Eliza Southgate Bowne was the writer of a series of charming letters which are now published with the subtitle of "A Girl's Life Eighty Years Ago". They give a delightfully vivacious picture of the aristocratic society of the early days of the Republic, the names of many belles and famous men appearing in the girl's correspondence. The letters here printed have more than the interest of contemporary records; they point inward, with a thousand delicate and sparkling touches, the portrait of a lively and beautiful girl, with a character as striking and individual as the face that Malbone has drawn for us on ivory. Never was a reigning beauty more spirited, never was a spirited girl of fashion more truly lovable, than Eliza Bowne.
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Letters of Eliza Southgate
Letters of Eliza Southgate
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Bowne, Family Record. 2
Southgate Family Record.3
Letters of Eliza Southgate. 4
Mrs. Walter Bowne.
Born, September 24, 1783.
Married, Spring of 1803.
Died, February 19, 1809.
Aged 25 years.
Thomas Bowne, Born in Matlock, Derbyshire, England, 1595; died 1677.
John, Son of Thomas, born in Matlock, 1627; married Hannah Field, of Flushing, L. I., 1656; died 1695.
Samuel, Son of John, son of Thomas, born 1667; married Mary Becket, 1691; died 1745.
Samuel, Son of Samuel, son of John, son of Thomas, born 1692; married Sarah Franklin, 1724; died 1767.
James, Son of Samuel 2d, son of Samuel, son of John, son of Thomas; married Caroline Rodman.
Walter, Son of James, son of Samuel, son of Samuel, son of John, son of Thomas, born 1770; married Eliza Sauthgate, of Scarborough, Me., 1803; died 1846.
Children of Walter Bawne.
Walter, Born 1806; married Eliza Rapalje, 1826; died 1877.
Mary King, Born 1808; married John W. Lawrence, 1826; died 1874.
John Southgate, Born in Combs, Suffolk County, England; married Elizabeth—, of Combs.
Richard, Son of John, born in Combs, March, 1671; married, October 17, 1700, Elizabeth Steward; died in Leicester, Mass., April, 1758.
Steward, Son of Richard, son of John, born in Combs, September 18, 1703; married, March 28, 1735, Elizabeth Scott of Palmer, Mass.; died December, 1761.
Robert, Son of Steward, son of Richard, son of John, born October 26, 1741; married, June 23, 1773, Mary King, daughter of Richard King of Scarborough, Me., and sister of Hon. Rufus King; died November 2, 1833.
Children of Robert Sauthgate mentioned in these letters:
Isabella, Married Joseph C. Boyd, Died 1821.
Horatio, “ Abigail McClelland, “ 1864.
Eliza, “ Walter Bowne, “ 1809.
Octavia, “ William Brown, “ 1815.
Miranda, “—Tillotson, “ 1816.
Arixene, “ Henry Smith, “ 1820.
Mary, “ Grenville Mellen, “ 1829.
Medford, January 23, 1797
I went to Boston last Saturday, and there I received your letter. I have nothing new to communicate to you, only my wishes to tarry in Boston a quarter if convenient.
In my last letter to Father,
I did not say anything respecting it, because I did not wish Mr. Wyman to know that I had an inclination to leave his school, but only because I thought you would wish me to come home when my quarter was out. I had a great desire to see my family, but I have a still greater desire to finish my education. Still, I have to beg you to remind my friends and acquaintance that I remain the same Eliza, and that I bear the same love I ever did to them, whether they have forgotten me or not.
Tell my little brothers and sisters I want to see them very much indeed. Write me an answer as soon as you can conveniently. I shall send you some of my work which you have never yet seen,—it is my arithmetic. Permit me, my honored mother, to claim the title of
Your affectionate daughter,
MRS. MARY K. SOUTHGATE.
Medford, May 12, 1797.
With pleasure I sit down to write to the best of parents, to inform them of my situation, as doubtless they are anxious to hear. Permit me to tell something of my foolish heart. When I first came here, I gave myself up to reflection, but not pleasing reflection.
