Letter from Asbury Coward to his future wife Elise, August 19, 1855


Letter from Asbury Coward to his future wife Elise, August 19, 1855


Letter from Asbury to his future wife Elise while he is at King's Mountain. He talks about his love for her and their future together. He also describes a trip to the local springs.


A2009.6, Box 2 Folder 1


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York (S. C.)


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Yorkville August 19th 1855

My darling Elise

Believe me, it is a grateful heart that prompts me to say that the letter received from you yesterday is the best I have ever read. It cannot be that my partiality makes me do this; for I do not think that any one whose bosom can appreciate the good and noble of human nature, can read it without uttering a sentiment of commendation. Truly, if you had never given me other proofs of the purity and fidelity of a true woman's love, this letter would suffice to convince me; but, now, it only adds to the strength of others, and enhances my already bewildering happiness. The soul whose image was fixed in those few lines, were soon reflected onto its proper mirror, my own joyful bosom, and dispensed its brightness over it, as the Sun spreads its light over the up-looking lake. The spirit of devoted love, which spurns the [illegible] of such considerations as wealth and vanity may originate, and fixes itself upon the soul alone, is the love that forms my ideal. It was born in my youthful fancy, when woman was to me a spotless being; it passed its vigorous infancy, when I found that woman could sin as well as man; and now to it has reached its unhoped for maturity, since I have discovered that there exist some of the women of my boyish dreams and that one, and that, to me, the best and brightest, can share it with me. Were I to estimate all by my own merits, I must consider myself unworthy of this inestimable blessing; but as all good comes from the hand of a Great Dispenser, I bow before him in humble gratitude.

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I hope the seeds of your lesson will not prove to have fallen on stoney [sic] ground, where they will flourish for but moment; May they find a soil which will give permanent life, and healthful fruition. That lesson teaches me on a point that I have hitherto neglected. I must let ambition cease to mock a limited mind, with those [illegible] glory and fame, which are the mead of genius only; and must feel thankful for the single talent have, and hope that I may be able to make it yield its proportionate fold. Ambition would place me far above my destined sphere; and love would aid it, for I would wish to have you the wife of a distinguished man, but these, though fascinating and beautiful thoughts, are also sinful. I earnestly pray that I my be diligent, and become useful in my proper sphere; and I trust your encouragement will enable me to overcome my insolence which seems so contrary to success. I would do every thing by a single stroke; I cannot plod on to success. This spirit must be overcome; for perseverance and constant, but slow and sure progress are the requisites of success.

What a delightful coincidence! In my last letter, I related a dream I had the night previous to that on which I wrote; and in your letter written about the same time you tell me of one you had. In spite of you, I do say that it seems very natural for me to suppose that the buttons occupy too near a position to myself in that heart of yours. I can't bear a rival there, and if I am not soon assured of the fact that people joke in their dreams, I shall feel inclined to make way with them. I think I had better leave my uniform up here in December, for fear it will rob me of some attention, which I am too greedy to allow. I am very glad that I did not have on a uniform when I had the daguerreotype taken, which you wear when I am 

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with you; had it been otherwise I know the hinges would have been worn out completely, long before this time. However, I am too much in love with you just now, to be more than half cross. - I don't feel all this very seriously.

Since yesterday morning we have had real fall weather, the thermometer ranging from sixty to sixty five. You can imagine how I feel, as I hear the gust telling the leaves of their speedy death. Already, some of the trees are changing their hue from the cool, refreshing green, to a warm, sad brown. It fills me with a sort of calm melancholy, and revives all my recollections of my childhood home. Does it not render you sad also? It is becoming warmer as the day advance, and I much fear that we will feel summer for some days yet. It must be quite a relief to you to have such a delightful change. I hope you will not take another cold. I was certain yesterday morning that I had taken one; but I have cured it completely. Jenkins and I went to the Spring notwithstanding that it was rainy and we were obliged to put on winter clothing on account of the cold; and took a shower bath. A few drops of rain were falling while we were in the bath house. The bathing house is a little square shanty without roof, and full of large cracks. The floor is boarded, and the rickety door, having long since lost its hinges , is simply thrust into the aperture it was intended to cover. A long trough, hollowed from a gum tree, rests one end on a tree about twenty feet from the house and the other in the house. At the end which hangs over the room, dangles a little square box with a few auger-holes in the bottom, which I suppose was intended to cause the shower. The water is dipped from the spring with a bucket and emptied into the trough at the end

