Letter from Amy Fay to her sister Zina
(Berlin, 16.05.1870)

Spanish translation & annotations


Berlin May 16th 1870


My Dearest Zina

I got your letter containing the news of Ben's death the day before yesterday, & as I have now attained the calmness of despair I can reply to it. I suffered perfect tortures the whole week over your first one announcing his illnes, though I could not be in much doubt tha he would die, for that telegram from the doctor was enough for me. But still, "while there's life, there's hope", & it seemed so monstrous that he should be taken, that I could not bring myself to believe it. Your second one put an end to my suspense, though it was no relief. I have gone through agonies over his illness and death, & expecto to agonize over it until mine. To think that he should have been ill for three long months & that he has seen his end steadly approaching, & that no one has had any idea of his real condition except Kate perhaps. She seems to have perceived the seriousness of his illness immediately, but as she did not see him again & heard that he was better she was again blinded to his danger. I felt very uneasy two months ago when she told me he had that sore throat, for I know from

past experience what a dangerous & weakening thing an ulcerated throat is. Don't you know how long it took me to get over the effects of mine, though I was only in bed two weeks? It is terrible suffering too. Poor darling Ben, what could he have done with himself all that time. It is the saddest thing I ever heard of, & has no alleviating circumstance as you say. I don't believe anything could have saved him, even the best doctor & the best nurse in the world, for his constitution was broken by that terrible illness a year ago, & last summer I used to think he was sadly changed, for he was so very nervous, & so thin. Every few weeks he would have the pleurisy. It was perfect madness in him to have gone back to Ishpeming in the depth of winter, & particularly as he was ailing while he was at home. How he could have done it, & how his family could have allowed it after last year's warning I can't imagine! But I suppose the did not remember it. It seems almost as if Ben wished to die since he took such a step, & after he was ill made no effort to save himself. He was a perfect infant in many ways, & was the last person to be left to himself. Oh! if I could have married him and taken care of him I believe he would be alive & well this day, or at least if he had died he would

have had a good nurse until his last breath, for I know by instinct how to manage sick persons. The worst of all is that we were so estranged from each other for the last two years, & that every one has known more of him than I, who loved him most. You say that perhaps he is nearer to me now & knows me as I am. No! I don't believe it. He did know me as I am, on earth, for he was very penetrating, & I don't believe he ever misunderstood me in his life, & I believe that in his secret heart he cared for me still. Why he should have separated himself from me, or have allowed circumstances to separate us is one of those inexplicable mysteries that I can't fathom. Family considerations, the want of money & I think his old affair with Fannie Porter influenced him, & then that letter you wrote him & Kate's fascinations did the rest. I wrote him a note at the end of March, but I don't suppose he got it. He told me once that if he should die I must ask Jim to give me the letters he wrote me five years ago & that he had locked them up in a box which he left in Jim's charge. Will you ask Jim if he finds them to give them to you to keep for me. I don't know but Ben may have destroyed them since, but if not I should like to keep everything in his handwriting. Poor Mrs. Peirce! I can imagine


that her heart mus be broken indeed, & Helen, too, must feel it dreadfully. I have been oppressed all winter with the thought of death, & have never had the subject so much in my mind before. I attributed it to my being in a strange place & quite alone so, but now I think I must have had a subtile sympathy with Ben without knowing it. But it seems so strange to me that he could have died & have been buried without my having any intimation of it. I am very glad they did not put him in Mount Auburn, for I don't like it either, & it is a great comfort to me to know that he was laid in a receiving tomb, & that he is not yet underground. I hope his grave will be somewhere near, where we can go to it often & put flowers on it. Where was Con buried? That is the only pleasant thought about Ben's death -that he and Con will meet. He told me last summer that he had loved Con so much & that he was his dearest friend. It was just after Fred Ware's death which made him very sad, in August, when he said, "First Con went, now Fred is gone, & I shall be the next". I feel so glad that in the land where he is gone, he won't be quite alone. He had had this feeling for several years that he would not live long. Did he die easily at the last?



I am very glad he sent for the Roman Catholic priest. It must have comforted him very much. I know he had a tendency towards the Romish Church, for when we were engaged Ben was very fond of talking to me about St. Sulpice & Notre Dame, & he used to say that the Roman Church was the true Church. He went to that great service they have on Christmas eve in one of these churches in Paris, & it made a great impression on him. The Music was so superb that it converted him almost. I am very anxious to hear from Kate, & to know how she has borne this affliction, for she was attached to Ben in a peculiar way, & I shouldn't be surprised if it had made her ill. Oh! How sad this life is! That we can love people so much, & not be able to do the least thing for them, or control the slightest circumstance in their lives! We can offer our prayers in their behalf day after day & God turns a deaf ear. I am never going to pray for people again. I think it is nonsense, & I was reflecting yesterday that in the Lord's prayer, which is our model, there is no mention made of one's friends. Daily bread is the only we are allowed to pray for outside of our spiritual matters. I have been rather



worried over you lately for I know you are doing too many things at once. Your letters have a sort of strung up tone, as if your brain was working too hard. You ought to be more prudent. It is no sort of economy to keep oneself at the highest pressure all the time. I can't realize that your cooperation is really started, & am very curious to see how it is going to work. It must be an immense labor to get in going. We have had vile weather this spring




I found your dreadful letter when I got home, but it was long before I could decide to open it, though I knew well what it must contain. I wrote to Kate yesterday, so you need not send her this letter. Do take care of yourself for since Ben's death I am uneasy about everybody. Oh! God, how hard it is! Give my best love to all, & especially to Charlie, & believe me, etc.

Many thanks for the magazines & papers. I enjoy them much. How has the McFarley case ended?



Transcription by Sylvia Mitarachi (Schlesinger Library, Fay Family Papers). We are grateful to David O'Hara for his help.
Proyecto de investigación "La correspondencia europea de C. S. Peirce: creatividad y cooperación científica (Universidad de Navarra 2007-09)

Fecha del documento: 26 de septiembre 2011
Última actualización: 14 de octubre 2011
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