[This letter was sent c/o Rev. Dr. Tenney.]W-MCP5-6.374 TO ESTIMATE RUTH ESTHER BALDWIN [MCQUESTEN] from her friend Sabra
Mar 5 1844
To: Estimate Ruth Esther Baldwin, Northampton, Massachusetts, [U.S.A.]
From: Meriden, New Hampshire, [U.S.A.]
My dear Miss Baldwin,
So bent am I on seeking my own pleasure this P.M. that I have dismissed all thoughts of books & lessons, placed my Virgil
and [?] upon the shelf, taken my pen and paper in hand and made good my retreat to R. 24, where I anticipate spending an hour, at
least, in concord with my much loved friend. And what shall I say "first"; shall I thank you for that big, well-filled sheet? A stronger proof of love we would not ask, and we have only regret
that our Stores do not furnish its equal indeed, that you might be assured it is all reciprocated. I would fair speak of the
thousand pleasing associations which crowd upon my mind as I recall the happy hours we have spent together here. I never enter this season without thinking of you and wishing for a
return of those times. There is the same prospect from its
window, the same mountain, seen in the dim distance, rearing its lofty peak, the same intervening hills and dales, and perhaps the
same flock of sheep, strolling about and feeding in the yard below. But the interior of the room is somewhat changed, the
walls are improved by the addition of some papery hangings, (which same repair has been made in all the attic rooms) and it
is entirely bereft of its furniture except one chair and the cross-legged table at which I am writing. Mr. Wood had taken the articles to furnish his house, since the room was not occupied,
and they were not needed here. Maybe I shall take up my abode here next term, and if I remain I shall not have charge of the Domestic Department, and shall be no longer confined to the lower
Will you not make me a fugitive visit? I shall often imagine you here, for I would fair believe there is communion of spirit, where the bodily presence is wanting, sometimes. Were it
no so, I know not how I could be content to be separated from my "love" so long. Let us see Esty, did I ever tell you of the attachment I formed, years ago, for a young friend? If not I
must disclose it here. Well our acquaintance commenced at
Meriden, some three years ago, continued one term, was then broken off and not recommenced until a year from the coming Fall. During all this time the tender passion was glowing in my breast
but I revealed it not as there was no communication between us, until the individual returned, when I told what I could, though
the half could not be expressed. Since that time "amor [mili?] credeit in [harad?]." I mention all this to inquire if you do not
think my claims upon that individual's affections are prior to any one else, and that she will never be at liberty to make a
transfer of them to another without my full approbation and cordial assent? I am induced to make this inquiry, from the circumstance that two or three of my friends have recently eloped
without informing me of their intentions at all.
Your letter relieved me of much anxiety I had felt in regard to your health. I had imagined you borne down by a weight of care and responsibility, and almost reduced to a skeleton by such
protracted labors. I trust your duties at N.1 will not be too arduous, as I learn by your brother's letter that you are located
there. I congratulate you that you have chanced to light in so good a family, and all your prospects for the year are so flattering. May they be more than realized.
Dear E. B. It was not my intention when I commenced this letter to leave it so long unfinished, but various hindrances have occurred to prevent me from completing it sooner. Shall I tell you, dear girl, that I am left all chumless and alone?
Indeed it is so; a thing I little anticipated a week ago. Miss Hayes left Tuesday for Lowell. Her health has not been good from
during her fortnight's vacation, so she has gone to spend the intervening time between this and the commencement of the Summer
term with her mother. We were all sorry to have her leave, and your brother, especially. He told her she must come back to
Examination, and this "she said she would gladly do to gratify him, and if she knew that his classes would pass better for her presence, she would stay, though she was confident it would make
her sick. She left much love for you and wished me to say that she should have filled a part of this sheet, had she had the time, after she anticipated leaving. You probably know there has
been a change in her religious sentiments since you were here. She renounced Universalism some month's ago,2 and since that time has manifested an increasing interest in religious subjects. She
did not herself express a hope, though her friends think she gives evidence of being a Christian. She is quite active and takes a part in the Female Prayer meetings. Mary Abrams was
admitted to the church last Sabbath. There is a decided change in her appearance.
