Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896) found immediate success and controversy with her first novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written in 1852. Surviving that firestorm, she went on to publish eight more novels and dozens of short stories. She enjoyed a happy, albeit busy, home life with her husband, Calvin, and their six children. In this letter, written eleven years after their wedding, Stowe reflects on the joy and tribulations she shared with her husband.
January 1, 1847
My Dearest Husband
…I was at that date of marriage a very different being from what I am now and stood in relation to my Heavenly Father in a very different attitude. My whole desire was to live in love, absorbing passionate devotion to one person. Our separation was my first trial — but then came a note of comfort in the hope of being a mother. No creature ever so longed to see the face of a little one or had such a heart full of love to bestow. Here came in trial again sickness, pain, perplexity, constant discouragement — wearing wasting days and nights — a cross, deceitful, unprincipled nurse — husband gone… When you came back you came only to increasing perplexities.
Ah, how little comfort I had in being a mother — how was all that I proposed met and crossed and my may ever hedged up!
…In short, God would teach me that I should make no family be my chief good and portion and bitter as the lesson has been I thank Him for it from my very soul. One might naturally infer that from the union of two both morbidly sensitive and acute, yet in many respects exact opposites — one hasty and impulsive — the other sensitive and brooding — one the very personification of exactness and routine and the other to whom everything of the kind was an irksome effort — from all this what should one infer but some painful friction.
But all this would not after all have done so very much had not Providence as if intent to try us throws upon the heaviest external pressure… but still where you have failed your faults have been to me those of one beloved — of the man who after all would be the choice of my heart still were I to choose — for were I now free I should again love just as I did and again feel that I could give up all to and for you — and if I do not love never can love again with the blind and unwise love with which I married I love quite as truly tho far more wisely…
In reflecting upon our future union — our marriage — the past obstacles to our happiness — it seems to me that they are of two or three kinds. 1st those from physical causes both in you and in me — such on your part as hypochondriac morbid instability for which the only remedy is physical care and attention to the laws of health — and on my part an excess of sensitiveness and of confusion and want of control of mind and memory. This always increases on my part in proportion as a I blamed and found fault with and I hope will decrease with returning health. I hope that we shall both be impressed with a most solemn sense of the importance of a wise and constant attention to the laws of health.
Then in the second place the want of any definite plan of mutual watchfulness, with regard to each other’s improvement, of a definite time and place for doing it with a firm determination to improve and be improved by each other — to confess our faults one to another and pray one for another that we may be healed…
Yours with much love