1833: Mary Ann Collins to Frances Amelia Collins

This letter was written by Mary Ann Collins (1816-1838) and her sister Cynthia Painter Collins (1819-1843) while they were attending a singing school in Preston, Connecticut. It was addressed to their sister Frances Amelia Collins (1821-??) but intended for all of the family “at home” in Westfield, Massachusetts. Their parents were Simeon Collins (1786-1866) and Cynthia Painter (1791-1880). Other children in the family included Thomas Painter Collins (b. 1823), David Chittendon Collins (b. 1823).

Simeon Collins was a merchant in Westfield, Massachusetts but later moved to Philadelphia where he helped set up his two sons in the emerging daguerreian business. For another letter written by Samuel Painter to his sister, Cynthia (Painter) Collins in 1818, click here.

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Written in margin


Addressed to Miss Frances A. Collins, Elm Street, Westfield, Massachusetts
Care of Mr. S. Collins

Preston [Connecticut]
Oct 11, 1833

Dear Sister,

As you was so good a girl as to write me, I will therefore direct the principal part of my letter to you. I received a letter from Mother on Tuesday from New Haven and was very happy indeed to hear from her. I had a letter written to send home which would have reached you last Thursday but Aunt said she wished to add a few lines so I let it be till it was too late to send so one week must pass with out you receiving a letter from us.

Now to tell the truth, I am almost sick and a little homesick and I hope Father will be able to come for us as soon as school is out or let us know of some way in which we can come home. Mr. Grover is going to leave for Britain as soon as school closes or very soon after. He says we can sing as well now as some who think themselves pretty well skilled in the science. We improve every day and Mr. Grover says we have no cause for discouragement. He has never called upon us to sound higher than the eighth note but he says my voice can go four notes higher as well as not and we have frequently raised sixteen at home.

This will probably reach you Tuesday and school closes the 5th day of November (don’t forget) and as soon as convenient we wish to go home. We will go part way on foot if you say so, bag and baggage, and meet you at Norwich, Hartford, or any where on the way you will mention.

Mother, so her ladyship (chip chary Hotchkiss) has at last left. I don’t wonder you say good riddance for any thing but having such a plague around circulating reports. If you keep the girls on cold rice and molasses, it is different what you did when I came away. At any rate, I hope they will not starve and have to look up another boarding place.

Aunt is going to dictate a few lines. She calculated to have written but has the sick head ache very badly. She wishes me to tell you she has excellent help. Your daughters are doing very well and make good progress in singing and have been very good girls indeed and says she should like to have us stay with them as long as we can be contented. [She] send much love and wishes you to write a few lines to her in your next. – Mary Ann

Dear Mother,

I have just been reading what Mary Ann has written to Aunt Collins and she says that I must contradict it. Mary Ann was a little homesick one day but she has got entirely over it and is perfectly contented. Aunt Collins says we can stay and practise with the Doctor’s family as well as if Mr. Grover was here. We are both of us perfectly contented and enjoy ourselves very much. I think it is perhaps as pleasant a family as I ever visited. I like singing very much. We have a very pleasant class of about 10 and we frequently car[r]y 5 different parts (but by the way) most of them have sung more than we have. Give my love to all the family. Yours sincerely, — Cynthia P. Collins

[Mary Ann adds:] Cynthia has written the biggest lie I ever heard. She says I am perfectly contented and it is no such thing. If I can not know my own feelings as well as other folks, it is a great pity. Generally speaking, she is no more contented than I am but she has got a mighty good streak to night and tells a pretty fair story. Her health is better most of the time than mine and of course she would not feel quite so anxious to go home. But still I do not wish to alarm you for I do not consider myself dangerous by any means.

How do the rabbits get along? Tell [my brothers] Thomas and David I long to see them but not a bit more than all the rest. It is difficult to tell who I wish most to see after my dear parents. They never seemed so dear to me and I do earnestly hope I shall improve and some degree repay them for their trouble. Frances did not trouble herself to pick up much news, or to write a long letter. We fill up our sheets pretty fairly. I do not wish after all to have Father come for us any sooner than he can conveniently for we should not die of homesickness if we were to stay a year. Love to all. Do write soon. You need not be alarmed. Your affectionate daughter, – Mary Ann

[P.S.] I made a mistake. School is out the 31st day of October. Tell Elmira and Cordelia we shall write them soon. How does Spencer do?

  • The Collins family with whom Mary Ann and Cynthia Collins stayed while attending the singing school in Preston, Connecticut (in 1833) may have been Augustus B. Collins.

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