You ask what are our plans for the future; Miss Hayes I think will return if her health is sufficient, and spend another year, complete her course in Latin and perhaps take Greek or
French. She has taken a few lessons in Music this term, and succeeds so much better than she anticipated, that I think she will be induced to persevere and perhaps fit herself to teach it,
as Miss Wells thinks she may by six month's practice. She has just completed Bourdon's Algebra and is reading Cicero under your brother's instruction. As for myself Latin still demands all my
attention. We, tomorrow, finish the eleventh book of the Aeneid. The class are very desirous to read the twelfth, since it is what
no class has done before them, but Mr. Richards thinks we cannot do it and have sufficient time to review. He says he has permitted us to advance more rapidly this term than has been for
our own good, as we have paid but little attention to anything but reading. 100 or 125 lines has been our usual extent of lesson. That dread examination will soon be here. The class are
very busy preparing their "Originals," when I suppose they hope to eclipse every thing that has gone before them. May be they
will be disappointed.
But I was telling you about myself. Well, I intend to remain here next term, study Algebra, Geometry, and perhaps review Cicero. Beyond that I know not what I shall do or where I shall be. I do not feel that I can afford to stay at school
longer at present, and should like to be in the way of earning something, at least enough to pay up my debts and clothe myself. I talk a little of going to Lowell and spending a year, if so
perhaps I shall come and see you. I feel strongly attached to Meriden, and shall regret much to leave it. I can truly say the
three years have been the happiest period of my [ink blot] life, and perhaps the pleasantest I am ever to enjoy. The kindness I
have experienced here both from teachers and scholars, will never be forgotten, doubtless it has been the more grateful, and I
think I prize all my friendships more, because previous to that time I had experienced much of the coldness of a heartless world.
How much they lose who are deprived in early childhood of the sympathies and instruction of a kind and judicious Mother, is
known only to those who have sustained the loss. But that I would suffer anything upon the one who now sustains the relation of Mother to me, far from it, for I esteem and love her, and she is worthy, but it has not been my fortune to spend much of my
time at home, since she came to dwell with us. When my mother died, my father was left poor, in feeble health with a numerous family of children upon his hands, and as he could not well
support them all, that cruel or merciful expedient (just as it chances to prove) was had recourse to--"to put some of the children out." Well, I was one, who was destined to go, and of all the unhappiness I experienced during those 8 years of
servitude, I will not speak, and I do not know why I allude to it here, since the time is past, unless it is to enlist your sympathies for those you may find similarly situated.
Our dear Mrs. Bradford with her husband made us a call the second week of this term, only spent one night. Her health was much the same as in the Fall. She was intending to open a school
for her own family and some of the young ladies in the village on her return home. Mr. B. preached in the eve and so far as I know
was liked well. Should think his visit did much to do away the
unfavorable impression that had been received of him here.
Some of the Grafton girls are here this term. Our family is quite small, 23. Miss Wells, three Music scholars, 3 French,
Miss Aldrich assists me in the charge of the work, will take it alone next term.3 Our family regulations are better than when I wrote you before, but not now just as we could wish they were. Miss McK.'s health is feeble.
Is it yet determined what course Isaac is to pursue?4 I
wish he could go to College, still it may not be best for him. He is a lovely youth and I trust will be fitted for some useful station. Those kisses were taken off with great care and I am waiting for a safe opportunity to return the like quarter. Would
that I could do it personally. Should be happy to answer a letter from him.
Shall you not have some love for Miss Locke and Miss Ellis (if you know her) in your next. The former expressed much regard
for you and wished to hear the contents of your letter. I read it and thought she was a little disappointed that there was no special message of love to her. She is a good girl.
Do you know who Charlotte Elizabeth is? I mean her real name. You spoke of her writings, and are much interested in
them. We have been reading her Personal Recollections.5 Her
History is rather an eventful one. Do you think her rather
masculine in some of her traits of character? She has rather more [?] than is usually ascribed to our set. No feminine timidity. I like her independence of spirit, and still I wish it
were accompanied with a little more mildness of disposition, if the two are compatible. But I forget it is not for me to assume the place of critic. We have a [?] in Society called the Ladies [?] Circle. We are fitting out a box for the Grand L. M.
Miss Landon is attending school in Castleton. Mr., Mrs.,
Mary Anne Kidder, I have not seen of late but understand she leaves in May to join her husband in Michigan. Misses Brown & Alexander are at home. They do not write us.
