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'Write Often, Write When You Think Best'

‘Write Often, Write When You Think Best’
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This day is Thanksgiving in this state. I cannot enjoy it with you. I will enjoy part of it in writing to you and sending my love to you all … [cousin] Sarah says she remembers your putting an apple in her mouth and … let[ting] it freeze, so she often says she is not to blame for her great mouth.

Still missing his family the following July, Pliny Jr. wrote again of his loneliness as well as to celebrate a joyful family occasion far from home:

I have anticipated a great deal of pleasure in thinking I should see my parents, brothers, and sisters this fall, but now I think probably it will be two years before I shall return to Sturbridge … I will congratulate with you all in Silas’ marriage and with pleasure will receive Maria as a sister … I should be exceeding glad to have either or both of them write to me … Write often, write when you think best.

Word play and gentle humor are often quite in evidence, as in Sarah’s message to Pliny Sr., noted in the Thanksgiving 1830 letter above, and in this May 1835 letter from Pliny Jr., then settled in Cleveland, to his family:

I remain the same old bachelor without any alteration except muse rational and whimsical which you know is universally the case with us privileged old bachelors.

The family also shared misfortunes and tragedies, grieving together, in the only way available to them. In a letter that July, Pliny Sr. delivered shocking news:

Beloved Son … On Sunday last, 5th instant, there were two deaths by lightening in Sutton and one in Oxford … The one killed in Oxford, painful to relate, was your sister Beulah. She went upstairs to shut the windows, as was supposed, and a flash of lightening struck the chimney and threw the top mostly off … They found her little daughter about three months old in the cradle in the kitchen and her little son about twenty months old on a bed in the bedroom, both covered with soot and dust and screaming. And in searching for Beulah they found her [in the] up chamber dead on the floor, lying on her face and her clothes on fire … It seems the lightening passed from the top of the chimney to the bottom of the cellar.

And again, four years later, in March 1839, equally sad news would travel from Sturbridge to Ohio in this letter from a bereft Pliny Sr.:

Bereaved Children … [Your mother] continued to fail very fast until Tuesday the 19th, when at half past five PM death retrieved her from her pains which were severe … I am about to be left alone. The old lady [Mary Pease, who lived in to help nurse Delia during her last illness] which I wrote you will stay about one week longer and who I can get to keep house I know not … I wish Augusta would come home and live with me if she thinks she can be contented to live a lonely life [and] if Dwight is not likely to find business there I should like him to work with me on the farm … I hardly know what I have written, but will close by subscribing myself “Your father in affliction”

Augusta and Dwight dutifully moved back home, but in February Pliny received a teasing note from the same “old lady,” who was then living in East Boston:

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