Lot 52    

Antebellum Love Letters Between a Virginia Plantation Owner and a Young Widow
2009, Winter American History, Dec 9
Littleton Waller Tazewell Wickam and Elizabeth Peyre Laurens Love letters, 1853-1854; 27 letters. Letters 20-24 are unique in terms of postal history.

Tazewell, Peyre, Laurens, Ashby, Litteton: the names alone evoke plantation culture in the antebellum south. This collection of 27 letters comes from a courting couple in antebellum Virginia who between them sported all those names (and more!). Born in 1821 into privilege and enormous social connection, Littleton W.T. Wickham was the son of the distinguished Constitutional lawyer John Wickham and was named for one of his father's closest friends, L.W. Tazewell (who had represented Virginia in the Congress and Senate and as governor). A graduate of the University of Virginia, Wickham built a successful legal practice in New Orleans, but after the death of his first wife, Eliza, in 1850, the spent more and more time in the Old Dominion, eventually returning to live there shortly before the Civil War.

Wickham's business affairs demanded regular travel between Virginia, New Orleans, and Charleston, placing him in an odd situation when he began courting the widow Elizabeth Peyre (Ashby) Laurens in 1853. This collection includes nearly twenty letters written by the couple during their extended courtship in 1853-1854. Written in increasingly intimate style, at times joking, at times deeply longing, the letters offer wonderful insight into the rituals of courtship among two experienced courtiers. Whether joking about sending slipper through the mail -- a sign of intimacy, no doubt -- or musing about their separation, both Wickham and Laurens maintain a delicate balance between decorum and desire.

In a typical letter, Elizabeth chides Littleton for saying that she might actually prefer a letter to his visit in person: "No indeed," she writes, "but next to seeing you what could give me as much pleasure as having from you. To see before me, traced by your own hands those words so precious to woman's heart, I love you, coming from the one most dear to her. And when I feel that you are away, and I am lonely, I turn again to your letter, and my heart is cheered by the pleasure it brings. So do not deem it a foolish fancy of mine, which is not to be indulged...." [Elizabeth to Littleton, September 29, 1854]

Two weeks later, she rues the fact that without Littleton around, she has little interest in going out and socializing: "I have neither the inclination or energy to walk without you. I do go sometimes when I know that I require it, but not for pleasure. Now that you are away I would rather sit in my own room, thinking of you Darling until again I fancy myself sitting near you with your arms around me, and again, I hear the quick beating of your precious heart. And although I know alas that it is but a delusion of fancy, it is not sweeter to me than to commune with you in spirit, than to sit in the presence of others." [Elizabeth, Oct. 17, 1854]

Littleton's letters are equally passionate and he fulfills his end of the courtship in grand Victorian (and Southern) fashion: "My dear Lizzie you asked me if in your absence I should miss you. Miss you? I could enjoy nothing without you. The glorious views in the passage of the Blue Ridge were insipid because you were not their to participate in the pleasure, and this moment just arrived from my journey, my first thought is to talk to you and tell how I miss, how I love, how I long for you...."

The collection includes a small number of letters in addition to those between Wickham and Laurens. Among these is a series of five letters regarding the sale of the Richmond estate of Wickham's mother, Elizabeth Selden McClurg. In addition to a long account of bottling up and distributing the wine in the cellar of the estate, the most interesting letter is one from Wickham's oldest (half-)brother from Hanover Court House, May 1854, noting that the estate had netted nearly $56,000 at sale -- $11,000 higher than the highest estimate. In discussing the dispersal of the estate, William Wickham writes revealing about another class of profitable property: "The servants I have mostly disposed of on reasonable terms, according to their own choice, & I was glad to be able to do so. Tom I have told to look for a situation among respectable persons, & that I should require no pay for his services. His good conduct & his attention to his old master entitle him to this indulgence. Shall he be in want, from age or infirmity, he must be provided for. I would have done the same for Mary, but of her own accord she got a man named Robert to buy her for $200. I thought it best to let her decide for herself. She has probably purchased herself in his name."

One note in the collection summarizes Civil War service in the 20th Battalion Virginia Artillery, their surrender under R. S. Ewell at Sailers Creek, and six weeks imprisonment at Point Lookout; and the collection also includes a partial essay on the passing of the Old South and birth of the New South, written after about 1898. Both of these items are worn, with the latter separated into six pieces and incomplete.

