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Letters to Jewett -- Contents
 


John Greenleaf Whittier - Correspondence relating to Sarah Orne Jewett


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Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier to Sarah Orne Jewett
    From the Collection of the South Berwick Public Library.

Selections from Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier 
    by Samuel Pickard. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1894.


 

Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier to Sarah Orne Jewett
    From the Collection of the South Berwick Public Library, South Berwick, ME.
    Published by permission of the South Berwick Public Library.
    Transcription by John Richardson, University of New Hampshire.
    Edited for the Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project by Terry Heller, Coe College.
 

'Oak Knoll'
Danvers 14th 8 Mo. (1879? )

My dear frd.

     Thanks for thy exceedingly kind invitation to South Berwick -- and "Deephaven." I wish I could accept it, but the dog-days compel me to keep quiet at home. Did I answer thy letter before this? -- I half suspect I did, but in the multiplicity of my correspondence I am not quite sure, and so write now. I hear thy little book everywhere praised. The hotels and boarding houses of "Old York" ought to give thee and thy friends free rooms, from this time henceforth, for there (will be?) half thy readers going to "Deephaven." My friend (Preston?) whom thee know I suppose is there now at the "Harbor."

     I hope I may sometime avail myself of thy invitation.

     I saw our good friend (Ellis?) at Newtonville the other day.

     Always & truly thy frd.

John G. Whittier
 



 

63 Mt Vernon St
14th

My Dear Friend,

     I have just got thy note. I have made arrangements to stay here through the week, so that I may have the pleasure of seeing thee possibly before I leave. I am glad thee like the (Year?) 13. The slow, quaint Dutch humor of it is sometimes inevitable.

     Thine always,

John G. Whittier
 


Oak Knoll Danvers
12 Mo 30 1879

My dear Friend,

     I am glad to get thy charming book from thy own hand. I have read "Deephaven" over half a dozen times, and always with gratitude to thee for such a book -- so simple, pure, & so true to Nature. And "Old Friends and New" I shall certainly read as often. When tired and worried I resort to thy books and find rest and refreshing. I recommend them to everybody, and everybody likes them. There is no dissenting opinion; and already thousands whom thee [the] have never seen love the author as well as her books.

     I wish (thee had taken?) Oak Knoll on thy way from Boston.

     Remember me to thy sister whom I met at McClaflin's & take for theyself all the good wishes of thy friend.

John G. Whittier


Hotel (Winthrop?)
(12 Mo 10 1881?)

My dear friend,

     It was good of thee in the midst of thy work to write me. I should have written thee before this, but was looking for thee to come here any day. My time (here/has?) been fully occupied -- the extreme illness of my brother has kept me all the time anxious, and nearly all the world has been writing letters to me, & the rest have been calling upon me; and, like Halleck's Fanny, I was younger once than I am now, and better able to contend with interviewers and other "wild beasts of Ephesus." The occasional sight of Annie Fields and a few other dear friends is my sole relief. I shall be glad when that most pleasant face of thine once more is visible in Boston.

     God bless thee ever and ever! Don't try to write me, for this (hurried?) note is not worth it.

Affec

John G. Whittier


Danvers (2d Mo?) 18 1882

My dear Friend,

     I wonder how I can reconcile myself to the old, customary life here after my pleasant stay in Boston, and our delightful companionship there. I cannot make thee understand how grateful and refreshing it all was, and how much I thank thee for it. I did not leave the city until Thursday morning. 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. For the last fifteen years he has been connected with the Naval Office in Boston.

     I was glad to get thy letter: it was so good of thee to send it. I hope thee will not hurry about writing: there is time enough before thee; and I am sure thee need a little country rest and sleep after the city life and folk-seeing. I did not call on dear Annie Fields again, though should have been glad to do it, for I never see her without a feeling of thankfulness for such a rare, beautiful soul, and the privilege of being her friend.

     I shall probably go to Boston for a few days early in March, and after that visit Amesbury.