When Mr. Boyd left me I burst into tears , and instead of trying to calm my feelings, I tried to feel worse. I begin to feel happier, and will now gather up my philosophy and think of the duty that now attends me, to think that here I may freely drink of the fountain of knowledge. But I will not dwell any longer on this subject. I am doing nothing but writing, reading, and ciphering: there is a French master coming next Monday, and he will teach French and dancing. William Boyd and Mr. Wyman advise me to learn French, and Mr. E. L. Boyd says it is not best to learn French yet, if I do at all.
I wish you to write me very soon what you think best, for the school begins on Monday. Mr. Wyman says it will take up but very little of my time, for it is but two or three days in the week, and the lessons only two hours long. Mr. Wyman says I must learn geometry before geography, and that I had better not begin either till I have finished ciphering. We get up early in the morning, and make our beds and sweep the chamber. It is about as large as our kitchen chamber, and a little better finished. There ar four beds in the chamber and two persons in each bed. We have chocolate for breakfast and supper.
Your affectionate daughter,
Medford, May 25, 1797.
My Dear Parents:
I hope I am in some measure sensible of the great obligation I am under to you, for the inexpressible kindness and attention which I have received of you, from the cradle to my present situation in school. Many have been your anxious cares for the welfare of me, your child, at every stage and period of my inexperienced life to the present moment. In my infancy you nursed and reared me up, my inclinations you have indulged, and checked my follies,—have liberally fed me with the bounty of your table, and from your instructive lips I have been admonished to virtue, morality, and religion. The debt of gratitude I owe you is great, yet I hope ta repay, by duly attending to your counsels and to my improvement in useful knowledge.
My thankful heart with grateful feelings beat,
With filial duty I my parents greet;
Your fostering care hath reared me from my birth,
And, been my guardians since I've been on earth;
With love unequaled taught the surest way,
And checked my passions when they went astray.
I wish and trust to glad declining years,
Make each heart gay, each eye refrain from tears.
When days are finished, and when time shall cease,
May you be wafted to eternal peace,
Is the sincere wish of your dutiful daughter,
Medford, June 9, 1797.
I am sensible of my being deficient in my duty, in not complying with your request sooner, but perhaps I am not so negligent as you may imagine. It was so rainy when I was in Boston that I could not go out, and Mrs. Boyd advised me not to get them until the spring ships came in. Your bonnet cost 9s., and the veil 1s. 6d., and the ribbon 2s. 6d. I should have gotten satin ribbon, but I could not get any that was so handsome; but if you don't like it, I will get some satin. The children's were 6s. apiece. I did not trim your bonnet, for I was afraid it would get tumbled. They trim them with a large rose bow before, and a great many ends to the ribbon, and a bow and streamers behind, and not let the ribbon go round the crown; and trim the children's in the same manner; or nothing but a ribbon round the crown. You may trim them with any color you please, but I think pink will look best for Arexine. You must line them with the same color you trim them with, if you please; bonnets like yours are worn very much by old and young. I got me one; it is shaped very much like yours; it is blue satin and straw. Sarah's ear-rings cost me 13s. 6d. Be so kind as to write me very often, and I shall feel much more contented in perusing your letters, and in following your advice. Please to send those things that you have got ready as soon as you can conveniently; I want them very much. I have concluded not to learn French; I am very sorry I began. I hope I have not displeased you. I go to dancing, for I thought I had better go the first quarter with the others.
I am your affectionate daughter,
MRS. MARY K. SOUTHGATE.
Medford, June 13, 1797.
With what pleasure did I receive your letter, and hear the praises of an approving mother. It shall be my study to make you happy. You said you hoped I was not disappointed in not learning French. I hope you think I have too much love and reverence for my parents, to do anything amiss that they thought most proper for me. I was very happy to hear that you had received the bonnets, and I hope they will suit you.
I have never received a letter from Horatio since I have been here. I expect to begin geography as soon as I have done ciphering which I hope will soon be, for I have got as far as Practice. Tell Isabella and Mama King that some letters from them would give me great pleasure, and that I hope to experience it soon. I should have written to Mama King, but I had not time; yet I intend to the first opportunity. I have found the nubs, and sent them to Portland. I received your letter by my brother Boyd, and was very much surprised to hear that Octavia was going to have the small-pox. Please give my love to Harriet Emerson and Mary Rice, and tell them that I intend to write them very soon, and shall expect some letters from them. Give my love to all my friends, and tell them that I often think of them, and I hope they will not forget
Your affectionate daughter,
Medford, 25th 1797.
