Elmwood, Aug. 28, 1863.
My dear Sarah, — Not a day has passed since I heard the dreadful news1 that I have not thought tenderly of you and yours; but I could not make up my mind to write you, and the longer I put it off the harder it grew. I have tried several times, and broken down. I knew you would be receiving all manner of consolation, and, as I know that consolation is worse than nothing, I would not add mine. There is nothing for such a blow as that but to bow the head and bear it. We may think of many things that in some measure make up for such a loss, but we can think of nothing that will give us back what we have lost. The best is that, so far as he was concerned, all was noble and of the highest example.
I have been writing something about Robert, and if, after keeping a little while, it should turn out to be a poem, I shall print it; but not unless I think it some way worthy of what I feel, however far the best verse falls short of noble living and dying such as his.
I would rather have my name known and blest, as his will be, through all the hovels of an outcast race, than blaring from all the trumpets of repute. . . .
If the consolation of the best is wearisome, it is yet something to have the sympathy of every one, as I know you and Frank have. God bless and sustain you!
Your always loving
J. R. Lowell.
1 Of the death of her only son, the gallant Colonel Shaw, one of the most heroic of the youths who offered their lives in the Civil War to their country and to freedom.
SOURCE: Charles Eliot Norton, Editor, Letters of James Russell Lowell, Volume 1, p. 366-7