Source Materials for Raintree County "Politeness Mr. Fraizer" THE LOVE LETTERS of EMMA RHOTON and JOHN WESLEY SHOCKLEY --in facsimile and transcribed--
There are 37 letters (extant) written by Emma Rhoton and John Wesley Shockley, the maternal grandfather of Ross Lockridge, Jr., who inspired the portrait of John Wickliff Shawnessy. These letters span from November 19, 1875 through June 23, 1877. Of the 4 letters presented here, the first 3 were written within a month. The 4th was written 7 months later.
Larry Lockridge notes:
Above all he [John W. Shockley] was a poète manqué, who composed a large portfolio of verse kept mostly to himself. He'd been divorced--Susannah Duke took their son James and moved to Mississippi. He then wooed Elsie's mother-to-be, Emma Rhoton, eighteen years his junior. In love letters smuggled in by friends [often, a Mr. Fraizer], he turned on the poetry to unleash Emma from her father, who vehemently opposed the match, and from her dead mother, whose one dying wish had been that she never marry John Shockley.
"I wish you to consider well the sweet relation of two Souls whose path is one.... You are really a Poet I see. I don't like the word Poetess. You are better than a poet or a poetess, you are a poem.... If we live right, if we seek only to help each other the days will roll on like the rich notes of a sacred song, and our lives will be sweetened by that pure love which we have already tasted. It is for us to live the life of heroes.... I have seen too many lives made desolate by obeying the dictates of parents." When Pa was looking the other way, they eloped.
--Larry Lockridge, Shade of the Raintree, p. 50.
Four Transcribed Letters
Transcribed by their great grand-daughter, Jeanne Lockridge Mueller, January 1982. ~
Oct. 8, 1876
Mr. Shockly: I have been alone by myself all day and have had a pleasant time. I have just finished reading the "Pilgrim's Progress."
Today reminds me of a Sunday, two years ago when we went up to our school-house and could not get in. Do you remember that day? Yes, that is the day you gave me that hickory nut. I never knew what became of mine, but I know what you did with yours. I remember too how angry you were when you put it over the door.
Do you remember of writing my name in my instruction book the last time you were here? (12 Dec.) I said not long ago that I worshiped that book because a certain person wrote my name in it. They knew who wrote it and while I was down there last week; they tore that leaf out. It hurt me so badly that I cried to think they were so curious.
Beck and Dave just now went by. I wish they would stop as they come back. I want to see Dave. Beck came down last evening and she and I went to the orchard and talked till we nearly froze then she went home and came back and stayed all night.
I did not see Dave yesterday to give him that note. I wrote a part of it before I left Spiceland and did not finish it. I thought if I got to see him I would have time then. I did not, and I burnt it.
If I ever give you a cause to be offended, you must not think I have forsaken you. We may meet sometime when I cannot speak to you but let it be all right. The time is coming when I will not be ruled by fear. I know I do things that hurt you, but that time will soon be gone.---What a happy thought. I am sorry that the institute time is past, for I dont know when we can meet again. I enjoyed the institute very much.
Friday, Mr. Edwards asked me why I went with Dave to the lecture and I told him because I wanted to go with him, and he said nothing more to me. O, he is mad at me I know. Some one has come and I will quit.
October 14, 1876
My Darling-- I want to see you, O ever so soon. If Dave and I make any arrangement for us to meet please do all you can to meet me. Do send me something every week--every time you can. O Pet,-- you know the rest.
Politeness Mr. Fraizer
Wednesday, Oct. 1876
Kind Friend--I am in trouble but you cannot help me. O I was so sorry that I could not meet you. My feelings were not imaginable. I got your note Monday evening: and Tuesday, Mother asked Candace if Beck was not carrying letters to me. She told her if she was that she knew nothing of it, nor she doesn't nor won't. I wrote Beck a note today and told her not to come down for a long time. Why they ever thought of such a thing I don't know for we were so careful. Mother has not said anything to me about it, and I dont want her to say anything.
I will keep that letter as long as I can and if I can see Beck I will give it to her. I enjoyed reading the Quotations very much. Yes and "The Flown Bird."
I dont get to walk home now for it has been so bad. I wish I did!
I don't know when I can meet you nor when I can send you another note, but when ever I can I will, and you must not forget to write.
This is good paper. Levi gave it to me.
Politeness Mr. Fraizer.
[May 5, 1877, John W. Shockley to Emma Rhoton]
Glen-fairie, May 5, 1877
My Pet Bird--Since I saw you last I have had many pleasant hours. True to romantic adventures is every event of our lives. I lost that ring coming home that night. I found it next morning in the road, and for the first time saw your initials. Then I kissed it. If you were not so secretive with me I would be much better pleased with you. I will never be satisfied until you are more confidential. Best make me your confidant. There is
a class of lovers and wives who tell more to their friends than to their husbands or sweethearts. With this class of women there is no peace no true love. My wife, when I find her, will put her sweet mouth close to my ear and tell me all. For her life will be wrapped up in my life, and my life will be wrapped up in hers. With me she will be truthful; She will never let me go to others to find out any thing she can tell me.
Now, Darling, I only wish to find such a dear wife in you. Whatever your home influences have been, they have not taught you to be truthful. This great lesson let love teach you--let me teach you. As well as I love you, I do not love a single untruth. If I did not have faith
that my great love for you, and your great love for me will conquer every Doubt, every evil Spirit, I would turn my face from you in sorrow and amid new scenes seek that repose which I now seek in you. I wish you to consider well the sweet relation of two Souls whose path is one. I wish to believe in you as I do in God. I know he will not deceive me, and I wish you to inspire me with the same belief in yourself. God is truth--God is love. Let me with equal emphasis say--My Wife is truth--my wife is love.
Then come sunshine or come rain, come summer or winter, come pain or pleasure, I shall have a wife who puts her life confidingly in my life, and that higher life for which we live will bless us.
Then will the days be glad.
O when we meet again trust me as you never yet have trusted me. If you were with me now (you are with me now)--you are always with me. I have just thought, perhaps it is my fault that you are sometimes so secretive. I will love you so well that you can see how cruel it is--how dangerous it is to tell me even a fib. What a letter I have written! It is my Soul speaking to your Soul, asking in God's name that every hindrance be removed so our souls may be one. O Pet, Sweet one, know that Love is enough.
[ps-a, top of p1]
I will write all over this sheet. What shall we call our home, Pet? Shall we call it Glen-fair, Fairi-glen, Wildglen, Love's Bower, or simply Home, Sweet, Home? When you come here, love, we will name it. PA how I wish you would come in the month of June. When your heart is full of love you will come. My heart waits--O don't you want the time to come when we can meet again? I am so happy with you in my arms. O bless you, and bless you, God bless you. I adore thee.
To My Poem.
[ps-b, top of p4]
I wish to meet you as soon as is prudent. Can we not meet in the woods, if so write and mention the day. O for a day of love. I long to have you sit in my lap neath the green leaves in some secret retreat far away from the selfish world.
Fairie land to thee I fly
When the world is stark and cold
Let me wander, let me lie
Sweet beneath thy leafy wold.
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