I received your packet of things the 20th inst., and was very glad of them. If you will be so kind as to send me word whether the ear-rings were in the basket, I will be much obliged to you; I have forgotten whether I did or not. Write me word if you like your bonnet and the children's. I hope you do. Give my love to Sarah and all the children, and kiss Arexine and Robert for me. Never did I know the worth of good parents half so much as now I am from them. I never missed so much, and above all things our cheese and butter, which we have but very little of, but I am very contented. I wish you could send me up my patterns, all of them, for I want them very much indeed, for I expect to work me a gown.
I am, with all due respect, your dutiful daughter,
Medford, August 11, 1797.
It is a long time since I received a letter from you, and I have neglected my duty in not writing home oftener. I shall send you with this some of my pieces, and you will see if you think I have improved any. The Epitaph on the Hon. Thomas Russell was the first one that I wrote.
My brother Boyd never came to see me when he was up; only called and delivered me the letter. I have never heard anything since from Boston, nor seen any of my acquaintance from there. I have not been to Boston since election. I expected to have gone to Commencement, but I did not. I fear the time alloted to my stay here will be too short for me to go as far as I wish, for I shall have to go much farther in arithmetic than I had any idea of, then go over it again in a large book of my own writing; for my instructor does not wish to give me a superficial knowledge only. He says, if I am very diligent, he thinks that nine months from the time I came will do if I cannot stay longer. I should feel happy, and very grateful, if you thought it proper to let me tarry that time. I have ciphered now farther than Isabella did. I have been through Practice, the Rule of Three, and Interest, and two or three rules that I never did before.
I would thank you to write me word if you are willing for me to stay so long. With wishing you health, and all the happiness which you are capable of enjoying, permit me to subscribe myself,
Your affectionate and most dutiful daughter,
Medford, August 14, 1797.
My Dear Mother:
I am very sorry for your trouble, and sympathize with you in it. I now regret being from home more than ever, for I think I might be of service to you, now the children are sick. I hope they will be as much favored in their sickness now as they were when they had the measles.
I am very sorry that Jane has broken her arm, for it generally causes a long confinement, and I fear she has not got patience enough to bear it, without a great deal of trouble.
I suppose Isabella will be very much worried about her baby. I would thank you to write me very often now, for I shall be very anxious to hear from the children. I believe I have got some news to tell you, that is, I have found one of your acquaintance and relation,—it is Mrs. Sawyer. Before she was married her name was Polly King, and she says that you kept at their house when you were in Boston. I believe I have nothing more to request, only for you to give my love to all the children, and kiss each of them for me, and tell them to be as patient as they can. Give my respects to my father, and tell him I want to receive a letter from him very much.
I am your ever affectionate and dutiful daughter,
MRS. MARY K. SOUTHGATE.
Medford, September 30, 1797.
You mentioned in yours of the 16th inst., that it was a long time since you had received a letter from me, but it was owing to my studies, which took up the greater part of my time; for I have been busy in my arithmetic, but I finished it yesterday, and expect now to begin my large manuscript arithmetic. You say that you “shall regret so long an absence”; not more certainly than I shall; but having a strong desire to possess more useful knowledge than I at present do, I can dispense with the pleasure a little longer of beholding my friends, and I hope I shall be better prepared to meet my good parents, toward whom my heart overflows with gratitude. You mentioned in your letter about my winter clothes, of which I will make out a memorandum. I shall want a coat, and you may send it up for me to make, or you may make it yourself, but I want it made loose with a belt. I wish you to send me enough of all my slips to make long sleeves that you can, and I wish you could pattern my dark slip to make long sleeves. I want a flannel waist and a petticoat, for my white one dirts so quick that I had rather have a colored one. I have nothing more to write, only give my love to all who ask after me. I have just received a letter from Horatio; he is very well.
Your ever affectionate daughter,
MRS. MARY K. SOUTHGATE.
