“A Valentine – Ever So Sweet and Pretty”
In honor of today’s holiday, this blog post highlights a Valentine received by sixteen-year-old San Antonian Willie Maverick in 1864. The two-page Valentine was coyly signed by his “Friend and … Mattie”; at this time, nothing more is known about her.
William H. Maverick (1847-1923) was the fourth son of Samuel Augustus Maverick, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He was a student at the Bastrop Military Institute from fall 1863 until the end of the Civil War, and numerous letters between Willie and his parents and siblings in the DRT Library’s collection of Maverick Family Papers document his experiences there. During the war, Willie also served in the local Home Guards and spent brief periods of time with his brothers’ Confederate military units.
The front page of Mattie’s Valentine contains a two-verse poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852).
Our first young love resembles
That short but brilliant ray,
Which smiles, and weeps, and trembles
Through April’s earliest day
No, no – all life before us,
Howe’er its lights may play
Can shed no lustre o’er us
Like that first April ray.
Our summer sun may squander
A blaze serener, grander
Our autumn beam may, like a dream
Of heaven, die calm away:
But no – let life before us
Bring all the light it may,
’Twill shed no lustre o’er us
Like that first trembling ray.
Inside, Mattie copied a slightly altered version of the first verse of “Lines to a Sister Dead.” The poem was written by Englishman John Kenyon (1784-1856), a distant cousin of Elizabeth Barrett and close friend of Robert Browning who was responsible for the two poets meeting.
I think of thee Willie
In my sad and lonely hours.
And the thought of thee comes o’er me
Like the breath of morning flowers.
Like music that enchants the ear,
Like sights that bless the eye,
Like the verdure of the meadow,
The azure of the sky;
Like rainbow in the evening,
Like blossom on the tree
Is the thought of thee Willie
Is the tender thought of thee.
Willie Maverick received Mattie’s Valentine enclosed in a two-page letter from his mother, Mary Ann Adams Maverick. “Last mail we recd [received] a letter directed to you,” she wrote to her son from San Antonio on February 11, 1864, presumably from the Maverick family home at the northwest corner of Alamo Plaza. “I opened it & found it a Valentine – ever so sweet and pretty – so of course I send it on to you, & suppose you will know which one of your sweethearts wrote it.” The library’s collection does not include Willie’s letter in response, so it is unknown how the teenaged boy felt about his mother opening, reading, and commenting on his romantic correspondence.
For Further Reading
Turn Your Eyes Toward Texas: Pioneers Sam and Mary Maverick by Paula Mitchell Marks
When Will the Weary War be Over?: The Civil War Letters of the Maverick Family of San Antonio edited with an introduction and epilogue by Paula Mitchell Marks