Swami Vivekananda                           

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Letters Written to Swami Vivekananda and the People Associated With Him.


Letters of Sister Nivedita


Letter of Betty Sturges Leggett to Frank Leggett.

January 9th 1892

The first known letter of Betty Sturges Legget to Frank Leggett. Frank was visiting his friend in Stone Ridge.

My dear Friend,

I am glad you are gone for your farm house visit. Than an easy chair drawn close to a big log fire nothing is more restful together with the companionship of an intelligent man friend soothed by the reminiscences of a charming old lady, as you have described it. . . .

Frank was to later buy land and build a large home nearby called Ridgely Manor and then marry Betty in 1895. Swami Vivekananda was later to witness their marriage and these two became his friends along with Betty's sister Josephine MacLeod. the Swami was to visit Ridgely three times. Twice briefly in 1895 for Easter and Christmas and for ten weeks from August 28 - to November 7 1899. 


Excerpt of letter from Swami Premananda to Swami Ramakrishnananda

May 9 1897

"You may have heard about the rules and regulations of the Math: dhyana from 6 to 7 in the morning. Then recitation of hymns in serial order, one day one man does it, next day another. Then Delsarte*, then eating halua etc. I am doing the puja etc. Brother, I find puja of Master is a hard job. Haribhai takes Gita classes from 5 to 6 in the afternoon. ... After arati we have dhyana for one hour, then question class... On the whole, work in the Math is going on very nicely."    

*(Delsarte was a course of physical exercises which was popular then).



Letter of Mrs. Mary Tappan Wright to her mother

August 29, 1893

Annisquam, Mass.

My dear Mother:

We have been having a queer time. Kate Sanborn had a Hindoo monk in tow, as I believe I mentioned in my last letter. John went down to meet him in Boston and missing him, invited him up here. He came Friday in a long saffron robe that caused universal amazement. He was a most gorgeous vision. He had a superb carriage of the head, was very handsome in an oriental way, about thirty years old in time, ages in civilization. He stayed until Monday and was one of the most interesting people I have yet come across. We talked all day all night and began again with interest the next morning. The town was in a fume to see him; the boarders at Miss Lane's in wild excitement. They were in and out of the Lodge (the Wright's cottage] constantly and little Mrs. Merrill's eyes were blazing and her cheeks red with excitement. Chiefly we talked religion. It was a kind of revival; I have not felt so wrought up for a long time myself! Then on Sunday John had him invited to speak in the church and they took up a collection for a Heathen college to be carried on strictly heathen principles-whereupon I retired to my corner and laughed until I cried.

He is an educated gentleman, knows as much as anybody. Has been a monk since he was eighteen. Their vows are very much our vows, or rather the vows of a Christian monk. Only Poverty with them means poverty. They have no monastery, no property, they cannot even beg; but they sit and wait until alms are given them. Then they sit and teach people. For days they talk and dispute. He is wonderfully clever and clear in putting his arguments and laying his trains (of thought) to a conclusion. You can't trip him up, nor get ahead of him. I have a lot of notes I made as stuff for a possible story -at any rate as something very interesting for future reference. We may see hundreds of Hindoo monks in our lives-and we may not.  



Letter of Florence Bagley Sherman to SV

February 24 1894

c/o  Mrs. Hale 541 Dearborn Avenue, Chicago:

Dear Mr. Vive Kananda:

My mother wishes me to write for her, expressing her regret that the draft for the money received here was not sent today. It will go early Monday morning, and I trust will be received on time to save you any annoyance.

Mr. Freer, the gentleman at whose house we dined, sent a check last evening, for two hundred dollars-to Mrs. Bagley-to be forwarded to you, so that is included in the draft.

Do believe me-my dear Mr. Kananda-when I say that when you have been able to enlist the interest and practical help of men like my friend Mr. Freer, in your work, you have no right to go back to India without one supreme effort for your normal school: your personal appeal-with your magnetism-your powerful-masterful presence, can alone make that appeal effective. If in any way we can aid you- I am sure you will ask us, feeling sure of our sympathy and respect.

Yours very sincerely
Florence Bagley Sherman


Letter of Mrs. J. J. Bagley to a Mrs. Smith 

June 22, 1894 (from Annisquam)

You write of my dear friend, Vivekananda. I am glad of an opportunity to express my admiration of his character and it makes me most indignant that anyone should call him in question. He has given us in America higher ideas of life than we have ever had before. In Detroit, an old conservative city, in all the Clubs he is honoured as no one has ever been, and I only feel that all who say one word against him are jealous of his greatness and his fine spiritual perceptions; and yet how can they be? He does nothing to make them so.

He has been a revelation to Christians, ...he has made possible for all of us a diviner and more noble practical life. As a religious teacher and an example to all I do not know his equal. It is so wrong and so untrue to say that he is intemperate. All who have been brought in contact with him day by day speak enthusiastically of his sterling qualities of character, and men in Detroit who judge most critically, and who are unsparing, admire and respect him.... He has been a guest in my house more than three weeks, and my sons as well as my son-in-law and entire family found Swami Vivekananda a gentleman always, most courteous and polite, a charming companion and an ever-welcome guest. I have invited him to visit us at my summer-home here at Annisquam, and in my family he will always be honoured and welcomed. I am really sorry for those who say aught against him, more than I am angry, for they know so little what they are talking about. He has been with Mr. and Mrs. Hale of Chicago much of the time while in that city. I think that has been his home. They invited him first as guest and later were unwilling to part with him. They are Presbyterians; ...cultivated and refined people, and they admire, respect and love Vivekananda. He is a strong, noble human being, one who walks with God. He is simple and trustful as a child. In Detroit I gave him an evening reception, inviting ladies and gentlemen, and two weeks afterwards he lectured to invited guests in my parlour... I had included lawyers, judges, ministers, army-officers, physicians and businessmen with their wives and daughters. Vivekananda talked two hours on "The Ancient Hindu Philosophers and What They Taught." All listened with intense interest to the end. Wherever he spoke people listened gladly and said, "I never heard man speak like that" He does not antagonize, but lifts people up to a higher level-they see something beyond man-made creeds and denominational names, and they feel one with him in their religious beliefs.

