W-MCP5-6.375 TO ESTIMATE RUTH ESTHER BALDWIN [MCQUESTEN] from B. [Betsey] R. Abbot
Dec 17 1841
To: Estimate Ruth Esther Baldwin, Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, South Hadley, Massachusetts, [U.S.A.]
From: Nashua, New Hampshire, [U.S.A.]
My dear Miss Baldwin,1
Little did I think when I last saw you that so long would elapse before I should hear from you & anxiously have I waited for a letter, but by your paper which I received a few days since, I suppose you are waiting for me. I thought you promised
to write first, but if I am mistaken about it, you will, I hope, forgive me for not writing before, as had I not waited for you, I should have written long ago.
It is now eleven weeks since we parted I suppose you feel at
home by this time at South Hadley. I often wish I was with you--but it is ordained otherwise. I spent eight weeks at home very pleasantly and almost regretted that I had engaged to return
to this place. It is really delightful to be free from the
perplexities of a school teacher & I sometimes feel that I am not made to wear myself out by teaching school.
We have now commenced our winter term. Tomorrow will close the third week, but schools, especially the lower rooms are very full thus far. I usually have from 55 to 60 scholars & I will
not tell you it is a task indeed to take care of them. I sometimes feel almost discouraged when I see them disorderly & idle but I hope I may be able to keep them "trained." Do you
know we are going to lose committees like Osgood. I feel very sorry to lose him, think his place will not soon be filled in this town. Dr. Spalding has the charge of our affairs during this term.
I have not yet told you where I board. Miss Wight & myself were fortunate enough to find Mrs. Lunn willing to take us. We
find it a very good boarding place & very convenient. Miss
Ingales is at Mr. Gay's on [Cantlin?] Street. Sanborn (of course) is at Madam "[B?'s?]"--his health is improving & his
school goes on very well.
I have been troubled with cough for a week past & I dread its continuance. It is somewhat better & I hope I will be well in a few days. I find it very hard to talk all day & lie awake during the night to cough. Yet I feel that I have no reason to
complain for there are few who enjoy so great health as I do. How much more we notice any little diseases than we do the numberless blessings we enjoy we forget from whence all these
good things come.
But my dear sister, how are you enjoying yourself at S. Hadley. Oh, I wish I could step in & see you for a little time. We talked of visiting you when I was at home, but brother was so
busy he could not leave. I do hope I shall see you during the year but I would feel that every thing is uncertain in this world. Let me know all about your situation studies, &c. I hope
to read and study more this winter. Have lately read "Steven's Travels in Central America," "Biography of Good Wives" and am now
reading "Biography of Celebrated Women" such as Joan of Arc, Margaret of Anjou, Queen Elizabeth, Frances D’Aubigne, which
contains much valuable history.
This is Friday eve--Mr. Crosby's examination has been today & his exhibition is this eve. I dare not go out on account of my cough & I ache all over in consequence of taking cold this stormy day.2 Miss Wight has gone to Mr. Reed's this eve. She has been
to the examination as we closed at 3 o'clock today, as it was so stormy we all concluded to stay at noon & have only ˝ hour
Sunday, Dec. 19.3 I have just returned from church & mean if possible to do a little towards filling this letter before third service. We have had Mr. Maleau of Manchester today & you know he is a favorite of mine--His subject this morning was Heaven--his text "there is no night there"--'Twas an excellent sermon--Do you not love to think of Heaven? Oh, shall we ever reach that "home of the blessed & shall our voices be attuned to
the "song of Moses & the Lord" & clothed in the robe of Christ's righteousness shall we bow before Him & cast our crowns at His
feet shouting "Alleluia praise our Lord?" Oh, my dearest E. does it not seem that even this faintest hope of reaching heaven would
lead us to increasing efforts & diligence in the service of
Christ? And yet we are assured that we shall enter Heaven if we will but receive the Saviour to our souls. Shall we not then strive to enter in at the strait gate? I feel that I am & ever have been an unfaithful servant--I desire to repent & humble myself on account of my past life & to press forward with renewed
energy in the Christian life.
I have attended our vestry meeting & am once more seated by the fire at my Nashua home. We have had a most interesting meeting. I know not when I have enjoyed one so much. The theme
of contemplation was still Heaven. I have asked myself, am I prepared for it?--but when I think I may be deceiving myself I dare not say "yes"--yet I would in humble trust throw myself into
the arms of the Saviour & say from the bottom of my heart--"Rock of Ages, cleft for me--Let me hide myself in thee."
There is no particular interest here at the present time, I
believe most of the evening meetings are thin, but cannot say much of them as I have not dared to go out evenings on account of my cough. I sometimes fear I shall be obliged to give up
teaching on account of it. Cousin Levi told me yesterday I ought not to teach any longer, but I hope I may be better soon. Indeed
I think I am much better than I was a week since. I dread my winter's task. You know what it is yet you cannot know the difficulty I meet with governing Nashua children, for I believe
you never found it difficult. I wish you would tell me how to keep them orderly.
There are a thousand things I wish to say to you, but I know not where to begin. Our Lyceum is very interesting. I lost 4 of
the first lectures by being at home. I have heard B.A.
Brownson, Mr. Osgood & Mr. [?]. The two latter were very good but I cannot discern "The Spiritual" but I must say I am no friend to transcendentalism. His subject was the "Identity of Philosophy & Religion." We have an Irishman this week. I do not
recollect his name. Mr. Pickford has given us another temperance lecture & will give us a third one this week. A noble man he
is--our S.S. teacher has gone to New Jersey to teach. As yet we have no permanent one to fill his place. The Misses Marshall are
well, I saw them today.
