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Paul Laurence Dunbar, primary sources, Black history, Black poets, prominent Ohioans


Full text of letter:

Washington, D.C. Oct 22nd 96

Mrs. Helen Douglass:

Your note of recent date has been duly received and its contents noted with surprise.

Let me say that I did not forget Mr. Douglass, and that my action will prove that I have not revered his memory less than those who have been more ostentatious in their display of loyalty. There were three considerations that kept me from giving the Douglass poem the other night. First a rather rare trait called good taste which prevents me from giving a memorial for the dead as a public entertainment of such a nature. People of good taste do not wear their hearts upon their sleeves or drag their deepest & most sacred emotions out before the unsympath-etic public gaze. The second consideration was

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my sense of the eternal fitness of things. The third, a reverence for the memory of my dear friend that would not let me drag his name into a merely commercial enterprise. My Douglass poem was a work of love, not an article of traffic. I have no inclination to profit by the death of that great man.

As to your remarks about my dialect. I have nothing to say save that I am sorry to find among intelligent people those who are unable to differentiate dialect as a philological branch from the burlesque of negro minstrelsy.

I thank you for your congratulations. Hopeful as I may have been I could not expect that everyone would have been satisfied; but since you admit that everyone in the house except yourself would have called the entertainment a success, I feel that the major-

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-ity is so large that I shall be content with it, and rest upon its good opinion.

With sincere gratitude for the thought you have aroused in my mind, I am Very Faithfully Yours Paul Laurence Dunbar


Primary Item Type

Personal Correspondence


This item is part of the Paul Laurence Dunbar House collection at Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio. The collection contains items from 219 N. Summit St., Dayton, Ohio (later 219 N. Paul Laurence Dunbar St.), the home Dunbar purchased for his mother, Matilda J. Dunbar, in 1904. Paul Laurence Dunbar lived there until his death in 1906; Matilda lived there until her death in 1934. It is now the Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site, part of the National Park Service.


Paul Laurence Dunbar, primary sources, Black history, Black poets, prominent Ohioans