Every human being would be made better by knowing him and living in the same house with him.... I want every one in America to know Vivekananda, and if India has more such let her send them to us.


Letter of Betty Sturges (Leggett) to Frank Leggett*

September 12 1894, Wednesday

(written from Oswego)

Kindly send either to Fanny** or me the name of the station in Ulster County. I've written the promised letter and suggested via Albany or New York as she chooses, but having thus started her could not tell her where to stop.

Are you grateful to be living this beautiful autumn morning? Drink in all the sunshine and let shadows gather for those who are blind to better things. You ought to feel that which you radiate, a sense of deep sweetness of which others are conscious when think­ing of you. I said something of this sort in my letter to Boston and see no reason why I shouldn't repeat it to you. It gives an impetus to shining when one knows the light reaches and warms.

If you feel in the mood send me a line—only one—before leaving for Ridgely.



*Betty wrote this letter to Frank Leggett prior to her first visit to Ridgely Manor.

**Fanny Parsons of Chicago had also evidently been invited


Letter of Frank Leggett to Betty Sturges

September 15th 1894

Your characteristic note was on my library table when I arrived last evening. I had also written Fanny and also suggested a route via Albany but was thoughtful enough to mention the station for fear that she would go on forever like Tennyson's brook. She may yield to our pleadings. I await her answer with considerable interest. The bracing autumn air and sunshine of Ridgely will dissipate all the shadows from our lives. I am quite confident at least whilst we are there. An autumn visit to the country has charms not possessed by the summer months. Friday September 21st on the 11:35 a.m. train to Binnewater via West Shore R.RD to Kingston. Will see you again on Monday or Tuesday next.

F. H. L.



Letter of Betty Sturges to Frank Leggett

September 24, 1894

During her first visit, Betty Sturges wrote to Frank Leggett in New York, where he had been obliged to return to attend to his business.

Ridgely, September 24th

The day is too lovely to enjoy quite alone so I send a gleam of it to you dear child. It cannot be of the same substance in a counting room.

Our play is not without interest though Hamlet is out of it. He has been such a melancholy Dane for a week that we miss his sighs. Life isn't the drama he thinks. . . .

We came home by Rosendale (a new way that we haven't learned yet, Mascot and I) singing all the way. Your little family happy as larks although a trifle sad our flock was not complete . . .

Last evening's letter from you is here and brings cheer although we are not a cheerless element. Quite the contrary having settled into a peaceful domesticity that includes morning lessons for the twain, accompanied by the elder twain. Sewing and explaining, directing the young idea the way it should go.

I am beginning to look the necessity of life's programme in the face and will probably re-begin it with accustomed equanimity.

Clouds roll in from Chicago.

The day is not radiant but soft and kindly. Every foot of this place is lovely, every view within and without almost every thought and you ought to be extremely happy in its enjoyment.

We have found a new drive, perhaps an old one renewed by fresh appreciation and new colors. Such trees reeking in crimson.

Come home and see.



Letter of Betty Sturges to Frank Leggett

October 18, 1894


It is difficult for me to take on the old conditions, even to the extent of sending a line to you. After having entered into an existence so entirely in contrast. It is as if one attempted to grasp the vapory unrealities of a dream only to find one's hands and heart full of a something resembling nothingness. I remained in New York longer than I anticipated, time enough to visit your clocks at Wernicke, neither of which interested me largely, although the one with the roses is the better in shape and face. The other had but the virtue of age. It is ugly as age sometimes will be. I cared for none of his clocks, they seemed a lot of clumsy antiquities. One or two with columns were graceful.

I send this to Ridgely—with a benediction on the place. To wish you might feel to the fullest the peace we shared with you would prove me an angel when I am but a woman, so I offer only half the blessing and withhold the other half for other times.

I find all at peace here. My presence pathetically appreciated by all save the one for whom I am here.*  He has passed beyond the state of recognition.

Nature has not kept all her glories for Ulster County. She is radiant in a multi-colored mantle and the sun shines through everything. So much is "lovely." I have borrowed this word from your vocabulary of tenderness.




*Betty's husband William Sturges who suffered a nervous disorder that left him apprently insensible.


Letter of Frank Leggett to Betty Sturges

October 22, 1894

New York

When I reached Ridgely with my party on Friday p.m. your letter was on the little desk in the parlor where it had been put that very day as if to welcome my return. I transferred it to my pocket to await a more quiet moment to absorb its contents, but not with­out a secret wish for the condition of the previous weeks, which proved so peaceful and agreeable whilst they prevailed.

We took the customary drive to Lake Mohonk on Saturday. The day was perfect and so were the autumnal tints. . . . Ridgely will not be so attractive to me again until you and your little family circle return and gather about its fireside and fill the place with the same atmosphere of repose and sweetness which you took away with you.


I will not buy any of those clocks.


Letter of Frank Leggett to Betty Sturges

October 31 1894

Dear B. Your letter is postmarked Dobbs Ferry. If you have flown there and never mentioned it, you deserve—well my blessing. But why do you confuse me so ? The enclosure was received.* Why didn't you keep it? However it will be forthcoming again with more added to it if any contingency arises. I do not know the president of the bank you mention, but I do know some of the trustees and can get an introduction if necessary. What can I do for you ? I am your friend. You are convinced of that even if I am cold and reticent. I am hurried this evening—a friend is at my elbow waiting for me to keep an engagement with him. Adieu. God bless you. I go to Ridgely Friday.



* Leggett sent money to Mrs Sturges


Letter of Betty Sturges to Frank Leggett

November 10th 1894 , Oswego

Your letter of yesterday informs me that you have had the inter­view with the bank and arrangements made to meet the obliga­tions. Such was not my motive in seeking your intercession. I felt convinced the president would be willing to defer payment, having been signally indulgent heretofore. You are kind—very. But my obligation is only transmitted.

The strain of life I am living which is relentless dulls my sense of interest in other matters either of pain or pleasure. A kindly decree of nature that suffers unto the day the evil thereof. The valley of the shadow of death robs other shadows of their substance.

