Boston: 1857-1859. Thirteen letters, pp. Octavo sheets. Old fold lines, some light wear and minor soiling. In a highly legible hand. One letter cross-written. Very good. Item #1954
Small archive of letters written by Hattie Long to her friend, Willie, discussing music, her career, and mutual friends and family back home in New Hampshire. This series of letters is written in the last few years that Mrs. Long toured and sang professionally before retiring to teach; they are also notable for highlighting the music scene in the years immediately preceding the Civil War. Though many of the letters do not have a year in their dateline, the earliest appears to be December 1857 and there are letters dated 1859. We presume them to span those two years.
Mrs. Joseph Haskell Long, maiden name Hattie C. Bond, (1829-1898) was a native of Lyme, New Hampshire. She became famous as a soprano, singing as a teenager in the church choir. She met Joseph H. Long at the Boston Handel and Haydn Society -- he was a member and she was a featured soloist -- and the two married in 1850. Hattie Long made the unusual move of retiring from concert singing in 1861, at the unusually young age of thirty-two. Instead she focused on her teaching, becoming a noted voice instructor; Geraldine Farrar was among her students. Her husband also died in 1861, which may have contributed to her decision to step off the stage. She taught in Boston for the next thirty plus years, supporting her mother and younger family members.
In what seems to be the earliest letter here, dated December 1857, Hattie writes: "Music is very dead in Boston. Nothing pays and unless the times grow softer soon, some of the poor musicians who depend upon their profession entirely for support, will be committing suicide." She continues, saying that she, at least, is doing well, and has recently made a great success in Halifax: "I have been very busy, thus far, and profitably, too; have sung at three concerts in Fitchburg with 'great success,' and have been a fortnight in the 'Queen's Dominions,' viz. Halifax, where I sang at six concerts to the 'delight and admiration' of old & young, great and small. Indeed to tell you the truth & speak in the language of the Halifax press 'I carried all hearts and hands by storm.'"
On April 26 she writes to Willie expressing the pressures and exhaustion balancing professional obligations and necessary social duties. "You know of course how busy I have been all the season professionally, but you cannot know all the preparations & excitements attending to my public life, "the wear and tear" so to speak, the hours of weariness, and knowledge of duties unperformed, correspondents neglected, without the power of lifting a finger to discharge any of them -- perfect exhaustion. And then I have so much trouble and anxiety about my widowed mother's circumstances, also my brother's family, he being out of business all winter, and with his best efforts could not get along without my help." She continues, relating that her husband is in New York on business and while there has received several requests to engage her to sing at a much higher salary than she receives in Boston.
A letter dated May 15 discusses a trip "west" to Chicago: "I could not get an hour to myself to write to you from Chicago. I was all the time beset with calls, rehearsals, rides, & the like! I could not think of anything even but just what was around me -- everything was so new and strange, so delightful & exciting. Yes, I did like the Western Country very much indeed -- the broad Prairies, beautiful Lakes, splendid scenery, the newness of the entire country pleased me! & then I met so many old friends, Eastern people in abundance! I had a splendid offer to come to Chicago to live, but Haskell don't like the climate, says he wouldn't live west for the entire gift of the country, pigs & all!"
On the whole, an engaging group of letters from a very literate professional woman, who documents her time touring the country and balancing family and professional life.