Letter from Frances Adeline Seward to Frances Miller Seward, Feburary 11, 1864

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Letter from Frances Adeline Seward to Frances Miller Seward, Feburary 11, 1864



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections


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Letter from Frances Adeline Seward to Frances Miller Seward, Feburary 11, 1864

action: sent

sender: Frances Seward
Birth: 1844-12-09  Death: 1866-10-29

location: Washington D.C., US

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

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: lxw 

revision: obm 2016-09-01


Page 1

Washington Feb. 11th 1864
My dearest Mother,
I expected a letter yes-
terday, and so was more pleased than
surprised when yours of Sunday
was handed me by Anna
Birth: 1836-03-29 Death: 1919-05-02
, who
also received your Monday one
at the same time. I was glad
to hear that you had safely accom-
plished the visit to Rochester. I
hope some time you and I may enjoy
together that quiet week with Kate
Birth: 1837 Death: 1878-04-08

& her family of which we have
talked so long. I know you[ r ]


was a pleasure to Kate & cheered
her in her troubles. I should
like to see the garden souvenir
which little Clara
gave you
for me. she is indeed a loveable
child and a great blessing,
even so young, to her mother. I
can imagine your annoyance
at the Rochester merchant's
advertisement. it is an almost
Page 2

unpardonable piece of impudence.
You must feel much better about
Anna Aunty
Birth: 1803-11-01 Death: 1875-10-03
, now that Rachel
is with her. Augustus
Birth: 1826-10-01 Death: 1876-09-11

has had a letter from Frances
Birth: 1826 Death: 1909-08-24
him of her proposed visit to N. York.
So Will
Birth: 1839-06-18 Death: 1920-04-29
and Jenny
Birth: 1839-11-18 Death: 1913-11-09
are coming.
Though it will be very pleasant
to look upon their dear faces,
I cannot help wishing they
were to stay at Auburn a
little longer. I dread to have
Will try camp life so soon
again and I dread to have
darling Nelly
Birth: 1862-09-11 Death: 1921-10-05
brought away
from home. But she weathered
last winter, and I trust she
may this. I added a line
to my Tuesday's letter yesterday
morning. Now I will begin
back at Tuesday afternoon,
or rather evening. when you
are to imagine us in the parlor,
receiving the seventeen guests
who constitute our dinner party.
Page 3

Birth: 1804 Death: 1892-01-26
& Mrs Stoeckl
Birth: 1826-05-03 Death: 1913
, Lord Lyons
Birth: 1817-04-06 Death: 1887-12-05
, Senator
Birth: 1811-02-08 Death: 1883-02-14

& Mrs Morgan
Birth: 1810-12-10 Death: 1885-03-26
& Miss Jarvis
, Sen-
Birth: 1802-05-31 Death: 1875-12-02
& Mrs Harris


& Miss Harris
Mr Blondeel
Birth: 1809-12-14 Death: 1872-09-13
, ^ Mr Romero
Birth: 1837 Death: 1898-12-30
Mr Murillo
Birth: 1816-01-01 Death: 1880-12-26
, Count
 Death: 1864
, Mr Parrega (Columbia)
Mr Eliot
Birth: 1829-12-14 Death: 1881-03-19
(British Legation) and
Count Piper
Birth: 1820 Death: 1891
& Mr Raasloff
Birth: 1815-11-06 Death: 1883-02-14
I went to the table with Col
Raasloff sitting between him
and Mr Parrega. The dinner
was like all dinners and
does not need a description.
my neighbors were both
gentlemanly and agreeable
Ellen was between Mr Parrega
and Count Giorgi, having come
to the table with the latter
Birth: 1836-03-29 Death: 1919-05-02
wore her bright blue silk
low neck. Ellen
Birth: 1844-09-14 Death: 1920-04-14
, her red, with
peasant waist I
my white and rose-color low
neck. After dinner the guests
remained sometime talking
in groups When the last one
Page 4

