Archive for the ‘Amusements’ Category

“Our little boys Arrived . . . as Shabby as lolls”

Among the circle of friends of MARY WHITE MORRIS were the daughters of William Livingston and Susannah French, particularly Catharine called “Kitty” and Sarah who had married John Jay.
The Jays had sailed for Europe in 1779 when John had been appointed minister plenipotentiary to Spain. The vessel they set out in was dangerously disabled by a storm and had to put in at Martinique (referred to as Martinico). Securing passage on another ship John and Sarah arrived at Cadiz and proceeded to Madrid.
Kitty Livingston had enjoyed an extended visit with Mary and Robert Morris during the summer of 1780. From August to October she had returned to the family home, Liberty Hall, in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, to tend to her mother who was ill. She subsequently fell ill herself. Mary wrote to her from Philadelphia.

Be assured my dear Kitty, that tho, this is the first moment I have found leisure to write to you, You have been the constant Companion of my thoughts, this is the only Resource Left For the loss of your Sosiety, which I do assure you, can not be made up to me here, Our little boys Arrived a day or two after You left us, as Shabby as lolls, but a welcome, as the fondest of Parents, cou’d make them – last Evening they and Miss Hetty (the Morris daughter Hester known as Hetty) Gave a Ball, to the Masters, & Misses of their Acquaintance, Bob (Robert Morris Jr,) Opend it, in a minuet with much Applause, which gave Me Sensations, Similar and Equally flattering to any I ever felt, when giveen [sic] to myself, on such occations, This is encouragement For you to Marry as you see we have the advantage of loveing over again – [M]y party on the occation [included] . . . the Minister, Monr. Marbois, Mr. Bingham. A Propo you have I suppose received the letters sent you by this young Gentleman, from Mrs. Jay, which was Wrote at Martinico I sincerely wish, he had Arrived a Few days sooner, that you might have partaked, if you will allow me the expression, of my pleasure, in hearing from him talk of Mrs. Jay, who he says, is the lovelyest women [sic] he ever Saw, and that if She had been the Queen of France, could not Have met with more attention, than were paid Her in that Land.
I do most heartily Congratulate you, & yours, my Dear Kitty, on the wish’d for Intelligence, of your dear Freinds [the Jays] being Arrived safe at their Destined Port. [T]he emotions I felt after hearing they were safe, was to fly to you with the News, but upon Enquireing, found it came here from headquarters, of course you had it before us. . . .
Yours affectionately, M.M.

Robert Morris adds in a postscript to “my worthy & amiable Friend” that “Molly” (Mary Morris) wrote the letter despite a bad headache. François Barbé-Marbois was the French chargé d’affaires. William Bingham arrived in Philadelphia in late April or early May carrying letters from Sarah Jay written in Martinique. The word “lolls” in the letter means an idle person; a spoiled child.

Massachusetts Historical Society, Matthew Ridley Papers II (1754-1782), Box 1 of 5; Ms. N-797. transcribed by Louise North.

posted June 22nd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Amusements,Children,Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert,Philadelphia

“Cupit has given our little General a . . . Mortal wound”

In the fall of 1777, the British under General William Howe occupied Philadelphia and while the British spent a comfortable and enjoyable winter season there, General Washington and his troops endured dreadful deprivations at Valley Forge. When General Howe resigned his command in 1778, Captain John André and John Montresor orchestrated a spectacular farewell for him called the Meschianza (Italian for medley or mixture) that included a regatta, a procession, a joust of pretend knights, a ball, and fireworks. Prominently featured in the festivities were several of the city’s fashionable young ladies, Peggy Shippen, Rebecca Franks, daughter of loyalist David Franks, and Peggy Chew, daughter of Benjamin Chew among them.
Howe’s replacement, General Sir Henry Clinton, decided later in 1778 to withdraw from Philadelphia and consolidate the British position in New York City in expectation of a possible attack by American and French troops (France had signed a treaty with the United States in 1778).
Those who had fled Philadelphia returned to reclaim their city. General Benedict Arnold was in charge of the American forces there and it wasn’t long before the social calendar was full once again. MARY WHITE MORRIS (See previous posts here, here, here, here, and here.) wrote to her mother, Esther Hewlings White on 10 November 1778:

. . . I know of no News, Unless to tell you that we are very gay, as such, we have a great many Balls and Entertainments and Soon, the Assembly will begin, tell Mr. Hall Even our military Gentlemen here, are too Liberal to make any Distinctions between Wig and Tory Ladyes, if they make any, Its in favor of the latter, such, Strange as it may seem, is the way those things are Conducted at present in this City, it Originates at Headquarters, and that I may make some Apology for such Strange Conduct, I must tell you that Cupit has given our little General a more Mortal wound, than all the Host of Britons cou’d, unless His present Conduct can Expiate, for His past, — Miss Peggy Shippen is the fair One . . .
Mary Morris

The “little General” is, of course, Benedict Arnold.

The letter is in the Robert Morris Collection at the Huntington Library, Lists No. 5, pages 53-55, transcribed by Louise North. [Microfilm, courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Nuxoll] The illustration is a sketch made by Captain André of a costume he proposed for the ladies participating in the celebration, from John Fanning Watson, Extra-Illustrated Manuscript of the Annals of Philadelphia (1830) and can be found HERE.

posted June 18th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Arnold, Benedict,Loyalists,Morris, Mary White,Philadelphia,Shippen, Peggy,Washington, George

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

“I have spent this morning in reading . . . “

Fragments of the Journal of a Young Lady of Virginia, written by Lucinda Lee Orr to her friend Polly on visits to relatives and friends in Lower Virginia in 1782, show that reading novels had become a pastime of young women and a subject of their correspondence.
From “The Wilderness”, residence of John Grymes, Esq.(one of this family was Gen. Robert Lee’s grandmother) Orr writes to “my dearest Polly” on September 20.

