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

Letter XLVII


Madam: As I was sitting last evening in my study, a letter was handed me by a servant; upon which I no sooner cast my eye than I recognized, with surprise, the hand and seal of my once loved, but to me long lost, Eliza. I opened it hastily, and with still greater surprise read the contents.

You write with frankness; I shall answer in the same manner.

On reviewing our former intercourse, be assured that I have not an accusing thought in my heart. The regard which I felt for you was tender and animated, but it was not of that passionate kind which ends in death or despair. It was governed by reason, and had a nobler object in view than mere sensual gratification. It was excited by the appearance of excellent qualities. Your conduct, at length, convinced me it was misplaced; that you possessed not in reality those charms which I had fondly ascribed to you. They were inconsistent, I conceived, with that artifice and dissimulation of which you strove to render me the dupe. But, thank Heaven, the snare was broken. My eyes were open to discover your folly; and my heart, engaged as it was, exerted resolution and strength to burst asunder the chain by which you held me enslaved, and to assert the rights of an injured man.

The parting scene you remember. I reluctantly bade you adieu. I tore myself from you, determined to eradicate your idea from my breast. Long and severe was the struggle; at last I vanquished, as I thought, every tender passion of my soul, (for they all centred in you,) and resigned myself to my God and my duty, devoting those affections to friendship which had been disappointed in love. But they are again called into exercise. The virtuous, the amiable, the accomplished Maria Selby possesses my entire confidence and esteem; and I trust I am not deceived when I think her highly deserving of both. With her I expect soon to be united in the most sacred and endearing of human relations, with her to pass my future days in serenity and peace.

Your letter, therefore, came too late, were there no other obstacle to the renewal of our connection. I hope at the close of life, when we take a retrospect of the past, that neither of us shall have reason to regret our separation.

Permit me to add, that for your own sake, and for the sake of your ever-valued friends, I sincerely rejoice that your mind has regained its native strength and beauty; that you have emerged from the shade of fanciful vanity. For although, to adopt your own phrase, I cease to style myself your lover, among the number of your friends I am happy to be reckoned. As such, let me conjure you, by all that is dear and desirable, both in this life and another, to adhere with undeviating exactness to the paths of rectitude and innocence, and to improve the noble talents which Heaven has liberally bestowed upon you in rendering yourself amiable and, useful to your friends. Thus will you secure your own, while you promote the happiness of all around you.

I shall ever cherish sentiments of kindness towards you, and with gratitude remember your condescension in the testimony of regard which you have given me in your last letter.

I hope soon to hear that your heart and hand are bestowed on some worthy man, who deserves the happiness you are formed to communicate. Whatever we may have called errors will, on my part, be forever buried in oblivion; and for your own peace of mind I entreat you to forget that any idea of a connection between us ever existed.

I shall always rejoice at the news of your welfare, and my ardent prayers will daily arise for your temporal and eternal felicity.