Hannah Webster Foster (1759–1840). The Coquette, or The History of Eliza Wharton. 1855.

Letter LII


My dear Eliza: I received yours of the 24th ult., and thank you for it, though it did not afford me those lively sensations of pleasure which I usually feel at the perusal of your letters. It inspired me both with concern and chagrin—with concern lest your dejection of mind should affect your health, and with chagrin at your apparent indulgence of melancholy. Indeed, my friend, your own happiness and honor require you to dissipate the cloud which hangs over your imagination.

Rise then above it, and prove yourself superior to the adverse occurrences which have befallen you. It is by surmounting difficulties, not by sinking under them, that we discover our fortitude. True courage consists not in flying from the storms of life, but in braving and steering through them with prudence. Avoid solitude. It is the bane of a disordered mind, though of great utility to a healthy one. Your once favorite amusements court your attention. Refuse not their solicitations. I have contributed my mite by sending you a few books, such as you requested. They are of the lighter kind of reading, yet perfectly chaste, and, if I mistake not, well adapted to your taste.

You wish to hear from our theatre. I believe it will be well supplied with performers this winter. Come and see whether they can afford you any entertainment. Last evening I attended a tragedy; but never will I attend another. I have not yet been able to erase the gloom which it impressed upon my mind. It was Romeo and Juliet. Distressing enough to sensibility this! Are there not real woes (if not in our own families, at least among our own friends and neighbors) sufficient to exercise our sympathy and pity, without introducing fictitious ones into our very diversions? How can that be a diversion which racks the soul with grief, even though that grief be imaginary? The introduction of a funeral solemnity upon the stage is shocking indeed!

Death is too serious a matter to be sported with. An opening grave cannot be a source of amusement to any considerate mind. The closing scene of life can be no pastime when realized. It must therefore awaken painful sensations in the representation.

The circus is a place of fashionable resort of late, but not agreeable to me. I think it inconsistent with the delicacy of a lady even to witness the indecorums which are practised there, especially when the performers of equestrian feats are of our own sex. To see a woman depart so far from the female character as to assume the masculine habit and attitude, and appear entirely indifferent even to the externals of modesty, is truly disgusting, and ought not to be countenanced by our attendance, much less by our approbation. But, setting aside the circumstance, I cannot conceive it to be a pleasure to sit a whole evening trembling with apprehension lest the poor wight of a horseman, or juggler, or whatever he is to be called, should break his neck in contributing to our entertainment.

With Mr. Bowen’s museum I think you were much pleased. He has made a number of judicious additions to it since you were here. It is a source of rational and refined amusement. Here the eye is gratified, the imagination charmed, and the understanding improved. It will bear frequent reviews without palling on the taste. It always affords something new; and, for one, I am never a weary spectator. Our other public and private places of resort are much as you left them.

I am happy in my present situation; but when the summer returns, I intend to visit my native home. Again, my Eliza, will we ramble together in those retired shades which friendship has rendered so delightful to us. Adieu, my friend, till then. Be cheerful, and you will yet be happy.