     I must tell thee how much I have enjoyed that queer, good "Vicar of Hermanstow." I have seen nothing so good for a long time. For it, and for how much more, I thank thee, God bless thee!

Ever with love thy friend

John G. Whittier


63 Mt Vernon St
Monday a.m.

(Postmark: Boston Mar 12 1882)

My dear friend,

     I have just seen dear Mrs. Field, who tells me that thy mother is unwell. Of course, much as we want to see thee, we cannot ask thee to come if thy presence at home is really needed. I ought to be at Danvers to attend to some writing which I can only do there; but I shall stay here until I find that we cannot expect thee this week; and, if I have to leave without seeing thee, I shall (insist?) on thy spending a day with me at Amesbury the last of this month or the first of April. But (Mrs F.?) & I hope to see thee in Boston some day this week.

     I suppose the bluebirds have got to South Berwick by this time. They were busy welcoming the pussy willows & the first tiny green blades of our reluctant spring when I left Danvers.

     (G. W. Claflin?) thinks of going to Washington tomorrow, and I shall be left alone (save Mrs Freeland?). We miss Mrs Claflin greatly always, and most heartily thy friend

John G. Whittier


63 Mt Vernon St
Boston 12th 3d Mo.
1882

My dear Friend
Sarah O Jewett

     I was disappointed by thy telegram last night as I anticipated the great pleasure of seeing thee today.

     But, I hope I shall see thee yet; and to that end shall stay here a few days longer. My niece has gone back to Portland, and Mrs. Claflin is at Washington and the (Gov?) is (in Bachelor quarters?) and I am keeping him company. I wish thee was here.

     Mrs Fields called at the Quincy House day before yesterday. She was not as usual on her errands of mercy. If I was a painter I should take her as a model of an angel -- a true ministering spirit. She will be lonely today for lack of thee.

     I shall expect to hear of thy arrival sometime this week -- as early as Wednesday I hope.

Ever affectionately thy friend

John G. Whittier


Danvers 3d Mo. 22 1882

My dear Friend,

     I realized in opening thy letter today the subtle truth of thy charming paper in the "Contributors" Department of the Atlantic. I felt that something of thee was in the little sheet, & was glad of that little. I wish thee had staid in Boston over the Sabbath, since thy mother was so comfortable. I did not leave until Tuesday yesterday. I went out to call on Longfellow Sunday p.m. & found him too ill to see me. He sent word to me how sorry he was. I came away feeling very sad but I think his folks are afraid of his seeing anybody, and that the slightest complaint of illness on his part alarms them. Dr. Holmes spent Saturday afternoon with me, and we had a right good time, alternating from grave to gay.

     I did not see Mrs Fields after thee left. Elizabeth Phelps spent Sunday at Hotel Claflin, but she was sadly ill from her sleeplessness. Her new story in the Atlantic opens well. I do not see how she can write at all under the circumstances.

     All thy friends are pleased with thy prospects. You will have a delightful time -- I almost envy you that Norswegian visit.

     I half suspect thee may be in Boston at this time, but my letter can wait thy return, as it amounts to nothing except to say that I am gratefully thy friend

John G. Whittier


Oak Knoll
Thursday

(Postmark: May 5)

My dear Friend,

     Day before yesterday I got thy letter telling me that that Miss Johnson of Bradford had actually been at my house in Amesbury -- and I was not there! I immediately went to Boston rather hoping I should find thee there, but thee had left. I saw Mrs Fields for a few moments. I thought she seemed a little nervous about the expedition, but thee will lie all night as soon as the others are aboard ship. And I am not to see thee before you leave. I am sorely disappointed. I thought I could write thee as soon as I returned to Amesbury, and that thee could fix a day when I might expect thee. Well! I shall have to think often of when we parted at the McClaflins -- but it is too bad.

