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     Letters & Diaries

 
 

"Yours Always Lovingly": Sarah Orne Jewett

to John Greenleaf Whittier

Edited by RICHARD CARY*

 

John A. Pollard perceptively sums up the multiple literary and social ties that bound Sarah Orne Jewett and John Greenleaf Whit­tier as "in many ways, his most nearly perfect friendship with women.”1 In view of the extraordinary reach of Whittier's female acquaintance­ship this may smack of exaggeration, but the claim is carefully exam­ined and substantiated in three later essays.2 The published letters of Whittier to Miss Jewett demonstrate lyrical rapport between an elderly gentleman averse to the accelerating tempo of the world about him and a younger gentlewoman maternally eager to shield him from it. The twenty-eight letters of Miss Jewett (1849-1909) to Whittier (i807-1892), here unfolded,3 yield collateral validation of the mutually comforting arrangement that endured between them for more than fifteen years.

     The story of the Jewett-Whittier friendship has been amply docu­mented in the sources indicated above, but it is not amiss to recapitulate briefly here. Long before they met, Miss Jewett had admired Whittier's ability to portray the intimacies of New England scene and character, and she worked sedulously in the same vein; his prelude to "Among the Hills" and her "An October Ride" furnish one of numerous parallels. On his side, Whittier had followed Miss Jewett's local color sketches in the Atlantic Monthly, deeply impressed by their veracity. They came together in the winter of 1876-1877 when Miss Jewett, in the offices of James R. Osgood, was agonizing over the color of the cover for Deephaven, her first book. The attraction was immediate and reciprocal: he described her to Annie Fields as "fresh, natural, lovable," and she con­fided to Mrs. Fields that he was "affectionate and dear." On receipt of a copy of Deephaven Whittier endorsed it as heartily as Emerson did Leaves of Grass. Thereafter they exchanged current issues of their books, published poetical tributes to each other,4 discussed manuscripts in progress, and, at least on his part, suggested subject matter for composition. They convened as often as could be arranged, at Mrs. Field's home in Charles Street (a veritable salon) or at Whittier's favorite summer vacation sites in the White Mountains of New Hamp­shire.

     Analysis of Whittier's extant letters to Miss Jewett discloses the nar­row range of topics on which he discoursed: his and her writings newly published or in production, Annie Fields, present reading, literary and political chitchat, the moods of nature, and the physical infirmities that beset both of them. He indulges in few profundities. Rather, his letters are recorded replicas of the day at Amesbury which Miss Jewett zestfully depicts: ". . . and we sat right down and went at it, and with pauses at tea-time, the conversation was kept up until after ten."5 (It must be noted that he was distressed by neuralgia all that day.) Miss Jewett's letters to Whittier represent no signal stretching of these horizons.  She dotes on equivalent themes. Woman-like, she has more to say about her family and his, and the amazing quantity of visits she is able to fit in between sessions at her writing desk. She permits glimpses into her concepts of the creative process, eschatology, and predestination, but never pauses to dilate. Essentially her letters fit hand in glove with Whittier's.

     In these letters Miss Jewett and Whittier coddled the fantasy of a static, ideal past. They constructed a sanctuary into which the shrieks and stresses of diurnal life could not penetrate; barred the doors against recurrent thrusts of metallic hands and rising swarms of urban ills. They looked through windows which were in effect mirrors, until the images therein assumed for them the guise of real figures. It was easy, in their circumscribed quarters, to spread a thick preservative glaze over their equanimity. For Whittier Sarah Jewett became the "daughter" he had never had; for Miss Jewett Whittier took the place of the father she lost all too early. Together they evolved a private, inviolate world, an Eden after the Fall. Vaguely sensing the danger of so intricate a commitment, Miss Jewett wrote him on February 16, 1882: "I suppose it would not do for us to live each other's lives." But the realization deterred them no whit. Their course had the same fascination for them as the rabbit hole for Alice.

     This in no way diminishes the significance of their correspondence. Besides complementing and enlightening many of Whittier's observa­tions to her, Miss Jewett's letters below have explicit value of their own as building blocks of literary history and as reflectors of personality. Moreover, they contain the most graphic account of Miss Jewett's de­veloping attachment to Annie Fields, particularly in the period of in­consolable grief that followed the death of her publisher husband James T. Fields in 1881. In the face of such impulsive compassion the gap of more than sixteen years in their ages posed no obstacle to an unmarred lifelong companionship.

     One other specific should not go unnoticed. Ordinarily chary of lavish endearment in the valedictions of her letters, Miss Jewett here displays unabashed feelings for Whittier by repeated usage of the title phrase or variants of it. Maine prudence usually hobbled her pen. Only to her family and to two or three females infrequently did she unleash so ardent an avowal.

R. C.

 

     *Mr. Cary is professor of English and Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Colby College in Maine.

 

[Originally published in: Essex Institute Historical Collections 107 (1971): 412-50.

Reprinted by permission of the library of the American Antiquarian Society and the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.]

 

1. John Greenleaf Whittier: Friend of Man (Boston, 1949), p. 412.

2. Joseph M. Ernest, Jr., "Whittier and the 'Feminine Fifties,' "American Literature, XXXVIII (May 1956), 184-196; Richard Cary, "Whittier Letters to Sarah Orne Jewett," Emerson Society, Quarterly, No. 50 (I Quarter 1968), pp. 11-22; Richard Cary, "More Whittier Letters to Jewett," Emerson Society Quarterly, No. 58 (I Quarter 1970), pp. 132-139.

3. Twenty-seven of the letters are in the Oak Knoll Collection, Essex Institute; the letter of March 12, 1887 is in the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachu­setts. They are published by permission of the respective institutions.

4. Whittier's "Godspeed" appeared in The Bay of Seven Islands, and Other Poems (Boston, 1883), p. 72; Miss Jewett's "The Eagle Trees," Harper's, LXVI (March 1883), 608.

5. Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett, ed. Annie Fields (Boston, 1911), p. 128.

 


 

1

South Berwick

July 27, 1877 

My dear Mr. Whittier:

     Thank you with all my heart for your letter which came last night. I think you were so kind to write to me, and I cannot tell you how glad I am that you like my book.1 I hoped you would like it a little, but I never thought you would care so much for it, and I am so glad and so proud. I have read your poems over and over ever since I was a little girl, and because I have had so much pleasure and have learned so much from what you have written, it makes me very happy to have pleased you by anything I have done.

     I remember that you told me last winter that you had been here and in Rollinsford.2 I wish you would come again and would stay with us, and give us the very great pleasure of driving you about the country wherever you care to go and of doing everything we can to make it pleasant for you. I think it never was so beautiful about Berwick as it is now,—though it is always new to me—and there is a great deal to interest one here and in York and up and down the river. My father3 wishes me to ask you if some time you will not care to come.

     Please let me thank you again for your kindness to me, for your letter will always be one of my great treasures and because you praised my works I shall try harder than I ever have before to make it better.

Yours most sincerely,

Sarah O. Jewett

 

1. Whittier's comments on Miss Jewett's first book contain several superlatives. "I must thank thee for thy admirable book Deephaven. ... I know of nothing better in our literature of the kind. ...I heartily congratulate thee on thy complete success" (Francis Otto Matthiessen, Sarah Orne Jewett [Boston, 1929]. p. 56.) Two years later he assured her "I have read Deephaven over half a dozen times, and always with gratitude to thee for such a book—so simple, pure, and so true to nature." (Samuel T. Pickard, Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier [Boston, 1895], II, 654.)

2. The family of Whittier's mother, Abigail Hussey, lived in Rollinsford. Although across the border in New Hamp­shire, Rollinsford is only one mile from South Berwick, Maine. Miss Jewett and her sisters often walked there to the house of their friend Edith Haven, who had married the Honorable Charles Doe, Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

3. Miss Jewett adored her father, Dr. Theodore Herman Jewett (1815-1878), "the best and wisest man I ever knew." During her childhood he took her with him on his daily rounds of farm and shore patients. He instilled in her a love of nature and of people, and constantly admonished her to put them down on paper "just as they are."

 


 

 

2

 

South Berwick, Maine

November 4, 1878 

My dear Mr. Whittier:

     I send you a copy of my new bookPlay Days—and I hope you will like it a little. Some of the stories were written a long time ago.1 You were so kind in liking Deephaven and I have never forgotten the pleasure you gave me.

     I have had a great sorrow lately in the death of my father,2 and as I write to you I cannot help remembering how I hoped always that you could come to us for a little visit, for I was so sure you would like driving about Berwick and father would have been so happy to have you here. And I know you would have enjoyed him, for everyone did who knew him. I miss him terribly, and most of all when I think of going on with my writing by and by.3

 

Yours sincerely,

Sarah O. Jewett

 

1. Play Days, published by Houghton, Osgood & Co. in 1878, comprised one poem and fifteen short stories for children, collected mostly from St. Nicholas and the Independent from as far back as 1871.

2. Dr. Jewett died on September 20, 1878. He secured his M.D. at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.  A graduate of Bowdoin College, he served for a time as professor of obstetrics there.

3. The first two poems in Miss Jewett’s Verses, printed posthumously in 1916, are addressed to her father, poignant recollections of his footfall breaking the silence of “the quiet house,” and the sharper loneliness of a new spring now that he was no longer here. She was slow in recovering from grief. She published nothing in 1878 after June and only five items in 1879, far below the average of her subsequent output.



 

3

 

South Berwick

February 16, [1882] 

Dear Mr. Whittier:

I have missed you very much—it has been so great a pleasure to see you often and I was always wishing that it would happen that we were neighbours. Since I came home on Monday, I have not done much except thinking about the things I have done lately, but I hope to begin a story before many days go by.

I wonder if you have gone back to Danvers?1 I venture to send this to Boston for Mrs. Fields2 tells me that you were in town yesterday, and that your brother3 has been ill. I am very sorry for I know you will be worried and sad. I wish that I could do some little things for you, but after all I suppose it would not do for us to live each other's lives, and though we wish with all our hearts to take away the troubles of the people we love it would be anything but kindness.

