Archive for the ‘Reed, Joseph’ Category

“our two dear children . . . are both inoculated”

Esther de Berdt Reed, living in Philadelphia with her lawyer husband Joseph Reed, maintained a correspondence with her brother Dennis in England. She continued to miss her homeland and entertain thoughts of returning. When her first child was born in 1771, a daughter who was sickly, she wrote: “If she lives, it will make me more anxious than ever to return to dear England, as the education of girls is very indifferent indeed here. I assure my dear Dennis I find this country and England two different places; however, for the present we must be content.” Esther found the climate in Philadelphia particularly distasteful. “I Should be very glad to change this fine sky for our heavy one. There is so much clear, burning sunshine in the three summer months, that I do not wish for any more all the year. ” Esther had another child the following year and wrote to Dennis:

I can inform you that I have passed through another scene of trial, and am recovered to perfect health and strength. I think I never enjoyed a greater share of health and spirits; nothing is wanting but clearer prospects of returning to dear England; it would indeed rejoice my heart, once more to set my foot on that charming island. America must be allowed to be a fine country, but the conveniences and elegancies of England are unrivalled; they are not to be expected here; but I make myself contented. At present, we are in no small anxiety about our two dear children, as they are both inoculated, and we expect them to sicken every hour. Before this vessel sails, I hope to tell you they are in a fair way of recovery. . . . I hope to send you this fall, some cranberries and some sturgeon, and if possible some venison hams. . . .

Esther once more sent her brother a list of items she would like him to purchase for her.

Send me 4 pr. of Bk. Calma shoes. . . . A dozen of 8 bowed cap wires; a cap for Patty [her daughter], such as a child two years old should wear. If they are what they call quilted caps, send two, as I cannot get any such here; a quartered cap for my boy, a half-dressed handkerchief or tippet*, or whatever is the fashion, for myself, made of thread lace. Also a handsome spring silk, fit for summer, and new fashion. I leave it to your taste to choose it for me. I would not have rich silk. You know I do not like anything very gay, but neat and genteel. Send it to Long’s warehouse to be made up, and trimmed or not, as the present taste requires. If you call there, they will tell you how much it will take. Buy the quantity, but cut off half a yard and send it to me with the gown. . . . I will send you a gown to be dyed any color it will take best. Thus far my commissions run at present.

* a tippet is a garment comparable to a stole or boa. Rather interesting is Esther’s faith in her brother’s fashion sense and knowledge of what was à la mode.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 168, 172-73, 176-77.

posted October 5th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Clothes,Fashion,Food,Inoculation,Philadelphia,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

“the city does not answer my expectation”

In 1769, Joseph Reed prepared to leave America and go to England where he hoped to marry Esther De Berdt and find some employment. In December, however, his father took ill and died. He delayed his journey to settle his parent’s affairs and in March sailed for London via Ireland intending to make a new life there. On arriving in Ireland, however, he learned from the English newspapers that Esther’s father had died. When he reached London he found that Mr. De Berdt’s mercantile business had gone bankrupt and that the family was not only in mourning but also in financial distress. It became clear that the best course would be for the lovers to marry, which they did in May of 1770, and go to America taking Esther’s mother with them.
Esther’s letter to her brother Dennis tells of her arrival in Philadelphia, where the newlyweds had decided to live, and her reaction to her new surroundings.

Philadelphia, Nov. 14th, 1770. . . . Everything on the passage was on the whole as agreeable as possible, but I was worn almost to a skeleton by the constant sickness, but America has set me up again; yet, though I was so glad to see land, the first week or two, I was very low-spirited;—indeed it is not England:—however, I can think of spending some time agreeably enough. Nothing can be more obliging than our friends; they seem to strive which can show most hospitality and respect. I am sure, after the first weeks, you would like this place very well:—the city does not answer my expectation;—the plan, undoubtedly, is remarkably good;—but the houses are low, and in general, paltry, in comparison of the account I had heard. . . . We made our appearance on Thursday at the assembly. . . . the belles of the city were there. In general, the ladies are pretty, but no beauties; they all stoop, like country girls. So much for this city. . . .

Esther spent some time in Burlington, New Jersey, where she was “much diverted with what they called ‘a hunt.'”

The people, the horses, and dogs, were well matched. The first at setting out was a black man, on a horse whose coat stood about two inches from his body;—three gentlemen attended—one was the apothecary, another the Mayor, and the third [illegible], all on horses about as high as my old Fanny, and with the same porcupine appearance as the first;—however, about noon they returned, with a fine fox, and well satisfied.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 157-59. The illustration is by Carington Bowles after George Heap. “An East Perspective View of the City of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pensylvania, in North America, taken from the Jersey Shore.” London: Bowles, [1778]-ca. 1790. 9 1/2 x 16 1/4. Engraving. Original gouache hand coloring.

posted September 28th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Philadelphia,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

“you have nothing to fear from any rivals”

The correspondence between Esther De Berdt in England and Joseph Reed in America continued. Esther remained constant in her love as did Joseph, although circumstances kept them apart, not least the deteriorating relations between the colonies and the mother country and the failure of plans to secure a position for Reed in England. She wrote Reed from Enfield 22 October 1767.

