Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 1, 1834

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 1, 1834



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 1, 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 Monday evening December 1st. 1834. My loved one, The wisdom and art of man are continually progressing.
One of the difficulties of my correspondence with you has been to make a pen which would write legibly in this small
hand. In passing the bazaar to night, I saw a placard setting forth the merits of certain India Rubber spring pens.
On trying them, I found them just what I wanted for the aforesaid purpose. It writes this hand, with out any particu-
lar care more than is requisite when I use a goose-quill; and yet it is so elastic that it will ^with^ equal ease adapt
itself to a large running hand. India rubber boots and shoes, elastics and suspenders are already
as familiar as household words, but I never expected to see India rubber pens. You shall have them
for your own use when I come home. Your letter of Thursday and Friday last came this morning immediately
after I had sent my last to the post office. It is a beautiful letter, I have read it and read it again and
again. How happy its affectionate tone has made me all day. Dear little Fred
Birth: 1830-07-08 Death: 1915-04-25
! I hope that hand will
be well soon. Tracy
Birth: 1793-06-17 Death: 1859-09-12
says the affection is an intermittent fever, and will get well. He protests against ad-
ministering Iodine: he says it is a poison, never necessary or proper to be given in childhood, and only to be
used by those who have diseased and depraved constitutions. The calomel
Free; voluntary; granted without claim or merit; not required by justice • Asserted or taken without proof •
is doubtless a good remedy.
I hope dearest that your own health will continue to improve and I derive encouragement from the circumstances
that you do not speak of a return of that dreadful local inflammation. If Heaven will but spare us health in
our little household how much happier may we make ourselves the year that is coming than we have been
during that which draws to a close. I am glad to see that Augustus
Birth: 1826-10-01 Death: 1876-09-11
is careful of his books. It is very right.
He has generally been a very good boy and his Pa
Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10
loves him as well as Fred very much.
Your commission about the watch my dear F. is executed. In what manner you will see when I return home.
I have exchanged the old one for a new one of the modern fashion and according to my taste of great beauty.
The price of the new one is eighty five dollars. The old one (which the Jeweller admits is of equal value ex-
cept that it is unfashionable) is taken at $50. The new watch is very flat and is a good time keeper. It has
no cover of the over the crystal. The Jeweller has a beautiful watch, which I doubt not is of far better
workmanship though at about the same price which has a gold cover over the crystal. So that the
watch has in fact two backs, both entirely plain. It is of the right shape and size. You have to open the
case by a spring in the handle before you can ascertain the time. I though you would not like it so
well, but as there is no standard for taste, please give me your opinion on the subject, as I may quite
as well take the latter as the former. While on this matter let me say that I forgot every thing a-
bout hats, bonnets shawls dresses &c. I am anxious to purchase something for you, and particularly
desirous that you do not deny yourself at home any such articles of this kind as you would desire
here. Believe me candid in this, and say what I shall get for you, and where &c.
I have just finished the perusal
To read with attention • To observe; to examine with careful survey •
of Bulwer
Birth: 1803-05-25 Death: 1873-01-18
’s new novel The last days of Pompeii
Author: Edward Bulwer-Lytton Publisher: R. Bentley Place of Publication:London Date: 1834
I wait only for a oppor-
tunity to send it to you. There is some affectation of classical literature which will disgust you. There
is much of that same such deep philosophy which forms so great a commendation of his other works
and which so especially delights you. There are barbarous scenes which will give you pain, but there
are, especially in the conclusion, much talent morals religion and philosophy which will redeem
the work in your judgement from all defects. I am impatient for an opportunity to send you the rich
treasure. I have little to say by way of diary. I went yesterday to church and heard a sermon of
unequal merit from Mr Welch
Birth: 1794 Death: 1870
, but staid at home in the afternoon to look at the Eclipse. I hope
the skies were unclouded at Auburn, and that you were able to go out to observe it. Mr Benedict
Birth: 1785-11-07 Death: 1862-07-15

and Mr Gilchrist
spent the evening with us. I met Col Barnard
Birth: 1815-05-19 Death: 1882-05-14
in the street to day. He did not before know
that I was in town, regretted it much and took occasion to confess that he had been much dissatis-
fied at first with my nomination, and spoke loudly his discontent, but avowed that he had early
become satisfied of its expediency and so forth. Of course, I affected ignorance on all this matter.
Birth: 1797-11-15 Death: 1882-11-22
has gone to New York to get a copy of the Presidents
Birth: 1767-03-15 Death: 1845-06-08
message as early as possible, Uncle
Birth: 1787-08-11 Death: 1869-06-20
is with me as a brother. Having determined while in New York to have a miniature taken
to be presented to you as a memorial of my deliverance from the idolatry of fame, I have promised
him a copy of it, and he in return is to furnish me with a copy of his taken by Mrs. Albert Brisbane.
Tracy still inquires as kindly as ever concerning you, and I while I feel that he has parted with all interest
in my own feelings am attached to him by the interest he manifests concerning you and the boys. This too seems
strange since the alienation which my feelings towards him have suffered was mainly wrought by his base
conduct towards us last winter. I have a deep regard for Knowles
Birth: 1784-05-12 Death: 1862-11-30
and am going to night to see him in his own
comedy of The Wife. Adieu my dear one.
Page 2