But the sun continues "to shine because of its nature" however out of reach one may seem.

As your kindness suggests,



Letter of Mrs. Bagley to a Mrs Smith  

March 20, 1895

Let my first word be that all this about Swami Vivekananda is absolute falsehood from beginning to end. Nothing could be more false. We all enjoyed every day of the six weeks he spent with us.... He was invited by the different clubs of gentlemen in Detroit, and dinners were given him in beautiful homes so that greater numbers might meet him and talk with him and hear him talk,... and everywhere and at all times he was, as he deserved to be, honoured and respected. No one knew him without respecting his integrity and excellence of character and his strong religious nature. At Annisquam last summer I had a cottage and we wrote Vivekananda, who was in Boston, inviting him again to visit us there, which he did, remaining three weeks, not only conferring a favour upon us, but a great pleasure I am sure, to friends who had cottages near us. My servants, I have had many years and they are all still with me. Some of them went with us to Annisquam the others were at home. You can see how wholly without foundation are all these stories. Who this woman in Detroit is, of whom you speak, I do not know. I only know this that every word of her story is as untrue and false as possible.... We all know Vivekananda. Who are they that they speak so falsely?


Letter of Helen Bagley to a Mrs. Smith

March 21, 1895

I am glad to know that the story was not circulated by R-. If I find it possible I wish to see Mrs. S-- and ask her what her authority for such a statement was. I shall do it quietly of course, but I am going to find out for once, if possible, who starts these lies about Vivekananda. These things travel fast, and if once one is uprooted, perhaps these women will stop to think before they circulate a story so readily. If only they would investigate them they would find how false they all are...




Letter of S.E.Waldo to Miss Hamlen

Dated April 23 1895
You will be pleased to know that the Swami has returned and will hold a class tomorrow as usual, He asked me to notify the members of the classes, so as I fortunately had the list of the Wed. class* that you sent me last week, I was able to do so. If you will kindly let me have the lists of the Sat. & Mon. classes, I will send them postals too. I will be over early tomorrow morning.
Yours sincerely,

*Miss Waldo had charge of the Wednesday classes. Miss Hamlen the Saturday and Monday classes.






Letter of Mrs. Ole Bull to Mary Hale, April 1895

He worked continually and faithfully; his lectures requiring on his part reading and careful thought.
His teaching in class was so clear and gentle in spirit that I felt it to be perhaps the best of all his work. It has served to call together earnest people among those who came to him, and I hope that a center of work for him in this country may be the permanent result of it all. He is tired now, but rest will soon make all the positive good apparent to him. The real character of the man and his work are now known to many and at any time may be resumed, as there are those who would always gladly welcome and assist him.... All who know him love the beauty of his life and he brings with him the realization of all good and noble endeavor Godward.







Letter of Ella Wheeler Wilcox to Kate Tannatt Woods. May 1895

I was listening to V this morning an hour.  How honored by fate you must feel to have been allowed to be of service to this Great Soul.  I believe him to be a re-incarnation of some great Spirit -- perhaps Buddha, perhaps Christ.  He is so simple -- so sincere, so pure, so unselfish.  To have listened to him all winter is the greatest privilege life has offered me.  It would be surprising to me that people could misunderstand or malign such a soul if I did not know how Buddha and Christ were persecuted and lied about by small inferiors.  His discourse this morning was most uplifting -- his mere PRESENCE is that.  His absolute sinking of SELF is what I like.  I am so tired of people who place the capital “I” before truth -- and God.  “To do good for good’s sake” -- with no expectation or desire of reward, and never to speak of what we have done -- but to keep on working for the love of doing God’s work-is Vivekananda’s grand philosophy of life.  He always make me ashamed that I have even thought for one moment I was burdened or that I ever spoke of any good act of my own.






Letter of Frank Leggett to Josephine MacLeod, January 10, 1896

One night at Ridgely we were all spellbound by his (Vivekananda's) eloquence. Such thought I have never heard expressed by mortal man — such as he uttered for two and a half hours. We were all deeply affected. And I would give a hundred dollars for a typewritten verbatim report of it. Swami was inspired to a degree that I have never seen before or since. He leaves us soon and perhaps we shall never see him again, but he will leave an ineffaceable impress on our hearts that will comfort us to the end of our earthly careers.






Letter of Rev. Haweis to Swami Vivekananda, 17th July, 1896

My dear Scwami

With every sentiment of profound esteem & admiration I wish you heartily God speed and return to London. Your teaching is a kind peculiarly adapted to the Western mind & you are doing inestimable good – Allow me to ask your acceptance of the accompanying little booklet 10,000 of which are now in circulation. It is nothing but a few condensed short hand reports of my general teaching – Yours truly and faithfully H.R. Haweis

Source: the letter from Rev Haweis dated 17 July 1896 in the Sara Chapman Bull papers.

Click here to read more details >>





Letter of J.J.Goodwin to Miss MacLeod
(from Amercia just prior to returning to London to assist Swamiji)

October 1896

"Shall I shock you very much if I tell you that the Swami takes the place of Christ to me? I think not, for you will understand what I mean."


Letter of E. T. Sturdy to an American friend

December 16, 1896

Swami Vivekananda left today .... He had a magnificent reception* in the Galleries of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours. There were about five hundred people there, and a good many friends were away from London. His influence has sunk very deep into many hearts. We are going straight ahead with his work.... Your presumption is correct. I am heavy-hearted today at the loss of the noblest friend and the purest teacher I have met in this incarnation. I must have stored some exceptional merit in the past to receive such a blessing now. What I longed for all my life I have found in the Swami.

*December 13 1896


Letter of Frank Leggett to Josephine MacLeod in Kashmir

July 12 1898

Ridgely, July 12th 1898

Dear Joe,

Babe is nearly twenty months old and enjoys nothing so much as walking over the Ridgely lawns and taking her daily drives. We are having a quiet household with good servants and contentment throughout. It is much quieter this year all over the plantation. The Inn has not had over four guests so far and the Casino is not used at all though open. The country was never more beautiful. We are enjoying the fruits of a vegetable garden and three cows. Duncan, the new farmer, is a great comfort to me and I have no worriment at all about the farm. The harvest is so abundant that I have been obliged to build a new barn. . . .

