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

Mark Twain Stereoview by J. Gurney & Son
Lot # 25 - Mark Twain Stereoview by J. Gurney & Son
An early stereoview portrait of Mark Twain photographed and published by J. Gurney & Son, New York, with handwritten identification on recto and verso. > Item Details
Pawnee Bill Autographed Photograph
Lot # 393 - Pawnee Bill Autographed Photograph
A real photo postcard of Wild West showman, Pawnee Bill, inscribed on recto To Frank / G.W. Lillie / "Pawnee Bill." > Item Details
General Pershing <i>Shrapnel</i> Award
Lot # 224 - General Pershing Shrapnel Award
Green leather Cartier box with Russian, French and Italian shrapnel rounds and brass tag on front with L'Usine André Citroën au General Pershing. Approx. 8.5" tall (slightly lower in back than front). Citroen, while better known for his automobiles, was responsible for mass production of armaments f... > Item Details
Rare Tintype of Lillian Smith, Sharpshooter
Lot # 398 - Rare Tintype of Lillian Smith, Sharpshooter
A tintype portrait of a woman identified as Lillian Smith, the celebrated California sharpshooter, armed with a Stevens Tip-Up Rifle, ca 1875-1885, 2.5 x 3.1 in. Smith was hired by Cody to appear with his troop in 1886. Almost immediately, she was seen to be Annie Oakley's rival. During Cody's tour... > Item Details
Lot Of Two  Folding Knives
Lot # 210 - Lot Of Two Folding Knives
5 in. spear point blade marked R. Bunting And Sons Sheffield, with stag handles and German silver mountings. 4 in. spear point blade with stag handles; unmarked blade. > Item Details
Oversized Tintype of A Cowboy With His M-1873 Winchester
Lot # 366 - Oversized Tintype of A Cowboy With His M-1873 Winchester
A studio portrait of a cowboy armed with a Model 1873 Winchester Rifle and a Smith & Wesson Model 1.5 Single Action Revolver, ca 1880-1890, 3.25 x 5 in. > Item Details
William McKinley Enormous Campaign Chromolithograph Poster
Lot # 34 - William McKinley Enormous Campaign Chromolithograph Poster
A rare, 8 sheet 1896 presidential campaign poster promoting Wm. McKinley, The Advance Agent of Prosperity, copyrighted in 1896 by W.J. Morgan & Co., Cleveland, OH. The poster is dominated by a shoulder-length portrait of McKinley, from a photo copyrighted by Courtney of Canton, OH, wearing a GAR med... > Item Details
Scarce Red Cloud Photograph by Frank A. Bowman
Lot # 228 - Scarce Red Cloud Photograph by Frank A. Bowman
January 22, 1883. Albumen half-length profile portrait 9.25 x 12 in. taken during the Oglala chief’s visit to paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh in New Haven, Connecticut. > Item Details
<i>Shoshone Falls, Idaho</i> Photograph by Rose & Hopkins
Lot # 344 - Shoshone Falls, Idaho Photograph by Rose & Hopkins
A panoramic silver gelatin photograph signed in the lower right corner "Shoshone Falls" Idaho / Rose & Hopkins / Denver Photo., ca 1896-1901, 10 x 36 in. (sight), matted, framed, and glazed, 17.5 x 43.5 in. Formerly known as Rose & Company (1886-1896), J.K. Rose and B.S. Hopkins had a studio in Denv... > Item Details
Scarce Buffalo Bill Stereoviews
Lot # 387 - Scarce Buffalo Bill Stereoviews
Lot of 4 stereoviews of William F. Cody, Buffalo Bill, including the following: an unmarked view of Buffalo Bill mounted on his horse with the Deadwood stage coach in the background; an action shot of Buffalo Bill on a Bucking Bronco, by Underwood & Underwood, 1889; a view of Buffalo Bill Entering A... > Item Details
CDV of Bvt. Colonel Frederick Welker, Bat. H., 1st Mo. LA
Lot # 151 - CDV of Bvt. Colonel Frederick Welker, Bat. H., 1st Mo. LA
with imprint of J.A. Siebert, St. Louis, identified in period pencil beneath portrait of Welker as captain cradling his sword. Further annotated on verso with Capt. Welker (Paw’s Capt.)/his first child named for Capt./1st Mo. Lt. Artillery in pencil. This is the same carte of Welker on HDS. Joini... > Item Details
S.J. Morrow Stereoview of Prisoners at Fort Keogh, M.T.
