Archive for the ‘Morris, Mary White’ Category

“. . . . the return of Peace”

SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY, still in Paris with her husband John in July 1783, wrote again to MARY WHITE MORRIS. (See previous posts here, here, and here.) Sarah was pregnant and gave birth to Ann (Nancy) in August. (Daughter Maria had been born in Madrid in February of 1782; a son Peter Augustus had been entrusted to the care of his Livingston grandparents and aunts at Liberty Hall in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, when the Jays had departed for Spain in 1779.) The Preliminary Articles of Peace, which John Jay had helped negotiate, had been ratified by Congress in April, and the Definitive Treaty ending the Revolution would be signed in Paris in September. A busy time.

Your very friendly letter my dr madam dated the 5th of Janry last, did not reach me until the 20th of May, & was the first I had the pleasure of receiving from you for the space of 12 or 15 months, therefore you’ll readily believe that nothing could be more acceptable to me.
You do me justice my dear madam in believing that the sincere attachment I feel for mr. Morris & yourself is extended to yr. children; for permit me to assure you that nothing could afford either mr. Jay or myself greater pleasure than opportunities of serving them; indeed my chagrin at parting with them was heighten’d by the reflection that I shd now be depriv’d of the pleasure of evincing my friendship for their parents by attentions to them. Mr. Jay obtain’d a promise from Robt. to write him once a fortnight, but Tommy seem’d to think the request rather large as he had other correspondants, & therefore did not positively acquiese in the proposal, at least as to the frequency. Mr. Ridley has already recd. letters from them expressing their satisfaction with their situation, & I was not a little pleased to find that they still remembred us.—they are amiable sensible boys, & I think promise to repay the tenderness & liberality of their indulgent parents. . . .
Thank you my dr madam for your congratulations on the return of Peace, & most sincerely partake yr. joy in that event, not only on account of the [?] of blessings that our country will derive from it, but likewise for the flattering prospect it affords me of embracing in a few months my dr mrs. morris & other amiable friends—
Kitty [Sarah’s sister, Kitty Livingston] you say intends leaving you soon—how I pity her feelings on that occasion, for tho’ tis true that an affecte. mother & sister whom she loves attend to with impatience her return to them, yet, where so much gratitude & esteem is due, a sensible heart like hers must melt at separation—how delicately does my dr. mrs. morris insinuate herself into the hearts of her friends—she knows too well the friend she writes to doubt the pleasure she receives from her obliging expression of regret at parting with her sister.
If yr sweet little Maria is grown out of my remembrance, how much must miss hetty be altered [Maria and Hetty were Morris children]—please to embrace them both for me & believe me to be most sincerely attached to you & yours. . . .
Mr Jay joins with me in assurances of regard & esteem for you & mr morris
I am dear Madam
Yours &c.
Sa. Jay —
Mrs. Morris/To be presented by Captn Barney

Mary Morris was undoubtedly grateful for Sarah’s news of her children who had been sent to Europe to be educated. Matthew Ridley was a family friend who would marry Sarah’s sister Kitty after his first wife’s death. Kitty spent a great deal of time with the Morrises in Philadelphia, leaving her mother in the care of her sister Susan in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Sarah’s father William Livingston, governor of New Jersey, commander of the state militia, delegate to the various Congresses, and signer-to-be of the Constitution, was away a good deal. His home, Liberty Hall, was ransacked by both British and American troops who alternatively occupied it as battle lines shifted. The family sought refuge with friends or relatives.

Robert Morris Collection, Henry E. Huntington Library. The illustration is of the final page of the Peace Treaty affixed with the seals of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, and the British negotiator David Hartley.

posted July 13th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Children,Education,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Morris, Mary White,Paris,Ridley, Matthew,Treaty of Paris, 1783

Visit of the “Hermione”

In a previous post, mention was made by SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY in a letter to MARY WHITE MORRIS of a dinner she had attended at the Lafayettes. (The Jays dined there frequently.) Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis, had returned to France after the victory at Yorktown in 1781 and was much celebrated. Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, his wife, (pictured) had expressed a desire to visit America but she never did make that trip. Lafayette, however, returned to the United States in 1784 to visit George Washington. When he came back to Paris he became embroiled in the chaos of the French Revolution. He ordered the storming of the Bastille, sending the key of that prison as a souvenir to Washington.