With love to Swami and Mrs Bull and your dear self,

Your Bro. Frank



Letter of E. T. Sturdy to Mrs. Bull

July 1898

... If it was not that Karma works its inevitable way, the exasperating thought, that if I had met our dear Swami*, I should escaped continuous suffering in this samsara, would drive me to suicide or madness. I blame no individuals, that would be folly and criminal; they are merely agents, often passive and unconscious. Everything lies in myself, in my own past; still I shall be glad when it is all worked off and I should be glad to leave this body tomorrow.

"I have health, means, healthy children, a kind and affectionate wife. So far from being any comfort to me all these things seem to be killing my true life. I may philosophise, study, talk, but I now see there can be no realization in these conditions, with this body, and the sooner they are all changed by my departure the better. It may sound like selfishness; but it arises from the resentment I feel at conditions I am unable to change by living in them. Then the doubt arises anything is changed by leaving it, either by death or in any other way except by jnanam-and so I oscillate restlessly, trying to get that jnanam and never seeming to reach beyond mere head knowledge.

*When he had first gone to India before he got married. 


Letter of  Betty Sturges Leggett to Josephine MacLeod

August 9 1898


My dear,

We are all at work with the blessed Mr Cooke*, who arrived the 3rd. We are dissecting flowers and learning hourly. What a power! Such sweetness & such religion underlying all, but not Vedanta although he admires Vivekananda without agreeing with him. He misses Miss Noble, her strength and inspiration, & is anxious to meet you.

Adieu. I haven't time to breathe. We study from 10.0 to 12.0 and from  2. 0 to 3.0 and then drive.

All love, B.

Babe** is in colour class.


*Ebenezer Cooke. According to Mrs. Leggett's daughter Frances "Betty, as was her wont, was trying to enliven the long summer months [at Ridgely] by the introduction of some 'interesting' element. Ebenezer Cooke had been suggested by Joe's new friend, Margot Noble (devotee of the Swami) and had been brought from London. All those who came to Ridgely that summer seemed to have been (as Frank put it in a letter to Joe) 'ready to absorb' Cooke's teachings, relics of which remain to this day [1968] in the Ridgely attic—blobs and circles and cosmic patterns. 'Cookie' was evidently of the progressive school."

**Mrs. Leggett's daughter Frances


Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Mrs. Bull

Sep 23, 1898, Saturday

Dearest St. Sara.

The two McKindley girls came yesterday. Since which time Swamiji has been bubbling over with boyishness-Dr. Helmer came at 6-&. by 7 we knew that Swamiji's trouble is curable-a spreading of the spine causes the kidney trouble-& though his heart & kidney ace affected, Dr says there is no reason he should not be as strong as he -smoking is gradually to be reduced to nothingness (Nirvana!) I still think you better come via Albany -and I think if Olea is here Dr. will come up next Saturday

He is to stay till Monday & is now shooting blue clay pigeons with Hol-who has a new gun.

The McKindleys we drive to Kingston today.

This is only a line to tell you Swamiji speaks of you & Olea daily & would go over to you if we would let him.

Dr Helmer seems to be happy-& I love him.

Margot is winning all hearts.

I will send Berta [Alberta Sturges] over to bring Olea -if you will allow. She wants to go-& seems to think she is not "au complet" without Olea-

Heart love




Letter of Edward T. Sturdy to Josephine MacLeod 

October 18, 1898

"I understand thoroughly all that you write about Swami. I know exactly the complete absence of interference with which he should be allowed to live in whoever's house he may dwell, and how much congenial companionship helps him. He would have all that freedom in my house."


Letter of Mrs. Charlotte Sevier to Miss MacLeod (from Almora)

January 1, 1899

What a pity Miss Muller should advertise her foolishness in the papers ! The `Indian Social Reformer' has a paragraph respecting her-viz., `to our Christian brethren we beg to offer a Christmas present in the shape of news, which we have received from the most authentic source, that Miss Muller has completely severed her connection with Swami Vivekananda's movement to spread Hinduism, and that she has returned to her Christian faith'etc. etc. We have not seen Miss Muller's letter to the 'Statesman' nor the reply to it, in the `Indian Mirror.'


Letter of Swami Saradananda to Josephine MacLeod (excerpt)

January 25, 1899

"I hear from Margot that the Prophet* is going to do just what you divined and expressed in your last. He is not going to the West for some time and is thinking of using the money** for something else, I do not know what."

*Swami Vivekananda

** "money" was the passage money sent for the Swami to come to the west. 


Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Sara Bull

Feb 23, 1899

(written from the ship, RMS Majestic) excerpt

'I do not think it quite fair to leave you with Mr. Sturdy and God—so I've taken God, who does not mind which He stays with, so long as it is one of us. Poor God would miss us if we should forget Him. So I mean to keep well and, Him company.'



Letter of E. T. Sturdy to Mrs. Bull

April 13, 1899

Many thanks for your reply which has set me at rest on the point of the fare moneys for Swamiji & Turiyananda. I am confirmed in fancying that Nivedita was trying to remove any hindrance to their starting but did not know details & did not like to inquire into them.

Since writing you I have a very short note from Swamiji, acknowledging my invitation & agreeing with its general outlines of work, but he said he felt he was getting stronger & was inclined to remain a little longer in Calcutta....

Miss Muller has written Mrs. Ashton Jonson hoping for an interview; the latter was a little doubtful of any good and afraid she might deal the former some hard knocks if criticisms were brought up about Swami. I advised the interview and thought nothing of the sort might possibly be broached....

Miss Noble's letter is full of life & enthusiasm. What a fine full nature it is....

I am ready to receive Turiyananda whenever he may come. I think this is understood but I shall repeat when I write to India by tomorrow's mail.


Letter of E. T. Sturdy to Mrs. Bull  

April 16, 1899

Since writing you and receiving your reply I have received the enclosed letter of Nivedita's from Miss MacLeod.

