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Molly Elliot Seawell Quotation and Letter, 1896 December 2, 1899 January 16

 Collection — Box: 1, Folder: 22

Scope and Contents

A two page letter and quotation card, written and signed by Molly Elliot Seawell. Transcriptions were provided by the dealer.

Content warnings for derogatory language directed towards people of African descent, and cultural appropriation.

The quotation card reads "Molly Elliot Seawell, Washington D.C., December 2nd 1896. The laughing philosopher had attained the goal of all wisdom, while the weeping philosopher stood whimpering at the starting post."

The letter is addressed simply, "Dear Sir." It reads, "It has always been my aim not to coin word in writing. Having had the advantage of a good early training in the English classics, I soon found out that there was a good, plain English word for all the ideas I had, or was likely to have, and I have made it my business to try and find out that word. In writing negro dialect though as in my Virginia stories I have, in order to make it true to life, all my negroes coin words. The negroes, as you know perhaps, are very admirable word coiners. They love to use long words, and they introduce a word wonderfully like the one they are after, and in the same senses, so that it conveys a perfectly good meaning. I hardly know whether all of the words I put in the mouths of my negroes are of my own invention, or recollections of my childhood in an old place in Virginia. Some are my own - 'reckelsome' for reckless, 'furgitive' for forgetful, 'discontemtous' for contemptuous, ect. These may be found in my novels - 'Children of Destiny' and 'Throckmorton'. In them I have strictly followed the negro manner of making [2 words illegible] right, and the sound appropriate so. I have not those books at hand. I am only at this place temporarily, but you may be able to get them at your public library. Wishing I could give you a more satisfactory and interesting explanation, I am very truly yours."


  • Creation: 1896 December 2
  • Creation: 1899 January 16


Language of Materials

From the Collection:


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0.1 Linear Feet (One legal sized folder.)