Jefferson Davis to Varina Howell Davis
26th Feb. 1874
On this day my heart untravelled turns most longingly to you. Many years and very many sorrows lie between this day and that which /made/ you mine in law, but did not make you more mine or me more yours, than before the ceremony was performed of exchanging before witnesses the vows we had exchanged before God, and which were registered where neither destroying elements or thieving Yankees could obliterate or remove the record. What would I not give for one kind embrace from my beloved Wife?
I will not now enter on recitals which may wait for to-morrow. On Saturday I hope the steamer will be in and bring me a letter from you. None has arrived since you left New Orleans, and you need not be told that my anxiety is great to know how you are.
27th Feb. Mrs. Van Arnim, gave a dinner yesterday which was specially intended for me, but I was not well enough to go. Maggie and Mr. Stoess went and I had the luxury of being alone with my love and living over the happiest of our married days. They came back about midnight and were surprised to find me up. The time had flowed with rapid current bearing along reminiscences of what had been, thoughts of what might have been, and speculations of what is to be, so that it did not appear to me late, and the comfortable sofa on which I lay before the fire saved me from weariness of body. The dinner was reported unusually good, and my absence to have been much regretted. Now before you become uneasy of the mention of my not being well enough to go out I will explain, that for some days I have had chilliness in the afternoon succeded by some fever. Maggie who had been alarmed by some newspaper statement to the effect that I had dropsy of the heart asked her Doctor to visit me. He, Dr. Long a man of high repute here, said that my suffering was the result of malarial poison in the system and prescribed Quinine. He examined the heart said there was no positive disease but very feeble action, and for the pain in that region advised the application of mustard.
My belief is that the weak action of the heart, otherwise the imperfect circulation and the damp cold weather cause the symptoms described. In our warmer & brighter climate the feeling of chilliness was limited to the extremities but here it pervades the whole body. So be not disturbed with unwarranted apprehensions, but the rather continue to hope for my return in restored health. I will not send this off until the next mail comes in and therefore postpone business recital for a more convenient season.
28th Feb. no letter from my dearest and now I must wait until Tuesday’s steamer, which being of the line having the U.S. mail contract may have the letters which might have been sent by the faster Cunard vessel and have been received three days sooner. This is the last day of our month, and here I am still in Liverpool. Maggie is very attentive and most unwilling to hear me speak of leaving her while any care is to be taken in matters salutory. If nothing intervenes my purpose is to go to London early in the next week.
Now for the postponed recital. I addressed to Thos. Byrne a note reminding him of his indebtedness and his promises He answered at much length, to the effect that Genl. J. R. Davis had opened an account for you with the house of Byrne, Vance & Co. and that the assets of the house had been turned over to a committee of it's creditors, that he had been disappointed as to collections from his debtors and therefore no dividend had been made to his creditors, and instead of being himself left with a large amount for future operations he was entirely bankrupt. I replied that it was not expected that he would the care of money handed to him for investment on the footing of a general credit with the house of Bryne, Vance & Co. reminded of the statement made in regard to the delay in the matter of your draft, and the evidence it furnished that the transaction was with him individually, and further stated that Genl. Davis certainly did not understand that the money was to be deposited with the house of B. V. & Co. at the rate of interest which my friend and long time factor Mr. Payne would have allowed. He rejoined by reasserting that the account was opened with the house of B.V. & Co. and stating that he had always regarded the case as exceptional and if ever able he would pay it, but that if I thought he had any thing I was mistaken. Maj. Walker believes he is impecunious. His son has married a rich woman, his daughter has married a rich man, but it may be that they do not wish to pay his debts, or that he does not wish to curtail supplies by asking any thing for such a purpose.
Now for the “Royal Insurance Co.” Walker said he had written to me that upon inquiry he was assured that the reason for the inconsistency in the correspondence with me was, that the agent of the Co. in New York had the superintendence of the Southern branches and that the Directors doubted the wisdom of establishing a separate and distinct agency for the South. I called on the “Manager” who said the agent of the Co. in New York who was Englishman had been asked if my appointment to control the business of the South would affect their operations at the North and he had replied that the animosity at the North was so great against me individually that my appointment would injuriously affect their business at the North. He said they had independent agents at the South, and that he had learned that my appointment would greatly benefit their Co and was only deterred from making me an offer by the assertion that I would entertain it, when Mr. Stoess proposed to him my appointment, and that he was disappointed by the subsequent information &c. &c. Lying is not confined to Yankees, which having found I have made a note of it, a la Capt. Cuttle.
That report of the Committee is yet wanting, and it is hard that having been undermined & swindled by the “Carolina”, I cannot get the evidence which was adopted by the Board of Directors, to show that the failure of the Co. was not my fault. How far dread of the Yankees may render it impossible for me to get any thing in the country is doubtful. I cannot run round begging for employment, less still can I promise to conciliate the meanest basest, but not the wisest of mankind. I could hunt or fish or chop and hoe, but could not in that way make enough to support our wants. God guards the sparrow, and will I pray keep watch over my dear Wife and Children. The world keeps pace with with fiction and so the liars rule. Browne ought to have finished the history of Andersonville and had it published at least twelve months since, the delay leaves me to suffer from falsehood in that connection. Three years ago I asked the former Atty. Genl. of Missi. who had all the facts to write the history of the Union Bank bonds, and their so called repudiation, he has not done it mine is the greatest loss therefrom. For want of space the grumbling ceaseth.
3rd March. I thought surely a letter would come from home and waited to close this until that happy event should occur. But now I will let this go and take a a new sheet for another occasion. Kiss my dear children and take mountains of love from
your devoted Husband.
AL (AU, Davis Coll.). The manuscript contains errant marks in another hand, including underlining in the third paragraph and bracket marks in the margins, perhaps to indicate text printed in Davis, Private Letters, 388-89.