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

Letter LXI


My dear friend: I have received your letters, and must own to you that the perusal of them gave me pain. Pardon my suspicions, Eliza; they are excited by real friendship. Julia, you say, approves not Major Sanford’s particular attention to you. Neither do I. If you recollect and examine his conversation in his conciliatory visit, you will find it replete with sentiments for the avowal of which he ought to be banished from all virtuous society.

Does he not insidiously declare that you are the only object of his affections; that his union with another was formed from interested views; and, though that other is acknowledged to be amiable and excellent, still he has not a heart to bestow, and expects not happiness with her? Does this discover even the appearance of amendment? Has he not, by false pretensions, misled a virtuous woman, and induced her to form a connection with him? She was a stranger to his manner of life, and doubtless allured, as you have been, by flattery, deceit, and external appearance, to trust his honor, little thinking him wholly devoid of that sacred tie. What is the reward of her confidence? Insensibility to her charms, neglect of her person, and professed attachment to another!

Is he a man, my dear Eliza, whose friendship you wish to cultivate? Can that heavenly passion reside in a breast which is the seat of treachery, duplicity, and ingratitude? You are too sensible of its purity and worth to suppose it possible. The confessions of his own mouth condemn him. They convince me that he is still the abandoned libertine, and that marriage is but the cloak of his intrigues. His officious attentions to you are alarming to your friends. Your own mind weakened, and peculiarly susceptible of tender impressions, beware how you receive them from him. Listen not a moment to his flattering professions; it is an insult upon your understanding for him to offer them; it is derogatory to virtue for you to hear them.

Slight not the opinion of the world. We are dependent beings; and while the smallest traces of virtuous sensibility remain, we must feel the force of that dependence in a greater or less degree. No female, whose mind is uncorrupted, can be indifferent to reputation. It is an inestimable jewel, the loss of which can never be repaired. While retained, it affords conscious peace to our own minds, and insures the esteem and respect of all around us.

Blessed with the company of so disinterested and faithful a friend as Julia Granby, some deference is certainly due to her opinion and advice. To an enlarged understanding, a cultivated taste, and an extensive knowledge of the world, she unites the most liberal sentiments with a benevolence and candor of disposition, which render her equally deserving of your confidence and affection.

I cannot relinquish my claim to a visit from you this winter. Marriage has not alienated nor weakened my regard for my friends. Come, then, to your faithful Lucy. Have you sorrows? I will soothe and alleviate them. Have you cares? I will dispel them. Have you pleasures? I will heighten them. Come, then, let me fold you to my expecting heart. My happiness will be partly suspended till your society renders it complete. Adieu.