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


Full text of letter

Washington, D.C. Dec. 3, 1893

Paul Dunbar: —

My dear Friend,

Have you been railing at me very harshly for taking such a length of time in replying to your letter of several weeks ago? Well, if you have, I can not complain for I acknowledge my guilt, and sincerely hope that this confession of my fault will half atone it, and I am sure my early replies to all future letters will make the atonement quite complete.

A miserable ay this, my dear Paul — one of the dull, dreary, Dunbar days, as described in your last letter. Are you on your way to Washington, I wonder, that such, rain and sleet and gloom, should descend upon us? You have said you know that such weather will follow you even to heaven’s gate.

Today is Sunday too, Paul, and of all dreary days, a dreary Sunday is the superlative of its class. The very idea of the Sun refusing to show himself on the one day we set apart as sacred to him! Such ingratitude is monstrous. Sunday at its best isn’t much of a day, you know. We have to be so awful good, and the only diversion is going to church, and that is tiresome. — eh Paul? I shall most certainly not go today, for church without sunshine is about as cheerful as the tomb.

I wish you were here just now to talk “soft nonsense” to me as only a poet can. I would not miss the sunshine of the day then, for your rare rich voice setting your own sweet poems to music (your voice sets everything to music) would make a sunshine in my heart.

Apropos of your poems, Paul, nothing could be more sadly sweet than your “One Life”; I have read nothing that affected me so much. Folks tell me that I recite it well. Everyone thinks it beautiful, and one friend for whose opinion I have the highest regard says “It is worthy to have been written by any poet.

Do you know, Paul, there is nothing I should prize so highly as a volume of your poems with an inscription on the fly-leaf by the author. I should be so proud of it Paul. Why will you not send me one? Ofcourse I can buy one from you, the cost is little — but I don’t want to buy it, that would rob my desire of its sentiment, I want you to give it to me — it is a present of the volume from its author, that I crave. You will do this for me Paul, will you not? — and some day you may not be sorry for having done as I request.

You will write to me before Christmas I hope. I shall number a letter from you among my choicest gifts.

And now, gifted son of the Muses, to their divine inspiration I again commend thee!



Paul, I prize most highly the poems of which you mae me the subject, and I shall keep them always. I most reluctantly part with “One Life.”


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