1837: Ellis H. Mathews to Harriette Emma Mathews

How Ellis Mathews might have looked in 1837

How Ellis Mathews might have looked in 1837

The Todd A. Herring Collection at the Mississippi State University Library, Special Collections Department, has a letter written by Ellis H. Mathews to his sister, Harriette E. Mathews, dated 12 Jul 1837. (See item: 5-3-25.) The author and recipient of this letter are no doubt the same siblings though I could find no other family information that would connect them definitively to a family in Habersham County, Georgia. It is conjectured that they were connected to the Dr. John R. Mathews family of that county.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Miss Harriette E. Mathews, Clarkesville, Habersham County, Georgia

Carrollton, Carroll County [Mississippi]
July 18, 1837

For one month now, dear Emma, to write to you has been my chief pleasure — that time having elapsed since I had the greater one of reading a letter from my beloved sister. I write usually in the afternoon. My mornings are employed in law studies. In the afternoon I pass my time in any pleasant way I can — sometimes with a novel, sometimes otherwise. I endeavored for several days to study in the afternoon, altho’ in a lighter way, but I found that the effect would be that after awhile, the application would be too much for my strength, both mental and physical. So I desisted and now during the warmer part of the day try to amuse myself. In the cool of the afternoon, I walk a half an hour or three quarters and also ramble a little after breakfast so that I have about three miles peregrination — enough to promote healthful circulation of the blood. But enough of myself.

“My sister, my sweet sister — if a name dearer and purer were, it should be thine.” Did you ever read [Lord] Byron’s verses to his sister? They present  his character in a more interesting form than you perhaps will find anywhere else. They evince a heart that could love with the tenderness of a brother’s affection.

“Oh! that thou wert but with me!” I never before felt the depth of the wish which vented itself in these simple words.

I informed you Emma, dearest, in my last that I preferred to establish myself in my profession in Georgia, If my desires in that respect are gratified, I shall have attained what I was alway anxious to. There has been no fluctuation of opinion on that point, as you are probably aware. But to tell you the truth, I have very little expectation that I shall succeed. If I do, I shall be informed by the 20th or 25th of August certainly. It will then be in my power to leave without damage to anyone’s affairs, as the business season does not commence till the 1st September and you will have me riding up your lane somewhere about the first week of October. I shall not be more than fifteen or twenty days on the road but it will require some time for me to make my arrangements for departure. But if as I apprehend, I shall have to launch my bark in Mississippi, I will do so with confidence and determination to persevere. What I dread is that you may meet with more discomfort here than your Father’s daughter has been accustomed to — but not so much that as you will feel the dreary desolation of a strange land during the hours of my necessary absence.

But we have bound ourselves, my love, with the ties of pure affection, and can sustain each other, I trust, amid the labors of life — can we not? And wherever out lot is cast, I am confident that industry and economy will ensure a competence, and virtue will always procure respect. And if we have to encounter much here that would be avoided by remaining at home, we have the prospect of wealth ahead, I believe. By subjecting myself to a painful separation, beside yourself and all who love me, I am afraid to some anxiety on my account, my object is to secure a livelihood that I may the sooner have a home for you. I am now sure of that, so that there is no danger that we shall be kept asunder longer than the 1st November and when I return then, if I see any prospect in any quarter of doing well in Georgia, I may embrace it, if we prefer it, without being forced by actual necessity into a disadvantageous arrangement.

19th. I have just finished a letter to Father and Mother. I have been so long without letters from home that I require something to put my mind in the proper order for writing letters. I have written so frequently to different members of the family that such ideas as are fit for that use are almost exhausted. I have filled my sheet with remarks about the country etc. till I can say no more on that subject. I have dwelt on myself till I was apprehensive that the subject would become as tiresome to those who love me as it was to myself, and my mind is like the embers of a coal fire which must be kept bright by being stirred by a poker. A package of letters will act as such. And even to my beloved Emma, I have but little now to stay except that I love her more than ever. I am as prone, as you are aware, to fill my letter with sentiment. I can only pour out the over flowings of devoted affection and to indulge too much in that is weak, so I will put aside my pen and await the arrival of the mail.

7 o’clock. The Post Master, dearest, says there are no letters and I must resign myself to the disappointment. I wrote a fortnight since to Columbus to forward my letters, and so I suppose they will make their appearance by some circuitory route in the course of a few days.

I hope that you receive your letters more directly than I do mine. If your letters are not to reach me, perhaps you had better not write till you hear from me again and probably by that time I may learn the cause of the detention. I would rather, therefore, that you should postpone your answer to this till you have received my next.

God keep you, my dearest Emma. Your affectionate, — E.


One response to “1837: Ellis H. Mathews to Harriette Emma Mathews

  • Griff

    Carl Volz donated this letter to the Todd A. Herring Collection at the Mississippi State University Library, Special Collections Department, in April 2013.

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