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


Full text of letter:

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Oct. 5, 1894

Dear Paul,

Am glad the Shearer arrangement turned out so well after all, and hope you may make some money.

Miss Mary [?] has inadvertently misrepresented the matter to you and I am sorry to see you apparently defend her, for she has acted in a dishonorable way and cannot be defended. She gave my poem June 25 without even notifying me as was my due and asking my consent. She had no right on earth to use my poem, simply because I trusted it in her hands, and as I wrote her “she has no claim to it any more than a man would have to the baggage I gave him to carry to the station.” I have given her an engagement at my date purely from kindness. I repeatedly forbade her using the piece again until I had published it, and she as after promised she never would. I was astounded when she violated this honor and did use it, yet I said nothing only to write her thanking her. She replied and proposed that she should send a copy to her uncle to be used in a Denver magazine. I told her the poem was for sale and must not be used or published except as I directed. She did not reply, and two

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months afterward, to avoid any mistake, I wrote again emphasizing this. My letters were entirely courteous and friendly. But I got a sarcastic reply which I want you to read some time, sneering at my poem, and saying she would use any work of mine where she chose without credit, and closing by saying she desired no further communication from me. She got it, though, in a way she did not like as I told her the plain facts of her conduct. Then her father replied, saying I could not get any rights, and proposing that he and his son should whip me when I was next in Dayton. Of course I was delighted at this prospect and told him how he was defending the idea of stealing my property, and that when I am next in Dayton, as I should doubtless be some time, he could see my name announced and know where to find me. I told him also that I was not afraid of man, woman, or devil, much less the barking of curs.

You see the evolution of this matter, and I am not at fault in any way, but this girl is proposing to take my property without my consent.

You can show this to the Waltkins family if you desire to whom give kind regards. Your Friend

Richard Lew Dawson.


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