This letter was written by a woman who signed her name “Eliza” to her friend, Miss Hannah Elizabeth Arnold (1828-1906), the daughter of William Rhodes Arnold (1786-1853) and Betsey Lyon (1784-1838). Miss Arnold was married in January 1856.
All that can be gleaned from the content of the letter is that Eliza — the author — had a cousin named Elizabeth and another named Levi, and that her parents were still alive and residing in Providence, Rhode Island.
Addressed to Miss Elizabeth H. Arnold, South Woodstock, Connecticut
Warren, Rhode Island
January 2, 1852
My Dear Lizzie,
Heartily wishing you a happy New Year. I am resolved to do all I can just now to make it so. In accordance with this resolution, I have composed myself to the business of writing you. You will notice Warren at the head of this sheet and at once conclude upon my whereabouts. But supposing you desirous of knowing further on the subject, I will be more particular. I am teaching here as I anticipated when you were down in August, associated with Cousin Elisabeth. The number of scholars under our charge are one hundred and forty-five. we board together, occupying the same room, bed &c., each sharing her proportional part of all appurtenances. we not only agree nicely but enjoy as much as sober-minded people like us could be supposed to anticipate.
Pa & Ma are supping alone this winter, living quiet and enjoying much, I presume. Mother’s health is quite good. I drop in occasionally upon them to make their hearts glad. Mother is quite satisfied to have me here since I am not exposed in getting to school as much as in the school at home. But I cannot say that I like this situation any better if as well. Though it would be difficult to give a decided preference to either. I can find no situation free from disadvantages nor, indeed, any that has not its peculiar advantages. I am disposed to believe a truly contented mind will find sufficient to feast it in every condition allotted to it by a kind and ever watchful Providence.
March 9th. You will observe by this date that the first page of this sheet was written a long time ago. To explain fully the reason why it has lain so long unfinished I will begin back to the time of the first date. The next day, January 3d, I had an attack of bleeding at the lungs, and by the advice of Dr. Gusher, decided to leave school immediately. Had a renewed attack on Sunday [and] again on Tuesday. Thursday went home feeling about as well as usual. I had been suffering from a severe cough for many weeks and the bleeding seemed rather a relief than otherwise, or at least I did not feel sicker than I had done, and consequently concluded a relief from care, and the extra exertion of teaching would soon restore me.
Saturday [I] swept carpets and performed other duties as usual. Sabbath went to meeting all day. Monday came laden with a bitter lesson of experience. I found when too late I had gone too far for a return of bleeding followed every successive day through the week till my lungs were so weak I could scarcely speak above a whisper. I was now confined to the house four or five weeks scarcely leaving my room except to take my meals and warned not to do anything. The most difficult thing of all was to hold my tongue. I found even my hands less unruly. I have not since had a return of bleeding but a constant dry, hacking cough, difficulty of breathing, and pains around my chest remind me daily that I have reason to fear the consequences.
Through the persuasion of cousin Lewis ______, I was induced last Friday to come to Providence to consult Dr. Wheaton. I saw him on Friday. He examined my case [and] advised my staying in the city a week or ten days. I concluded to follow his advice and engaged board at Henry Horton’s [on] Friendship Street since which time he has been attending me. I cannot yet say really what I think of him or what he thinks of me. My impression is he fully believes my case a curable one. I have written enough of myself to show you what has been my situation the past two months and something of what are my prospects for the future. The past has been a season of trial as you will readily imagine, but I assure you not without consolations. I feel that my life, health, & all that I possess are at the disposal of a kind heavenly Father and he will order all events in relation to me for my spiritual good. I desire only to be passive in his hands and know no will but his.
O, Lizzie, you know the blessedness of trusting the Savior, where can we flee for refuge in a sick and dying hour, if not to the love of Christ. And do we not need his strong arm in life? What power so potent in delivering us from evil and helping us in the path of truth and duty, and leading us in the way everlasting. I can see nothing desirable in living except to experience the love of God i the heart, and to glorify him in our body and spirit which are his.
I do not know how long I shall stay in Providence — probably not more than two weeks, and then if it were not for the tedious journey, I should propose to closet myself with you in your quiet home a week or two for I feel that the less I inhale of the damp sea breeze during the months of March & April the better.
Mother’s health is, or at least was when I left home, as usual. It will be three weeks Monday since I saw her. I had been staying at cousin Levi’s two weeks. My friends Anna, Judith, Harriet, Lizzie, Caroline, &c. have been exceedingly kind to me since I have been sick, have literally taken the whole care of me. Lizzie, you will excuse me, I trust, if I do not fill my sheet this time. I am humbled in again having to appear before you as a delinquent and begging your pardon for so long delay. Be kind this once, won’t you? And favor me with a letter soon.
Remember me affectionately to your Father & Mother and be assured that I love you as ever, — Eliza