February 23 - Writing Love Notes in Class

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On February 23, 1898, Alice Ruth Moore in Brooklyn wrote an unusually long and lyrical letter to her fiancé Paul Laurence Dunbar in Washington, D. C.  Alice was a schoolteacher and she started writing in the morning before classes began.  By the time she finished, the letter took up seventeen sheets of lined paper.

I have a minute or so before the bell rings so I'm going to devote them to you.  I'm tired and disgusted this morning.  I am writing this in another teacher's room and she is teasing me to death.  "I am writing to Him," I reply to her fire of questions, "telling him I'm tired of teaching and I want Him to take me away."  Well, the bell rung just at this point and I stopped, and of course couldn't resume until tonight.

I must tell you about yesterday -- a ride on the ferry.  Oh, the water was so beautiful, so solemn, so mysterious.  I stood on deck and looked down the harbor out into the ocean.  The wind was high and turbulent, and it seemed that its touch was you;  its breath your whispers.  I seemed to have you at my side holding my hand with the sympathetic silence between us that is only possible where love is true and deep.  Someday sweetheart, we can stand together and be alone with nature.  I have a yearning that amounts to a positive ache to see you and touch your lips without the background of upholstery and bric-a-brac that I have always seen about you.  If I could only kiss you in a raging thunderstorm, or hear you say "I love you" to the accompaniment of Niagara's roar, or gather armfuls of dewy, young grass, daisy starred, and tease your face with it, while the sun flecked through the leaves of a bird-fluttered tree -- I think the love I bear you would seal itself into a more perfect form, because of nature's approval.

For some unknown reason I laid down my pen and began to picture myself wrapped close, close in your arms and you kissing me in every imaginable way.  It's about the fiftieth time I've done it today, which is very nice for Ash Wednesday, isn't it?

Alice Ruth Moore to Paul Laurence Dunbar, February 23, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Both Paul and Alice were eager to get married, but felt they should avoid having their wedding during the Lenten season.

My soul is crying out for you, and now Lent begins tomorrow and for forty days, we may not even think of marrying.  My hungry heart in that long interval will interpret for me Christ's fast of forty days.  Let's get married at Easter or right after.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, February 22, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Darling, I am more anxious to be married to you than you are to me.  Alice, you are my one rock of salvation -- my great hope -- my all.  Will you marry me in Lent?  I should feel so much better if we were one -- not that I for a moment distrust you darling, but who shall say what may happen to separate us?

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, February 25, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Instead of waiting until after Lent, Paul and Alice were married in a secret civil ceremony on March 6.