The Shad Spirit, 1819

January 24, 2020

Because it’s cold; because it’s snowing (again); because I enjoy an amusing poem, I present “The Shad Spirit,” from 1819. Oh, shad! whose appearance in Shop-Rite was a sign that winter had ended; oh, shad! whose roe I never could figure out what to do with, so I never bought it. Oh, shad! I never see you now that I’ve retired and moved far, far away.

“The Shad Spirit” (from the Connecticut Mirror, April 28, 1819, p. 2)

A good genius, (the only one probably now left in Connecticut,) makes his appearance annually, about a week before the Shad do, and assuming the shape of a bird, calls the fish, and gives warning to the Fishermen to mend their nets. He is known by the name of the “Shad Spirit,” and it is supposed that without his assistance, the nets would be swept to no purpose, and the Fishermen would toil in vain.

No more to the Muses my homage I pay,—
To implore their assistance no longer I sigh,
I sing of a sprite that sings sweeter than they,
And truly much more to the purpose than I.

To no ill-natur’d elf that delights to molest
With his mischievous gambols, the good and the bad—
To no goblin malignant, the song is addrest—
I sing of the spirit that summons the Shad.

How sweet, when the sun has—(while sinking to rest,)
With the mild tints of twilight the scenery clad,
To hear the soft sound that the poet loves best—
The sweet swelling song of the Spirit of Shad.

Mild muse of the mountain! no ninepence have I
To expend on such dainties! but O if I had,
How pleas’d on the shore would I wander to buy
In the warm burst of feeling and transport—a Shad.

To Husband, to Lover, to Wife and to Friend,
Thy note is propitious—thy tidings are glad;
Thy songs to their ears the sweet consciousness lend,
That they soon shall have spring, flowers, bullfrogs and Shad.

The white-headed child, when the pigs are all fed,
If he hears thee at even—runs up to his Dad,
And tells him the tale—then retires to his bed,
And dreams that he’s gnawing the tail of a Shad.

The love-stricken maid sitting under the trees,
As her eye swims in tears, and her bosom is sad—
Hears thy note as it floats on the tide of the breeze,
And wishes her lover a piecde of a Shad.

The mother at breakfast will think of her boy,
“He has neither friends, home, nor comforts—poor lad!
“I wish he was with us our cheer to enjoy,
“And breakfast with us on the spawn of a Shad.”

Aye! even the Poet, tho’ hard is his lot—
Tho’ his dreams are all dismal, his waking thoughts sad,
Shall hear the sweet songster, while stretch’d on his cot,
And in fancy devour the back-bone of a Shad.

Femininity, 1857

January 17, 2020

We have an awful lot of stereotypes about 19th-century American women, which is that they were uniformly simpering and submissive and dependent on men.  The meek, mild, obedient keeper-at-home may have been an ideal among certain classes, but it sure wasn’t uniform.

If you weren’t white and middle-class, you worked at jobs outside the home.  Women edited magazines; women worked as telegraph operators; women were laundresses (difficult, sweaty, heavy work); women were servants (some in my family tree); women wore themselves out sewing piecework; women bound books; women harvested fields.

And they weren’t necessarily meek and forgiving.  The white, middle-class girls subscribing to Robert Merry’s Museum rode horses bareback and laid into the male subscribers when they felt insulted.  One shot an abolitionist in effigy. In fact, the Civil War was fought a few years early in the letters column of the Museum when the Northern girls felt insulted by the Southern boys.  (The South lost there, too.)

