Frances D. Lear's first note, signed by her, was written to her "Dearest friend," and dated Wednesday 10th April 39. Single sheet, 12.5 x 16 cm., approx. 60 words, addressed on verso to "Mrs. Madison." Mrs. Lear requests "the favor of one more frank for Miss Hart and if you are sending to the Post office this can be put in with yours...." Her second note, also signed, and dated May 20th, 1842, is directed on the verso to "Mrs. Madison- Presidents Square." Single sheet, 20 x 19.5 cm., approx. 70 words. Mrs. Lear thanks her "beloved friend for the letter of yesterday," and reports that Commodore Hull is "quite well again and Mrs. Hull as usual." Both notes are in a clear hand, and both have been neatly silked. Item #66240
Frances Dandridge Henley, Martha Washington's niece, was the third wife of Tobias Lear (1762-1816), private secretary to George Washington. They married in 1803, and spent several years in North Africa where Lear represented the United States as Consul General at Algiers, and negotiated the Treaty of Tripoli during the Barbary Wars. Commodore Hull, referred to in the second note, was Isaac Hull (1773-1843), who saw service in the Mediterranean during the Barbary Wars and later became Commodore of the U.S. Navy. Upon the Lears return to the United States, Pres. James Madison gave Tobias Lear an appointment in the War Department, just at the outbreak of the War of 1812 and the burning of Washington. Lear later committed suicide in 1816, leaving behind no explanation, according to his biography in the DAB. Frances Lear continued to live in Washington, DC until her death in 1856. Mrs. Madison had returned to the city in 1837, following the death of her husband at Montpelier in Virginia the previous year, and the two women evidently renewed their friendship. Dolley Madison struggled to support herself and her son Payne Todd who was a poor manager of the family estate, by attempting to sell her husband's papers in the 1840s.