historical letter

My Own Boy,

Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-roseleaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days. Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place and lacks only you; but go to Salisbury first.

Always, with undying love,

Yours, Oscar

—  Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas
The poet sees a bruise and compares it to their lover’s lips.
The poet presses their fingers into the blue heart of it and laughs between mouthfuls of aspirin. The poet cringes at the idea
of a closed door but stays  rmly on the other side of it.
The poet is not ashamed because shame would be too easy.
The poet throws a blown glass pipe across the room just to see
it shatter. The poet thinks destruction is simple.
Picking up the broom and apologizing
to the glass is what’s hard.
Some days, I am the glass.
Some days, you are.
Either way, we shatter.

From Allen Ginsberg to Peter Orlovsky

this is from my latest book No Matter the Time,

a collection of love letters between historical couples,

which you can buy on Amazon here


I love you, I love you, my heart is a rose which your love has brought to bloom, my life is a desert fanned by the delicious breeze of your breath, and whose cool springs are your eyes; the imprint of your little feet makes valleys of shade for me, the odour of your hair is like myrrh, and wherever you go you exhale the perfumes of the cassia tree.

Love me always, love me always. You have been the supreme, the perfect love of my life; there can be no other.

—  Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas, 20 May 1895
Letter of Henry VII to the Mayor and Citizens of Waterford concerning Perkin Warbeck, 1497.

Originally posted by marystewart

“Trusty and well beloved, we greet you, and have received your writing, bearing date the first day of this instant month; whereby we conceive that Perkin Warbeck came unto the Haven of Cork the 25th day of July last passed, and that he intendeth to make sail thenee towards our county of Cornwall: for the which your certificate in this part, and for the true minds that you have always borne towards us, and now especially for the speedy sending of your said writing which we received the 5th day of this said month, in the morning, we give unto you our right hearty thanks, as we have singular cause so to do; praying you of your good perseverance in the same, and also to send unto us by your writing such news from time to time as shall be occurrent in those parts; whereby you shall minister unto us full good pleasure to your semblable thanks hereafter, and cause us not to forget your said good minds unto us in any your reasonable desires for time to come.

Given under our signet, at our manor of Woodstock, the 6th day of August.

Over this we pray you to put you in effectual diligence for the taking of the said Perkin, and him so taken to send unto us; wherein you shall not only singularly please us, but shall have also for the same, in money counted, the sum of a thousand marks sterling for your reward; whereunto you may verily trust, for so we assure you by this our present letter, and therefore we think it behoveful that you set forth ships to the sea for the taking of Perkin aforesaid. For they that take him, or bring or send him surely unto us, shall have undoubtedly the said reward. 

                                                                                             Henricus Rex.

Found/Seen at:  “Letters of the Kings of England, now first collected from royal archives, and other authentic sources private as well as public. Edited with an historical introduction and notes by James Orchard Halliwell.” Pages: 174/175

Jordan Anderson or Jourdon Anderson (1825 – 1907) was an African-American former slave noted for a letter he dictated, known as “Letter from a Freedman to His Old Master”

It was addressed to his former master, Colonel P. H. Anderson, in response to the Colonel’s request that Jordan return to the plantation to help restore the farm after the disarray of the war. It has been described as a rare example of documented “slave humor” of the period and its deadpan style has been compared to the satire of Mark Twain.

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To my Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdan, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday-School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost- Marshal- General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve, and die if it comes to that, than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

P.S.—Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant, Jourdan Anderson


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri, July 4, 1908

It was originally believed that the person who sent the bottle of poisoned ale to Dr. Wilson was a man named Frederick Geis, Jr. whose wife, Bess, had died following a botched abortion preformed by the doctor. Fred’s family didn’t even know he’d married Bess, but he claimed they had married secretly in another city (using false names) simply to save her position as school teacher, as at the time teachers had to be spinsters or give up their jobs. Presumably that’s at least part of the reason why Bess had to have the abortion as well. 

The doctor received a bottle purported to be sent as an advertisement for a new type of ale which it was hoped, if he enjoyed it, he would recommend to his “patients and friends”. The brewery it was said to have come from told police that they didn’t use typewriters in making their labels, that the letterhead was not their own, and that they didn’t even make ale. Detectives found the shop where the special “S” key for the type was purchased but not the man who purchased it. 

The express clerk who received the package was also sent an anonymous letter telling him to “go slow, indeed, in identifying anybody in the matter. It would be awful to send anyone to the gallows for putting such an infernal rascal as Wilson out of business”.

Frederick was arrested for killing the doctor in revenge for his wife’s death but was released when it came to light that the bottle had been sent to Dr. Wilson before Bess had died (there was a mix up with the dates, confusing the American system with the European, reading the date as the month and vise-versa). Fred’s arrested came a day or two after this article was published and he was released by July 7th.

On the first anniversary of the doctor’s death a package was mailed to the police from the killer, which included the special “S” keys used to type the bottle’s label, as well as a piece of wood bearing the same hammer impression which was used to package the bottle of ale.

 An article in the The Cincinnati Enquirer written July 16, 1916 shows there was still no clue as to who might have sent Dr. Wilson the poisoned ale.

what’s this?–is it possible?–what visions are coming before my ears, what am I hearing with my eyes?–A letter from–I am rubbing my eyes until they hurt–the letter is–the devil take me † god protect me †–it’s from you!

A fantastically passive-aggressive letter from Mozart to his friend, Gottfried von Jacquin.

AKA: When your friend takes 3 hours to reply to your text.

Translation by Robert Spaethling.
The messages of the gods to each other travel not by pen and ink and indeed your bodily presence here would not make you more real: for I feel your fingers in my hair, and your cheek brushing mine. The air is full of the music of your voice, my soul and body seem no longer mine, but mingled in some exquisite ecstasy with yours. I feel incomplete without you.
—  Oscar Wilde to Constance Wilde, 16 December 1884

Are we looking at the key to Alexander Hamilton’s secret correspondence? Perhaps. This grille cipher was found among Hamilton’s papers after his death, but the question of if or how the late general ever used it remains unanswered. In the letter, Nathaniel Pendleton, who served as Hamilton’s second in the infamous duel, is asking Evan Jones, whose name appeared on the envelope containing the grille, if he might be able to remember anything about the object’s intended use. 

Grille cipher. The Nathaniel Pendleton Papers, MS 483. New-York Historical Society.

Nathaniel Pendleton. Letter to Evan Jones. November 5, 1808. The Nathaniel Pendleton Papers, MS 483. New-York Historical Society.