On October 30, 1897, an African American newspaper published a sarcastic notice about the engagement of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore.
Paul Dunbar, they say, is to be married. The old question as to when a poet does his best work, prior or subsequent to his marriage, may again be agitated. We do not desire to be discouraging, but the ghost of Byron, Shelley and Milton are conjured up at the thought of a poet's wife. We bid him cheer and God speed in this most poetical (?) undertaking.
"Paul Dunbar; Shelley; God." The Freeman (Indianapolis, Indiana). October 30, 1897. Page 4.
The poets mentioned all had unsuccessful relationships: the marriage of Lord Byron was brief and unhappy, Percy Shelley's relationship with Mary Shelley was full of scandal, and John Milton's teenage bride left him after a month. Weeks earlier, another African American newspaper had teased Paul and Alice about their plans for marriage.
Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar will shortly marry Miss Alice Ruth Moore, of New Orleans, which is all very well and proper; but think of the job the printers will have, after her marriage, when Miss Moore writes several stanzas of poetry, and subscribes her name at the bottom of them thus: "Alice Ruth Moore-Dunbar!"
The Herald (Leavenworth, Kansas). October 16, 1897. Page 2.
Both Paul and Alice expressed frustration over how their relationship was mentioned in the press. Alice was especially concerned about what was written by John Edward Bruce, a newspaper publisher who used the pen name Bruce Grit.
I heard that the engagement was announced in the paper that Bruce Grit and Anderson are running during the campaign. I hope it isn't true. I would dislike anything of that sort, and in such a political sheet too!
Alice Ruth Moore to Paul Laurence Dunbar, October 10, 1897. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
The enclosed came to me this morning. I shall be sorry if the farfetched and rather unnecessary coupling of our names is distasteful to you. But it was done entirely without my consent, wish or foreknowledge.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, December 15, 1897. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 5).
Oh but my thoughts have been gloomy! No wonder my letters were horrid. When that far-fetched coupling of our names came out in the Philadelphia Ledger I trembled for the annoyance you would feel but preferred to have it come from me rather than someone else.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, December 16, 1897. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 5).