Correspondence of Rhoda Waterbury and
G. W. Clinton
Rhoda Waterbury and G. W. Clinton
1865 - 1867
by P. M. P.O. Box 299,
Vol.3 No. 57 [M 172]
My Dear mentor,
shall not allow you to accuse yourself of such harsh things, or if you do I shall
not believe them. I know just how it is, you have enough to do to tire two
men besides your own domestic affairs and then condemn yourself because you
can not do everything. You need relaxation and you must have it and we have
the thing nicely fixed for a grand time at
There now just see how awkwardly I have arranged those names, well I suppose the way to remedy such would be to have my mental operations more systematically arranged, which I fear is a hopeless task. Now of course we do not want a rainy day for it, so we shall depend upon you to say when, and watch the clouds before you start, though my sister says “never mind if it rains I shall get the more visit,” and I am sure she needs cheering she most of any of us poor child, she has grown very thin and weak under her affliction, and did I not know our family constitution I should fear she might slip away from us, and join the children beyond the river, some spring days. For fear you will not make time for recreation unless I urge it upon you I send you a little rush that we have named whether currently we want you to decide. I have one or two sedges, and I might wait until you come but guess I will send them. I do hope this fine spring day is cheering to the “invalid wife”, how I do pity those who cannot enjoy the open air, and ramble the fields as I do, my sister says that is living to me, the sort of life I only endure because I must, maybe it is so, mere existence is a pleasure to me when I can feel the fresh air all about me. I sometimes fear that when freed from the body I shall not have that definite consciousness of existence that I now have that it will be near a dream state, and it troubles me. I know faith says, ”because I live ye shall live also,” and I wish I could put all these questionings aside, but I cannot always. Mr. Peck has enlisted my little nephew (and I may say the whole family here) in collecting bugs, flies, beetles, &c. for specimens to assist in the completion of his new work on Entomology. We have some amusing times, we put them to sleep in Chlorophorm and some of the big ones wake up after a good nap sometimes and go marching about the house, we have never found them awake after the second nap though. What a favorite man must have been with Heaven that the Father fitted up such a magnificent abode for him and gave him just the faculties to enjoy it all, but why did He make these microscopic insects so beautiful I wonder, when so few see them?
I feel quite sure you are feeling better today for the weather is quite springlike. Now don’t forget to let us know immediately what you think of our plan and all about it. You need not take much time just a few lines you know will do, though I relish a long letter so much I know I ought not to ask it of you.
Hoping to see you soon
I remain still your disciple
Hon. G. W. Clinton
P.S. The plant we think may be Luzula pilosa, Willd.
Recd May 9
Again the seemingly macabre juxtaposition of
death and life, both the birthday and the attempt to get
“I do hope this fine spring day is
cheering to the “invalid wife”, how I do pity those who cannot
enjoy the open air, and ramble the fields as I do ...,” the attribution
of invalidity to Laura Clinton née Spencer is Clinton’s own and
is, considering the context of Clinton’s behavior back in Buffalo, a
way of leading the sturdy Rhoda on through postures requiring pity. As stated
The foursome is to include her brother of the
While Rhoda is carting a corpse off to
There is a
Vol. 3. No. 81 [M 149]
Yours reached me last evening, and if you really knew how much it troubled me, not another thing did I dream of all night but your visit and Miss Comstock and the mosses, for don’t I know she is pretty and young about half as old as I am, oh dear! you don’t know how jealous a woman can be even at my advanced age, but there is one comfort in it she will grow old too if she lives, and I shall not let you flirt with her at all for am I not schoolmarm and she only a schoolgirl? And then those fine new mosses I think I was conscious of a stronger feeling of jealousy on that score than all for not one new one have I found this spring. I am not handsome, I don’t know much, and I don’t suppose I really have anything attractive about me and I am really ashamed I am so selfish. Now I do hope you will have done pitying [Job] by next Friday, June 1st. but I am somewhat fearful you will not for I know when one has reached that “crisis” as they say at the Water Cure there seems to be almost no end to it, but we shall go on and expect you just the same and please drop us a line in the middle of the week that we may have our dinner baskets all ready on Friday for we must start early and pic-nic it for dinner or we should lose half the fun. I did not wonder when I read your last that you stamped it with extra postage. I shall keep that letter, envelope and all, that when I grow to be a very old lady I may perhaps send it to that “little rogue” who created such a sensation and so “overwhelmed” my mentor with patriarchal honor, dear me! I feel older than you for I have a nephew a head taller than I am who kisses and pets me as if I was his mother, but I think it is going to be a great affliction not to see ones grand children, for the present I am content.
my good mentor, you would give Judge [C. = Comstock?] excellent advice, about
keeping away from discussions and agitation, in regard to the country, by
following your example; do I not remember a speech before a convention, or
something of that nature, in Albany, where some body took a different view of
the case from part of his party? (thank God) and
have I not stoutly defended my good friend within the last two months because
I knew his love for his country so well. I think we sometimes fancy we will
rest and wait for Time and
Do you know I sometimes think in our correspondence my letters have the confidence of little experience yours the cautious uncertainty of mature wisdom? You never told me whether the little sedge I sent you was named correctly, but never mind next week I shall know if - ah what sunshine there is in the anticipation.
is a beautiful moonlight evening and it is so quiet here in my brothers
little library I feel just like writing sentimentally but it will never do I
have passed the “transitional” state, and belong to the
generation that is now on the stage of action doing the heavy work of the
world. You don’t know how old I feel since my last birth day two weeks
since. We spent it at
Your disciple still,
Hon. G. W. Clinton
Recd. May 28
It is possible here that
Rhoda’s unusual expectation that she
The characterization of Rhoda’s mourning and flirting together as “macabre” may be an anachronism for in many cultures, past and present, such as in France and in Mexico on All Saint’s Day, visiting the graves, primarily of ones ancestors, was a somber and beautiful celebration with special floral displays and prepared foods. Rhoda’s family’s visitation of her ancestors in Andes, Delaware Co., is just such a picnic excursion.
Andrew Johnson was the President of the new
“Our Young Folks” was a journal, published by Messrs. Fields, Osgood & Co., edited by Howard M. Ticknor and Lucy Larcom. In 1866, when this letter was written, an installment of “A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite’s Life” came out, by Mrs. Adeline D. T. Whitney, perhaps in the “June No.” This number must have included Chapter 8, entitled Sixteen and Sixty. In it is the most astonishing description of a “Miss Craydocke’s room”, who appears to be a old spinster, whose room seems to be a description of Rhoda’s own room back in Schoharie. The quote is “But in the midst grows silently the century-plant of the soul, absorbing to itself hourly that which feeds the beauty of the lily and the radiance of the leaf, - waiting only for the hundred years of shrouding to be over!” It is almost as if Rhoda had been miming this story where a botanist-gentlewoman-spinster is depicted in her previous letters. It is a particularly gorgeous form of composition that Rhoda may describe as “sentimental” in style.
“She had everything pretty about her, this old Miss Craydocke. How many people do, that have not a bit of outward prettiness themselves!”, from Chapter 8.
“Blessed are the Pure in Heart, for they shall see God” Saint Matthew 5.8.