Elysium of Bliss


I found this cabinet card in an antique shop in Blissfield, Michigan.  I was so attracted to the image of this bewitching couple that the name Rutherford B. Hayes did not register until I was home and began my research.

There are plenty of biographies about the accomplishments of the 19th United States President and the First Lady, Lucy Ware Webb.  I’d like to instead share excerpts of a love letter from Rutherford to Lucy before they were married.

COLUMBUS, June 22, 1851.
   DEAREST LUCY:-- I know it is very wicked to spend this holy
Sabbath morning writing sweet nonsense to my lady-love, in-
stead of piously preparing to go to church with mother, as a
dutiful son ought to do, but then I'm hardly responsible. This
love is, indeed, an awful thing; as Byron said, "it interferes
with all a man's projects for good and glory." Besides, I am
only fulfilling my scriptural destiny in "forsaking father and
mother" -- and all that -- and -- and -- I can't quote any farther.
But the pith of it is -- leaving your mother to go alone to church,
and stealing off up into a quiet chamber to spoil good paper with
wretched scribbling to puzzle the eye of the dearest girl of all
the world. Well, you'll forgive the sin I hope. I know you will
if you have thought a tithe as much about me -- but you haven't
--as I have about you, the five or six days past,--and with a
pardon beaming from your -- I was a-going to say deep, and
then sweet, but no one adjective can describe it -- eye, I shall
feel a heathenish indifference as to any other forgiveness. For
"at this present," that eye has become to me, and I trust will
ever continue, "like a star in the mariner's heaven"--an eye
which is to give color, shape, and character to all my future
hopes, fancies, and "reveries."  . . . .
  To think that I am beginning to realize that revery [before the
glowing anthracite] ! To  think that that lovely vision is an
actual, living, breathing being, and is loved by me, and loves in
return, and will one day be my bride--my abiding, forgiving,
trustful, loving wife--to make my happy home blessed indeed
with her cheerful smile and silver voice and warm true heart!
I don't know, Lucy dearest, what you think of it, but -- if I could
quote         Tom Moore I would--
                 ". . . if there be an Elysium of bliss
                      It is this,--it is this !"*
So, Lucy, good-bye for a week or ten days longer. I think
of you constantly, and the more I think of you the deeper I am
in love with you. . . . .
                  Believe me faithfully yours,

To read the complete letter, as well as other letters and diary entries, you can visit the ohiohistory.org site.  Rutherford kept a diary from the age of twelve until his death.

I believe the couple had a love of a lifetime!

Constitution Daily
Ohio History.org
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums

7 thoughts on “Elysium of Bliss

  1. What a handsome couple! I would have bought the photo, too, without knowing who they were. I didn’t know anything about them, so I read a little of their Wikipedia pages. Lucy’s is almost as long as Rutherford’s! She was the first First Lady to have a college degree, and first to invite an African American musician to perform at the White House (among other “firsts”). This anecdote from her time there is funny:

    “Looking to celebrate American flora and fauna, Lucy commissioned Theodore R. Davis to design new china for the White House. After using the pieces, Washington hostess Clover Adams complained that it was hard to eat soup calmly with a coyote springing from behind a pine tree in the bowl.”

    Liked by 1 person

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