Description

    "I will set out for the west tomorrow..."

    Sam Houston Autograph Letter Signed "Sam Houston." Three pages of a bifolium, 8" x 9.5", New York, March 30, 1830, to "Mr. [John Wesley] Jarvis, Grand Artist Portrait Painter New York." In this letter, which reflects Houston's restlessness and lightheartedness, the future Texan playfully informs artist John Jarvis, who missed the previous evening's "valedictory" appointment, that he will be returning west to his new home in Arkansas Territory among the Cherokees on the following day. Houston also refers to other friends whom he will miss, stating that one - "Paulding" (possibly James Kirke Paulding) - "may suppose that I am a savage, but he was kind to me, and doubtless would as kindly have drawn a poisoned arrow from my heart." The letter exhibits smoothed folds, along with some staining and soiling. Remnants of the red seal on the address panel still remain. Repairs exist on the address panel to a small area of paper loss, which was due to the original opening of the seal. The letter reads in full:

    "I never knew a man of genius, to be a man of punctilious voracity! I will set out for the west tomorrow at 6 oclock AM. It matters not when I will go. You promised to be at my room at ½ past 7 oclock, but as a man of genius you did not come, so my valedictory to you not rendered, makes me so much the richer by saving it. I never knew a profligate Prince, not a smart fellow, but what has his 'hair breadth scapes' from such men as you and John Falstaff - 'tread lightly o'er the ashes of the dead' therefore I will add Sir!!! - to his proper name!!

    "Monsieur Jarvy, to be candid one thing I do regret! Do you suppose that it is my not saying farewell to you and Clay? If you do you are mistaken! D__n you, I like you both, because the 'Great Spirit' seems, in something like whimsicality to have gifted you both (if I dare say it) but not because you keep your word with an Indian!

    "A matter of serious regret to me is that I did not see more of Paulding. He may suppose that I am a savage, but he was kind to me, and doubtless would as kindly have drawn a poisoned arrow from my heart - Yet had I seen him I should have been more happy, and added other recollections to the happy assurance that he is one of natures gifted sons, embellished by art & science!

    "When you see him, tender to him my kind recollections of grateful feeling, assure him also at the same time that when I can serve him and gratify my own vanity by writing any thing of interest that I will be happy to do so!

    "If I do not return here in a fortnight, I will start for the west [so in] the meantime, write to me at Washington City and 'I will take a crack at you myself' in turn. Your friend [signed] Sam Houston. Past 2 oclck AM. of course in a hurry."

    In April 1829, less than one year before writing this letter, Sam Houston (1793-1863) abruptly resigned his office as governor of Tennessee after his wife of only eleven weeks, the young Eliza Allen, mysteriously left him. Houston quickly moved from Tennessee and a promising political career to live a self-imposed exile in the Arkansas Territory among the Cherokees, where he was proudly known as the Raven (and less proudly as Big Drunk). During his exile (May 1829 through November 1832), Houston dressed like his Cherokee hosts, maintained but little contact with whites, and drank heavily. He did, however, make trips out of his exile back east to New York and Washington. (On one such trip later in 1832, Houston traveled to the capital to thrash an Ohio congressman with a hickory cane.) In the final days of 1829, he left his new home to serve as an unofficial Cherokee ambassador to Washington. During his trip, he also travelled to New York, where he met with Jarvis and many other friends. John W. Jarvis (1781-1839) was a popular American painter based in New York City. His subjects included Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper. In 1832, Houston withdrew from exile and migrated to Texas. "Hair breadth scapes," a phrase Houston uses in the first paragraph of the letter comes from act one of Othello. "John Falstaff," which also appears in the first paragraph, is a reference to a Shakespeare character who appeared in three plays, often leading his companion Prince Hal into trouble. The phrase "tread lightly o'er the ashes of the dead," which occurs at the end of the first paragraph, is a common proverb. This letter has not been on the market since it was purchased by the current owner from Robert F. Batchelder on November 15, 1974.


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    Auction Dates
    March, 2015
    14th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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