Archive for the ‘Lear, Frances “Fanny” Bassett Washington’ Category

“But gone before/ me”

Life in the 18th century was so fragile. FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON LEAR lived only a short time after her marriage to Tobias Lear. She died in 1796 from the same disease that had claimed her first husband—consumption (tuberculosis). The painting is the sort of memorial commonly created for a deceased family member. It is thought that Eleanor “Nelly ” Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s granddaughter, made this one, probably in 1796, the year of Fanny’s death. The watercolor—ink and gouache on laid paper—references both classical and Christian themes. The pointed evergreens represent the hope of eternal life. A grieving woman leans on a plinth; the script on a square of paper pasted on the front reads: “She is not lost!/Blest thought!/ But gone before/ me!”

Citation for this post: HERE.

posted July 31st, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Custis, Eleanor "Nelly" Parke,Death,Lear, Frances "Fanny" Bassett Washington,Lear, Tobias,Washington, Martha

“the Blacks are so bad in their nature”

FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON did marry Tobias Lear. (See previous post in which she solicited Martha Washington’s advice on Lear’s proposal.) Fanny continued to carry out Martha’s instructions about work to be done at Mount Vernon before she arrives.

Following is a letter whose content makes one squirm: Martha includes remarks about the nature and conduct of enslaved workers that reflect the mind set of white owners and the stereotypes to which they subscribed. Note that white servants are treated differently and receive better quarters and food than their enslaved counterparts.

Philadelphia May the 24th 1795My Dear Fanny,

Your affectionate favor of the 20th is come to my hands—I am very glad to hear by it that your children are well—and yourself—I am truly sorry that any thing should happen in your family to give you pain Black children are liable to so many accidents and complaints that one is heardly sure of keeping them I hope you will not find in him much loss the Blacks are so bad in their nature that they have not the least gratatude for the kindness that may be shewed to them—

from what I have heard of Mr Pearces House Keeper I wished very much to have her engaged to stay at mount vernon while I was at home so goe into the sellers meat house and look into the milk and butter Kitty has had it so long under her care—that I think she should be looked too to give a better account of it—we shall bring white servants with us which will make it necessary that I should have a person to see to thair having what is proper, done for them, and have thair vltuals alwas in proper order—I think it is really necessary to have a person such a one as Mrs Skinner is in our family while I am there besids that of looking after the women that work they always Idle half their time away about thair own business and wash so bad that the cloths are not fitt to use—if she will come only to stay while I am thair I shall be very much pleased to have her—I do expect we shall have a good deal of company many hear talk of coming to see the Federal city [Washington, DC, under construction] and will take that oppertunity to come to Mt Vernon while we are there

I am my Dear Fanny very sencible of your goodness and attention in having everything done for me as you can—but it always gave me pain to see you have so much trouble while I was at home—if Mrs Skinner will come I shah be much happyer to have her to do the drudgry—and then I shall have the plasure to have more of your company—and shah see my person whose bussnes it is to attend to all the wants and cares about the house

l am very much obliged to you my dear Fanny for offering to preserve strawberry for me—I dont think it will be worth while—to do any—I wish to live in a plain stile while I am at home—and we shall always have greene fruit which can be preserved at the time it is wanted which will be better for use—should thair be any goosberry I should wish to have some bottled and some of the morelly cherrys dried—I should think old Doll cannot have forgot how to do them [,] if she has Mrs Skinner may come to the hous as soon as she will—and she may have all the Beds and Bed Cloths air and clened [,]the Bedsteads all taken down and cleaned and well rubbed—so that thair may be nothing of that kind to do when I come home—and to have every part of the House cleaned from the garrets to the sellers as I wish to have every thing done that can be done before I come home

Thank god we are all well—the President has been very well since his return

The girls and Washington* are well—and join the President and me in love to you and children . . . I wish the House was done for when I go to house keeping. . . .

I am with love and affection my dear Fanny your sincear well wisher M Washington

* George Washington Parke Custis, called “Wash”, was Martha’s grandson, the child of her son from her first marriage, John “Jacky” Parke Custis, who died in 1781. Martha’s daughter, Patsy, died at 17. Wash’s sister, Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis, was one of the girls mentioned in the letter. Both Nelly and Wash were adopted by Martha and George Washington. Two older siblings lived with their mother Eleanor, widow of Jacky, when she remarried.

Citation: See copy of the letter HERE.

posted July 27th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Custis, Eleanor "Nelly" Parke,Custis, George Washington Parke,Custis, John "Jacky" Parke,Custis, Martha "Patsy",Housekeeping,Lear, Frances "Fanny" Bassett Washington,Lear, Tobias,Mount Vernon,Slaves/slavery,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“you must be governed by your own judgement”

Sadly, in 1793, the husband of FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON, George Augustine, nephew of George Washington, died. Tobias Lear, friend and secretary to the President, whose wife had died about the same time, proposed a year later to Fanny. She sought the advice of her aunt and uncle. Her letter to Martha is lost but Martha’s reply to Fanny, on August 29, 1794, follows.

