Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 28, 1834

  • Posted on: 10 March 2016
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 28, 1834



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 28, 1834

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Albany, NY

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: gew 

revision: ekk 2015-08-17

Page 1

Albany Friday morning, Nov. 28.
My dearest Frances, You must have discovered from my letters that I have been unusually
idle since my arrival in town. The peculiar attitude which I maintain just now towards the
community and the peculiar circumstances under which I meet old friends and
acquaintances have conspired to produce a somewhat factitious buoyancy of
feeling entirely inconsistent with all mental labor. I had determined that yesterday mor-
ning I would commence a new chapter and thenceforth devote a considerable portion
of my time to study required by my professional affairs as well as my public duties.
But the arrival of a letter from you dispelling my worst fears concerning your health
and relieving my mind much of the solicitude felt upon Freds
Birth: 1830-07-08 Death: 1915-04-25
account was si-
multaneous with the appearance of Uncle Carys
Birth: 1787-08-11 Death: 1869-06-20
rotund face. My spirits mount-
ed into an unusual elevation. How could I labor! The Court of Errors adjourned
without transacting business for the day and Uncle Cary Weed
Birth: 1797-11-15 Death: 1882-11-22
and I enjoyed
ourselves with all the zest of truant boys escaped from school. Judge Spencer
Birth: 1788-01-08 Death: 1855-05-17

called at my room when we were out and left a note inviting me to his
house in the evening. He had recovered his equilibrium of spirits, and his
conversation was so interesting that I unconsciously stayed until a late hour.
I found Weed here on my return and we continued our sitting so late that I
am ashamed to say I neglected writing to you. It was a “grievous fault but I
will “answer it” by writing this page before any other occupation can divert
me from so sacred a duty.
In coming up State street yesterday I met Mrs Ten
Broeck Van Vechten
Birth: 1801 Death: 1852-12-06
with her sister coming out of the American where they
had been paying their congratulations to Mr
Birth: 1804-02-06 Death: 1855-11-26
& Mrs Comstock
Birth: 1811-09-06 Death: 1839-12-04
newly arrived
from Syracuse. Upon that hint I went in to discharge the same duty. I
found Maria looking more pretty then I had ever seen her, and the groom
was evidently altogether happy. They were on their way to New York.
Were to dine yesterday at Julius Rhoade’s
Birth: 1801-01-20 Death: 1852
and thence were going to Troy.
They return to day from Troy and go down the river this evening. They
are going to spend the winter or some part of it with Mary Ann
Birth: 1805-05-02 Death: 1848-01-09
the South. Few brides have such a proud celebration of their nuptials as
the one in question. Beardsley
Birth: 1807-05-30 Death: 1894-01-15
a discarded although once accepted love was made
to do the ceremonial honor by declining to grace it with his sighs, and Rhoades
the unsuccessful wooer of years was required to act the part of Master
of Ceremonies. But Ye Gods what lovers! The very enthusiasts of the music
of rattling guineas! The very amateurs of the bright colors of sovereigns and
Spanish milled dollars. That Mrs Willard
Birth: 1787-02-23 Death: 1870-04-15Certainty: Probable
will bestow upon Maria a
welcome proportionate in ardour to the reported amount of her dowry
is not to be doubted.
Dearest Mr James L. Voorhees
Birth: 1794-08-06 Death: 1865-12
may call upon you to sign and ac-
knowledge a deed I have given him before my return. If so you will know
by my signature and your name in the deed in my handwriting that it is all
right and will please sign and acknowledge it.
Page 2

Saturday morning. My dearest Frances. The Court of Errors has a full calendar of causes, but
there are many of the members who wish in one way or other to escape from the confine-
ment incident. We came near adjourning Yesterday until some time in December, a
bare majority with me being unwilling to idle and lounge about town while we ought
to be employed in business. Should the Court adjourn to day or Monday until
some other day I shall probably go to New York and Orange County but it will
make no difference with your sending letters.
Yesterday the Court adjourned at 11 o.clock. I called upon our old friends the
Miss Mancius
x Birth: 1811-08-18  Death: 1893-07-09 
’. You doubtless recollect that their mother
Birth: 1787 Death: 1834-08-27
died this summer I
believe however it was in September. I found matters appearing precisely as when
we were there last with the exception of the mother’s absence. The parlour
was quite as obviously the home of merriment and fashion. Cornelia was
its occupant with a young gentleman
from New York whom I had met
there last winter. Gold thimbles!(ominous!) Gold pencil cases! (scarcely less
so as you know), and numberless new prints and trinkets afforded the
theme for learned discussion of their comparative fitness for presents and
[ philipenas ]

Alternate Text

Alternate Text: philopenas
. It must be conceded however to Anna that she did not enter
with as much levity
Lightness; the want of weight in a body, compared with another that is heavier • Lightness of temper or conduct; unsteadiness • Want of due consideration; vanity • Gaiety of mind; want of seriousness •
as Cornelia into this conversation so ill suited to the
orphan condition of the three sisters. At dinner I had Mr Willis Hall
Birth: 1786-11-11 Death: 1832-08-28

