Archive for the ‘Bowne, Eliza Southgate’ Category

“few people whose prospects of happiness exceed mine”

Eliza Southgate Bowne wrote to her mother on July 8, 1803, adding details to the account of her experiences in New York City she had described to her sister Octavia in the previous post.

Mv letter will be an old date before I finish it. You must have perceived, my dear mother, from my letters, that I am much pleased with New-York. I was never in a place that I should prefer as a situation for life, and nothing but the distance from my friends can render it other than delightful. We have thus far spent the summer delightfully; we have been (on) no very long journeys, but on a number of little excursions of twenty or forty miles to see whatever is pleasant in the neighborhood.
Mr. Bowne’ s friends, though all very plain, are very amiable and affectionate, and I receive every attention from them I wish. I have a great many people call on me, and shall have it in my power to select just such a circle of acquaintance as suits my taste: few people whose prospects of happiness exceed mine, which I often think of with grateful sensations. Mr. Bowne’s situation in life is equal to my most sanguine expectations, and it is a peculiar gratification to me to find him so much and so universally esteemed and respected. This would be ridiculous from me to any but my mother, but I know it must be pleasing to you to know that I realize all the happiness you can wish me. I have not a wish that is not gratified as soon as ’tis known. We intend going to Bethlehem, Philadelphia, and a watering-place, similar to the Springs [Saratoga], about thirty miles beyond Philadelphia: shall probably set out the latter part of this month. At present we have done nothing toward housekeeping, and Mr. Bowne won’t let me do the least thing toward it, lest I get my mind engaged, and not enjoy the pleasure of our journeys.
‘Tis very different here from most any place, for there is no article but you can find ready made to your taste, excepting table-linen, bedding, etc., etc. One poor bed-quilt is all I have toward housekeeping, and been married two months almost. I am sadly off, to be sure. We have not yet found a house that suits us. Mr. Bowne don’t like any of his own, and wishes to hire one for the present, until he can build, which he intends doing next season, which I am very glad of, as I never liked living in a hired house, and changing about so often. . . . I have been very busy with my mantua-maker, as I am having a dress made to wear to Mrs. [Rufus King] Delafield’s to dinner on Sunday. They have a most superb country-seat on Long Island, opposite Hell Gate. . . .
My picture is done, but I am disappointed in it. Malbone says he has not done me justice; so says Mr. Bowne; but I think, though the features are striking, he has not caught the expression, particularly of the eyes, which are excessively pensive. . . . The mouth laughs a little, and they all say is good,—all the lower part of the face,—but the eyes not the thing. He wants me to sit again; so does Mr. Bowne; Malbone thinks he could do much better in another position. I get so tired, I am quite reluctant about sitting again. However, I intend showing it to some of our friends before we determine. . . . Mr. Bowne and myself are talking of coming to see you next summer very seriously. How comes on the new house? We are to come as soon as ever that is finished. If you choose to send so far, I will purchase any kind of furniture you may wish, perhaps cheaper and better than you can get elsewhere. Adieu! Remember me to all the children. Dear little Mary! I can’t help crying sometimes, with all my pleasures and amusements: ’tis impossible to be at once reconciled to quitting all one’s friends. . . . Tell [father] I yesterday met a woman full broke out withe the small-pox. I was within a yard of her before I perceived it. The first sensation was terror, and I ran several paces before I recollected myself. As soon as I arrived in town. Dr. Moore examined my arm, inquired the particulars, and refused to inoculate me again; that he would venture to insure me from the small-pox; that he had inoculated hundreds, and never had one take the small-pox after the kine-pox. Adieu!
Your affectionate daughter,

Eliza and Walter Bowne would have two children. Eliza was not well after the second birth and she went, with her sister Octavia, to Charlestown, South Carolina, hoping to benefit from the milder climate. She died there in 1809. She was twenty-five years old. The last letter she wrote was to Caroline Bowne, her mother-in-law, on January 28. “I send by Capt. Crouch a little pair of shoes for Mary, a little cuckoo toy for Walter, and a tumbler of orange marmalade for Mother. . . . I can tell you nothing flattering of my health. I am very miserable at present; I have a kind of intermittent fever; this afternoon I shall take an emetic, and hope a good effect. How are my dear little ones? I hope not too troublesome. . . . Precious children!”
Walter Bowne went on to become the 59th mayor of New York City in 1829.

