Vassar College Digital Library

Richards, Ellen H. (Swallow). Letter, 1869

1 letter, dated 9 Apr 1869, from Ellen (Swallow) Richards to her mother. \nRichards describes finding the "first" spring flowers near Vassar College. She recounts giving flowers to VC Lady Principal Hannah Lyman during Lyman's illness, and to her classmates and instructors. According to Richards, VC President John Raymond also heard of the flowers. The remainder of the letter is devoted to a lecture by Rev. Thompson on his travels in Russia. The letter is long but incomplete.
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vassar:55119,Folder 64.9; VCL_Letters_EHS_1869-04-09_064_009_001
9 Apr 1869
1 item
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: VCL_Letters_EHS_1869-04-09_064_009_001_001


Friday night. Apr. 9 -

Dear mother -

I am so happy tonight and I hope you are. I’d like to [pop?] in & see [what?] you have - & to give you my first flowers - for I have had the great priviledge of finding the first spring flowers he white [Hepatica’s?] - Miss Folsom & I went off a long way, about 2 miles, & I saw the first blossom [there?] [we] gathered quite a little quantity & we were so delighted we were gone only 1 hour from the college - we sent a delicate boquet to your old Prof Mitchel who wil never see the spring flowers again & I carried a cluster to Miss Avery who was pleased & to Miss Lyman who is sick - I unwittingly got into her presence & she was as delighted as a child. & thanked us very much - she was in bed but better -

Miss Shattuck said “It was so sweet of you to remember me” Miss Small said she should be as proud as a queen and kissed me for them -- so I think I’ve made a good many hearts happy today consequently feel happy myself.

The frogs are peeping - the yellow & blue crocus


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in bloom the hillsides green.

Yesterday I thought of dear old New England. Later Miss Folsom & I were quite noted once in our lives - the President heard of our treasures before 2 hours - as I learned from his daughters & now you must have a fair sketch of the closing delights of the day - Rev J.P. Thompson lecture on Moscow - I can’t hope to do it justice. First I was quite charmed with the man - He reminds me much of [...] Harwood - with - a fully developed head & minus the [abrupt?] murmur - His voice was to say the least perfectly agreeable. I would [attract?]. He had an easy air of assurance, which I like - did not rise with apologies or expressions of embarrassment at appearing before us as so many of our lecturers have done - but his first words were “[To?] be dropped into Moscow in mid winter gives a curious sensation” & he went on in the most modest way I ever heard any [traveller?] speak in - he kept himself in the back ground & only now & then did he speak of himself & then often when he was in a ridiculous fix - Everything impressed me favorably & I was completely satisfied with one lecture at least -

In other cities of Europe you see something familiar in some department - a sign over a shop or a rail way or something to remind of home but in Moscow all is strange - at times you fancy it is Damascus now Constantinople now you never saw the like - no streets are straight all kinds of buildings are mingled If you could see it of a clear winter


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morning ^as I did with the [innumerable?] domes & spires & the magnificent buildings stretching to the hills all on the background of glistening snow - you must wait till you get to the New Jerusalem before your eyes, behold another [crossed out: sight] picture so bewitching so lovely & withall so strange - you see strange houses strange women & stranger men till you feel a stranger to yourself - you see a sign “bath.” you think it is some enterprising American but the h turns out to be the Russian n - & its no bath - even the sun seems strange rising so late & running so low - the language is strange I called a conveyance late one night to take me to my Hotel. I knew but one word of Russian - Gostentsi meaning Hotel - & the name of the landlord Billo - so I said Gostentsi Billo & away we whirld soon I saw we were crossing the foot of the street I knew the Hotel was on - I rose up & seizing the driver by the shoulder shouted “Gostentsi Billo” - He turned & drove rapidly in another direction - again I shouted repeatedly Gostentsi Billo as I saw we were approaching a dangerous part of the city - I saw a lantern of a watchman & I stopped the driver & tried the effect of my magical words on him - he soon set my driver right - it seems he was a peasant who had come into the city for the winter & knew the city no better than I did - but he charged me 3 [fares?] for


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the ride - Moscow is the typical city of Russia Petersburg is European next next to Paris & Vienna in in magnificence the grand place is more imposing than the Place de la Concord in Paris 5 wide streets miles long radiate from it - Moscow although three times burned is the crystalizing center of the Empire - she is naturally jealous of Petersburg - the coronation ceremony is still held in Moscow & an attempt to place [that?] at Petersburg would cause a revolution.