I see not but I must stop writing as my sheet is full though I feel that I have not said much that can interest you. Will you not write soon and tell me more about "ego"? Be assured I can
never hear too much of that personage. P.S. are you not proud of this superscription? Yours with much love.
[Written upside down (a superscription) at the top of Page 2 of the letter:] Tell Miss Baldwin I should very much enjoy a visit from her in my own kind house. Shall you not come & see us in
the Summer as you intimated you might? O, do, we should be so glad to see you. Take Isaac Jr. with you. I called at your
brother's last eve, they were well, and requested me to give their best love likewise. Mr. & Mrs. Wood, Misses McLean, Wells
& Aldrich, cousin Charles & Mr. Rowell each send a bundle of the same, Mrs. Wood says.
1 Estimate received a letter from Rev. Dr. Tenney of
Northampton dated January 3, 1844, "wanting Esty to come as
principal there" (Microfilm Index) (see, W-MCP5-6.326). It
appears that she first declined the position and then finally accepted it.
2 From its beginnings, Universalism challenged its members to reach out and embrace people whom society often marginalized.
The Gloucester church included a freed slave among its charter members, and the Universalists became the first denomination to
ordain women to the ministry, beginning in 1863 with Olympia
Brown. Universalism was a more evangelical faith than
Unitarianism. After officially organizing in 1793, the Universalists spread their faith across the eastern United States
and Canada, promoting the belief that all people are the children of God, rather than a chosen few. Universalism in Christian
theology holds that all humankind will eventually be saved. Members are often social activists and educators. Some notable
women of the 19th C held these beliefs: Judith Sargent Murray, (poet and author; wrote essay on feminism: 1790 "On the Equality of the Sexes" (Rossi, 1973)). Lucy Barnes 1780-1809 (Universalist
writer, poet). Lydia Moss Bradley, 1816-1908 Unitarian and Universalist, (educator, philanthropist, founded Bradley University). Lydia Pinkham (patent medicine inventor, businesswoman, advertising writer, advice columnist). Mary Ashton
Rice Livermore 1820-1905 (lecturer, suffragist, temperance advocate, helped organize Civil War Sanitation Commission). Alice Cary 1820-1871 (author, poet, abolitionist, suffragist; sister of Phoebe Cary). Clara Barton 1821-1912 (Red Cross founder). Ednah Dow Littlehale Cheney 1824-1904 Universalist, Unitarian, Free
Religious Association (civil rights activist, suffragist,
editor). Olympia Brown 1835-1926 (minister, suffragist). Augusta Jane Chapin 1836-1905 (minister, activist; one of the chief organizers of the Parliament of the World's Religions, 1893,
especially of participation of many women of a variety of faiths in this event.) Ada C. Bowles 1836-1928 (suffragist,
abolitionist, temperance supporter, home economist). Fannie Farmer 1857-1915 Unitarian (and Universalist) (cookbook author,
teacher of cooking and dietetics; first to write recipes with exact measurements). Unitarians believe in the oneness of God
rather than in a trinity. In 1961, the Universalists and the Unitarians united to become the Unitarian Universalists (UUs).
Their positions on faith may be derived from a variety of
religious beliefs: Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, naturist,
atheist, or agnostic. Members might tell you that they are
religious humanists, liberal Christians, or world religionists. Some notable men who subscribed to Unitarianism or Universalism
are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Alfred Schweitzer, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster and many others. "Universalism New Hampshire 1840."
November 27, 2003. http://www.uua.org/.
3 This sentence seems to suggest that Sabra was both a
teacher and a scholar and was receiving her education in exchange for the teaching. She indicated earlier in the letter that she needed to find some work that would "earn" something.
4 Isaac may be Estimate's brother, her father's name was
Isaac, and later in the letter he is referred to as Isaac Jr. Also when Estimate had a child she named him Isaac Baldwin McQuesten (1847-1888).
5 See W-MCP5-6.354 for a note on Charlotte Elizabeth and her
Personal Recollections. The sentiments expressed there are very similar to these. This comment also suggests that the writer of both letters might be the same person. One is signed Sabra and the other [?][?] Parkinson. In both letters, the paper, the style
of writing and the address are very similar.