I have not read The Year 134 yet. I have not felt exactly like reading—for I am like a boat that is coming round into the wind to start on another tack—and I have to drift a little first! I took up Warner's Life of Irving5 for a half hour last night and I liked it very much. I wonder if you have read it? Give my love to Mrs. Claflin and the Governor.6 I hope you have seen Mrs. Fields again. You don't know how much I have missed her. My sister7 went away this morning and I was sorry for myself but I am glad for her sake. I know she will have so much pleas­ure. You do not know how much love I send to you always when I think of you, and now there is more than ever before.

Yours always sincerely,

Sarah Jewett

 

1. In 1875 Whittier's cousins, the Misses Johnson and Abby J. Woodman, pur­chased a farm of sixty acres in Danvers and invited him to make his home there when­ever he wished. The place was notable for beautiful lawns, orchards, gardens, and grapevines. Whittier suggested the name of "Oak Knoll," which was immediately adopted.

2. Annie Adams Fields (1834-1915), widow of the publisher James T. Fields, became Miss Jewett's closest friend and confidante. Miss Jewett spent most of the winter at Mrs. Fields's Boston home and part of every summer at her cottage in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. They traveled extensively together through the United States, on four Euro­pean tours, and a Caribbean cruise. Mrs. Fields edited the first collection of Miss Jewett's letters in 1911, published a small life of Whittier (New York, 1893), and several volumes of her own verses.

3. Matthew Franklin Whittier (1812-1883), never a robust man, spent his middle years in Portland, then took a position in the Boston Custom House. He published a series of caustically humorous anti-slavery letters under a pseudonym. At this time John wrote to Miss Jewett: "My brother has been very ill, but is now somewhat, though I fear not permanently, better. The last of our family, he is a kind, unselfish man, whose way of life has been hard and difficult." (Pickard, II, 676.)

4. Fritz Reuter, In the Year '13: A Tale of Mecklenburg Life, translated by Charles Lee Lewes. The best-known edition was the Tauchnitz (1867) but there were nu­merous later reprintings, such as the G. Munro (New York, 1878). The book gives many vivid pictures of Franco-German confrontation in the Napoleonic era, rendered in Reuter's local dialect, Platt-Deutsch.

 5. Charles Dudley Warner, Washington Irving (Boston, 1881). Whittier admired "the smooth gracefulness" of Irving's style and modeled his own in part on it. The effect of this influence is "painfully obvi­ous" in Whittier's first book, Legends of New England (1831).

 6. Whittier was the frequent guest of Mary Davenport Claflin and William Claflin, governor of Massachusetts, 1869-1871, at their town and country houses. Mrs. Claflin (1825-1896) wrote three volumes on the New England scene and Personal Recollections of John G. Whittier (New York, 1893). Governor Claflin (1818—1905) was like Whittier ardently anti-slavery; he was a trustee of Claflin University, a Negro institution in South Carolina. Miss Jewett was equally intimate with the Claflins.

 7. Mary Rice Jewett (1847-1930), Sar­ah's elder sister. She, like Sarah, remained a spinster and kept in close touch through­out her life. Sarah dedicated A White Heron and Other Stories (1886) to her.

 


 

 

4

South Berwick

February 21, 1882

Dear Mr. Whittier:

     Don't think that you must answer this letter—if I thought I gave you a bit of trouble I should be so sorry! But I am a very near relation of yours now, you know;1 and I like to have something to do with you and just now, sending a letter is the only way. I can't say how glad I was to hear from you this morning. It was like being with you again for a few minutes, and to tell the truth I have been wishing that I could put myself back into the midst of those days in Boston. I have missed Mrs. Fields so much! I fairly long to see her again and it seems a month instead of a week since I came away. I hear from her very often and that is a great pleasure, but every letter makes me wish all the more to be close beside her.2 I think you know better than most people can how dearly I love her, for you know how well worth the best love in the world she is. I could not love her any better now, but I shall by and by, as fast as I grow better myself. I do not believe you begin to know how much she cares for you, she so often spoke of you in the most loving and tender way, and she was always a great deal happier after she had seen you. I am so glad that you are to be in Boston again early in March and I have already made a plot to go down for a day and night and perhaps we will have another twelve o'clock breakfast, and tell some new ghost stories, and be otherwise dismal!

     My sister Mary went to New York within a few days after I came home and she is having the best of good times and will not be at home for a month yet, but if my mother is very well I do not see why I cannot go away for a little visit. I am very lonely here at this time of the year, for I am always used by the weather, and have to stay indoors, and I grow dull and sad in spite of myself. I don't mean to fret, and I do love my home, and cling to it more and more fondly every year, but I hardly ever feel very well all through the winter, and like to be where the outside life helps me to forget myself.

     I brought some books down with me, some of my own and some that I brought from the bookshelves in Charles St. and they keep me company. But it has been one of the times when I have cared for people more than for books, and found that a cold sheet of printed paper did not make up for a voice I like to listen for, or a hand I like to get hold of. I wish to do some writing as soon as I can but somehow I have not liked the thought of it yet. You will say I need a bright red room to stay in, and will recommend my own prescriptions in "The Colour Cure." Did you see that bit of The Contributors Club for March?3 I wrote it and Mrs. Fields laughed over it a good deal, which was satis­faction enough, wasn't it?

     I can look out of your windows at Danvers now and see the tall Nor­way spruces shouldering all the snow they can get hold of. There are some that look like them at the side of the house here, but we are shut into the village and cannot look off across the fields. You must give my kind remembrances to your household, and tell Phebe4 that I ex­pect to be taken out in style with her dog team. My dog Roger5 is very well and was glad when I came home. Goodbye dear friend and I am yours most lovingly.

S. O. J.

1. In letters to Mrs. Fields (at Hunting­ton Library) Whittier had referred to Miss Jewett as his "adopted daughter."

2. Her husband, James T. Fields, died April 24, 1881.

3. "A Color Cure," Atlantic Monthly, XLIX March 1882), 425-426. Since faith in old-fashioned medicine has declined, Miss Jewett examines the suggestion that there is more therapy in agreeable colors than in dosages of disagreeable drugs. The tone—her father was a doctor—is gently satiric.

4. Phebe Woodman Grantham was the adopted daughter of Whittier's cousin Abby J. Woodman. In her childhood she lived at Oak Knoll and was the object of much affection by Whittier, who wrote the poem "Red Riding Hood" for her. She became extremely possessive of Whittier in later life and, from accounts in Albert Mordell's biography and a letter by Miss Jewett to Samuel T. Pickard, could be un­seemly sharp in defending her interest.

5. See Miss Jewett's letter to Gertrude V. Wickham (Sarah Orne Jewett Letters, ed. Richard Cary [Waterville, Maine, 1967], pp. 53-55). Miss Wickham incorporated this material in "Sarah Orne Jewett's Dog," St. Nicholas, XVI (May 1889), 544-545. Roger, "a large Irish setter, of wide and varied information, and great dignity of character," was one in a long line of Jewett pet dogs.

 


 

 

5

South Berwick

Thursday evening [February-March 1882]

Dear Mr. Whittier:

     If my mother is quite well1 and everything is all right here I think I shall spend Sunday in Boston. But please don't tell Mrs. Fields if you see her, for I have set my heart on surprising her. I shall be in all day (unless we go to church at four o'clock).

     I have been hoping that I should see you, and wondering if this was not the time for you to be in town too. I have not finished The Year 13, but you see, I looked at it and found it was so good that I would not read it until I was sure the right time had come. And when I did begin it I was interrupted.

     My friend Mrs. Rice2 has been staying with me and we have had such a good time together! and yesterday when she went home I went with her as far as Exeter to see my grandfather3 and did not get home until this afternoon. I wonder if I shall ever be ninety-three years old and as chirpy as he is!

     I do not say anything about the summer plan4 because I want to talk about it and a letter is no good.

Yours always most lovingly,

Sarah

 

 1. Mrs. Caroline F. Perry Jewett (1820-1891) was a semi-invalid during the last decade of her life.

 2. Cora Clark Rice (1849-1925) was one of Miss Jewett's earliest Boston friends who introduced her to the social and cul­tural life of the city. Married to the son of a Massachusetts governor, John Rice, she devoted much time to philanthro­pies and the Home for Incurables in Bos­ton.

 3. Dr. William Perry (1788-1887) of Exeter, New Hampshire, was the most distinguished physician and surgeon in that section of the country in his time. A decisive and inspiring man, he rode spirited horses until he was past eighty and per­formed surgeries at ninety-two. Miss Jewett dedicated The Story of the Normans (1887) to him.

4. Miss Jewett and Mrs. Fields had be­gun discussing details of their first Euro­pean jaunts during which they would touch on England, Ireland, Norway, Bel­gium, Italy, France, and Switzerland, and were to meet Tennyson, Charles Reade, Anne Thackeray Ritchie, the Charles Dickens family, and Christina Rossetti.

 


 

 

6

South Berwick Monday

[February-March 1882]

Dear Mr. Whittier:

     I was obliged to give up my plan for spending Sunday in Boston because my mother was ill, and I am sorry to say that she is not well enough yet for me to leave her, though she is much better today.

     I am more grieved than I can tell you, to lose the chance of seeing you, and there were a good many other things which seemed to make it necessary for me to go to town for a day or two. I am afraid that I cannot get away before Thursday but possibly on Wednesday. I shall surely see you before Mrs. Fields and I go away, but I wish to see you twice! and three times! and four times—. I was so glad to get your letter this morning. I believe it is only you who can say the right things of Mrs. Fields and even you can never say too much.

     Berwick is all deep snowdrifts and deeper mud; you ought to be glad that you are living on the top of that nice dry hill1 but I do hope that you and Govr. Claflin are behaving very well, so you will not get scolded when Mrs. Claflin gets home!