Tuesday night. Another of the long days has passed away and the lightest of its appropriate labors as well as the
sweetest of its pleasures being performed I shall hurry into my little lonely chamber. What shall I tell you
of? The theatre first? I went last evening with Mr Cary to witness the performance of The Wife one of the dramas
written by Mr Knowles. The two principal parts were played by Mr K. and Miss Wheatley
Birth: 1822 Death: 1854
. The former fell
far behind the merit evinced
To show in a clear manner; to prove beyond any reasonable doubt • to conquer •
by him in the Hunchback. The latter is a wonder. She is the daughter of an actress and may be almost said to have been brought up on the stage. She is only 13 years old
yet her stature and person are so much developed that she seems to be not less than 16 and was
held responsible to play her part not as a child but as a woman. Her debut was so close an
imitation of Miss Fanny Kemble
Birth: 1809-11-27 Death: 1893-01-15
as to excite as general disgust throughout the house, but in sub-
sequent parts of the play she nobly redeemed herself, and proved herself one of the most accom-
plished actresses I have ever beheld. The play was not what I expected. The Wife was not such
as Washington Irving
Birth: 1783-04-03 Death: 1859-11-28
describes, but the wife of a Duke, a lady, wife, a queen. But I will not
fill this sheet with theatricals which I cannot make interesting to you. I would not mention
the subject, but that I felt, as I always feel in such places, that it is selfish in me to enjoy
such amusements when you are not with me, and I feel as if I were atoning to you for the
wrong by detailing the particulars of that which amused me so much.
This morning I called upon Mr Knowles at the American. Must I tell you that he is like
every other poet I ever saw, vain and pedantic. He is so indeed, and theatrical, and declam-
atory withal. Yet I was not disgusted: for who can be disgusted with a great mind and
generous heart! I will give you a puzzle in phrenology. His head and face are almost a
copy of our worthy neighbour’s Mr Garrow
Birth: 1780-04-25 Death: 1841-03-03
Fred Whittlesey
Birth: 1799-06-12 Death: 1851-09-19
came along today on his way to Congress, dined and drank a bottle
of wine with me and was every way interesting to me. He was bound by a new tie which
had been woven by his generous and manly support of my personal interest in the election
Mr Miner
of the New York American was with us also. We made a pleasant dinner party.
After which I went with them, as indeed I do every day with some person, to the boat.
I gave notice in the sheet to James Horner
that I was going this evening to take tea at
his house. Notwithstanding the advent of a second child and all the cares consequent to such
an event, I found Mrs Horner
unaltered in spirits manner & vivacity, but a little older and
more matronly
Elderly married woman, or an elderly lady; the female head of a household • In an especial sense, a nurse in a hospital •
in countenance. She of course sends you and her nearer friends in Auburn
much love. From thence, after calling for Mr Cary, I went with him to Mr John Townsends
Birth: 1783-06-14 Death: 1854-08-26

He was out, and Mrs T.
Birth: 1790-01-12 Death: 1849-08-17
was out. Thence to Isaiahs
Birth: 1777-04-05 Death: 1838-02-17
’. He was in New York and Mrs T.
Birth: 1784-08-11 Death: 1854-10-31
and the daughter
Birth: 1815-04-11 Death: 1866-03-04
in New York. Thence across to Mr Wendell
Birth: 1811 Death: 1881-02-23
’s. I found them as hospitable
as ever and ardent
Hot or burning; causing a sensation of burning • Having the appearance or quality of fire; fierce • Warm; much engaged; passionate •
in Whiggism. The copper coin bearing my image and superscription
was carefully preserved and I travelled over again to an audience who appeared to
be willing listeners my journey to Chamouni and the Glaciers. Thus ends the record of
the day. And how has the day passed in my own home? How, I would be delighted to know that
it has found and left you convalescent, and both my dear little boys safe. I am all solicitude
my dearest to adopt some system of life which will enable me to be what I have never I fear
been, a partner in your thoughts and cares and feelings; to have my place at the fireside in the
evenings and devote the time to employments and thoughts and conversation congenial to your
taste. I would submit myself to the influence of your gentle and domestic spirit. I am grieved
when I think that I am doomed to go on a wanderer farther and farther from the source and foun-
tain of what ought to be my truest happiness. I feel now determined to make the experiment.
Do let me know all the incidents in your noiseless life. You cannot imagine how much in my
renewed state of mind and reinvigorated affection they will interest me. Last night I dreamed of fierce
contention in the bosom. I hope for sweeter dreams of my hearts beloved. Good night. I have learned not to retire without a
Page 3

