A Strange and Novel Experience

28 Mar
Manhattan, 1895

Manhattan, 1895

(Ruth did not return to school, so the letters now jump to July of 1895. Will was working in New York at this time, and often stayed in the city. Because the first letter here is short, and he writes again the very next day, I have posted two letters today.)

327 West 32nd St
New York, NY
July 13, 1895

From: William A Gray
To: Ruth Barrell

Dear Ruth:

I will not be in New Providence, or Summit rather, over Sunday as I have concluded
that under the circumstances it will be best for me to stay here.

Tomorrow will be the first Sunday in weeks that my presence will have been lacking
in New Providence, but if I can’t be present personally, it is still my privilege to let my
thoughts wander in that direction, a reverie which is indeed very pleasant to me.
I hope you are enjoying the best of health and every other desirable condition. 

Please pardon the briefness of this note, and believe me to be,
very sincerely


327 West 32nd St
New York, NY
July 14, 1895

From: William A Gray
To: Ruth Barrell, New Providence, NJ

Dear Ruth:

It is now somewhat later than 10 P M and as I have been doing considerable writing
I thought it would be a good way to gracefully wind it up, by dropping a few lines to you.

This has been a very strange and, as you know, an unusual Sunday for me, and to
tell the whole truth, I’m not sorry it is over. The monotony of the day was considerably
broken by the presence of Geo Vogel, who is on his way home, but was persuaded by Ed
to remain with us over Sunday.

This morning we all went to hear Thos Dixon jr who is preacher at what is called the
People’s Church and holds its services at the Academy of Music. It was the most
unceremonial church service I think I ever attended. In fact the platform of the church is
informality and simplicity of worship. Imagine attending a church service on Sunday where
every particularly brilliant remark of the Pastor was applauded by the congregation. Mr
Dixon is certainly a very bright talker and is certainly a marvel in the line of preaching to be
under 30 years of age. He gave a preliminary discourse on the barbarous execution of
Buchannan in which he denounces capital punishment and offers a very clear and strong
defense in support of his argument. The subject of his regular discourse was “Are we
degenerating.” It wasn’t really a sermon but a series of comments upon a new book (I
forgot the author’s name) which treats on a term called mysticism or an abnormal or
diseased condition of men’s brains which makes them incapable of logical thought, a
condition which is proven by the odd and senseless strain of many books of recent date.

Thomas Dixon

Thomas Dixon

In all, it was a very interesting and instructive discourse, and was thoroughly
appreciated by the audience, for in that great crowd of people I didn’t see one asleep.

At this time, Ed had to go to work, so Mr V and I walk leisurely to our flat and after
dinner experienced the extreme opposite form of religious devotion. That of 4 o’clock
vespers at Trinity Church. The ceremonies there were very “High Church” but at the same
time very solemn and impressive and I enjoyed it doubly for the fact that it was the first
Episcopal Service I ever attended. So you will agree with me that today was a strange and
novel experience, for a simple country youth so used to hearing religion handled in that
delicate and gloved manner peculiar to the Presbyterian Church.

I trust you will pardon me Ruth, for taking up your time, deciphering this nothingless
rant, but I was quite homesick when I started to write, and this has been the means of
making me feel a great deal better and bringing me as near home as possible without
being there, so I ask your pardon again for writing it from a selfish point of view.

Walter has been quite well down here and even in his weak condition has been
around the city quite a deal. Will probably see you this week — if not this week certainly the
first day of the next. This must have been a very pleasant day in the country and more than
once I longed to be there, but I will visit you soon and in the interval between I have the
pleasant memory of my last visit to live upon. Remember me to Bessie and all the folks,
and as the hour is late and the paper used up I will close.

Good night.

Sincerely Will


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