And then there’s Grace Greenwood, an actress not shy about expressing her anger. (“Grace Greenwood” also was the pen name of popular writer Sara Clarke Lippincott, who edited The Little Pilgrim. Apparently, newspapers copying this story attributed the incident to Lippincott, who was then publicly defended by her outraged friends. Why we can’t take all 19th-century newspaper accounts at face value …)

The actress known as Grace Greenwood may actually have been named Lizzie Cole. Deprived of the extra income she would have derived from a disappointing benefit (part of the ticket money that night went to her), Greenwood armed herself “with a cowhide in one hand and a bowie-knife in the other,” as the Times-Picayune puts it, and went after the man she blamed for the problem, W. E. Anderton, a fellow actor. There followed, the Times-Picayune asserts, “a pretty considerable scrimmage on the occasion.” [Times-Picayune 13 February 1857; p. 1] Wounded, Anderton was laid up for a while; he was back on the stage by September. Meanwhile, he and Greenwood traded “some tart letters to the editor” of the Alexandria, Louisiana, American. (It’s frustrating that not every issue of every newspaper has been digitized; those letters would be very interesting.)

You had to be tough to be an actor, especially in the 19th century. Actors were socially looked down on. You had to deal with difficult audiences (an audience member murdered another member of the audience at one theater in the South shortly before Edwin Forrest played there) and difficult situations (in the Midwest, Joseph Jefferson acted on a stage lit by candles stuck in potatoes, with pigs wandering beneath it). In 1849, actors in New York’s Astor Place dodged objects thrown by the audience in a performance that ended with the theater in a shambles and a number of people dead.

So, Greenwood may not have struck her contemporaries as embodying an ideal of womanhood, but she certainly knew how to hold her own in a sometimes-hostile world.

Luckily, so did Anderton.

“Cowhiding—Stabbing and Flight—Something Not Down in the Bills” (from The Opelousas Courier [Opelousas, Louisiana] 21 February 1857; p. 2)

The Louisiana Democrat, of the 27th ult., speaking of the theater at Alexandria, gives the following account of the fracas which occurred at that place, in which Miss Greenwood, a member of Mr. Charles’ company, acted a conspicuous part:

We are sorry to inform the numerous readers of the Democrat that the interesting and amusing exhibitions which have drawn nightly crowds to the Odd Fellow’s Hall for some weeks past, have ceased.

Friday night last was set apart by the manager for Miss Greenwoo[d]’s benefit, but owing somewhat to the inclemency of the weather and from other causes, there was a disappointment.

It seems the disappointed lady attached a large portion of blame to Mr. Anderton, and failing in her scheme of extracting a few dimes from the ever open pockets of the good citizens of Alexandria, determined at least to have revenge. Accordingly on Saturday morning she voluntarily and cheerfully incurred the expense of purchasing a bran new cowhide, and armed with that lady-like implement and a newly sharpened knife of considerable dimensions, proceeded in search of the delinquent, whom at last she chanced upon at the ice house.

To produce the cowhide and commence administering what, we suppose, she considered a proper chastisement, was, with the incensed fair one, the work of a moment. Anderton caught the cowhide and wrested it from her, when she immediately drew her knife and attacked him with the ferocity of an enraged wild-cat. This also he succeeded in getting from her, but not until she had given him several cuts and one deep wound in the side, which, it is feared, will prove serious. To his credit be it said, that he did not attempt to strike her, but merely sought to ward off the blows. Miss Greenwood left that night in the stage for the mouth of Red River—no attempt having been made to arrest her, while she remained here, or to prevent her departure. Mr. Charles, we understand, has gone to New Orleans for the purpose of seeking recruits for his disorganized band. If he succeed, he will proceed from this place to Shreveport, and after entertaining the good folks up there awhile, he will probably return here and give us another benefit.

A year of nines

November 30, 2019

Okay, it’s not a year ending in “3,” but surely a year ending in “9” deserves a just-in-time discussion of an earlier year seemingly obsessed with nines. As an innumerate person, I’m sure mathematicians have an explanation for this:

[from the Urbana Union [Urbana, Ohio] September 2, 1863, page 1.]

The Year of Nines.

The present year, 1863, presents some curious combinations in regard to the figure 9.

If you add the first two figures together, thus 1×8—they equal 9.

If you add the last two, 6×3—they equal 9.

If you set the first two figures 18, under 63, and add them together, the result is 81, the figures of which added together, 8×1—9.

If you subtract the first two from 63, the remainder is 45, the figures of which if added together, 4×5—9.

