On February 2, 1903, Paul Laurence Dunbar was on a successful reading tour of Kansas and Missouri, but he was longing for his wife Alice, from whom he had separated a year earlier. From Kansas City, he sent Alice a poem written in pencil on a piece of lined notepaper, making sure to include his mailing address at the bottom.
All the world is so sweet, dear
And matters so little to me --
You are the whole and the all, dear
The bride for eternity --
Life is so gray and so brief dear
And it is so hard to live
Why should we neighbor with grief, dear
Better to love and forgive.
Een tho' I miss you today, dear
Miss you and pass like a breath --
Love is puissant in serving dear
Far past the portals of death.
1214 E. 12th St. Kansas City, Mo.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, February 2, 1903. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
A short while earlier, Paul had been in Chicago, where he sent telegrams to Alice in Wilmington, Delaware.
Please get quick answer to ours yesterday. Paid. Signed Paul. Party waiting for reply.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, January 21, 1903. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
While on his Western trip, Paul wrote to his mother Matilda, who was living with relatives in Chicago. He casually inquired about Alice while mentioning other friends and family members.
I received Rob's letter a little while ago together with the clippings. I wrote Will Allen to give you the twelve dollars he owes me but I have not heard from him. I hope that Leck and the children are all well and that you are spending as much time with them as possible. Do you hear anything from Alice or do you write to her? What of Miss Dale, has she been to the house since I went away?
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Matilda Dunbar, February 16, 1903. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 2).
Paul sent letters and telegrams to Alice again in May, but she didn't respond. In June, he sent an exasperated letter from Chicago, telling her it would be his last (although it was not).
This is the last letter I shall write you. I have done everything to amend my fault, and you have kept a brutal silence. That is quite as you pleased. Once more I ask you to come back to me and the future shall make up for a past that was not altogether unhappy. I am not myself without you, but after this I cannot do more. Remember only our sun-kissed hill and write me one word.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, June 14, 1903. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).