The first letter can be found HERE. The one from Charleston can be found HERE. The portrait miniature is by Edward Greene Malbone (1777–1807) and was taken from a POST of the New England Historical Society.

posted April 23rd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Art,Bowne, Eliza Southgate,Bowne, Walter,New York,Smallpox

A New England Bride in New York

I hope, dear reader, you are as enamored as I am with Elizabeth Southgate (1783–1809). See previous post and others here, here, here, here, and here. She married Walter Bowne, a wealthy Quaker from Flushing, Long Island, in 1803. (See post describing her first meeting with him.) Following is a letter she wrote to her sister Octavia describing her impressions of New York City, the fashions, and her happiness in her marriage.

New York 6 June, 1803.I have so much to say, where shall I begin? My head is most turned, and yet I am very happy. I am enraptured with New York. You cannot imagine anything half so beautiful as Broadway, and I am sure you would say I was more romantic than ever, if I should attempt to describe the Battery—the elegant water prospect—you can have no idea how refreshing in a warm evening. The gardens we have not yet visited—indeed we have so many delightful things ’twill take me forever, and my husband declares he takes as much pleasure in showing them to me as I do in seeing them; you would believe it if you saw him. . . .
Caroline and I went a-shopping yesterday, and ’tis a fact that the little white satin Quaker bonnets, cap-crowns, are the most fashionable that are worn—lined with pink or blue or white—but I’ll not have one, for if any of my old acquaintance should meet me in the street they would laugh; I would if I were they. I mean to send sister Boyd a Quaker cap, the first tasty one I see. Caroline’s are too plain, but she has promised to get me a more fashionable pattern. ’Tis the fashion, I see nothing new or pretty—large sheer-muslin shawls . . . are much worn; they show the form through, and look pretty. Silk nabobs, plaided, colored and white, are much worn—very short waists—hair very plain . . . .
Last night we were at the play—“The way to get married.” Mr. Hodgkinson in Tangent is inimitable. Mrs. Johnson, a sweet, interesting actress, in Julia, and Jefferson, a great comic player, were all that were particularly pleasing. House was very thin—so late in the season. . . .
As to house-keeping, we don’t begin to talk anything of it yet. Mr. Bowne says not till October—however, you shall hear all our plans. I anticipate so much happiness—I am sure if anybody ought to, I may. My heart is full sometimes when I think how much more blest I am than most of the world. . . .
Thursday morning—I have been to two of the gardens; Columbia, near the Battery—a most romantic, beautiful place—’tis enclosed in a circular form and little rooms and boxes all round—with tables and chairs—these full of company; the trees all interspersed with lamps twinkling through the branches; in the centre a pretty little building with a fountain playing continually. The rays of the lamps on the drops of water gave it a cool sparkling appearance that was delightful…. Here we strolled among the trees and every moment met some walking from the thick shade unexpectedly—and come upon us before we heard a sound—’twas delightful. We passed a box that Miss Watts was in; she called us, and we went in and had a charming, refreshing glass of ice-cream—which has chilled me ever since. They have a fine orchestra, and have concerts here sometimes. I can conceive of nothing more charming than this must be.
We went on to the Battery. This is a large promenade by the shore of the North River—very extensive; rows and clusters of trees in every part, and a large walk along the shore, almost over the water, gives you such a fresh, delightful air that every evening in summer [it] is crowded with company. Here, too, they have music playing on the water in boats of a moonlight night.
Last night we went to a garden a little out of town—Mount Vernon Garden. This, too, is surrounded by boxes of the same kind, with a walk on top of them—you can see the gardens all below—but ’tis a summer playhouse—pit and boxes, stage and all, but open on top; from this there are doors opening into the garden, which is similar to Columbia Garden, lamps among the trees, large mineral fountain, delightful swings, two at a time. I was in raptures, as you may imagine, and, if I had not grown sober before I came to this wonderful place, ’twould have turned my head. . . . I have so much to tell you, and of those that have called on me, I have no room to say half. . . . Adieu; I am expecting to hear from you every day. Mr. Bowne is out, would send a great deal of love if he were here. . . . Our best love to my father and mother—Horatio, Isabella and all. I mean to write as soon as I am settled a little—adieu.