had said good evening we ran
upstairs for opera cloaks
to go to the President
Birth: 1809-02-12 Death: 1865-04-15
's levee. Just
as I was about to put mine
on Anna came in saying, the
"We have no carriage to go in
the coach-man has not come
to get it. Can you walk?"
We thought we could and
hastily changing my thin slippers
for a pair of gaiters, and my
opera cloak for a shawl, I ran
downstairs followed by ^with^ Ellen, in
her blanket shawl and over-
shoes. It was after ten. Henry
Birth: 1824-11-29 Death: 1894-11-05
had come to go with us
& was waiting in the library.
Birth: 1830-07-08 Death: 1915-04-25
led the way warning us
of gutters and mud puddles, we
leaped them energetically & the
whole procession, with Henry
in the rear, to take our
wrappings. reached the White
House blazing with gas lights. in
safety & un-muddied. Father
Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10

Page 5

Father was tired and did not
go. Fred took Anna, Henry ,
Ellen, and I followed in the
rear. After I had received
my usual friendly welcome
from the President and had
my gracious bow and word
from Mrs President
Birth: 1818-12-13 Death: 1882-07-16
. I stepped
a little to one side of that
lady, in order to give room
to those who were constantly
coming to speak to her. It
was so late that the rooms
were filled. I did not happen-
ed to see any one I knew
& was looking listlessly
around when ^I heard^ two pleasant
voices at my sides and without
thinking they belonged to any
acquaintances of mine (for in
the general hum they were
not loud enough to attract
attention) I unconciously
turned my head and found
myself standing beside Mr Curtis
Birth: 1824-02-24 Death: 1892-08-31

& Mrs Foster
Birth: 1800 Death: 1882-01
who were engaged
in a conversation. While I stood
Page 6

there Mr Stoddard Junior
Birth: 1840
and spoke with me and Mr Stoddard
the elder
Birth: 1835 Death: 1925
gave me a bland
smile & a gloved hand behind
Mrs Lincoln's white satin
& black lace back. Presently
Mrs Foster's conversation was
ended. Ecstatic moment! Mr
Curtis turned and saw me,
and knew me, and gave me
such a kind smile, such a
cordial shake of the hand in
such a friendly way, that
I felt as if I had known
him all my life, and in
a previous state of existence
besides. Forthwith began a
conversation so very, very delight-
ful that I scarcely know
how to tell you about it. It
was impossible to feel any
restraint with such a person -
and I let all my enthusiasm
loose I can assure you. Mr
Curtis had something so genial
Page 7

and kindly in his face, that
it at once won my confidence
and I felt sure that he would
understand what I said, &
however foolish he might
think me, would not
laugh at or misinterpret me
In my life I have very
rarely met with a person
who seemed so instantaneously
to know the most exact mean-
ing of what I said. In fact
he seemed to anticipate my
thoughts & questions. First
we spoke of the party the
night before and all its p best
points. I said I stayed for the
first time to see the "German, "
and couldn't help thinking
of the "Potiphar Papers
Author: George William Curtis Publisher: Dix, Edwards & Co. Place of Publication:New York City Date: 1856
." Mr C.
said he had not seen it
danced since those days was
It the same? I told him
all my ideas of it were from that
book and that assured him how
Page 8

admirably it fitted ^They did exactly so.^ He was very
glad that is was glad his des-
cription was truthful. Then it
was Oh how sorry. I had
been that he could not come
to dinner the same evening &
he was sorry too & explained an
engagement. Then it was
something from him, I believe,
about his not coming up-
stairs after dinner Monday
then from me. how much
disappointed I was that he
did not. I had two things
I wanted to mention. I had
a photograph of Majr Winthrop
Birth: 1828-09-22 Death: 1861-06-10

which I wished to show him
and ask if it was good. He
answered as if it were before
him "It is from a crayon
sketch by Mr Rowse
Birth: 1822-01-29 Death: 1901
in a 1857. If he were to
come into the room now, you
would say thatit was very much
flattered" and went on to
Page 9

