Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Don't be afraid, boy."

Meanwhile, Mike Hogg did well enough on his exams to be admitted to the University of Texas in the fall of 1905. His brother Will, working in his new job in St. Louis, could not resist a long letter of advice to Mike about university life:

Doubtless you will be solicited to join a fraternity. I want you to join some college fraternity; you will find one a source of agreeable companionship through college and in it you will establish friendships which will endure always. But have a care; know the crowd, all of them, before you join. . . .  
While in college and ever afterwards, I hope you will be able to wear good-neat, well-made clothes; keep your shoes polished; clean linen on; hair regularly cut and eider-down off your face . . . one should dress as well as circumstances will allow, always barring foppishness, of course. . . .
I want you to know above every thing that I am your friend, first, last and all the time . . . and your brother afterwards; that no trial or tribulation which may overcome you, I would not share heartily and lovingly. Let no fear of what I might think or assume concerning your predicament deter you from being always frank, open and confiding towards me . . . doubtless you will do some slip-shod thing which will tend to compromise you in your own estimation . . . let me know your little college trouble . . . that I may serve you as your closest friend. Come to me, my boy, not for censure but for loving assistance. . . .        
Don’t be afraid, boy: have more moral courage than brute bravery. . . . Be fearless in your thoughts, actions and speech that they may be pure. . . . if you are not brave in college and out of it you will not be worth a damn there or afterwards.
Keep out of debt at college and try to do so in after life . . . don’t spend any money you have not in hand. . . .
Confident that you will make a man good and proper first of all and hoping that you will be a scholar afterwards I am, with constant love, Yours, Will.

Years later Mike dubbed his brother Will “Mr. Podsnaps” after a stuffy, self-righteous character in Charles Dickens’s 1865 novel, Our Mutual Friend.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Mysterious Romance, Part 2

When Ima went to Colorado in August 1905, so did Willis Reeve. He wrote a note to her on Cliff House stationery (undated, as was his habit), when she was late for a dinner date:          
You know I thought we were to go to dinner at six & get an early start--You certainly had better hurry or else you’ll incur my terrible wrath--
         Ima saved this note, along with his others. Presumably she went to dinner. She had a good time in Manitou--until Mr. Reeve left. She wrote to her brother Mike:

All my fun is over. Have been having a dandy gay time for the last ten days, but—boo hoo—everybody I know left yesterday and before. Had been to a dance every night for ages. . . .
Mr. Reeve was up a few days but went away some where with his sisters.

When Willis Reeve returned to Houston, his and Ima’s mutual friend, W. G. Harris, wrote to Ima, referring to a teasing letter he and Reeve had written to her earlier, saying that they had been “both so overcome & grief stricken over your absence we knew not what we did and are really not responsible for what we said.” (Alas, that letter has not been located.)
         In the fall of 1905 Ima saw more of “Renn,” which seems to have been a nickname for Willis Reeve. Among the Ima Hogg papers are several dance programs: the Annual Dance of the University German Club” on November 30, 1905, at the Driskill Hotel, a dance at Protection Hall December 7, and a cotillion program December 22 at Concordia Hall. The last two events were evidently debutante balls. Ima’s Concordia Hall dance card shows that she danced the first dance with “Renn.” She also danced twice more with him, and three with W.G. Harris.
         What became of Willis B. Reeve?


Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Mysterious Romance, Summer 1905

         I found the "Sweetheart" letter and its envelope, which had been carefully saved, in a file folder of Ima Hogg’s correspondence in Austin. Then I found another note, also undated, and also on Rice Hotel stationery, signed “WBR.” Further searches revealed that these initials belonged to one Willis B. Reeve. 
         The handwriting in this note, which must have been written earlier, resembles that in the love letter. Reeve was evidently a guest at the Rice Hotel, where Ima and her father were staying. His note begins:
         I really did not get my key at once, but took a little walk--just to think on the day just past and get right for tomorrow. . . .
         I am glad you enjoyed the show. I certainly was glad and proud to have you go. . . .
         Have a good time and “so long.”
                  Reservoir, [slang for “au revoir”]

P.S. I am really afraid I’ll not get upstairs for a while--a good-looking show girl is writing at the clerk’s desk beside me now!

         WBR liked to tease. And as in the love letter, he liked to add P.S.’s.
         But who was he? Why was he staying at the Rice Hotel? Diligent searches of census records, city directories, and newspaper data bases have turned up nothing. He visited Ima at Varner Plantation later that summer, and turned up in Colorado when Ima and her father went there in August 1905.

But there are no more notes and letters in the files. Willis B. Reeve remains a mystery beau.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

“I think only that I love you.” Ima's secret romance, 1905

In 1905, while staying with her convalescing father at the Rice Hotel, Ima, age 22, had a serious romance. An undated letter written on Rice Hotel stationery and addressed to her at the hotel begins, “Sweetheart.” It was an answer to a note Ima had written to the sender. We don't have her note, but she saved the reply:

         It was not just the muchness of your note but the wasness of it that brought that inexpressible joy to my heart. Most heartily do I agree with you, sweetheart, that Fate could not be so unkind as to keep long separated two such loving and trusting hearts. Were I to think for a moment that we were not to be one for ever, that moment would I cease to be. But think not on thoughts so unpleasant for it is by thinking right that you get right, so get right on thought and it will be as you think it. I think only that I love you and that you are mine and that no power on earth can separate us, and none can. I love you by day. I love you by night. No winter chill our love can blight. For the moment dear, I go away—but I leave my love with you to stay. So with love, love, love, and kisses too.
I leave the moment my love with you.
                  Your Sweetheart.        
When I first started to write to you.
I am sure my love, this note was blue
Here’s a last kiss and another still.
Here’s one for Jack and one for Jill.
Of course they are all meant for you.
Jack and Jill I thought would do.
That I might give your kisses the rue
Ere I left—don’t you mind
But if my dear you are really mad
I’ll take them back to make you glad
So there! and there !! and there!!!
The cheeks, the mouth the hair.
So now I’m off but not to stay.
I’ll soon be back—so dear be gay.
[illegible] of love Sweetheart

Who was this mysterious suitor?  
Was his name Willis B. Reeve? Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

THE HOGGS OF TEXAS--Out at last!

 In 2008 (the year of Hurricane Ike) I began working on an edition of the Hogg family letters. It grew, and grew, with nearly 400 letters from collections in Austin and Houston, and Ima’s memoirs of country life in East Texas, student days at the University of Texas, and New York at the turn of the century. 

For this blog, a blurb from the book’s back cover:

“During the 1890s, Governor James Stephen Hogg headed what could be called the “first famiy of Texas”--himself, his wife Sallie, their sons Will, Tom, and Mike, and their daughter, Ima. (No, contrary to numerous stories there were no children names ‘Ura’ or ‘Sheza’ or anything of that sort.) Virginia Bernhard has skillfully edited family letters and memoirs to let the Hoggs tell their own story from 1887 until the death of Jim Hogg in 1906. Readers will find themselves being drawn into and through these years with the Hoggs, experiencing the hopes, joys, successes, and sorrows of a special Texas family. It is a fine read.
         --Randolph B. Campbell, Lone Star Professor of Texas History, University of North Texas, and Chief Historian, Texas State Historical Association