Yours lovingly,

S. O. J.

 

1. Whittier’s house was in fact near the foot of Po Hill in Amesbury. Abbreviated from Powow, site of former Indian nocturnal ceremonials, it was a landmark for craft that sailed up Newburyport harbor. Whittier refers to the hill in “Abram Morrison,” “Miriam,” and “Cobbler Keezar’s Vision.”

 


 

7

South Berwick

March 20, [1882] 

My dear Friend:

     It is too late to write a long letter but I must tell you how glad I am to have seen you. It was lovely to be with you and Mrs. Fields that day at her house. I don't believe I shall ever forget it. When I came home I found that my mother was much better and she wondered why I didn't stay over Sunday. That would have been very pleasant, but I didn't get the letter which she had sent to me. I think I shall go down again next week to meet my sister and do some errands with her, but I shall not see you then!

     It seems more like spring than when I went away—the sun has made the snowdrifts ashamed of themselves, but there are too many of them now. I was out driving a little while this afternoon. John1 makes the appeal that the horses need driving. I must tell you about John someday, for I am very fond of him; he has lived with us for a long time. He used to be in the Army and in the time of the war he was badly hurt. He was devotedly fond of my father and came here because he wished to be with him. He is really a most pleasant companion; I like most to be with him for the sake of the dear old days when Father was here, but he has a charming knowledge of woodcraft and a refinement that is very rare in a man who used to be so knocked about the world. I believe he would almost forsake his own family for Father's sake!

     Sometimes I think a great deal about leaving home for so long, and think of it sadly too in spite of all its pleasures, but I grow more sure every day that it is right. I shall surely see you again first. I hope that your writing will not give you trouble. I have been writing another little scud for The Contributors Club today.2

Yours always,

Sarah

 

1. John Tucker (1845-1902) was the Jewetts' hostler and general factotum. He came to work for Dr. Jewett on a temporary arrangement around 1875 but remained for the rest of his life, trusted and treated like a member of the family.

2. Probably "Deplorable Improvements,” Atlantic Monthly, XLIX (June 1882), 856-857, in which Miss Jewett yearns for a league among summer boarders for the preservation of antiquities in small country places, another chapter in her lifelong defense of provincial values against urban invasion.

 


 

 

8

South Berwick, Maine

March 27, [1882] 

My dear Friend:

     I wish to send you just a line tonight to thank you for your letter and for that sonnet which Mrs. Fields sent me.1 It has touched my heart and given me more pleasure than I can begin to tell you. You do not know what a beautiful thing it is to me—the dearest of all gifts, and the best of treasures. It always makes me so happy to think that you care for me and that I can give you a bit of pleasure.

     The Norway journey is decided upon and Mrs. Fields says today that Mrs. Ole2 will cross in the same steamer with us. I shall be watching things in that northern country for you and myself too. I wish you were going to be there. We are only going to spend a few days in Ireland after all!3 I found that Mrs. Fields cares very much to get to London for Dickens' birthday, the 9th of June, and I said we must do it, and perhaps when we go down to Cornwall a little later Liza4 can go back to the Emerald Isle to see more of her friends than we can take time for.

     I have been reading the Caroline Fox book5 and I like it very much. But for a Cornishman give me his riverench the praste of Morwenstow!6 I did not get to town last week after all, but I hope to see my way there before many days. Mrs. Fields writes me in a way that makes me wish to be with her more than ever. All this of the last week will tire her sadly. Good night and God bless you!

Yours affectionately,

Sarah

 

1.  "On the occasion of a voyage made by my friends Annie Fields and Sarah Orne Jewett" Whittier indited "God­speed," first published in The Bay of Seven Islands, and Other Poems (1883). Miss Jewett is limned in lines 8-10:

And her for whom New England's byways bloom,
Who walks among us welcome as the Spring,
Calling up blossoms where her light feet stray.

2.  Sara Chapman Thorp (1850-1911) met the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull while he was on concert tour in Wiscon­sin, and became his wife. After 1876 they spent summers in Cambridge, joining the Holmes-Lowell-Longfellow circle, play­ing often at the Fields's home. Mrs. Bull wrote Ole Bull: A Memoir (Boston, 1883).

3.  They spent ten days in Ireland, touching on Cork, Glengariff, Killarney, Enniskillen, Portrush, Giant's Causeway, Belfast, and Dublin. Mrs. Bull entertained them for a fortnight in Norway.

4. Mrs. Fields's personal maid, frequent­ly mentioned by Miss Jewett in her letters home on this trip.

5.  Memories of Old Friends, edited by Horace N. Pym (Philadelphia, 1882), a volume of extracts from her journals and letters. Caroline Fox (1819-1871) was an English Quaker, friend of Carlyle and John Stuart Mill.

6. Miss Jewett's interest in the "praste" is attested by the presence in her library of three volumes: S. Baring-Gould, The Vicar of Morwenstow: A Life of Robert Stephen Hawker, M.A. (New York, 1880); Hawker's Poetical Works (London, 1879), and his The Cornish Ballads With Other Poems (London, 1884). Miss Jewett and Mrs. Fields did stop at Morwenstow one day during their tour. (Fields, Letters, p. 17.)

      Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875), antiquary, poet, and parson, led a thor­oughly eccentric and self-satisfactory life. Among his extravagant acts was posing as a mermaid on moonlit nights to the awe of crowds watching from the shore, keep­ing as a pet a pig that accompanied him on pastoral visitations, and formally excom­municating a cat. His Cornish ballads, however, are superior renditions of local legendry.

      Whittier also "enjoyed that queer, good Vicar of Hermanstow [sic]" and thanked Miss Jewett for introducing him. (Pickard, Life and Letters, II, 676.) 



  

9 

South Berwick

April 4, [1882]

 

My dear Friend:

     I wish very much that I could see you today! I came home from Boston last night but your letter had reached me there in the morning, and I was more than glad to get it. I was in town several days and I shall go back again on Saturday to make some short visits before my longer voyage begins. I shall be in town two weeks and then come back here for the last month before the 24th of May. I shall spend the 24th of April with Mrs. Fields. I shall not let her stay alone that day even if she wishes it, and I don't believe she will.1 I shall surely see you in Amesbury by and bye. I want to know how to think of you there. It is like having people go off into space when you don't know what they see from their windows or where they keep their books.2 Mrs. Fields said she hoped she could see you too. She was as busy as ever, and for many reasons I was glad I could be there for a few days. She was so sorry about Longfellow's having gone.3 I think she misses him more and more but it touched me very much because she kept saying she was so glad to think that he and Mr. Fields were together. They would be so happy! Really she seemed to think more of that than anything that belonged to the change, and it was giving her a wonderful pleasure. And she had written me about the strange experiences of last week and week before. You know I was growing curious enough about such things! and I found out where this person lived, and went alone one day to see what she would say to me! Don't say anything to anyone about it, please, Mr. Whittier, for nobody is to know but you and Mrs. Fields. I didn't tell "The Sandpiper"4 to whom I suppose I owe it all!! I was most suspicious and unbelieving even after Mrs. Fields told me and it really wasn't until after I had gone home again and began to talk it over that I quite took in the strangeness of it. It seemed quite an everyday thing that that strange woman should be talking about my life and my affairs as if she had always known me. I thought she was quick-witted and, after she told me to ask her questions, that she was clever in "putting two and two together." She told me first that I was going away before long, that there would be a good many people all together in one place, and, without saying it was the steamer, gave a picture of it all. She told me what a good time I was going to have and how much better I was to come home, that it was even going to be pleasanter than I thought, and there was to be no accident, that father wouldn't have let me take that steamer if there had been misfortune ahead. She said "James" wished to speak to me, and described Mr. Fields perfectly. (She had already told me all about Mrs. Fields and our going together) and she said he and my companion for the journey were very near each other "like one person." She told me wonderful things about my father and about his death and our relation to each other, and what he said to me was amazing. There was a great deal that came from him and from Mr. Fields that is the most capital advice, the most practical help to me, perfect "sailing orders" you know! All this I should be so glad to tell you someday. They said they had made all the plans for Mrs. Fields and me and helped us carry it out, that we needed each other and could help each other. I wish I could tell you all that now! But of all things I believe this startled me most and was the proof that there was no sham. The woman told me my father liked so much a friend who was with him there, they were much together and he was very fond of her. "Her name is Greene, do you know her?—Bessie, I think; Bessie Greene." And I said no, he had never known such a girl and I never had, but after I had told Mrs. Fields almost everything it suddenly flashed into my mind, and I said, "What was that Miss Greene's name, the daughter of your old friends who had studied medi­cine and was so charming, and who was lost in the Schiller when Dr. Susan Dimock was?" and she told me "Bessie."5

      Now wasn't that very strange? From what I know of her, she would delight Father's heart, and they have somehow found each other. There was no "mind reading." I have not thought of her for months, but it all needed no proof, and it gives me such a pleasant glimpse of father's life. It was a very long talk and it was very pleasant. There was much about my writing, and about my taking care of myself, that showed on someone's part a complete knowledge of "the situation."

     I do not think I care to go again, though it was said Father wished to say one or two other things before I went away. I can't tell you how much good it did me, for it made me certain of some things which had puzzled me. I should like to go to another "medium" someday, to see what was common to the two, for I still have "an eye out" for tricks of the trade and yet I can't help being ashamed as I write this, for it was all so real and so perfectly sensible and straightforward, and free from silliness. Mrs. Fields did not ask any questions but I sometimes did. I said, "Do my father and the person you call James know each other?" and I was answered that I ought to see them laugh, they were having great fun over me. They came to me together to tell me so soon after Mr. Fields died, which was the truth, for the Sunday I went to hear Dr. Bartol's6 funeral sermon last spring I had a sudden consciousness of their being in the pew too, in a great state of merriment. The sermon was very funny and Father was as much amused as Mr. Fields himself. Dr. Bartol was a classmate of Father's. I had always wished that Mr. Fields and Father could know each other, and I remember how glad I was that Sunday!