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which rests upon the tree; and down it rushes, and pitches clear of the shower box and bather who stands in the corner shivering and grinning at it. As the distance between the spring is some thirty feet or more, a breathing time is giving between the discharge of the trough, and is usually employed by the knowing ones in scrubbing and wriggling. Last week a party consisting of three married ladies, two ditto gentlemen, and two or three demoiselles, spent the day there and took a bath all round. Mr. & Mrs. G - belonged to the party. Jenkins and I were puzzled to satisfy ourselves on the modus operandi they adopted. We were told that the party remained seated at the spring within conversation distance, while one member was bathing. I know I would have been hung before I would have attempted it while they remained there; but perhaps the young ladies were braver than I am. I can scarcely see how they could undress and dress in the little room, for our very few articles of clothing were very much sprinkled although they were hung upon the wall. We could not get a boy to bring water for us, and were obliged to accept the services of a negro woman; we debated for some time whether we were not too modest to do this, but finally concluded that if the young ladies could allow a negro boy to pour for them, we could certainly allow a woman. We took the precaution to stuff all the chinks with our clothes. The bath was delightful beyond conception. I had heard that the water was peculiarly good for bathing purposes, but it exceeded my expectations. The skin immediately assumed a healthy glow and, when dry, became as soft as velvet. It gave us a heavenly feeling, if I may be allowed the expression; in spite of the gloom and raw dampness of the day. Several of our friends predicted a chill for each of us; but I would risk a dozen of them to feel as sweet again. Having forgotten to carry combs and brushes, we were compelled to 

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to borrow a comb from the house a little way off. It was a venerable article they gave us, but farther than a glance at each other we could not testify our feelings on beholding it, for fear of giving offence. On the coarse side there were five remaining teeth which had stood the brunt of many an obstinate knot; and on the fine side, there were a few more dispersed in beautiful irregularity and exhibiting all the various stages of disintegration and decay. Notwithstanding that these remaining teeth were well secured at the roots by innumerable twisting of the hair and other matters of half a century's raking, we used the [illegible] instrument with the most scrupulous care and lightness. We returned to town about half past twelve o'clock, feeling like perfect gentlemen. I could have given you a most killingly sweet kiss.

I regret very much that your mother is still suffering with head-ache and is not in general good health. I hope she will [illegible] recover before winter sets in, so that she may have sufficient strength to withstand and enjoy it. I am truly glad that you feel quite well again, and hope you will continue to feel well, eat well and sleep well. I do not wish you even to dream if my coat or any such thing is to claim your attention. I forbid you to dream about them. 

I do not know on what day I am to expect my uncle, as his letter was quite indefinite; I shall therefore expect him every day for the next two weeks. His wife is now in Spartanburg I expect, as she intended to visit her Sister Mrs. Howe in August. He may meet her in Columbia on his return. I do not know what arrangements they have made. I shall do what I can to render his visit agreeable, as I do consider it a compliment and expect much pleasure from it. I only regret you are not with me to receive him, and I hope he will not make

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many visits to Yorkville before he will have a niece to greet him. He is very rough in exterior but he has a large heart which can appreciate the slightest act of kindness and be grateful for it.

After finishing the above paragraph, I leaned back in my chair and dreamed for nearly twenty minutes, and would be dreaming yet if Jenkins had roused me, by asking with a loud laugh what I had been thinking about. I was castle building, most literally, as you may suppose after reading the sentence before the last in the preceding paragraph. I catch myself at it nearly every day, sometimes while I am attending my class recitations. It is strange how matrimony and women can upset a poor fellow's brain!

Give my love to Mother, Sis Mary, and Sis Jane Ann, and kiss the children - and Florence twice. Do not forget me when you see grandmother.

Adieu, dear Elise, may angels guard you.

Yours devotedly - Asbury.


Coward, Asbury, 1835-1925, “Letter from Asbury Coward to his future wife Elise, August 19, 1855,” The Citadel Archives Digital Collections, accessed June 21, 2024, https://citadeldigitalarchives.omeka.net/items/show/1581.