1841: Ansel Phelps, Jr. to Lydia Paige

Page from "Natural History of Beasts" published by Ansel Phelps (1849)

Page from “Natural History of Beasts” published by Ansel Phelps (1849)

This letter was written by Ansel Phelps, Jr. (1815-1860), the son of Col. Ansel Phelps (1789-1868) and Hanna H. Ames (1792-1875). Col. Ansel Phelps was the Publisher of the Greenfield Gazette. Ansel (Jr.) wrote this letter to Lydia Paige (1816-1876) almost 4 months before their marriage on 30 September 1841 in Hardwick, Massachusetts. Lydia’s parents were Clark Paige (1790-1831) and Lydia Cutter (1792-1878).

Ansel Phelps, Jr. was a printer, by profession, and a “man of splendid attainments and high character.” He became the fourth mayor of Springfield from 1856-58.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Miss Lydia Paige, Warren, Massachusetts

May 30 & June 1st 1841

My Dear Lydia,

Image 13I had commenced writing an article on English Politics which I promise myself will be very splendid and which you will see in the Gazette of next eek. I say had commenced writing this this eve & had worried through one page when I threw down my pen and concluded to wait until I could concentrate my thoughts somewhat. Every two or three lines I would find my head thrown back upon the ricking chair, my fingers playing with the nose on my face and my thoughts like the fools spoken of in Holy Writ, “rambling unto the Ends of the Earth” or rather over the hill that divides Man from Women, and there bury with the Paige — so fair, so interesting that it can always & am more my mind from the consideration of grave maters and hold it a willing captive.

Image 12Ah! Lydia, you have a great deal to answer for misspent time will surely rise in judgement. The  hours passed by me on your visible presence form but a durable portion of the time n___ — (shall I call it so?) devoted to you by the writer. Hours every day and night are thus passed and oftentimes I can not without great effort that I am willing to make vanish you from my thoughts even when it would be for my interest in mind and pocket so to do. Shall all this pass away? Will the time ever arrive when Lydia will be to me as one who is not forgotten? We thought of uncared for? I believe that it never will. Yet I do hope that the time may come when, without any abatement of my love for her, I shall be better able than I now am to withdraw my thoughts from her and to fasten them more fixedly upon other matters. In a word, I should like an increase of my power of abstraction so as to prevent you from abstracting all my time as my mind is now inclined to suffer you to do. Suffering from the want of this power this eve, I dropped the consideration to write the present articleabout the domestic politics, which so much interests me.

Image 11June 1st. I arrived here yesterday morning just in time to examine a school teacher. This job disposed of, I went to work in my office and performed in the course of the day a good half days work. In the afternoon, I had a ride with Hyde. He told me a queer story that Electa had reported about Julia. Delicacy forbids the repetition to you by me. I suppose that Hyde herd it from his wife. I must say that I was a little surprised that even Electa should lack the delicacy. The family pride that a story of the sort emanating from her indicates that she does lack. From this Hyde and myself talked of the value of female acquaintance of this sort. He told me that his wife had always healed the Ps girls decently but formally. Consequence was that they did not show themselves at his house once a year. She had never shown them any cordiality or confidence, and he remarked with much truth that the effect of treatment of this sort was “respect and non-intercourse.” It was “Easy to be on good term with people and still hold them at arm’s length.”

Image 14I hope you will study this season, Lydia. You are too cordial. It is I am well aware a failing that speaks much for your heart, but I shall be well satisfied with its warmth, if I see less of this cordiality in words and action with some people, you should be more discriminating or people will take you at your word too often. And interpret words of civility which you intend as common place ____ into pursuing your intentions. In this way you will be bored to death by people for whom you do not care a fig. They will swarm upon you like the locusts of Egypt and to me they would be more dreadful than all the plagues of Moses. They might, it is true, find in me a Tartar, but this would be unpleasant to you. We had much better pull together. Excuse me for this homily. I am sure that it will be well received as it is well intended. No more. Believe me yours as ever, — A. Phelps

P.S. On Saturday I must attend as assignee the third meeting of the creditors of H. Morse at Belden Town. I shall be able, I think, to return in season to take you to ____. Shall see you before Saturday & we can arrange this.


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