Harriet Kendall papers  1862-1870
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This small collection illustrates the difficulties of keeping up friendships at a distance. Harriet seems to have been a rather lackadaisical correspondent, if the rather frustrated salutations of her friends' letters are to be believed. "Why in the name of cross-eyed Cat-fish, don't you write to your old friends? Really! I am real provoked at you" began Lottie, who lived in Corning, N. Y. (1865 November). Lottie and others urged Hattie to come visit them, and it appears that she did get to her friend Sarah P. Burroughs' home in East Varick before the fall term of 1866. Since there aren't any letters by Harriet herself in this collection, it is difficult to tell how she responded to her other friends' repeated entreaties to visit or write to them, or to get a good sense of her attitudes toward them.

Although Sara Fisher, too, took Harriet to task for not responding promptly, Harriet evidently did keep up a correspondence with her after they graduated from Genesee College. There are five intensely chatty letters from Sara. She dreaded the idea of teaching, missed her school friends, and had lost touch with her friends from home, most of whom were "dead or married." She glumly reported that those who were around "laugh at me because I cannot translate my diploma for which I've worked four years" (1869 July 11). Once she settled into her position teaching school in Rome, her anxieties abated somewhat, but her letters still caromed from subject to seemingly unrelated subject with an incredible nervous energy, and rarely touched upon her job. Instead she writes of other people, and quizzed Hattie for news of others, sprinkling in reminiscences and sidebars about her cozy room and holiday plans as she hurtled along.

The other cohesive group of letters centers around a boy. By November 1865, Lottie is quizzing, "how is Mr. Brigham," and there are four letters from the young man in question in this collection. Hattie met Charles H. Brigham, Jr. in Lima, and she evidently kept him posted on news of the town and college after he left for Spencerport. He wished he was back in school, and told Hattie, "one can't prize a good education to high." He was particularly sensitive about how his writing ability measured up to Hattie's, and his frequent comments about how Hattie must think "his letters are dry and don't amount to much any way" are too morose and persistent to be read simply as coy talk (1865 August 27). Charlie thought about going to the oil region of Pennsylvania, but after his brother returned from Pithole with typhoid fever, he reconsidered, and turned his attention to a possible career in the Rail Road business.

Whatever the nature of Hattie and Charlie's relationship, their epistolary courtship was ended abruptly by Charlie, who wrote, "Hattie, I cannot with justice to you and to myself correspond with you longer." He gave the unsatisfying explanation that "all things must have an end, and so with this," and he assured Hattie that his reason for the break had nothing to do with her letters: "for I think that there are very few people that can write as good a letter as you can. I know I can't. wish I could" (1866 January 13). Whether or not Harriet was mollified by this statement is unclear. A letter from Ruby Rice written a few years later, in an attempt to reestablish her friendship with Hattie, mentioned that she saw "Charley Brigham almost everyday -- we often get to talking about Lima and the Lima people -- and he often speaks of you, what good times you used to have" (1869 February 26).

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