     I have written you this long rambling letter, but I could not wait to tell you all that I could write of that strange day. It doesn't make me wish to run after such things; I only feel surer than ever of a companion­ship of which I have always been assured. It was no surprise when the message came from father that he knew me so much better than when we saw each other and that he was always with me, and loved me ten times more than when he went away. And I was given a dear and welcome charge and care over Mrs. Fields which I can speak about better than write to you. I think this has been a great blessing to her, and a great comfort. I do not believe she will go again. I cannot imagine making it a sort of entertainment, and letting it be the gratification of curiosity. No good can come of that. I believe it would take away too much of our freedom of choice which is something to which we cannot cling closely enough. One does not think of seeking these impulses and teachings of the spirits, only of listening to them gladly when they come. But one sails with sealed orders so often, that the help which came to me the other day was most welcome.

     Now I must say goodbye to you. Won't you send me the photo­graph before you go away from Danvers, (unless there is one at Amesbury) for I want it so much. I met my sister in Boston and she is coming home today. She was greatly pleased with the kindness of your message to her.

Yours always lovingly,

Sarah O. Jewett

I hope that your brother will soon be growing stronger. I wished before that you would tell me how he was getting on.

 

1.  April 24 was the first anniversary of the death of James T. Fields (1817-1881), publisher, poet, biographer, editor of the Atlantic Monthly. Annie Fields, his second wife, was seventeen years younger.

2.  Whittier's bookshelves were on one side of the chimney in his unpretentious "literary workshop," and his writing desk on the other side. Books, however, over­flowed into nearly all the rooms in the house. The northern window near the desk offered a view of the street and the southern slope of Po Hill. In this room Whittier wrote "Snow-Bound" and many other of his popular successes. For a full de­scription, see Pickard, Life and Letters, I, 160.

3.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow died March 24, 1882.

4.  Miss Jewett's nickname for Celia Thaxter (1835-1894), after the title of her widely reprinted poem. Mrs. Thaxter (best known for Among the Isles of Shoals) gave serious credence to esoteric spiritualistic phenomena; Whittier seemed never quite sure of the extent of his belief; and, despite this letter, Miss Jewett was most apt of the three to make light of psychic communication. Miss Jewett edited and wrote prefaces for Celia Thaxter's Stories and Poems for Children (Boston, 1895) and The Poems of Celia Thaxter (Boston, 1896).

  5. The steamship Schiller lost its bearings in heavy fog and was wrecked thirty-five miles off Land's End, England, on May 7, 1875, with a loss of some three hundred and fifty lives. Miss Susan Dimock (1847-1875), trained in surgery at the University of Zurich, was house physician of the New England Hospital for Women and Children. Miss Elizabeth Greene, same age, was the granddaughter of Nathaniel Greene, editor, historian, and postmaster of Boston; and the daughter of William Batchelder Greene, theologian, colonel in the Civil War, and author of books on the science of history, the theory of calculus, socialism, and Hebrew and Egyptian an­tiquities. Miss Greene, a favorite in society and active in philanthropy, was already looked upon as "one of the most benevo­lent ladies in Boston."

  6. Cyrus Augustus Bartol (1813-1900), graduate of Bowdoin College, was a Unitarian clergyman influential in the religious life and thought of Boston for half a century. An associate of James Rus­sell Lowell's father, Rev. Bartol became noted for his original, radical, epigram­matic sermons. 



 

 

10

148 Charles Street

Boston

Sunday [April 30, 1882] 

Dear Mr. Whittier:

     Now listen to this sad story! Yesterday I drove over from Bradford to Amesbury to see you and you had gone to Danvers, and it is a wonder I did not sit down to cry on the doorstep! Miss Annie Johnson1 was with me and two young friends beside, and at first I was deeply grieved because I had dragged them so far on false pretenses, but they had a very good drive and a great deal of pleasure in spite of their disappointment. So did I; but it is too bad I could not have seen you. However, there may be time yet.

     What a pleasant country it is! and it was all new to me yesterday beyond the house where you lived when you were a boy. I had been there before, and was glad to go by again. The brook was in a great state of excitement and the willows were growing yellow and will be fit to make whistles from in a day or two! I wish I could go there with you some day.

     Miss Johnson was so sorry to miss you; but she means to drive over again when she is sure you are in Amesbury.

     I am spending a last Sunday with our dear A. F. before we go away, which will be in little more than three weeks now. Miss Phelps2 is here too. Mrs. Fields and I are going out to Concord this afternoon. I am sure she sends you her love with mine.

Yours most affectionately,

Sarah O. Jewett

 

1. Annie Elizabeth Johnson (1826-1894), Maine-born daughter of the Reverend Samuel and Hannah (Whittier) Johnson, was principal of Bradford Academy (now a college) from 1875 until her death. Miss Johnson was a close friend of Miss Jewett's sister Mary and her cousin Abba Fisk.

2. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward (1844-1911), author of The Gates Ajar and other religious romances, was another of Whittier's broad coterie of female friends whose works he admired and generously praised. She had religion, reform, literature, and insomnia as common interests with Whittier.

 


 

11

South Berwick

May 5 [1882] 

Dear Mr. Whittier:

     I wish you could come to South Berwick for a day or two! I do want to see you very much and we would drive down the Sligo road and go anywhere you please out of doors, and indoors you should be made as much at home as you liked. There are only my mother and sister here. I do not go for two weeks and I shall be more than glad if you feel like coming. My sister has been saying how much she wished you would make us a little visit.

     Yes, I find too that Mrs. Fields begins to dread the going away, but that day at Concord tired her very much and she is altogether tired out at any rate. I think, in her wish to drive away her sadness, she has tried to carry too much care and work, and she feels the burden of it beside the weight of the sorrow itself. She needs more than ever to have this change and rest.

     I wish you were here tonight and we would make the fire last a good while into the night and have a talk over it.

Wednesday, May 1oth 

     I wrote all this and went away to Portland for a day or two leaving my letter unfinished in the desk. I do hope that you can come, next week—or this. There are so many things to talk about, but I must stop writing. God bless you! I do hope I shall see you before I go away.

Yours most affectionately,

Sarah

 


 

 

12

South Berwick

May 16 [1882]

 

My dear Friend:

     I have nothing to say about your brother and your niece, but as for the northeast wind and the Quarterly meeting1 I have no patience with them! I do wish with all my heart that it had been possible for you to come and if you should find a day when you can get away I do wish I could see you here. You know you can take the Eastern R.R. and come straight here. I would give anything if I could manage to get to Amesbury but though I am not really so busy with doing things with my two hands as one might suppose, it seems necessary for me to be here. Just now we begin to feel sure of what has been vague before—that I am to be away for a good while—and people are going and coming from the house beside, though the last of the week I do not think there will be any guests.

     You don't know what a happy two days I have just had with our dear A. F. who came down to spend Sunday with me. She and my mother naturally felt like knowing each other before I go away with her. It was grey, chilly weather but we took a drive down Sligo Point which she wished to see on your account as well as mine, and she went away quite in love with the Berwick country—and looking delight­fully rested beside. I do not think she worries now about going away. We were always talking about you!

     Now here in the envelope are some verses I hope you will like a little, for I am sure you will read the love I have for you between lines that may be full of faults, and in a damaged state, if you look at them only as literature! Mrs. Fields and I didn't see any eagles though we looked with all our eyes for them on Sunday. The verses are to be printed in Harper's2 by and by, that is if you do not say no yourself to Mr. Alden.3

     And now goodbye and God bless you if I don't see you again, though I cling to the hope that I may. You have made life on this side of the sea, and my dear New England, mean so much more to me that I am sure that however far away I shall wander it will never be away from you.

Yours aff'ly,

S. O. J.

 

1. Whittier had just declined an invita­tion from Miss Jewett to spend a day or two at South Berwick before she em­barked for Europe. "Fortunately for thee I have been kept back by illness, and the northeast winds blowing over all the ice­bergs between here and the Pole. And then I must be in Amesbury next week, in attendance upon our Quaker Quarterly Meeting, and to meet my niece Lizzie, and my brother if he is able to get there." (Pickard, Life and Letters, II, 679-680.)

2. "The Eagle Trees," Harper's, LXVI (March 1883), 608, a poem of eight octets dedicated "To J. G. W." and exalting him as a giant in spiritual stature akin to great pines and high-flying eagles.

3. Henry Mills Alden (1836-1919), editor of Harper's for half a century until his death, was highly selective of Miss Jewett's work, turning down about as much as he accepted. He was at the dock to bid the ladies bon voyage.



 

13

 

London

10 Clarges Street

October 19, [1882] 

My dear Friend:

     This is the last time I shall write you from this side of the sea for if all goes well we shall be coming in on the Parthia on the Sunday morning after this letter reaches you.

     Mrs. Fields has gone out alone to do some pleasant things we planned to do together, for just before we left Paris I took an enormous cold which doubled itself, as it crossed the Channel, so in these last dear days in London I must stay in the house. It is a great pity! but I am the last person who ought to grumble, for I have been so fortunate all this summer long. How soon I shall be seeing you! and telling you stories so long that you will be tired of listening! I have had such a good time and I am so glad I need not stay away from home all winter!!

     We are perfectly delighted to find that you are really going to spend the winter in town and Mrs. Fields says she is going to try to make you promise to come one certain day every week to breakfast (besides every other day you can!) and then we shall be sure of you. I say "we" be­cause I hope I shall be at 148 Charles St. very often indeed. What times where will be at the Winthrop House1 with you and "The Sandpiper" both under its roof. Something may happen to the roof, for all I know! Now goodbye and God bless you, and if you don't find any news in this letter you will find my love and A. F.'s beside.

Yrs ever,

S. O. J.

 

Oh—"Asquam Lake"2 was perfectly beautiful. Mrs. Fields found it copied into a paper, and we guawked over it as even the Sandpiper never could! and were so proud. It was fresh and strong and carried us straight there to see it too.

