Annie Adams Fileds

Dublin Core


Annie Adams Fileds



August 28, [1862], Wheeling

My dear Annie 

Your letter did me so much good the other day. These are sad lonesome days for us here. The war is surging up close about us. O Annie if I could put into your and every true woman’s heart the inexpressible loathing I have for it! If you could only see the other side enough to see the wrong the tyranny on both! God rules. Yes I know. But God in His inscrutable wisdom suffered great wrongs to work out His ends—and this is one of them—as the treachery of Judas I won’t [] you. I am glad you [] far away from it— I would tell you things Iknow that would make your heart sick. Yet it is not because of these apparent horrors that I think the war unjust— You will say, I know, that my judgment is warped by sympathy.  From the first I upheld the right of revolution, granted to the south what Garibaldi Emmet & Washington[1] claimed, though I never would—never could have lived in a slave confederacy—  Forgive me. I don’t know what wrung that out.

Let us go back to pleasanter thoughts.

I so often fancy you at Pigeon Cove[2] and wish—well. Next summer, I mean to go to the sea-shore—and will have two Houses of content—very near, together—let us hope—  Remember me to Mr. and Mrs. Bartol and Lizzie[3]  Has Mr. Primrose (indeed he does remind me of the Vicar[4]) forgotten our before breakfast row? How good it was—and how good he was which was the most salient point of the morning to me. When I was in Philadelphia a friend[5] rowed me up the Wissahickon by early dawn. Were you ever there? The solitude is unbroken between the hills. Fancy the gray morning light there— How many happy days I have to thank you for!    

Mrs. Fremont[6] writes to me from a place that seems to me—as she calls it—ideal rest. The family are camping—alone—on the cliffs—miles from any house. Her tent is on the very bluffs. No one is there but themselves.

You ask me about these letters. I thought of course Miss Peabody[7] would have told you. But indeed Annie I was seriously vexed especially when I saw what they were in themselves. They were the charming letters. She told me the whole thing coming down from Concord that day and mentioned these letters as wishing I could see them. My impression at the time was that [] as the whole affair were a sort of public affair. If you can— (that is if she tells you she sent them) I do wish you would try and prevent her speaking of having sent them. I would not for all the world Mrs. Channing should know her thoughts had been shown to a stranger though Miss P. tells me she has shown them (in justification of Mrs. C) before—  I think I thoroughly appreciate Miss Peabody’s purity of heart and tenderness but somehow I think if Miss Dodge[8] knew her she might add another case to her ‘complaint of friends.’ The letters, you understand, were those written to Miss P. by Mrs. and Dr. Channing.  Don’t mention her having sent them to anyone and if she tells you her hope that I will ‘use the story in future writing, for the good of humanity,’ (her object in sending them) make her understand that such a thing couldnotbe if I had any regard for decency won’t you? You see I felt she did it all for the best and from kind motives to me—so my lips were sealed—  She is a good woman.

Thank you for telling me of the Hawthornes.[9] I have never had time to reply to her kind letter.

You asked if Miss P. had sent Mr. Alcott’s[10] letters? She could not have the heart to do that— What is it Mrs. Sigourney[11] says about ‘The falling of the water drop upon the tortured brain?’ Tell me about Miss Alcott if ever she does anything or finds rest—poor girl—how many hungry women with empty hands I know!

So Mr Dicey[12] thought us curious! How very English that is! After his excitement down in Mr. Fields room, don’t’ you remember?

When I was in King Island I visited in a family who believed in Spiritualism and whose theory of explanation was more spiritual & therefore more plausible than any I have heard—founded on a basis of eternal truths.  Yet curiously enough they were a practical clannish earthy race, if one ever exited, clinging to century old customs, priding themselves in their own blood and that of their horses—

I hope to change my subject abruptly—  You will succeed in stealing Miss Field[13] to the sea shore. Won’t you all wish sometimes for me—just a little?  I would like so much to think so.

My brother[14] sends his very warmest regards to you both. My mother[15] too—on behalf of the friendship she feels now—and the acquaintance to come some day—soon—let me think.

