1863-09-29, Annie Adams Fields

Dublin Core


1863-09-29, Annie Adams Fields


September 29, [1863]

Dear Annie

With lunch and a museum and a trip to ‘Turner’s lane’[1] all staring me in the face as duties lying nearest to me, I pick up this bit of time for a word with you. Since your note written on the wing for [sic] Newport came, I have been doing Philadelphia with Emmy[2] at a most thorough pace and have hardly breath left to go through the winter at our normal sleeping gait—I’m afraid nature did not fit me for a sight shower—

I do want to have the Christmas story[3] written in time, Annie, and will try, I think I can. About Joe Starke. [4] I had forgotten it had no name. I don’t like that—but cannot think of any I do like entirely. Ask Mr Fields if The Old Machinist would not be better or The Air Engine. I asked Mr Davis to christen it and he appeals to you if a man ought to be called stupid for not naming a thing he wasn’t allowed to read? I would n’t let him see it, because I wanted to surprise him with the Wissahickon in print. It is one of his holy places—[5]

Will this find you at home? What a pleasant rambly happy summer you have had, Annie. I think I do know how happy it and your whole life are, better now than I did once.

To go back to the Atlantic. I did not think the California story[6] as poor as you did, but I was much disappointed in it. Mrs. Frémont and the General[7] too talked so eagerly of Mr Hart’s [sic] power—in that species of writing especially. I read it curiously for they had insisted on Mr Davis very near resemblance to this Mr Hart—not in person but in character, she said, and idiosyncracies. Consequently Miss Lily[8] whispers to me ‘Mother accepted him unchallenged at the first glance.’ She is thoroughly loyal to her friends—that, easiest of virtues in a woman—

Don’t forget the oils of Boston gossip which you sometimes give me—they keep my visit as near and real to me. How I should have liked to see Dr Holmes & Miss Dodge’s[9] passage at arms! I forgot to tell you if you had the paper? Have you? I’ll send them back safely. No one[10] knows I am writing or there would be messages.

Hardly a day goes by in which you are not here, on our lips as well as in memory.

I forgot to tell you that I am much better. I tried allopathy and homeopathy and finally desperately resolved on going back to my old Western habit of a long fatiguing walk every day, and now I have old healthy cheerful days and dreamless nights. I’m so glad of it, for it didn’t know how to be sick & thought like Mrs. Gummidge ‘nobody ever had berlinks like mine’[11]—Good bye dear Annie, Yours R


1. Philadelphia military hospital where Drs. S. Weir Mitchell, William Hammond, and others were working on nerve damage in wounded soldiers. It was one of the typical spots to which RHD took visitors.

2. Emelie Mary Harding, RHD’s sister.

3. “Stephen Yarrow.”

4. A character in “The Great Air-Engine,” the name under which the story finally appeared.

5. The Wissahickon River was where Clarke and RHD spent much of their time when courting.

6. F. B. (Bret) Harte’s “The Legend of Monte del Diablo.”

7. Jessie Benton (1824-1902) and Gen. John C. Frémont (1813-1890).

8. The Frémonts’ daughter.

9. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), author, poet, and former editor of the Atlantic Monthly; Mary Abigail Dodge (1833-1896) feminist author who published under the name “Gail Hamilton.” RHD had met both authors when she was in Boston in 1862.

10. Family members.

11. Gummidge is Daniel Peggotty’s housekeeper in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (1850).


S. M. Harris


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



S. M. Harris, “1863-09-29, Annie Adams Fields,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed February 20, 2019, http://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/162.