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

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
Thomas Jefferson ANS
Lot # 62 - Thomas Jefferson ANS
Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826). President (1801-1809). ANS as President, 1p, 3.75 x 6 in., Washington, April 11, 1803. Addressed to Mr. John Barnes, Private Banker to Jefferson. Jefferson is requesting that his agent, John Barnes, issue Mr. Etienne Lemaire a payment of $75.50. Lemaire became Jefferso... > Item Details
Exceptionally Rare Orotone of Buffalo Bill Cody
Lot # 390 - Exceptionally Rare Orotone of Buffalo Bill Cody
Anonymous, 8 x 10 in. image in a period 13.75 x 12 in. walnut frame, with burled walnut mat and gilt liner. In this ca 1900-1910 portrait, an aged, but still dapper, Cody wears his signature broad-brimmed hat, and sports a fashionably tied silk kerchief. While Buffalo Bill was photographed by comme... > Item Details
L.A. Huffman Signed Collotype <i>A Hot Noon Beside the Round-Up Camp</i>
Lot # 369 - L.A. Huffman Signed Collotype A Hot Noon Beside the Round-Up Camp
7.25 x 10 in. photograph mounted on a larger 14 x 17.75 in. cardstock; inked along lower margin is title and Huffman's Mile City copyright, ca 1904. > Item Details
Will Soule Photograph of Lone Wolf, A Kiowa Chief
Lot # 271 - Will Soule Photograph of Lone Wolf, A Kiowa Chief
Holding a pipe tomahawk, ca 1867-1874. Albumen print 5.3 x 7.75 in. on 10 x 13 in. mount, in mat. The image is outlined in ink and has an ornate calligraphic identification on the mount, Quirl-par-ko, Lone Wolf, Kiowa Chief,, which was probably done for a special presentation. Only a few others ... > Item Details
Davy Crockett Composition Based on Playbill
Lot # 92 - Davy Crockett Composition Based on Playbill
St. Louis, 1881, oil on canvas with applied jigsaw work. A contest was held in New York City in 1830 for the best original comedy, it was won by James Kirke Paulding for his play titled "Lion of The West;" it was a satire on Davy Crockett and played in 1831. The name later changed to "The Kentuckian... > Item Details
Tom Torlino, Navaho, by John N. Choate
Lot # 308 - Tom Torlino, Navaho, by John N. Choate
Taken at the Carlisle Indian School, Oct. 21, 1882. Cabinet card 4.25 x 6.5 in. with manuscript identification below image Tom Torlino, a Navajo Indian as he arrived at the school, and photographer's Carlisle, PA imprint on the back. Upon arrival at the school the boys had their long hair cut and... > Item Details
George Armstrong Custer Period Copy CDV
Lot # 334 - George Armstrong Custer Period Copy CDV
A cdv portrait of George Custer as Major General, most likely a period copy, with no studio mark. Illustrated in Katz' Custer in Photographs (K-74), the original portrait taken May, 1865, by Mathew Brady & Co. > 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
Exceptional Abraham Lincoln Funeral CDV Album
Lot # 33 - Exceptional Abraham Lincoln Funeral CDV Album
Containing 97 cartes, all but 15 pertaining directly to Lincoln, his funeral, and the Civil War. An extraordinary gathering, containing no fewer than 25 cartes of the funeral by Carbutt, Fassett and Witt Includes the following: Columbus, OH (3); Chicago, IL (10), featuring a numbered series of 8 Ca... > Item Details
Alexander Gardner Photograph of Red Lodge, Cut Head Dakota
Lot # 234 - Alexander Gardner Photograph of Red Lodge, Cut Head Dakota
Albumen portrait 5 x 7.5 in. on mount 7 x 11 in. in window mat. Marked in the negative, 290. Taken Sept. 20, 1872. Red Lodge, also known as Pi-pi-sha was a member of the Yanktonai Dakota delegation to Washington, D.C., who visited the capitol between September 15 and the 20th. Although they negotiat... > 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
E. and H.T. Anthony <i>War For the Union</i> Stereoviews
Lot # 159 - E. and H.T. Anthony War For the Union Stereoviews
Lot of 7 stereoviews from Anthony's War For the Union series, including the following titles: Feats of the Chivalry - Destruction of Chambersburgh; "Castle Thunder," Carey St., Richmond, Va., where so many Union prisoners were confined; Sherman's Grand Army. Looking up Pennsylvania Ave. from the Tre... > Item Details
General Sherman on Horseback, Atlanta, GA, CDV
Lot # 141 - General Sherman on Horseback, Atlanta, GA, CDV
The published view of Sherman astride his Kentucky thoroughbred "Lexington" taken shortly after the evacuation of Atlanta, with C.D. Fredricks & Co.'s backmark and Sherman written on verso. Sherman is looking north from the inner ring of the city's abandoned field fortifications. The 12 lb. Napoleo... > 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
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
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
Hand-Carved Political Match Safe from the Ohio Penitentiary
Lot # 97 - Hand-Carved Political Match Safe from the Ohio Penitentiary
American, ca 1930s. A bone and ebony match safe with cover, carved on one side with the image of M.L. Davey, Ohio's governor from 1935-1939, surmounted by angels playing trumpets, and on the other with the image of F.D. Roosevelt, the top of lid with the Great Seal of the State of Ohio, the undersid... > Item Details
Rare Manuscript Northwest Territory Ohio Tavern Keeper's Account Book
Lot # 43 - Rare Manuscript Northwest Territory Ohio Tavern Keeper's Account Book
Folio in heavy paper wraps, 10 leaves. On "page 3:" Joseph Crain his Book, September The 18th 1800, Frankling [sic], September the 22nd 1800, Territory of the United States of America North west of the River Ohio in the county of Hamelton [sic] and Township of Frankling. Accounts in shillings and pe... > Item Details
William S. Hart ANS to Wyatt Earp
Lot # 383 - William S. Hart ANS to Wyatt Earp
Short article from unknown source (magazine probably) outlining Hart's accomplishments, 1926, 6 x 7.5 in. Inscribed and signed at top: Dear Wyatt, Your gift, hoping you like. Your FRIEND Bill Hart, Dec./26. William Surrey/Shakespeare (depending on preference) Hart (1864-1946) began acting in 1899 o... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: