Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Father Abbey’s Will

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Father Abbey’s Will

By John Seccomb (1708–1792)

[Born in Medford, Mass., 1708. Died at Chester, Nova Scotia, 1792.]

To which is now added, a letter of Courtship to his virtuous and amiable Widow.

  • CAMBRIDGE, December, 1730.
  • Some time since died here, Mr. Matthew Abbey, in a very advanced age: He had for a great number of years served the College in quality of Bedmaker and Sweeper: Having no child, his wife inherits his whole estate, which he bequeathed to her by his last will and testament, as follows, viz.:

  • TO my dear wife,

    My joy and life

    I freely now do give her

    My whole estate,

    With all my plate,

    Being just about to leave her.

    My tub of soap,

    A long cart rope,

    A frying pan and kettle,

    An ashes pail,

    A threshing flail,

    An iron wedge and beetle.

    Two painted chairs,

    Nine warden pears,

    A large old dripping platter,

    This bed of hay,

    On which I lay,

    An old saucepan for butter.

    A little mug,

    A two-quart jug,

    A bottle full of brandy,

    A looking glass,

    To see your face

    You’ll find it very handy.

    A musket true

    As ever flew,

    A pound of shot and wallet,

    A leather sash,

    My calabash,

    My powder horn and bullet.

    An old sword blade,

    A garden spade,

    A hoe, a rake, a ladder,

    A wooden can,

    A close-stool pan,

    A clyster-pipe and bladder.

    A greasy hat,

    My old ram cat,

    A yard and half of linen,

    A woolen fleece,

    A pot of grease,

    In order for your spinning.

    A small tooth comb,

    An ashen broom,

    A candlestick and hatchet,

    A coverlid

    Striped down with red,

    A bag of rags to patch it.

    A ragged mat,

    A tub of fat,

    A book put out by Bunyan,

    Another book

    By Robin Cook,

    A skein or two of spunyarn,

    An old black muff,

    Some garden stuff,

    A quantity of borage,

    Some devil’s weed

    And burdock seed,

    To season well your porridge.

    A chafing dish,

    With one salt fish,

    If I am not mistaken,

    A leg of pork,

    A broken fork,

    And half a flitch of bacon.

    A spinning wheel,

    One peck of meal,

    A knife without a handle,

    A rusty lamp,

    Two quarts of samp,

    And half a tallow candle.

    My pouch and pipes,

    Two oxen tripes,

    An oaken dish well carved,

    My little dog

    And spotted hog,

    With two young pigs just starved.

    This is my store,

    I have no more,

    I heartily do give it,

    My years are spun,

    My days are done,

    And so I think to leave it.

    Thus father Abbey left his spouse,

    As rich as church or college mouse,

    Which is sufficient invitation

    To serve the college in his station.

  • NEW HAVEN, January 2, 1731.
  • Our sweeper having lately buried his spouse, and accidentally hearing of the death and will of his deceased Cambridge brother, has conceived a violent passion for the relict. As love softens the mind and disposes to poetry, he has eased himself in the following strains, which he transmits to the charming widow, as the first essay of his love and courtship:

  • MISTRESS Abbey

    To you I fly,

    You only can relieve me

    To you I turn,

    For you I burn,

    If you will but believe me.

    Then gentle dame

    Admit my flame,

    And grant me my petition;

    If you deny,

    Alas! I die,

    In pitiful condition.

    Before the news

    Of your dear spouse

    Had reached us at New Haven,

    My dear wife died,

    Who was my bride,

    In anno eighty-seven.

    Thus being free,

    Let’s both agree

    To join our hands, for I do

    Boldly aver

    A widower

    Is fittest for a widow.

    You may be sure

    ’Tis not your dower

    I make this flowing verse on;

    In these smooth lays

    I only praise

    The glories of your person.

    For the whole that

    Was left by Mat.

    Fortune to me has granted

    In equal store,

    I’ve one thing more

    Which Matthew long had wanted.

    No teeth, ’tis true

    You have to show,

    The young think teeth inviting.

    But, silly youths!

    I love those mouths

    Where there’s no fear of biting.

    A leaky eye,

    That’s never dry,

    These woful times is fitting.

    A wrinkled face

    Adds solemn grace

    To folks devout at meeting.

    A furrowed brow,

    Where corn might grow,

    Such fertile soil is seen in ’t,

    A long hook nose,

    Though scorned by foes,

    For spectacles convenient.

    Thus to go on

    I would put down

    Your charms from head to foot,

    Set all your glory

    In verse before ye,

    But I’ve no mind to do ’t.

    Then haste away,

    And make no stay;

    For, soon as you come hither,

    We’ll eat and sleep,

    Make beds and sweep

    And talk and smoke together.

    But if, my dear,

    I must move there,

    Towards Cambridge straight I’ll set me

    To touse the hay

    On which you lay,

    If age and you will let me.