Harriet Beecher Stowe Letters
1844 to 1860
Hanover students from His229 "Women in American History" (Fall 2015), taught by Sarah McNair Vosmeier, transcribed these letters. The originals are in the Beecher-Stowe Family Papers, at the Schlesinger Library of Harvard University. Images of the letters are available online.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to Calvin Stowe, 23 May 1844
Transcription by Ashley Eden (HC 2017), Cait Kennedy (HC 2016), and Jennifer Gilly (HC 2018) from an online image.
My Dear Husband
So you complain of me, - well , before this time you must have received my two letters, & been suitably delighted & so you might have been had you appreciated the bustle & turmoil & confusion of mind in which I wrote – The fact is that I do not feel that our ardent & amiable friend Mrs B – realised what she undertook in taking this house, my family, & other boarders
She is ardent & executive, but not consecutive & systematic - - has not the talent alone to arrange and regulate a large establishment as ours will necessarily be. This has thrown a large part of the labour of arranging upon me, & gives me still a larger share of anxiety . . . . Still on the whole she is extremely capable in particular things and very amiable & willing to receive advice & suggestions. She has also a very amiable good girl tho not a very smart one - - Mr Boardman is always gentle disinterested & obliging – takes excellent care of Fritz & of all out of door business. We had to day the offer of two more boarders, ladies, in one entry chamber which with Mr & Mrs McG. nurse & child increases our family to the account of six - We sit in the morning a long table which goes quite across the dining room for then children & all come - - at other times they sit at the second table We are expecting Henry Eunice & their children at anniversary also Sarah Beecher & little George –
May 25 Received a letter yesterday from Charles at Ft Wayne – a [illegible] revival has commenced & he is almost beside himself with joy & can scarcely believe his own eyes but feels as the seventy did when they found that they could work miracles “Lord even the devils are subject unto us” - - You can see the letter if you go to Hartford. Aunt Esther has a copy of it sent her – Father rejoices you can guess how much – To day have been busy most of the day, helping about family matters – do hope we shall get done sometime, & when we are, every bed room in the house will be carpeted finished & occupied you will scarcely find room for yourself if you want to come back – How strange this mode of life seems to me! – I scarce know myself & in the bewilderment scarce mis you since I feel as if I was somebody else – Whether after all we shall make any thing with all our trouble may be doubted If we get thro a little cheaper it is the most I hope
– Bye the bye I think the Evangelist owes me something will you enquire about it for me – They sent me Feb 7 [1833?] – , [strikeout: Those pieces were worth, I think. 17. $25 – [strikeout: after] after receiving the two dancing school pieces - - Those pieces were worth about 17 – then there was a short piece worth about $7 Then the Dickens piece was about 12 or thirteen & the last Missionary piece $25 making what they owe me about Thirty one or two dollars – I have some more pieces partly written which I shall send on soon – Those dancing pieces with which the account begins [strikeout: conn] are [strikeout: in] sometime after Feby 11 – 1833 – Now if you can go to the Evan office & look over a volume you can soon find how the account stands - $25 being paid – The pieces are The dancing school 2 no. The pilgrim (or some such name) – Dickens – The Western Missionary – I have not got the titles right but the subject matter is so – I am obliged to let Mr Boardman have some money he wants it for current expenses - & I shall want the command of that money – I intend to write more soon & have three pieces now already planned & shall write more I sent my preface to Dodd. I think it is a pretty good one considering - - & if he wille send me a ten dollar bill for it just as a fee I’l say “thank ye sir” & take it – [strikeout: The g] Now if you want to see a sketch of my manner of life it is thus & so – Rise at 1/2 past 5 - - breakfast 6. Morning prayer meeting till 7. Work in garden till eight – then come in the house review knives spoons castors & all the table paraphanalia count & see that every thing is in proper order – 1/2 past [paper torn: nine?] call the children into school sing a hymn pray with them and give them a bible lesson half an hour long – the Life of Christ freely described in the style of Charles’ lectures – they are very much interested – They then spend a half an hour on their texts & bible lessons for sunday – Then read in a class & then sew till dinner time – They are pretty good children – nothing very smart has been said by any of them tho’ lately – To day little Miss Eliza by dint of frisking & figuring about, instead of learning her lesson contrived to lose her dinner privileges & to have only bread & water in her own apartment – After dinner I noticed Hatty gliding very quietly up stars with her own saucer full of custard which she had saved up for Eliza – The child is always doing such things & yet strangers suppose she is not nearly so affectionate as Eliza
– Our affairs proceed prosperously on the whole – I think Mr & Mrs McG – will really be quite an addition to our circle – I am very tired to night & must go to bed farewell
By the way Kate must wants me to say to you, be sure & get Johnny Ross’ Experience down in writing - & I do hope you will not lose the opportunity.
Monday no letter for a week - I hasten to send this lest you should have missed some of my others - - - -
Give me love to all dear N England friends wherever you meet them & do not fail to attend to the business part of my letter - - I long for the time when you will retrn & we shall be once more a united family together.
