My Dear Laurens,
What were you thinking, going to London? It is now 10 days since you left our sides and we miss you terribly. Why on earth would anyone go to London anyway? I seem to remember that you told me why, but I have quite forgotten the reason, so it really cannot have been good enough.
I have been instructed to tell you to write to LaFayette and the General who both enquire after you — I must say that you should attend to this only after you write to me, your most devoted correspondent. Please write back to me with much greater frequency than you write to anyone else so that I may avoid feelings of jealousy, sadness, etc.
Anyhow, dearest, I must amuse myself in your absence and, being in such a wretched state as this, I take what entertainment I can find. While of course my main pursuits are concentrated on our military efforts, I remain able to set some time aside to pursue other things. At present I am not looking to settle down with any woman, but it can hardly hurt to enjoy their company, their conversation and their other attributes. The women of New York hold many delights, and there are many women, so I am quite busy.
Of course, women are not the only pursuit to which I have dedicated myself. I am quite committed to being even-handed in all things, and I must say that I have been indulging in the other sorts of earthly delights which I should not mention here but which you very well know. And may I remind you that these can be had in New York just as well as in London. Come back soon.
Yours with love,
My Dearest Laurens,
I hope you are well in London. I must say I think it is very selfish of you to be so busy with whatever it is you are doing if your affairs keep you from writing to yours truly. I am busy too, you know, but I write to you. I just want your complete and undivided attention at all times, darling, how hard is that to understand? Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. Write me a letter, as short as you like. I will cherish it.
I am not entirely without real news to tell you and I know you will be interested in the news I have. I am not cruel enough to withhold it - unlike some people - and shall deliver it to you now. First of all, things in New York are going very poorly. Despite the brilliance, foresight, leadership, raw animal magnetism and exemplary personal bravery of General Washington, this campaign is a total clusterfuck. It now seems likely that we shall have to cede this beautiful city to the British, even if only temporarily. In such an event I shall be beyond consolation. Moreover, Laurens, if we are driven out of New York into New Jersey without you here to comfort me I shall never forgive you until the day I die. Just saying.
Second of all, did you know that our dear friend Gilbert’s full name is actually Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette??? I know! It’s almost too good to be true. I have taken to call him him Marie. He does not appear to enjoy it, which makes it even better for me, as you very well know.
Today I was reminiscing about those first few evenings in that dingy little bar in Harlem - do you remember the night we heard the news of Bunker Hill? I cannot remember ever having been so elated nor so drunk. If I am not mistaken we were both still drunk when we work up the next morning. I don’t recall that it slowed us down a bit, either. I miss those days and cannot wait for you to return to New York or at the very least Charleston where your letters may come more quickly (if indeed you plan to write to me ever again, I mean).
Write me back!
My Darling Laurens,
What the fuck is going on in London? I do not know why I continue to write to you when you are such an awful wretch and never write me back. It feels as though I have had no word from you in months. Of course it is entirely possible that it has not been as long as that and it is simply the intensity of my missing you that seems to stretch the time out. You should have factored that in when deciding on the frequency with which you intended to write to me and so, in either case, you are awful and I hate you. Write me back!
I have news. Or rather I have complaints. General Washington is in terrible spirits at the moment and I can hardly blame him. You must know that he has put Charles fucking Lee in charge of a battalion - assuming you are reading any correspondence from any of us, that is. For what ungodly reason our intelligent, wise and attractive General has decided to do this, I do not know. Perhaps Lee is blackmailing him. If you were here then you could help me figure it out. As it is, the situation is dire. Sharing the same General with Lee is a constant tribulation. I can feel us careening towards disaster. I truly pity the men forced to serve our cause under the “leadership” of this self-aggrandizing chucklefuck. He is the biggest blowhard I have ever known, myself included. And he is quite the coward. You know the type, all bark and no bite; he wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.
If it is not blackmail then I think Washington may be going mad, perhaps by poisoning??? No, I don’t really. But I do not understand why he is making these terrible decisions. At the same time I am duty-bound to support his excellency and I am sure I know nothing and he knows everything. Anyway, as a result my heart is confused and I hate everybody and everything except for you. Please come back soon.
I feel you should know that because you have not written to me I have taken to interrogating any and all of our mutual friends who may have seen you in London. I am forsworn not to reveal the names of my informants but they all agree you are being terribly secretive and they all have no idea what is going on. This is so unlike you and I am very worried about you. I am more worried about myself in the event that something happens to you as honestly I do not know how I can go on like this. You should return soon so that I can keep you under constant surveillance and supervision. This is a normal request from your best friend, and I think you should consider it.
Anyway, in other news, I slept with a redhead for the first time last night. Did you know they have red hair everywhere? Well, they do. Now you know.
Write me back!!
Yours in increasing anxiety,
To my darling Laurens whom I now hate forever,
I hate you (see above) and I hate even more the city of London which has stolen you away. In fact it now seems plain that nothing good has ever come from that place and nothing good ever shall. It is rightly and by far the most hated city in a country which is already quite hate-able on average. Even though I hate you, I feel sorry for you that you remain there. But I feel much more sorry for myself. I hope you are not enjoying yourself at all. I am the most wretched person on the face of this earth and I think it only fair that you should feel the same since my emotions are your fault.
At least LaFayette is here to comfort me (I have stopped calling him Marie because he truly does not like it and is quite fierce if provoked). I feel rather pathetic writing to you constantly with no reply and while he is not very kindly towards me and keeps insisting that I should respect your decisions on how often to write back to me, he does stay up late with me and pat me soothingly on the head while I complain. He at least listens to me and sometimes replies with “I can see how respecting other people’s privacy is hard for you” or “You’re so stupid, Alexander” and so on. You can tell from these statements that he cares. Unlike some people.
