Hannah Webster Foster (1759–1840). The Coquette, or The History of Eliza Wharton. 1855.
I cannot but hope that this letter, coming from the hand which you once sought, will not be unacceptable.
Pope very justly observes, that “every year is a critic on the last.” The truth of this observation is fully exemplified in my years. How severely this condemns the follies of the preceding, my own heart alone can testify.
I shall not offer any palliation or apology for my misconduct. You told me it admitted none. I frankly confess it; and if the most humble acknowledgment of my offences, with an assurance that they have cost me the deepest repentance, can in any degree atone for them, I now make that atonement. Casting off the veil of dissimulation, I shall write with frankness, believing you possessed of more honor than to make any ungenerous use of the confidence reposed in you.
To say that I ever esteemed you may, perhaps, appear paradoxical when compared with certain circumstances which occurred during our acquaintance; but to assert that I loved you may be deemed still more so. Yet these are real facts—facts of which I was then sensible, and by which I am now more than ever affected.
I think you formerly remarked that absence served but to heighten real love. This I find by experience. Need I blush to declare these sentiments, when occasion like this calls for the avowal? I will go even further, and offer you that heart which you once prized, that hand which you once solicited. The sentiments of affection which you then cultivated, though suppressed, I flatter myself are not wholly obliterated. Suffer me, then, to rekindle the latent flame, to revive that friendship and tenderness which I have so foolishly neglected. The endeavor of my future life shall be to reward your benevolence, and perhaps we may yet be happy together.
But let not this offer of myself constrain you. Let not pity influence your conduct. I would have your return, if that pleasing event take place, a voluntary act. Receive, or consent not to confer, happiness.
I thought it a duty which I owed to you, and to myself, to make this expiation, this sacrifice of female reserve, for the wrongs I have done you. As such I wish you to accept it; and if your affections are entirely alienated or otherwise engaged, if you cannot again command the respect and love which I would recall, do not despise me for the concessions I have made. Think as favorably of my past faults and of my present disposition as charity will allow. Continue, if possible, to be my friend, though you cease to be my lover.
Should this letter find you in the full possession of happiness, let not the idea of your once loved Eliza, thus intruding itself again upon your thoughts, interrupt your enjoyments. May some distinguished female, as deserving as fair, partake with you of that bliss which I have forfeited.
Whatever may be my destiny, my best wishes shall ever attend you, and a pleasing remembrance of your honorable attentions preside, till death, in the breast of