Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Different Tone

What had previously seemed like a jocular, engaging affect in Father Dan E. Reilly’s letters to Agnes Tully seems to turn, with the disappointment of his pre-Christmas lament, into a more formal demeanor. Perhaps, at his new location at the Sanitarium in New Mexico, news on health progress has become disappointing. Or could it be that, regaining his health, he is more aware of his conduct and seeking to re-establish what might have originally been a more formal role?

While all the letters have been addressed solely to “Ag,” this one seems to speak with a “third person” edge. Rather than addressing Agnes as “you” in the singular, he frames his terms in the plural: “my friends.” A subtle shift, but one that makes me wonder almost as much as those first letters did. I am still not certain of the relationship.

And yet, with all the dignified demeanor that his position merits, he lapses momentarily in mentioning to his twenty-one-year-old audience that he will be catching a “choo choo” soon. In his mind’s eye I am tempted yet again to see a different picture: is he still wistfully addressing a little girl who has long since grown up?

                                                East Las Vegas, N. M., Dec 28 1909

My Dear Ag.
            It was indeed gratifying to me for so many of my friends to so kindly remember me though thirteen hundred miles separate us. Taking it all in all I spent a joyous Christmas and was happy because my friends wanted me to be and did their best to make me happy.
            I want to thank my friends at 507 W. Garfield Blvd for their kind Christmas offering and those elegant Christmas and New Years wishes. God grant that they may be realized. I am getting along very well and with the help of the prayers of my friends will continue to keep it up until I board a choo choo train for Chicago.


  1. It would be so interesting to read her letters. I wonder if she drew back some in an attempt to establish a more adult relationship?

  2. The half sided dialog is interesting. Sounds like childhood friends growing up, this one the older one, recovering from a frightful illness and perhaps ready to (resume) his duties once more.

  3. Everyone has their own voice when they write. Was he too whiny and clingy to Ag..I can agree that the ups and downs of TB would be a bit mood altering. I find it hard to believe that she kept the letters all these years unless he was a very important part of her life :)


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