 

1. The Winthrop Hotel on Bowdoin Street in Boston was a frequent retreat for Mrs. Thaxter when the winters on the Isles of Shoals became too rigorous. Whittier spent the winter of 1882-1883 at the hotel to be near his dying brother.

2. "Storm on Lake Asquam," dated "7th mo., 1882," was first published in the Atlantic Monthly, L (October 1882), 463, and collected in The Bay of Seven Islands, and Other Poems (1883).

 


 

14

South Berwick

December 8, [1882] 

My dear Friend:

     I have been writing you letters ever since I came home but the post­men wouldn't carry them because I forgot the ink and paper! One of the reasons that are hurrying me back to Boston is that I wish so much to see you. There are so many things to talk about and when I think that I have only seen you about twenty minutes since last April, I lose my patience entirely.

     I mean to go to Charles St. week after next in good season for Christmas, and I shall be so glad to be with my dear A. F. again. I must confess that I felt as "stray" as a dropped kitten without her at first, and I miss her every day, but we shall be doing things together before long and I don't doubt that we shall rush out of the front door the minute we catch sight of each other, having caught up the first red-covered book we can find for a guide book, and perhaps we shall make straight for Bunker Hill monument for I never have climbed to the top [of] it yet as all good New Englanders ought to do.

     I haven't much to tell you, for nothing has happened to me but a bad cold, and I have made up my mind not to have either a cold or the rheumatism again for many years. I have been busy writing, but I don t like very well what I have done—by the time I get to the last of a story a cloud seems to cover it, and it seems painted in very dull colours. I am going to write as fast as I can after I get to Boston, but I am used to doing my work here, and so, for fear the experiment shouldn't be successful or I should be too much tempted to play I am writing all I can before I start.1

     It has been so pleasant to be at home again and Mary and I have such

[pages missing]

 

1. Despite her dubiety Miss Jewett published ten short stories, three poems, and four essays in the following year, as well as compiling and editing The Mate of the Daylight, and Friends Ashore (1884).

 


 

15

 

148 Charles Street

Saturday, April 28, [1883]

My dear Friend:

     Here it is, almost May Day! and all the aches and pains that "neurology" knows how to produce ought to be over by that time. I have thought of you a great many times, and wondered how you were getting on. Last night I dreamed that I went to a charity meeting with A. F. and there was a great row there, and in attempting to take her part I fell over a wall and hurt my arm abominably. In fact it waked me up it ached so, but it was no benevolent almsgiver who brought me to such distress; I had simply connected a familiar subject of thought with the familiar pain!1 However, T. L.2 was greatly amused with the dream. The particulars of the battle were very edifying.

     I have been writing again by fits and starts and this time the story is called "The Hare and the Tortoise.”3 It is a love story with its scene laid in Boston, and the Hare and the Tortoise are two lovers, and in this fable it is the Hare that wins the race. I was glad you liked the "Landless Farmer.”4 I think you will find the second part better when you see it in the magazine than it was on the uncorrected proof slips. Mrs. Fields is sending you the Jane Carlyle books5 which we have enjoyed so much! I see them now, put out for Patrick6 to "do up" with his usual precision.

     We went to Manchester by the Sea7 Thursday, to see about opening the house on Monday when we go down again. It was a hard day for poor T. L. but we made the best of it, and had a great many pleasures after all. The frogs had thawed out—they were talking in their sleep at any rate, and the barberry bushes were covered with dry fruit on top, where the improvident people had not thought it worthwhile to harvest. The sun shone through the berries with marvellous effect and we had a famous drive back to Beverly, where we took the half past four train instead of waiting at Manchester an hour or two. We were in an excellent buggy with its top put back and the sun kept us very warm, and we gathered some pussy willows almost grown into cats, if one judged by their fur. The sea was as blue as it could be and furthermore we had had a picnic at the back of the house on the hilltop where we were sheltered from the wind. T. L. pointed out the Danvers road to me with great satisfaction and expectation of our travelling over it by and by. I must say goodbye for here comes T. L. upstairs having finished her day's housekeeping and now we are going out to do some errands together. She sends her dear love to you and so do I.

Yours most affectionately,

Sarah

 

1. Annie Fields was a founder and leading spirit of the Associated Charities of Boston. She wrote How To Help the Poor (Boston, 1883) as a guidebook to humane and personalized philanthropy. While Jewett was not averse to accompanying Mrs. Fields on her errands of mercy, her enthusiasm was not equivalent.

2. A covert pet name which Miss Jewett teasingly applied to Annie Fields. No revelation has yet been discovered in any of Miss Jewett's public or private writings.

3. One of Miss Jewett's infrequent Boston stories (Atlantic Monthly, in [August 1883], 187-199; uncollected) with an O'Henryesque ending. "Boston is like meeting one's grandmother in costume at a fancy ball," she says, with some provincial smugness.

4. "A Landless Farmer," Atlantic Monthly, LI (May, June 1883), 627-637, 759-769, in which Jerry Jenkins is shunted into a King Lear position by his ingrate daughters. Whittier had written: "I found the 'Landless Farmer' true as a sun-picture to the life and atmosphere of a farming neighborhood and the story of poor old Uncle Jerry full of genuine pathos." (Cary, "Whittier Letters," 13.)

5. James Anthony Froude, editor, Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Prepared for Publication by Thomas Carlyle (New York, 1883), 2 vols. The packet may also have contained Thomas Carlyle's Reminiscences, edited by Froude (New York, 1881), about which Miss Jewett had written: "I have been reading Carlyle's Reminiscences—the Jane Welsh Carlyle  [chapter], as you may suppose." (Fields, Letters, p. 17.) Copies of both books are in Miss Jewett's library.

6. Patrick Lynch, Mrs. Fields's man of all work.

7. Miss Jewett spent part of every summer at the Fields's "Gambrel Cottage" on the Massachusetts coast. In A Little Book of Friends (Boston, 1916) Harriet Prescott Spofford describes the "wonderful out­look of beauty set in the midst of flaming flowers, three sides overlooking the wide shield of the sea, but the fourth side so precipitous that the broad piazza there is only a turret chamber above the tops of the deep woods and orchards below, with the birds flying under it, and looking far over the winding river, ripening meadow, and stretching sea again." (P. 19.)



 

 

16

South Berwick

May 27, [1883]

 

My dear Friend:

     I was more than glad to get your letter for I had been wishing to hear from you and wishing to write to you, but I have found so many things to do since "I came home" that you have no need to fear that I write too much. If you please, gardening is taking up a great deal of my time, and besides that I have too long neglected my self-imposed duties as inspector of the York and Barvick1 roads and I have had no end of driving to attend to. Who do you suppose came down from Boston on Saturday and spent Sunday with me? Dear A. F., for I was moved by a sudden impulse Saturday morning and sent off a telegram, and after­ward thought it would be no use for I manufactured no end of reasons why she could not come. But presently came the answer and it was "Thank you, yes!" at which I was ready to fly with joy. She looked so tired and so white when she came, but I really think the change and a good drive through the woods yesterday did her a great deal of good and sent her home feeling better today. It is cruel to let her stay alone, and I never mean to be away when I can help it, but this is one of the times when I cannot and indeed it is very pleasant to be here, as much as I miss her. Your letter came just after she did so we both enjoyed it, and I expect a great deal of good luck from the four-leaved clovers. I sought diligently for one to retaliate with, but though I am usually fortunate, there was not one to be seen.

     I have not seen the story you speak of though the Littells2 are in a nice brown heap together waiting to be read one evening very soon. I must tell you how much I have been enjoying your Dr. Singletary.3 The description of him reminds me so much of my father that I read it again and again, and it is all very beautiful. Those two volumes are such a storehouse of good things.

     When is the yearly meeting of Friends at Portland?4 I am not going to be disagreeable and to extort a hindering and constraining promise from you, but I do wish to know the time so that I may hide in ambush and lie in wait for you as you go and come! Unless you must say that it will be impossible, and you had better not!

     Goodbye. I have not told you how much I like the poem in the Independent5 or a great deal else, for that matter.

Yours always lovingly,

Sarah

 

1. "One curious thing is the pronuncia­tion of the name of the town: Berwick by the elder people has always been called Barvik, after the fashion of Danes and Northmen; never Berrik, as the word has so long been pronounced in modern Eng­land." (Sarah Orne Jewett, "Looking back on Girlhood," Youth's Companion, LXV [January 7, 1892], 5.) See also Miss Jewett's "The Old Town of Berwick," New England Magazine, x (July 1894).

2. An eclectic monthly published in Boston, comprising poems, essays, and stories collected chiefly from British periodicals.

3. Whittier's "My Summer With Dr. Singletary" was first published in the National Era in 1851-1852 and collected in Literary Recreations and Miscellanies (1854). It was reprinted in The Prose Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (Boston, 1865), 2 vols., reissued in 1882, a copy of the last in Miss Jewett's library. Singletary is a congenial, beloved country doctor as was Miss Jewett's father.

4. The meeting that year ran from June 8 through June 13. Whittier did attend "but as is his custom, took no part in the proceedings." (Portland Transcript, June 13, 1883, p. 87.)

5. "What the Traveller Said at Sun­set," Independent, xxxv (May 17, 1883), 609, collected in The Bay of Seven Islands, and Other Poems (1883). 



 

 

17

 

South Berwick

Thursday evening

[July 5, 1883] 

Dear Friend:

     Your letter has just reached me here, and I can only say that I still hope to reach Holderness1 and that A. F. will go too. I shall have to stay here for the present as my mother and sister will both be away but the very first chance I can get, I shall try again to make the little visit at the Asquam House to which I have so long been looking forward. It was well that we did not start in the great heat of last week perhaps, but I was much disappointed. I went over to Manchester hoping to start next morning.