If you divide the 63 by the 18, the quotient is 3, with 9 remainder.

If you multiply all the figures together, 1x8x6x3, the result is 144, the figures of which 1x4x4—9.

If you add all the figures of the year together the sum is 18, and the sum, 1×8—9.

If you divide 1863 by 3 the quotient is 621, and the 6x2x1—9.

If you divide 1863 by 9, the quotient is 207, and 2x0x7—9.

If you divide 1863 by 23, the quotient is 81, and 8×1—9.

If you divide 1863 by 68, the quotient is 27, and 2×7—9.

There are other similar results. The year 1818 will provide a large majority of similar combinations.

Transcribing (amusingly uniform) letter-writers points up that some problems show up generation after generation. Such as the everybody’s-mean-to-me reaction of students encountering an unindulgent college professor mentor.

Twenty-first-century college students can attempt to weaponize their parents, who then bounce off FERPA. Nineteenth-century students appear to have tried the same thing, with their parents— Well, the letter-writers suggest that 19th-century parents should be reluctant to take their child’s perceptions of the situation as accurate.

The Fashionable Letter Writer (1819) has five letters on the subject of apprenticeships—mostly adults reminding young apprentices that they were expected to work through their difficulties during a crucial period of life. The letters were reprinted in 1862 in The American Fashionable Letter Writer pretty much as published in 1819, implying that perhaps apprenticeships were just as fraught later that century. (Though to be honest, publishers would reprint any book that looked like a good reference book, whether it was up to date or not. After all, the point was to sell the book more than it was to provide truly accurate information.)

So here we have an uncle delicately hinting that the young apprentice may have caused his own difficulties and a mother pointing out that other adults aren’t expected to coddle her son as she had. The latter is still good advice for new college students, who sometimes have a difficult time transitioning from high school to the now-you’re-the-grownup world of the university. (My advice to new college students: read the syllabus. Read it. Read the whole thing. Most of your questions are answered there. So READ IT.)

LETTER LXII.

An Uncle in Answer to a Nephew’s complaining of Hardships in his Apprenticeship.

Dear Nephew,

I am sorry you should have any misunderstanding with your master: I have a good opinion of him, and am unwilling to entertain a bad one of you. It is so much a master’s interest to use his apprentices well, that I am inclinable to think that when they are badly used it is oftener the effect of provocation than choice. Wherefore, before I give myself the trouble of interposing in your behalf, I desire you will strictly enquire of yourself, whether you have not, by some misconduct or other, provoked that alteration in your master’s behaviour of which you so much complain. If after having diligently complied with this request, you assure me that you are not sensible of having given cause of disgust on your side, I will readily use my endeavours to reconcile you to your master, or procure you another. But if you find yourself blameable, it will be better for you to remove, by your own amendment, the occasion of your master’s displeasure, than have me or any other friend, offer to plead your excuse, where you know it would be unjust to defend you. If this should be your case, all your friends together could promise your better behaviour, indeed, but as the performance must even then be your own, it will add much more to your character, to pass through your whole term without any interposition between you. Weigh what I have here said; and remember that your future welfare depends greatly on your present behaviour.

I am your loving kinsman.

LETTER LXIII.

From a Mother to her Son, in Answer to his Complaints of Hardships in his Apprenticeship.

I am very sorry, my dear Sammy, to hear that your master and you do not agree so well as I could wish. I was always afraid you would expect the same indulgence when you got abroad into the world, as you experienced when at home. You know, that in many instances, I have endeavoured to make seeming hardships as easy to you as I could; but if this makes you more difficult to be satisfied it would be a great trouble to me. Your uncle tells me, I am afraid with too much truth, that the indulgences you have received from me, have made your present situation more disagreeable than it would otherwise have been. Whatever I have done for you, was always intended for your good, and nothing could so deeply afflict me, as to see my tenderness have a mischievous effect. Therefore, my dear child, to my constant care of you, do not add the sorrow of my seeing it the cause of your behaviour worse, than if I had been less tender to you. Before we put you to your master, we had a very pleasing character of him from all his neighbours, and those who had any dealings with him. As Mr. James, who is now out of his time, gives him the best of characters, and declares your mistress to be a woman of great prudence and good conduct, I know not how to think they would in any respect use you ill. Consider, my dear, you must not in any other woman than myself, expect to find a fond and perhaps partial mother; for the little failings which I could not see in you, will conspicuously appear to other persons. My affection for you would make me wish you to be always with me; but as that would be inconsistent with your future welfare, and as you must certainly be a gainer from the situation you are now in, let a desire to promote my happiness as well as your own, make every seeming difficulty light. I have desired your uncle to interpose in this matter, and he will write to you soon. He has promised to see justice done you, provided your complaints are founded on reason[.] Believe me, my dear child,

