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

Letter XXIV


I resume my pen, having just returned from General Richman’s; not with an expectation, however, of your reading this till you have perused and reperused the enclosed. I can bear such neglect in this case, as I have been alike interested myself.

I went to General Richman’s at twelve o’clock. About a mile from thence, upon turning a corner, I observed a gentleman and lady on horseback, some way before me, riding at a very moderate pace, and seemingly in close conversation. I kept at the same distance from them till I saw them stop at the general’s gate. I then put on, and, coming up with them just as they alighted, was surprised to find them no other than Major Sanford and Miss Wharton. They were both a little disconcerted at my salutation: I know not why. Miss Wharton invited him in; but he declined, being engaged to dine. General Richman received us at the door. As I handed Miss Wharton in, he observed, jocosely, that she had changed company. “Yes, sir,” she replied, “more than once since I went out, as you doubtless observed.” “I was not aware,” said Mrs. Richman, “that Major Sanford was to be of your party to-day.” “It was quite accidental, madam,” said Miss Wharton. “Miss Lawrence and I had agreed, last evening, to take a little airing this forenoon. A young gentleman, a relation of hers, who is making them a visit, was to attend us.

“We had not rode more than two miles when we were overtaken by Major Sanford, who very politely asked leave to join our party. Miss Lawrence very readily consented; and we had a very sociable ride. The fineness of the day induced me to protract the enjoyment of it abroad; but Miss Lawrence declined riding so far as I proposed, as she had engaged company to dine. We therefore parted till the evening, when we are to meet again.” “What, another engagement!” said Mrs. Richman. “Only to the assembly, madam.” “May I inquire after your gallant, my dear? But I have no right, perhaps, to be inquisitive,” said Mrs. Richman. Miss Wharton made no reply, and the conversation took a general turn. Miss Wharton sustained her part with great propriety. Indeed, she discovers a fund of useful knowledge and extensive reading, which render her peculiarly entertaining; while the brilliancy of her wit, the fluency of her language, the vivacity and ease of her manners are inexpressibly engaging. I am going myself to the assembly this evening, though I did not mention it to General Richman. I therefore took my leave soon after dinner.

I have heard so much in praise of Miss Wharton’s penmanship, in addition to her other endowments, that I am almost tempted to break the seal of her letter to you; but I forbear. Wishing you much happiness in the perusal of it, and more in the possession of its writer, I subscribe myself yours, &c.,