Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 8, 1834

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 8, 1834



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 8, 1834

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Albany, NY

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: rag 

revision: ekk 2015-08-21

Page 1

Albany Monday night. Dec 8. Dearest, Although I have written you a full page to day, I cannot retire without re-
viewing what has become to me from recent circumstances a more pleasant duty than ever. I was alarmed by the
arrival of your Friday's letter so soon after the one which I acknowledged yesterday. I tried not to hope that
it had been called out by the peculiar spirit of the letters I had more recently written. The first line how-
ever dispelled my fears concerning Fred
Birth: 1830-07-08 Death: 1915-04-25
and I read it as I have since read it many times with a sub-
dued and grateful heart. It found me ready to listen to thoughts and counsels which have until
lately been only welcome because they were yours. It inflamed a passion for change of feelings and
aspirations, where I prefer that the change shall be the work of reason and reflection. If I know
my own thoughts and motives I have been led into my present state of mind not by mortifica-
tion, disappointment, or chagrin of any kind for any cause. Least of all has that which
would most obviously appear to be the cause had any agency. On the other hand I have
seldom perhaps never been more equal in spirits more contented more cheerful than
since I left home. But I have continually contemplated the change in occupation associa-
tions and aspirations which were now before me, and I have done so with the sincere
desire to know and pursue the path of duty in all my relations. This has naturally led
me to regard with the interest it deserved our relation to each other, and to reflect how far
I had fallen short of the duties I owed you, and all the other feelings I have expressed have
cause as you will readily understand from the view thus taken. It was natural enough that
the heart disburthened of the load of care, responsibility, and ambition, should censure its
power, and yearn again more strongly to that which has so long been its sister. And yet my
sense of injustice told me that I had no right, I ought not, to look to that neglected source of
sympathy without first atoning for the wrongs already committed. I found them grievous
enough to alarm me, and what most alarmed me my dearest was, that whereas once
I felt that it was a source of apprehension that the Union of our spirits might be severed
by death, I had for a long time barely endured or tolerated your occasional appeals to
that desire. But for this I saw there could be no change unless I came to you instead of asking
you to come to me. Your feelings I knew were as right as your motives are pure and pious. I
feel self reproach because I dare not ask you to share my doubts and indifference. While I
have no good reason to give for refusing to participate in your hopes and faith which ^can^ alas
not lead us so far astray in regard to future results, and at the same time are sure to bestow
cheerfulness and happiness upon the present state of existence. My dearest Frances. I have
always loved you, as the best and chief of my affections. I have been led afar off by an ambition
which has only this mitigation that it was neither sordid nor selfish. But depress that passion
break it or disappoint all its aspirings, and my heart turns to you possibly with less than
its original force but still with all the energy that is left to it to exert toward any object. I now
see clearly that I must not hope to preserve your love in the measure necessary to my happi-
ness, if my own heart and character grow more worldly while yours become more and
more pure and heavenly. I would now, as I always would, be unwilling to ask or expect
your love but by endeavoring to be worthy of it. And I see full well I cannot be worthy unless
I become less grovelling in my aspirations. Heaven only knows whether I can become a Christian.
That I ought, I know and feel. But it seems to me that it is a world, very, very adverse to
such a purpose. Duties, labors, cares, pursuits, how necessary! yet how absorbing! are before
and around me. They will not excuse, and yet they may embarrass me—they must embarrass
me. Your love can be my guide, my support, in producing the state of mind and feeling proper
for asking that grace which is indispensable to the first step. Does that love continue strong enough
to undertake the task, and to preserve it. I feel the necessity for its aid. I feel at this moment,
as I have all along, that, if this important change is to be wrought in my heart, I shall, I
must, in a humble and not irreverent sense owe it to you. I wish to know how far I am now
the object of that same devoted confiding and engrossing attachment on your part I was in my
better days. I should despair of every thing were I to feel that I am less rich in this wealth.
Page 2

