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


Full text of letter (3 pages):

19-24 Palmyra St.,

New Orleans, May 9, 1895

Mr. Paul Laurence Dunbar, --

Dear Sir –

Your letter was handed me at a singularly inopportune moment — the house was on fire; so I laid it down, not knowing what it was – and I must confess – not caring very much. After the house was declared safe and the excitement had somewhat subsided I found it, laid it in my desk – and read it somewhere about ten days later. Strange combination of circumstances thought it was, I was not to blame being partially blind and suffering from a bad hand burned in the fire.

But I enjoyed it nonetheless when I did read, and these dainty little verses have been ringing in my head ever since I read them. I must thank you ever so much, and though I don’t like to appear too greedy, still, if you have any more like them please send them down this way.

Your name is quite familiar to me from seeing your poems in different papers. I always enjoyed them very much. You do a great deal of work in different lines; which is fortunate for you, since you have the entrée in so many of our best papers.

I am sorry to say I have done very little. It seems I cannot possibly find time to write when I want. My regular, everyday duties are so voluminous, so to speak, that I have no moments at all left for that which I love above all. I have never done any work for the Ladies’ Home Journal, I am sorry to say.

You ask my opinion about the Negro dialect in Literature? Well, frankly, I believe in every one following his heart. If it be so that one has a special aptitude for dialect work, why it is only right that dialect work should be made a specialty. But if one should be like me, absolutely devoid of the ability to manage dialect, I don’t see the necessity of cramming and forcing oneself into that plane because one is a Negro or a Southerner. Don’t you think so? Now as to getting away from one’s race – well I haven’t much liking for these writers that wedge the Negro problem and social equality and long dissertations on the Negro in general into their stories. It’s too much like a genuine pill in jelly – I hope I’m not treading on your corns. Somehow, when I start a story, I always think of my folks (characters) as simple human beings, not as types of a race or an idea – and I seem to be on more friendly terms with them.

I must not write more as the night grows old, and tomorrow’s duties are to be faced. I shall be pleased to hear from you soon and often.

Yours very sincerely,

Alice Ruth Moore

(Note: “Treading on one’s corns” was an expression that meant causing someone offense or hurting their feelings.)


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