image preview



Creation Date



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


Full text of letter:

Washington, D.C.

Dec. 13, 1894

My dear Paul: —

‘Twas just two days ago that I received your letter and in compliance with your request (which compliance is, I assure you a great pleasure to me) I send an early reply.

There need never come into your life, my friend, a time when you can no longer call me “dear,” unless of course your wife objects, for certainly my husband, if ever I have one, will be too sensible to object to his wife enjoying the distinguished honor of a correspondence with Paul Dunbar; — and that you should address her “dear” would be the source of much gratification (since it would be indicative of your friendship for her) to a husband as sensible and appreciative as I hope mine shall be. That we shall always be friends is my most earnest wish. No sentiment is more beautiful than friendship. It is a grievous mistake to think that to man woman can be nothing but a sweetheart; she can be a friend. Think of the ideal friendship that existed between Paula and [St.] Jerome, Mde. Recamier and Tinclon [?], Hannah More and [David] Garrick, Vittoria Colonna and Michael Angelo [Michelangelo]. Not even the venom pointed tongue of Rumor dared asperse the fair name of those glorious women. Friendship is woman’s widest sphere — ‘tis there she can make her influence most widely felt: she can cheer the drooping spirits, soften a sorrow, relieve the distressed, advise the weak, comfort the miserable, encourage the ambitious, and praise the triumphant.

How gratifying, how comforting it is for me to know that I fill some place in your life, that your acquaintance with one has made you think “better of my sex” is the most precious tribute ever paid to me, and dear friend, if I may paraphrase fair Portia’s words to her Lord Basanio, for your sake “I could be twenty times myself; a thousand times more good; ten thousand times more bright.” Perhaps ‘twere wiser that like Portia I had wished myself “a thousand times more rich,” at least I would have been able to help you more. You are so kind that you deserve all good things. I thank you so much for finishing the verses for me “If life were but a dream my love, An life the waking times.” Like you, I, too, think the “waking time” through “death” were preferable to that dark dream. It’s a sweet little lyric and from it I have learned the high value you set upon love. I hope though, dear Paul, that when you do love, it will intact upon you no suffering. You’d “choose to suffer and to love” you say: — a noble choice ____[?] dear friend, but I pray the good kind Tates ___ [?] avert from you the pain. May your love be a happy one, and may your choice be to you a never ending source of delight.

I would like to write you a longer letter, Paul; your letter deserves it but I am stupid tonight and can not think.

Your stamp plate shall reach you before many suns wane.

Goodnight my chosen friend; may God prosper thee, and send thee soon some offer that will wipe out the disappointment you have lately suffered in the abandonment of the “Concert Tour” arrangement.

“Your friend always”



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