January 6 - So Far Away

Story topics

On January 6, 1899, Paul Laurence Dunbar was in Philadelphia, where he gave a literary recital at Temple College.

The Temple College
Free Lecture Course


Jan. 6.  Readings from his own works, Paul Laurence Dunbar

Temple College lecture series program, January 1899.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 4).

Temple College began in a church basement in 1884 and developed into today's Temple University.  In addition to formal classes, Temple College also presented a series of free lectures by guest speakers.  In the weeks after Paul's appearance, other presenters gave lectures on "Bacteria and Their Uses" and "Concerning the Theory of Evolution."

Temple College is one of the most interesting institutions in the world.  It is quite as truly a college as any of the institutions of the higher culture whose titles are so often seen in the newspapers.  Its curriculum is scientifically arranged, it has a full college faculty, its students number 3,115 -- including the attendance at the lecture courses, 6,750 -- and it gives diplomas that are as highly prized as the sheepskins of Harvard, Princeton or Yale.

"A Revolution in Religious Work."  Wilkes-Barre Record (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania).  October 13, 1897.  Page 10.

Paul had recently resigned from his job at the Library of Congress and had no steady source of income.  He hoped to earn a living from writing and reciting, but that required a lot of traveling.  A few days later, Paul made another public appearance in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

On Thursday evening, January 12th, in the Presbyterian Church, a large audience listened to a reading by Mr. Paul Laurence Dunbar.  The poet's impression of the occasion is best expressed in his own words.  He said:  "I have read before many larger audiences but I never read before a more cultivated or a more appreciative one than I met in Woodbridge."  The people will be very slow to forget the tender notes of his rich musical voice and the artistic rendering of his choice selections.  The audience entered into the spirit of the work and requests were made for the reading of other favorites.

"Woodbridge News," by Nannie E. Woodhouse.  Unidentified newspaper clipping [January 1899].    Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 4).

During the next several weeks, Paul traveled to New York, Alabama and Tennessee, and then back to Philadelphia.  His wife Alice was visiting her family near Boston, and she became lonesome for her husband, especially as their first anniversary approached.

Dearie, won't you come here as soon as you have fulfilled the Philadelphia engagement and stay until after the 21st?  I want you, and everyone in the house beg me to beg you to come.  We shall have the little attic bedroom to ourselves.  Mama begs, James begs, and baby too, for when I asked her if she would like to see her Uncle Paul she ran and kissed your picture rapturously.  Do you know that a week from Monday is our wedding anniversary?  We don't want to spend it apart, do we?  You shall have all the beer and coffee and tea you can drink, and you shall be let alone to do as you will.  Then you will bring the typewriter and the Saturday Evening Post work and we can do our stories all over undisturbed.  The weather is lovely, too, and you can tramp all over Boston and Cambridge at your leisure.  Am I very selfish in begging you so?  Darling, do you know I have not missed dreaming of you a single night since I left you.  I even dream of you when I lie down for a nap.  Dear Heart, how my empty arms have ached for you!  But you know that, God speed the day when I can curl up in your arms, tuck my head down on your breast and go to sleep all snuggly and warm.

Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, February 25, 1899.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).