Lafayette became the leader of the liberal aristocrats and favored a constitutional monarchy. For his views he, with many other aristocrats, were considered guilty of treason by the Radicals who had taken control of the Revolution. In the Reign of Terror that followed, he was seized and imprisoned in Austria. Since Adrienne came of an old aristocratic family, her mother, grandmother, and sister were guillotined. (Read a description of the execution recorded by their Catholic confessor here.) She was also arrested but her life was spared due to the intervention of prominent Americans. When Adrienne was released she, with two of her daughters, joined her husband in prison in Austria. (That sort of thing was done back then.) In 1797 Lafayette was freed and, with his family, returned to France. Sadly Adrienne died at age 47 in 1807. Lafayette made another trip to the United States in 1824. It was a triumphal tour.

We were reminded of his visit by an event that occurred this past weekend when a replica of the ship Hermione on which Lafayette sailed in 1824 arrived in New York. Passing Governor’s Island to the sound of celebratory cannon fire, the three-masted, 32-gun frigate docked at the South Street Seaport. On Sunday, accompanied by many private vessels, it sailed around the southern tip of Manhattan past the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson River to the Intrepid. Returning to the East River it made its way to Greenport on Long Island. The Hermione resumes its journey northward along the coast this week, with stops at Newport (8-9); Boston (11-12); Castine, Maine (14-15); and Lunenberg/Halifax, Nova Scotia (18), before returning to France.

In honor of Lafayette’s visit to the New-York Historical Society in 1824, that institution currently has an exhibition which is worth seeing—“Lafayette’s Return: The ‘Boy General,’ the American Revolution and the Hermione;” it will run through August 16. See details here.

If your curiosity has been piqued you may want to read a new biography of Lafayette: The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio.

Presumed portrait of Adrienne Lafayette by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard painted in 1790.

posted July 6th, 2015 by Janet, comments (3), CATEGORIES: French Revolution,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Lafayette, Marquis de,Lafayette, Marquise Adrienne,Morris, Mary White,Washington, George

“black & white riding hats are equally worn”

A few days later, SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY wrote another letter to MARY WHITE MORRIS. (See previous posts here and here.) The topic is again fashion, a subject of great interest. It was common for women from America to ask their friends in Europe to keep them informed about the current styles, indeed not only to send them fabric and trimmings but also to have clothes made for them according to measurements provided. When sending packages, and even letters, it was usual to note the captain of the ship that carried them. Correspondence and shipments were geared to the departure dates of vessels bound for America.

Paris 25th Novbr. 1782My dear Madam
It was not without regret that I heard of Captn. Barney’s leaving Paris without having those things in charge, which you had requested might be sent by him; but I hope my dr. friend will acquit me of indolence when I assure her that I never recd. the commission with which I was honor’d till two days before the Captain’s departure, & one of those was Sunday, on which you know business could not be transacted: Mr. Le Couteulx still flatters me that the box may arrive at the port in time to be taken on board.
The measure of yr. gown, cannot it seemd be found; but it is of less consequence as Mr. Ridley has sent out for Mrs. Powel two habits: a sultana & an English habit which you can see before you have yours made. The Pistache & rose colour were most fashionable last Autumn, but what will succeed them in the spring is difficult yet to divine; the trimming is made by the first miliner, & will either suit a sultana or habit, with both of which dresses they wear the petticoat of a different colour. You’ll pardon the liberty I’ve taken in adding an handkerchief: for as it was new, & consequently admir’d, I could not resist the inclination: its to be ty’d on before the gown, & then pinned down to the stays & when the gown is on to be put under the shoulder straps & then the tippet is put round the edge of it & renders a tucker unnecessary—I can’t imagine why it’s call’d a Chemise, for I cannot discover any resemblance that it bears to that part of dress.—The hat & Cloak are fashionable at all seasons of the year, tho’ in the Winter the Cloak is only worn in dress. Your stays, tho’ made according to yr. direction is perfectly the mode, stiff ones having long since been laid aside—but you forget that your waist has length as well as breadth, & therefore you’ll be obliging as to pardon yr. Taylor if he has not guessed right—am I at liberty to draw any inference from yr. partiality?
As black & white riding hats are equally worn, I’ve sent both, the one trimm’d in the present taste the other without ribbon that your own may be consulted—they are likewise very much worn of a morning with the hair dress’d without a cushion as for riding.
Should I have been so fortunate as to give satisfaction in the choice of the things, I shall think myself vastly happy, & always proud in being honor’d with your commands. May I flatter myself, that this scarce legible scrawl will as well as come former ones, meet with your indulgence. With my best wishes for Mr. Morris & mr dear Kitty, I remain
my dr. Madam your very sincere & affectionate friend
S. Jay