     I hope thee go in good spirits, though of course, it will be rather hard to leave thy mother & sister. But they I know will feel that it is the best possible thing for thee to make good use of an opportunity which occurs very seldom. Thee & dear Annie Fields will be such mutual help to each other.

     Goodbye, dear friend. I shall follow thee in my thoughts.

With grateful affection thy friend

John G. Whittier


Oak Knoll
Danvers, Mass.
3d Mo. 31 1882

My dear Friend,

     Thanks for thy letter of the 27th. I wonder when thee will be in Boston. I expect to go to Amesbury the last of next week on the 7th or 8th and shall be there for some time when I shall hope to see thee. I had a letter from Mrs. Fields giving an account of Longfellow's funeral. I think she has felt his death very much; and there are some other things which I doubt not she will explain to thee, which have moved and interested her. I think she needs thee.

     I have just heard from my brother at Wilimington Del. His state of health has not greatly improved as yet, though he himself is hopeful. I am glad he is not within reach of our disappointing spring. I suppose thy sister is at home now. Pray remember me to her, and think of me always as thy friend entirely.
 

John G. Whittier


Danvers
5 Mo. 13, 1882

My dear Friend

     How kind it was in thee to write me amidst the worries and cares of preparation for thy flitting across the water, and to add to all thy troubles the necessity of entertaining dull company by inviting me to South Berwick. I know it would be wickedly selfish of me to accept such an invitation, but I certainly should do it if I could. 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.
 

     So, I must let thee go with my written benediction, and with grateful thanks for thy books, and still more for thyself. I am always and affectionately thy friend

John G. Whittier


Oak Knoll Danvers
8 Mo. 17 1882

My dear Sarah Jewett,

     My great pleasure in reading thy letter from "Norroway over the Foam" was marred by thy reflection that it was written when thee should have been resting. I am afraid that you work too hard and see too much, and, in addition to this, that you write your kind letters home when you should be asleep. Of course, we dearly love to get them. I wish I could have sat with you on the cliff-side of Lynton that Sabbath day looking off over the immeasurable sea! or driven with you over the lovely Ex-moor, or rambled with you through the venerable (classic _______) of Oxford, and where are you now! -- Wherever you are be thankful you are not in the more than tropical heat of our N.E. summer. We are roasted and done in the intolerable sun. But we are glad to feel that the spell is broken. Yesterday we had a shower and anybody and everything is happier for it.

     I found a cool place for a fortnight at the Asquam House, in the midst of the three Asquam lakes in Holderness, N.H. The outlook is rarely beautiful -- water on three sides & mountain horizon all round. Unfortunately I returned too soon to encounter the hottest weather of the season & have suffered in consequence. For four nights in succession I could not sleep, and I thought of going to Elizth Phelps' place in Gloucester and watching the stars with her!

     My brother's illness continues. He is about to resign his place in the U.S. Naval Office, and I am studying how to make him as comfortable as possible.

     Let me hear from thee but only write a few words to tell how and where you are. With love to dear Mrs F always affectionately,

John G. Whittier


Amesbury
May (2_?) 188 (4 or 9?)

My dear Sarah Jewett,

     I was delighted to hear from thee. I should have written thee before, but I am suffering from pain in my head and eyes which makes it difficult for me to read or write. It seems a very long time since I have seen thee, and I have reached an age when long times are not to be depended upon. Did thee go to Manchester with dear Annie Fields on Saturday last? I wish I could have helped you in your spring planting. We have just got through with our Frinds Quarterly Meeting, and I am tired with the company and meetings, unprofitable and noisy. For myself I prefer the old silent meetings leaving each to his or her own meditations. I suspect thee have laid up a store of material for out of door sketches this spring. Was Nature ever so lovely before?

     I enclose a bit of verse written by a young friend of mine in Amesbury. I know nothing of music but the (score?) seems to me rarely good. Miss ( ______ ) is one of they warmest admirers and (______) thy book (as? this? Choicest _______ ________). I wish thee could get our beloved Annie Fields out of Boston, and her unceasing work, and her lovely home, but I suppose she will have her (Manchester?) cottage full of visitors. (Dr. Leslie?) always (enquires?) for (thee?) (to? my? _____ ______ ______ ______).

