Please enjoy the following article presented by Gordon-Nash Library Director Jerrica Blackey P’19 as part of the history series on NHS Today. In this edition, a recently discovered and donated love letter to the school’s first female seminary principal (and alumna) Martha Hazeltine.
With February being the month of love, I thought it appropriate to share the recent gift we received. I have written before about our first female seminary principal, Miss Martha Hazeltine, Class of 1827. I’m enamored every time I cut the corner of my office and see her portrait on the wall. How lucky New Hampton is to have cultivated such a brilliant student to become the force she was as a teacher and principal of the Institution.
Just before Christmas, I received an email from David, an ephemera collector, who had a letter of no significance to anyone but New Hampton School. David said, “I discovered that she is a woman who is revered to this day at your school and beyond.” How right he is. The letter is dated December 28, 1833, from Joseph Smith to Martha Hazeltine after she said yes to marry him. It is most certainly a love letter that partly coincides with the Sarah Sleeper memoir of Miss Hazeltine and the chapter on Joseph which quotes her letters to him. View the transcript of the letter at the end of this article.
Within the memoir, many of her letters are quoted and one of them which is so closely dated to this letter, she says,
“This hand — this heart — myself, shall be yours. Your sorrows, your joys, shall henceforth be mine. Do not give yourself one anxious thought — I am yours, and prefer to share your lot. May heaven forbid that this heart should ever waver, these feelings ever change” (Sleeper, 98).
December 6, 1833
“You speak of grief, that you are a cause of anxiety to me; on the other hand, it is a source of great grief to me that I perplex you so much by my indecision. I could here say much, did I not hope to see you soon. Suffice it to say, I should feel perfectly quiet, were I not afraid of disappointing you. May the Lord preserve me from ever rendering you unhappy” (Sleeper, 93)
My own dearest loved one,
I cannot express the pleasure I feel in thinking that I am your Joseph, yes your dearest Joseph, and that you are my own dearest Martha. The emotions of pleasure which your letter gave me this afternoon have not yet died away. I feel truly that you[r] are my other self, my kindest, dearest, most affectionate one. These are not empty expressions, I feel them; how many times recently have I whispered those tender expressions of love which I felt and repeated in your sweetest embrace. Dear it is now past eleven o’clock but as I do not feel like sleeping yet awhile and as the family have all retired I am very happy to hold communion with you. I hope this letter will reach you in season to express the new year’s wish of your love. How happy we were last new year’s day. While upon our pilgrimage through this barren world we are permitted to tread upon some verdant spots. The picture of human life is not all dark, is it love? We will try, dear one to be patient and thankful that we have been preserved through another year. I am sure the Lord will bless us if we merry ourselves for the sake of his cause. In a little while I trust he will permit us to hasten to each other’s arms. Blissful anticipation, longed for moment.
My dear, I am sitting in a little neat parlor, the floor carpeted and warmed by a very brilliant coal fire. This room I occupy all the time except nights I sleep in a pretty little bed room. So you see I am very finely accommodated. The three first days of this week I spent at Warren and Bristol. I did not enjoy my visit in any respect [as] I longed to get back to my pleasant parlor. Excepting those days I have been as happy since I wrote last as usual. My spirits have not been quite so high as before the close of the term but I have felt nothing like discouragement. Fruit Hill, dear, and North Providence are both one, situated about west from the college. Seekonk the residence of my chum is east of the college. My boarding place is only a little more than a mile from the city. The family are very attentive to me indeed, and all their attention is gratuitous. Mr. Windsor is one of the Trustees of college. His wife is dead, his two daughters of about 40 or more, live with him, one of whom manages the affairs of the house, the other has a boarding school of about twenty young ladies of different ages between eight and fifteen. These behave very prettily indeed, and sum on the whole quite lady-like. I am just beginning to teach them singing & writing. I suppose you will laugh at my teaching to write, but I think dear by taking pains I shall write well by and by. I improve faster in trying to learn others than any other way. On the Sabbath, love, we have only one sermon, at 11 o’clock bible class, 0 ½ Sabbath school, at 2 sermon. It was so rainy last Sabbath that we did not go to the meeting house till afternoon. I had an excellent time in the bible class here at home. A number of the misses felt so much as to weep, and their teacher wept and I felt very much like it. I am afraid however it was all like the morning cloud and early dew dried up by the cares of the week.