     It seems to be a great sorrow to our dear friend to stay at Man­chester, and neither can she bear to be away, though she seemed to care very much to see you. I stay with her every minute that I can get, but of course at this time of the year I often ought to be here. She is better contented while I am staying with her, but every letter almost makes my heart ache with the story of her miserable loneliness whether she tells it or I only "read between the lines." I am dreadfully troubled sometimes, for in spite of everything it seems as if it were harder and harder for her just to be alive. And there are still so many things to please her and comfort her. The only thing is to keep as close to her as we can and love her all we can. I do truly love her, but I pity her as I would pity a little child that has been run over and hurt, and yet has to get up and keep on its way.

     But I must not write only of this sadness. I wish to tell you how glad I am that you are feeling better at Holderness, and that tomorrow morning early Mary and I are to start for Portsmouth and the Shoals where we are going to spend the night with the Sandpiper. Saturday night Mary is going on to my aunt's summer place at Little Boar's Head2 where she will spend a week or two. Mother is going to Wells on Monday and I am going to write as fast as I can and keep house for myself, though perhaps I shall have Mrs. Rice here for a day or two. I shall send your note to Annie Fields so she will read it too, and you will see us coming one of these days.

Yours lovingly,

Sarah

 

1.  A summer resort village in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Whittier was staying at a new hotel on the peak of Shepard Hill which afforded a magnificent view of the several lakes in its vicinity. The scene inspired his poems "The Hill-Top" and "Storm on Lake Asquam." On July 10 Whittier sent Miss Jewett directions on how to come "two ways," by steamer or by railroad. (Cary, "More Whittier Letters," p. 133.)

2.  Site of many beautiful summer residences in southeastern New Hampshire. Miss Jewett's maternal family was native to this area.

 


 

18

 

Home [South Berwick]

July 20, [1883] 

Dear Friend:

     I meant to have told you yesterday that I reached here all right, and that I feel a great deal better and richer for the journey. I find myself remembering that beautiful view of the lakes and the mountain slopes, and thinking of them over and over again. I think it did Mrs. Fields a great deal of good too. We had a most lovely drive in the early morning and the sail on Winnipesaukee was most marvellously beautiful. The sky over the Italian Lakes themselves never was a more delicate colour.1 Yesterday morning I drove to York and brought Mrs. Rice and her little boy back with me, and I enjoyed that very much, both the drive and my company for the country is as green as England. I saw the Longfellows2 who were glad to hear about you. They are going abroad this autumn to study in Oxford, and next summer are going to make Mrs. Ole Bull a visit in Norway.

     Do give my love to your dear cousins3 and Mrs. Caldwell4 for I enjoyed seeing them so much, and shall look forward to seeing them again.

Yours always most lovingly,

Sarah

 

1. Miss Jewett and Mrs. Fields respond­ed to Whittier's appeal, came and stayed about a week. He wrote to both in this same vein: "The place was, I think, never so beautiful. . . . Such a sunset the Lord never before painted" (Pickard, Life and Letters, II, 688); and even more telepathi­cally to Miss Jewett on July 20, "The day was beautiful—the sunset would have been the despair of a painter. I think I never before saw such a picture of God." (Cary, "More Whittier Letters," p. 133.)

2. Probably William Pitt Preble Long­fellow (1836-1913), son of the poet's brother Stephen, who married Emily Daniell of Boston in 1870. An engineer and architect, he studied and traveled abroad extensively. He was the first editor of the American Architect and a trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

3. Joseph Cartland (1810-1898) and Gertrude Cartland (1822-1911), who ac­companied Whittier on his summer vaca­tions in Maine and New Hampshire for five decades, and in whose home at New­buryport, Massachusetts, he lived most of his last fifteen winters.

4. Adelaide Caldwell, wife of Whittier's nephew Lewis, was noted for her sparkling personality at family gatherings.

 


 

19

 

South Berwick

October 24, [1883]

Dear Friend:

     I was so glad to get your letter, and it was so good of you to tell me that you liked the Dunluce poem.1 I did not see the proof of it or I should have proved myself a better workman, for some things stare me in the face in a very distressing way. I always find that my first-instinc­tive word is so much better than any I can think of afterward! But it did me no end of good to think you liked it, and I wish we could whisk through the air and go through Dunluce Castle together— though not on such a windy day as the one when I was there before; we had to go across a narrow bit of wall that was the only bridge across the deep ravine. When I think of that amazing ruin I almost feel capable of writing a robber or a huntsman story that would put my dead friend Mayne Reid2 to his trumps.

     I was "moved" up from Manchester with my dog Roger two weeks ago tomorrow and our last days there were very pleasant ones, for we (A. F. and I) drove or walked a great deal. One day we went to Coffin's Beach which I had never seen before, and we took a last look at Essex which I have quite fallen in love with. It is all afloat when the tide is in, like a little Venice, and the shipwrights' hammers knock at the timbers all day long, as if all the ghosts of departed shipbuilders from all along shore were chiming in with the real ones. I have been thinking a good deal about a longish story to be called A Marsh Island3 and I have had beautiful times going to Essex to see about it. I haven't made the first scratch at a sheet of paper yet, but it is well begun.

     We hoped you would be coming in some day at breakfast time but I shall be sure to see you when I go to town again. I don't think it will [be] a great while first—for Master Roger is so homesick and he and the other big dog squabble so that there is no living with them. They have been "only children" too long! Ann (the old cook)4 says that Roger is "like a mon from our place that wint away over into Scotland for six weeks and when he come back he didn't know his mother's cat, nor what she was at all annyway!" He seemed to be quite bewildered and strange, poor Roggy!

     Mary sends her love to you, and so do I. I have read Miss Phelps's book5 and I think most of it is very beautiful and though the sillinesses of it hurt one a little, there's ever so much to be thankful for, and I know it will do good and make vague things real to many people. Goodbye.

 

Yours always,

Sarah

 

1. "Dunluce Castle," Harper's, LXVII (November 1883), 924; collected in Verses (1916). On October 20 Whittier had written to praise Miss Jewett's "admirable little poem." (Cary, "Whittier Letters," p. 15.) In these six quatrains she delineates the ruined domain of the first Marquis of Antrim which she noted on her visit to Dunluce on the northernmost coast of Ireland.

2. Thomas Mayne Reid (1818-1883), Irish-born son of a Presbyterian minister, came to the United States at twenty in search of adventure. After a varied career as storekeeper, Negro overseer, schoolmaster, actor, and journalist, he began to turn out volumes of thrilling exploits for adults and for boys.

3.  A Marsh Island was serialized in the Atlantic Monthly, January-June 1885, and published later that year in book form. Essex County is the northeastern coastal corner of Massachusetts from Saugus to Newburyport, extending inland to Lawrence and Haverhill. The section Miss Jewett particularly liked was dominated by the tidewater which formed a web of creeks and channels through miles of salt marsh. See Cary, S. O. J. Letters, pp. 56­-57.

4. Ann Rogers was one of the several immigrant Irish servants who lived in the Jewett household during Sarah's lifetime.

5. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps [Ward], Beyond the Gates (Boston, 1883). In this story of a woman who thinks she dies and goes to heaven, Miss Phelps tried to recapture the popular favor she won with The Gates Ajar (1868).

 


 

20

South Berwick

October 30, [1883] 

My dear Friend:

     Thank you so much for sending me your new book.1 I sat down to read it at once and I thought I knew most of it, so I would look for the new poems, but I found they were all new—and more beautiful and true than any words of mine can say. I cannot thank you enough for the books which have grown dearer and more helpful to me year by year—as I have grown older.

     I have just seen an empty cover of my new book2, which will be going to you before long, with everything finished outside and in. I hope I shall tell you by and by that I have finished a longer story, but I don't dare to make any promises! Did I tell you that I fell in love with Essex? I thought I should embark on a long bit of gossip about that neighbourhood, but it doesn't seem to have bones enough yet, for a story.

     I hope to see and hear Matthew Arnold3 and so I may go to town next week for a day and night. I hear that "The Sandpiper" has gone back to her winter perch. I like to think of you at Amesbury. Somehow it seems a great deal nearer than Danvers, and I can almost say good morning.4 I have just come in from a drive over the windy hills to Dover, and it is pleasant to see the farms, and meet the barrels of apples riding out. I should think the shiny outdoors things would hate to spend their latter days in country cellars—such as were not bound for John Wentworth's cider mill!5

Yours lovingly,

Sarah

 

1. The Bay of Seven Islands, and Other Poems was issued in October 1883. Of the twenty-two poems it contains, seventeen were previously published. Miss Jewett may mean that they were all new to her.

2. The Mate of the Daylight, and Friends Ashore is dated 1884 but was copyrighted and issued in 1883. Dedicated "To A.F.," it is a collection of eight short stories mostly from the Atlantic Monthly.

3. During his lecture tour of the United States, October 1883 - March 1884, Mat­thew Arnold stayed for some time at Mrs. Fields's house in Boston. Miss Jewett fondly remembered him sitting at the fireside reading his "The Scholar Gipsy." Although Whittier held Arnold's writings in high esteem and "would like exceedingly to meet" him, he thought it little likely that he could get into town on time. However, Miss Jewett and Mrs. Fields prevailed on him to the extent that Whittier had lunch on Thanksgiving Day or shortly thereupon with the British celebrity. See Cary, "Whittier Letters," p. 15.

4. Amesbury, Massachusetts, is approximately thirty-five miles due south of South Berwick, Maine; Danvers, Massachusetts, some twenty-five miles farther south.

5. The area between Dover, New Hampshire, and South Berwick, Maine—a distance of some seven miles—might well be called Wentworth country. The famous Wentworth Manor is in Salmon Falls nearby, and numerous descendants of the Wentworth clan made their homes in the vicinity. The family was prominent for its governors, divines, philanthropists, Indian fighters, and tavern hosts. 



 

21

South Berwick

August 7, 1884 

My dear Friend:

     I am sorry this letter has been so late in going to you. At any rate I have been thinking of you and the pleasant days at Asquam1 a great deal. I have been so busy getting in my salt hay2 ever since A. F. went away that there did not seem to be time for much else. I have done eighty-two pages so far this week and this is only Thursday. I wish I could keep on at that rate and it would be done in a month now except the last looking over and copying. I grow more and more interested in it, and it promises to be a "blooming" love story!!

