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

Letter XXVII


I am quite a convert to Pope’s assertion, that
  • “Every woman is at heart a rake.”
  • How else can we account for the pleasure which they evidently receive from the society, the flattery, the caresses of men of that character? Even the most virtuous of them seem naturally prone to gayety, to pleasure, and, I had almost said, to dissipation. How else shall we account for the existence of this disposition in your favorite fair? It cannot be the result of her education. Such a one as she has received is calculated to give her a very different turn of mind. You must forgive me, my friend, for I am a little vexed and alarmed on your account. I went last evening to the assembly, as I told you in my last that I intended. I was purposely without a partner, that I might have the liberty to exercise my gallantry as circumstances should invite. Indeed I must own that my particular design was to observe Miss Wharton’s movements, being rather inclined to jealousy in your behalf. She was handed into the assembly room by Major Sanford. The brilliance of their appearance, the levity of their manners, and the contrast of their characters I found to be a general subject of speculation. I endeavored to associate with Miss Wharton, but found it impossible to detach her a moment from the coxcomb who attended her. If she has any idea of a connection with you, why does she continue to associate with another, especially with one of so opposite a description? I am seriously afraid that there is more intimacy between them than there ought to be, considering the encouragement she has given you.

    I hope you will not be offended by my freedom in this matter. It originates in a concern for your honor and future happiness. I am anxious lest you should be made the dupe of a coquette, and your peace of mind fall a sacrifice to an artful debauchee. Yet I must believe that Miss Wharton has, in reality, all that virtue and good sense of which she enjoys the reputation; but her present conduct is mysterious.

    I have said enough (more than I ought, perhaps) to awaken your attention to circumstances which may lead to important events. If they appear of little or no consequence to you, you will at least ascribe the mention of them to motives of sincere regard in your friend and humble servant,

    T. SELBY.