Fessenden, Thomas Green
Autograph Letter Signed, Boston May 9, 1836 to his brother-in-law, Jotham Hunt, Hillsborough, Illinois, including Fessenden, Lydia Tuttle, Autograph Letter Signed, Boston May 10, 1836 to her sister, Mrs. Elisabeth Gorham Hunt

quarto, 4 pages, short splits along horizontal folds, neatly inscribed in ink, very good, clean condition.

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Fessenden writes: 

Mr. Hunt


 Dear Sir,

         … When I received your first Letter, I had no less than four different works in the printer’s press, to wit The New England Farmer, The Horticultural Register, The Silk Manual, and a new edition, with additions etc. of a work which I wrote many years ago, and which was first published in England, entitled Tractoration etc. I was, besides, a member of the Massachusetts Legislature, having been chosen Representative from Boston. Besides all that, my partner in business, Mr. Barrett, who owned the New England Farmer, of which I am the Editor, was soon taken sick, and died in about a fortnight … I have also been confined for a fortnight past nearly all the time to my chamber, by a complaint in my head. I am better, however, and hope to go out this day.


       Now with regard to my land, I wish you to manage it as you would if it was your own. I am particularly anxious that the timber should not be destroyed, nor the young growth of trees, if there is any, be injured by cattle browsing on it, nor by any other means. You will be so good as to see to the making of such fences as may be necessary to secure the wood lot, which you wrote about in your first letter, and such other outside fences as you may think advisable. You may have the use of the land for the sum you mentioned, 50 dollars a year…


        You cannot be more anxious to see me in Illinois than I am to come and make you a visit. But I cannot leave Boston this year without not only sacrificing much of my little property but violating several engagements which I have entered into with printers and others. I hope, however, though I cannot at this time promise certainly … I would not be understood as making any positive engagement to make my appearance in Illinois next spring … You may be assured that I shall not make sale of my land in Illinois without your advice and concurrence and in fact have no intention of parting with it at any rate at present. I perceive by some newspapers, that lands in Illinois when the owners live out of the state are sometimes sold for taxes without his knowledge. I hope you will see that such a ting does not happen to me …”


[His wife then adds family news]: “… Mr. Fessenden has had a pretty severe attack of his old head complaint but is now about again without a [?] for about ten days he could not walk alone across the chamber. The addition of nursing to that of housekeeping has been almost too much. I thought last night I was going to be sick, I was obliged to go to bed by the middle of the afternoon but took a dose of physic and today I am about again …”


       Fessenden likely never journeyed to Illinois, where he planned to retire as a small farmer; he died of a brain tumor the following year. His good friend Nathaniel Hawthorne was moved to write a eulogy and brief biography of the New England poet, editor and politician he called “a man of genius … like no other … worthy to be remembered both in the literary and political annals of our country…” Apart from being constantly drawn, at financial cost, to “schemers of all sorts”, investing in patents, inventions of bizarre machines, Fessenden was a practicing lawyer, founder and editor of several agricultural and horticultural magazines, a member of the Massachusetts legislature, and a prolific author of poetry and prose, his published works including “terrible Tractoration”, which he mentions in this letter, a satire in verse, first published in England, which Hawthorne called “a work of strange and grotesque ideas aptly expressed”; “The New American Gardener”, which gave instructions on growing fruits, vegetables and grapevines, and “The Husbandman and Housewife, a Collection of Valuable Recipes and Directions”, now valued in the antiquarian book market as an early book of American gastronomy.


Fessenden’s letters are uncommon. None have been sold at auction in recent years and a scattered few appear in the holdings of Dartmouth, Brown, and the University of Virginia.