To Her Brother.
Medford, October 17, 1797.
Yours of the 11th of September was gratefully received by your affectionate sister, and your excuse at first I thought not very good; but now I think it very good, for I have been plagued very much myself. William Boyd came from Portland about a fort-night since, and by him I was informed that sister Isabella's child was very sick, and he was in doubt whether it would ever get over it. I feel for Isabella much more than I can tell you; who is but just entered the bonds of matrimony should so soon have sickness, and perhaps Death be one of the guests of her family. I was also informed that the children had all got over the whooping cough, and that Octavia was much healthier than she was before she had the small-pox. By my last letter from home, Papa informed me that I might tarry all winter, and I have concluded to. I suppose you would like to know how I spend my time here. I shall answer very well; my going abroad is chiefly in Boston, for I don't go out much in Medford. It was vacation, a week, and I spent it very agreeably in Boston. I keep at Mr. Boyd's when I am there, and Mrs. Little's. I go to Boston every public day, as Mr. Boyd is so good as to send for me. I am very fond of that family, and likewise Mrs. Little's. You speak of my writing, and you think I have improved. I am glad of it. I hope I shall make as great progress in my other studies, and be “An accomplished Miss.
” Horatio, do write soon, will you?
Adieu, your affectionate sister,
Medford, November 10, 1797.
You mentioned in your letter, my dear mother, that Cousin Mary informed you that I expected to go to the ball. I did think that I should go, but I altered my mind; I had two or three invitations, but I would not accept of anything.
My cloak, likewise, you mentioned something about, which I shall attend to when I go to Boston at Thanksgiving; for then is a vacation of a week. I had a letter from Horatio yesterday; he was well. Isabella wrote me word that my father had got the rheumatism very bad, which I am sorry to hear; if the wishes and prayers of Eliza would heal the wound, it would not long remain unhealed. My love to all the children; tell them I don't dare to tell them how much I want to see them, nor even think. My love to all that ask after me.
May all the happiness that is possible for you to enjoy be experienced, is the sincere wish of
Your affectionate daughter,
MRS. MARY K. SOUTHGATE.
Medford, December 16, 1797.
My Dear Father:
I received yours with pleasure, and was happy to hear that you were better. I hope you will continue growing better until the complaint is entirely removed. I came from Boston yesterday, after spending vacation there. I went to the theater the night before for the first time, and Mr. Turner came into the box where I was. I did not know him at first, neither did he me, but he soon found me out. With this I shall send some prices. My respects are justly due my good mother, and my love to all who ask after me, the children in particular.
I hope to improve to your satisfaction, which will amply reward me for all my pains. I must conclude with wishing you health and happiness.
Your ever affectionate daughter,
Medford, January 9, 1798.
My Good Father:
The contents of your letter surprised me at first. It may sometime be of service to me, for while I have such a monitor, I never can act contrary to such advice. No, my father; I hope by the help of Heaven never to cause shame or misery to attend the gray hairs of my parents or myself, but, on the contrary, to glad your declining years with happiness, and that you may never have cause to rue the day that gave me existence.
My heart feels no attachment except to my family. I respect many of my friends, but love none but my parents. Your letter shall be my guide from home, and when I again behold our own peaceful mansion, then will I again be guided by my parents' happiness. Their happiness shall be my pursuit. My heart overflows with gratitude toward you and my good mother. I am sensible of the innumerable obligations I am under to you.
You mention in your letter about my pieces, which you say you imagine are purloined. I am very sorry if they are, for I set more by them than any of my pieces. One was The Mariner's Compass, and the other was a geometrical piece. I spent Thanksgiving at Mrs. Little's and Christmas here. I have finished my large manuscript arithmetic and want to get it bound, and then I shall send it to you. I have done a small geometry book, and shall begin a large one to-morrow—such a one as you saw at Mr. Wyman's, if you remember. It is the beginning of a new year. Allow me, then, to pay you the compliments of the season. I pray that this year to you may prove
A year of health, prosperity, and love.
