March 7 - An American Writer in London

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On March 7, 1897, Paul Laurence Dunbar in London wrote a passionate letter to his fiancée Alice Ruth Moore in Brooklyn.  Paul was in England for a recital tour and to find an English publisher for his book Lyrics of Lowly Life.  On the night before he left the United States, Paul and Alice met in person for the first time and they became engaged.

You took my heart captive at once.  I yielded without a struggle, and how glad I am of my full surrender. I would rather be your captive than another woman's king.  You have made life a new thing to me -- a precious and sacred trust.  I will love you as no man has ever loved before.  I am longing and yearning for you, for the sound of your voice, the touch of your hand, the magic of your presence, the thrill of your kiss.  This love of ours was predestined.  I am writing wildly, my dear, but I am not stopping to think.  My head has retired and it is my heart and my pen for it.  You do not leave my thoughts.  Alice, Alice, how I love you!

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, March 7, 1897.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 5).

While Paul was overseas, he wrote to Alice frequently and she occasionally sent letters in response.  Paul suggested that Alice, along with his mother Matilda, join him in England.

My time is pleasantly spent and among agreeable people.  We talk of you very much and your name is a household word here.  My friend and companion is a young Mrs. Downing who is very sympathetic.  She is constantly wishing that you were here and making great plans for our future when you are with me in England.  Your letters have been such a help and stimulant to me that I cannot sufficiently thank you for them.  I look for one in every American mail and am greatly disappointed when they do not come.  Through the long nights I think of you and fancy you here with me in my beautiful room or I loll on the rug before my grate and gaze at your dear face in the fire.  Oh if I can only make you mine, I shall be the happiest of men.  I love you too much to make you unhappy in any way.  But darling, my own darling, my soul yearns for you and always will.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, March 26, 1897.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 5).

My love seems to grow stronger day by day, and I yearn for you more and more.  I shall not stay the whole year if I can help it, because I want to come back to the arms of my little girl. All my plans are made now in reference to you.  You are part of all my hopes and ambitions.  I love you deeply, seriously, passionately.  It is not a love that will change or grow cold.  Even the fogs of London cannot chill it.  If I could send for you and my mother later on would you come over with her?  Now remember this is only a dream but it is taking complete possession of me.  I have a lady friend (married) whom you could visit and if you would come we should all have a most glorious time together.  What could be the matter with marrying over here anyway?  But I suppose you would want to marry in America -- well I'd rather also -- anywhere just so I get you at last.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, April 23, 1897.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 5).

Paul intended to remain in England for a year, but soon grew disillusioned with his London lifestyle.  Writing candidly to an American friend, Paul compared himself to Thomas Chatterton, an eighteenth-century British poet who committed suicide.

I am not tired of writing, but I am tired of trying to sell, and running about acting as a curiosity.  I know that you are acquainted with London and so there is nothing I can tell you about this great dingy hive.  One thing, I can work here, because the constant gloom and frequent rains well accord with my mood.  Away up in my high room, where my manager has seen fit to place me, with a glimpse of gray sky and grimy back walls -- a prospect no brighter than my own -- I know how Thomas Chatterton felt, and feel as he did, only less brave and decisive.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Dr. F., March 15, 1897.  "Unpublished Letters of Paul Laurence Dunbar to a Friend."  The Crisis (New York, New York).  June 1920.  Page 73.