It gives details about conversation with Swamiji about the passage money which Nivedita did not write me; in fact she clearly states in her letter to me that she is writing entirely upon her own responsibility. Do you think they need any authority from you to use the money you referred to?

My position here is this-I know from old experience that as soon as the Swami arrives here, plenty of money will be needed. There will be two to arrange expenses for.

Turiyananda I have already agreed to send on to U.S.A. when the time comes. He will probably require some outfitting also. The same applies to Swami. He may elect suddenly to go to U.S.A.: he will probably also need new outfit. On top of this Longmans may need money if another edition of Raja Yoga should be needed. Or Swami may write a book here which should be published at once.

I do not know where I could raise any donations amongst Swami's friends amounting to anything substantial and it would be unwise to try.

I am not able to reduce my own living expenditures below the present, without a change which would involve others & probably would not be wise in the end and so I am left not a very large margin to donate personally.

Looking at these points I want to be ready for the campaign that is to come and not cripple it. So I should like to hear again from you, just what you think. It is possible they have started by this time as Nivedita spoke of April and this letter to Miss MacLeod is dated March 5.


Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Sara Bull (excerpt)

Mar 6, 1899

'I have advised Swamiji to come to the West at once. There was no means to carry out his Indian scheme just now; and sent the ticket money, and I hoped he would bring Turiyananda.'


Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Sara Bull

May 8, 1899

Dearest Saint Sara,

If I weren't a great Yogini, my heart would be sad at not having you here—but being one, I must not write or think as mortals do but take you headlong into the heaven where I have been since Saturday. I arrived at 6 p.m. Brother Jo met your Jojo at the station with the carriage and drove me to his home, where Sister Annie met me... We went that first evening after dinner to the Hasty Pudding theatricals. Splendid music and great nonsense.

The next morning after a delightful talk at breakfast, Dr. Janes called as we were sitting on the porch for a little talk. We all went to church to hear Mr. C., also a thing I had wanted to do....

After church, we took the car up to your house and found it just as completely in order as if you had been directing it. The portieres at the entrance hall lined with silk, fresh curtains at the windows. Mrs. Thorpe and your brother spent an hour arranging the flowers, a lovely vase of orange nasturtiums and irises on the pedestal between the drawing room and the dining room would have pleased your eye for colour. We returned to 115 for luncheon... afterwards Mr. Thorp and I came up to the Studio House where I saw Mrs. Briggs and I changed my blue frock and gown and put on my Indian pink that Deloise made me. Mrs. Briggs being in long grey crepe. She and I without hats sat near Dr. Royce. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe opposite, asked to be introduced, so I had a few minutes talk pleasantly.

Dr. Janes spoke beautifully of you—of the freedom and generosity of your gift—in giving these conferences and read the letter you wrote. Then Mr. Thorp was charming during the five minutes he spoke, regretting your absence, after which Dr. Janes introduced Prof. Royce, who was clear and most closely followed for over an hour. Swami Abhedananda, at Dr. Janes' request, talked on the Hindu idea of immortality during 15 minutes, which seemed even to impress Mrs. Ward Howe!! as she spoke well of him afterwards, going down in the car to Mrs. Haskill—with whom I had a nice talk.

I also saw much of Mrs. Fenollosa, who seemed most sympathetic, so as we mean to accept people for what they wish to be to us, I was equally cordial, though of course I confined myself to generalities.

In many ways I think it was well I came and it has established a relation between Mrs. Thorp and me that is most friendly—of course we talked no philosophy, but education and a good deal about the domestic arrangements and she was most interested in the way we divided our housework etc. I was in my practical vein, as I have been doing that side of life lately—and I thought it just as well that they think me a good balance to you!

Mr. Thorp talked to me of Swamiji, saying he could never think of him as a religious teacher, whereas he could of Saradananda. I gave no opinion of my own—but quoted Mr. Leggett saying he was the greatest man he had ever met, and this seemed to impress your brother much—...and as he evidently thought me fair in my attitude and not a partisan, we had a very pleasant discussion and I did not seem to care in the least what your brother said for I liked him and think he has a right to his opinion.

I had great fun in telling them... that I had no basic principles in life (at which your brother said principles some­times meant prejudices) fine?!!...

I have read Dr. and Mrs. janes many of Margot's letters, more to show the greatness of our child than anything else. He, as always, is sympathetic...

I always give people a chance. Then, if they are not equal to it, I say "God speed, work out your own salvation along your own lines and according to your own nature" It is the only fair way to give people the privilege?! of making mistakes! I'm sure I love mine and thank heaven I'm free to make many more.

 The more I see other people, the more I love you!

I feel equal to anything these days; returning vigor makes mole hills out of mountains! And I sort of feel that I am standing on the Universe, its master—but that is because I've a half dozen friends worth having. And I can look the world straight in the face. I cannot take into inner heart anyone who fails once. Trust anyone to any length you do not know, as the Hindus say, because "it may be the Lord Himself". I love new people and new things....

I do hope Mr. Sturdy will come over with our Prophet this summer.




Letter of Swami Saradananda  to Josephine MacLeod

May 11, 1899

My dear Joe,

I have not been able to send you a line even these two mails and I am feeling very bad indeed. I am getting your letters every mail, except the last one.

...I hope you are yourself again and feeling equal to all the responsibilities of your present stylish position in the family and in the New York Society too. I was so amazed to hear of your giving talks about India. So my prophecy (I might call it now so—can I not) upon the boat on the Ganges, has come to be true! Thank Siva! But I hope I will not loose my head for this getting a little prophetish. You must keep me from it—will you not dear Joe?



Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Mrs. Bull

May 11, 1899

I received back the packet of Margot's letters, also the Prophet's. Bless him! His criticism of Margot and the plague sanitation is very like the time on the Amarnath pilgrimage, when she gave her dandy to a poor, weak pilgrim, which he thought a bit of sentiment, but which brought more glory than her any one act in Kashmir!

And now this intense interest in the sanitation of Bagh Bazar and her appeal to the English has been a common ground on which they might unite. And you can see by her letter the exhilaration and joy that has come into her life by the knowledge that her countrymen want to do the right thing.