My quarter will be out the eighth day of next month. It will be in about four weeks. I wish you would write me soon how I am to come home, for I wish to know. I should be very glad if you could make it convenient to come for me, for I wish you to come. Give my love to Irene, and tell her I believe she owes me a letter. If you please you may tell the part of my letter which concerns my school affairs. My love is due to all who will take the trouble to inquire after me. Tell Mama I have begun her turban and will send it as soon as I finish it. When I see her I will tell her why I did not do it before. Accept my sincere wish that my parents may enjoy all the happiness that ever mortals know. Still I hope I am your dutiful daughter,
ROBERT SOUTHGATE, ESQ.
Boston, January 30, 1798.
My Honored Father:
By Captain Bradbury I was informed that you wished me to come home with him, which I should have complied with had not I seen my Uncle William to-day, and he informed me that you had concluded to let me spend some time in Boston, which I was very glad to hear. I shall now wait until I hear certain, which I wish you to send me word by the next boat. I shall inclose in this a card of Mrs. Rawson's terms, which you may peruse. Until then, I remain, with the same affection,
Your dutiful daughter,
ROBERT SOUTHGATE, ESQ.
Boston, February 13, 1798.
I am again placed at school, under the tuition of an amiable lady, so mild, so good, no one can help loving her; she treats all her scholars with such a tenderness, as could win the attention of the most savage heart, though scarcely able to receive an impression of the kind. I learn embroidery and geography at present, and wish your permission to learn music. You may justly say, my best of fathers, that every letter of mine is one which is asking for something more,—never contented. I only ask; if you refuse me, I know you do what you think best, and I am sure I ought not to complain, for you have not yet refused me anything that I have asked. My best of parents, how shall I repay you? You answer, By your good behavior. Heaven grant it may be such as shall repay you.
A year will have rolled over my head before I shall see my parents. I have left them at an early age to be so long absent, but I hope I have learnt a good lesson by it; a lesson of experience, which is the best lesson I could learn. I have described one of the blessings of . . . in Mrs. Rawson, and now I will describe Mrs. Wyman, as the nurse. She is the worst woman I ever knew: nobody knows what I suffered from the treatment of that woman.
I had the misfortune to be a favorite with Miss Haskell, and Mrs. Wyman treated me as her own evil heart dictated; but whatever is, is right,—I learnt a good lesson by it. I wish you, my father, to write me an answer soon, and let me know whether I may learn music. Give my best respects to my mother, and may it please the Disposer of all Good to restore me safe home to the bosom of my family. I never was happier in my life. My heart overflows with gratitude to my heavenly Father for it, and may it please him to continue in you “his favor which is life, and his loving kindness which is better than life,” is the sincere wish of Your daughter,
Boston, May 12, 1798.
My Dear Parents:
Now, at the end of the week, when my hopes are almost exhausted of seeing my brother, I attempt to address you; a task which was once delightful, but now painful, since my mother's last letter. I see my errors, and if I can hope they will no longer be remembered by my parents, I shall again be happy. My mother's mother's letter greatly surprised me, after having received so different a one from my father,—indeed, my parents, did you think I would any longer cherish a passion you disapproved, after expressing your disapprobation? It was enough; your wishes are, and always shall be, my commands.
I have spent a week of painful anxiety; no letter, no brother, no father has come, and I am now in painful expectation to receive a letter to-night, but I dare not hope it will be so. Do, my father, as soon as you receive this, send for me as soon as possible; for my quarter Mrs. Rawson's was out last Saturday, and as circumstances are, I thought proper not to go to Mr. Boyd's. I beg of you to send for me home directly, for I only board at Mrs. Rawson's now; for I am in expectation of seeing or hearing every day, and, therefore, I have not begun any more work. My time is spending without gain. I am at Mrs. Frazier's, and have been here ever since Thursday. I shall go back to Rawson's to-night, and there wait for further orders. Time hangs more heavy than it ever did before.
I am, with the most sincere respect and affection, your daughter,
Boston, February 7, 1800.
After the toil, the bustle, and fatigue of the week, I turn toward home to relate the manner in which I have spent my time. I have been continually engaged in parties, plays, balls, etc., Since the first week I came here, I have attended all the balls and assemblies,—one one week and one the next. They have regular balls once a fortnight and regular assemblies once a fortnight, so that I have been every Thursday to one or the other.
