A Love Story
Eighty-nine years ago this week, a love story was ignited between the future residents of Virginia House, Alexander and Virginia Weddell. Beginning in Calcutta, declaring itself in New York City, and defining the remainder of two lives forever joined in Richmond, this love was both a whirlwind romance and a lifelong commitment. The couple constantly wrote intensely personal and admiring notes and letters to each other, whether as far away as different continents or merely different rooms on the steamer ship where much of their four-month courtship took place. As with the greatest of love stories, this one starts with a chance meeting and ends with an eternal promise to be together until death.
The couple met each other during Alexander’s post as Consul-General to India on February 7, 1923 at a lunch date arranged by mutual friends. Completely fascinated by Virginia, Alexander quickly arranged a sabbatical so as to accompany her on the return trip to New York. Correspondence between the two paints a picture of a forty-something bachelor finally finding his soul mate in an equally smitten widow who was given a second chance at love. He writes to “My Lady,” “Belovedest,” “My dear and only love,” and signs his letters, “Your own always.” Her responses are most commonly addressed to “My Man” and signed a simple “Your V–.” Some are long and grandiose, indicative of too much time spent apart (“The hours drag until I clasp you again to my heart, my Beloved.” ), and others are short and demonstrative of the intense longing felt for each other after only a few hours spent separately (“Wake up!!! I’m lonely.”). All are peppered with flowery and metaphorical language that defines their attachment to each other. After only a few months of dating, Alexander and Virginia were married at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC on May 23rd. It was not long after the wedding that they built their retirement home in Richmond, where they lived until their untimely deaths in a train accident on New Year’s Day, 1948. Their early correspondence shows so much reverence that it seems to them every day was Valentine’s Day:
There is much, so much, that I wish to say to you—of what you mean to me in life, of what your companionship has been to me, of what hopes and longings and desires possess me in thinking of you—but always my words seem traitors or cowards either betraying me into blundering speech or basely leaving me to face you in silence…’I do but know I love thee, and I pray to be thy knight until my dying day.’
–Alexander toVirginia, March 31, 1923
I want to talk business and tell you of a new organization in which I have invested my all…the Alex and Virginia Company. Strictly Limited, chartered in 1923 under the laws of Romance and Fairyland, with a paid-up stock of
100,000 Kisses, First Preferred Stock
100,000 Caresses, next and 2nd Preferred,
100,000 Glances in Public- just Common Stock.
The first preferred pays dividends in thrills and longings and desires. And the Second Preferred is almost as valuable—The two together make Heaven. The Common Stock is only issued when there is a public present. I’ve divided all the stock between us and no one is ever to have even the fraction of a share—Tu comprends—tu acceptes, mon ange?
–Alexander toVirginia, April 19, 1923
(Speaking of her family’s concern over their quickly approaching nuptials) …so much of our lives is gone, –such a pitiful bit remains for each other that I am ready to risk a mistake, –for the sake of having every possible day together.
–Virginia to Alexander, April 21, 1923
I wish I were a girl, Alex dear, to float up that aisle to you all tulle and orange blossoms…I love you with every bit of me, I want the shelter of your arms, –my place on your heart—in your heart. Isn’t that all that matters, dear?
–Virginia to Alexander, no date
Though, like any relationship, this one had stressors—He feeling overwhelmed by her higher social and economic class, she admitting to being churlish at times—Virginia and Alex never gave up on their love. Tragically and romantically cut short at the hand of a terrible accident, it is survived by their eternal presence next to each other in Hollywood Cemetery and the wonderfully expressive love letters kept at the VHS.
Kathryn Campbell is assistant site manager at Virginia House, once owned by Alexander and Virginia Weddell and given to the Virginia Historical Society after their death.