1861-05-10, James T. Fields

Dublin Core


1861-05-10, James T. Fields


May 10, [1861], Wheeling

Mr. Fields

I am sorry. I thank you for the kindness with which you veil the disappointment.[1] Whatever holier meaning life or music has for me, has reached me through the ‘pathetic minor’ – I fear that I only have power to echo the pathos without the meaning.

When I began the story, I meant to make it end in full sunshine – to show how even Lois was not dumb, how even the meanest things in life, were ‘voices in the world, and none of them without its signification.’ Her life and death were to be the only dark thread. But ‘Stephen Holmes’ was drawn from life, and in my eagerness to show the effects of a creed like his, I ‘assembled the gloom’ you complain of. I tell you this in order to ask you if you think I could alter the story so as to make it acceptable by returning to my original idea. Let her character and death (I cannot give up all, you see) remain, and the rest of the picture be steeped in warm healthy light. A perfect day in June! Will you tell me if that is your only objection – the one you assign? Would the character of Holmes be distasteful to your readers? I mean – the development in common vulgar life of the Fichtean[2] philosophy and its effect upon a self-made man, as I view it?

Let me thank you again for your candor and kindness. Will you return the story directed to the address below. If you do not think I could alter the story, shall I try again, or do you care to have me as a contributor? I assume, you perceive, that you agree with Carlyle[3] that ‘sincerity is the chief merit of a book’-publisher, and hope that you will always be sincere with me. If I write for you again, would it be any difference if the story was longer than the last one? I felt cramped, and we of the west like room – you know.

Very respectfully
Rebecca B. Harding

H. Wilson Harding[4]


1. RHD had sent her first novel (serial: “A Story of To-Day”; book form: Margret Howth) to Fields.

2. Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), German philosopher known for founding the German Idealism movement.

3. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish philosopher and writer.

4. RHD’s eldest brother, Hugh Wilson Harding.


S. M. Harris


Huntington Library, San Marino, California


S. M. Harris, “1861-05-10, James T. Fields,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed June 6, 2023, https://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/177.

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