Bits of Travel
Bits of Travel at Home
by Helen Hunt Jackson

drawing of Colorado Springs as seen from a distance

Make that: Bits of Travel by the writer now known as Helen Hunt Jackson. She herself never used the name, for the rock-solid reason that it never was her name. See Miss Manners for fuller explanation. When her surname became Hunt it ceased to be Fiske; when it became Jackson, it ceased to be Hunt.

For full biography, see the recent book by Kate Phillips. Here’s the short version:

Helen Maria Fiske was born in November 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. If that sounds familiar, it should. Helen was a friend and contemporary of Emily Dickinson; they were born a few weeks apart and died a few months apart. Though they grew up in the same small town and their families knew each other, the friendship didn’t really solidify until both had left Amherst. In fact, one of the very few Dickinson poems published in her lifetime came about through Helen by-then-Jackson’s efforts.

In 1852 Helen Fiske married Edward Hunt and thus became Helen Hunt. Edward died in 1863—not in combat, though he was formally in the Army, but in a construction accident. Their surviving child died in 1865; their first child had died in infancy.

It was after her husband’s and second son’s deaths that Helen Hunt turned to writing. Unlike many female writers of the time, she didn’t do it to support her family: there was nobody to support, and she had an inherited income from her maternal grandfather. The money undoubtedly helped with traveling, both overseas and within the U.S. It also meant that when she put her foot down with publishers—which she did regularly—it wasn’t because she was hungry; it was for the principle of the thing.

Her main pseudonym, used for most nonfiction and poetry, was “H. H.” (her real-life initials at the time she started writing). Later came “Saxe Holm”, used for most of her fiction, and finally “Jane Silsbee”.

While traveling in Colorado, Helen Hunt met William Sharpless Jackson (1836-1919), whom she married in 1875. At this point her name became Helen Jackson, though she continued publishing as “H. H.” Her last two books—A Century of Dishonor and Ramona—used both names, in the form “Helen Jackson (‘H. H.’)”.

Helen Jackson died in 1885, not long after Ramona was published.

Postscript: A few years later, William Jackson married his deceased wife’s niece—conveniently also named Helen—with whom he had seven children in rapid succession. I would like to say that she died in childbirth, but the reality is even sadder: she killed herself after the death of the youngest child.


By H. H.

publisher’s logo: J R O and Co.



Late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

University Press: Welch, Bigelow, & Co.,

For a bit over a year, starting in late 1868, Helen Hunt traveled around Europe with a rotation of women friends. Nelly and Priscilla Stearns, Sarah and Lilian Clarke show up again and again—especially in the Encyclicals, written to people who also knew them—as “N—”, “P—”, “S—” and “L—”. A handful of other friends will come and go from one chapter to the next.

The travels were originally written up for various national publications, notably the Atlantic Monthly. A few years later the articles were collected in book form. Today, a book’s copyright page would include a detailed list of original sources; in 1872 they didn’t. I’ve named the source where I was able to find it.

A minor quirk of Bits of Travel is that many stories and descriptions are given twice. The “Encyclicals of a Traveller” section began as long letters sent to the author’s friends and family. When she came home, some of the letters were reworked into articles, often published in the self-same Atlantic that had published the non-Encyclical versions. Adding to the bookend effect, the book puts the articles into something like reverse chrono­logical order. So we’ll often see the author preparing to leave one place in order to visit another . . . which we’ve already read about, several chapters ago.

Articles: Germany, Austria, Italy

Encyclicals of a Traveller


By H. H.,


publisher’s logo with text “qui legit regit”





By Roberts Brothers


University Press:

John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.

Confession: I had doubts about doing this book, but dutifully slogged through a few chapters. Then I got to the description of a night in a sleeper car:

I dislike the sleeping-car sections more than I ever have disliked, ever shall dislike, or ever can dislike any thing in the world. Therefore, I will not describe one. I will speak only of the process of going to bed and getting up in it.

The non-description goes on for several pages. But we get off easy: we only have to read about it. The author had to live it.

The “at home” part of the title means that all the places described are in the United States. Like the earlier Bits of Travel, the book is a collection of articles that originally appeared in assorted national publications. The time span is a little wider this time: from the late 1860s through the late 1870s. As before, I’ve named the source where I was able to find it. Most of the others probably started out in the weekly New York Independent (published 1848-1928).

As originally printed, the book had no illustrations aside from the frontispiece (top of this page). I’ve included the drawings from the original magazine publication of “Hide-and-Seek Town” (New England section), simply because it would have been a shame not to. The same goes for “The Procession of Flowers in Colorado”, republished well after the author’s death as a free-standing book.


New England


Spelling and Vocabulary

Inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenization are probably because the various chapters were originally published in different periodicals, each with their own style sheets. I’ve corrected spellings only when there was internal inconsistency within a single chapter. In Bits of Travel at Home, Latin names of plants are rarely capitalized, never italicized.

Typographical errors are marked with mouse-hover popups and are listed again at the end of each chapter. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space, most often at line-end. Invisible hyphens at line break weren’t noted.



Bits of Travel (Europe)
Bits of Travel at Home (U.S.)

Variant forms of place names are noted as they arise.


Mid-line hyphens were left as I found them. Where there was ambiguity at line-end, I went with usage elsewhere in the same chapter, if any, or else with the majority in the book as a whole. Some specifics (the more common form given first):


Bits of Travel is taken from the 1874 Osgood (Boston) edition—not the earliest available text, but the first to include a picture of Fräulein Hahlreiner. The author herself seemed so happy about this inclusion, it seemed only right to go along with her. Bits of Travel at Home, first published in book form in 1878, is from the 1890 Roberts Bros. edition.

James Osgood was Helen Hunt’s first publisher, before she settled in to spend most of her career with Roberts Bros. The title page of Bits of Travel strongly suggests that Osgood changed its business name every other week; a descendant of the firm lives on as Houghton & Mifflin. Roberts Bros. is long gone; they were absorbed into Little, Brown near the end of the 19th century.

Since both books were published in the 1870’s and the author died in 1885, it seems safe to say that the text is out of copyright every­where on the planet. The illustra­tions, on the other hand, are all uncredited. So it is possible that some of them might still be under copyright in a few “Life Plus A Whole Lot” countries.