Annie, won’t you remember me to Mrs. Baker and tell her how sorry I was that I had not time to present the letter of introduction she gave me to her friends in the hospital in Philadelphia.  My friends there had every moment appropriated and we had to come away half of the lions ‘undone.’

Baltimore? Why I thought you had often been there. You come into it by a railroad that runs along the shore crossing now and then arms of the sea—that soften the air quickly into southern toning—that yellow, still glow that makes the landscape look like a picture under crystal. The city itself is southern, a profusion of white marble—squares with fountains—gardens in front of the houses—the houses very stately sometimes (I couldn’t say that of 5th Avenue you know. ‘The mark of the bank note is over it all’) but these houses grow up slowly, you fancy, taking in air and light, knowing their masters whims—and growing out from that, knowing that they must yield to and accommodate[sic] and make a life of ease and quiet and beauty—   So they do it. Every one has a character of its own—like your Boston dwellings, did you know you had printed yourselves, you Bostonians in brick and mortar? Then they have a park in Baltimore. Druid Hill— and it is old and solitary and wild enough for you to not be surprised if some Druid priestess should come out and begin her invocation. Can I say more for a park? But some man was talking to me of gravelling the roads. Ah well!--------   Another peculiarity is, perhaps I told you, that in the evening every family sits out on the balcony or porticos. So different from the jail-living in New York & Philadelphia! It looks as if human nature could be trusted and did trust itself. For this reason there was a bright cheerfulness, a buoyancy in the air of Baltimore that these cities want—

But dear I am true to my preference for Boston after all—meaning when my ‘golden dawn’ comes to spend my summers there— I do wish you knew some of my Baltimore friends, though—could see a glimpse or two of Maryland plantation life. One acquaintance of mine—I tell you this as a set-off to poor Tom’s story[16]—was having a boy–her slave–instructed in drawing with her own children, fancying he was a genius and meant to send him to Italy— My dear, hush, I know that is nothing. I think slavery wrong, as you do.

Dinner! – which is very well or I would probably have gone on forever— 

Yours always, Rebecca H

[1] Revolutionaries: the Italian Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882), the Irishman Robert Emmet (1778-1803), and the American George Washington (1732-1799).

[2] Resort town on the Massachusetts coast.

[3] Cyrus Augustus Bartol (1813-1900) was a Unitarian minister at the West Church, Boston and a Transcendentalist. RHD met Rev. Bartol, his wife Elizabeth Howard Bartol (1803-1883), and daughter Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Howard Bartol (1842-1927), soon to be known as a portrait artist, while in Boston.

[4] Unclear who Mr. Primrose was, but the parenthetic reference is to a character in The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) by Irish author Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774).

[5] Probably L. Clarke Davis, whom she would later marry.

[6] Jesse Benton Fremont, spouse of General John C. Fremont; RHD met the Fremonts when he was stationed in Wheeling, and she stayed with them when she was in New York.

[7] Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, whom RHD met while in Boston and Concord.

[8] Mary Abigail Dodge (1833-1896), writer who published under the pen name “Gail Hamilton”; her essay “A Complaint of Friends” was published in the Atlantic Monthly in September 1862.

[9] Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

[10] Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), progressive teacher and philosopher; father of Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), soon to become famous as the author of Little Women (1868), RHD had met both of them while in Concord visiting the Hawthornes.

[11] Lydia Sigourney (1791-1865), poet. The quote is from Sigourney’s 1835 poem “Napolean’s Epitaph”; it actually reads, “As the keen torture of the water-drop / Doth wear the sentenc’d brain.”

[12] Edward Dicey (1831-1911), British author and journalist.

[13] Kate Field (1838-1896), author, journalist, publisher.

[14] Hugh Wilson Harding.

[15] Rachel Leet Wilson Harding (1808-1884).

[16] RHD is conducting research on Thomas Wiggins (1849-1908) for her article “Blind Tom.”


S. M. Harris


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


S. M. Harris, “1862-08-28
Annie Adams Fileds,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed December 1, 2022, http://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/87.

Output Formats