[1856 ALS by Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey, Southern Writer. Likely written to her former teacher, the New York City Literary Hostess of Poe and Emerson, Anne Charlotte Botta, and discussing Southern poet Rosa Vertner Jeffrey].
Six-page ante-bellum Autograph Letter Signed by Natchez, Mississippi-native Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey (1829–1879), Southern writer, novelist and later friend and amanuensis to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Here Dorsey writes an intimate and chatty letter to her former teacher Anne Charlotte Botta (1815–1891), the celebrated New York City literary hostess of such writers as Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickens, Julia Ward Howe, Anthony Trollope, Margaret Fuller, etc.
Dorsey writes from Elkridge, likely in Tensas Parish, Louisiana where she moved after marrying attorney Samuel Worthington Dorsey in 1853. Dorsey discusses the death of her father-in-law, Maryland judge Thomas B. Dorsey, and shares literary gossip about Kentucky journalist George D. Prentice (1802–1870) and Dorsey’s neighbor, Natchez-native, Southern poet, and contributor to Prentice’s Louisville Journal, Rosa Vertner Jeffrey (1828–1894).
I have been prevented from writing you by a variety of hindrances – among them, the sadness & grief consequent on on the very sudden death by apoplexy of my Father in law, Judge Dorsey which indisposed me for my effort, or rather, as it is never an effort for me to think or write you my dearest Anne, I feel disinclined to obtrude my own melancholy upon the brighter hearts of my friends… We have been shivering in the coldest north winds, have had snow several inches deep, & my pretty neighbor, the Poetess Rosa, told me yesterday she had been superintending the packing away of ice cut from the small Lake you remember in front of their place ... I rode out to the Mississippi river last week, to see the vast quantity of ice floating in the current… It was a grand sight to my unused eyes, & brought up to my mind the descriptions of ice floes and the Arctic regions, & the breaking up of the Neva [River], but I suppose all this is stupid to you, one of the subjects of the ice king, & familiar with his glittering robes of state, apropos, don’t you like the pretty legend of the Wind Kings in much abused Hiawatha? Do you know I like that poem better than any of Longfellow’s yet published, except perhaps parts of Evangeline – I was interrupted here by a note & present from La Belle Rosa, a Very sweet note, & a very fine leg of mutton, & a magazine containing one of her poems that I wished for – Do you ever see Graham’s magazine? In the January number (this month) appears an engraved portrait intended for Rosa & a very flattering notice of her & genius by George D Prentice. I think entre nous he is more in love with the woman than the Poetess – at that, I do not marvel. She is certainly very beautiful & attractive. The portrait in Graham’s is not like – I have an ambrotype of her very far superior in resemblance & I think more beautiful than Graham’s – I’ll show it to you next summer, maybe – I see her constantly and love her for her beauty & goodness, but there’s “none to me a face as fair / as that you wear / my Annie O!” ... Nearly all our Lake friends…speak of you kindly & hope for another visit from you – You march throughout the length & breadth of the Land winning hearts & making friends at every footstep – & pass like Pippa leaving fine impressions, noble thoughts, bright memories, & images of beauty (witness my casts) behind you. I do rejoice my dear Anne, in your domestic happiness and feel grateful to Mr. Botta that he makes you so… What a recluse you have made yourself according to your own account – & all for some selfish basking in your own love light [Botta had married the previous year] – for you say the world will never be any the better or wiser for it – that you are so idle I cannot realize you as an idle dreamer sitting with your hands folded.
Dorsey was the author of such novels as Lucia Dare (1867), Athalie; or, A Southern Villeggiatura (1872) and Panola: A Tale of Louisiana (1877) and was a contributor to the Southern Literary Messenger.
“Although Dorsey’s novels received favorable reviews, she is best known for her biography, Recollections of Henry Watkins Allen (1866). Henry Watkins Allen was a brigadier general in the Confederate army and a former governor of Louisiana. ... Although her family’s wealth was greatly reduced during the war, she never lost faith in the southern cause nor in its leader, Jefferson Davis. In fact, Dorsey served as Davis’s amanuensis while he wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881). Davis worked on his manuscript at Dorsey’s estate, “Beauvoir.” Dorsey arranged in February 1879 to sell Beauvoir to Davis, but when she died of cancer in New Orleans, Davis had made only one payment; however, Dorsey left Beauvoir and most of her assets to Davis.” (ANB)
An intimate six-page letter shedding light on Dorsey’s literary circle and influences and on her close friendships with poet Rosa Vertner Jeffrey and New York literary and social connector Anne Charlotte Botta.
Description: [1856 ALS by Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey, Southern Writer. Likely written to her former teacher, the New York City Literary Hostess of Poe and Emerson, Anne Charlotte Botta, and discussing Southern poet Rosa Vertner Jeffrey].
Elkridge [Tensas Parish, Louisiana], January 24, 1856. pp. Autograph Letter Signed. Bifolium with appended leaf. Short printed biography of Dorsey affixed with cloth tape to first and final leaves. Folds; light foxing and a few brief separations at folds along fore-edge; small abrasion at bottom of final leaf affecting one word; very good.