I [am] happy to find that you were relieved from the anxiety and fears arising from my seemingly long silence. These are pains we must be subject to, while absent from each other. However, I hope that one day all [will] be forgot in the pleasure of meeting; and, though long delayed, nothing shall tempt me to give up the pleasing expectation. Three years are now past, since I was made happy by your company here, and though I am surrounded by my friends, yet I own to you, there is a heaviness about my heart that I cannot get rid of, when I recollect how much happier I have spent this day of the year [her birthday]; and now I receive no small pleasure in thinking that perhaps while I am writing, your thoughts are with me, and paying a visit, though but in imagination. However, any way, I . . . please myself with the fond hope that before another year passes, I shall have it in my power to realize the happiness of bidding you welcome, and in a greater degree add to your comfort and ease than I ever had it in my power to do, and this shall be the delightful employment of my future life. . . . Indeed, it has long been my study to improve and cultivate those qualities your partiality imagines I possess. But in whatever you are disappointed, this you will ever find true, that my heart is fixed in its choice of the object of its affection and esteem, and never had a latent wish to change.
I really believe it is unnecessary for me to say you have nothing to fear from any rivals, who, though in some circumstances suitable, are very far from having the least share of my love, nor is there any foundation for you being apprehensive that I shall ever give encouragement to hopes which I never intend to gratify. . . . I find our connexion is no longer a secret among our friends in America. . . . I am at a loss to know how they came by their intelligence. . . . Oh! my dear friend, how long will it be before I can let them know whom I have distinguished as the companion of my future life, and give you the last and dearest proof of the sincerity and constancy of my affection? But this is hid in the dark womb of futurity, and it is for us to wait in patience. This liberty of communicating our thoughts is yet left us. . . .
I am persuaded you do not forget me . . . for I should not be happy if I did not think your judgment and reason were in my favor. . . .
Adieu, my very dear friend, and never doubt the sincerity or affection of
E. De Berdt

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 123-26.

posted September 24th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Britain,Courtship,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

“I was quite amazed at the confusion and disorder . . . “

Anyone who has visited the House of Commons or watched Question Time with the Prime Minister on television will know that MPs can be very noisy in their responses to statements by the speakers: if in approval with shouts of “Hear, hear!” and at other times with raucous sounds of disapproval, prompting the Speaker to shout “Order, order!” I must say I find this sort of behavior in a legislative body unsettling and quite distasteful. Esther De Berdt was sufficiently interested in politics to attend a session of the Commons and remarked on this behavior in a letter she wrote to her betrothed, Joseph Reed, on 26 April 1766.

Mamma & I a few days were in the House of Commons & was most agreeably entertained by hearing Mr. Pitt speak several times, and Mr. Charles Townsend. Mt. Pitt then appeared as the venerable orator, and seems to speak the sentiments of his heart with ease. Charles Townsend is the young florid speaker, and I think with a great deal of eloquence. He commands attention as much as Mr. Pitt, but I was quite amazed at the confusion and disorder which there is in the House, though I have heard so much of it before. I knew Mr. Grenville by seeing his picture in the print of the repeal & Counselor Wedderburne too. They both spoke, but every body seemed so insipid after the other great men, it quite tired our patience especially those two persons, who are such Enemies to America . . . .

There is a visitors’ gallery in the Commons. William Pitt the Elder (Lord Chatham) was Prime Minister at the time. George Grenville was in opposition and Charles Townsend was Chancellor of the Exchequer and responsible for the Townshend Acts passed in 1767 which taxed certain products imported by the American colonies.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 91.

posted September 21st, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Parliament,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

“Do you want to hear that I still love?”

Esther DeBerdt was born in London, the daughter of a merchant who was also the colonial agent for Massachusetts. American Joseph Reed had come to London in 1764 to study law. The two met and fell in love. Joseph proposed but she wrote to him in November of 1764: “as to my going to America, it cannot be. It would bring down the gray hairs of my dear and affectionate parents with sorrow to the grave.” In 1765 Reed had to return to America to deal with family problems. Esther’s father acknowledged their engagement and the two corresponded. Esther wrote in March 1765: “Do you want to hear that I still love? It’s a truth which I am not ashamed to own, and at one time or another, to make it appear to all the world. Never doubt this till I send you word. Your sincere and affectionate friend. . . .” In June Esther wrote: “you will (maybe) wonder when I tell you that your expectations are too high of me I am sure you will not find me that charming creature you expect. Love must have blinded you, or you would have seen faults that would make you love me less. May you be always blind. . . .” The following letter from Esther to Joseph is dated 28 March 1766.

. . . This Scrip comes rich, with presents for you, my Pappas Picture which I have attempted to draw, is packed up with Mrs. Cox goods & Directed for you, I don’t doubt but you will like it, the hand from whence it comes, I know will make it acceptable, we think it a pretty good likeness, but it is not high finished, for fear of taking away the resemblance, & I thot it better to send it you just rough, then to do it only by halves, such as it is you are more welcome to it, than any body in America; I suppose some of our good Friends will wonder at it being sent to you, they must wonder sometime yet, but I assure you it gives me pleasure to have it in my power to shew any particular mark of Regard to you—I have finished your Ruffles at last. Mr Burkitt has taken them to put them into Mr. T. Smiths trunk. I am afraid they are too small in the Arm, you must get Miss Reed to put in a little gore that should be exactly the Size of your wrist, to button with the Shirt,—there must be some care in the Washing of them it must be in Cold water, & your Sister must take up every loop & edge of the ruffles, they must not be Ironed, but when they dry draw the Silk out, I have tried every way & find none so good as this, tell Miss R.—I don’t know if some of your Friends will not begin to suspect our Connexions, the Picture, & seeing a pair of ruffles of a Ladies work, will perhaps be a Sufficient reason, its happy we are not ashamed of one another,—I speak for myself I reckon it one of the greatest honours I have to Boast of, & perhaps I may say it for you too, but that I leave for you I know how partial you are to me, I hope you will always be or you will find what I said to be too true, that my good Qualities are not as numerous as you Imagine. . . .”

More on this long distance courtship in the next post.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 29, 49-50, 52. Other letters can be read online HERE. The letter of 28 March 1766 is in the Joseph Reed Papers at the New-York Historical Society. It was transcribed by Louise North.

posted September 17th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Courtship,London,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

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