     Thank you so much for the newspaper cuttings. I was glad to see them both and Mrs. Fields shall have the ghost story.3 The more I think of it, the more I believe in the truth of the Bishop of Carlisle's theory.4

     I didn't see the Greely reception.5 I could hardly hear about it without crying—and it is all very real to me. So perhaps it is just as well I stayed away, but I don't believe a more thrilling sight ever was in Portsmouth, or "all along shore" for that matter.

     I can't help wishing that you and Mrs. Caldwell and Mrs. Cartland could stop over at S. Berwick on your way home. I want to thank you all again for your dear friendship and kindness. I have felt better in every way since I came home from Holderness.

     With love from my sister and myself,

Yours always lovingly,

Sarah O. Jewett

 

P.S. I was getting in the salt hay much too late in the season and had to start over again!

 

1. From the top of a high promontory between Squam and Little Squam lakes, the Asquam House affords an expansive view of Lake Winnipesaukee and the mountain ranges beyond it. On July 16, 1884, Whittier had asked Mrs. Fields: "Would it be possible for thee and Sarah to come here?" (Pickard, Life and Letters, II. 694.)

2. Reference is to her novel, A Marsh Island, the current work in progress.

3. Whittier had written: "I have just cut from the N. Y. Evening Post a notice of thy beautiful story of the Country Doctor . . . and also a very remarkable statement re­lating to spiritual visitations, which I think will interest thee and dear Annie Fields." (Cary, "Whittier Letters," p. 15) On the same day that this review appeared (Au­gust 2, 1884), a letter to the editor, cap­tioned "Another Ghost Story," recounted an experience similar to that of Sir Edward Hornby, an English Chief Justice, whose story was reported in "Visible Appari­tions," Nineteenth Century, XVI (July 1884), 68-95, and reprinted in the Post on July 29.

4. Harvey Goodwin (1818-1891), Bish­op of Carlisle from 1869 to his death, wrote prolifically in dynamics, statistics, biography, and religion. Miss Jewett seems to be referring to the assertion in his Walks in the Regions of Science and Faith (London, 1883), p. 6: "To drop all meta­phor, the progress of human knowledge during the present century compels everyone who thinks at all to think with his eyes open to the results of physical science. Morals and religion have, of course, still their own territory, and their territory should be carefully and courageously guarded against invasion. But the moral and religious values of men will generally be modified by the necessity of recognizing indubitable physical truths."

5. In August 1881 Lt. Adolphus W. Greely and a contingent of twenty-five men established a United States signal station for arctic observation and exploration in Grinnell Land. When, after two desperate winters, the expected relief ships did not come, Greely and his party set out by sea. They drifted ten months, cold and starvation reducing the group to six. They were finally rescued by a naval squadron, which dropped anchor in Portsmouth harbor on August 1, 1884. Formal ceremonies and impromptu festivities for the survivors proliferated. With the Secretary of the Navy and an admiral in attendance, the local press reported that "Never before in the history of Portsmouth has there been so grand and imposing an event as the celebration of the return of Greely and the survivors of his expedition." 

 


 

 

22

 

Manchester, Mass.

Monday August 16, 1885

 

My dear Friend:

     If I had written you every time I have thought of it this summer you would have had half a room full of letters! I hoped that it would come about that A. F. and I should not miss our little visit to Asquam but she has felt that she ought not to go away and until within a few days I have not been able to leave home. My sister was ill when I went away from her six weeks ago and then between relays of visitors and my family's dispersing to the seashore, I was very much "dispersed" myself from my pen and ink's neighbourhood. I like to keep house dearly, but I have to give my whole mind to it!! It has been a lovely summer in Berwick and I never loved the dear old place so much—it is harder every time to come away and when I am here, I "strike root" amazingly, so I am quite grieved to the heart every little while. I am going home again directly—this is only a visit between visits like the old topers "drinking between drinks." The Longfellow girls1 are coming tomorrow and after their visit is over Mabel Lowell and her boys,2 but I shall not be here then. I did get two short stories done:3 one is highly approved by A. F. and the other reminds me of an installation prayer which Father used to mention. The parson was thanking God for all the predecessors in that pulpit (which was in Dover) and he extolled Father Bellamy and all the rest straight along, until he came to one who had been an awful scallawag: "And now O Lord we come to thy next servant of whom Lord, of whom—we—can't—speak—quite—so—well.''

     I hope your dear cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Cartland are with you, and that you will give my love to them. My sister Mary and I are going to drive to Manchester again some time next month and I shall call all along the road, as the farmers' wives do in "Witchtrot."4

     We have been much saddened by the news of H. H.'s death5 and talk of her and her work a great deal. How many people will miss her, especially those to whom she has reached out such a strong helping hand. Edith Thomas6 for one!

     I think now and then about the story you sent me,7 and I have faith that something is growing out of it. I have to work backward when I get an idea in this way, for I usually know my people and their sur­roundings first and then, whatever particular happens to them is sec­ondary.

     My hand is getting better, of late, and does not begin to trouble me as it did for so many months, and I should have written a good deal this last time I was at home if there had not been so many other things to do. I hope to take Mrs. Fields back with me for a few days when she leaves here in October. She would send her love to you by this con­veyance I am sure, but one small letter cannot carry two people's whole affectionateness any way in the world. You know how dearly we both love you and I am more than your grateful and affectionate

 

S. O. J.

 

1. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had three daughters: Alice Mary (1850-1928); Edith (1853-1915) who married Richard Henry Dana; and Annie Allegra (1855­1934) who married Joseph G. Thorp. Of the three, Miss Jewett was most familiar with Alice.

2. James Russell Lowell's daughter Mabel (1847-1898) married Edward Burnett; they had three sons and two daughters. Mrs. Burnett collaborated with Charles Eliot Norton on a Grolier Club edition of John Donne in 1895.

3. Probably "Mary and Martha," Christian Union, XXXI I (November 26, 1885), 12-13 , and "The Dulham Ladies," Atlantic Monthly, LVII (April 1886), 455-462; both collected in A White Heron and Other Stories (1886).

4. Witch Trot Road ran through Wells, Maine, past the Jewett house and to the Lower Landing at the Hamilton House. It abounded in the legendry of bewitched animals, mildewed crops, secret compacts with the devil, and tormented souls driven for centuries by wizards and witches.

5. Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885) died August 12. Under the initials "H. H." and the nom de plume "Saxe Holm," she wrote poems and fiction, best remembered of which is the novel Ramona [Romona].

6. Edith M. Thomas (1854-1925), poet with a classical idiom, impressed Mrs. Jackson when she called on her in a New York hotel with a scrapbook of unpublished verses. Mrs. Jackson's personal persuasion was responsible for the publication of some of these. Miss Thomas' rondeau, "A Friend at Court," acknowledges the value of such aid; her "Born Deaf, Dumb, and Blind" owes much in diction and metaphor to Mrs. Jackson's "The Loneliness of Sorrow."

7. "The Courting of Sister Wisby," Atlantic Monthly, LIX (May 1887), 577-586; collected in The King of Folly Island and Other People (1888). After publication, Whittier wrote that he had read it "with great satisfaction" and was "glad to have any hint of a story acted upon so admirably." (Cary, "More Whittier Letters, P. 135.)

 


 

23

 

South Berwick

Thursday morning

[Summer 1886]

 

My dear Friend:

 

     A. F. has sent me your letter and I wish so much that I could go at once and make you a little visit, but I have just come back from town after finishing the history1 (very badly!) and now my sister is going away. We do not like to be away together this summer. Why can’t you stop here as you go back? There are hills enough for a gentle let­down from Holderness and you and I would have a beautiful quiet time and take a drive down Sligo way and across the Sligo bridge and home by Pound Hill. Mother and I are alone and it would be such a pleasure. You should not do anything you did not want to do, and our good John Tucker, and my Uncle William2 over in the old house, would save you from keeping company altogether with "the women folks." Do come! You shall have some cherries like Mrs. Fields's for every meal!

     I am so sorry to disappoint you about coming to Asquam. I really would go if I could.

 Yours affectionately,

S. O. J.

 You need not stop to give notice—just "drop down" any day. I shall love my dear old home all the more if you will come to it once and then again.

 

1. The Story of the Normans, Told Chiefly in Relation to Their Conquest of England (New York and London, 1887). Despite Miss Jewett's demurrer, the book proved to be popular, running into several editions in both the United States and England.

2. William Durham Jewett (1813-­1887), her father's brother, was a childless widower who made much of his nieces. He kept the West Indian Store on Main Street in South Berwick and was later president of two banks.

 


 

24

South Berwick

Sunday morning

November 14, [1886]

 

My dear Friend:

     I was so sorry when I found that by some mischance the photograph of your sister1 had been left behind and I thank you very much for sending it to me. I have it here on the old study table now. You do not know how much I enjoyed my little visit to you though when I think how many things we talked about and remember so much that you said to me it seems as if I had stayed at least a week. I went to Portland the next morning and spent a very pleasant day and night. My sister Mary was already there with our dear aunt Mrs. Gilman2 whom I wish you might know sometime when you are staying with your niece.3 I never knew a better woman, or a more charming one in many ways. She is already one of your most grateful friends. I saw Mrs. Pierce, Longfellow's sister,4 and also Lizzie Jones (or Mme. Cavazza!)5 and had a good long talk with her which I like very much to remember. She is a singular product of our Maine soil—but always a very interesting one to me. I remember when we were children that she already knew a good deal of Italian when all I knew of Italy was that organ grinders came from there. What a proof it is that our lives are planned and not accidental— if one needed another proof.

