1864-00-fall, Annie Adams Fields

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1864-00-fall, Annie Adams Fields


[c. fall 1864], Philadelphia

Something in your last note, dear Annie, made me lay it down with the words ‘the best letter Annie Fields ever sent me’ it was even more than usual cordial & affectionate & true. I would have answered it then & there but the turmoil of getting launched in house keeping had not yet subsided.[1] I wished for days forty eight hours long, and the hands of Briareus[2] all week. But house and husband and baby are all beginning to look at rest and quiet at last— Today has been our first thoroughly at home day, & we so thoroughly enjoyed it. Clarke is sitting beside me. Thinking of Lincoln ‘while he smokes tobacco,’ I suppose, for he growls out something now & then about ‘That is a disgraceful peace’— ‘How stands Lincoln here’? I think—outside of office-holders—his party[3] have swallowed him as a bitter pill at which the gorge rises–a choice between bad & worst—

But enough of politics.

I am so glad you are going to read German this winter. I wish I could be with you–but why do you choose Schiller? [4] You are familiar with him already doubtless, & if your Teacher is as understanding a person as you say, why not take a less popular and more suggestive author to talk from? Besides either Richter or Göethe[5] are more native in their idioms, more thoroughly German— Schiller’s habit is more allied to English. His translations of English are very literal if you notice.

You did not tell us before of your brother’s wound[6]—but then you so seldom speak of your relatives. I remember meeting him in Boston. He looked as if a wound would not trouble him very deeply.

You must tell us about your visit when you return, if Mrs. Stowe[7] carries her theory into practice [] out to be the most heartsome of homes— We are going out for the week to Ridgewood—Chas. Peterson’s[8] place, among the Lebanon hills. I was there in July, & of all country seats I have seen it is the most picturesque. The house placed on a hill with an opening onto the great Lebanon valley on one side and the south mountain just in front that [] over the whole country yonder—

We are looking forward to a very happy week—they are such real friends true & earnest. I gave the boy (Boy with a capital—)[9] your kiss. His kisses are so very wet just now that I hesitate about sending you one in return. I’m afraid you would see nothing poetic in the poor little fellow’s face— He used to have a wistful earnest look, which we very much admired, but he is fat and jolly & lumpy as my heart could wish now, with a great vacuum of a mouth, always open—laughing as if all the world was a puppet show gotten up for his especial fun— We are looking forward to taking him home at Christmas for uncles and aunts to wonder over.

By the way—apropos to Christmas, Annie, will you ask Mr. F. if he can make room for a bit of a Christmas story, about the first of the year, for one is coming soon—[10] Clarke sends his love. I meant to write on indefinitely but must take that baby. With best love dear


1. In the fall of 1864, the Davises moved into their first home of their own, a rented rowhouse at 1817 North 12th Street.

2. A figure in Greek mythology also known as Hecatonchires; he has 100 hands and 50 heads.

3. For most of his life, Clarke aligned with the Republican Party, in spite of being an ardent abolitionist.

4. Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), German poet and philosopher.

5. Raoul Richter (1817-1912), German philosopher; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German author and statesman. RHD had read widely in German philosophy and literature, since her eldest brother studied German at college and shared his studies with his sister in the breaks between terms.

6. Dr. Zabdiel Boylston Adams, Jr. (1829-1902) was a surgeon in the Union Army.

7. Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), author and abolitionist.

8. Charles J. Peterson (1818-1887), publisher of Peterson’s Magazine to which RHD was regularly contributing.

9. Richard Harding Davis, the Davises’ first child, who was about six months old.

10. “A New Year’s Story” appeared in Peterson’s Magazine in January 1865, but no Christmas story by RHD appeared in the Atlantic Monthly this year.


S. M. Harris


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


S. M. Harris, “1864-00-fall, Annie Adams Fields,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed December 1, 2022, http://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/194.

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