There is now in town a young Frenchman who is giving lessons in that language--he is quite a celebrated teacher, & I
would join his class did I dare to go out. Miss Ingales joins it I believe. His name is Des Roches, I think. A pretty little
fellow--he calls at my school room a day or two since. Mr.
Charles G. Burnham of Pembroke Academy, has been in town with a new Arithmetic on the cancelling system--have you seen it? Now you will forgive me for delaying so long to write won't you? & I
pray you excuse any hasty writing for Miss W. is waiting to carry this to the Post Office.
I saw your cousin David Baldwin today, he inquires particularly after you, sent his best respects. I cannot enumerate those who inquire after your welfare you know you have many friends here and they will all rejoice to hear from you.
Miss Steele has a very severe cough now, & the children have the whooping cough. Delroy I fear will be confined for a long time
with it. He coughs so hard sometimes as to almost have spasms. They have quite a family of boarders, Mr.& Miss Castels Hasmir & Mr. Clark. (A brother of Miss H. and four young ladies who are
employed by Mr. Nahor. Among them Miss Mary Woods who [?] to teach in our building). Miss Abbot is here & is quite well. I have not heard from home, particularly since I came down. I just heard last week that brother William has a little son. I feel quite grand that I am aunt. I have been interrupted & must
leave this till tomorrow.
Monday. Have just got through tea and hope I may be
allowed to finish this
letter without interruption. I have been to school today as
usual. Dr. Spalding favored me with a call this forenoon. I think we shall like being connected very much. School this
afternoon has been unusually pleasant. I hope 'twill continue to grow more so. I have not seen any of Mr. David Crosby's family
to speak with them since I returned. I would have called there long before this, but I dare not go out much for people say I am careless. I wish I could make them think that I can take cold by
staying in our wretched school rooms as well as by going other where.
I have made crooked work of writing crosswise but I hope you will be able to read it though I fear you will not.5 I
do not know of any thing particular going on here at present. Parkinson has returned to Hanover and a Mr. Emery has taken his place. I tried to get Mary to fill the whole of this side but she
would not do it. Do write very soon. I feel very anxious to hear from you. I think of you often & much & fondly. Hope we
may visit again on earth, but if not may ever be prepared for the Christian's next in Heaven. I have not time to look this over.
B. R. A. [Betsey Abbot]
1 B.[Betsey] R. Abbot wrote several letters to Estimate R.E. Baldwin (W-MCP5-6.312, W-MCP5-6.334, W-MCP5-6.372, W-MCP5-6.375).
2 In a letter to Estimate one year previously (dated
December 25, 1840), Betsey Abbot noted that she was sitting up with a student who was in the last stages of consumption (W-MCP5-6.372). We have no record of the outcome of the severe cough
that she mentions here several times. Tuberculosis patients were not quarantined at that time. See footnote on the history of
Tuberculosis at W-MCP5-6.372.
3 We have dated this letter accurately from this
information. The only year between 1840 and 1844 in which
December 19 falls on a Sunday is 1841. The microfilm index dates the letter as 1844, but the letterhead and envelope wrapper are illegible. It could not be 1844 because Estimate was living in
Hamilton, Canada West, at that time, having married Dr. Calvin McQuesten in September, 1844.
4 Transcendentalism [Lat.,--overpassing] an American
literary and Philosophical movement that flourished in New England from about 1836 to 1860. It originated among a small group of intellectuals who were reacting against the orthodoxy of Calvinism and the rationalism of the Unitarian Church, developing
instead their own faith centering on the divinity of humanity and the natural world. Transcendentalism derived some of its basic
idealistic concepts from romantic German philosophy, notably that of Immanuel Kant, and from such English authors as Carlyle,
Coleridge, and Wordsworth. Its mystical aspects were partly influenced by Indian and Chinese religious teachings. Although
transcendentalism was never a rigorously systematic philosophy, it had some basic tenets that were generally shared by its adherents. The beliefs that God is immanent in each person and in
nature and that individual intuition [our note: Kant scholars use the term intuition to mean sensory information] the highest source of knowledge led to an optimistic emphasis on individualism, self-
reliance, and rejection of traditional authority.
The ideas of transcendentalism were most eloquently expressed by
Ralph Waldo Emerson in such essays as "Nature" (1836), "Self-Reliance," and "The Over-Soul" (both 1841), and by Henry David
Thoreau in his book Walden (1854). The movement began with the occasional meetings of a group of friends in Boston and Concord to discuss philosophy, literature, and religion. Originally
calling themselves the Hedge Club (after one of the members), they were later dubbed the Transcendental Club by outsiders because of their discussion of
Kant's "transcendental" ideas.
Besides Emerson and Thoreau, its most famous members, the club included F. H. Hedge, George Ripley, Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Theodore Parker, and others. For several years much of
their writing was published in The Dial (1840-44), a journal edited by Fuller and Emerson. The cooperative community Brook Farm (1841-47) grew out of their ideas on social reform, which
also found expression in their many individual actions against slavery. Primarily a movement seeking a new spiritual and intellectual vitality, transcendentalism had a great impact on
American literature, not only on the writings of the group's
members, but on such diverse authors as Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.
November 28, 2003.
5 The first page of this letter is heavily overwritten with
a diagonal script written over top of the vertical.