September 23 - A Taste of the Single Life

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On September 23, 1898, Alice Moore Dunbar in New York City wrote to her husband Paul Laurence Dunbar in Washington, D. C.  At the time, the Dunbars were experiencing a long separation due to domestic conflict.  After living for two months with her mother and sister Leila near Boston, Alice decided to return to Paul.  On her way back to Washington, she stopped in New York to visit friends and former coworkers.  Alice's letter was written on stationery of the White Rose Mission, where she had taught kindergarten before her marriage.  She mentioned Samuel Scottron, her former supervisor in the Brooklyn public school system.

I arrived safely this morning after an uneventful trip.  Mama and Leila were dreadfully cut up over my leaving.  In fact it was quite funereal, and I felt mean at leaving.  The Mission is having festive jubilation today and tomorrow in my honor.  The children are wild to see me.  By the way, Mr. Scottron has offered me my school back if I want it.  I wonder if he thinks we are hard up.  Dear, I am very sorry you persist in being angry.  However, I shall hope for the best.

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

Alice's letter reveals her uncertainty about whether she and Paul would get along any better than before, but being apart from her husband for a long time had taught her some important lessons.

I never realized before how much you really are enwrapped in my heart, and if for nothing else, our being apart has been of incalculable benefit.  For I know now, come what may, I can never live apart from you, that my love for you is greater, deeper, stronger, truer than I imagined myself capable of feeling.  When I get home -- it is home where you, my husband, dwell -- I think I shall never want to leave again unless I go hand in hand with you.  And when I come to you, my darling, even though you may wish to brood and scold and punish me, this great love of mine which waxes stronger every day will disarm you and cause you to bless the circumstances that have revealed it to me.

Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, September 20, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

One reason for the Dunbars' separation was friction between Alice and Paul's mother Matilda, who lived with them in Washington.  Paul promised Alice he would keep Matilda away from Washington once she came home.  The Dunbars were reunited on September 25 and had a brief period together without Matilda.  On October 2, Paul wrote to his mother in Dayton and told her she could return to Washington.

I enclose to you my check for 20.00.  Come whenever you are ready, but be sure to telegraph or write me when you will arrive.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Matilda Dunbar, October 2, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).