Lot # 264 - S.J. Morrow Stereoview of Prisoners at Fort Keogh, M.T.
A portrait of Prisoners at Fort Keogh, M.T., with Morrow's Yankton, D.T. imprint, sitters potentially identified as Chief Spotted Eagle at left, Chief Rain-in-the-Face (?) at center, and Chief Hump (?) at right. In the autumn of 1880, a large group of Sioux exiles, led by Spotted Eagle of the Sans A... > Item Details
Chief Wolf, a Palouse, Photograph
Lot # 238 - Chief Wolf, a Palouse, Photograph
7.5 x 5 in. silver gelatin photograph mounted on a larger 9.75 x 8 in. card stock; verso with manuscript caption Chief Wolf, a wealthy Indian of the Palouse tribe, now on the Yakima reservation. > Item Details
William Soule Photograph of an Arapahoe Family
Lot # 272 - William Soule Photograph of an Arapahoe Family
Albumen photograph 5.5 x 8.1 in. on mount 11 x 14 in., ca 1867-1874. Handwritten title below image Arapahoe Family. Signed by Soule in the negative. The group sits in front of a tipi. Meat is drying on a pole and a skin is being staked for tanning in the background. A figure standing in the ti... > Item Details
Civil War Diary of Sgt. R. Baxter Brown, 11th New Hampshire, WIA
Lot # 178 - Civil War Diary of Sgt. R. Baxter Brown, 11th New Hampshire, WIA
Tiny pocket diary (32mo). The 11th New Hampshire Infantry was organized in September 1862 and while it can be counted as one of the hardest fighting regiments the state produced, it had something of an identity crisis. Attached the 9th Corps, the regiment was sent to Virginia in time to take part i... > Item Details
Book Autographed By Frank James and Cole Younger
Lot # 377 - Book Autographed By Frank James and Cole Younger
Book is Piffard, Henry G. Cutaneous Memoranda. New York: William Wood Company, 1885. 24mo, brown cloth boards with gilt front and spine. First free endpaper with Charles Borchert. Lower part of page cut away to expose second free endpaper with Frank James and Cole Younger written on it. > Item Details
John H. Brinton, Civil War Surgeon, Original Typed Manuscript, 1891
Lot # 181 - John H. Brinton, Civil War Surgeon, Original Typed Manuscript, 1891
Personal Memoirs of John H. Brinton, Civil War Surgeon (original typescript), ca 1914. The memoirs of John Hill Brinton have remained an important source for study of medicine in the Union Army during the Civil War since the date of their first publication in 1914. The scion of the intellectual and... > Item Details
C.R. Savage Photograph of His Wagon and Cacti in Utah
Lot # 341 - C.R. Savage Photograph of His Wagon and Cacti in Utah
9.5 x 7.75" albumen print mounted on larger cardstock with gilt ruling and Savage's Salt Lake imprint, and penciled identification on recto, with additional Cactus study near St. George Southern Utah on verso. > 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
Standing Bear, Omaha, Photograph Funded by Prince Roland Bonaparte
Lot # 274 - Standing Bear, Omaha, Photograph Funded by Prince Roland Bonaparte
Albumen photograph 6.5 x 8.75 in. embossed with Bonaparte’s eagle logo and, Collection anthropologique du Prince Roland Bonaparte, on 15.25 x 16 in. mount, with period ink also identifying the Prince’s collection and the folio plate number 3; in 16 x 20 in. mat. Photographed in 1883. Standing Bear... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20