A superb collection revealing the intimate practice of courtship among the plantation elite of Virginia. Well written, cultured, and insightful, the letters are in fine condition with comparatively little wear, except as noted. Most letters are folded sheets with stamps and postal markings or include the envelopes.
Sold: $1,116.25
Price includes
Buyer's Premium
      Ask a Question

All Images

don't miss

an opportunity to bid. You can't win if you're not in.

sign up to bid

what's it worth?

ask the experts

sell your item

start selling
L.A. Huffman Photograph of A Buffalo Family
Lot # 371 - L.A. Huffman Photograph of A Buffalo Family
A hand-colored photograph titled A Buffalo Family, North Montana Prairies 1879 and signed in ink by L.A. Huffman along lower margin, 7.5 x 9.75 in. (sight), framed, 8.5 x 10.75 in. > Item Details
Civil War Archive of Capt. Henry T. Dudley, 15th and 20th Massachusetts Infantry
Lot # 165 - Civil War Archive of Capt. Henry T. Dudley, 15th and 20th Massachusetts Infantry
POW. Capt. Henry T. Dudley Papers, 1861-1906. 143 letters (134 war-date, nearly all soldier's letters); 26 documents; Memoir of experiences in 20th Mass. (manuscript and 13p. typescript); 12 post-war diaries (mostly 16mo or 32mo diaries of Lucy Dudley); 95 photographs Memorabilia including cribbage... > Item Details
Major David S. Hoyt's Manuscript Account of Western Indians,
Lot # 123 - Major David S. Hoyt's Manuscript Account of Western Indians,
27pp, 8 x 10", most sheets held with a single string "binding." Front has note: Deerfield, June 23, 1860. Mr. Eastman The enclosed sketches of Indian character, and history, are found among the manuscripts left by the late Maj. D.S. Hoyt of Kansas memory. If you deem them of sufficient content you a... > Item Details
Glenn Curtiss Collection of Early Aviation Photographs
Lot # 226 - Glenn Curtiss Collection of Early Aviation Photographs
Lot of 170+ real photo postcards and silver gelatin photographs related to early aviation, primarily the work of aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss (1878-1930), founder of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. The lot features a folio Scrap Book containing 70+ real photo postcards, dating from 190... > Item Details
American Jewish Indian Trader Julius Meyer and Sioux Chiefs
Lot # 268 - American Jewish Indian Trader Julius Meyer and Sioux Chiefs
By Frank F. Currier, Omaha, Nebraska. An exceptionally rare 8 x 10 in. albumen photograph taken in Omaha in May, 1875. Standing from left to right are interpreters Louis Bordeaux, William Billy Garnett, and Julius Meyer (1839-1909). Seated are Sitting Bull (Miniconjou), Swift Bear (Arapahoe), Spott... > Item Details
<i>Allard Herd, 1892</i> Montana Photograph
Lot # 372 - Allard Herd, 1892 Montana Photograph
Photograph of a herd of buffalo titled below image Allard Herd, 1892. / Foot of Mission Range, Flathead Valley (Montana), 11.5 x 17.75 in., matted, framed, and glazed, 22.5 x 28.5 in. In the early 1800s, great herds of bison containing upwards of 50 million animals wandered over North America's prai... > Item Details
John Pierce Folding Knife,
Lot # 211 - John Pierce Folding Knife,
5.25" spear point blade with stag handles. Marked John Pearce Sheffield. > Item Details
General William Mahone, CSA, Collection of Family Portraits
Lot # 126 - General William Mahone, CSA, Collection of Family Portraits
a lot of photographs descended directly through the family of Confederate General William Mahone, including the following: two cdv albums, the first containing 34 cdvs and cdv-sized tintype portraits, many identified, with an index in the back, featuring several members of the Bohon family, many wit... > Item Details
Olive Oatman, Indian Captive, CDV
Lot # 237 - Olive Oatman, Indian Captive, CDV
A cdv portrait of Olive Oatman, with Powelson's Rochester, NY imprint on verso. Oatman (1837-1903) was captured by the Yavapai in Arizona at the age of 13 and was then sold to the Mojave. She was tattooed on her chin, marking her as a slave. She was ransomed at Fort Yuma in 1856, and thereafter live... > Item Details
Lincoln's Funeral Train in Cleveland, OH, CDV