Her methods may sometimes antagonize, but on the whole she is wonderfully gentle. And it is evident that she did not find any response in the Tagore element to help her cause or rather theirs. And so she turned to the monks for help and Swami I [number one] has been 1st Lieutenant!

Isn't it interesting how each one's talents have a chance at development?...

Tonight we hear Maude Adams in Juliet—not a seat to be had at any price, she is so popular.

When I passed the church on our corner yesterday, I read notices of meetings. I thought how wise nature was to make men prefer theatres to church!

It's grand the way I feel! Not a trace of holiness anywhere, and I'm beginning to feel I only was holy because I was ill....

I am curious to know what they will write you of me from Cambridge. I kept so on earth! They cannot think I've any professed or hidden preference for any philosophy, and I'm not sure that I have?!?!

I had a little talk with Mrs. Janes who asked me if there was any fund for the living expenses of Swami III [Turiyanan-da]. I said there was, and suggested that though nominally the guest of Dr. and Mrs. Janes till the religious congress on June 2nd, I thought you would not mind if he cooked his own food in your kitchen in the Studio House, (he is very tidy), till that date, getting money from Mrs. Coulston to buy it, so that he need not be a charge upon Mrs. Janes, who has no servant and is worn out from serving two children with cooking enough for months. This seemed a great relief to the Janes, who did not quite understand how he was financed.

I wrote this to Swami III on my return from Cambridge, saying that since Dr. Janes was such a good friend to the monks, it was better not to be his guest at all, since offering him hospitality meant hard work for Mrs. Janes.

It was a certain satisfaction to me to have the last words of the conferences given ably by a Vedantist.

...the last cable you sent was from London. Of course you've been Sturdy's friend.

Love always to him and to all,



Letter of Swami Saradananda to Mrs. Bull

May 1899


My dresses fit [Turiyananda] so well, I am giving him everything; so you will find him wearing the same red coats & trousers & overcoats & all.

Turiyananda was to accompany Swami Vivekananda on his second visit to the west.


Letter of E. T. Sturdy to Mrs. Bull

July 8 1899

We leave for Wales on 18th....

I am no further on regarding Swami. I only know that he is on his way, together with Miss Noble, Turiyananda & a brother of Saradananda, a "layman" I presume, named Chakravarti. What he wishes to do, where to rest awhile &c, I leave for time to disclose.

If they come direct to London they are due here on July 27th-"the dog days"-when everybody has fled to the fields & the seas....

Your visit & also Miss MacLeod's,* left us all with the happiest impressions and it is nice to think of the links that unite us all with Swami at the head of our round table.

*In February and March 1899


Letter of Mrs. Ashton Jonson to Miss MacLeod (excerpt)

July 1899

"I fear Nivedita will not get much support in England for her India work. There are too few persons who know her sufficiently to believe in her personally & still fewer who care enough about Hindoo women to give them the benefit of such education as Miss Noble wd give"


Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Sara Bull

Aug 7, 1899, Monday

(written from Ridgely Manor)

Dearest S.S.,

I am glad you all seem to think my attitude towards Swamiji a rock of "unchanging and abiding love"—but it is simply a habit. That is just the way I love Betty—I do not care what she does. I think it's all right. It never occurs to me to criticise her or want her to act differently. She is way beyond criticising; and I'm beginning to feel that way towards Margot. And what you all think that "marvelous love" is simply my unchanging belief in these two or three people and in their methods, which aren't at all my methods, as you well know. It fascinates me to see what they are going to do next! and they, feeling instinctively their charm over me, fly to me with any half-solved thought, which I fall in with! not having any theories of my own to exploit.

I am beginning to see that my lack of imagination is really my greatest gift. And that this is what Christ meant when he said, "Those that are last shall come first."

Margot's last letter sent from Marseilles (which I sent to Mrs. Coulston at once) tells me she has about decided to go as a nun to all ten towns where Ramabai has lectured, and tell her story and solicit funds! Her letter is magnificent, full of the Jeanne d'Arc's fire! I will send it to you as soon as it is returned to me...




Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Mrs. Bull, full of heavy underscorings

Aug 17, 1899

"Swamiji is starting today Allen Line (Allan State Line).Numidian. from Glasgow . a telegram just received says! Do what you choose. Come at any hour you are always welcome. You better meet me in New York & we will go together to meet our Prophet. He ought to be 10 days en route but I will write you definitely tomorrow the day the ship is expected & you meet me in town. Do not tell Mrs Crossley a word, let her stay in Princeton so we can have our Prophet without one thorn or criticism -in all his holiness.

I think I may keep Miss Stumm over--she has her worth. I am in Heaven.

Lovingly JoJo.


Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Sara Bull, "Saint Sara", with underscorings.

Aug 22, 1899

Swamiji's boat the Numidian sailed on August I7th & is due in New York on Monday August 28th [double underscore] so a letter just announced. So you take the midnight train on Sunday, arriving at 6.  -go directly to 21 [ 21 East Thirty-fourth Street , the Leggetts' town house]-where a telegram is to be sent me announcing the day & hour of arrival.

Betty [Besse Leggett] goes to East Hampton on Friday & will meet you in New York on Monday, and I also will be in town that day by noon.

Our Prophet again with us!

I have invited Mrs Coulston to go to 21 & to come up here for 3 days visit-not one uncongenial element!

God is kind. If quite convenient you might bring up a trunk of blankets-in case 18 single ones aren't enough-besides 10 eider down quilts.

What do you think? I can easily bring a few pairs from our town house & this will be less complicated so do not worry or trouble about it.

I am so thankful to know you are coming to us alone.

(alone underscored five times)


Letter of Mr.E. T. Sturdy To Sister Nivedita

25th August 1899

I have neither the intention nor the inclination to enter into a long paper discussion, or in words, as Vivekananda’s or any or all of the other Swamis’ characters.

I may merely add this, everyone must form his own ideal, and work with those who conform to it; with those who do not, association will naturally be so close. I have formed my own idea of life of Renunciation, and although I am not able to lead it myself, I still hope to see others who profess Sannyasa who may approximate to it.

