SARAH “SALLY” MCKEAN, a belle of Philadelphia particularly enjoyed the company of members of the Spanish delegation to the United States in the 1790s.Writing again to her friend Anna Payne, Dolley Madison’s younger sister, she described the activities they enjoyed. Anna married Richard Cutts, a congressman from the Maine section of Massachusetts; her portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1804. Her hair and clothing reflect the popularity of French fashions in the United States at that time.
Philadelphia, September 3, 1796MY DEAR Anna, I received yours by Mr. Taylor and duly delivered its inclosure. You can have no idea, my dear girl, what pleasant times I have; there is the charming Chevalier, the divine Santana, the jolly Viar, the witty and agreeable Fatio, the black-eyed Lord Henry, the soft, love-making Count, the giggling, foolish, and sometimes the modest, good Meclare, who are at our house every day. We have fine riding-parties and musical frolics. However, I will refer you to my letter to your sister Madison, as I am tired of writing, this being my third letter to-day.
Mr. and Mrs. Jandenes set sail about the middle of July, with the two dear little children in good health and remarkably fine spirits. I am to have a large packet of papers from them as soon as they arrive in Spain, telling me all the news, and also a very elegant Spanish guitar, on which I intend to learn to play. Signor Don Carlos has given me a few lessons on that instrument. I have one at present, lent me by Santana, and we have a famous Italian singer, who came with the Minister, who can play on any instrument, and is moreover the drollest creature you ever saw. He sings divinely, and is the leader of our fine concerts. I am serenaded every night with divine music. I must say divine, for it is so much above the common music.
I long with the greatest impatience for the month of October, that I may have the pleasure of embracing my dear Anna ; for Heaven’s sake make as much haste to town as you can, for we are to have one of the most charming winters imaginable. Santana and Fatio send their compliments to you, and Meclare told me to be sure to give his best and most sincere love to you; he looks quite handsome, and is smarter than ever. God bless you, my dearest, and believe me to be your sincere friend and admirer,
Two years later Sally McKean married the Don Carlos, (Marques Don Carlos Maria Martinez de Casa Yrujo y Tacon) mentioned in the letter who was the Spanish ambassador, and became Marquesa de Casa Yrujo. Samuel H. Wandell, in his biography of Aaron Burr described Don Carlos:
He was an obstinate, impetuous and rather vain little person with reddish hair; enormously wealthy, endlessly touchy, extremely intelligent and vastly attractive … he liked America, he understood it and enjoyed it; he was tremendously popular at Philadelphia, and at Washington when he condescended to appear there; he was on intimate terms at the President’s House. If he lost his temper from time to time, and thought nothing of haranguing the country through the newspapers, he served his King with energetic loyalty; he went about his business with dignity and shrewdness; he never forgot the respect due to his official person, however much he might indulge his democratic tendencies in private intercourse; he was the only Minister of the first rank in America, and consequently the leading figure in the diplomatic corps; he contributed to American society the brilliant qualities of his elegant and felicitous personality; he was a very great gentleman.
After the birth of their third child, Sally and Don Carlos left for Spain. Her husband lost favor with the American government by his disapproval of the Jay Treaty and the Louisiana Purchase and his opposition to the ceding of Florida to the United States. Sally returned to America with him on several occasions and continued to carry on a correspondence with her friends.
The text of the letter can be found here.The portrait of Don Carlos can be found here. For more information about Sally McKean see this site.