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

Letter XXXI


I am very happy to find you are in so good spirits, Eliza, after parting with your favorite swain; for I perceive that he is really the favorite of your fancy, though your heart cannot esteem him; and, independent of that, no sensations can be durable.

I can tell you some news of this strange man. He has arrived, and taken possession of his seat. Having given general invitations, he has been called upon and welcomed by most of the neighboring gentry. Yesterday he made an elegant entertainment. Friend George (as you call him) and I were of the number who had cards. Twenty-one couple went, I am told. We did not go. I consider my time too valuable to be spent in cultivating acquaintance with a person from whom neither pleasure nor improvement is to be expected. His profuseness may bribe the unthinking multitude to show him respect; but he must know that, though

  • “Places and honors have been bought for gold,
  • Esteem and love were never to be sold.”
  • I look upon the vicious habits and abandoned character of Major Sanford to have more pernicious effects on society than the perpetrations of the robber and the assassin. These, when detected, are rigidly punished by the laws of the land. If their lives be spared, they are shunned by society, and treated with every mark of disapprobation and contempt. But, to the disgrace of humanity and virtue, the assassin of honor, the wretch who breaks the peace of families, who robs virgin innocence of its charms, who triumphs over the ill-placed confidence of the inexperienced, unsuspecting, and too credulous fair, is received and caressed, not only by his own sex, to which he is a reproach, but even by ours, who have every conceivable reason to despise and avoid him. Influenced by these principles, I am neither ashamed nor afraid openly to avow my sentiments of this man, and my reasons for treating him with the most pointed neglect.

    I write warmly on the subject; for it is a subject in which I think the honor and happiness of my sex concerned. I wish they would more generally espouse their own cause. It would conduce to the public, weal, and to their personal respectability. I rejoice, heartily, that you have had resolution to resist his allurements, to detect and repel his artifices. Resolution in such a case is absolutely necessary; for,

  • “In spite of all the virtue we can boast,
  • The woman that deliberates is lost.”
  • As I was riding out yesterday I met your mamma. She wondered that I was not one of the party at our new neighbor’s. “The reason, madam,” said I, “is, that I do not like the character of the man.” “I know nothing of him,” said she; “he is quite a stranger to me, only as he called at my house last week to pay me his respects, as he said, for the sake of my late husband, whose memory he revered, and because I was the mother of Miss Eliza Wharton, with whom he had the honor of some little acquaintance. His manners are engaging, and I am sorry to hear that his morals are corrupt.”

    This, my dear, is a very extraordinary visit. I fear that he has not yet laid aside his arts. Be still on your guard, is the advice of your sincere and faithful friend,