it and know it in an indefinite sort of way. Now it seems as if I knew her a great deal better and had the key to so many things. I have to thank you for it. I never can understand how people can think Ellen cold and indifferent for I know what a dear brave warm heart she has. I have been with her in hospitals and among poor people and she is so sweet and kind. I don't see how I am going to be of any use to Ellen. You know you said that you thought we were good friends for each other. And yet in this last letter she told me she thought she had a great deal to learn from me and that she was thankful she had known me -- wasn't that splendid! though [thought] I can't understand it in the very least. I don't believe any girl ever had such nice friends as I have. Only I wish I could see more of them. I read the paper you sent me and I don't wonder it had such a sale. I wish there were more semi-preachers as Mr. Giles. Thank you ever so much for it, and now I must stop chattering. Won't you please tell Miss Sabra and Mrs. Parsons that I was so sorry I didn't see them. -- Good-bye -- (Aren't you glad spring is coming?) With ever so much love
Please tell me what "loaves and fishes" mean in the miracle, sometime. "The five loaves and two fishes"
I wonder if you really send
These dreams of you that come and go --
I like to say, "She thought of me,
And I have known it." Is it so?
Though other friends walk by your side
Yet sometimes it must surely be,
They wonder where your thoughts have gone
Because I have you here with me.
And when the busy day is done
When work is ended; voices cease;
When every one has said goodnight
In fading firelight then, in peace
I idly rest; you come to me,
Your dear love holds me close to you
If I could see you face to face
It would not be more sweet and true.
I do not hear the words you speak
Nor touch your hands nor see your eyes:
Yet far away the flowers may grow,
From whence to me the fragrance flies.
And so, across the empty miles
Light from a star shines, Is it, dear,
You never really went away.
I said farewell and -- kept you here.
This letter refers to Jewett's father enjoying the sermon by Pastor Lewis; hence she must have written it before his death. And, as noted below, the poem she enclosed was published in May 1875.
Mr. Lewis: Pastor Lewis drew upon an idea much repeated in his time and later: "The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." This quotation appears, for example, in Living Questions of the Age Discussed by James B. Walker (1877), p. 33. Information about Pastor Lewis is welcome.
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Mr. Giles: It is likely this is Chauncey Giles (1813-1893) author of fiction and New Church literature. See The Life of Chauncey Giles: As Told in His Diary and Correspondence. What paper Parsons may refer to in this letter is difficult to determine. That Jewett describes him as a semi-preacher and mentions that the "paper" sold well suggests that it may have been fiction rather than a tract or book on doctrine. Giles's book collections of fiction included: The Magic Shoes and Other Stories (1870) and The Wonderful Pocket and Other Stories (1864).
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loaves and fishes: See Matthew 14.
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To-gether: "Together" first appeared in Atlantic Monthly (35:590) May 1875.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.
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Letters & Diairies of Sarah Orne Jewett