explain. I cannot give his words I
wish I could. they were so exquisite
the idea he gave me was the
one which I have long imagined
The likeness was more spiritual
than physical more of expression
than feature. besides it was younger
more full of youthful animation.
He spoke beautifully of his dead
friend with all the beauty of
his written description enlivened
and intensified by his wonder-
ful voice. "It is with a brother
of his Capt. Winthrop
Birth: 1831-08-03 Death: 1899-04-08
"that I
am staying at the Offi Mess
on I st. He reminds me
of Theodore. he is not like him
except in that dece delecacy purity
and chivalry. I do not mean
that I like him for his brother's
sake for I like him for his
own." (I know that repetition
is mine not the speaker's but
I cannot think of the word he used.)
I asked if this brother were ^was^ not
Page 10

in Berdan’s
Birth: 1824-09-06 Death: 1893-03-31
Sharpshooters" Yes
You know him?" "No but I know
of him, though a friend." (Alice
Birth: 1842-08-01 Death: 1920
Mr Curtis in speaking
of Winthrop mentioned his
exceeding delecasy his "flower
like" tempesrament. When
he had stopped speaking of
him I said I had also hoped
to have his ^own^ autograph, written
on ^under^ a photograph which I had
but & which, by the by was
not a good one at all. "What
one is it? So it a 3/4 view. " "Yes"
What am I doing am I leaning
on a chair?" "I believe so."
"There are several of those each
one worse than the others. But
there are some taken from a
crayon sketch perhaps you would
not like the crayon sketch—"
"Ah yes I think I should"—
"There are some taken from that
When I go home I will see
if there are any left & send
Page 11

you one if there are. I expressed
my thanks, which were most
sincere. He had spoken previously
of the crayon sketch made I
believe by the same person
who drew Winthrop. We ^Mr C.^ called
it "very much flattered." of
himself. Next I spoke of
the lecture. I began in the
usual way, about enjoying
it very much but nature
would out & with one twist
of my fingers, I let the enthusiasm
go and said very earnestly that
I thought there were very few
things in all my life I had
enjoyed as much. He answered
me very pleasantly & expressed
himself pleased asked if
"Are you a politician Miss Seward—
— you would not be your
Father's daughter if I you
were not." I answered "I am
not a politician but I take
a very strong interest in
such matters. I cannot
help it." He asked if how
I liked the applause which
Page 12

greeted some ^ ^ & his^ sentiments. I could
not remember very distinctly,
& stammered "Most of it
very much" It was then I
think not before, that
he asked me about being
a politician. Ellen now
came up. Expressed her regret
at his not coming to dinner
he told us something about
his engagements, asked
if we had had a pleasant
dinner. "If you sat near
Col Raasloff of course you had."
"I said I had gone in to the table
with him. Ellen spoke of
the lecture & her disappoint-
ment in not going. I spoke
of Mr Curtis being in Auburn
& seeing you. "Oh yes that
was so pleasant." Ordinary
words, but said with earnest—
ness and depth. He enquired
particularly about Aunty’s health,
seemed to know how sick she
had been, & was very glad she
was better. I said you had
enjoyed seeing him very much.
He had enjoyed it too. "And then
Page 13

I liked to see your Father's house.”
"We hoped to have stay had you stay
in it."
I spoke of the lecture ^"Yes." with some ^ expression of ^regret.^ always coming
just after I leave home. He
answered as if he already knew
it and I said I had been.
almost decided to stay home
except ^but^ for Miss Perry
Birth: 1810 Death: 1877-01-07
's New
Year's Day in Washington.
He answered pleasantly.
but I am going too much
into detail. Presently Fred
came up & Col. Raasloff brought
Anna. Col. R. talked with
me. Mr Curtis turned to Fred
& asked the age of the White
House. Col. Raasloff lamented
the crowd, & that things were
not as they used to be. Mr
Curtis looked over to me with
a smile, and said " He sighs
for the old regime" Col. Raasloff
talked some time with me.
then with Ellen. I listened
to The Mr Curtis & Fred. Yankee
Doodle the signal for departure
Page 14

