Mending the Heart

A penciled letter from Tillie to Andrew

I have decided that, since I am digging through the layers, doing archaeology, right here in my own house, I’ll give you a flavor of the experience I’m having by presenting artifacts piecemeal, just as I experience them.  Just as in outdoor archaeology, my indoor archaeology is affected by what has happened to the artifacts in the past- the order in which old letters have been stored in a suitcase, the shuffling and re-shuffling of items as they have been cared-for and rearranged over the years.  Perhaps by getting everything out on the table-top of this blog, together we can find an order, a logic to the various strands of personal history that these pieces of paper represent.  Years ago, when I started collecting these heirlooms, I bought archival materials in which to store them.  This includes polyethylene envelopes and acid-balanced storage boxes, none cheap.  Many of the articles are stored in this way, but there is still an avalanche of paper yet to be protected.  In short, it’s a mess behind those cabinet doors!

These letters are, of course, all hand-written, in fair-to-exquisite cursive that must be deciphered.  I keep my magnifying glass and strong light handy when I’m on transcription duty.  When I come to a word I simply cannot figure out, I write blanks on my Word document and come back to it later.  An hour or two of  break from the task will often solve the problem.  I make no claim that my transcriptions are scrupulously accurate, but they are the best I can do in the time that I have.  I put my own comments in [ ] brackets, so that you won’t be confused.  I leave the grammatical and spelling errors because they add to the charm and immediacy of the expressions.  Some of the errors in punctuation are due to the peculiarities of writing with a nib pen or a pencil, and not necessarily to neglect on the part of the author.

Following is a transcription of a letter sent from Matilda to Andrew sometime before they married, when Andrew was studying law.  Clearly, they had had some sort of misunderstanding or quarrel, and this note shows part of the process of clarifying and forgiveness that followed.

[This letter might be partial- has no date or greeting.]

My unexpressed inexpressible thanks for your note.  It deserves all the phraseology that being grateful words can effect, I know, but then it deserves so much more.  For its influence was so great, so good, so improving, and it seems so unending.  Kate declares it has been the only effective remedy I’ve had and that another ministering of the kind will make me well.  Will you, can you refuse to heal when the power his [sic] with you, deny the balm which cost so little, yet soothes so well?  Oh dearer, more precious and priceless to me were your words, than bright water to the thirsty, or sweet food to the hungry soul.  “Were”, I say, and are, and will be.

Hence I appreciate it as a peculiar favor of fortune that circumstances should grant me a tangible visible preserver of what I so love.  The music of its voice lingers charmingly lingers now, but that will soon die, even in memory- its appearance fades from the vision, its breath is vanished in a moment.  But written words, the significant impress of pen and ink are not so perishable.  They can be seen and felt.  They can be kept, and best of all they can not be forgotten or denied.  I dread no “breach of contract” my dear   I’m where I can bring such proof against you.

My “unjust reproach” was also an unintentional one, don’t think I meant to blame.  How “unjust” indeed and selfish that would be when I remember how neglectful I was when you were likewise suffering.  How in the world did you stand it?  I think now I’ll never forgive myself the the [sic] lonesome tedious hours you spent.

I don’t know when to stop, I long so to write on and on.  But one’s thoughts won’t stereotype themselves on paper and my pencil is gone, so Goodby again.


This all seems so foolish to me, but please don’t think so yourself, for I am sick and tired and incaple [sic] of greater mental exercise.

[continued on another single page- not sure if this is part of the same letter or not, but they were found together in the same envelope]

You must be expecting a “something” wonderful from Mrs. Prices and Katis accounts.  They both knew that I had written a note which I would not send, from a fear that someone in your home would know of it.  Yet why should I care?  It was to you, not to them, and its you whom of all the world I would gratify and please.  Does it not seem childish, silly my writing these words?  But they are such a consolation to me, such a relief for the idleness of the day.  I can’t conceive how one could endure both mental and physical inactivity.  I should think they would soonest of all others, die of weariness.

I trust you are studying again without interruption.  Judge C must be able to say as much as Judge Green did.  Superiority in your class is the only special form you can offer me.  Is there only position—, with which you will be satisfied.  Am I not right?

To God and pleasant dreams, I leave you.