We tend to look back at the Victorian era and stereotype the woman as squeamish about bodily functions and sex. Now meet my great-aunt Lulu, a lively chatterbox and lover of the romance novels of the day. In my blog from last October, Emails Are Not Letters, you met her then financé John. Now two children and many years into their marriage, Lulu had not been feeling well so went to spend time with her family. From there she writes to John in answer to two letters he has sent her. The excerpts from this letter are not for the squeamish.
Note that the Banana Musk mentioned is a musk mellon which has a banana Flavor. Turpentine oil, despite its toxicity, has a long history of medicinal use. The safe mentioned was a pie safe.
Sept. 3rd, 1901 Bigelow, Kans.
My Darling Boy!
John, forgive me for not writing sooner, you will won’t you when you get my letter & find I did not get yours until so late in the week? I know you would be disappointed, but could not help it as things were.
It is rather warm here & very dry. Everybody is busy haying and cutting for days. I went up town yesterday morning after some Med for Ma. She got ready to go along and company came so she had to stay at home. I drove up by myself or rather the boys & I. They drove for me most of the time. . . .
When I went down after Ma’s Medicine at Hollinger he looked at the boys & said they both needed something for worms. So I got him to fix me up some for them as Henry I know is troubled with them. Hollinger says 2 or 3 passed from him the last two weeks. He [Hollinger] says that was what caused them [her sons] to have the spell of Diarrhea last week and the week before.
Gladys, them [Maynard and Henry] and I are siting out in the shade of the maples. Pa just brought me your letters and, Oh John, how I wish you were here or I was there. Twouldn’t matter which but will try and content myself with writing. . . .[I have] an Idea some of my undsclothes [underclothes] stuffed would be a much cooler bed fellow than I while it is so awful warm.
Am glad you thought of your truant [herself] on her birthday anyway. And you ask why I left Maynard. [Lulu presumably told John she had left Maynard with someone else for a time.] I know I am cranky and cross with them but I love the little darlings just the same & when they are sick or don’t feel well I forget Self but I am growing stronger every day. I know but can’t believe I was very bad sick.
Some way there will be time after I come home to finish the Log Cabin before cold weather & if I don’t come in time to eat Watermelen [Watermelon] with you, it is my fault. I think a 25 lb melon wouldn’t go wanting for someone to eat it if I was there. Do hope you can get a good price for what you have to sell.
I don’t know whether any of the folks will come down [to her and John’s home in Missouri when] I do or not. Lousa talks some of going if I don’t start to[o] soon. If they don’t, don’t you worry about me getting along with the children as I can do that all OK. I know the time seems long enough to me so it must be oh so long to you, but I am living in hopes of the near future now. . . .
Yes, I’ll come home “some day” and you must make the cobbler [fruit cobbler] to[o], will you alright? You would not surprise me much if I were to wake & find you here some night as I often wake up & think am at home & reach over & feel for you & then. . . .
Mrs. Belisle surely has a tremendous big foot or bottom so you say. I always thought she had a small foot so wore a small shoe. Anyway perhaps I haven’t got as large a foot as I’ve always thought I had for I think I am larger than she & don’t wear quite as large a shoe. . . .
The mass [of flowers at the farm] must be pretty. Those flowers you sent over fresh & nice yet. Am glad you got that peach to eat. Must have been nice from the size. Do hope that apple will hang on until I get home as I want to see it. . . .
Wish I had a piece of a Bananna Musk to eat but when they get ripe, eat a piece for me.
Now, John, I’ll tell you exactly when & what day I’ll bid farewell to KS. I start, o my darling boy, Thurs. Sept. 26th. . . .
Now for your second letter. My Dearest boy, I know just how you felt when you got no letter but what can I say more than I am so sorry & when I think of you there all alone I can’t help but cry you no. My darling boy, you do not deserve any such treatment as you are getting for the men are very few, very few, that would be this patient, ever bearing Husband you have been. I hope you have got my letter by this time [referring to a previous letter she sent] & will send this so you will get it on the regular day.
Wed. morn. 4th. Well I give Henry his Med. Yesterday & just before going to bed it had taken effect. Gave 3 powders 3 hrs apart, then oil & a few drops of turpentine & has been 7 worms almost as large as a lead pencil & fully 10 inches long come from him. So I guess the Medicine was pretty good.
So you have burnt all of your old letters [apparently both to her and other former girlfriends]. Don’t you remember you told me I could read them but never found the time. I burnt a good share of mine before we were married but I cared nothing for them and I believe there were some of yours at least that you thought a good deal of and ought to of kept them. Any how I’ll keep those scraps for the sake of the letters you’ve written me on them & in the memory of others for you. Will that do? . . .
I have read & read & reread your letters & will have to read them again before I put them away. So you have me all pictured out how I’ll look? Well, I hope you won’t be disappointed & as to my having my teeth fixed, John, I was perfectly astonished, not that is unlike you to want them fixed, but thought I had been expense enough to you already this summer. Nevertheless, I thank you many, many times for thinking of it and will go & see what will cost, but can’t promise whether I’ll have it done or not. Am afraid twill take more than you think for [it].
Am so glad you bought that safe. Have wanted one so long but would rather of had one of your own make. Perhaps it is selfish of me to be so but I think more of anything you make than to buy it. It costs you lots of hard work I know to make anything of that hard wood, but it is made by your own dear hands. I would like to slip in there some Sunday & watch you awhile if I could, but am afraid if I got that near I couldn’t watch you long.
Does any of the neighbors ever call on you except when they want to borrow or eat watermelon? Has Mrs. Patrick bought or sent that “Duke’s Secret” home? I read a book the last week called “Dick’s Sweetheart or the Duchess.” Is something similar to the “Duke” but more of a sad story. Some parts made me think of you so much would have to quit reading. . . .
So my beloved I hope this will reach you by Sat. & give you ½ even as much pleasure as it does me to read yours & don’t work to[o] hard, John, for you know you aren’t able to stand so much hard work & where’s the benefit if you was yourself out at hard work as anything else as life is so short we ought to enjoy it a little as we go along & you could if you had agreed[able] helpmeet [helpmate, meaning herself]. Well, John, Good Bye for this time. I shall seal this with kisses from your Babies & Wife again.
Oh, John, Good By for a few days that seem months.