     I have been very busy since I came home Friday afternoon for the work on the Norman book is very pressing just now and this coming week must be divided between indexing and dressmaking. If the weath­er is fair again I shall take to my heels and seek refuge in windy pastures. The snowstorm was a great blow to me yesterday for that is the only weather of which I am really afraid and almost spoils my out of door world. I send you the verses you were kind enough to wish to see.6 Please remember me very kindly to Judge and Mrs. Cate,7 and do not forget how affectionately I am yours ever,

 Sarah O. Jewett

 Will you please let me have the verses again some day? I have no perfect copy.

 

1. Whittier had two sisters: Mary (1806­1860) who married Jacob Caldwell, and Elizabeth Hussey (1815-1864). Miss Jewett is probably referring to the latter, "Lizzie," who never married, remaining until her death his closest companion and head of his household.

2. Helen Augusta Williams Gilman (1817-1904), daughter of Reuel Williams the noted lawyer, legislator, and U. S. Senator, married John Taylor Gilman, one of Maine's most prominent physicians. She was founder or officer in several philanthropies, private and public.

3. Elizabeth Hussey (1843-1909) was the daughter of Whittier's brother Matthew and namesake of his sister. She assumed the other "Lizzie's" place in Whittier's household from 1864 to 1876, the year she married Samuel T. Pickard, editor of the Portland Transcript and, later, biographer of Whittier.

4. Anne Longfellow (1810-1901) mar­ried George W. Pierce, described by the poet as "brother-in-law and dearest friend."

5. Elisabeth Jones Cavazza Pullen (?­1926), a native of Portland, Maine, was early educated in music and Italian language and literature. In 1885 she married Signor Nino Cavazza, and in 1894 Stanley J. Pullen, an editor of the Portland Daily Press. She wrote music and literary criticism for that newspaper and for the Literary World, as well as two obscure volumes of fiction.

6. Probably "A Caged Bird," Atlantic Monthly, LIX (June 1887), 816-817, the last known poem she published until 1895.

7. George Washington Cate (1834­1911 ) came to Amesbury as a lawyer in 1866, was appointed judge ten years later. He served in the Massachusetts Senate and locally as trustee of several civic organizations. He married Caroline C. Batchelder of Amesbury in 1873. After Whittier went to live at Oak Knoll, the Cates occupied the Amesbury residence and kept it open for him and his friends until the end of his life.

 


 

25

 

148 Charles Street

Boston

March 12, 1887

 

To John G. Whittier

 

Dear Sir:

 

The necessity of making a special effort to awaken the interest of the public in the Longfellow Memorial has led certain members of the Cambridge Committee to suggest that an Authors Reading be given in Boston on the afternoon of the 31st of March—each author to read a selection from his own work. The committee of ladies signing this petition earnestly hope that you may be able to be present and so make the occasion a great success.1

 

Believe me yours sincerely,

Sarah O. Jewett

(Secretary for the committee)

 

Mrs. Louis Agassiz

Mrs. T. B. Aldrich

Mrs. Martin Brimmer

Mrs. Joseph M. Bell

Mrs. James T. Fields

Mrs. John L. Gardner

Mrs. Arthur Gilman

Mrs. W. D. Howells

Mrs. S. R. Putnam

Mrs. G. Howland Shaw

Mrs. J. Turner Sargent

Miss Anna E. Ticknor

Mrs. Benjamin Vaughan

Mrs. Henry Whitman

Mrs. R. C. Winthrop

Mrs. Roger Wolcott

 

1. In addition to this formal letter Miss Jewett wrote Whittier a personal note assuring him that he would sit among his friends on the platform, where it would not be draughty, and he could easily slip away by the side entrance at any time if he chose (MS in Houghton Library). Even this was not enough inducement for the shy poet. He did not attend but sent a check for $50. (Cary, "Whittier Letters," p. 17.) The occasion was indeed "a great success." Every seat in the Boston museum was occupied, standing room only, ­and a crowd in the street turned away. Charles Eliot Norton presided over the program which included Mark Twain, Julia Ward Howe, Holmes, Lowell, Aldrich, George W. Curtis, Howells, Edward Everett Hale, and T. W. Higginson—"one of the most notable entertainments ever given in Boston." See Mrs. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Crowding Memories (Boston, 1920), pp. 255-262.

 


 

26

148 Charles Street

Wednesday

[February 1, 1888]

 

Dear Friend:

     A. F. says she:1 Tell him to take a glass of milk and a tablespoonful of Saint Croix rum and gently combine them and add four good-sized lumps of sugar, stirring slowly. Then drink and be thankful at 11 A.M. (bitters) and ten P.M. (nightcap).

     And I did mean to write you earlier this day, but your dear note makes my pen go faster. I have just seen daylight after a very big cold, and when one's head tries to be as big as the gas house (like the frog in the fable that also tried such experiments) letters are apt to be put aside. The cold gave me a nice excuse for staying by the fire in dear A.F.'s room, and to tell the truth I shall find it hard to give up her best society and take my chances of less interesting people out in the world again! She gains steadily and has even begun to sit up. We keep a peat fire, do you know how nice it is? Let's buy a peat bog and go into business!

     Miss Cochrane2 and I enjoyed seeing Phebe so much the other day. I hope she will always run in when she comes to town, it is so nice to see her and to hear from you. Goodnight, and take A. F.'s best love and mine. She says, "I wonder if he has any first rate rum???" Which means that there are those who know where there is some!!

 

S. O. J.

 

1. Miss Jewett's italic is due to the fact that Mrs. Fields was herself quite ill at this time. Whittier had written Miss Jewett that he had not known of Mrs. Fields's condition, and that he had been "too ill anyway to read or write for the last three weeks." (Cary, "More Whittier Letters," p. 136.)

2. Jessie Cochrane, a talented amateur pianist from Louisville, Kentucky, was a frequent guest in the Boston and Man­chester homes of Mrs. Fields.

 


 

27

 

Saturday morning

[February 4, 1888]

 

     I send you a word to tell you, dear friend, that Mrs. Fields is getting on very well, and sits up more and longer every day and begins to look like herself again. You don't say anything about that Santa Cruz rum! Phebe will send me a word (on the edge of a circular!) to let A. F. know if she may send you any.

     We both send love at any rate. I watch the boys skating on the river and think wistfully of my river at home and how I should like to go along under the bank on that edging of smooth ice with an alder bough to whip me in the face now and then. I hope that you are getting over the blows of a worse whip called neuralgia? but winter is half over and we shall be playing outdoors again before long.

 

Yours affectionately,

Sarah

 

Mr. Lowell was here a long time in the twilight yesterday and sat here by the bedroom fire with A.F. and read us a beautiful poem about Turner's picture of the old ship Téméraire. He said it was for the Atlantic.1

 

1. James Russell Lowell, "Turner's Old Téméraire," Atlantic Monthly, LXI (April 1888), 482-483. Whittier responded gaily to Mrs. Fields: "I am delighted to have such a favorable report from thee by Sarah's nice letter. Sitting by the peat fire, listening to Lowell's reading of his own verses! A convalescent princess with her minstrel in attendance!" (Pickard, Life and Letters, II, 731.)

 


 

28

 

South Berwick

August 12, [1890]

 

My dear Friend:

     I was so sorry when I went to Eliot1 to find that you and dear Mr. and Mrs. Cartland had flown. I tried to get to the lawn party but al­though I came home from Manchester in good season to drive down it was so hot and so showery by turns here that I was forced to give it up. I thought that you were going to stay longer and I miss you very much, besides hoping that after Miss Kimball's2 week was over you could come up here for a day or two. I wasn't going to tease! but I was going to appear with a very comfortable carriage and sit before the door and indulge my hopes!!

     But you must find it delightful at Oak Knoll, and when I get back to Manchester by and by I shall drive over. I don't like to trust your graven image to the express but I must pack him in soft cotton and send him soon. He went to Eliot yesterday and came home again in an envelope box. We had (Mary and I) a very pleasant call on Miss Farmer3 who seems to miss you all a good deal. Goodbye, dear friend, and give my love to Phebe and the ladies and keep a good share that belongs to yourself.

Yrs,

Sarah

 

1. Eliot, Maine, was a purely rural town on the Piscataqua River famed even "across the ocean" as a summer vacation spot. Whittier spent several weeks at a quiet hotel, "new, neat, and comfortable, and not near enough to a railroad to be crowded." (Pickard, Life and Letters, II, 747.) Eliot is a short drive from South Berwick.

2. Harriet McEwen Kimball (1834­-1917), author of numerous mediocre religious lyrics, was a friend of Whittier's from the sixties. Typically, he lauded her poems as "better than anything of Vaughan or Herbert, excepting a very few pieces of the latter." (Pickard, Life and Letters, II, 486.)

3. Sarah Jane Farmer was the only daughter of Professor Moses Gerrish Farmer, distinguished inventor of many practical electrical devices, who retired to Eliot. Miss Farmer established the Greenacre Assembly in 1894 and the Monsalvat School in 1896 for the study of compara­tive religion.

 

 

IN THE REMAINING two years of his life Whittier maintained the steady flow of communication with Miss Jewett. A week before his final birthday observance (December 17, 1891) he importuned Mrs. Fields to come to Newburyport for the occasion, and "If dear Sarah Jewett is in Boston, take her with thee." When it was over he declared feelingly, "The best thing on my birthday was to meet thee and our dear Sarah on the stairs, and the worst was that you went away so soon." (Pickard, Life and Letters, II, 758-759.) In February 1892 Miss Jewett and Mrs. Fields embarked on their second round of Europe with a view to stay­ing all summer. Whittier died September 7, while they were still abroad. The closing lines of his sonnet "Godspeed" addressed to their first departure ten years earlier, were given new import by a twist of the prophetic:

 God keep you both, make beautiful your way,
Comfort, console, and bless; and safely bring,
Ere yet I make upon a vaster sea
The unreturning voyage, my friends to me.

 

R. C.


Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College, with assistance from Linda Givven, Linda Heller, Tanner Brossart, and Emily Weber.
July 2013


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     Letters & Diaries