PIERCE, Franklin. Autograph letter signed ("Franklin Pierce") to Laura C. Holloway, Concord, N.H., 29 March 1869. 4 pages, 8vo (7 3/8 x 4¾ in.), second leaf neatly inlaid, slight fold separation between leaves, otherwise fine.
SETTING THE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD STRAIGHT: PIERCE PAYS HOMAGE TO THE MEMORY OF HIS WIFE
A poignant letter in which Pierce respectfully requests that the author of the renowned Ladies of the White House portray his deceased wife's character in a favorable manner. Jane Means Appleton Pierce, the daughter of a Congregationalist minister, was a petite, shy woman who suffered from poor health. She deeply resented her husband's political ambitions which dragged her from the quiet, private life she preferred. Mrs. Pierce rarely played the part of hostess at the White House and fell into a deep depression after the sudden death of the Pierce's only child just weeks before her husband's inauguration. After he left the Presidency, the couple travelled, in hopes it would restore her health, but sadly, she succumbed to tuberculosis in December, 1863. In his extensive account The First Ladies of the United States, Dr. Walter Ostromecki Jr. writes of Jane Pierce's sad life: "Of all the First Ladies, including those whose husband's were assassinated, Mrs. Jane Pierce stands out as the most tragic and pathetic" (p. 78).
Here, Pierce attempts to insure that a published account does justice to his late spouse: "If your attention had been called to the obituary notice of Mrs. Pierce published in the Boston Recorder of Jany. 5th 1864 and reproduced in the New York Observer...you may have been impressed by the sentence 'she shrank with extreme sensativeness [sic] from public observation.' I cannot help being influenced by that very controlling trait of her character and this, I am sure, is true of all her relatives...in consulting our own tastes, we were thoroughly satisfied with the sketch from the hand of one who knew her intimately from his early manhood and loved her well. Mrs. Pierce's life as far as she could well, make it so, was one of retirement. She very rarely participated in gay amusements and never enjoyed what is sometimes called fashionable society. Her natural endowments were of a high order, recognised by all persons with who she was, to any considerable extent, associated. She inherited a judgment singularly clear and correct and a taste almost unerring. She was carefully and thoroughly educated, and moved all her life, prior to her marriage, very quietly, in a circle of relatives and intimate friends of rare culture and refinement."
Obviously concerned about the way his wife might be portrayed, Pierce asks Holloway to be modest in her treatment: "I can readily see, dear madam, that it would be awkward...to leave my dear wife out of your sketches. But do not attempt to make a sketch of forty manuscript pages." He concludes: "Will you excuse me for asking you to reread Prof. Aikens obituary notice...to reproduce the facts and his personal knowledge then set forth in your own way without reference to the space the sketch may occupy in your book. I do not mean to suggest a restraint in the use of any materials you may have."
Six months after writing this letter, Pierce joined his wife in death. In her book, Holloway subsequently characterized Jane Pierce as "Naturally inclined to pensive melancholy...blended with a naturally strong mind."