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

Letter LXIX


My dear friend: By that endearing title you permit me still to address you, and such you have always proved yourself by a participation of my distresses, as well as by the consoling voice of pity and forgiveness. What destiny Providence designs for me I know not, but I have my forebodings that this is the last time I shall ever accost you. Nor does this apprehension arise merely from a disturbed imagination. I have reason to think myself in a confirmed consumption, which commonly proves fatal to persons in my situation. I have carefully concealed every complaint of the kind from my mamma, for fear of distressing her; yet I have never been insensible of their probable issue, and have bidden a sincere welcome to them, as the harbingers of my speedy release from a life of guilt and woe.

I am going from you, Julia. This night separates us, perhaps, forever. I have not resolution to encounter the tears of my friends, and therefore seek shelter among strangers, where none knows or is interested in my melancholy story. The place of my seclusion I studiously conceal; yet I shall take measures that you may be apprised of my fate.

Should it please God to spare and restore me to health, I shall return, and endeavor, by a life of penitence and rectitude, to expiate my past offences. But should I be called from this scene of action, and leave behind me a helpless babe, the innocent sufferer of its mother’s shame, O Julia, let your friendship for me extend to the little stranger. Intercede with my mother to take it under her protection, and transfer to it all her affection for me; to train it up in the ways of piety and virtue, that it may compensate her for the afflictions which I have occasioned.

One thing more I have to request. Plead for me with my two best friends, Mrs. Richman and Mrs. Sumner. I ask you not to palliate my faults,—that cannot be done,—but to obtain, if possible, their forgiveness. I cannot write all my full mind suggests on this subject. You know the purport, and can better express it for me.

And now, my dear Julia, recommending myself again to your benevolence, to your charity, and (may I add?) to your affection, and entreating that the fatal consequences of my folly, now fallen upon my devoted head, may suffice for my punishment, let me conjure you to bury my crimes in the grave with me, and to preserve the remembrance of my former virtues, which engaged your love and confidence; more especially of that ardent esteem for you, which will glow till the last expiring breath of your despairing