It is only because you seem to think I shared your unreasoning enthusiasm that I wrote you. It may be quite right for you, but I alone must decide upon the attitude I take, and the options on which that attitude is based. I have found that appeals to loyalty are generally appeals to fanaticism, at the same time spoiling and making tyrants of those who by mere discerning methods would have acted differently. I have not set up any Gods for myself, and have none to throw down. If you have set up a God or Gods, it is quite right that you should be loyal. My loyalty is to my ideal; if shifting personalities do not conform to it, where is the loyalty ? To them, with whose methods I do not agree, or , to the ideal, which perhaps wrongly I thought we held in common?

I have let you know that on some points there is difference between Swami and me. It now remains for him and me to settle this, not you and me.






Letter of Miss MacLeod to Miss McKinley

August 31, 1899

My dear Miss McKinley--

Your letter this morning was a great pleasure to our household. We should be so pleased if you and your sister will stop over with us a day and night on your way home--If you will let me know the date, I will arrange to have a free place for you and to meet you at the Station Binnewater: four miles off. You can take a train at Boston for Kingston--changing at Albany--and at Kingston take a train to Binnewater--I think the best train leaving Boston is at 11 P.M. Of course if you are in or near New York--we are very accessible, being 3 hours by train from there.

If you have never taken the [boat] trip on the Hudson River, it is well worth the day given to it--leaving New York at 9--to Kingston--arriving at Binnewater at 4:30.

Swamiji is delighted at the thought of seeing you and your sister.




Letter of Betty Leggett to Mrs. Bull

Sep 02, 1899

We are having such privileges as only Swamiji can confer. His talks are intermittent-his health improving, his nights restful & he sleeps wonderfully. He is dieting, eating well-& no doubt as you and Joe have said for long-his great work is to come....

These days are priceless. Do come straight on if possible.


Letter of Betty Leggett to Sara Bull

Sep 19, 1899

Dear Saint Sara,

 The other sanyazin comes today no doubt as Joe went to fetch her Sunday evening

We are all in waiting-and the week promises a look at you all-including Dr Helmer. Let naught prevent an early arrival.

     I hope Olea is mending rapidly & when she can hold together let her come and be upon the couch in the great hall-or the loggia & listen! How I regret it all-and wish we had sent for her to come when we learned of Swami's departure from England as we were sorely tempted to do.... We expect Mrs [ Florence ] Adams the 22nd. Swami needs Dr Helmer badly-he needs to be told the end is not yet. There are many hours when he thinks It is near, as symptoms are graver, in his mind, by heredity.

Joe arrives today. The big cottage awaits you-and is ready.

Swami & Turiananda are in yours-to be more cozy. Swamiji is writing a book on Modern Hindoos-to make some independent means-and to keep busy. He is grand in type as ever.


Letter of Josephine MacLeod to Mrs. Bull

Sep 20, 1899

Dearest S.S.

Margo & I arrived at 3 p.m. yesterday after a joyous 24 hours together---

I am beginning to feel that I am almost as glad to know her as Swamiji.

Today we decked her in our finery-then came down to Swamiji for criticism-which never came.

He put the decision entirely into Margot's care and she said "If I may do as I choose, I shall wear my brahmacharini gerrua always-while on the platform-black otherwise," &. so it is decided-and tomorrow we will go to Kingston to see what can be bought in the way of tough material.

She never was greater, & Betty approves in each detail of her attitude to Swami. Not one thing wld she have Margot change-& her verdict is final in social matters as Margot's is in spiritual.

Your telegram was a blow-last night-10 days longer away-but "Mother knows best"

I have no servants for you yet.

Dr. Helmer will decide what Swamiji is to do and in this his verdict will be final.

Hearts love to my child [Olea] & her mother.

[Nivedita added to the letter:] My sweet Grannie-no idea had I that post time had come. It was the desire of my heart to write to you this morning. Here I am-Plans are growing like flowers. I long to see you & begged Y.Y. to let me come & try to carry off Mrs Vaughan & you! But of course I saw that that was a wrong suggestion-anyway, you will be here directly. Lovingly your Child,




Letter of Josephine McLeod to Mrs Bull

September 23, 1899, Saturday

Dearest St. Sara. 

The two McKindley girls came yesterday. Since which time Swamiji has been bubbling over with boyishness-Dr. Helmer came at 6-&. by 7 we knew that Swamiji's trouble is curable-a spreading of the spine causes the kidney trouble-& though his heart & kidney ace affected, Dr says there is no reason he should not be as strong as he -smoking is gradually to be reduced to nothingness (Nirvana!) I still think you better come via Albany-and I think if Olea is here Dr. will come up next Saturday

He is to stay till Monday & is now shooting blue clay pigeons with Hol-who has a new gun.

The McKindleys we drive to Kingston today.

This is only a line to tell you Swamiji speaks of you & Olea daily & would go over to you if we would let him.

Dr Helmer seems to be happy-& I love him.

Margot is winning all hearts.

I will send Berta [Alberta Sturges] over to bring Olea -if you will allow. She wants to go-& seems to think she is not "au complet" without Olea-

Hearts love    



Letter of Betty Sturges Leggett To Frank Leggett

January 6th 1900 from Los angeles

Yesterday at 4 p.m. I had my first treatment, but not a diagnosis because "she"* never diagnoses save in the morning. She drew her hands over certain nerves in my forehead, breastbone, inside of arm and solar plexus. It felt like one of your four horse trucks rolling over these parts although she did not press. I was in a perspiration from head to foot with pure agony. After which she looked at my leg which was very inflamed, got a little flour, made a paste with water in the hollow of her hand then closed the other hand over it and held it to be magnetized. After which she covered the sore place with paste, put on some cotton wadding, then bound it up saying, "It won't hurt you, don't touch it, I want to magnetize it and the paste will keep the magnetism within." I passed a more comfortable night than for many and at 7.30 a.m. was there again for the diagnosis. She says the nerves of that leg are affected from the groin to the ankle, that it came from a sting and she will draw out the sting, about half an inch long that is working its way up and down.

*Mrs Melton, the magnetic healer.

According to Frances Leggett, Betty and Frank Leggett's daughter:  "Swami and Joe were also benefiting from Mrs Melton's treatments, 'wincing as we all do (wrote Joe to 'Incense [a nicname of Frank Leggett']) as these streams of fire seem to burn the nerves as she runs her fingers down arms and legs.' Joe reports Swami as saying that he believed they all three had incurable maladies and that God had led them to California. Joe felt that Taylor** had been the necessary sacrifice for Betty's cure, and for the beginning of Vivekananda's mission in California.


**Taylor MacLeod, elder brother of Josephine MacLeod and Betty Leggett, who becuase of his ailment in Los Angeles Josephine came to California and then met Mrs Melton. Taylor died in Los Angeles in late 1899.



Telegram of Betty Leggett to Frank Leggett

January 9 1900

Corroded needle came out fourth treatment    I am improving daily       



Letter of Betty Leggett To Frank Leggett

January l0th 1900

Well, sweetheart, what do you think? We have the stinger or needle or whatever it is, having found it when we took off the magnetic plaster after the fourth treatment. Mrs Melton was not at all surprised, but very excited and called her husband at the top of her voice. Each time she succeeds and her diagnosis is justified by results she is fairly beside herself and in my case she felt I had come three thousand miles for this. This long straight implement of torture looks like a needle to the naked eye, but it is so corroded and brittle that when I touched it it broke in two. I have however all the pieces and am to have them examined under microscope. Tomorrow Mrs Melton is to diagnose me again. I must go early in the morning when she will hold my hands and see into the body. She says the light is steady in the morning. ... I have a strong magnetic plaster which draws incessantly, there is much proud flesh to the wound. It seems as though I could endure anything. It will not require the three months you kindly give me to stay, but I shall be rid of every weakness before I think of returning.

I am suffering a good deal today but I am used to it. It is no worse than it has been for four months and at last with purpose. . . .


Letter of Betty Leggett To Frank Leggett

January 11th 1900

... I have no reason to doubt one part of her analysis and accept another as the trouble was making rapid inroads—there were six open sores instead of the one you saw. I feel a sort of strange interest in it all as if it were about someone else who had a close claim upon me and had been somehow saved as with a reprieve. Daily I promise my more conservative self that I will say no more about it and follow the lines of past conduct in refraining from attaching too much importance to it. But having escaped, the details of the past eighteen months rise like menacing ghosts and I cannot refrain from recognising the long procession of anxieties which have at last been forced into this curious culmination. Of course when in the future physical ailments reach a point beyond ordinary skill I shall know where to turn and no doubt Mrs Melton will end in New York, if not Europe, within call of us all. . . .

I am grateful for every person and influence that brought me here, to Joe and you notably and shall return with joy as I left with regret and am ever your loving




Letter of Betty Leggett To Frank Leggett

January 12 1900

 . . Today Dr Manning brought back the bit of implement* and calls it decidedly a needle and his version is that the point got stuck in the periosteum (outer bone covering) and couldn't get dislodged save by this woman's magnetic power. He is amazed that not one of the physicians I consulted ever examined by microscope any of the suppurations. . . . He thinks I have been outrageously diagnosed and neglected. At any rate he says this little ignorant woman has extraordinary powers which he doesn't understand and he was glad to examine the needle. He thinks the bone must be slightly affected to have had the needle in it for eighteen months. We shall see ... I should not be at all surprised if Mrs M. goes east sooner or later, perhaps this winter. She is so interested in us. Adieu. All love to my beloveds from



*According to betty'e daughter Frances Leggett from her book about her parents "Late and Soon:  "After the analysis, showing the implement to have been a needle (or pin?), it was remembered that two years before Betty had fallen when carrying the baby [Frances, herself], and in her anxiety to protect the child had not noticed that the black-headed pin that she used to fasten the buckle on her belt had broken. Was not this the implement? The whole incident at any rate served to bolster the family's attitude against conventional medicine—an attitude, one must say, shared by Frank. He was a staunch believer in osteopathy years before it attained respectable standing."


Letter of Betty Leggett To Frank Leggett

January 13th 1900

A week ago yesterday since my arrival only. When I see the results I realise what infinite philosophy one brings to bear on the necessities of life, how questionable our patience has been for nearly two years over a deep growing malady. Surrounded as we were by the best scientific medical men in the world, not an intelligent enquiry was made as to the cause. That profession as I see it needs a little of your questioning propensity, directness and concentration. I feel as though I should call in a veterinary the next time I need to consult a man of brains. . . .

All my devotion to you. It is increased daily by my contemplation of your character and sweet qualities.





Letter of Mrs. Ole Bull to Lady Henry Somerset.

He gave ....a course of ...lectures before the Ethical Association to large audiences, and the Ramabai people attacked his utterances in print.  His side was fully sustained; but BOTH sides are to my mind in the right, and should be harmonized in the sprit of Max Muller.  The estimate against Vivekananda has been serious because of remarks repeated from Mozoomdar, Lyman Abbott and Prof Estlin Carpenter, remarks that have come directly to me, and from others as well as these.  The fact that V. has smoked for years and has at lunches and dinners a few times tasted wine (not with men alone) with the impulsive combative nature of the man -- in large part his own fault as I tell him -- and in part the prejudice of creed and  custom against any oriental not a converted Christian, have contributed to this prejudice which had reached me before I knew him.  Clergymen, both smokers and drinkers, have spoken to me most sharply of him, the most serious scandals unreservedly repeated in Brooklyn by the Ramabai people were met and turned to his credit, as the friends quoted against him wrote that his presence had been a benediction to old and young of their house ....
  The essentials of his order, chastity and poverty, his single purpose in life in these respects, are established to my own satisfaction; and instances of practical help to others as the outcome thereof ....  He has made for himself many friends here whose homes and hearts are open to him and his ideals.  So far, I gave not been able to come upon a single exception to the contrary among the men and women who have known him intimately.

















- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.

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