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


Full text of letter:

Wednesday Morning, 9:15

Washington, D.C.

Dec. 5, 1894

My Best of Friends: —

This is my “serving hour,” that is the “serving teacher” is in the room and I am at leisure so I indulge myself in the pleasure of answering your letter, which I received Saturday afternoon.

I keep all of your letters, Paul, and as I am a victim to the popular “stamp plate” fad I intend to decorate one with the stamp I take from your letters, no others shall profane it, and it shall be my “sentiment plate,” my “Dunbar Plate.” The next letter you send me please use “one cent” stamps for to make the plate pretty there must be a variety of stamps. If you have never seen a “stamp plate” and would like to have one take the stamps from the letters I have sent you and mail them to me. I will take great pleasure in decorating one for you, which will really make a nice ___ the ornament for your dresser.

I am very glad to hear you enjoyed your visit to Louisville so much. I think I should have extracted less pleasure from the contemplation of its grim reminders of a dreadful past than you did. To me the row of “negro quarters” would have been sufficient to make me hate the place and wish myself away from it. At best I am but little patriotic and when I see or hear anything that revives the horrors of the past, I cordially hate my country.

You did not say anything in your letter about your concert tour. How are you making out, or rather how is the “management” making out — are they coining the almighty dollar? You are giving original recitation of course?

Apropos of your poems, Paul, a gentleman asked me the other night, why it is that through nearly all your poems except the dialectic ones, there runs such a melancholic strain. He wanted to know what there had been in your life to make you such a pessimist? I too have often wondered why you look on the “dark” side. I think nothing quite so sad and plaintive as your “One Life.” Tell me what it is, my friend, that saddens all your songs?

Mr. Douglass says that we (he and I) were sent into your life to brighten it. He says that you seem to feel that the whole world is against you. Except that according to Meridith “The world is ever at war with genius.” I do not think it bears you a special spite. Indeed I believe it is rather disposed to open its arms to you.

Try to cultivate a happier spirit, my friend; try to believe that there is yet left in human hearts some sympathy and appreciation.

My hour is up, Paul, so I shall have to end my scrawl. I have had many interruptions so overlook the desultory strain of composition.

With best wishes,

Ever your friend



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