Good night my dear friend! (The Lord bless thee?).

John G. Whittier


Amesbury
8 Mo. 22 188 (4?)

My dear Sarah Jewett

     I was heartily glad to get thy letter bright and pleasant as thyself in the storm of day before yesterday when the dismalest of nights was closing upon us. It amused me to think of thy reading the quaint old volume of "Bishop's New England Judges". I read it by the kitchen firelight long ago. I hope Prof. Hosford will be able to get Abbey's drawing of the (_________) Quaker from which the engraving in Harper's was made. My little poem was written before I had seen Prof. C. and heard his account of the (Friends?) to whom the (lord of Shelter Manor?) gave help. I afterwards wrote an additional sonnet but too late for the paper in which I alluded to Sylvester & his isle of refuge. I shall send him a copy of it. A friend of mine tells me that at a recent gathering of Vassar girls it was agreed to vote for such authors as they would wish to be, and every vote was given for Sarah O. Jewett. This speaks well for Vassar.

     Did I tell thee that we had in our place a few years ago a "New Parishioner"** almost identical with thine. An old farmer who reads everything told me he thought thee must have heard of our adventurer. I must have thee at Amesbury some time.

     A note from dear Annie Fields informs me that Prof. Wood is to be your guest on Friday. I am glad of it for he is a reliable man, and his thought & experience must be worth knowing.

     I think thy heroine must make her profession a solemn & imperative duty -- an "enthusiasm of humanity" -- too potent for even love to overcome . It must awaken sacrifice & renunciation; and perhaps her very affection may hold her back from giving only a part of herself to the beloved object, and in the work & engrossment of her mission subjects even the patience of love to a hard strain.

With love to A.F.

thy affectionate friend

John G. Whittier
 

**Editor's Note for 8 Mo. 22 188 (4?)
Jewett's story, "A New Parishioner" appeared in Atlantic in April 1883 and was collected in The Mate of the Daylight the same year.


Amesbury 5/31   1888

My dear friend,

     Thy (lovely?) book with the (generous?) dedication reached me last night. I am glad exceedingly to have my name so pleasantly associated with thine. I was (longing?) for it, and especially needed it for I have been suffering from the dampness and east winds (of the ? _________ month?) in the whole year -- and the (loveliest?)! I have been reading (long?) the King of Folly Island with renewed admiration of its exquisite descriptions, admirable characterization and pathos which brings tears to one's eyes.

     I am sure this (last?) book is they best and that is saying much.

     Thanks to thee & (Mrs. Fields?) for (Senator?) Edmund's fine portrait.

     I am afraid our dear Annie is not yet quite well. I hope she will feel that she can (leave her hard?) work in the (Associated Charities?) for the present.

     I am quite uncertain as to myself this summer. I scarcely feel like looking forward. I go to Oak Knoll as soon as the rain & fog leave off. The dampness of this spring has been very trying to me.

With grateful love thy friend

John G. Whittier



 

Amesbury (19th 8 Mo 1888?)

My dear Friend,

     Nothing could be more welcome than thy letter which has just reached me. I needed it. We missed thee and dear Annie Fields this summer at the (Asquam?). We enjoyed our summer but the best thing seemed wanting. I sometimes looked to see you coming through the sunset light as you did once before.

     I hope soon to see thy two new stories, and even the one which is "not quite so well" will be welcome. Did I tell thee how I like thy story of the girl who turned (farmer?)? It is one of thy very best.

     I never met "H.H." but two or three times -- the first before she was famous but, familiar with all her writings, I seemed to know her intimately. She had a rare gift and used it nobly. She was, I think, prepared to solve the great mystery.

