1864-03-15, Annie Adams Fields

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1864-03-15, Annie Adams Fields


March 15[25?, 1864], Philadelphia[1]

My dear Annie

I feel ashamed when I think of your two welcome but unanswered letters—yet I was not in fault. You would say so if I could tell you how really ill Clarke was and the anxiety that gave me—and then I was just enough ailing in mind to be nervous and irritable and to find the most amiable feeling under all—a stupid desire to be quiet and forgotten—[1]

Do you never feel as if every faculty had been rasped and handled unbearably and must rest? Yet after all—it makes one feel mean and paltry & degraded to think how the ailments of the body can so goad and conquer the nobler part—don’t it?

I despise myself often—to think too heavy a breakfast may quite cloud one’s sunshine and religion all day—and that it is owing to Hoffman’s anodyne.[3] I am writing to you in a decently quiet mood—now—and no more ennobling consideration.

Seriously, I have written no letters except the weekly scrawl home for some time—You will forgive me—I will do better soon— Your letters give us such real pleasure—and don’t be afraid to ‘gossip’ as you say—Every thing you tell me of Concord or Boston brings back freshly that bright pleasant visit and I never want a past pleasure to grow dim. I don’t know if I am glad you are to see so much more of Mr. Wasson[4] for to be brutally frank, to me he is far more wholesome and helpful as an author than a person— I thought I could understand why it was— His body has asserted itself too strongly—in both disease and beauty and has made him where personal relations were concerned both self conscious and cowardly— If you are ashamed of my roughness—please blame it all on the Anodyne—it is not I. I have so little to tell of ourselves—Clarke is beginning to regain his colour and spirits in the last few days— Mrs Cooper[5] is still in Washington [Pennsylvania]— I hoped that my mother would have been with us this week but it is very doubtful now.

I have not been able to write as I wished—so the short papers[6] halt very much by the way. But they are coming. Tell Mr Fields—surely. Clarke said he had a note to write so I will leave this open until evening. Annie dear, will you be patient with me and continue to write a letter longer out of charity—receiving only such nothings as this again? if you knew how we welcome your letters—you would— Remember me to your friend on the other side of the breakfast table and to the cheery room and the sunshine and the bay & tell them I hope to see them all again sometime.

R. H. D.


1. The date has a “1” overwritten by a “2”—or vice versa; it is impossible to tell which date is the correct one.

2. RHD is in her ninth month of pregnancy.

3. A popular over-the-counter medicinal cure-all made from one part ether and two parts alcohol, inducing RHD’s lethargic feelings.

4. David Atwood Wasson (1823-1887), a Unitarian minister who published in the Atlantic Monthly and whom RHD had met in Boston in 1862.

5. RHD’s sister-in-law, Carrie Davis Cooper, with whom the Davises lived.

6. A series of short sketches RHD had agreed to write for the Atlantic Monthly.


S. M. Harris


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



S. M. Harris, “1864-03-15, Annie Adams Fields,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed October 14, 2019, http://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/184.

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