Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/389

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Social Life in Richmond During the War. 383

all crowded around him, and he kissed every one of them. This was esteemed his privilege, and he seemed to enjoy the exercise of it. On such occasions he was thoroughly urbane, but always the digni- fied patrician soldier in his bearing.

Private theatricals were also a form of amusements during the war. I saw several of them. The finest I witnessed, however, was a performance of Sheridan's comedy, The Rivals, in which that brilliant lady, Mrs. Senator Clay, of Alabama, played Mrs. Mala- prop. Her rendition of the part was one of the best I ever saw, rivalling that of any professional. The audience was very brilliant, the President of the Confederacy, Mr. Davis, Judah P. Benjamin, and others of equal distinction being present.

Mrs. Davis is a woman of great intellectual powers and a social queen, and at these entertainments she was very charming. Mr. Davis was always simple, unpretentious, and thoroughly cordial in his manner. To those who saw him on these occasions it was im- possible to associate his gentle, pleasing manner with the stern decis- ion with which he was then directing his side of the greatest war of modern times. The world has greatly misunderstood Mr. Davis and in no way more than in personal traits of his character. My brother, the late Frank H. Alfriend, was Mr. Davis's biographer, and through him and through personal intercourse with Mr. Davis, I knew him well. In all his social, domestic, and family relations he was the gen- tlest, the noblest, the tenderest of men. As a father and husband he was almost peerless, for his domestic life was the highest conceivable.


Mr. Davis, at the Executive Mansion, held weekly receptions, to which the public were admitted. These continued until nearly the end of the war. The occasions were not especially marked, but Mr. and Mrs. Davis were always delightful hosts.

Conspicuous figures in the social life of Richmond during the war were the accomplished and learned Judah P. Benjamin : the sitver- tonged orator, William L. Yancey, of Alabama; the profound logi- cian and great constitutional lawyer, Ben. Hill, of Georgia ; the able, eloquent, and benevolent Alexander H. Stephens, also of Georgia ; the voluble but able Henry S. Foote, of Mississippi ; the polished Wil- liam Porcher Miles, of South Carolina; ex-President John Tyler, of Virginia; the present Senator Vest, of Missouri, and the proximity of the army to Richmond rendered it possible for General Jeb Stuart,