English-born Matthew Ridley moved to Baltimore in 1770 and became the manager of the Maryland branch of a London mercantile firm. He became a supporter of the Revolution and went to Paris in 1781 as the agent for the state of Maryland with the intention of soliciting a loan for the state. While abroad he fulfilled requests for clothing from American friends. After the death of his first wife he married Sarah Livingston’s sister Catharine (Kitty).
Elizabeth Willing Powel was the wife of Samuel Powel, the mayor of Philadelphia until the Revolution. Mrs. Powel maintained a French-style salon frequented by the political and social elite of the city.
A sultana is the name (of exotic origin) given to causal but elegant at-home wear. A loose wrapping gown, it was worn without stays and therefore was comfortable. One could receive visitors in sultanas, and they were favored attire for portraits. A tucker is a detachable yoke made of lace or other fabric, to cover the breast when wearing a low-cut dress. A tippet is a small piece of fabric that goes around the neck and hangs down a little on either side, somewhat like a stole.

The letter is from the Robert Morris Collection, Henry E. Huntington Library. For those interested in the fashion of the period, a very good source for the names of various kinds of clothing and the parts they consist of is the Glossary of 18th Century Costume Terminology.

posted July 2nd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Clothes,Fashion,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Morris, Mary White,Paris,Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Ridley, Matthew

“With what pleasure my dr madam do I take up my pen”

SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY and MARY WHITE MORRIS continued to correspond. See previous post. By this time Sarah was in Paris where her husband John served as a peace commissioner. Her subjects were children—two of the Morris sons had been sent to Europe to continue their education. And clothes—after all this is Paris. And then there are the Marquise de Lafayette and Marie Antoinette. Making for an interesting letter, don’t you think?

Paris 14th Novbr. 1782With what pleasure my dr madam do I take up my pen as a medium of or substitute for a conversation with you by admitting no other idea to rob me of your image; I enjoy, at least for the moment the most pleasing delusion—Yesterday your little sons by passing their holiday with me made me very happy—Robert so exceedingly resembles Mr. Morris that I feel for him a respect mingled with my love; tho’ at the same time I regret his distance from his father’s example & counsel—When (as it sometimes happens) among our Little Americans that my decision is referr’d to respecting matters of right & wrong, I always request Robert’s opinion; & when he hesitates, I ask him what he thinks would be his Father’s sentiments upon such occasions, to which he generally replys very justly; & I remark to him the certainty of his acting with propriety while he imitates so worthy an example—Tommy (who is likewise a fine boy) told me that his last letters mention’d [his sisters] Hetty’s & Maria’s illness—I hope they are now quite recovered as well as my dr. Kitty [Sarah’s sister Catharine]—will you embrace them for me?
If during my stay in Paris it is in my power to serve you, nothing my dr Mrs Morris can give me greater pleasure than receiving yr commands—at present the prevailing fashions are very decent & very plain; the gowns most worn are the robes à l’Anglaise which are exactly like the Italian habits that were in fashion in America at the time I left it—The sultana, resembling the long polinese is also à la mode, but as it is not expected that it will long remain so, every body makes them of slight silk—There is so great a variety of hats, Caps, cuffs &c. that it is impossible to describe them. I forgot to mention that the robe à l’Anglaise if trimm’d either with the same or with gauze is dress, but if intirely untrimm’d must be worn with an apron & is undress: negligees are very little in vougue: fans of 8 or 10 sous are almost the only ones in use.—
At the Marquis de la Fayette’s table I had the pleasure of hearing you my dear Mrs. Morris mention’d the other day as well as Mr. Morris in terms to me the most grateful imaginable—The Marchioness [Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles] is a most amiable woman who express’d her inclination to see America in very flattering terms, & I could not forbear assuring her that if she ever honor’d us by a visit, she would find that her Character there had already prepar’d the Americans to receive her in a manner, that would convince her that the Marquis, tho’ much esteem’d, was not the only one of his Family that they respected.—
The Queen has lately return’d to Versailles after a residence of 8 or 10 weeks at Passey – While there I used some times to have the pleasure of seeing her at the Plays—She is so handsome & her manners are so engaging, that almost forgetful of republican principles, I was even ready while in her presence to declare her born to be a Queen.— There are however many traits in her character worthy of imitation even by republicans, & I cannot but admire her resolution to superintend the education of Madame Royale her daughter, to whom she has alotted chambers adjoining her own, & persists in refusing to name a Governante for her. . . .
Mr. Jay . . . desires me to assure you that his esteem for you is not less than that with which
I have the honor to be
my dr madam
yours sincerely
Sa. Jay

