On January 15, 1898, Alice Ruth Moore in Brooklyn wrote an unusually long and passionate letter to her fiancé Paul Laurence Dunbar in Washington, D. C. Dreaming of their married life together, Alice told Paul she was willing to sacrifice her own literary aspirations to help him achieve his.
It is strange, dear, how I find myself unconsciously loving you more and more, and looking forward to the days of the far future. I find myself studying about mothers of famous men, about lovely homes, about wifehood and all that it means, about the best way to keep you in your life work. Whatever ambition I may have had for myself, I have lost in you. To stand by your side, urging, helping, strengthening, encouraging you is now my prayer. To be an inspiration to you, a comforter and a real helpmate, this is what I want. Whatever little ability I may possess I will be only too proud to place at your disposal.
Alice Ruth Moore to Paul Laurence Dunbar, January 15, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
After the Dunbars got married, Alice continued to publish her own writings, though she was a significant source of support and inspiration to Paul.
Mrs. Dunbar is a most attractive young woman, slender and graceful and of light olive complexion. She is an accomplished conversationalist, clever, and graceful in manner, and she is already a material help to her husband in his work and unquestionably an inspiration.
"People and Happenings in Washington." The Home Magazine (Washington, D. C.). December 1898. Page 3.
Mrs. Paul Laurence Dunbar, wife of the well known negro poet, is herself a writer of poetry, and very clever poetry, too. Mrs. Dunbar is a woman of much grace and attraction of manner, with a true and happy disposition. She is a perfect helpmeet, rendering him the assistance that a woman of superior intellect, discrimination and culture may extend to a literary husband.
"Paul Laurence Dunbar's Romantic Courtship." The Gloversville Daily Leader (Gloversville, New York). February 6, 1899. Page 5.
Mrs. Dunbar has contributed occasionally to newspapers and magazines and a collection of her stories has recently been brought out in book form. Of her literary ability her husband says, "She writes much better prose than I do, and is invaluable to me as a critic." All of his work is typewritten by her, and much of it is taken down in shorthand at his dictation, while her sympathy and companionship have inspired some of his best efforts.
"Dayton's Dunbar." Dayton Daily Journal (Dayton, Ohio). January 11, 1902.
Mrs. Paul Laurence Dunbar is a writer, like her husband. Since her marriage she has lived in Washington, where she writes short stories and acts as secretary and general helpmeet to her husband.
"People and Events: Wife of Colored Poet." The Chillicothe Bulletin (Chillicothe, Illinois). August 15, 1902.
From the beginning of their courtship, Paul repeatedly told Alice that she was an inspiration to his literature and his life.
I love you. I love you. You bring out all the best that is in me. You are an inspiration to me. I am better and purer for having touched hands with you over all these miles. Think of it, Alice, before I had ever written to you, you were the heroine of one of my stories. And since then you have inspired all my songs. I am afraid that up till now I have been much of the dilettante, but the hope of winning you will inspire me to greater and more earnest work. I have written a couple of songs to you, and a friend to whom I sang them the other day said: "What has come into your life? These songs are really good. Surely something has inspired you." I laughed. She did not know.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, October 13, 1895. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
Oh, my darling, I love you so supremely that I can be anything for your sake; but oh weakness! I need you near.
Thy voice a clarion is to me
That spurs me on to victory
When war's red tempest wildly rage
Then would I press and battle wage --
Throw forth and swing my trusty blade
For this thou heart inspiring maid.
For thee I'd tempt the sternest fight
And conquer in the world's despite.
Maybe there'll be more of this someday; but you see how you do inspire me.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, February 21, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).