H B Stowe
Revd C E Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to Calvin Stowe, 9 July 1844
Transcription by Clinton Bly (HC ), Nicole Hoene (HC ), and Amanda Hopkins (HC ) from an online image.
My Dear Husband,
This is the first day since I have been here at Indianapolis that I have felt any thing like well - - having been tormented with a cold, rheumatic pain & a violent cough & to day is one of those insufferably close, damp, disagreeable days that make one feel as if in a steam bath - - Henry & Eunice & Talbot & I have been since dinner lounging & gaping about like fish in a pail of water, scarcely knowing whether we are alive or dead - - in this miserable half & half condition I bethink me of writing to you. All hope of keeping up much of a correspondence seems to fade from before my eyes, as I am at Indianapolis, & you, any where & every where & letters before they reach either point must necessarily grow pretty old - - I have been here a week & four or five days and find here just the calm placid quiet retreat I have been longing for - - You have no idea of the commotion that I have lived in ever since you left - - The moving in of Mr & Mrs B __ the cleaning the whole house the shifting & rearranging of rooms, the preparing for boarders, & then the company anniversary week & after Henry Eunice little Hattie & Henry, Sarah & her nurse & little George - - with Mr & Mrs McGuffie & Master Charley - - In all we had ten children in the family - - - - & when I came away I felt completely worn out - - & perhaps my ill feelings here are but the running down after such an excitement. Sister Sarah, appears increasingly noble & lovely - that fool of a Boy was [sneaking?] around enquiring of Kate! Whether she was [strikeout: shur] sure there was no hope! only think! - - Sarah seems to become very much like her mother who was one of the noblest and loveliest of living women. Mrs McG __ does not prove as agreeable on all points as I expected - - She is too selfish & exigiante - - [strikeout: How] yet she is a fine sensible woman, & possessed of many generous and estimable qualities - - I don't like the term selfish, it covers too much ground - - Elisabeth does not seem to me to be naturally selfish, but only to have streaks of it - - one thing I know that I wont take my friends as boarders, for one sees too much of them! - - poor human nature. During my absence Boardman writes that they have taken Mr & Mrs Chase, [strikeout: wife &] child & nurse - - I am weary at the thoughts of such a housefull - - is it necessary! - - It depends on me whether they remain after my return - - I don’t know what to say - - I wish the summer were through & this boarding business closed, I am heartily sick of it - - It is too noisy & disquieting & harassing - - When I come home Anna will take Hatty & Elisa to Charlestown & I wish I could go off with Henry & Freddy till you return & so be out of the scrape - - Had a letter from Anna tonight - little Georgy & all the children are well - & Georgy really says "Mamma" & has a tooth & the promise of three or four more - - By the bye you must manage to see Georgianna May & tell her that her little name sake will do her credit one of these days. Give my love to her also & tell her that had it not been for that same little Georgy I would have come up with you this summer
I cant tell you how much such a housefull as we have worries & annoys me, but if you think it necessary why I must try to bear with it till you return & then I should be glad to go back to our own family circle - - but you can decide what is best on your return - - I have often regretted that there was no definite agreement between Mr B. & you as to rent terms &c for I do not know now exactly how we do stand - - I have let Mr B have about $25 & he keeps his accounts quite exact, or seems to - - & as he was a merchant probably knows how better than I do - - nevertheless I do the best I am able - - I will let this boarding matter go on the whole & let them have as many as they want only reserving one room for self & children & I hope it will lessen our expenses - - I am glad you are learning trust in Christ - - Be sure that if we make it our first object to do his work[strikeout: s] he will provide for us - - & tho as you once remarks he will not keep our accounts for us, yet he can in a thousand ways help us to steer through - -
July 9th. I am not well yet - - to day am reduced to calomel & gruel - - very sick all day yesterday vomiting & what not- Pretty miserable at letter writing. Now my dear, as you will want to bring home a little matter for your wife will you go to [several lines cut out]
Also see if you can get for me there either some guano or poudrette sufficient tell the man for about twenty plants I want to pot for my window this winter - - I read with some interest as Bro Goodman might say, your remarks in Cleveland - - I hope that you really feel in your heart a new impulse of spiritual life, while you seek to impart it - - Broth Goodman’s reports are some thing the sleepiest, tho Anna writes me that Proff Allen came home much Elated - - Do you know I am seriously thinking of breaking up our “connection” & coming here to I - - to take a class of young ladies & so influence the state - - Such pretty girls as they have here & so uncultivated - - I really long to do something for them - - teach them to be women - - & not - - men corruptors & destroyers - - Female education is at a low ebb in this state
[several lines cut out]
refined - - strong mind & winning manners who would come to Indianapolis, with a view not merely of teaching a school but of forming the centre of female influence in the state. - - Henry says he wants only the woman & he can move the whole state for her. [cross-written on last page:] - I can think only of F Strong and H Brown [words cut out] they are permanently located. M Hudson [words cut out]] would & if she & Sarah Day would undertake the [torn paper] they could - - Suppose you think the matter [words cut out] what can be done
[cross-written on first page:] I must send this letter off to day __ Farewell Yours H
Revd C. E. Stowe
[In a later hand:] Visiting at Indianapolis, Mr Stowe at Natick