Archive for the ‘Tilghman, Molly’ Category

“too much dissipation and frivolity of amusement”

An article by Margaret L. Brown on Mr. and Mrs. William Bingham in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography includes several impressions of ANNE WILLING BINGHAM by women that give a good idea of what she was like. Anna Rawle wrote to her mother shortly after the Bingham wedding in 1780:

Speaking of handsome women brings Nancy [a nickname for Anne] Willing to my mind. She might set for the Queen of Beauty, and is lately married to Bingham, who returned from the West Indies with an immense fortune. They have set out in highest style; nobody here will be able to make the figure they do; equipage, house, cloathes, are all the newest taste,—and yet some people wonder at the match. She but sixteen and such a perfect form. His appearance is less amiable.

The Binghams traveled to London in 1783 and Anne had her second child there. When the family went to Paris in 1784 the Adamses—Abigail, John, and daughter Abigail called Nabby, were often in their company. Mrs. Adams described Anne in a letter to her friend Mercy Otis Warren as “a very young lady, not more than twenty, very agreeable, and very handsome. . . .” Nabby noted in her journal after a dinner party her parents gave which included the Binghams:

Mrs. Bingham . . . is pretty, a good figure, but rather still. She has not been long enough in this country to have gained that ease of air and manner which is peculiar to the women here; and when it does not exceed the bounds of delicacy, is very pleasing. . . . I admire her that she is not in the smallest degree tinctured with indelicacy. She has, from the little acquaintance I have had with her, genuine principles; she is very sprightly and very pleasing.

The Adams family were invited to dinner at the Binghams some time later after which Nabby wrote:

{Mrs. Bingham] is possessed of more ease and politeness in her behaviour, than any person I have seen. She joins in every conversation in company; and when engaged herself in conversing with you, she will, by joining directly in another chitchat with another party, convince you that she was all attention to everyone. She has a taste for show, but not above her circumstances.

The Adamses did not regard William Bingham so highly and became rather critical of the lavish life style of the Binghams in Paris. Mrs. Adams was quite shocked when Anne confessed that she was so delighted with Paris that she preferred to stay there rather than return home. In a letter to her niece Mrs. Adams wrote that Mrs. Bingham “was too young to come abroad without a pilot, [and] gives too much into the follies of this country. . . . ” In the following year she wrote to her sister:

The intelligence of her countenance, or rather, I ought to say animation, the elegance of her form, and the affability of her manners, convert you into admiration; and one has only to lament too much dissipation and frivolity of amusement, which have weaned her from her native country, and given her a passion and thirst after all the luxuries of Europe.

The Binghams returned to Philadelphia in 1786 and Anne brought with her clothing in the latest Paris styles. Molly Tilghman remarked on her appearance at a party given by Mary White Morris and her husband Robert. Mrs. Bingham appeared

in a dress which eclips’d any that has yet been seen. A Robe a la Turke of black Velvet, Rich White sattin Petticoat, body and sleeves, the whole trim’d with Ermine. A large Bouquet of natural flowers supported by a knot of Diamonds, Large Buckles, Necklace and Earrings of Diamonds, Her Head ornamented with Diamond Sprigs interspersed with artificial flowers, above all, wav’d a towering plume of snow white feathers.

The Binghams in Philadelphia wanted to impress and entertain in style. To do so they had built a large, and some said, pretentious home. In the next post read what a visitor had to say about it.

Margaret L. Brown, “Mr. and Mrs. William Bingham of Philadelphia: Rulers of the Republican Court”, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 61, No. 3 (July 1937), 286, 290, 291, 293, 294. Sources include William Brooke Rawle, “Laurel Hill,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (1911), XXXV. 398, Anna Rawle to Mrs. Samuel Shoemaker, November 4, 1780; Charles Francis Adams (ed.), Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams (Boston, 1848, 4th ed.), 203, September 5, 1784; C. A. S. DeWindt (ed.), Journal and Correspondence of Abigail Adams Smith (N.Y. 1841), I. 19, September 25, 1784 and I. 28-29, October 26, 1784; Letters of Mrs. Adams, 207-208, December 3, 1784 and September 30, 1785; “Letters of Molly and Hetty Tilghman,” Maryland Historical Magazine (1926), XXI. 145-46, Molly Tilghman to Polly Pearce, February 18, 1787.

posted April 19th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Americans Abroad,Bingham, Anne Willing,Bingham, William,Fashion,France,London,Morris, Mary White,Paris,Philadelphia,Rawle, Anna,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams,Tilghman, Molly,Warren, Mercy Otis

“The tremendous majesty of her tete . . . “

Molly Tilghman of Maryland wrote to her cousin Polly Pearce in January of 1789 describing the hat of one of woman and the hair of another at a ball she attended. Other tidbits of gossip too. Wicked and amusing.