Lot # 30 - Lincoln's Funeral Train in Cleveland, OH, CDV
Exterior view of Lincoln's funeral in Cleveland, OH featuring the tent pavilion in which his coffin was displayed, with J.F. Ryder / Cleveland, O backmark. > Item Details
Scarce Cabinet Card of <i>Crow King</i>, Little Big Horn Chief
Lot # 241 - Scarce Cabinet Card of Crow King, Little Big Horn Chief
By Gilbert and Miller. Albumen portrait with inked identification on mount, Crow King - Sioux Chief. Notation on back, in ink, Gilbert & Miller, Mandan D.T. Zalmon Gilbert and Miller operated their studio in Mandan from 1883-1885. > Item Details
<i>Old Apache War Chief Photograph by A.F. Randall" width="224" />
Apache War Chief Photograph by A.F. Randall">Lot # 297 - Old "Nana" Apache War Chief Photograph by A.F. Randall
An albumen print 4.6 x 7.75 in. on boudoir mount 5.25 x 8.5 in. Identified in the negative, Old "Nana" / The Famous Apache Chiricahua. Randall's printed copyright notice, dated May 16, 1884 is appended to the back. Nana (ca 1800-May 19, 1896) was an important Mimbres Apache leader. One of his... > Item Details
Log Cabin Hunting Scene Oil Painting
Lot # 93 - Log Cabin Hunting Scene Oil Painting
oil on canvas. A naive depiction of two men landing a bark canoe in front of a log cabin, housed in gilt oval frame; 25 x 21.5 in. (sight), 31 x 24 in. (w/frame). AUCTIONEER'S NOTE: It has been called to our attention that this painting bears a striking resemblance to a Currier & Ives print titled T... > Item Details
Alexander Stephens' Family Photograph Archive Including Slave Portraits
Lot # 125 - Alexander Stephens' Family Photograph Archive Including Slave Portraits
Collection of 17 cased images of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, family members, and slaves, which descended through Stephens' heirs via Mary Corry, his great niece. Corry was a regular visitor to Stephens’ home, Liberty Hall, located in Crawfordville, GA, and was affectionately know... > Item Details
Confederate <i>D-Guard</i>
Lot # 208 - Confederate D-Guard
14.25 in. spear point blade, Iron D guard with S-shaped guard. Wood handles. > Item Details
Uniformed Oil Portrait of Stonewall Jackson
Lot # 195 - Uniformed Oil Portrait of Stonewall Jackson
A 3/4 profile portrait of General Stonewall Jackson in uniform, reputed to have hung in the South Carolina capital building; 26.5 x 35.75 in., framed, 36.25 x 45.25 in. This painting appears to be based upon Jackson's Chancellorsville portrait, taken by a photographer from the Richmond Studio of Min... > Item Details
[CIVIL WAR] Hunton, Eppa
Lot # 187 - [CIVIL WAR] Hunton, Eppa
Autobiography of Eppa Hunton. Richmond (VA): The William Byrd Press, Inc., 1933. No. 8/100 of a limited edition signed by Eppa Hunton IV (son?) on the half-title. Also inscribed to Dr. Rufus W. Weaver and signed on the front endpaper. 8vo, blue cloth with gilt lettering front and spine. Plus R. F. &... > Item Details
Northfield Robbers Composite CDV
Lot # 380 - Northfield Robbers Composite CDV
Albumen composite photograph featuring six oval half-length portraits of the Northfield Bank Robbers, three of which are stripped-to-the-waist postmortems, each identified in print below their image, and an oval half-length portrait sketch of Joseph Heywood, the bank teller killed during the raid, w... > Item Details
Large Group of 4th Cavalry Missouri State Militia CDVs
Lot # 154 - Large Group of 4th Cavalry Missouri State Militia CDVs
Comprising 18 officers and 3 enlisted men, with 5 sundry civilians. Included are both of the regiments’ officer-casualties — Captain Blair and Lieutenant Dale — killed at Big Blue, Missouri in October 1864. Two other military views depict the regimental Adjutant Charles W. Bowman. The cartes sign... > Item Details
Scarce Cabinet Card of Pawnee Bill's Team of Elk, Plus
Lot # 392 - Scarce Cabinet Card of Pawnee Bill's Team of Elk, Plus
Lot of 2, including an albumen photograph identified in the negative as Pawnee Bill's $2000.00 Team of Elk, with J. Flanders & Son's Chicago imprint on recto; plus a check from the Pawnee National Bank signed G.W. Lillie, for Pawnee Bill and Co., dated 1929. > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: