1843: Virginia to Jane Witherspoon Dunlap

The identity of the woman who wrote this letter and signed her name simply, “Virg” (Virginia?) has not yet been revealed. It seems clear that she lived in Alexandria, Virginia.

Painting of Jane Witherspoon Dunlap, courtesy of R. Hyman and P. Lyles

The letter was written to Jane Witherspoon Dunlap (1826-1861), the orphaned daughter of Samuel Ferguson Dunlap (1799-1834) and Sarah Crawford Witherspoon (1806-1832). Both of Jane’s parents died when she was young and she was raised by her Witherspoon relatives.

Jane lived with her Aunt Nancy in Columbia, South Carolina. Nancy White Witherspoon (1808-1891) was married in 1835 to James Henley Thornwell (1812-1862) who was an American Presbyterian preacher, occasional President of the University of South Carolina, and a religious writer who defended slavery. By 1843 when this letter was written, the Thornwell’s had four children.

It is believed Jane was attending school in Columbia when this letter was written in 1843. Since the University of South Carolina did not admit female students until the 1890’s, Jane must have been attending the Columbia Female Academy, established in 1833. It later became Stephens College.

To see six letters written by Jane W. Dunlap between 1843 and 1848, click here.

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Addressed to Miss Jane Dunlap, Care of Rev’d James Thornwell, Columbia, SC

Cameron [west end of Alexandria, Virginia]
May 7th 1843

Dearest Jane,

Pardon my long silence and let me beg that you will not think I have intended treating your truly acceptable letter with silent contempt. On the contrary, I was delighted to receive it and happy to find I was not forgotten by one whom I so dearly love and hope I ever shall. Indeed, you cannot imagine how delighted I am when I receive a letter from you – as much so as if it was from a gent or from one that I truly loved.

I do not intend to give my heart away until I see your Uncle – the [one] that is now at college, so do send him on to see me. I should be delighted to have you for a niece so you must speak a good word for me and do all that you can for me. I should like very much to live in South Carolina or anywhere to be with you. Oh Jane, when shall we meet again? I often wish I had the wings of a dove. I would have been with you directly as you say fate has ordained that we cannot see each other. I hope it may not always be the case. I should feel very badly indeed if I thought for a moment we never were to meet again. I do wish you would make haste and get married and take your bridal tour in this direction. Do do do.

There is no prospect at present for me getting married although it is reported through our small town Alexandria. Lizzie Howells wrote to me a few weeks ago and wished to know what day it was to be on. I think it that my marriage is so close at hand I do not know anything about it. She says she has written two letters to you and has not received an answer to either of them. I certainly think you have answered them but they have been miss carried.

Sarah Farnum has become pious lately and intends joining the church. And what do you think her mother has come to Philadelphia and is now living with Mr. Farnum. You know they have been parted for a number of years. There is quite a reconciliation taking place. I do not think she will live with him long. I expect Sarah is quite disturbed about it. Do you remember Sarah’s Uncle – the one with corked leg? He is quite an old man [and] married a young girl last winter, and now she expects to be confined very soon. Is it not disgusting for old men to marry – especially them which possess one leg? But I see it does not injure the rest of his body in the least.

Aunt Eliza and Aunt Christiana are still single. I think they ever will be. They are going to Washington this evening to spend several weeks. I shall miss them very much. I had quite a large company this week. I wish you had of been here. I enjoyed myself very much. We had beaux in abundance – neither of them had any charms for me, for I have fallen in love with your Uncle from description. Jane, suppose we make an exchange. I will give you my brother in exchange. Richard has grown to be quite a man. He is so much improved, you would not know him. He has grown very slim and tall. He is still at school and does not intend leaving for a year. I think it is time you had left. I thought the Southern Ladies turned out very young – some at the age of 16 and 14. You have no excuse. You can come on, I know, then to see me.

I suppose you have been to several balls this May. I had a ticket sent me this week but I do not intend to go. I heard you went to a good many. Is it so? I am very fond of attending them. There has been several large ones given here and in Washington. I expect Charles Guma down from Washington this afternoon. Do you remember him? We have had a regular flirtation. I expect you are well versed in it. I heard you were quite a belle rung very loud.

Caroline Duncan, they say, is in very delicate health – so weak that she can scarcely walk – nursing does not agree with her. Lizzie Howell goes to see her quite often. How can you agree with Lizzie by saying old maid’s life is a happy one? I [hear] she does not think so. I do not think you can for if you do, I am very much mistaken in you. I thought you were a girl of too fine a taste for that. Perhaps they are the wisest but not the happiest. That is my opinion on the subject. Lizzie has not told me that [illegible]. I am going to let you know it. I expect it is something about the gents. It would be no secret if it was anything else. I think she is very much in love and I have my suspicions too who it is. But Lizzie thinks no one knows it but herself. I found it out. He is a handsome fellow, I can assure you. I cannot say that he loves in return. I cannot tell you the name for something very particular is connected with it.

Harriet Bennet, they say, has grown very handsome and has a great many beaux of course that must follow where there is beauty but man’s heart is so doubtful I would not trust them but of sight. There has been a great many weddings here lately; young girls – one 16 or 17. How do you like that fashion? I do not admire it much.

Mr. Daingefield’s friend Charles is still living with him and is as handsome as ever. His sister was married a few months ago – only 17 years old and is in the —– way already. So is Aunt Phealy. It is quite discouraging to us, is it not? Mr. Fox is now in Mobile. He expects to visit Alexandria next July. Him and I do not speak. He called to see me the day before he left and I was laying down and would not get up to see him. It offended him very much indeed. Before that he told me he intended calling by to see you, I expect his _____ was very pretty company to you. I have you run the gentleman that was to call on you the day you wrote to me. How do you like him? My friend, Mr. Vinson has gone to the West Indies to stay 4 years. Is it not shocking to my feelings to think we are to be parted so long? I am afraid I shall die with a broken heart during his absence.

I do not know why Miss Brown leaves Miss E unless she is so very disagreeable she cannot live with her. She will not let Miss Brown have one beau and she will not let the gentleman of her acquaintance come to see her. Mr. Pettet come over to see her whilst I was in Westchester and she insulted him. I would not live with her if I was Mary. That is the reason why Sarah Johnson will not live with her. She has a first rate beau on – one of Mr. Ke_______  _______. I think she will marry him. Do not say anything to Lizzie Howell about Miss Brown for I am afraid Miss Edmonds will hear it and ____ know what she is. I do not think she has written to you and Miss E — out of sight, out of mind with her. I see grandmother has written to her some things and has not received an answer yet. She does dislike to write more than any person I ever saw.

I want you to tell me how many offers of marriage you have had since you left Miss Edmond’s. Do tell me — that is if you can numerate them. I do wish you would make haste and get married. I am very much obliged to you for that piece of hair you sent me. I thought you had forgotten to send it to me. I prize it very highly. I have a very handsome locket that I intend to put it in.

Do give my love to your Martha and the rest of your roommates. I should like to see them. Do not let any one see this letter for I am ashamed of it written so badly but I know you will excuse it. I never show one of your letters to any one and hope you will not show mine. You wished to know how many love letters I have received since my return home. Not one! Have I not been very much neglected? I suppose you get them every day, do you not? Write me a long letters for I will never get out of pleasure reading a letter from you. Your attached friend, — Virg

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