Your affectionate mother.

Gender, 1845

June 28, 2019

One frustration of working with early periodicals is seeing an article in an old newspaper and knowing that you’re glimpsing just a bit of a larger story that you’ll never know the whole of. In 1845 a newspaper piece originating in the Clarksville Chronicle (Clarksville, Tennessee) spread through several periodicals under titles containing variations of the word “strange.” In brief, the story involves a young person from a family near Nashville, Tennessee, moving to Clarksville as a young man named Aaron Brown and then being identified as female before being taken away by a family member. (Pronouns are difficult here, as it’s impossible to know whether the young person identified as male or female.)

The story wasn’t, the original editors assure readers, published “to gratify any inordinate thirst for the novel and exciting, but rather to vindicate the name and protect the feelings of a respectable family”—and probably a prominent one, given that the father is recognized by someone in Clarksville. “Reports,” the editors contend, “alike prejudicial and unfounded, have probably gone out, which may be best contradicted by an authentic statement of facts as they transpired.” Of course! Because printing a story sure to be reprinted by other newspapers won’t call attention to an incident that may have gotten no press at all. And pointing out that a “respectable” family near Nashville is involved doesn’t at all call public attention to every apparently respectable family near Nashville.

As you might expect, the article as reprinted (I’ve been unable to find a copy of the Chronicle, so have worked only with the reprints) has a rather … jocular tone that implies that, oh, these women, they’re so silly and incompetent, amirite?

At least at the beginning of the piece. Pronouns are emphasized and used in apparently humorous ways, and Aaron is described using words and phrases usually used to refer to young women. Aaron’s attempts to make a living as a tailor are mocked, as are comments made concerning Aaron’s name. (And the fact that townspeople identified Aaron as female hints that the attempt to appear male was less than competent.)

Then Aaron’s father comes to town (he’s described as the stereotypical elderly father) and attempts to get Aaron to come with him … and the mockery ends. A Clarksville citizen who’s heard Aaron’s story hides Aaron. And when the young person is found, Aaron refuses to go home. By now, the tone of the story has become serious. The father declares that Aaron will be taken somewhere else (presumably, the article says, the lunatic asylum); women’s clothes are found for Aaron to wear; and the two leave town and drop out of history.

Leaving, of course, a thousand questions. Was Aaron a transgender man attempting to shape a new life? a young woman traveling as a man for safety? What was happening in that home, that not only did the young person feel the need to leave and not return, but the father understood that the only way to get Aaron to come with him was to promise that the two wouldn’t be going home? It’s frustrating not to know the answers to these questions.

There’s a more basic question, too: Did this incident really happen? Perhaps: women have lived as men in every society, because they found it more freeing; because they found it safer; because they knew that they were structurally women, but actually men. That the piece appeared in a newspaper doesn’t imply that the write-up was truthful. Today, newspapers are expected to print news: truth as it’s currently understood. In antebellum America, not so much. (There’s a newspaper story that’s standard in those entertaining television programs about Bigfoot that’s obviously a tall tale.) Newspapers before the Civil War tended to be weekly collections of advertisements (pages 1, 3, and 4), poems, political news, and interesting pieces reprinted from other newspapers. The reprint below is from the front page of the Schenectady Reflector, which also features a column of real estate ads, two pieces on the death of Andrew Jackson, a poem, an essay on the importance of frugality among wives, an anti-war editorial by John C. Abbott (with a disturbingly detailed description of the explosion of a bomb-shell in New York City weeks earlier), and the transcription of a formal letter from the Emperor of China to the President of the United States. The editor of the Reflector knew a good story when he saw it and reprinted it—and probably didn’t care whether it happened or not.