Russia is 10 000 by 2500 miles in extent contains 8000 miles [...] coast - 9000 land [...arder?] 80 millions people -

The cabin that Peter the Great built with his own hands on a little island in the river is still standing protected by an enclosing building - the table at which he sat & wrote his [] I could look out upon the Capital & glory of his empire - there is not the great display of other [...] the Cathedral where all the sovereigns are buried has only plain marble steps with only the words “Peter” “Ann” “Katherine” & c

The Russians took to the religious when it was introduced as a part of their duty to the government. A scene is described by one of the histories - a whole city were baptized at once some [...] in


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the water - some sitting on the stones while the priest read the mass for all - that was the way Christianity was introduced in Russia - the Emperor recognizes not power above him - so he always kneeling by the altar places the crown upon his own head - then passing behind the screen takes the holy bread & wine - no Archbishop is worthy to crown an Emperor of Russia.

The Russians have a great deal of religiosity - if I may use that word - at the main entrance to the Kremlin hangs the celebrated picture that winked or nodded or did something that sent away the French & no matter what the [temperature?] all must enter bare headed I tried it at 20° below zero - even the Emperor would not dare to wear his hat - Moscow is a city of churches - by actual count look which way you will - you see 100 domes without turning - the bells are many of them very fine in tune on the eve of Good Friday all of them are silent till Easter morning - when as a signal fire is lighted all the innumerable bells ring out in merry chime & every one as they hurry thro the streets to the early High Mass is at liberty to salute whoever he meets


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with the holy kiss & the salutation “Christ is risen” on an evening of the year perhaps corresponding to our Hallow Eve the young ladies gather in a room at night and [then?] [...] on the floor a ring in the dark. each has a dish with a few grains of corn in it. - after a time spent in silent meditation a rooster who has been kept some time without food is introduced and after taking a little time to recover himself as other bipeds do under similar circumstances - he advances & helps himself to the corn - from whose dish he first picks will surely be married.

The riding school is the largest building in the world without [obstructions?] or pillars of any kind - 960x160 - 2 regiments can [maneuver?] with ease -

Tea is the universal beverage - sugar or lemon or milk at the little eating places - tea with the inevitable piece of lemon by the cup -

Of all places in winter a Russian House is the most comfortable you are sure of being warm - a servant ushers you into an ante room where all outer garments are laid aside they never [...] [...] with them on -

The inside of a russian house is charming no display but much comfort -- Many ladies are acquainted with


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4 languages - one I visited conversed with me in English concerning our war as intelligently as if she had been here - turned to my companion & spoke in his native tongue German of the war just [closed?] - chatted with a French lady - gave her orders to servants in Russian - with no [affectation?] or hesitancy -

But one thing you would notice that strikes one painfully is the free use of the name of God - they do not mean to swear it is a native habit = to say as this lady did “God how little tea you take.” “Lord how you Americans travel” - She did not mean any more than young ladies outside the walls of Vassar College do when they say “goodness,” “gracious” [&c?]. I was once told by a French teacher in New York - who was teaching in a boarding school when she first came here of an [experience?] of hers in this [...] - This you know was not a College only a boarding school - The Principal was a very [dignified] lady - & the French Mademoiselle was picking up all the English she could & one day when she wished the Principal to stop speaking she said “goodness gracious hold your tongue” the horrified lady demanded where in the world she got such language - the poor teacher had heard one of the young ladies use it - & supposed it was good English: this is a [bad?] [...] & -


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They have great churches no seats ⅔ are men no female voices in the choir no instruments - men’s voices very fine & when they are on a low key effect is weird thrilling -

All go togeth the country people in sheep skin, filthy as possible, side my side with the rich furs. I said to my wife who was with me - what a pity that we must come to despotic Russia to find all [warshing?] together I was making what I thought a very effective reflection - my wife interrupted me as we were passing the steps - with “If you know the Russians for [...] I wish youd step in and get one [me?] the [close?] [...] was rather [suggest…?] -

For a 1000 years Russia has been steadily advancing [never?] going back - its policy is persisting devotion to one idea -
Russia will never own the world - America will never be the ruler - happily they [strike?] hands & go on together in our darkest day when those we expected to be our friends failed Russia was by us - the Czar has just purchased a [picture?] a [y...arra...n…?] to be hung with Russia’s heros showing the undying hundred of heroic souls”
Thi is a very poor sketch but perhaps you will get a few ideas ---