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  • "A woman is never old, so long as she can inspire a feeling of love."
  • "A woman is never old, so long as she can inspire a feeling of love."
  • "A woman is never old, so long as she can inspire a feeling of love."
Twenty-two-year-old Emilia Leftwich Haden wrote to her cousin Callie Anthony on February 11, 1860, passing on gossip and her fears of remaining an "old maid."
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My Dear Callie

"A woman is never old, so long as she can inspire a feeling of love."

Emilia Haden to Callie Anthony, February 11, 1860, Anthony Family Papers, 1785–1952, Acc. 35647, 35648, Library of Virginia.

Callie Anthony says: My cousin Emilia Leftwich Haden is twenty-two years old. Emilia's father is one of Ma's brothers, and her mother is Pa's niece. Emilia wrote me from her home in Campbell County while I was still at school at Hollins. She told me about an outbreak of smallpox near Salem, Alabama, where part of the Haden family lives. Smallpox is so scary. Even if you survive you have so many scars! Emilia is so worried about being an "old maid," that's practically all she talks about, but I love getting her gossip too.

Emilia Haden to Callie Anthony, February 11, 1860, Anthony Family Papers, 1785–1952, Acc. 35647, 35648, Library of Virginia.

Bellemont Feby 11th 1860
My Own Dear Callie
As you requested an immediate answer to your dear kind letter, which I received yesterday; I will now attempt to reply. I did not keep it an hour before I read it; but I do not think that you did not appreciate my scroll: even though you kept it so long before you opened it, to read it[s] contents. There has been a dark shadow over my spirits for sometime, and were I to obey the prompting of my lonely heart; I would write you a sad dull letter but it is not meet that I should yield to melancholy's dark control; and wander through its lone, and dreary paths for I am sure "the more I feed the flame, the more difficult will be the task to tame the gloomy guest." I sometimes fear that my feelings are ominous of some sad event, that is soon to happen; though I trust that no calamity, or misfortune may befall any one. I received a letter from Borther last week, and he wrote me that the small pox was vey near him; and I have been rather weary about his taking it though I hope it will not reach Salem. When I wrote to him I urged him to be vaccinated by all means, as the disease is so dangerous, and I dread it so much.
Mans Smith called here awhile last Sunday on his way to Lbg, to get him a buggy to bring his bride home. He seemed very much elated at the thought of marrying; and talked very freely about it. I joked him a little about myself, notwithstanding he was so near being married: it seemed as natural that I could not help doing it; though I knew it would never avail me anything, alas! poor me! my last beau is about to leave the state of singlebles[s]edness; and leave me an old maid to sigh over the past: and mourn my irreparable loss. He sent a message to you he requested me to tell you when I wrote that he was about to be "ceasded" from among us;— which is certainly a lamentable fact and one that will cause you and me some trouble. The girls did not stop as they promised; but went straight on. I understand they will not have any party at their house; and I suppose that is the reason they did not call. I [g]uess they thought we would expect an invitation; and they would hate to disappoint us. Cornelia will reach home this eve. she has been absent some time; though I reckon it seemed quite short to her. I can not give you any information with reference to Ca[s] Williams' affairs; though I heard he left his Darleine's house in a fine humor: so I presume he must have been pleased, and of course met with some encouragement. Our neighbors are not as communicative as they formerly were, therefore news of that kind is scarce. Miss Kabler is expected home this week I believe. I suppose she has made some conquests, as that was the object of her visit. Aunt Polly wrote to Ma the other day that she had been told we were to have three weddings in our region soon; and that B K's was to be one, of course Dr G. is the highly favored gentleman who will claim her for his bride. Callie don't show this to any one. Mark was not p[le]ased with his trip to old Mr Board's. he stayed only tw[o] days and he became tired; and left Brown, and came home from his description of everything up that way, I gue[]ss it is rather "hard times;" and the people are rough eno[ugh] oh. He met with one of Bettie's old flames up there; an[d] heard him speak of having been at her Pa's to see her. his name is Wexorley. mention this to B. and tease her a little about him. Since Marks return I [words lost in a crease] a letter professedly from a lady; who pretend[ed] to be very much enamored of him; and writes as if he had "proposed"—: and left the important matter with her to deliberate on; and she insists that he shall come up the 14th to attend a large party: and she will then decide what his fate will be. Borwn is the author of it I am certain: but it is useless for any one to attempt to quiz M he treats their productions with contempt; and never condescends to read them. The one he got yesterday was directed to M. Irknd alias Haden, that was a name given him by Bettie's beau. He is a laughing stock for people just like the General. he has an old fiddle now on which he plays constantly; and we are annoyed dreadfully by it.
Callie dear if you are beginning to dread the appellation of old maid what should be my feelings when I am more a year your senior; and besides have not the half of your advantages in any respect. but I hope it will not be your fate to be one of that sisterhood: even if it is mine. I anticipate spending many happy hours at your new home, no matter where it will be, provided you will allow me to do so. Though my youth is fleeting fast; and I have been so unfortunate heretofore in my love affairs: I have not quite despaired yet. I have read somewhere that a woman is never old, so long as she can inspire a feeling of love; so there is some hope and consolation for me even now: You tell me that I am loved by a noble and gallant youth; but you may be deceived after all. Men are so uncertain these days, and are so skilled in the arts, and wiles of the world: that I am disposed to doubt nearly all of them. I scarcely know whether or not there is such a thing as love. I sometimes think it is only a bright phantom which glides away from our grasp; but I may "in the course of human events," meet with some true hearted person, who will give me pure disinterested love: and who will be capable of appreciating my many good qualities. What will you think when you read all this nonsense? I lacked something to fill out this sheet, and could not find anything else; [torn] don't think me crazy on this all important subject All [is] well at your Pa's I believe. I understand Mr Matthews [will] preach at Shiloh tomorrow eve; but I am thinking he will have a bad day from the way it looks out now.
I shall be delighted to welcome you "home again". I feel so lonely when you are gone; but I am so sorry you are going back. I was hoping you would be willing to stop school after this session. Unless [torn] making the conquests will be dull. My "sage advisor" B.H. was here a few days ago, advising me to take a trip to the springs this summer to catch beaux: but I would never go to such places to get a partner for life. I have no doubt but Vai & the Dr would be very much pleased to get an invitation from you to spend your vacation with you at home; and either of them would gladly spend the remainder of their lives with you I guess. Now don't let this excite your vanity too much. You will get tired reading this scratch I know, so I will conclude. All send much love to you. Write soon and write longer letters. Adieu dear C until I hear from you again.
I expect you will get some Val this year. I am very anxious to hear what that is that will make me laugh so much. What has become of Penn these days. Put this where no one will see it.
Yours devotedly
EMILIA