was played. Mr Curtis referred
to a memory of Rome which
it recalled. he turned to me
and asked if I had ever crossed
the been across the ocean.
"No, but I hope to go." "It
is very pleasant there." Then
he spoke of it in glowing
terms. Fred left me tête
a tête with Mr C . I said
much of the Howadji
Author: George Curtis Publisher: Harper & Bros. Place of Publication:New York Date: 1851
Curtis spoke of it. it seemed
now "So far away " ^Yes^ Iit was
like a dream". Told me how
he wrote those books, what
a pleasure it was to write
them. Ellen came up.
she spoke of the Howadji
and a dream connected
with it, He related a dream
of his own he was at
home and yet in the
east & received a note from
Fanny Kemble
Birth: 1809-11-27 Death: 1893-01-15
and Harriet
Birth: 1802-06-12 Death: 1876-06-27
inviting him to
come and take tea in their
boat on the Nile. We
had much sport about
that and the coupling of
Page 15

those antagonistic women. Speaking
of Mrs Kemble led me to speak ask
Mr C. if he knew Miss Cushman
Birth: 1816-07-23 Death: 1876-02-18
Slightly, not as well as his wife
Birth: 1836 Death: 1923-08-22
who met her in Rome. he spoke very
highly of Miss C. and somehow I suppose
he divined she was one of mine,—
began to talk of idols. first
he said we ought never to have
them among the living, the dead
could not contradict our opinions
but the living would always dis-
appoint us ^though it was very unjust of us to expect so much of human beings^ Just as Ellen asked
him if that was his experience
he seemed to take back much
that he had said and told us
that his own idols had been more
than satisfactory, etc. Somehow
he spoke of Thackeray
Birth: 1811 Death: 1863
, as if he
had been one of his. he went
on talking of him in the most
eloquent manner told us one of a
very touching story about his
benevolence & said that uncon-
ciously Thackeray had given very
Page 16

much a description of himself in the
character of Col Newcome & said
that Thackeray went about
treading on his own image. when-
ever ^he found^ people po inclined to praise
him he tried to make them think
him very bad. so great a detestation
had he of even the semblance
of flattery. He sot spoke beautifully
of Thackeray's character Said
that he did not wish the world
to be so bad, but that he described
it as he found it. He imagined
him saying to Becky Sharp - "I
pity you with all my heart
but I denounce you to the world".
He spoke of the deep tragedy of
that character. Continuing about
Thackeray he said, he saw this ^a^
young woman marry for money.
he wished it were not so, but
it was so & he wrote it down.
Something was said about
the false reputation. The
Page 17

wrong impression people had about
Thackeray during his lifetime.
Here I broke in with "HoBut how
beautifully his character is shown
already. it is only a month.
it's one of the most encourag-
ing things I know of." "Yes.”
a very cordial assent. I wish
I could remember more of
this about Thackeray. Some
how perhaps before this, we
got on the subject of Win-
throp again. Spoke of those
bright, beautiful letters. oh!
I remember Mr C. had
said something about "home"
& I asked if that was not
on Staten Island. He
said yes and spoke of
it as so pleasant. his
wife was very fond of the
country —did not like the
city— and he had to go
about so much. I said
Page 18

I knew it must be pleasant. “I
have very little idea of it except
that there are Wisterias there.
I remember that in Winthrop's
letter." "Yes." he answered
with a shade of sadness
passing over his face &
added softly, as if with
reverence to finish the quotation
"and little Tib." He spoke of
that ^brilliant^ letter of letter Winthrop's
which he received before any either
oth of the published "Seventh
Regt" Sketches were written.
He said Winthrop was thrilled,
or stirred ( I do not remember
the word)" ^then^ as we all were, by the
war." While we were speaking
of Winthop. he said "And
all those books were waiting
(or were written) and not
published"till I finished
the sentence with to "Yes,
that was so hard" "He
could not understand it,
nor I could not then
answered Mr C. and
Page 19

he said of said something about
this not being published till "
^or^ I finished the sentence with
"too late." All this was sadly
said and I ventured to add,
"but we hope he still knows
all about it" or some such
remark, and was rewarded
by a bright smile and an
instantaneous "Oh yes I have
no doubt about all that. "
Mr Curtis spoke of Meridian Hill
the camping ground of the 7h
and all those associations
of which I could speak with
deep interest. This is not
perhaps the exact order of
the conversation. But
pleasant, delightful, as it was
it must come to an end.
I am thinking of what Dicken's
Birth: 1812-02-07 Death: 1870-06-09

wrote in his first letter to Wash-
ington Irving
Birth: 1783-04-03 Death: 1859-11-28
and can fully
apply it to ^my part of^ this tête a tête.
Page 20

