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

Letter XXI


How welcome to me, my dear Eliza, are the tidings of your return! My widowed heart has mourned your absence, and languished for the company of its now dearest connection. When stripped of one dependence, the mind naturally collects and rests itself in another. Your father’s death deprived me, for a while, of every enjoyment. But a reviving sense of the duties which I owed to a rising family roused me from the lethargy of grief. In my cares I found an alleviation of my sorrows. The expanding virtues of my children soothed and exhilarated my drooping spirits, and my attention to their education and interest was amply rewarded by their proficiency and duty. In them every hope, every pleasure, now centres. They are the axis on which revolves the temporal felicity of their mother. Judge, then, my dear, how anxiously I must watch, how solicitously I must regard, every circumstance which relates to their welfare and prosperity! Exquisitely alive to these sensations, your letter awakens my hopes and my fears. As you are young and charming, a thousand dangers lurk unseen around you. I wish you to find a friend and protector worthy of being rewarded by your love and your society. Such a one I think Mr. Boyer will prove. I am, therefore, sorry, since there can be no other, that his profession should be an objection in your mind. You say that I have experienced the scenes of trial connected with that station. I have, indeed; and I will tell you the result of this experience. It is, that I have found it replete with happiness. No class of society has domestic enjoyment more at command than clergymen. Their circumstances are generally a decent competency. They are removed alike from the perplexing cares of want and from the distracting parade of wealth. They are respected by all ranks, and partakers of the best company. With regard to its being a dependent situation, what one is not so? Are we not all links in the great chain of society, some more, some less important, but each upheld by others, throughout the confederated whole? In whatever situation we are placed, our greater or less degree of happiness must be derived from ourselves. Happiness is in a great measure the result of our own dispositions and actions. Let us conduct uprightly and justly; with propriety and steadiness; not servilely cringing for favor, nor arrogantly claiming more attention and respect than our due; let us bear with fortitude the providential and unavoidable evils of life, and we shall spend our days with respectability and contentment at least.

I will not expatiate on the topic of your letter till we have a personal interview, for which I am indeed impatient. Return, my daughter, as soon as politeness will allow, to your expecting friends; more especially to the fond embraces of your affectionate mother.