The letter appears in Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, compiled and edited by Landa M. Freeman, Louise V. North and Janet M. Wedge, (Jefferson, N.C.: Mcfarland & Co, 2005), page 123. The Illustration of the robe à l’Anglaise can be found HERE. The Marie Antoinette portrait is by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1783 taken from Wikepedia.

posted June 29th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Education,Fashion,Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Lafayette, Marquise Adrienne,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Marie Antoinette,Morris, Mary White,Paris

“where can I hope to find such friends as I parted from”

The last post referred to the friendship between MARY WHITE MORRIS and the sisters Kitty Livingston and SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY. Sarah was one of the few wives who accompanied their husbands on diplomatic missions abroad. She was brave enough to undertake what was very much a dangerous crossing of the Atlantic and emotionally strong enough to leave their young son in the charge of her parents in New Jersey. She missed her friends in America and tried to stay in touch by mail which was unreliable at best. Following is one of a series of letters she wrote to Mary Morris, this one from Madrid where John had been sent to try to secure loans from the Spanish.

[Madrid April 22d 1781]My dear Mrs. Morris,
. . . As Mr. Jay & myself are interested in Mr. Morris’ and your happiness, we were very anxious last fall about both your healths, for we had heard (from France) that they were impaired, & a letter from Kitty some time after was doubly welcome by giving us the pleasing information of the recovery of persons we so much esteem’d, and likewise the re establishment of mama’s & her own health. How amply, my dear madam! does your affection compensate Kitty for the absence of her sister—but where can I hope to find such friends as I parted from in quitting America—not I am sure in the acquaintances of a few months or in the formal birthday visitors—preserve therefore I charge you the regard you honor me with, that in your company when I return, I may forget how long we have been seperated.
I dare say you were pleased with the marriage of Mr. [William] Bingham & Miss [Ann] Willing, as it promises happiness to the parties interested: shall I request you to present to them our congratulations?
Tell Miss Hetty [the oldest Morris daughter, aged seven] if you please that if she thinks she can smile upon a Don, I’ll use my influence to engage a few to accompany us, for we hope to return before she seriously thinks of paying her devoirs to Hymen. Kitty’s accounts of Maria [a Morris daughter aged two] increase my inclination to see her; and I am quite happy that your little sons are likely to answer the expectations form’d of them. . . .
You & Mr. Morris will do us justice in believing that you have not more sincere friends in the numerous circle of those who love & esteem you, than in Mr. Jay and your humble servt.
Sa. Jay
I have often smil’d at the apologies made for Incorrect letters, but none ever requir’d them more than this.

The expression “paying her devoirs to Hymen” refers to courtship and marriage. I would think Hetty was a bit young to be thinking such thoughts—but maybe not. Ann Willing was a Philadelphia socialite regarded as one of the most beautiful women in America. She married the wealthy William Bingham referred to in this post.

The letter is in the Robert Morris Collection, Henry E. Huntington Library. The print of Sarah Livingston Jay is from the Print Collection Portrait File of the New York Public Library.

posted June 25th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Bingham, Anne Willing,Bingham, William,Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Madrid,Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert

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