Whether or not the incident happened, it provided editors with an opportunity to lay into a subject that was often lain into: the dangers of reading novels. It’s one of my favorite topics in literary history: that reading novels turns a young person’s brain. And Aaron, apparently, left home as a result of too much novel reading.

Only in 19th-century America.

Below is a transcription of the story as it was written up in the Schenectady Reflector, with a sentence in square brackets that appeared in the version reprinted in the Cincinnati Herald. (If only I could find a copy of the Clarksville paper … )

“Truth Stranger Than Fiction” (from the Clarksville Chronicle [Clarksville, Tennessee]; reprinted in Schenectady Reflector [Schenectady, New York] 4 July 1845; p. 1.

We take the following strange and romantic story from the Clarksville Chronicle of Tuesday last:

The following article is published, not to gratify any inordinate thirst for the novel and exciting, but rather to vindicate the name and protect the feelings of a respectable family. Reports, alike prejudicial and unfounded, have probably gone out, which may be best contradicted by an authentic statement of facts as they transpired.—Eds. C. C.

A STRANGE ADVENTURE.

The human mind, in some of its [w]ilder moods exhibits at times mysteries more curious than all the phenomena [sic] of the physical world. Strange adventures, wild and fantastic fancies, plans and purposes mysterious, and motives only known to the heart that conceives them. Wo unto those who without the helm of reason are drifted upon the surges of human action, as prey for romance, speculation, and novelty.

On Thursday, 20th ult., a mild and interesting personage, in the garb of a man, alighted from the stage in this place, and in ten minutes was seeking employment among the tailors. The feminine appearance, soft, sweet voice, and extremely delicate features of this individual led every one to suppose that it was a female. A tidy frock coat, always buttoned, a chapeau gracefully worn, and tidy boots and trowsers [sic] adorned the person of this mysterious visitor. Dark flowing locks, lustrous and languid black eyes, and sunny smiles dimpling upon the cheek, marked this personage as a very handsome and interesting young gentleman, and the knowing ones said she was a GIRL, as in fact she was. She reported herself as having come from Norfolk[,] Virginia. When conversed with by those familiar with Virginia she evinced a perfect familiarity with the geography and scenes of that State.—Every village, every hamlet, everything remarkable in the different roads from Norfolk she remembered and detailed.

Her name was Aaron Brown. ‘That,’ said her landlord to her, ‘is the name of our candidate for Governor.’ ‘Well,’ she replied, ‘I don’t know but I may be a candidate, too, some day.’ She claimed to be a tailor, and on Saturday Mr. L— gave her employment in his shop. She would not pull off her coat, as she was subject to rheumatism—she would not sit upon the tailor’s bench, it was so uncomfortable; she could not sew on tailor’s work at all, well, but when something thin and light was given her she proved herself at home; she could make shirts very well, and made the one she wore. Her mother had taught it to him. She was discovered to blush at every uncouth expression uttered in her presence, and shrunk from each familiar approach. Curiosity was on the alert, gossip was on tiptoe; and HE or SHE, as this interesting visitor was promiscuously styled, became quite a hero or heroine.

On Saturday morning an old gentleman with sad and care-worn features, alighted at the Native American Hotel. He was her father, and happened, as guided by some invisible friend, to put up where his daughter was staying. [They met, but he did not recognize his daughter.] She paused at a gentleman’s gate, stepped in, and politely asked for the kind favor of a pen and ink, to write a note. In a few moments her distressed old father received the following brief billet:

“I am in this place; I have seen you, but despair of finding ME! I will elude you.

“Farewell forever. YOUR DAUGHTER.”