     I am afraid the story I sent thee is not exactly suited to thy purpose, but perhaps some hints may be got from it without attempting to (fathom?) it.

     I hope I shall see thee and thy sister as you (drive by?) Manchester, but I fear I may not as I am going to Danvers soon. I am only just back from Holderness. But I wish thee and dear Annie could come here when you go to Berwick and spend a night once more under my roof. I will be in A. at the time if you will drop me a line. You know I cannot afford now to let one of my years pass without seeing you.

     Excuse this brief note. I am under an avalanche of letters unanswered from people who have no claim upon my time and strength. I wish the postage was trebled. With love to our dearest of friends, I am always affectionately thine.
 

John G. Whittier


Eliot
July 18, 1890

My dear Friend,

     I am glad to be almost in haling distance of thee at this charming house overlooking the Piscataqua and the green (farmlawn?) of Eliot, only wishing I felt able to ride over and see thee. I am not well but I am here under favorable circumstances, and as far as neuralgia will let me I shall like Falstaff "take mine ease in mine own inn." Will thee not, as they mother's health improves, come and see us? I have not heard from our beloved Annie Fields for some time. Perhaps she will visit thee and come with thee. That last story of thine in the Atlantic was one of thy best -- true to the old life in N. E.. The pathos of it brought tears to my eyes. I have got two old women, who ran away from the Frieburg poor house, to take care of as far as I can. Sarah (F_______) who is as much of an angel as humanity allows of is very kind and neighborly, and my friend (Atwood?) is with us, from Providence. He loves thy work, and would be glad to see thee.

With a great deal of love, thy friend

John G. Whittier
 


Oak Knoll Danvers
8/(11?) 1890

My dear Friend,

     How sorry I am that I was not at Green Acre to welcome thee & thy sister when you called! I don't blame thee for not driving over to (the lawn party?) that terribly hot day, but I looked anxiously for thee. It was a pleasant affair, but it lacked thee. Somehow I do not see so much of my adopted daughter as I could wish.

     The Grand Army 50 or 60 strong has just interrupted my letter, and my hand trembles from so much shaking. Boston has given the veterans a grand welcome, and they are loud in its praise.

     I had a line from dear Annie Field last night. She says she shall ride over to Oak Knoll soon. I hope thee will be with her.

     I thank thee for thy care of the old broken-legged image. If thee have got him on his feet it must have been a rare (piece?) of surgery.

Always thy affectionate friend

John G. Whittier


Amesbury Mass
Nov 18 1890

My dear friend,

     It was good -- it was like thy dear self to write me. I was feeling a little lonely when it came -- an old friend of mine, a near neighbor is lying very ill, and must soon pass away. He was a plain farmer but a great reader and (thinker?) and we have been always fast friends.

     I am glad to hear that thy mother is more comfortable. I have never got over the loss of my mother. I had a letter from A.F. a short time ago. She is looking forward to thy coming to Boston.. What a sweet little poem (______ ________) "In a green nook by the sea."** I am anxious to see thy new book. Meanwhile I look over they old ones.

     I hope thee will stop here on thy way to Boston. It will be a great pleasure to me to see thee again. I dread the coming winter (and?) the snow storm of yesterday looked very dismal to me. But I suppose it will all be well -- nothing is so bad as our fear it will be; and the dear Lord is over all.

     In spite of the wet weather there are times I hope thee have enjoyed the uncommonly fine colors of the season. I never saw the leaves so gorgeous before at Oak Knoll. An English tourist called on me at their brightest, but he could see nothing worthy of his attention.
 

Always affectionately thy fr.

John G. Whittier
 

**Editor's note for Nov 18 1890
Whittier probably refers to Annie Fields's "Upon Revisiting a Green Nook," which appears in The Singing Shepherd (1895).