“I don't know what to say
first, or what to leave unsaid,
and am constantly disposed
to break off, and tell you
again how glad I am this
moment has arrived." The
levee was over, the crowd dispersing,
it was time to go. Mr Curtis
put out his hand, for ^with^ a kind
goodbye. As I took it I hurried
ito a breath " Mr Curtis, if
you f You wont forget the
photograph, if you have it."
Such a bright, charitable
smile! "No, I wont forget
it." He said good night
to ^Ellen &^ Anna, & escorted Mrs Dixon
Birth: 1820-07-01 Death: 1871-06-16

from the room. I have
felt all through this letter
what an impossible task
I had imposed on myself
in trying to describe this
conversation for in the
first place my memory
Page 21

is treacherous in regard to words,
and in the second the intonations
the exquisite shadings of that
almost magical voice, are quite
left out, to say nothing of
the emphasis of that speaking
face,. But I could not help wishing
you to enjoy with me a pleasure
so great. It is almost never in
this world where all things are
sent understood so indifferently
that I meet so ^one of those^ rare a persons
with whom instead of seeing,
"through a glass darkly" I
feel myself “face to face" Sure
of being understood and
of finding & ^sympathy^ soin the
highest sentiments of my
mind. Comprenez vous?
Yes, for you feel the same.
you "my affinity" with
whom I think instead of
speak you dearest Mother
whom I long so much to see.
Page 22

and I know you will agree
with me when I say
that I am rarely favored
this year in meeting
two people of whom among
the living some ^outside of^ my own
family I have the highest
opinion and the warmest
admiration. What can be
mer more encouraging than,
when one's expectations are
high, and one's requirements
numerous to find on meeting
such those so long admired
that they are more than one
thought nobler higher than
one imagined thant
"Man is nobler than men have been,
Souls are vaster than souls have dreamed.”
You will understand how
I feel strengthened, uplifted,
inspired with a higher purpose.
I am, I trust, truly grateful
to that kind Providence
which has permitted me
to meet within a few months
two worthy models two
Page 23

ideals fully realized. Charlotte
Cushman & George W. Curtis.
I send you something of which
I spoke in a previous letter
if some lines written the
morning after I heard Mr
Curtis lecture. before I had
met him at all. I think
they will serve to express to you
the sense of refreshed spirit
which I am enjoying. It is
pleasant to think that although
they were written before I talked
with him they are now even
more in earnest. Imagine
me full of the old literary fervor
and anxious to be at work, to
try hard & at the same
time "learn to labor & to wait,"
I mean, to improve in the
work which I cannot choose
but take and to keep quiet
I am full of hope that I may
yet make my life worth the living
Page 24

and be of some use in the world.
This long, long letter. what
will you say. Will you re-
member that it is your own
"little girl", all enthusiasm
& full of "earnest longing's
for the strife." For "These are
the days of motion and march.
Now we are young & ardent
and brave."
I must stop. I can scarcely
wait for the time that is to
restore you & I to each other
I am so delighted at the pros-
pect of your coming. Good
by dear Mother. I will send
this letter in the morning
With love to all. your own
Loving F.
Friday morning. All are well. I am
about to put up this very heavy letter
I wish it were worth the trouble
of reading. About the enclosed
writing, I feel inclined to apologize
for it's crudeness, its faulty measure, etc.
but I suppose. I scarcely need to apologize
or ^excuse^ to you. Please tell me how you like it.
Page 25

Mrs Frances A. Seward
N. York
Hand Shiftx

Frances Seward

Birth: 1805-09-24 Death: 1865-06-21
The Curtis Letter -
At the Presidents