Her father was recognized to be a highly respectable old gentleman residing near Nashville. Every one was touched with sympathy at his apparent suffering and distress, and all were anxious to assist him in reclaiming his wayward daughter.

After a various and unsuccessful search on Sunday evening, it was at length ascertained where she was concealed, and a few gentlemen repaired to the house, but the person who was concealing the object of their search, resisted their en[tr]ance and refused to give her up. They returned, and having obtained a process of law, repaired again to the house. It seems that this new friend and his wife had heard her story, and become interested in behalf of the poor unfortunate wanderer thus pursued. A short struggle ensued, which fortunately resulted in injury to no one, and she was taken captive, but not until she had attempted to draw a bowie knife with which she had been provided for her defence. In a moment she was in her father’s arms and fell upon his neck weeping bitterly, but declared that she would not go home. He then promised her that he would not go home, but would carry her to a place he had selected, (we suppose it to be the Lunatic Asylum,) and she consented to go with him. It only remained to provide a more suitable dress, and those unhappy visitors who had excited such an interest, departed on their journey at the dead hour of night.

The father of this unf[or]tunate female evinced for her the deepest and most tender feeling—why should he not? She was, and ever had been a darling child. He could not, he said, believe her conduct criminal, nor did any one else. She had been from childhood, affectionate and dutiful, and exemplary in conduct. He had discovered for many days before she left home, a certain degree of melancholy upon her. She had long been passionately fond of reading novels, and the passion had grown upon her until she deserted every other employment. Some vision of romance had flitted before the eyes of this unhappy girl, and alas! she pursued it until she had nearly ruined herself, and broken the hearts of a doting family.

Meteors weren’t entirely understood in the early 1800s, when they were considered some sort of atmospheric phenomenon or maybe rocks shot out of volcanoes on the moon. Fireballs wowed viewers then just as they do now; young Samuel Griswold Goodrich, up before dawn on December 14, 1807, to build up the fires in his family’s house, was startled when “[s]uddenly the room was filled with light, and looking up, I saw through the windows a ball of fire, nearly the size of the moon, passing across the heavens from northwest to southeast. It was at an immense height, and of intense brilliancy. Having passed the zenith, it swiftly descended toward the earth: while still at a great elevation it burst, with three successive explosions, into fiery fragments. The report was like three claps of rattling thunder in quick succession.”

So a fireball lighting the skies over New York and Pennsylvania on April 11, 1842, inspired a certain amount of printed ink. The brightness of the fireball would have been even more impressive in a time of little light pollution. The description in The New World is vivid and— Okay: there’s a lot here that just doesn’t sound plausible. Fluid falls onto the observer, who feels heat and smells sulphur and arrives at his destination with a scorched face. His faintness and difficulty breathing can be ascribed to panic; the heat and sulphur could be the product of a startled imagination; and the fluid is so hazily described that it might be a product of the aftereffect of looking at a bright object. But scorching? Was it a sunburn that developed during the night?

Still, the piece is detailed enough to provide a vivid mental picture of a memorable event—almost as good as a dash cam video.

“Splendid Meteor” (from The New World, 23 April 1842; p. 274)

A most extraordinary display of meteoric fire was observed in the town of Westfield, in this State, on the morning of the eleventh instant. It was accompanied by a loud noise—first an explosion, then a snapping and grating sound. It appeared a large and long-extended mass of fire. The light which it emitted was as bright as noon-day. Its disappearance was singular. The long tail seemed to separate from the nucleus, or head, and the latter rushed on, emitting a dark blue flame; but there was no division of its body into fragments, or any thing else to indicate a fracture, unless indeed the very separation of the fiery and blue portions was the result of the explosion. A Mr. Palmer, who was on his way from Dunkirk to Westfield, stated to the editor of the Chautauque County Messenger, that, when two or three miles from Dunkirk, he was suddenly enveloped in a painfully-bright shower of light, proceeding from a mass of fluid or jelly-like substance, which fell around and upon him, producing a sulphurous smell, a great difficulty of breathing, and a feeling of faintness, with a strong sensation of heat. As soon as he could recover from his astonishment, he perceived the body of the meteor passing above him, seeming to be about a mile high. It then appeared to be in diameter about the size of a large steamboat pipe, near a mile in length! Its dimensions varied soon; becoming first much broader, and then waning away in diameter and length until the former was reduced to about eight inches, and the latter a fourth of a mile, when it separated into pieces which fell to the earth, and almost immediately he heard the explosion. On arriving at Westfield, in the morning, his face had every appearance of having been severely scorched; his eyes were much affected, and he did not recover from the shock it gave his system for two or three days.

