Josiah William Ware 1826 Letter
A Man In Love
Transcribed by: Judy C. Ware August 2012
December 28, 1826
TO: Mr. George W. Williams
I received your letter dated the first of this month in due time and upon my word, you commented largely on my stile of relating the important subject of my happiness, the argument used to induce the Don to follow my example and my prospect of quitting the “single state of blessedness” as you are pleased to call it. I warrant your wife never perused your “famous” and “thundering” letter, or “single blessedness” would have followed the fate of other words, namely, the black score of obliteration would have sent them howling to the “tomb of the Capulets,” but really I was seized with as great an astonishment at your answer to my letter as you were at the disclosure I made in my letter to the Don; instead of palavering me with good advice and joining in my sentiments of the great blessings of the married state, you besprinkle my design with “christalizing drops of transparent water” that might (taking your experience and friendship into consideration) have chilled my “pious purpose” were it not welded on the anvil of deep reflection and reason by the hammer of honorable love, cemented with the truest, purest, and most disinterested affection and strengthened by my knowledge of the liberality and noble generosity of soul of her “my heart tells me I love.” Indeed to be acquainted with her is to admire her, but to know her well is to have admiration increased to love and love increased almost to the height of adoration. Laying aside partiality, I tell you in sober, serious truth, I never have met with a lady whose views, sentiments and conduct has so entirely and completely met with my views of what a lady should be, as her. Good God! Can it be possible that the man who obtains her heart and hand can be otherwise than happy? Nay, sir, I go further. I shall be the happiest of the human race when the parson tells me “salute your bride,” but the old adage “many a slip between the cup and the lip” hangs heavily on my mind. For that reason and for the great anxiety I have to complete my happiness, I am urging with all the ardor that propriety will admit of, a speedy union, for should I, by some misfortune, have my prospect of happiness blighted, I would never look again upon any other woman with a favorable view that ever the blessed sun sent forth his joyful beams upon but should become by the loss of her heart and hand the most abject wretch among the lords of the soil and brooding solitarily over my misfortunes would wretchedly
“Descend to the dust from which I sprung
“Unwept, unhonored and unsung.”
But think not from my language that if anything should occur that would be calculated to damper her feelings of regard towards me that I would meanly endeavor to conceal it. No, sir, I am far above it. Were I disgraced, or should misfortunes shower upon my head, or poverty pinch me to misery, she should be the first to know “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” She should never say that I deceived her, her happiness never should be sacrificed on the altar of my selfishness, sooner would I give up all hopes of ever calling her my own, even though it should break the leading strings of my heart. Yes, sooner would I bury myself than bury the happiness of an innocent, noble, generous, and literal lady, for where could she expect happiness if not in the confidence of her bosom’s friend? And were I once to deceive her whom I wish to call my own (unless she was void of feeling) how could I ever expect to gain her confidence and esteem? When God made man he also made woman as his companion not his slave. He endowed her with feelings alikeable for injury as man’s and certainly of more tender and acute sensitivity. Then how can we abuse God’s first, best gift to man? But why I am making a long epistle upon the qualities and sensibilities of woman which every man of any sense must be as well acquainted with as I am, and which (considering your long acquaintance with them) must be to you “stale, flat and unprofitable” and “as tedious as a twice told tale”? The fact is this, my whole mind, body and soul is wrapped up in my truly interesting situation, and “out of the fullness of the heart the tongue speaketh.” Part of this, you no doubt think blarney, but you are mistaken. Believe me when I tell you that had I the imagination of Wirt, I could not “spread over Miss Frances Glassell “a mantle” of too great praise, even though “the colors” were so “glorious that time itself could not change or dim them.” She deserves more, sir, Aye, infinitely more, than a Clay, Rowan, or Crittenden can depict. Yes, sir, she would even deserve more than the fanciful imagination of even Wirt himself could ascribe to her. Only imagine to yourself what a woman should or ought to be to make her angelic and you will come nearer her than you can possibly set down in words, but the moment you attempt to paint her in words you fail and come far short. These are my expressions; yes, sir, “the expressions of an ardent, adoring, enslaved love whose soul dwells upon the charms of his fair with ecstasies of rapturous delight.” I duly appreciate your excellent wishes for our happiness because I know it is from the heart. You say in your letter that “it is astonishing indeed that I should set down and gravely and seriously argue with a friend and relation on the advantages of matrimony and disadvantages of bachelorship and advise him to a course that must insure his happiness.” Is this astonishing in Kentucky? If it is, God protect me from such a country! Really I had thought and I believe the opinion is generally prevalent among Virginians that good advice should be given, at least from friends to friends. Under this opinion I have acted, for which you ask (after using diverse hard jawbreakers which brought Walker in play) “what manner of man is he?” How can I answer that question? Although I believe it is not intended to be answered, still I will answer that I am a man of flesh, muscle, bone and veins, but here’s the rub. You may discover by my sentiments, that Virginia blood courses through my veins. Now sir, take the question to yourself. What matter of man must you be? A man who was astounded, because I gave wholesome advice to the Don and reasoned the subject with him, what I am to make of you? Is it covetousness in you that you would deprive him of a similar happiness to your own? Or is it a poor compliment you are paying to my cousin, conveying the idea that you are not happy with her, that you are not an admirer of the married state but of “single blessedness” and wish to keep others out of the noose of unhappiness that you have hobbled yourself in? If the last is the case and your wish, it is noble in you. If not, how poorly you are recompensing cousin Winny for her goodness, beauty, amiability and every quality that must render woman lovely and beloved.
You know the conditions that I wrote to the Don would induce us to visit Kentucky, if you wish to see us urge him to visit us now; he will have plenty of time to get here.
I did not write to Catherine by Mr. Milton. This is my reason, none of my letters (excepting one) have been answered by her and I supposed she wished to drop the correspondence. All the others are following her bad example in that respect. You and Uncle Charles Ware are the only ones that correspond with me now and I have not had a letter from him for some time. I am afraid I have lost “the corner in the store house of their remembrance.” If my brother James is still in your county make him write to me. I would have written to him long since were I certain he was still among you. I have been seriously reflecting whether my relations wished to see me again or not. I think it doubtful whether they do or not, or they would not forget me ere one short year rolls around. Give my love to all that remember me; Cousin Winny of course among the rest for I cannot think she will forget me. I expect if I come out again I shall have to be introduced to at least one half of you – it may be the other half too. We are all well. I must now conclude in haste; it is time to be sprucing up to visit my sweetheart. I must shave, brush, and look mighty smart and spruce. God bless you and your family with every blessing that you can desire and more than your imagination can possibly grasp at, together with as much of this life as you may think worth the having. Goodbye,
Josiah William Ware
P.S. Keep my letter to you till I come out. I have forgotten what I have heretofore written to you and should like to see them.
This letter was written from Josiah to his cousin, George W. Williams in Kentucky. George had married Winny Webb (daughter of Mary “Polly” Ware and Charles Webb) in 1824, three years prior to this letter. The two men exchanged many teasing letters with each other over the years. The Williams family was very active in Kentucky society and they had 12 children during their marriage.
Frances Glassell = The lady “my heart tells me I love”
Frances was the future bride of the obviously smitten Josiah. They met when Frances came to Winchester to attend school there. Their wedding took place just two months after this letter was written, on February 22, 1827. By all accounts, theirs was a happy and joyful union, tragically cut short by the untimely death of Frances at the age of 33. She had given birth to six children, the youngest one only a year old when his mother died. Josiah was completely devastated. In a letter to his sister, he confided that his oldest daughter Elizabeth (who was only five) had poignantly “asked me today if I was almost done going to see Reverend Balmain.” He was clearly trying to rely on his faith to assuage his grief. Josiah would eventually remarry; three years later.
“a Clay, Rowan, or Crittenden can depict” = All three were great speakers and politicians of their time in Kentucky.
“even Wirt himself could ascribe to her” = William Wirt waswell known as a literary symbol of Virginia. Handsome and vivacious, his many talents quickly endeared him to people. His legal fame, aided by a rare gift of eloquence and great literary skills catapulted him into national prominence. In an era of great lawyers, Wirt was considered as good as the best. “Yet his voice was his prize: soft but powerful, of great range, hauntingly melodious. With an artist’s feel for sound and metaphor Wirt constructed verbal symphonies. Mixing poetry with law, literature with history, with a dash of wit and a ready smile, Wirt appealed to the intellectand emotions of his hearers.” (Wikipedia)