1863?-05-01, Annie Adams Fields

Dublin Core


1863?-05-01, Annie Adams Fields


May 1, [1863?], Philadelphia

My dear Annie

Here is Mr Alden’s letter—[1] Yes, I think you ought to minister to a mind diseased in that way—for you know I receive counter irritants often, and thus keep up the poise—balance—what is it? Seriously, I was glad to read the letters and I hope they did not harm me much. If my note today at all is an exponent of my condition it will be one long drawn relaxing yawn—in spite of the clearest and coolest of May-days. The invalids are all well—comparatively, but I still breathe ‘Bay-rum’ and sick room nausea—it hangs about my lungs, somehow. Though I have been out last Tuesday all day with the Petersons[2] on the Wissahicken hills—rooting and trowelling for moss, and trailing arbutus I brought home enough moss to build a bank as big as the one on which Jessica sat, on the very spot in the carpet where you had lunch—the moss being arranged in an invisible cheese-box, and ivy growing out of it up all over the wall. That moss has every colour from apple-green to black and crimson—and if any one asked me what was the ‘shay-doooer’ of Philadelphia art—modesty would keep me silent—

Then yesterday—just as I sat down to write to you, Mr Davis came in and announced it was fast-day—(believe me—I didn’t know—but then to the churches here, ‘Christians and patriots were invited’ only—) so we had a holy-day and went to our church—the trees in Laurel Hill—for all day. There was a grand thunderstorm came up—and we got into a tomb and watched the gray misty walls closing up the river—all very well for romantic purposes but the thunderstorm came down, too and today I feel as if every bone had been pounded with a mallet. Did I tell you about the day we spent at Mrs. Mott’s? [3] I’m glad you sent her to see me— It was a cool earnest day the sun veiled—un jour convert as the French call it, and I think then, Nature being shut in on herself opens her heat most cordially— Besides it was the first I had spent in the country—And there was nothing in Mrs Mott—or in her home—I don’t say house—at dis-accord with the day— Though she probably might be more than she is—I say this because you know you spoke of her personally—I did not meet her mother-in law[4]—she wasn’t at home—

My dear Annie—why do you remember that remark about the centralization of society in Boston? So uneasily—as though it were not a good thing if true for individuals and ideas—though not—maybe for the mere society face turned to a stranger? Besides I don’t know if it’s true or not—I quoted it, did I not? Forget it—or only remember that I freely accede to the maxim that Boston is nearer to highest civilization than any other part of the union— That is my feeling after my two weeks visit—only that. Why don’t you write me ‘good long letters’ as well as ask for them? I would like to have a real cozy chat today—but I must go out—to return bridal calls—two months due— There is conventionalism for you—isn’t it? But you see, I have such a cloak—‘Literary women always affect eccentricity’ with a slight curly of the lip and you are forgiven. Only write for a magazine Annie—and come live in the west and you can wear feathers in July or pin your shawl behind with impunity if you like— And you needn’t grow thin or eat only one spoonful of chowder to do it—either Ecce signum[5]—need you? I wish you were here and we would go straight out to the hills and get more moss or flowers or anything so we got out. It’s the very day for rooting in the ground—

But tomorrow I’m going to the Library[6] to begin improving my mind. You don’t know how little I’ve read in the last year—And the other day the librarian of the Philadelphian laid himself and his books with ‘a cozy corner and pen and paper’ at my feet in the Persian fashion—I knew a friend of mine[7] had been there telling him he ought to ‘have read Margret’[8]—and ‘greatly admired’ etc. etc. But I only looked gracious and unconscious. It’s a splendid dark dingy place with little off-shoots of rooms— I’ll do the honors when you come again—I did the other day to a gentleman, showed him Il Vatican and explained a fresco satisfactorily to myself as the eternal bridge over Hades when an unfortunate note turned up and the label ‘Jonah and the whale.’ My dear Annie I’m writing just a great deal of nonsense. You must forgive me—I’ve been so anxious in the last fortnight that now I feel silly and light hearted—when all are well again. Write to me soon—and remember me to Mr Fields—or, as the Ledger[9] calls him the ‘Boston handsome publisher.’ Mr Davis would send some message if he were here, I know

Carrie’s[10] love always—even the children[11] remember and talk of your visit—dear

Yours & always

Did Kate Fields[12] ever get my letter do you know. I directed it to the Fremont House[13] as she told me.


1. Letters written by James C. Alden, a Union soldier, while he was at Fort Pillow.

2. Her editor at Peterson’s Magazine, Charles J. Peterson, and his wife Elizabeth.

3. Marianna Pelham Mott (?-1872); she and her husband Thomas became close friends of the Davises.

4. Marianna’s mother-in-law was the renowned Quaker activist Lucretia Mott (1793-1880).

5. Latin: behold the sign or, more colloquially, look at the proof.

6. Philadelphia Public Library.

7. RHD’s husband, L. Clarke Davis.

8. RHD’s first novel, Margret Howth (1862).

9. Philadelphia’s Public Ledger newspaper for which Clarke Davis was an editor.

10. RHD’s sister-in-law, Carrie Davis Cooper.

11. Carrie Davis Cooper’s children.

12. Kate Field (1838-1896), American journalist and lecturer.

13. Probably the home of Jessie Benton and John Frémont in New York.


S. M. Harris


Richard Harding Davis Papers, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia



S. M. Harris, “1863?-05-01, Annie Adams Fields,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed February 20, 2019, http://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/136.