On January 26, 1898, Paul Laurence Dunbar in Washington, D. C., and Alice Ruth Moore in Brooklyn exchanged letters describing how ill they were. They were both so sick that they missed work: Paul was a clerk at the Library of Congress and Alice taught at a public school in Brooklyn. They had been engaged for nearly a year and wrote to each other almost every day.
I am home today sick like a chicken with the pip. Coughed awfully last night, didn't sleep an hour, and was too exhausted to go to school today. I was awfully discouraged over my poor health. I seem to be frailer than a butterfly. I wish I could see you. I'm blue and tired and I "want to be petted."
Alice Ruth Moore to Paul Laurence Dunbar, January 26, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
I am sick and bluer than you can possibly be. My eyes are sunken and I have beautifully outlined black circles under them, and my hands are becoming bloodless. The pen which I hold over the paper today shakes like an aspen leaf. With a dull heavy pain at the back of my brain that knocks me out. Congress hung on like grim death last night and I had to work overtime. By a quarter to seven, I looked like such a promising candidate for the colored cemetery that the superintendent had to send me home. It doesn't make me feel any better to know that you are not well. If I were there, wouldn't I pet you, though. You would want to stay sick just for the petting. My head is hurting and throbbing. The paper is dancing before my eyes.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, January 26, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
Paul was soon back at work and making plans for his marriage to Alice. However, she remained ill, and the weather in Brooklyn was cold and snowy, so Alice was unable to go to the White Rose Mission where she taught a Saturday kindergarten class.
I came to work this morning thinking what a long day it was going to be, and here the morning is gone before I know it. Nothing is sure except that I am going on working. I want to have a lot of matter on hand when I marry a certain little woman, because I expect she will be dragging me out to the theater and dances and "at homes" until I haven't time to think of literature. But I'll go with her anyplace, because I am very proud of her and love her enough to want always to be by her side.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, January 28, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
I had to leave school yesterday. I was coughing so the principal sent me home, and ordered Miss Lyons to take my class. She was madder than a wet hen. I never in my life had one woman to heap so many petty, subtle insults upon me as she did Thursday. I am still ill. I could not go out to the kindergarten class. I hated to miss, but the weather is too severe and I am coughing so badly I deemed it best not to go out until I am better.
Alice Ruth Moore to Paul Laurence Dunbar, January 29, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
It snowed steadily all night from about 11 o'clock, and when folks awoke this morning everything out of doors was white. It was still pretty cold and the snow kept on all the morning. The temperature here at 8 o'clock this morning was just 17 degrees below the freezing point, making it rather cold.
"Snowed All Night." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York). January 29, 1898. Page 14.