Anyway, I hate you a lot. That was my point, which I believe I have now made in its entirety.
Please, darling. I am not above begging you, as you very well know. Write me back. Please. I love you.
Yours quite pathetically,
My dear friend,
I hope you are well in London. Please write to us and let us have some of your news. AH grows increasingly irritable, snappish, petty, self-involved and consumed by his work, as is his tendency at the best of times. To put it plainly, he is being a brat. I imagine he may have used some strong language in his letters to you which he likely regrets. He loves you dearly and he pines after you ferociously, no matter what oaths to the contrary he may have sworn in his letters. You know how he is when he feels neglected — and yes, all this despite his own manifest inability to reliably answer letters from anyone other than your fine self. Please pay him no mind but write us back at your earliest convenience.
By the way, I am sure you have heard things are bad here on the battlefield, but we can turn it around. Don’t let that add to your worries. We’ll get the job done.
To my dearest Alexander,
I am very sorry to have neglected you so badly these past few months. I read each of your letters several times but I simply did not know how to explain the present situation in which I find myself. It is my own stupid fault as always. I have been here having fun as we used to in New York and made a complete mess of everything. You may hate me when you find out what has been occupying my attention here, but I know you would hate me more if you found out from someone else.
Alexander, the girl is pregnant and I am the worst fool. I shall have to marry her - the alternative is unthinkable. We are now engaged. My father does not know. I should have told him but couldn’t face it. I have once again a violent struggle within myself between duty and inclination. I know I should not leave Martha’s side while she is pregnant, and yet I can no longer bear to be in London. Of course I leave her with sufficient funds so that she and the child will be comfortable, but I cannot bring myself to do more. This also my father does not know.
I know how competitive you are, darling, but even you must admit that this time you have lost and I have won - for I am, in fact, the most wretched person on the face of this earth, and you must concede the title. Come now, do not be churlish in defeat. It gives me no joy to so upstage you.
I cannot tell you how much I miss you. I don’t have the words. Indeed, I think that I have need of you here to help me determine which words I should best use to express how fondly I yearn for our reunion. Please come at once (I’m kidding, Hamilton, stay where you are!).
I may not be able to write to you again for some time. I hope I shall sail for Charleston soon, though when exactly I do not know. From there I should be able to get to New York, I hope by December but certainly by next year. Until then, please hold me in your heart despite my many failings. I am trying to be better.
I remain, as ever, yours,
To my dearest John Laurens, on the occasion of your engagement,
Please allow me to express the depth of my sorrow and shame for my behavior these past few months. I am quite sick to think that this letter may take some 60 days or more to reach you and that you may spend that time not knowing how very sorry I am.
In fact, I did find out your news from someone else. Not two days before your confessional letter arrived, I was able to extract the secret from Ternant when he visited. Of course I should have preferred to hear it from you, but I understand now why you did not write, although this would not be my own tendency were I in your predicament. You ought to let us help you more often, but even this I cannot begrudge you. I only ask you to allow me the privilege of supporting you next time when you most need it. I do not, and indeed cannot, hate you. I put this on my life - nobody and nothing will ever come between us.
I understand your desire to do right by this girl, and I agree that you must marry her and provide for her. But you cannot remain in London no matter what your transgressions. We are at war. Things could hardly be more dire here and we simply cannot spare you. Think about all that we have lost, John, and all that we might yet lose. No, you cannot remain in London. I forbid it. We have need of you here. As for your faults: I do not deny that you behaved recklessly, but it is a trait that I share and that I love in you, and I cannot in fairness fault you for it. This could have happened to me - I have been no more cautious than you in my own affairs. I am only luckier (so far).
Come back to us in New York as soon as you can. You have no idea how much we have need of you here. The General increasingly treats me like a child, and Lee is trying my patience every day. There is a court martial in his future, I swear to god. Come back and help me make it happen - the sooner the better, I think, as we cannot win with him in charge of anyone. (Perhaps you should burn this letter after you read it, dearest, as I think technically this might be treason.)
I miss you terribly and when I am not engaged in my duties you are all I can think about. I cannot hold a conversation on anything other than you and the revolution. Lafayette is close to giving up on conversing with me altogether, I can feel it. Please come home to me.
Yours for ever,
My darling Alexander,
I cannot tell you how much comfort your letter brought me. I am preparing to depart for Charleston next week as I write this. My yearning to be back in the Americas is outweighed only by my yearning to see your face again (and hear your voice again, although that I can hear in my head most of the time anyway).
My conscience is not assuaged, but you are right that my duties to the revolution and to abolition outweigh my duties to Martha. She has my promise to marry and my financial support, and in the current climate she can have no more from me. It is not ideal but I must make my peace with it. I do not deserve her forgiveness and I do not even hope for it.
I shall try to make my way to New York as soon as possible. You must hold the line in my absence a little longer. I have no doubt that you will do it, as you do anything once you have set your mind to it. And you must keep yourself well and treat yourself kindly in my absence too. As for me, I am going to do the best that I can do, and get back to you; I’m my best when I’m with you.
When I re-read those letters you sent me earlier last year, I feel again the keenness of my emotions from that time, when I did not dare confide in you. I swear that I will never keep a secret from you again. I can hardly believe so much time has passed; that we have been apart for so long. I should like to say also that I will never leave your side again, darling, but I doubt that I can keep such a promise in war. Perhaps there will be time again after the war to reconsider the making of such a promise. In lieu of this, please accept my unswerving devotion and my promise that I will see you again soon.
Yours for ever,