the President of the late young men’s convention with me. He is a very intelli-
gent and patriotic man, burning with zeal for a new contest and I confess
embarrassed me not a little by requiring me to show him the way to renew
the war with some hopes of success. To me I confess there is nothing cheering
in the signs. The success of the Tories in this state was all that was
wanted to rally a corps of adventurers round the magician
Birth: 1782-12-05 Death: 1862-07-24
, suf-
ficient in number to fight his way through all opposition to the
throne. Be it so, I have done my duty. It is the part neither of philoso-
phy nor patriotism to suffer this calamity to oppress my spirits or disheart-
en me in the performance of my duties as a citizen. I am quite sure I shall
not be permitted to forget the part assigned to me in the late contest. Every
man I meet renews the recollection, and approaching me as one who
must be desponding
Tasteless; destitute of taste; wanting the qualities which affect the organs of taste • Wanting spirit, life, or animation; wanting pathos, or the power of exciting emotions • Wanting power to gratify desire •
is surprised to find that my equanimity is unshaken.
Last night Uncle Cary and I went to the Theatre. It has been considera-
bly improved. That everlasting drop scene has been substituted by a new
one pretty enough and adorned among other devices with the coat &
arms of this ancient city. The other decorations of the theatre are in good
taste. Mr James Sheridan Knowles
Birth: 1784-05-12 Death: 1862-11-30
played the part of Master Walter in his own piece
of the Hunchback. Although he is by no means a great actor, he plays
with great good judgement and taste, and Mrs Greene
Birth: 1800-03-23 Death: 1862-01-19
although sadly inferior
in talent to Miss Fanny Kemble
Birth: 1809-11-27 Death: 1893-01-15
was very effective in some of the most interesting
parts of the piece. We were delighted, and I only lamented that you were not
a participant.
Page 3

Monday morning. 7 O clock. My beloved and faithful one. I have been negligent and have suffered
one day’s delay in sending you the cold yet fondly anticipated messenger of my affection. But
do not deem the neglect proceeded from indifference. Oh no it had other and better excuse. I could
not write. I have been during the last two days and nights awaking from a long a feverish and
almost fatal dream, fatal to my love and mine and your happiness. Even yet my mind is be-
wildered and my heart convulsed. It is now that I know the truth of what you have so often and
with bitter tears doubted and I with cruel and unfeeling recklessness have censured you for doubting,
that unworthy as I am I still love you. But how nearly has that love been banished from my heart,
and your happiness and mine been shipwrecked. Oh how much precious time for love has been irrecov-
erably lost. How much suffering have I caused you which can never be atoned for. What a demon is
this ambition. How has he not deceived me by assuring the noble purpose, and the intellectual means,
nay still worse, how has he not wrought into the snare which he cast over me, pride for the honor
I was to bring to you, the fond desire for the interest of our children, and what has seemed scarce
less sacred friendship for pure and true and enthusiastic hearts! With such powerful emotions I
have during the last one year, two, four (as Heaven knows almost ten years. All save one or two of all
the years your destiny has been interwoven with mine) been led away in thought purpose, communion and
sympathy from the only being who purely loves me and the only altar at which happiness could be
obtained. I shudder now to retrace the past. Besides cruel neglect which has scarcely ever been
omitted two consecutive days, memory (conscience!) suggests so many prominent instances of unkind-
ness. That night scarce two months ago when forgetful of your sincerity or the purity of your love
I upbraided you coarsely and with severe invective for unworthy deception, followed as it was by
the fearful illness which threatened to tear you from me forever. How has the memory of that night
tormented me! How have I been transformed from what I was. So that I have though your love an ac-
cident, an incident merely in my course to the chief good, when poor wretch that I am! it ought to
have been the chief. Nay I have thought you the spoiled child of romance, for dreaming that love could
be preserved amid the complicated employments and passions of life. And I have listened unheed-
ed nay turned from you with pity for your feminine weakness, when you reminded me “this Henry
is the anniversary of our marriage,” and “do you remember loved one this is the birthday of our first born” of
what wonder then after those confessions that I add oh my pure and lofty yet meek and humble [hole]
I have looked with pity upon the struggles of your heart for an interest in the atonement made by o[ ur ]


Reason: wax-seal

redeemer for the sins of all the human race, that I have proudly despised and turned a deaf ear [ to ]


Reason: wax-seal

solicitations of the spirit of Truth even when in his last effort to win my stubborn heart be appealed by
your once loved voice. Nay I have yielded to the belief that it was magnanimous in me to suffer
you to cling to the fables which could afford you comfort and happiness far inferior as I thought to
those which I sought in the glory of the world and your uncongenial spirit could not enjoy with me.
Oh I have wasted time, and heart and happiness. And I have now awaked from my delusion with
fears that it is too late to win back to me the love I have despised. Fool that I was when I had so many
startling circumstances not to see whither my ambition was leading me. I banished you from my heart,
I made it so desolate so destitute of sympathy for you, of every thing which you ought to have found there
that you could no longer dwell in it, and when the wretched T.
Birth: 1793-06-17 Death: 1859-09-12
took advantage of my madness and
offered sympathies, and feelings and love such as I had sworn, and your expelled heart was half won
by his falsehoods, still I did not know and see that I was criminal. God be praised for the escape of
both of us from that fearful peril. You will wonder loved one what has produced this convulsion of thought
and passion! I cannot tell. You must know that when I left home I was as I had been for months
before the slave of ambition. This passion remained in full control of all my thoughts and purposes, after as
well as before the event which determined so much of our destiny. I have had no reverse of feeling which I was
conscious of. No chagrin, no regret, no painful consciousness of disappointment. I have gone cheerfully on
wearing out the recollection of the events which had so much excited me and dwelling with content and hope
upon the prospect of my return to you until without violence my heart is disenthralled of all but that only
passion which can confer happiness upon me. I have had time to reflect upon the values of that treasure I possess
and to repent of the wrongs and injustice I have done to you. Loved, injured and angel spirit, receive this homage of
my first return to reason and truth, say to me that understanding my own feelings yours are not crushed. Kiss my dear boys
x Birth: 1830-07-08  Death: 1915-04-25  Birth: 1826-10-01  Death: 1876-09-11 
believe me ever yours and only yours, and that I now feel how ineffably desirable it would be that that “forever” might be eternal.
Page 4

Mrs. William H. Seward
Dec 1


Type: postmark