Monday, July 2, 2012

Words of a Different Era

We fancy ourselves today to be plain speakers. Streamlined. Getting to the point sans excuse or explanation. How different the speech patterns from the 1880s seem, compared to habits today!

I’m not sure how to take this letter found among the papers of my husband’s grandmother, Agnes Tully Stevens. The letter was sent to Agnes’ mother, Catherine Malloy Tully, a few years after she married John Tully in Chicago, and after the birth of their oldest child.

I know nothing of the writer of the letter, other than his name: Fred E. Lowe. In the first part of his letter, shown in yesterday’s post, Mr. Lowe explained that he was giving the Tully family a Bible. While the gift coincided with Catherine’s birthday, it seemed to be sent for a more general purpose.

What that purpose was, though, seems obscured by the flowery way in which the writer expressed himself. What we saw in the first portion of the letter, shown yesterday, is far outdone by the flattery which the writer expands upon in this second page below. One wonders what the full intent of the writer might have been—making me wish all the more that I could discover who this person was.

Benefactor from a more privileged neighborhood?

Respectable acquaintance?

Most obedient servant?

Is this merely a case of the proper form of communication of a bygone era?

So I herewith send you one [a Bible], as a small mark of my esteem and respect for you personally, and as a slight expression of the estimation in which I hold your kindly disposition and high intellectual character and the sincere regard I have for your friendship; and also as a memento of some pleasant hours spent in your society and that of your husband. Hoping you will accept it in the same spirit in which it is sent, and that its leaves shall be long soiled and worn ere a care or a sorrow shall darken a birthday of them.
            I remain, my dear Madam, your most Ob’t ser’t.
                        Fred E. Lowe.


  1. Goodness. He laid it on thick, didn't he? :)

    1. I was wondering about that, Iggy...that's the way it seemed to me.

      I did find out--via some help from the Chicago Genealogy group on Facebook--that there was no listing for Fred Lowe in the Chicago directory for 1873. Perhaps this was a visitor from out of town, grateful for a pleasant meeting--making it all the more amazing that he should respond in such a manner.

  2. I was thinking he is such a flowery writer surely he wrote lots of letters to many women:)


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