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

Letter LXII


Dear Julia: I hope Mrs. Sumner and you will excuse my writing but one letter in answer to the number I have received from you both. Writing is an employment which suits me not at present. It was pleasing to me formerly, and therefore, by recalling the idea of circumstances and events which frequently occupied my pen in happier days, it now gives me pain. Yet I have just written a long consolatory letter to Mrs. Richman. She has buried her babe—her little Harriet, of whom she was dotingly fond.

It was a custom with some of the ancients, we are told, to weep at the birth of their children. Often should we be impelled to a compliance with this custom, could we foresee the future incidents of their lives. I think, at least, that the uncertainty of their conduct and condition in more advanced age may reconcile us to their removal to a happier state before they are capable of tasting the bitterness of woe.

  • “Happy the babe, who, privileged by fate
  • To shorter labors and a lighter weight,
  • Received but yesterday the gift of breath,
  • Ordered to-morrow to return to death.”
  • Our domestic affairs are much as when you left us. Nothing remarkable has occurred in the neighborhood worth communicating. The company and amusements of the town are as usual, I suppose. I frequent neither of them. Having incurred so much censure by the indulgence of a gay disposition, I am now trying what a recluse and solitary mode of life will, produce. You will call me splenetic. I own it. I am pleased with nobody; still less with myself. I look around for happiness, and find it not. The world is to me a desert. If I indulge myself in temporary enjoyment, the consciousness or apprehension of doing amiss destroys my peace of mind. And when I have recourse to books, if I read those of serious descriptions, they remind me of an awful futurity, for which I am unprepared; if history, it discloses facts in which I have no interest; if novels, they exhibit scenes of pleasure which I have no prospect of realizing.

    My mamma is solicitously attentive to my happiness; and though she fails of promoting it, yet I endeavor to save her the pangs of disappointment by appearing what she wishes.

    I anticipate, and yet I dread, your return; a paradox this, which time alone can solve.

    Continue writing to me, and entreat Mrs. Sumner, in my name, to do likewise. Your benevolence must be your reward.