February 8 - Farewell, My Brother

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On February 8, 1906, Robert Murphy in Chicago wrote an emotional letter to his half-brother Paul Laurence Dunbar in Dayton.  Paul died the next day.

Ma writes me you are not as well as you might be and I am sorry it is so but I think you have made a brave fight, a fact well known also to you.  The hardest part of winter is gone and you are with us by force of your own strong will.  Now if [you] can do so much by will power you can do more.  Make up your mind to outlast the winter and then go away someplace and get well.  To us you are worth a thousand men.  To yourself you should be worth a million.  If there is any way on earth for me to be with you, I'll try and get there in the spring if only to take you away to a warmer climate and don't you know if there was any earthly way I would have been with you all already now.  Paul don't forget.  Try hard to get well.  Ma needs you.  I need you and Leck and the children need you and the race needs you for there are too few of you to let one go.  Don't give up now with your life's work half accomplished.  Say if I have been great I can be greater.  If I have done much I can do more.  Show the envious that the best is yet to come.

Robert Murphy to Paul Laurence Dunbar, February 8, 1906.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

The letter refers to Matilda Dunbar, the mother of both Paul and Robert.  She cared for Paul during the last few years of his life at the home they shared in Dayton.  It also mentions Robert's wife Electra (known as Leck) and their children, one of whom was named after Paul.

Paul had another half-brother in Chicago named Will Murphy.  A few months earlier, Matilda asked him to help her take care of Paul, but Will said he was unable to.

I received your letter when I got home yesterday and it made me very sad.  I don't know what to do between my obligations here and my duty there.  I can't see for the life of me how I can come and stay with Paul.  I realize that someone of his family should be with him, but I can't see how it is possible for me to break up and go take care of him.  I'll have to write very candidly.  I haven't anything, only what I earn from day to day, therefore I would have nothing to leave my family to live on.  I know that you are worn out, and need someone to help you.  It is very hard to think that with all the relations we have in Dayton none of them will drop in and lend you a helping hand.  I am awfully sorry that you left Chicago, because if you were here now, some of us could be with you and Paul every day or night.  What does the doctor say about his condition?  If Paul recovers from this spell, you must insist upon his going away for the winter.  Let him take someone with him to look after him.  I hope you will understand my position.  It is not because I don't want to come but I can't see my way clear.

Will Murphy to Matilda Dunbar, October 24, 1905.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 2).