From A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vol. IV: Literature of the Republic, Part I., Constitutional period, 1788–1820
, Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. By permission of Mr. Walter Lawrence, from Letters copied from the originals by his mother, Mrs. Mary King Bowne Laurence appearing online HERE.

posted April 20th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Bowne, Eliza Southgate,Bowne, Walter,Fashion,Marriage,New York

“the female that attempts the vindication of her sex”

Continuing the letter from the previous post that Eliza Southgate Bowne wrote to her cousin Moses Porter on the necessity for the cultivation of the abilities and qualities that women possess:

Women have more fancy, more lively imaginations than men. That is easily accounted for: a person of correct judgment and accurate discernment will never have that flow of ideas which one of a different character might,—every object has not the power to introduce into his mind such a variety of ideas, he rejects all but those closely connected with it. On the other hand, a person of small discernment will receive every idea that arises in the mind, making no distinction between those nearly related and those more distant, they are all equally welcome, and consequently such a mind abounds with fanciful, out-of-the way ideas. . . . I never was of opinion that the pursuits of the sexes ought to be the same; on the contrary, I believe it would be destructive to happiness, there would a degree of rivalry exist, incompatible with the harmony we wish to establish. I have ever thought it necessary that each should have a separate sphere of action,—in such case there could be no clashing, unless one or the other should leap their respective bounds. Yet to cultivate the qualities with which we are endowed can never be called infringing the prerogatives of man. Why, dear Cousin, were we furnished with such powers, unless the improvement of them would conduce to the happiness of society? Do you suppose the mind of woman the only work of God that was “made in vain.” The cultivation of the powers we possess, I have ever thought a privilege (or I may say duty) that belonged to the human species, and not man’s exclusive prerogative. Far from destroying the harmony that ought to subsist, it would fix it on a foundation that would not totter at every jar. Women would be under the same degree of subordination that they now are; enlighten and expand their minds, and they would perceive the necessity of such a regulation to preserve the order and happiness of society. Yet you require that their conduct should be always guided by that reason which you refuse them the power of exercising. I know it is generally thought that in such a case women would assume the right of commanding. But I see no foundation for such a supposition,—not a blind submission to the will of another which neither honor nor reason dictates. it would be criminal in such a case to submit, for we are under a prior engagement to conduct in all things according to the dictates of reason. I had rather be the meanest reptile that creeps the earth, or cast upon the wide world to suffer all the ills “that flesh is heir to,” than live a slave to the despotic will of another.

In this concluding statement Eliza determines to be her own person and think for herself: “I am aware of the censure that will ever await the female that attempts the vindication of her sex, yet I dare to brave that censure that I know to be undeserved.”

A Girl’s Life Eighty Years Ago: Selections from the Letters of Eliza Southgate Bowne With an Introduction by Clarence Cook (New York: Scribner’s sons, 1887), pages 58-61.

posted April 16th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bowne, Eliza Southgate,Women's Rights

“Thus … the qualities … are left to moulder in ruin”

A Girl’s Life Eighty Years Ago: Selections from the Letters of Eliza Southgate Bowne is a delightful collection of letters Eliza Southgate Bowne (1783-1809) wrote to family and friends during her lifetime. The daughter of a well-to-do physician and and his wife Mary King, whose brother Rufus King was a lawyer, politician and diplomat, Eliza received an excellent education, having attended Susannah Rowson’s Young Ladies Academy in Medford. See other posts on Eliza Southgate Bowne here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Eliza’s letters to her cousin Moses Porter, the son of one of her mother’s sisters, are among the most thoughtful and interesting. While her letters illustrate the domestic life of the country, their chief value, as Clarence Cook, who has written the introduction to the book, says “lies in the picture they give of the writer”—a young woman who defends a woman’s right to think for herself, reflecting the beginnings of a change in attitude about the abilities of women and their right to engage in activities hitherto thought to be within the sphere of men. Referring to this miniature, which is the frontispiece of the book by a noted painter of the day Edward Greene Malbone (1777-1807), Cook penned this verse.
“A hair-brained, sentimental trace
Was strongly marked in her face;
A wildly witty, rustic grace
Shone full upon her;
Her eye, even turned on empty space.
Beamed keen with honour.”