Oak Knoll
Sept 16, 1891

My dear Friend,

     A great many thanks for thy welcome letter! It seems a very long time since I have seen thee. Dear Annie Fields called on us at Newburyport on her way to South Berwick. As she was to stop at the forlorn Junction, I feared she would find no conveyance and be obliged to walk in the hot sun. I was glad to see her looking so well and bright. I knew you would feel the death of Lowell. He was an admirer and good friend of thine. His death is a great loss to us all. It leaves Dr. Holmes and myself quite alone. The Dr. came to see me last week, and we had a pleasant hour together. He feels the death of Lowell but is still his old self, bright and cheerful. He has written a poem on Lowell which will appear in the Atlantic. The (thing?) thee spoke of sending me I suppose went to Newburyport. I have been here two weeks and I have missed it, much to my regret, for reading what thee write is next best to seeing thee. With a great deal of love, ever they old friend

John G. Whittier


Oak Knoll
Sept 23 1891

My dear friend

     Miss (F ) who has just called here tells me that thy dear mother is very ill. I am so sorry to hear it. I know how thee and thy sister must feel and the sad hopeless waiting for the inevitable. I know what it is.

     The night Mr Phillip told me the (____________) at Manchester and that Mrs Fields (__________) and looking well. I have had a lovely letter from the dear woman whom we both know how to prize.

     I write just to express my deep sympathy and love.

     Ever affectionately thy friend,

John G. Whittier
 

Editor's Note for the South Berwick Library Collection

     I have not been able to examine the original letters. Therefore, I have assumed that apparent errors in the texts, such as theyself for thyself, also appear in the originals. The reader should be aware, however, that these may well be transcription errors. I have not corrected such errors here, but have attempted to present the transcriptions exactly as they came to me. Corrections should be addressed to the site manager.
     [ Top of Page ]


Selections from Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier
by Samuel Pickard.
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1894.
 

TO SARAH ORNE JEWETT.

1879.

     I am glad to get thy charming book from thy own hand. 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. And "Old Friends and New" I shall certainly read as often. When tired and worried I resort to thy books and find rest and refreshing. I recommend them to everybody, and everybody likes them. There is no dissenting opinion; and already thousands whom thee have never seen love the author as well as her books.


TO SARAH ORNE JEWETT.

DANVERS, 2d mo., 1882.

     I wonder how I can reconcile myself to the old, customary life here, after my pleasant stay in Boston, and our delightful companionship there. I cannot make thee understand how grateful and refreshing it all was and how much I thank thee for it. I did not leave the city until Thursday morning. 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. For the last fifteen years he has been connected with the Naval Office in Boston . . . . I must tell thee how much I have enjoyed that queer, good "Vicar of Hermanstow."* I have seen nothing so good for a long time. For it, and for much more, I thank thee.
 

*By S. Baring Gould.
[Unless otherwise indicated, the notes and narrative portions are by Pickard.]


TO ANNIE FIELDS.

3d mo., 24, 1882.

     With regard to modern Spiritualism I have had a feeling that it was not safe or healthful for mind or body to yield myself to an influence the nature of which was unknown. There is a fascination in it, but the fascination is blended with doubt and repulsion. I am disgusted with the tricks and greed of these mediums; their pretended spiritual intercourse has none of the conditions which Tennyson's "In Memoriam" describes, and I do not know that I really need additional proof of the life hereafter. I think my loved ones are still living and awaiting me. And I wait and trust. And yet how glad and grateful I should be to know! I must believe that our friends are near us -- that they still love and watch over us.


TO SARAH ORNE JEWETT.

5th mo., 1882.

     How kind it was in thee to write me amidst the worries and cares of preparation for thy flitting across the water; and to add to all thy troubles the necessity of entertaining dull company by inviting me to South Berwick. I know it would be wickedly selfish for me to accept such an invitation; but I certainly should do so if I could. 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. So I must let thee go with my written benediction and with grateful thanks for thy books, and still more for thyself.