Tuesday night. My dearest Frances, Rathbun
Birth: 1802-10-16 Death: 1870-01-04
sent up to me this morning Hannah Moores letters and life
Author: William Roberts Publisher: Harper & Brothers Place of Publication:New York City Date: 1834
. I have
commenced reading them, and, lest I might forget the topic, I make it the first in this letter. Although
these letters are imbued with all that religious feeling, which, I am ashamed to acknowledge, have
always as effectually deterred me from the perusal
To read with attention • To observe; to examine with careful survey •
of the works of Hannah Moore as from that
of Young's night thoughts
Author: Edward Young Publisher: Benjamin Johnson et al Place of Publication:Philadelphia Date: 1805
, I have found ^in^ them the most fascinating book I have opened for many years.
They are full of bright flashing wit, interesting anecdote, and correct conceptions of character, and
of the characters of many of the most illustrious men and women of England during the period when
Birth: 1709-09-07 Death: 1784-12-13
 Death: 1788-08-14
Birth: 1729-01-12 Death: 1797-07-09
 Death: 1779-01-20
 Death: 1800-08-25
Birth: 1743-06-20 Death: 1825-03-09
&c poured such a flood of Glory upon
that great nation. The universal and perpetual reading of Boswells Life of Johnson
Author: James Boswell Publisher: Carter, Hendee and Co. Place of Publication:Boston Date: 1832
it one of the most interesting books ever written. Think how much more so must be a similar
work in which Hannah More is the observer and scribe of that actings and doings of so many
brilliant geniuses. I have raised your expectations of this book, because I know I can do it
safely. I have it ready and shall send it to you by the first conveyance which offers. If I were
only sure I could return within three weeks I am so selfish that I would keep it until my return so
that I might enjoy the pleasure of reading it for and with you. Perhaps I may be indebted to
your affliction of sore eyes for more of that happiness than even your liberality would otherwise
allow me. I have another assurance of pleasure in relation to this book. It is that our dear
Birth: 1769-11-27 Death: 1844-12-11
and your father
Birth: 1772-04-11 Death: 1851-11-13
will equally enjoy its perusal. And so you may say to them
for me. The latter will be satisfied with this evidence that the book will greatly interest
him. Henry R. Storrs
Birth: 1787-09-03 Death: 1837-07-29
asked me if I had seen Hannah Mores Life? On my replying in the neg–
ative. Get it said he it is a wonderful book, it is glorious." Your father will understand
the peculiar value to him of this testimony.
I called on Dr Williams
Birth: 1812-05-12 Death: 1882
to day and stated to him the strange symptoms of Fred's
affliction. He says that it cannot be in any respect rheumatic. He describes it as Neu–
ralagy, and says it affords no ground for alarm. It will wear off of itself. But that it
requires a little attention to his digestive organs and that local applications will be of
use. He concurred in the opinion I had before communicated to you of the danger of ad–
ministering Iodine to so tender a child, but recommends an external application of it.
I have nothing of importance to record. I went this evening to call upon Mr Van
Birth: 1762-12-05 Death: 1837-01-06
who has been ten days very ill of a quinzy. I found him convalescent and sit-
ting in his office. He parted with me with reluctance and not until I had prom–
ised to spend the evening with him. Accordingly I went this evening and had a long
sitting. He is a wonderfully great and good man. So honest so faithful so affectionate and
withal so dignified! On my return at 9 I found Weed
Birth: 1797-11-15 Death: 1882-11-22
here. Jennings
Birth: 1793-08-23 Death: 1841-02-24
has been never
so much with us that we make a pleasant party in your parlor. How much it would
add to the happiness of us all if you could be a fifth.
The Court of Errors have to day decided that they will take a recess from Thursday
next (the day after tomorrow) for about eight or ten days. As I have previously intima-
ted, Uncle Cary
Birth: 1787-08-11 Death: 1869-06-20
and I will go down the river and probably to Orange County. Weed
cannot stay here and of course goes to New York to be there with us. All this dearest
is upon the expectation that I receive one letter from you before Thursday night assu–
ring me that it is not necessary I return home. I must confess to you that my motives
for going to New York have greatly changed. A paramount purpose was to see
and converse with my political friends. But I have become so wearied of the duties
I have to discharge in visiting politicians and conversing with them that I have to seek
another paramount object. That which answers this purpose is to get my ill favored visage
copied upon a piece of ivory for you as a memento of my revived heart. How deeply do I regret
that I cannot have your beloved countenance copied at the same time to wear always near its
own home. But that must be done next spring. And now dearest we part for another night. There is one less
day between us.
Page 3

