Love in the Archives, Civil War Edition

Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, archives and other cultural heritage groups around the world are linking to items in their collections that deal with love using the Twitter hashtag #loveheritage. I’ve done a few related posts over on our main blog including:

I’ve also been adding a few love letters to the North Carolina Digital Collections that may be of interest to the readers of this blog. The letters are from a young University of North Carolina student named Zebulon Baird Vance and are written to a young woman he eventually married, although from the letters I posted today his prospects looked less than promising:

From Zebulon Baird Vance to Harriett N. Espy, April 2, 1851:

…The cant of false and unfeeling hypocrites I despise, and unwilling to cultivate hopes, which if too long and too fondly cherished without sufficient reason, might, if blasted, reduce me to the verge of distraction and despair. I deem it preferable for my own peace to say directly and frankly, Miss Espy, that you have inspired me with a sentiment of love deep and lasting, and of the most sanguine and even enthusiastic character – I make this declaration with a deep impression of my pre-sumption, of my entire unworthiness…

From Zebulon Baird Vance to Harriett N. Espy, May 20, 1851:

For near one month I turned from my empty box at the post office, sickened with disappointment and despair. I came to the conclusion that I was not only rejected but despised, and that you had determined to deny me the mournful favour of seeing your opinion of myself expressed on paper, and would leave me to infer from your silence your intention toward me – At length I heard you had been very ill, which caused me to excuse your delay immediately, and I reproached myself for my uncharitable suspicions – Your answer came. I took it from the box, but trembled to open it. 0 what a moment of suspense is that which precedes the opening of a letter! What a world of joy or sorrow is contained within the four corners of that little inanimate paper, so lifeless within itself yet
rendered by the ingenuity of man, so eloquently expressive of weal or wo I – I tore it open and read———–

Probably Miss Espy, your sympathising soul can imagine something of the pang which I suffered then. How void, how useless this existence seemed to me – My spirit was crushed, bitterly crushed, and my heart sank within me – Active and enthusiastic Hope had before conjured up the brightest most blissful visions of the future, so brilliant that the eye of imagination turned dazled and overpowered, as does the naked eye from the contemplation of the Tropical sun, now my gaze rested upon nought but the shadowy forms of black despair, grim and horrible as hell – What a terrible transition for the mind to experiance! 0 why is not my reason destroyed that I might bury those recolections in insanity, in blessed madness…

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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