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Collection Title: Wilson (Augusta Jane Evans) Letter

Collection Number: M152

Dates: January 4, 1889

Volume: 1 Item

Provenance: Unknown.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Augusta Jane Evans was born in Columbus, Georgia, on May 8, 1835, the daughter of Matthew Ryan and Sarah Skrine (Howard) Evans. Because of delicate health, Augusta's early education was directed at home by her mother. During the 1840's the family moved to Mobile, Alabama, the area where Augusta lived for the remainder of her life.

Augusta's inclination toward writing appeared when she was in her teens; her first work, Inez: A Tale of the Alamo, a gift to her father, was published anonymously by Harpers in 1855. Other works on a variety of subjects followed over a fifty-year period: Beulah (1859), focusing on the problems of religious doubt; Macaria or Altars of Sacrifice (1864), expressing her enthusiasm for the Southern cause; St. Elmo (1866), a tale of romance; Vashti (1869), a moral tale warning against the sin of wilfulness; Infelice (1875), the story of love in marriage; At the Mercy of Tiberius (1887), a mystery; A Speckled Bird (1902), focusing on events following the Civil War; and Devota (1907), emphasizing her distrust of social trends affecting women.

In 1868 Augusta married Mobile businessman Lorenzo Madison Wilson, a widower with adult children, and they lived at his country home, "Ashland," outside Mobile where Augusta was able to devote time to growing beautiful flowers in gardens and hothouses on the forty acre estate. When Mr. Wilson died in 1891, Augusta returned to Mobile to live near family members. She died suddenly on May 9, 1909.

Scope and Content:

The Augusta Jane Evans Wilson Collection consists of a signed autograph letter addressed to Major Walthall and dated Mobile, January 4, 1889.

The letter expresses Evans' appreciation of Confederate Major-General Edward Cary Walthall's compliments of Infelice. In passing, Evans mentioned the translation of Infelice into Italian.

Several interesting references to American history may be gleaned from this letter. Evans mentioned the election of Benjamin Harrison to the Presidency (1889). She also raised questions concerning changes in Walthall's personal life as a result of the election and administrative changes. Walthall, during his years as Senator (1885-1894, 1895-1898), became a leader of peculiar power and influence in the Democratic ranks. Harrison, the first Republican president since Lincoln, was ineffective as a leader, partly because Republican legislation was severely curtailed by Democratic gains. (Incidentally, Walthall was reputed as a man of conscience who had hoped to heal the wounds between sections of the country and restore confidence, prosperity, and strength to the nation.) Finally, Evans mentions her deplorance of "Gen'l Harrison"; one may sense from this letter a Southerner's commitment to a lost cause.

Books:

Copies of books by Augusta Jane Evans Wilson are available in the McCain Library:

At the Mercy of Tiberius, a Novel (New York: A.L. Burt, 1887), call number PS3332 .A8 1887 (McCain).


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