The summer of 1883* found him [Whittier] again among the New Hampshire hills, spending some time at Centre Harbor, and in his old haunts by the Asquam lakes, from which retreat he wrote to Mrs. Pitman, who was at the seashore: --

     "I wish heartily that I were with you, or you with me, on this breezy hilltop, overlooking the loveliest lakes of New England. Will you not be able to stop at Amesbury on your return? Joseph and Gertrude Cartland are here, and many nice people, among whom is a young lady from New York, who was with Francesca Alexander in Florence, and is mentioned in 'The Story of Ida.' We are reading Sarah Orne Jewett's charming 'Country Doctor' under the pines."

*The date of 1883 probably is incorrect; Jewett's A Country Doctor was published in 1884 [Heller].


TO ANNIE FIELDS.

ASQUAM HOUSE, 7th mo., 1883.

     I wish thee and Sarah could have stayed a day longer. The place was, I think, never so beautiful as it seemed in the afternoon and evening after you left. Such a sunset the Lord never before painted. You have gone away with no idea of the beauty of these lakes and hills. I meant you should have all that sky and summer cloud and land and water could give, but Nature did not carry out my good intentions. But you were here, and, so far as I was concerned, the outside world's behavior was of small consequence. . . . Our house is now very, full -- packed, I should call it. Yesterday I was alarmed by the arrival of two more -- man and wife -- so huge in proportions, that I wonder Barnum has not secured them for his caravan. The one small room left would not hold them, and our landlord gave them their dinner and sent them off. If anybody else comes we shall be in the condition of Wordsworth's "Party in a Parlor:" -

     "Crammed just as they on earth were crammed --
     All silent and all damned!"

I think this rather startling comparison is in his "Peter Bell."*
 

*It was in the first edition only of Peter Bell. Wordsworth struck out the passage in subsequent editions. The whole quotation is as follows: -

    "Is it a party in a parlor?
     Cramm'd just as they on earth were cramm'd -
     Some sipping punch, some sipping tea,
     But, as you by their faces see,
     All silent and all damn'd!"


TO ANNIE FIELDS.

10th mo., 2, 1885.

     I have been thinking of thy gracious and generous proposal of hospitality. It has made me very happy, though I have not been able to see how I can avail myself of it. I find that I am unable to bear the excitement of city life for any length of time, however carefully I may be shielded by my friends. I am unhappily notorious, and cannot hide myself. My deafness makes me confused and uncomfortable when strangers are present. The great and really painful effort I am compelled to make when in company, to listen and try to understand, and make fitting replies, and the uncertainty I feel, when I venture to speak, whether I have heard aright -- all this affects my nerves, and costs me nights of sleeplessness and days of weariness. In fact I am what the Turks call "a cut-off one," so far as society is concerned . . . . As soon as it is known that I am in your premises a steady stream of interviewers, autograph-hunters, and people with missions will flow in upon you. It would be like having a waif from Barnum's Museum shut up in your library, and people coming in to see what it looks like. It would make your life miserable. Sarah's dog could not keep them off. You would have to get out a writ of ejectment and set me and my carpet-bag into the street -- and yet how I wish I could say "yes"! I thank the good Providence that has given me such a friend, dear as Vittoria Colonna to Michael Angelo. I wish I could look forward to the enjoyment of such friendship for many years in this life, but when one is approaching fourscore that is not to be expected. Though for that matter, I see that Senator Hoar, in his great speech of day before yesterday at Springfield, took occasion to deny the self-evident fact that I am an old man! . . . I had a rare good visit from Dr. Holmes and his wife the other day. We two old boys wandered about in the woods, talking of many things -- half merry, half sad. We were stranded mariners, the survivors of a lost crew, warming ourselves at a fire kindled from the wreck of our vessel . . . . The woods here are blazing with color, but I fail to see the red against the green. Both look the same. But the walnuts and maples are glorious, making sunshine when there is none in the heavens.