I have spent this morning in reading Lady Julia Mandeville, and was much affected. Indeed, I think I never cried more in my life reading a Novel: the stile is beautiful, but the tale is horrid. I reckon you have read it. Some one just comes to tell us A Mr. Masenbird and Mr. Spotswood is come. We must go down, but I am affraid both Sister’s and my eyes will betray us.

Orr writing from “Belleview”, residence of Thomas Ludwell Lee to Polly

Sept. 25
The Company is all gone, and I have seated myself to converse with my Polly. Mrs. A. Washington has lent me a new Novel, called Victoria. I can’t say I admire the Tale, though I think it prettyly told. There is a verse in it I wish you much to read. I believe, if I a’n’t too Lazy, I will copy it off for you: the verse is not very butifull, but the sense is, I assure you.

Lucinda writing from Chantilly, the residence of Richard H. Lee.

October 6
I have been very agreeably entertained this evening, reading a Novel called Malvern Dale. It is something like Evelina, though not so pretty.

I have a piece of advice to give you, which I have before urged—that is, to read something improving. Books of instruction will be a thousand times more pleasing [after a little while] than all the novels in the World. I own myself, I am too fond of Novel-reading; but, by accustoming myself to reading other Books, I have become less so, and I wish my Polly to do the same.

Writing from Lee Hall, the residence of Richard Lee.

To-day is rainy and disagreeable, which will prevent their comeing from Bushfield. I have entertained myself all day reading Telemachus. It is really delightful, and very improveing. Just as I have seated myself they are come to tell me tea is ready. Farewell.

Nov. 5
I have, for the first time in my life, just read Pope’s Eloiza. Just now I saw it laying in the Window. I had heard my Polly extol it frequently, and curiosity lead me to read it. I will give you my opinion of it: the poetry I think beautiful, but do not like some of the sentiments. Some of Eloiza’s is too Ammorous for a female, I think.

Nov. 12
We are going to seat ourselves and hear Mr. Pinkard read a Novel.

Lucinda Lee Orr’s Journal had been printed and published For the benefit of the Lee Memorial Association of Richmond ( Baltimore: John Murphy and Company, 1871). The Journal can be found online HERE.The History of Lady Julia Mandeville by Frances Brooke is written as a series of letters by the widow Lady Anne Wlmot and Harry Mandeville. It was published in 1763. The book can be read HERE. You can read hear it read HERE. The illustration is on the cover of a recent edition.

posted July 21st, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on “I have spent this morning in reading . . . “, CATEGORIES: Amusements,Poetry

“. . . a dangerous amusement for young ladies!”

I have become enchanted by a young woman named Charlotte Chambers. She was the second daughter of General James Chambers and Catherine Hamilton. A supporter of the Patriot cause, James Chambers served with the Pennsylvania infantry during the Revolution and wrote informative letters to his wife from his various postings. He returned to his home in Pennsylvania in 1781, volunteered again during the Whiskey Rebellion, served as a judge in Franklin County, and was made a brigadier-general in the militia raised in readiness for a possible war with the French that never happened. All the while his wife, as did many women, kept the home fires burning.

Their daughter Charlotte by all accounts was attractive, intelligent, and witty as her frequent letters to her mother during visits to friends and relatives attest. I especially like this one written from Woodbine while on a visit to her aunt and uncle, the Ewings, near Columbia on the Susquehanna River. In it she defends the reading of novels, an increasingly popular pastime among young women.

May 4, 1792.MY DEAR MOTHER:—
The first of March I arrived at Woodbine. How dreary was the scene! cold stormy winds, naked hills, muddy roads and pensive hours. Now rosy-footed May, ushered by gentle zephyrs, has clothed the fields in fragrant verdure. The birds warble melodiously through the blooming grove, and the time glides imperceptibly by in cheerful friendship.
At dinner to-day the reading of novels was denounced without mercy, as an unprofitable waste of time and a dangerous amusement for young ladies! I became for the occasion a champion in the defence as a means of rational entertainment, and inquired if they had ever known an instance of very great injury resulting from the perusal of fiction? They were obliged to confess they had not. I am sure history affords many instances of heroic exploits, tender attachments, inviolable friendships, as suddenly commenced, and perhaps as imprudently, as can be found in the field of fiction. If such examples are dangerous, young ladies should not read history, for truth must make a greater impression than fable! I would as soon be compelled to subsist on meat, without fruit or vegetables, as to be confined exclusively to sober matter of fact study. In ancient history we read of obscure barbarians rising to fame and glory by force of arms, with the horrid accompaniments of carnage, cruel oppression, massacre, envy, despair, revenge, and death! until we almost contemplate the human species with abhorrence; and can scarcely forbear pronouncing it a race of monsters only tamed by art. Even in books of travel, we read of arid deserts, burning sands, frozen seas, ferocious animals, poisonous serpents, stinging scorpions; and every variety of human misery. How delightful after those repulsive scenes are the pages of a well written novel or poem; where in the luxuriant images of peaceful valleys, virtuous peasantry, shady groves, roses, myrtle, love and friendship, we become reconciled to life.
I fear, dear mother, you will pronounce my opinions heterodox.
Your devoted daughter

Charlotte’s letter can be found in her Memoir by her grandson Lewis H. Garrard (Philadelphia: Printed for the Author, 1856) on page 12-13.

posted July 14th, 2014 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Amusements

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