They are very brilliant, and I have formed a number of pleasing acquaintances there. Last night, which was ball night, I drew No. 52. Drew a Mr. Snow—bad partner; danced with Mr. Oliver, Mr. McAndrews, Mr. McPherson until one o'clock. They have charming suppers—table laid out entirely with china.
I had a charming partner always. To-day I intend going to Mrs. Codman's. Engaged to a week ago, but wrote a billet saying I was indisposed; but the truth of the matter was, I wanted to go to the play to see Bunker Hill, and Uncle wished I should; therefore, I shall go. I have engagements for the greater part of next week. To-morrow we all go to hear Fisher Ames' Eulogy; and in the morning going, to look at some instruments, we have one picked out that I imagine we shall like—$150—a charming toned one, and not made in this country. I am still at Mrs. Frazier's. She treats me with the greatest attention, Nancy is indeed a charming girl. I have the promise of her company the ensuing summer. I have bought me a very handsome while satin skirt. Richard Cutes went shopping with me yesterday morning; engaged to go to the play next week with him. For mourning for Washington, the ladies dress as much as if for a relation—some entirely in black; but now many wear only a ribbon with an urn painted on it. I have not yet been out to see Mrs. Rawson and Miss Haskell, but intend to next week. Uncle Williams has been very attentive to me indeed—carried me to all the plays three or four times, and to all the balls and parties excepting the last, to which I went with Mr. Andrews.
Give my best respects to Papa and Mama, and tell them I shall soon be tired of this dissipated life, and almost want to go home already. I have a line to write to Mary Poster. I must conclude with saying how much I think of you, and accept the sincere affection of Yours,
Boston, June 12, 1800.
To Octavia, at Mrs. Frazier's:
In the hospital Bless your heart, I am not there. Who told you I was? Mr. Davis, I know. If you see him, tell him I shall scold him for it. Martha has heard the same. True, I had some idea of going in, but gave it up as soon as I heard Dr. Coffin did not attend. Horatio did likewise. Your last to Mamma is dated from Mrs. Frazier's. How, Octavia, shall we discharge the debt of gratitude which we owe her? It had exceeded my hopes of payment before you went; surely it is now doubled. You mention nothing of any letters from me. I have written several, and in one told you particularly that Mamma wished you by all means to take lessons in music. You don't tell us what you have done since you have been in Medford. Martha writes me that you are to spend part of vacation at Mrs. Trumen's. What has become of Ann and Harriet? I am out of patience waiting for them. Why don't they write? It is an age since I have had one line. Col. Boyd, I hope, will bring some letters from all of you. I have heard that Eleanor Coffin received attentions from Sam Davis when in Boston. Did you hear of it? Martha writes me, too, that Mr. Andrews is paying attention to a young lady in Boston, but does not mention her name,—
Miss Parkman, I guess; he was said to be her swain last winter. Mary Porter went home last week. I went with her. She has now gone to Topsham, to tarry until Uncle returns. I anxiously expect a letter from Ann or Harriet, to know the reason that they don't hasten their visit. I am learning my twelfth tune, Octavia. I almost worship my instrument. It reciprocates my sorrows and joys and is my bosom's companion. How I long to have you return! I have hardly attempted to sing since you went away. I am sure I shall not dare to when you return. I must enjoy my triumph while you are absent. My musical talents will be dimmed when compared with the luster of yours. Pooh! Eliza, you are not serious. No, I will excel in something else, if not in music. Oh, nonsense! this spirit of emulation in families is destructive of concord and harmony. At least, I will endeavor to excel you in sisterly affection.
If you outshine me in accomplishments, will it not be all in the family? Certainly. How I wish I had a balloon!
I would see you and all my friends in Boston in a trice. I have not got one. Do tell me is Ann the same dear, good friend and as much my sister romp as ever? Tell her I am so affronted with her that I won't speak to her. Sister Boyd is over,—won't go home this week. About your work, I will go downstairs and ask Mamma. A mourning piece with a figure in it, and two other pictures,— mates.
