One of our good friends recently purchased and then donated to us a letter written by Isabella Beecher Hooker to Charlotte Cowles Hull. Yes, a letter to “our” Charlotte Cowles after her marriage to Joseph Hull. Isabella Beecher and her husband John Hooker introduced Charlotte and Joseph and evidently maintained that friendship. The letter was written February 21, 1845, at which time Charlotte had a child and was living in Essex, Connecticut.
One of the more interesting entries hints at some controversy:
I have just returned from your old house & from reading your letter to your mother – the letter fills me with some astonishment in view of the exposure contained of the careless statements not to use any harder term of your Rev. husband & gentle sister. I shall feel constrained to bring a certain letter or letters with me when next I visit you that they may be convicted on the spot of gross misrepresentations entirely unbecoming their respectable standing in Essex society.
I wonder what Joseph said about Charlotte that made Isabelle so angry? We know from other letters of Isabella’s [not here at CHS] that Joseph at one point struck Charlotte, but this does not seem to be about anything quite as physical.
Aside from some chatty news, most of the rest of the letter relates the death of Mary Hawes Van Lennep, the daughter of Hartford minister Joel Hawes. Mary married a minister, Henry J. Van Lennep of Smyrna, who was with the Armenian mission in Turkey. He came to the United States for his education, met and married Mary Hawes, and they moved back to Smyrna. It was while they were in Constantinople that Mary contracted dysentery and eventually died. From the letter, one gets the feeling that Charlotte knew Mary Hawes very well. The question is, where did Charlotte, Mary Hawes and Isabella Beecher meet each other? Could it have been at Miss Beecher’s school in Hartford?
The letter gives us another perspective on Charlotte and widens her social contacts beyond what little we know from her letters to and from her brother Samuel (Ms 101754). This letter is available for study in the Research Center; simply ask for Ms 101809.