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Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ohio history, Poetry, dialect poetry, biography, black history, black poets, primary sources, prominent Ohioans


Washington, D.C.

Oct. 27, 1894

My dear Paul:

Your anxiously awaited letter was received just one week ago today. I was very much worried over your delay and had begun to imagine all sorts of things, and especially was I fearful that something in my letter had displeased you. It did not occur to me that you might be ill, and I am glad it did not, for I would have been more worried than I was, as it is, I am much exercised over your illness, although you wrote me that you are so much better. Take good care of yourself, my friend, for you belong to us – to the people, and we would have our sweet poet well and strong that he may continue to sing his lays whose delicacy, beauty, humor and versification are an irrefutable argument that the Negroes’ genius is not inferior to the Caucasians’.

And so, my Paul, on that mellow day when you so longed for the company of one fair maid to walk with you, “nine” tripped by thy side instead — “nine whom you love,” and they Mnemosyne’s beauteous daughters, inspired thy poetic soul with some new song, I know. Write me the song they sung — was it this “Invitation to Love” which you bid me, put a tune to?

Apropos of tunes Paul, do you not sing? I am sure you do, for a voice as musical as yours (I have heard no voice whose tones, in conversation are half so beautiful) must break forth in song divine, is it not so?

In your letter, my “father confessor,” you tell me that I have committed a “great sin.” Father I repent — am I absolved? I promise to ever after eschew this sin of which I stand accused.

It delights me greatly, Paul, to know that my letters give you pleasure — I think I was never before quite so proud and happy as when I had the lines “When a young man reads a young woman’s letter over day after day, and sometimes three times a day, there must be something very pleasant to him in the correspondence.”

Surely you are as adept in the art of pleasing, for you could have said nothing that would have pleased me so much. All that you say to me is good and the constant source of gratification, and I would give much to be able to take that “spiritual view” of life which you have so beautifully described. Perhaps you may succeed in making a convert of me some day, who knows?

You say that we shall meet again — well if we do (and I too feel that we will) you must undertake the task of convincing me that constant association is not the iconoclast I have conceived it to be.

I hope, my dear Paul, that your tour will be a highly successful one. I regret that it does not bring you to our city.

Accept my love and best wishes.

I leave thee with thy ever present “Nine.”

“Your friend always”


P.S. A myriad of thanks for the “announcement sheet” you sent. The cut of you is most excellent, I prize it greatly.


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, Ohio history, Poetry, dialect poetry, biography, black history, black poets, primary sources, prominent Ohioans