Fain wou’d I dissect Miss [Anna] Garnett for your edification in the important point of fashion but a regular discription of so complicated a piece of work is more than I am equal to. Did you never of a rainy day, empty all your Drawers on the Bed, in order to set them to rights? If you can recollect the confus’d mixture of Ribbon, Gauze, flowers, Beads, Persian feathers and Lace, black and white, you will have the best idea I can give you of Miss Garnetts Hatt, such a Hoop and Handkerchief too was never seen on mortal Woman before. Upon my Life she was as complete a Carricature as any in our Hall. Mrs. Bordleys Head, without a Hat, was quite equal to the other. The tremendous majesty of her tete, will never leave my memory, which with the fabric which was erected on it made her almost as tall as myself. As her situation prevented her dancing I had a great deal of sweet converse with her. . . .
Can you imagine my dear Polly that I want to be reminded of my promis’d visit to Poplar Neck. Surely you know me better. If it depended on my inclination, soon wou’d you see me, but alas how few of our pursuits are directed by inclination. If I wanted an additional inducement to visit you, the alteration you tell me of wou’d be a great one. A succession of Beaux is pretty enough amusement in this dreary season and it wou’d be doubly agreeable to me from the powerful charm of novelty. If it were possible to exchange some of our Belles for some of your Beaux, the Circles of both wou’d be much improv’d by it. Could not your ingenuity contrive it ?
On new years day Miss Nevitt was married to Mr Steele after a three years Courtship. Her reign has been brilliant, and she has clos’d it in very good time, while her train was undiminish’d. It is a nice point for a Belle to know when to marry, and one in which they are very apt. She understood the matter.
Pray what kind of being is this Jones you mention ? Not much I fancy from your manner of passing him over. I dare say it is near morning, so I will creep up to bed as silently as possible. See what I suffer for your sake. Indeed you must write to me oftener. I will make the best returns in my power, both in quantity and quality. I am not sleepy, but exceedingly dim sighted. My best Love to all from
ever yours
M. T.

The letter can be found in the Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 21, No. 3, 234-35.

posted September 7th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Courtship,Entertainments,Fashion,Marriage,Maryland,Pearce, Polly,Tilghman, Molly

“What shall we do with such a tribe of Girls?”

Continuing the correspondence between the Maryland cousins: Molly Tilghman sent a newsy letter to Polly Pearce at the end of January 1789.

Tho’ I got your Letter, my dear Polly, at eleven o’Clock this morning, and have been earnestly wishing to answer it ever since, yet this midnight hour is the first I have had to myself; from which you may judge whether my silence has proceeded from idleness, or constant employment. . . . I should not mind being fully employ’d all day if I cou’d sit up late at night, but from that I am cut off by Sister Nancy’s unconquerable aversion to any body’s coming into her room after she is asleep. This very Letter will cost me a Lecture, but I will incur it for the sake of justifying myself, and I hope this vindication, will make future ones unnecessary.
Sister N. has been a good deal at farly [Fairlee], and so often complaining when at home, that she has not divided the care of the family with me. T’is true Harriet has been very well, but you must know that the most favorable lying in brings a good deal of trouble with it, particularly at this season. For the first three Weeks I was not once out of the House. Indeed I was of such amazing consequence in the nursery, that nothing cou’d be done without me. You need not laugh Miss Polly, and accuse me of vanity. I can bring honorable testimony of my goods works, aye and of the necessity for them too. All this you will say is very true, but very dull also. I grant it, but you drag’d me into the detail by your uncharitable constructions of my silence.
Our little Caroline is a sweet Child*, tho’ the veryest fairy you ever saw. I have really seen a Doll as large, but she grows finely, and is extremely healthy. She is the picture of her Mother, from which you may judge of her pretensions to beauty. Her name is a whim of her fathers, who is hardly yet reconcil’d to his second Daughter. He was in as terrible a friz on the occasion, as if a title and vast estate had depended on the birth of a son. Poor Harriet has been so unlucky within the last fortnight, as to have a sore Breast, which made us very uneasy. It gather’d and broke in three days, and was as light as a thing of the kind cou’d be but in my life I never saw a Creature so terrified as she was. The idea of Lancets, Probes, and crooked scissors haunted her continually but happily none of them were necessary, and her Breast is now almost entirely well.

I am writing on without saying a word of Henny [Henrietta], though I am able to give such satisfactory accounts of her. The 15th of this Month she produc’d a Daughter**, (yes, another Daughter) with as little trouble as might be. What shall we do with such a tribe of Girls? She is call’d after my Ladyship. Not Molly, nor Polly, but Mary, and I have the additional honor of being her God Mother.

* the second child of Philemon Tilghman and his wife Harriet Milbanke
** Mary Tilghman,” the third child of Lloyd and Henrietta Maria Tilghman

Note the emphasis on having a male child. After this recounting of new births, Molly goes on (in the next post) to describe the hat of one of the women at the ball she attended the previous night.

The letter can be found in the Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 21, No. 3, 231-233.

posted September 3rd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Illness,Maryland,Pearce, Polly,Tilghman, Molly

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