1863-01-26, Annie Adams Fields

Dublin Core


1863-01-26, Annie Adams Fields


January 26, [1863], Wheeling[1]

I know you will forgive me, dear Annie for not writing sooner. I’ve abandoned mail—to be fitted and inspected and looked at by women with mouths full of pins[2] and me eye shut, and I’m tired of it— Did I surprise you so much? I thought I had said something of it before—when I said I would not ask you both to come this winter—then I expected to go at Christmas, or earlier— I’ll try and answer your questions, if I remember them all. The letter is upstairs— Like Goldsmith[3] you ‘want the whole name’ L. Clarke Davis. [4] I do not think it likely Mr Fields knows him. Except the stories Miss Peabody[5] told me of Mr. Hawthorne,[6] I never heard of a more reserved sedentary life than his has been— He is a lawyer, about my age—holding an office under government just now—for the past few months. He is not the editor of whom I spoke.[7] He was—is I mean, a friend—just as I said—you know Annie, if he had been more I would not have spoken of him at all.

Not “a very old thing” nor very new—years enough to satisfy the most rigorous rules of proprieties—

I had a note from Mr Fields today with some warm good wishes—that touched me. You will forgive me if I say but little about my marriage? It is not easy for me to speak to anyone of some things.

I would rather dear Annie that you would not mention it to any one until a week or two before the wedding. It may be a foolish fancy but I want it to be quiet in every way—No one will be present but my own immediate family, owing to my uncle’s severe illness[8] —he is thought to be dying this last week and Ma[9] has to leave me to go to him tomorrow. I hope she will not be gone long though.

Has Kate Field[10] forgiven or forgotten me? It is so long since I wrote to her but I could not help it. Many causes have unfitted me for writing to any one—I am tired, in body and mind and I am glad that a good long holy day is coming— Give my love to her please.

Annie: You will write to me soon again? and not care if my notes are short just now? I will make up for them when I am at rest again— Tell Mr Fields I want the breakfast room and the bay and the Atlantic to remember me just the same. ‘Theirs truly’—by whatever name they call me—And I must have leave to say my word in the Atlantic as before, when the spirit moves me. It is a necessity for me to write—well or ill—you know every animal has speech and that is mine—

Good-night dear Annie. Think of me on that day as you shall—and pray for me.

Your friend


1. This letter was enclosed with the January 26, [1863], letter to James T. Fields with “For Annie” written in the margin.

2. RHD is preparing for her wedding.

3. A reference to a line in The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) by Anglo-Irish author Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774).

4. RHD’s fiancé, L. Clarke Davis (1835-1904), at the time a young lawyer in Philadelphia.

5. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894), education reformer, whom RHD met at the Hawthornes’ home on her 1862 trip.

6. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), American novelist.

7. Archibald Campbell (1833-1899), radical abolitionist and editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer. RHD’s relationship with Campbell was more complicated than she suggests to Annie; see Sharon M. Harris, RHD: A Life among Writers (West Virginia, 2018) for an analysis of the relationship.

8. Probably John Mershel, married to RHD’s maternal aunt Margaret.

9. Rachel Leet Wilson Harding (1808-1884).

10. Kate Field (1838-1896), American journalist.


S. M. Harris


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


S. M. Harris, “1863-01-26, Annie Adams Fields,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed March 31, 2023, http://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/172.

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