Now, my sweet one, good night, may the Lord bless you tonight and tomorrow I must try to forget you entirely till the services of the Sabbath are past, so remember you only as praying for me. How sweet dear the thought that I have a bosom friend who thinks of and prays for me.
Monday evening, Dear love I intended to have finished this last night and to have sent it into Providence, but we had an evening meeting and I felt so tired that I went directly to bed. I enjoyed the labours of the day very much indeed. I trust the Lord was with me. My dear what you say of flattery I think is perfectly true. I have never been flattered but little, but sufficiently, however, to show me its deadly influence. I have been very happy dear to think that you were not affected by such unworthy trash. Though when I have considered that you are human, I have feared a little that you might suffer somewhat. But I do not fear it now dear. While you tell me how you view yourself I feel a kind of impatient anxiety to hasten and to place my hand under your head and to kiss away every unpleasant emotion. You ask me to do something to correct your errors. I intend to, but my love if I should tell the real sentiments of my heart on this point you would accuse me of flattery. I will not tell you in words what I think of you but try to make it manifest by gratitude to God for giving me such a one for my dear bosom friend. I know, dear, I have been rather reserve[d] about speaking of my studies. You can hardly imagine how I feel on this point. If I could tell you so that you would know precisely how I am getting along I should do it with the greatest pleasure. But when we speak of ourselves or of others we always have some standard of comparison. One has one standard and another, another. Comparing myself with others
mine equals. I should not generally be ashamed to tell you how I am getting along. But then in this case you might associate my remarks with the standard of perfection and thus be led reasonably to expect a great deal more from me than you would ever realize. And when I judge of myself by the true standard, perfection, I am so mortified and ashamed that I could tell you of nothing but imperfections. In a perfect mirror we see our exact image. Will you excuse my reserve? I am very much obliged to you for criticizing my composition. Dear one how kind you are and tender of my feelings. You have learned the tenderness of the heart affected by love. My dear I am thankful that God has made you with so much sensibility and tenderness. Ought we never touch upon such strings rudely.
[Written sideways on the sheets]
“Samish” is the Hebrew S. This was the only reason of my choosing it. I like your suggestion not to have any. Shall I send you the paper when I do not write for it? I approve of your criticisms dear fully. I am not however the author of only two of the faults which you notice: “plaintive” and the first period in the last paragraph are mine, all the others I believe are the editor’s. I am quite intimate with the editor, and as he is a graduate of Brown University and I am a freshman, I told him he might alter what was not expressed to suit him; so he took the liberty to add the first quotation and to make other alterations, in the places which you criticize, for the worse, instead of for the better as I think. He marked one part of a sentence with “ ” which was not quoted. All the errors of the pieces in the last week’s paper are my own. They printed them as I sent them. Thank you dear for telling [me] about your lessons, and [if] any of the girls give you trouble. I rejoice that you find Miss Sleeper such a good dear friend. I have sometimes felt as though for your sake
[Continued sideways on the sheets]
I should like to send a kiss to Miss Sleeper by you. I feel very tenderly towards everybody that loves you. It is now twelve o’clock. I shall try to get this down to the post office at Providence before six in the morning. I am not so spiritual dear as I ought to be. I feel guilty in this respect. I feel as if I should be glad to repent and weep over myself but my heart is too cold. I hope the Lord will hear your prayers and keep me from falling. Your own bosom friend your dear Joseph wishes your happiness and quiet rest wishing he could just place his arm underneath you a few minutes. One kiss dear goodnight.