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Frederick Douglass to Isabel Jennings, July 30, 1846



Edinburgh, [Scot.] 30 July 1846.


This is first oppertunity of addressing you since I received your last note.1Isabel Jennings’s letter to Douglass has not been located. What shall I say to avert your displeasure. I can say with truth that I regret having made you angry—and regret having wrote the letter at which you took offence. You rightly account for its seeming harshness[.] Let Dr. Smyth2Thomas Smyth. bear the blame. I should never have written such a letter had I not been erritated by the foul slanders of this Revd. manstealer. Still Dear Isa I cannot be as kind to myself as you have been to me. I cannot throw all the blame so far


from home[.] I must take a share of it myself. I will not take much of it however[.] I will throw it off upon poor human nature. No man hath power over the spirit.3A paraphrase of Eccles. 8:8. He must submit its magic sway with the same resignation that the weather-beaten Mariner does when dashed upon the waves of the storm tossed ocean. I would be always pleasant and agreeable if I could be, but so I cannot allways be. I cannot be always upon the mountain top—no more than I can be always in the tranquil shade of the valley[.] I have my times and seasons like every body else[.] You told me nothing new—when you told me that I was imperfect.4In an earlier draft of this letter, Douglass wrote that he had “ascertained the cause of difference between us to be my imperfection or rather I had not come up to the expections which you had formed respecting me at the first from what you learned of me through Mr. Garrison and Phillips. This is what you meant or your words were not suited to your meaning. If you meant this it was just cause for disatisfaction. You told me no news at all when you told me I was imperfect, and if Mr. Garrison or Phillips gave you any reason to expect perfection in me, they did both you and me a serious wrong.” General Correspondence File, reel 9, frame 296, FD Papers, DLC. It was known here three weeks before your letter came to hand. I am sory that Mr. Garrison or Phillips5Wendell Phillips.—led you astray in regard to my character. But enough of this. I am in deed a very imperfect being—and that should have been my submissive reply to your kind note instead of the naughty letter which made you so angry.

Please make my love to all at Brown street6Isabel Jennings lived on Brown Street in Cork, Ireland. Douglass Papers, ser. 2, 1:167. and believe as ever your sincere friend.


ALS: General Correspondence File, reel 1, frame 617, FD Papers, DLC. PLSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 5:45–46.


Douglass, Frederick (1818–1895)




Yale University Press 2009


Library of Congress, Frederick Douglass Papers



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Library of Congress, Frederick Douglass Papers