Figures of females I think handsomer than landscapes. Mrs. Rawson knows what is best—thus says Mamma; she don't wish any scenes. Mr. Little, the bearer of this, another beau I send you; and here is poor I, not a bit of a one. Dr. Bacon, and even him Cousin Mary,—selfish creature!—has lugged off his heart and left the remainder here; so we might as well have a stump. Poor soul! his face looks like a peony —one continual blush; I suppose, for fear of hearing his name mentioned; and she—unreasonable creature!—thinks he is not all perfection. Unaccountable taste! he is very delightsome, surely. How long shall I rant at this rate! I long to go to Portland, and there I shall see some being that looks like a beau,—or a monkey,—or anything you please. To supply the loss, I often look out of the window, till my imagination forms one out of a tree, or anything that I see. We can imagine anything, you know.
Bless my soul! Mr. L. is waiting. Give my love, respects, everything to all.
OCTAVIA SOUTHGATE, a Sister.
Topsham, July 1, 1800
I must again trouble my dear mother, by requesting her to send on my spotted muslin. A week from next Saturday, I set out for Wiscassett, in company with Uncle William and Aunt Porter. Uncle will fetch Ann to meet us there, and as she has some acquaintance there, we shall stay some time, and Aunt will leave us there, and return to Topsham. So long a visit in Wiscassett will oblige me to muster all my muslins, for, I am informed, they are so monstrous smart as to take no notice of any lady that can condescend to wear a calico gown; therefore, dear mother, to insure me a favorable reception, pray send my spotted muslin by the next mail after you receive this, or I shall be on my journey to Wiscassett. I shall go on horseback. How I want my habit! I wish it had not been so warm when I left home, and I should have worn it. I am in hopes you will find an opportunity to send it by a private conveyance he, re before I go; but my muslin you must certainly send by the mail. Aunt Porter's little Rufus is very sick; he, poor child, was born under an evil star, and I believe Pandora opened her box upon him when he first came into existence. The mumps, I believe, now afflict him; night before last we were alarmed for fear of his having the quinsy; but I believe he is in no danger of that at present. I wish to hear from home very much.
I shall anxiously wait the arrival of the next mail after you receive this.
Topsham, July 3, 1800.
I believe, my dear mother, that you meant to give me a very close lesson in economy, when you cut out the shirts for me to make. You had measured off the bodies of two, and cut them part way in, and also the sleeves were marked; after I had cut these off, there was about a quarter of a yard left.
I now wanted the collars and all the trimmings. I made out, after a great deal of planning, to get out the shoulder-pieces, wrist-bands, one pair of neck gussets, and one of sleeves. Do send the collars. One pair of neck gussets and one sleeve are still wanting. I shall send this on by Mrs. Smith, and if you can find out when she returns, I wish you would send me some linen and some more shirts to make, as I shall soon finish these, and can as well finish making up the piece here as at home. I was very sorry I did not wear my habit down, as I shall want it when I go to Wiscassett,—if you can possibly find an opportunity, I wish you would send it to me. Aunt Porter's child is one of the most troublesome ones I ever saw; he cries continually, and she is at present destitute of any help, except a little girl about twelve years old. I wish, my dear mother, that you would forward all letters that come to Scarborough for me immediately. I hope you will enjoy yourself in Portland this week. I was almost tempted to wish to stay a week there; there were so many parties, and so gay everybody appeared, that I longed to stay and take part. I forgot all about it before I got to Topsham. Much as I enjoy society, I am never unhappy without it. I cannot but feel happy that I was brought up in retirement, since from habit, at least, I contracted a love for solitude. I never feel alone when I have my pen or books. I feel that I ought to be very happy in the company of such a woman as Aunt Porter, for I really don't know of any one whose mind is more improved, and which makes her both a useful and instructing companion. Her sentiments and opinions are more like those I have formed than any person I know of. I think my disposition is like hers, and I feel myself drawn toward her by an irresistible impulse. Not an hour but she reminds me of you, and I sincerely think her more like you than your own sister.
