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
<i>Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women</i> Banners, 1910
Lot # 41 - Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women Banners, 1910
Lot of 2 purple silk banners with silk fringe, featuring hand-painted gold lettering that promotes the Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women / 1910, and the motto Lifting as We Climb, approx. 29 x 36 in., both hanging from crudely-made wooden rods, the first with turned acorn finials, approx. 41.5 in... > Item Details
47th OVI CDV Album of Capt. <i>H.N. King </i>
Lot # 155 - 47th OVI CDV Album of Capt. H.N. King
A small 3.5 x 5 in. leather album, embossed and gilded “Capt. H.N. King” on front board containing 16 military cartes of 47th OVI officers among 22 images in total. Inscribed in pencil on the fly page is, “Capt. Henry N. King/Chelsea/Michigan/1864.” Thirteen of the military views are identified inc... > 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
Civil War Diary of Luke Barnum Gray, 14th VT Infantry, WIA Gettysburg
Lot # 179 - Civil War Diary of Luke Barnum Gray, 14th VT Infantry, WIA Gettysburg
A native of Dorset, VT, Luke Gray was one of those "older" men who answered Lincoln's call of August 4, 1862 for 300,000 troops to serve 9 months. He enlisted as a private in Co. K of the 14th VT Volunteer Infantry in late August 1862 at the age of 37. They went into camp at Brattleboro on 2 Oct. an... > 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
Manuscript Account from a Member of Isaac Stevens Party Crossing the Plains,
Lot # 122 - Manuscript Account from a Member of Isaac Stevens Party Crossing the Plains,
David Starr Hoyt Journal, 1852 May-June (probably written ca 1853); pp. 10-32 (only, lacking 25). Although this overland narrative is incomplete and the author not explicitly identified, it was in the papers of David Hoyt and it remains a sterling example of the genre. With close observation and li... > Item Details
C.C. Stotz Boudoir Card <i>Waiting for the Issue</i>
Lot # 282 - C.C. Stotz Boudoir Card Waiting for the Issue
Verso with C.C. Stotz, El Reno, O.T. stamp, and titled in negative, showing a wooden pen with cattle and American Indians overlooking the scene on a hillside. During the 1880s and early 1890s, as part of the rations owed by treaty to the Southern Cheyenne and Southern Arapaho people of the Darlingto... > Item Details
Rare Pair of Confederate Mississippi Buttons
Lot # 200 - Rare Pair of Confederate Mississippi Buttons
Lot of 2 Confederate Mississippi buttons, including a coat-sized Mississippi (MP-6A) in overall excellent condition (save for a negligible, very slight push at five o’clock position) with deeply channeled Confederate local brass back & magnificent untouched patina; and a coat-size Mississippi (MP-5A... > Item Details
Ponca and Kaw Indian Photographs by Drasle and Bell
Lot # 280 - Ponca and Kaw Indian Photographs by Drasle and Bell
Ponca City, Oklahoma Territory, lot of 6 collodion prints 3.9 x 5.6 in. on cards 6.5 x 8.5 in. with decorative borders, printed ca 1900. Most of the mounts carry Drasle’s imprint, monogram, JBD, and address, Ground Floor Studio, Ponca city, O.T., on the back as well as pencil identifications. Also... > Item Details
Little Big Horn Cemetery Photographs, With Crow Scouts
Lot # 335 - Little Big Horn Cemetery Photographs, With Crow Scouts
Lot of 2, 6.25 x 8.25 in. silver gelatin photographs taken by Joseph Dixon, ca 1913. Verso of photographs with penciled captions #60/ Neg No. 509/ White Man Runs Him/ Hairy Moccasin/ Goes Ahead - three Custer Scouts/ Around Cross where Custer Fell AND #56/ Neg 479/ Cross where Custer Fell/ and Grave... > 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
