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


Full text of letter:

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Washington, D.C.

Feb. 13, 1895

My dear Paul:

What a delightful evening we spent together on the 3rd. I do not know when I have enjoyed anything so much as your conversation and your tea.

Why, dear, I had no idea you brewed such delicious tea! But then almost any tea would savor of divine nectar when

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taken in your company while listening to your charming conversation. Then the delightful confusion that reigned. I enjoyed it so much such tasteful confusion, it really would have spoilt a pleasing picture to have put things in order. Confusion in a man’s room is what every woman expects to find and it is one of her few expectations always realized. To such confusion she never objects, for nothing pleases a woman

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Better than to “set things to rights” as she call is thrugh I fear very often the man thinks she has set them all awry, eh Paul? “John’s rooms is so upset,” says new wife as she enters John’s study. “I’ll just fix things up for him and when he comes he’ll be so pleased to find everything in order.” So to work she goes, and puts the book John has been reading away back in a corner of the book case;

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puts a news paper article he has been writing in the waste paper basket (best place for it, no doubt) hides his pipe behind the clock, puts his dressing gown in the closet and straightens up things generally, and with a look of happy expectation on her face, hides behind the screen, when she hears John’s foot steps on the stair, to see how delighted he’ll be with the new order of things … Enter John — “Well I’ll

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just finish reading that chapter in which I’m so interested, and then get my pipe and go to work on that confounded article. I never worked so hard over any subject in my life but thank heaven it’s nearly completed.” “Where in the deuce is my dressing gown?” – he cries as he fails to find it, doubled up in the chair where he left it, and oh, the pandemonium he does raise when he discovers the further extent of the “new order of things” So much sulphur is generated

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that if any of the baccilli [bacilli] of small pox happened to be lingering around they certainly succumbed. As for the poor little wife she was nearly frightened to death and solemnly vowed she would never again set John’s room to order, whereupon John thanked her and said he hoped to heaven she’d keep her vow. You men are such difficult creations to get along with Paul, why I have no doubt that I would have a time of it getting along with you although ordinarily I

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think you the most agreeable of your kind. I do not think I would make myself obnoxious by “putting things in order,” however I know that the poetic confusion which reigns around you would charm me. Paul it is really too bad (even after our little discussion on the memorable 3rd) that I have never read “The Heavenly Twins” at all. I have heard much and read much that has been

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said about the book but have not yet read it. I will do so now however. A prejudice has kept me from reading the book – Madam Grand [author Sarah Grand] makes her heroine inexorable — deaf to all reassuring promises and entreaties —and I think the record of such a woman not worth the reading. A silly prejudice no doubt, as there may be much else in the book edifying, interesting and amusing, but up to the present i have felt no de-

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sire to read it, now however your criticism is sufficient incentive to make me do so. By the way, Paul, when am I to have the pleasure of reading one of your stories? – are they short stories, or serials? Please send me a copy of the “Times,” that I may read one or a part of one, should they be serial stories. I imagine, however, that they must be short stories for you turn them out with such rapidity. You say you write love

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stories best. I want to read some of them, that I may know your idea of what love is and how it affects the human heart. Does it bring happiness or woe to the beings of your fancy? I would know the graces with which you clothe your heroines. I would know with what qualities you invest the woman who makes your hero fall down and worship at her feet. Send me one, Paul, that I may read and learn, for I am certain that your ideal woman

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will creep onto some of your stories – select for me, then, such an one.

Apropos of your writings, mon ami, I am delighted with the last humorous poem of yours – it is particularly good I think and wonderfully natural, as indeed all your poems are. You seem to know so much of people and things – your productions would indicate a wider experience and a closer contact with the world than you could possibly have had in your

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short years. You have certainly been a close observer and keen analyst. I return this little poem very reluctantly. Send me another when you write, and don’t forget to send me a paper containing one of your stories. I fear this is a very conglomerate sort of letter, dear, but I am writing under difficulties

With best wishes

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, primary sources, Black history, Black poets, prominent Ohioans