An undated and unsigned holographic letter believed to have been written by First Lady Dolley Todd Madison (1768–1849), the wife of James Madison, fourth President of the United States (1809-17). This letter was written to a close friend from her youth in Philadelphia, Captain Anthony Morris, whose name is written on the verso.
The letter centers on “our beloved Phoebe” and an “unpleasant” incident at a ball. Morris’ daughter, Phoebe (1791–1825), had a close relationship with the First Lady, who invited her to balls at the President's House and to other social events in Washington, D.C. She lived with the Madisons for several months in 1812, and Dolley tried unsuccessfully to play matchmaker between Phoebe and her son from her first marriage, Payne Todd. Morris, a devout Quaker lawyer, was a widower who was dispatched by President Madison in 1813 as a special envoy to Spain.
The letter reads:
“You have always given me (credit), my dear friend for a lively perception of what was right upon the strength of which I will (assure) you that your excellent letters to (one) beloved Phoebe, was exactly such as I would have my sisters, daughters or friends follow to the very letter. I think however that you feel too acutely the trifling observations on her indisposition at Mr. Taylor’s ball. Everybody in this place understood that she had danced too much, and tho the incident was unpleasant to herself and (me), I truly believe that no being in this place expressed a sentence on the subject that could wound the (word) sensibility – I am (word) her uncommon understanding (just) timber is a guarantee against the slightest impropriety of conduct let her be then she will (word) this accident, which occurred soon after (word) (word) I have attended to (word) and secured her promised to exhort herself (word) and that dignified (words) which (word) forms the beauty of dancing.”
The letter is written on watermarked paper imprinted c. Wilmott 1808. It was removed from a frame that included a portrait of Dolley Madison, and was acquired from the estate of Los Angeles book and autograph dealer Doris Harris (1918–2005). Harris (formerly Doris Hamilton) was at one time married to Charles Hamilton, a prominent New York autograph dealer and handwriting expert who authored several books on the subject. The letter is light stained and toned with creasing from prior folds and a rough left edge; otherwise very good. Item #72711