Choate Photographs of Apache Children at Carlisle Barracks
Lot # 310 - Choate Photographs of Apache Children at Carlisle Barracks
Lot of 2 albumen photographs 8 x 10 in. showing the transformation of Apache children at the Carlisle school, from their native dress and customs to the "acceptable" Anglo-American dress and culture; verso with manuscript captions 37 Apache arrived Nov. 4, 1886. Appearance on Arrival AND 37 Apaches ... > Item Details
W.R. Cross Photograph of Chief White Bird
Lot # 250 - W.R. Cross Photograph of Chief White Bird
Oglala Dakota, 1890 or later. Boudoir card, 4.3 x 7 in. print on 5.25 x 8.5 in. mount. On the reverse is an imprint for Cross’ Hot Springs, South Dakota studio, and ink notations, White Bird chief, Red Cloud Indian and Ogalalla Sioux. William Richard Cross (1839-1907) opened his studio in Hot Sp... > Item Details
C.R. Savage Photographs of the Utah Pioneer Jubilee, 1897
Lot # 358 - C.R. Savage Photographs of the Utah Pioneer Jubilee, 1897
Lot of 3, 5.75 x 7.75 in. albumen photographs mounted on larger 8.5 x 10.75 in. cardstock with Savage's Art Bazar, Salt Lake City, Utah imprint. Manuscript captions below images Hall of Relics, Utah Pioneer Jubilee, Mormon Jubilee Salt Lake July 21 to 26 - 1897 (Children's Day), and The Dragon - Uta... > Item Details
Quanah Parker Cabinet Card by Irwin & Mankins
Lot # 278 - Quanah Parker Cabinet Card by Irwin & Mankins
Silver gelatin, with Irwin and Mankins' Chickasha and Duncan Indian Territory imprint below image. > Item Details
American Indian Family Photograph Album With Cabinet Cards by Choate of Carlisle Barracks
Lot # 309 - American Indian Family Photograph Album With Cabinet Cards by Choate of Carlisle Barracks
Including 29 cabinet cards, 15 cdv-sized tintypes and 13 additional paper images of various sizes, all but a handful of American Indians. Most of the photographer's imprints are from the Northern Michigan cities of Petoskey and Charlevoix; five of the cabinet images with the imprint of Choate of Ca... > Item Details
Photographs of 19th and 20th Century Outlaws From the Pinkerton Agency
Lot # 385 - Photographs of 19th and 20th Century Outlaws From the Pinkerton Agency
Lot of 31 photographs in various sizes, including the following cdv-sized portraits on print-out paper and albumen, collotype, silver, photogravure, or halftone print portraits, some with handwritten identification and information on verso: William Coleman (alias Billy Coleman), ca 1870s-1880s (4); ... > Item Details
Rare <i>Geronimo - Last Pow-Wow</i> Broadside
Lot # 394 - Rare Geronimo - Last Pow-Wow Broadside
A two sided broadside with Spybuck Chief of the Shawnee will entertain several thousand full-blood and blanket Indians at the Last Pow-Wow to be celebrated at Collinsville, I.T. October 14-19, '07. and Last PowoWow at Collinsville, Ocotber 14th to 19th. Program and Ticket Far for Round Trip over Sa... > Item Details
Five CDV's of Officer-Casualties
Lot # 148 - Five CDV's of Officer-Casualties
An outstanding lot of photographs comprising three colonels, one signed, and two company grade officers. The regimental commanders are Colonel James M. Brown, 100th NY, KIA May 31, 1862 at Fair Oaks, no back mark; Colonel Seneca G. Simmons, 34th Pennsylvania (5th Reserves), standing with sword, KIA... > Item Details
Iron Wing, Sioux Chief Photograph by John N. Choate
Lot # 307 - Iron Wing, Sioux Chief Photograph by John N. Choate
Albumen portrait 4 x 5.75 in. Applied label, No. 24. Iron Wing, Sioux Chief on the reverse with printed backlist of other Carlisle School student photographs offered by John N. Choate, as well as his address. Taken in the spring of 1880. Iron Wing, Brule Dakota, is wearing a hairpipe choker and h... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: