Julia Palmer met Morris W. Smith in New York City in the fall of 1845. At twenty-nine, she was ten years his elder, and they became friends, comrades. Several men closer to Julia's age took her to the opera, to art exhibits, to dine, but she also enjoyed quiet evenings conversing with Morris in the parlor of their shared boarding house. (There were about 60 boarders there, mostly young men studying or starting in the professions.)
After Julia returned home in February 1846, they continued their friendship through letters, jokingly addressing each other as "brother" and "sister." Morris's family business kept him in New Orleans through the fall, winter and spring months. In April 1848 Morris visited Julia at her parents' home in Brockport, New York, and they became engaged. That's after TWO YEARS of writing letters, first as just friends. Over time, I think they both began to realize that they could speak frankly about their hopes and dreams to each other, something they had not found in the people actually surrounding them.
Morris and Julia were both smart, and they shared a passion for books. They each loved their parents, and they worked hard at whatever was in front of them. They admitted to faults, and tried to be good people, and to help each other become better. And they teased each other about small things, but kindly.
Over time the tone of their letters changed. They became more tender. And one February day in 1847, Morris signed his letter: "Your brother, servant, slave, or anything so long as I can call myself yours."
Julia did not answer that letter directly.
Eight months later, Morris slipped another taste of romance into his letter, calling her "mavourneen," Gaelic for "my beloved." Four months after that, she actually addressed him for the first time as "Dear" Morris. Subtle, right? The next month, they met again and were engaged.
More to come soon.
Here are some thoughts about weddings, writing, and the world. Enjoy.