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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Tuckerman’

Three apples from “Apples of New York,” by Spencer Ambrose Beach.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association summer conference takes place this weekend at Hampshire College.  One of the first seminars was “The Full Skinny on Healthy Orcharding” with Michael Phillips from Lost Nation Farm in New Hampshire.  Yours truly was there, learning about fungal duff management and other good things. (more…)

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Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Sonnet V: XVI

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Sonnet V: XVI

Between March 15 and May 17, 1857, there were thirteen births recorded in Greenfield, Massachusetts. In the same two months, there were four maternal deaths from puerperal fever (or “childbed fever”), a highly contagious infection. Those were not good odds for a pregnant woman.¹

The third of those four deaths, on May 12, was that of Anna (formally Hannah) Tuckerman, beautiful and deeply beloved wife of poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821-1873). Anna was 29 and had already borne three children, one of whom had died shortly after birth, while the other two, Edward and Anna, were now, in 1857, children of 7 and 4 respectively. The fourth birth – that of her son Frederick – went well enough at first; that is, the child was born on May 7 and lived. But shortly after his birth, Anna began to suffer the effects of the infection. Letters in the archives from shocked relatives – her husband’s aunt, her sister- and brothers-in-law – reveal that she “suffered fifty convulsion fits & seemed to suffer intensely” and that her illness lasted five days. Her husband, who was probably with her all through the birth and subsequent illness, was “all but frantick [sic] with grief…” “What will poor Frederick do!” wrote his sister-in-law, Sarah Tuckerman, ” and those poor children too, left without a mother!  How short is life, how near is death to us.  I feel so sad that I can hardly write.”

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“Vinnie says the dear friend would like the rule. We have no statutes here, but each does as it will, which is the sweetest jurisprudence.  With it, I enclose Love’s ‘remainder biscuit,’…”   (-Emily Dickinson)

Sarah Tuckerman, c. 1855

Sometime in March of 1878 Emily Dickinson sent a note with a “rule” (a recipe) and a sample of some slightly scorched caramels (the “biscuit” mentioned above) to Sarah Tuckerman, wife of Amherst College Professor of Botany Edward Tuckerman.  Sarah (known as Lizzie to her friends and family) lived less than a mile south of Dickinson in a large house she and her husband called “Applestead,” pleasantly located where the Amherst College Cage now stands.  Dickinson’s note to Sarah was published in early volumes of her letters, and repeated as Thomas Johnson’s letter 545, but the original manuscript seems to be lost, or is perhaps in private hands.  Although Dickinson doesn’t mention “caramel” in her note, Johnson observed that Amherst College possesses an associated Photostat of a letter from Dickinson cousin Fanny Norcross to Lavinia Dickinson that says “Now I will give you the caramel rule.”  Jay Leyda transcribed the Photostat at more length in his Years and Hours, although he omits the rule itself.  Eventually, the rule made its way from the Photostat in the Archives to publication in the booklet Emily Dickinson: Profile of the Poet as Cook (1976; 2010).

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