     Soon after "The Homestead" appeared,* Mr. Whittier wrote to Mrs. Pitman: "I am glad thee liked 'The Homestead.' I saw in the country several of these melancholy spectacles of abandoned homes. I think the farmers of New England are better off as a class, on their bard soil, than those who are on the rich lands of the West. They are not rich, but they are not poor; they live comfortably, and as a rule own their farms clear of mortgage. If they were content to live and toil as the poorer farmers in the West do, they would double their deposits in the savings banks." About this poem Sarah Orne Jewett* wrote: "I do not know when anything has touched me so nearly and dearly. Nobody has mourned more than I over the forsaken farmhouses which I see everywhere as I drive about the country out of which I grew, and where every bush and tree seem like my cousins! I hope this will make people stop and think, and I know it will bring tears to many eyes. That line about the squirrel in the forsaken house nobody else would have thought of but you. I send all the thanks one little letter can carry."

* "The Homestead" was included in St. Gregory's Guest, and Recent Poems 1886. [Heller].
** bold added [Heller].


TO ANNIE FIELDS.

2d mo., 9, 1888.

     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! There may be a question as to curative properties of Dr. Lowell's dose, but that its flavor was agreeable I have no doubt. My own experience of the poetry cure was not satisfactory. Some years ago, when I was slowly getting up from illness, an honest friend of mine, an orthodox minister, in the very kindness of his heart thought to help me on by administering a poem in five cantos, illustrating the five points of Calvinism. I could only take a homťopathic dose of it. Its unmistakable flavor of brimstone disagreed with my stomach, probably because I was a Quaker.
 
 

TO THE SAME. [Fields]

4th mo., 30, 1888.

     I am thankful that I have lived to see another spring; to watch the slow, beautiful resurrection of Nature. A little north of us, as seen from our hills, the snow still lingers, but here the grass is greening in the lowlands, and the arbutus blooms among the pine needles. I have been at Amesbury for a fortnight. Somehow I seem nearer to my mother and sister; the very walls seem to have become sensitive to unseen presences . . . . I am looking over the proofs of my verses for the new edition, with a strong desire to drown some of them like so many unlikely kittens. But my publishers say that there is no getting rid of them, that they have more than nine lives. I hope I am correcting a little of the bad grammar and rhythmical blunders which have so long annoyed my friends who have graduated at Harvard instead of a district country school.


TO ANNIE FIELDS.

NEWBURYPORT, 12th mo., 10, 1891.

     Will it not be possible for thee to be with me on the 17th? I do not expect any crowd here; but I should be very sorry to miss of seeing thee. If dear Sarah Jewett is in Boston, take her with thee. I feel sure thee will come if possible. It is not likely that many more such occasions will occur. I inclose some rhymes hastily penciled years ago, a copy of which I have lately found.*
 

TO THE SAME. [Fields]

NEWBURYPORT, 12th mo., 29, 1891.

     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. Looking at the wreath which still hangs all right in our dining-room, I am tempted to let myself down to poetry: --

     "Blossom and greenness, making all
     The wintry birthday tropical,
           And the plain Quaker parlors gay,
      Have died on bracket, stand, and wall.
      I saw them fade and droop and fall,
           And laid them tenderly away.

     "White virgin lilies, mignonette,
     Blown rose and pink and violet, --
           A breath of fragrance passing by,
     A dream of beauty and decay,
     Colors and shapes which could not stay, --
           The fairest, sweetest, first to die.

     But still this rustic wreath of thine
     Of wintergreen, and bay, and pine,
            The wild growths of our forest land,
     Woven and wound with careful pains,
     And tender wish and prayer, remains,
           As when it dropped from love's dear hand."**
 

     * An Out-Door Reception, first published after Mr. Whittier's death.

     ** Considerable changes were made in these lines afterward, two new verses were added, and the poem as thus completed was included in At Sundown, under the title The Birthday Wreath.
 
 

Text prepared by Terry Heller, Coe College
If you would like to add annotations to this text, please send them to theller at coe dot edu.


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