Thursday evening December 4th. Dearest, I have not willingly suffered this letter to be delayed a day later than
I know you will have expected it. But the honest truth is, I am not the master of my time. I am performing the
last act of ^the^ relection drama. I have as you know many calls, and it would be churlish in me to withhold such
attentions as it in my power to bestow upon the generous and ardent
Hot or burning; causing a sensation of burning • Having the appearance or quality of fire; fierce • Warm; much engaged; passionate •
partisans who have sustained me. I have
some friends every day at dinner, and it is rare that I have not some visits in the evening if I do not go out
myself. I know and feel that this is dissipation
To scatter; to disperse; to separate into parts and disappear • To expend; to squander; to scatter property in wasteful extravagance • To scatter the attention •
of a fruitless kind, but I console myself on that score by
reflecting that I shall soon bring it all to an end. I went last evening to the theatre, it being the choice
whether I should spend the evening there with friends or in my own room. It was 12 when they left
us and then it was too late to write. Do not fear that I shall have to plead such frivolous excuses
often. You are constantly in all my thoughts and the pleasure I enjoy in writing these letters is of it-
self an inducement sufficient to make me avaricious
greedy of gain; immoderately desirious of accumulating property •
of time to write them.
By the bearer of this I send the “Last days of Pompeii” and you will find in the volumes two very
pretty medals for the little boys, if they have been kind and dutiful to you since their Pa left home.
If they have not done well you must lay the medals aside until the boys learn to be good.
Mr Rutherford
Birth: 1810 Death: 1871
who carries this letter goes to Auburn for the purpose of studying law in my office.
His grandfather Mr John Rutherford
Birth: 1760-09-20 Death: 1840-02-23
is a very venerable and excellent citizen of New Jersey and has been
one of the most distinguished as he was one of the most worthy citizens of that state. He had been long
in retirement until the Antimasonic cause brought him forward and in that he has been efficient
and munificent. I became acquainted with him at the Baltimore Convention in 1832. Being a man of un-
bounded wealth he personally takes care of the education of his grand children. This young Gentleman
is a graduate of Willliams town college, and his Grandfather has done me the compliment of putting him
under my care. I am quite favorably impressed with the short acquaintance I have had with him
He is modest amiable
Worthy of love; deserving of affection; lovely; loveable • Pretending or showing love •
and intelligent. I bespeak for him at your hands such attention as your health
will permit you to shew him, and as he will understand you are yet unwell, I suggest that when
you are so far recovered as will enable you to see company you send for him. I wish to return the favora-
ble sentiments entertained f[ or him ]


Reason: wax-seal
by his Grandfather. That your health is convalescent, is my ea[ rnest ]


Reason: wax-seal

hope, but you must not supp[ ose I am ]


Reason: wax-seal
at all chiding you for not being well. I trust never again to give
you cause for sorrow as I have [ don ]


Reason: wax-seal
e heretofore in that way.
I do not know my dear Frances that I have any thing to comuncate, which will interest you.
Mr Cary and I have long very long talks among which we often discuss an old friend Tracy. It is
unnecessary to say that while I harbor no animosity against him his cruel conduct towards me in
reference to your heart and affections last winter has eradicated all that passion I once entertained
for him. Possibly his jesuitical course in reference to me and all my political friends has increased
the breach which had thus been produced. I still live on terms with him which will suffer us
to part as ordinary friends. Mr Cary and myself called this afternoon at Judge Woodworths
Birth: 1768-11-12 Death: 1858-06-01
, and
at Col. Barnard’s. The latter exhibited to us his daughter
, the child of his first wife. How it jarred
the strings of my heart to hear him amplify upon her resemblance in feature form mind and charac-
ter to her mother. And this in the splendid parlor obtained by marriage of a second wife!
Your intelligence of Clara
Birth: 1793-05-01 Death: 1862-09-05
’s preparations did not surprise me. I wish I could banish my
apprehension of the consequences, but it is not right to press them. I am too much interested in her
happiness to be willing to throw any obstacle in her way and would be too happy should my
fears prove groundless. I hope confidently my dear Frances for one of your excellent and af-
fectionate letters tomorrow morning. I am prepared only to hear that you are better, for the
reason that Beardsley
Birth: 1807-05-30 Death: 1894-01-15
does not allude to your illness in his letter. I ought to send your
watch by Mr Rutherford but it keeps good time and has become quite useful for me.
Besides although you have never seen it, I never look upon it without being reminded of you
I wish most earnestly that I could get a good miniature of you. If our health is spared I
think I will be able to obtain it next summer.
Do not forget to mention me affectionately to Grandma
Birth: 1751 Death: 1835-10-03
and Clara and Lazette
Birth: 1803-11-01 Death: 1875-10-03
you write to her. Think of me forgetting that my heart has been so long a truant, and be sure
that it shall not be again so far alienated. I have arrived at the end of the sheet with
regret that it is not larger. It is a broken sheet, but I did not discover it until one page was written
silent prayer to the great Being I have so long neglected. Do not forget me in those you address to him.
Your own Henry.

Editorial Note

This is a continuation of the last sentence on page 2.

[bottom Margin] select prayer to the great Being I have so long neglected. Do not forget me in those you address to him.
Page 4

Mrs. William H. Seward
Hand Shiftx

Frances Seward

Birth: 1805-09-24 Death: 1865-06-21
from Henry Dec