Scarborough, June 1st, 1801As to the qualities of mind peculiar to each sex, I agree with you that sprightliness is in favor of females and profundity of males. Their education, their pursuits would create such a quality even tho’ nature had not implanted it. The business and pursuits of men require deep thinking, judgment, and moderation, while, on the other hand, females are under no necessity of dipping deep, but merely “skim the surface,” and we too commonly spare ourselves the exertion which deep researches require, unless they are absolutely necessary to our pursuits in life. We rarely find one giving themselves up to profound investigation for amusement merely. Necessity is the nurse of all the great qualities of the mind; it explores all the hidden treasures and by its stimulating power they are “polished into brightness.” Women who have no such incentives to action suffer all the strong energetic qualities of the mind to sleep in obscurity; sometimes a ray of genius gleams through the thick clouds with which it is enveloped, and irradiates for a moment the darkness of the mental night; yet, like a comet that shoots wildly from its sphere, it excites our wonder, and we place it among the phenomenons of nature, without searching for a natural cause. Thus it is the qualities with which nature has endowed us, as a support amid the misfortunes of life and a shield from the allurements of vice, are left to moulder in ruin. In this dormant state they become enervated and impaired, and at last die for want of exercise. The little airy qualities which produce sprightliness are left to flutter about like feathers in the wind, the sport of every breeze.

More of Eliza’s letter in the next post.

A Girl’s Life Eighty Years Ago: Selections from the Letters of Eliza Southgate Bowne With an Introduction by Clarence Cook (New York: Scribner’s sons, 1887), pages 58-61. The miniature is by Edward Greene Malone (1777-1809).

posted April 13th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bowne, Eliza Southgate,Education,Letter-writing,Women's Rights

“a Mr. Bowne from New York”

After Eliza Southgate’s dissertation on love and marriage in the letter she wrote to her cousin Moses in 1800 (see previous post), it is interesting to read how she describes to her mother in September of 1802 her encounter with the man she was to marry.

[A]mong the many gentlemen I have become acquainted with and who have been attentive, one I believe is serious. I know not, my dearest Mother, how to introduce this subject, yet as I fear you may hear it from others and feel anxious for my welfare, I consider it a duty to tell you all. At Albany, on our way to Ballston, we put up at the same house with a Mr. Bowne from New York; he went on to the Springs [Saratoga] the same day we did, and from that time was particularly attentive to me; he was always of our parties to ride, went to Lake George in company with us, and came on to Lebanon when we did,—for 4 weeks I saw him every day and probably had a better opportunity of knowing him than if I had seen him as a common acquaintance in town for years. I felt cautious of encouraging his attentions, tho’ I did not wish to discourage it,—there were so many New Yorkers at the Springs who knew him perfectly that I easily learnt his character and reputation. he is a man of business, uniform in his conduct and very much respected, all this we knew from report. . . . his conduct was such as I shall ever reflect on with the greatest pleasure—open, candid, generous, and delicate. He is a man in whom I could place the most unbounded confidence, nothing rash or impetuous in his disposition, but weighs maturely every circumstance; he knew I was not at liberty to encourage his addresses without the approbation of my Parents, and appeared as solicitous that I should act with strict propriety as one of my most disinterested friends. He advised me like a friend and would not have suffered me to do anything improper. He only required I would not discourage his addresses till he had an opportunity of making known to my Parents his character and wishes—this I promised and went so far as to tell him I approved of him as far as I knew him, but the decision must rest with my Parents, their wishes were my law. . . . the first of October he will come. I could not prevent it without a positive refusal; this I felt no disposition to give. And now, my dearest Mother, I submit myself wholly to the wishes of my Father and you, convinced that my happiness is your warmest wish, and to promote it has ever been your study. That I feel deeply interest in Mr. Bowne I candidly acknowledge, and from the knowledge I have of his heart and character I think him better calculated to promote my happiness than any person I have yet seen; he is a firm, steady, serious man, nothing light or trifling in his character, and I have every reason to think he has well weighed his sentiments towards me,—nothing rash or premature. I have referred him wholly to you, and you, my dearest Parents, must decide.

Eliza did marry Walter Bowne in 1803, with her parents consent. They had one child, a boy, in 1806, and two years later in July, a girl. But all was not well with Eliza. She had not recovered her strength after the birth of her daughter and, following her doctor’s recommendation to visit a warmer climate, she went to Charleston, South Carolina, with her sister and brother-in-law, her husband promising to join them later. Unfortunately, Eliza’s health did not improve; she died in February 1809 at the age of twenty-six.

Eliza Southgate’s letter is from A Girl’s Life Eighty Years Ago: Selections from the Letters of Eliza Southgate Bowne, with an introduction by Clarence Cook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), pages 139 to 141.

posted February 20th, 2014 by Janet, comments (2), CATEGORIES: Bowne, Eliza Southgate,Courtship,Marriage

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