1863-07-27, Annie Adams Fields
To ANNIE ADAMS FIELDS
July 27, , Philadelphia
I have thought of you so much dear Annie since your last letter came, more perhaps than if I had written. I did not write to you—or indeed to any one—because we have had so little quiet. First Lee’s approach and the excitement which followed it took away all heart for talking in any way. Then Carrie was ill again, this time seriously, with bilious fever—yesterday was her first venture down stairs—and finally my brother—Wilse (whom you know) came and our time has been occupied with making Philadelphia like home to him. He and Clarke have just gone out and I made use of the unfilled time to speak to you.
Where are you? I suppose you are not yet weary of the sea shore and are there still. Write and tell me about yourselves. I like to keep the frame about the picture always—I am going home to Wheeling with Wilse & Mr Davis will come for me—such is our plan now at all events. Tuesday morning. So far last night—and I am glad I wrote so much before your note of this morning came or you might think I only write to reply. No indeed dear Annie, I have had no trouble, only those I spoke of. I never did feel the pain of the present hour come so close home to me I confess, as in the last few weeks, not knowing when Mr Davis might feel that he ought to and <u<must go. It’s not easy for any man, much less one of his temperament to feel that his home is invaded and be quiet. I could not hear from home either, so I was too restless to write. But that trouble is all over now. As for the draft, I don’t fash myself with it, so our Scotch cousins would say. Clarke was drafted and says very heroically $300 is very little service for him to offer his country, which is all very well for patriots of his and your persuasion to say. I notice however that he is nursing the rheumatism into one foot very assiduously ever since Saturday. Of course I don’t guess for what. We’ve had a very quiet happy time since Wilse came. I don’t know precisely when we will go west so direct to me here Annie, when you write, besides Clarke will wish to hear from you & I’ll give him leave to open that letter. I generally read him bits of your letters and the other day speaking of persons whose letters he wished me to preserve carefully he began with yours—only three others.
I wonder when I can see you again. There are so many things I would like to talk with you about—that I often think of sitting here alone. Many a long conversation I hold with you—but I can never write in that way—nor can you, I know. How is Mr Fields? I want a P.S. from him in your next letter. It seems so long since I saw a scratch of his pen—I wonder if he remembers the first note he ever wrote me? I could repeat it word for word today.
How good the last Atlantic is! Hawthorne’s and Mitchell’s articles seem to me to have the most stability of merit. Maybe I am prejudiced in favor of ‘Wet weather work’ though by its always having the woody ferny smile I like. The farmer is not altogether a dilettante country-lover one fancies but puts his fingers into the mould, and so can bring some of the vital juice of Nature into his work.
Do you notice what an attraction his meaning has for firm and delicate expression? I read this article over again curiously for that reason. The words se rangent about his thought in as just forms as steel filings about a magnet. I was glad you told me about Miss Alcott. I met her—didn’t you remember?—in Concord & Boston and felt so much pity and interest in her. The more perhaps because she is out of so large a class of women I know. But it seems to me this story of Debby’s Debut falls far below her Hospital Sketches—she knows hospitals perhaps is the reason—and fashionable society she evidently don’t know. It is so long since it was thought necessary for a girl of untainted nature to make hay and eat bread & milk out of a bowl. Miss Dodge though is herself again in this number. What a thoroughly Western woman she is! I don’t know how she made the mistake to be born in New England. Rough, democratic, hardy, common sense is the strength of Western people and if she had belonged out there we’d have crowned her the genius of it—surely. I must not scribble any longer, but send a great handfull of remembrances & love to all in the house on the bay. I will give the message to Clarke intact. If he or Wilse knew I was writing they would have messages I know, but they are gone—Carrie sends her love—we often talk of your visit. I had a letter from Mrs. Frémont day before yesterday in which she spoke of going to Nahant. I wonder at the escape—for days—they must have been in really great peril. My love to Mr Fields—and for you always dear Annie whether we write or not—You may be sure of two friends in Girard Avenue always fast and true. Write soon as you can, dear
1. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee entered Pennsylvania as part of the Gettysburg Campaign.
2. Carrie Davis Cooper, RHD’s sister-in-law with whom the Davises lived.
3. Hugh Wilson Harding, RHD’s eldest brother.
4. RHD is referring to the August 1863 issue of the Atlantic Monthly in which Alcott’s “Debby’s Debut” was serialized and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) published “Civic Banquets” and Donald G. Mitchell (1822-1908) “Wet-Weather Work.”
5. French: fall, cling to.
6. The author Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), whom RHD met in 1862.
7. Alcott’s account of serving as a nurse during the Civil War, Hospital Sketches (1863), had been serialized and published in book form.
8. Mary Abigail Dodge (1833-1896), who published as “Gail Hamilton”; the issue included Dodge’s “Side-Glances at Harvard Class-Day.”
9. RHD and Fields’ mutual friend, Jessie Benton Frémont (1824-1902).