The same phenomenon was observed in several other towns adjacent, in New York and Pennsylvania. In copying the above account, the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser says—“At Erie and Rochester, places about one hundred and fifty miles apart in a straight line, the light was nearly as vivid as that of day. This shows the immense magnitude and great height of the meteor.”

What will Professor Olmsted say to all this? Will he not be indignant that a meteor should appear in any place beside New Haven?

[Note: “Professor Olmsted” was Denison Olmsted, who pioneered the study of meteors; the New Haven meteor no doubt was the one witnessed by Samuel Goodrich in 1807, a piece of which is in the mineralogy and meteoritics collection at Yale (in, of course, New Haven, Connecticut).]

Ah, The Fashionable Letter-Writer. So many tiny melodramas. This one involves a couple who probably shouldn’t get married: she’s too quick to suspect; he’s … Well, would you trust a man who blames “prejudice itself imposed on by some designing person, who had private views, and private ends to answer by such baseness” and who sends little bribes parcels as “convincing proof of [his] integrity”? (“Convincing proof”? What do you send as “convincing proof”?)

From a young Lady to a Gentleman, complaining of Indifference.

Sir,

However light you may make of promises, yet I am foolish enough to consider them as something more than trifles; and am likewise induced to believe that the man who voluntarily breaks a promise, will not pay much regard to an oath; and if so, in what light must I consider your conduct? did I not give you my promise to be yours, and had you no other cause for soliciting it than merely to gratify your vanity? a brutal gratification, indeed, to triumph over the weakness of a woman, whose greatest fault was, that she loved you. I say loved you; for it was in consequence of that passion, I first consented to become yours. Has your conduct, sir, been consistent with my submission, or with your own solemn professions? is it consistent with the character of a gentleman first to obtain a woman’s consent, and afterwards brag that he had discarded her and found one more agreeable to his wishes? do not equivocate, I have too convincing proofs of your insincerity; I saw you yesterday walking with Miss Benton, and am informed that you have promised marriage to her. Whatever you may think, sir, I have a spirit of disdain, and even resentment, equal to your ingratitude, and can treat the wretch with a proper indifference, who can make so slight a matter of the most solemn promises. Miss Benton may be your wife, but she will receive into her arms a perjured husband; nor can ever the superstructure be lasting, which is built on such a foundation. I leave you to the stings of your own conscience.

I am, the injured.

The Gentleman’s Answer.

My Dear Angel,

For by that name I must still call you; has cruelty entered into your tender nature, or has some designing wretch imposed on your credulity? my dear, I am not what you have represented. I am neither false nor perjured; I never proposed marriage to Miss Benton, I never designed it: and my sole reason for walking with her was, that I had been on a visit to her brother, whom you know is my attorney. And was it any fault in me to take a walk into the fields with him and his sister? surely prejudice itself imposed on by some designing person, who had private views, and private ends to answer by such baseness. But whatever may have been the cause, I am entirely innocent; and to convince you of my sincerity, beg that the day of marriage be next week. My affections never so much as wander from the dear object of my love; in you are centered all my hopes of felicity; with you only can I be happy. Keep me not in misery one moment longer, by entertaining groundless jealousies against one who loves you in a manner superior to the whole of your sex; and I can set at defiance even malice itself. Let me beg your answer by my servant, which will either make me happy or miserable. I have sent a small parcel by the bearer, which I hope you will accept as a convincing proof of my integrity; and am,

Yours for ever.