Thursday morning. My dear Frances, It is with no slight degree of pain that I have determined to leave town with
out having another letter from you, but the steam boat goes only in the evening, and if I should not go to night
I should be detained here an entire day. The Court having taken their recess I go immediately to Florida
in order to wind up all the matters and accomplish all the purposes I have there and in New York so as to
return to Albany before the river closes, if possible. Your letters will be forwarded to New York. Mr Cary
goes with me. Our present intention is to go tomorrow to Goshen and Florida, spend Saturday Sunday
and Monday there and then the remainder of the week and perhaps one or two days of the ensuing
week in New York. Do not entertain any apprehensions my beloved one that the impressions and feelings
which have of late marked my correspondence will fade during my journeyings. They will rather be revived.
It has not been easy to decide on going South instead of throwing myself on Saturday night into your
chamber. But there is scarcely a necessity to justify my journeying to Auburn to be here again within 13
days. Your affection will go with me every where, and I shall at no time be so far seduced from holier pur-
poses and feelings as to become dissipated
To scatter; to disperse; to separate into parts and disappear • To expend; to squander; to scatter property in wasteful extravagance • To scatter the attention •
in thought. I shall write as frequently as I now do, although
you must expect some interruption in the transmission of letters. This letter is a day behind its proper
time. The Court of Errors met at nine yesterday and adjourned at nine at night. Besides this employ-
ment or rather instead of a part of it, Mr Cary and myself dined at R.H Kings
Birth: 1795 Death: 1867-07-09
, ^with^ a dinner party con-
vened as a compliment to us. I the more willingly omitted to write because I hoped I might have a
letter from you. The party at Kings was much the same as at Townsend
Birth: 1783-06-14 Death: 1854-08-26
's and was very pleasant
and intelligent. Mrs King
Birth: 1805-05-29 Death: 1878-01-10
presided with great grace and dignity.
This is the thanksgiving day. I regret that your ill health will not permit you to enter into the
ceremonies of its public worship or the festivities of its domestic celebration. I do not know whether
I will be able to go to Church. I have my affairs to put into order for leaving town and must
moreover return some long neglected calls.
Jennings and Weed went to New York last evening together.
Birth: 1793-06-17 Death: 1859-09-12
remains here during the recess which will continue until the 24th.
I have obtained a co[ py of ]


Reason: wax-seal
averica's French Grammar
Author: M. de Levizac Publisher: Evert Duyckinck Place of Publication:New York City Date: 1827
, with which, if I can adopt any system a[ s ]


Reason: wax-seal

will enable me to sp[ end a ]


Reason: wax-seal
ny evenings at home, I can greatly and pleasantly facilitate your impr[ ove- ]


Reason: wax-seal

ment in that language, [ whi ]


Reason: wax-seal
le I advance my own. Although you can scarcely avail yourself [ of ]


Reason: wax-seal

it alone, I have put i[ t i ]


Reason: wax-seal
n with Hannah Mores work and left it leave it to be forwarded
to you by the first conveyance which offers.
I thought I should have no further need to speak of the miniature I am to get at New York, but I must
once more. Will you write to me at New York care of B.JS. 205 Broadway, saying whether you prefer to have
it set in a book frame like the ill fated former one or in an open circular frame? or an open square frame.
I have just learned that the boat goes this afternoon at two o clock, which renders it necessary
that I close this letter and proceed to other preparation to be among its passengers. Kiss both the little
x Birth: 1830-07-08  Death: 1915-04-25  Birth: 1826-10-01  Death: 1876-09-11 
for their Papa who loves them very much. Remember me to all the family and to Lazette
Birth: 1803-11-01 Death: 1875-10-03
you write to her. Faithfully my dearest one I am your Henry.
Page 4

Mrs. William H. Seward


Type: postmark

Hand Shiftx

Frances Seward

Birth: 1805-09-24 Death: 1865-06-21
Henry Dec 8th