I shall write you when I go farther east. I don't know what I shall do about writing to Octavia, as Mrs. Rawson told her that I wrote on an improper subject when I asked her in my letter if Mr. Davis was paying attention to Eleanor Coffin, and she would not let her answer the question. This is refining too much, and if I can't write as I feel, I can't write at all. Now I ask you, Mamma, if it is not quite a natural question, when we hear that any of our friends are paid attentions to by any gentleman, to ask a confirmation of the report from those we think most likely to know the particulars? Never did I write a line to Octavia but I should have been perfectly willing for you or my father to have seen. You have always treated me more like a companion than a daughter, and, therefore, would make allowances for the volatile expressions I often make use of.
I never felt the least restraint in company with my parents which would induce me to stifle my gayety, and you have kindly permitted me to rant over all my nonsense. And I strictly believe it has never injured me.
I must bid you good-night.
Pray don't forget to send some more shirts. I wish my father or you would write me while I am from home.
MRS. MARY K. SOUTHGATE.
Bath, Sunday, September 13, 1800.
Mr. Moses Porter:
There are some kinds of indisposition that, instead of weakening the faculties of the mind, serve only to render them more vigorous and sprightly, and, in proportion as the body is debilitated, the mind is strengthened. I have every reason to believe that the imagination never soars to such heights as it does in sickness. But, where am I, and what about? Well may you ask the question. Believe me, cousin; I have attempted to finish this letter four times this day. I cannot account for my inability to write; it used to be the joy of my life. Nothing delighted me so much as to steal into the chamber by myself and scribble an hour; but since I received your last, I have often attempted to answer it, but in vain. I have a stubborn brain. It must be coaxed, not driven. I find there is nothing so tedious as to write when we are not in the mood for it: you may easily see I am not in one at present. Now, for heavens! see what I have written, and find the chain that connects. When I began, I meant to say I had been quite unwell ever since I left Portland; that some disorders only served to give vigor to the mind, and—but I meant also to say mine was altogether of a different nature; but, as I left that out, so I had better done the other. O Lord! 'tis too bad. I'll not write another word till I think I can understand it after it is written. I am low-spirited, stupid, and everything else.
Now I shall really think I have no soul, if I find myself as destitute of ideas as I was on Sunday. I have just been viewing the most delightful prospect I have seen this long time, and yet it has left no greater impression on my mind than objects passing before a mirror. I shall think myself devoid of every faculty that constitutes us rational beings. I think Nature has done everything to render Bath pleasant. The window at which I now sit commands a most delightful water prospect. The river is about a mile in breadth at this place. The opposite banks are—sublime or beautiful. What if I for a moment should take a poet's license, and, by the force of imagination, project steep and ragged rocks, bid them stoop with awful majesty to reflect their gloomy horrors in the wave! See you not that enormous precipice whose awful summit was ne'er profaned by human footstep? Does not your blood freeze as it creeps along your veins? Behold again that barren waste! The ax or the plow has never clothed it with a borrowed charm nor robbed it of those Nature bestowed on it. It still boasts its independence of the labor of man. But, to leave fiction for reality, the surface of the water is a perfect mirror. I never saw it so perfectly smooth. At this moment there is a boat passing rowed by two men. The reflection in the water is so distinct, so very clear, it looks like two boats. I admire to see a boat rowed.
It seems to look like arms or wings moving with graceful majesty, while the boat cuts the liquid bosom of the water, leaving as it recedes a widening track. There is always to me something very charming in the rowing of a boat. There is music in the motion; and what can be more graceful and majestic than the motion of a ship under sail? Yesterday there was a big vessel here. 'Twas within hearing,—very near. I never was more forcibly struck than at the moment. I longed to prostrate myself in humble admiration as she approached with a slow, commanding, celestial air. At the moment I am sure it gave me a better idea of the awful grandeur of a deity than anything I had ever seen. I saw Juno! dignified gracefulness; such as I had read of, but could not conceive. I have often in reading been disagreeably struck by the epithets used for the motion of the gods. Sometimes they make them glide through the air, sometimes approach with a solemn step, and many other words I do not recollect. Nor do I at present think of any words that would answer better. Yet to glide seems stealing along,—to move rapidly and imperceptibly. A bird glides through the air; yet there is nothing celestial in the flight of a bird. It seems to be properly applied to fairies.
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