My dear Fanny, I wish I could give you unerring advise in regard to the request contained in your last letter; I really dont know what to say to you on the subject; you must be governed by your own judgement, and I trust providence will derect you for the best; it is a matter more interesting to yourself than any other[.] The person contemplated is a worthy man, esteemed by every one that is aquainted with him; he has, it is concieved, fair prospects before him;–is, I belive, very industri[ous] and will, I have not a doubt, make sumthing handsome for himself.–as to the President, he never has, nor never will, as you have often heard him say, inter meddle in matrimonial concerns. he joins with me however in wishing you every happyness this world can give.–you have had a long acquaintance with Mr Lear, and must know him as well as I do.–he always appeared very attentive to his wife and child, as farr as ever I have seen; he is I believe, a man of strict honor and probity; and one with whom you would have as good a prospect of happyness as with any one I know; but beg you will not let anything I say influence you either way. The President has a very high opinion of and friendship for Mr. Lear; and has not the least objection to your forming the connection but, no more than myself, would wish to influence your judgement, either way–yours and the childrens good being among the first wishes of my heart.

See original letter HERE.

posted July 24th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Lear, Frances "Fanny" Bassett Washington,Lear, Tobias,Marriage,Washington, George,Washington, George Augustine,Washington, Martha

“clanse the House from the garret to the sellers”

MARTHA WASHINGTON certainly knew exactly what she wanted to have done at Mount Vernon before she and the President arrived in the summer of 1792. The following letter to FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON is full of instructions. The “Major” is George Augustine Washington, Fanny’s husband and the President’s nephew. He is obviously ill and, in fact, dies the next year, from tuberculosis it is thought. The couple have two children: Maria and Fayette. Martha’s spelling leaves a great deal to be desired but I expect readers will be able to grasp her meaning.

Philadelphia July the 1st 1792My Dear Fanny –

I am happy to hear of your letter of June the 25th that you and the children are well – and truly sorry you had not better accounts from the Major when you last heard from him – I hope in god that you have since had more favorable accounts from him – The President has fixed on the 12th to leave this place for Mount Vernon if nothing happens to prevent us – wish my dear Fanny that you would make Frank clanse the House from the garret to the sellers – have all the Beds aird and mended and the Bed cloths of every kind made very clean the Bed steads also well scalded – and the low bed steads put up to be ready to carry out of one room into another as you know they are often wanted. I have not a doubt but we shall have company all the time we are at home – I wish you to have all the chinia looked over, the closet clened and the glasses all washed and every thing in the closet as clean as can be than they will be ready when wanted with much less troable than to have them to look for when ever in hurry they may be wanted.

I do not wish to have the clouded cotten made into chear covers – nor the chares stuffed, or done anything to, till I come home as it is probable that the old covers will last as long as I shall stay home by a vessel that will live this in a day or two – I shall send several articles – that could not be had when we sent the last things round – I hope the major will not hurry him self back if he finds benefit from the mountain air it is of the greatest concequince that his health should be established and I hope he will be very careful in doing as the Doctors directs him – I shall be sorry not to see dear Little Maria if the jaunt is for her good – I must be content. I am glad that Fayette is recovered and hope I shall find you and the children quite well – impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nessary in the House keeping way as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country – I dare say you have made the table cloths as well as they can be done – as to the window curtain and bed curtain they may as well be put up – I shall send a carpit for our parlor so that it will be ready by the time I get there if the vessel lives this on tuesday as we expect

The President has given miss Harriot a guitarr – I have inclosed the key it is sent in the vessel with several other things – I shall be glad to have the little caps made and sent before I live this as I wish to give them to the ladie as soon as done we are all well – Mr & Mrs Lear intend a trip to the eastward when we set out for the southward – the weather is extremely warm hear and has been so for some days past – all hear join me in love to you and children – and believe me my dear

Fanny your most
affectionately
M Washington

Note the reference to the “guitarr” that the President gave to his niece Harriot. See POST.

Citation: Martha Washington, “Letter, to Fanny Bassett Washington, July 1, 1792,” online HERE, Item #462 (accessed July 19, 2017).

posted July 20th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Housekeeping,Lear, Frances "Fanny" Bassett Washington,Lear, Tobias,Mount Vernon,Philadelphia,Washington, George,Washington, George Augustine,Washington, Harriot,Washington, Martha

“let me know if you are in a certain way”

Martha Washington’s surviving correspondence includes more letters to her niece FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON than anyone else. At this point Fanny had married George Washington’s nephew, George Augustine. They were in residence at Mount Vernon, she managing the household, he the estate. They had a daughter Maria. Martha wrote this letter from Philadelphia, the capital of the United States at that time, on April 19, 1791.

Mr dear Fanny

By Austen who is come home to se his friends I have the pleasure to tell you we are all tolerable well—I have never heard from the president since he left Mount Vernon—nor from you. Some day last week i wrote to you and inclosed some muslin borders for —?— to hem—When they are done be so good as to send them back to me by Austin when he comes as his stay will be short indeed[;] I could but illy spare him at this time but to full fill my promise to his wife[.] The children join me in love to you the major and children—you must let me know if you are in a certain way and when the event will happen, as it must be very inconvenient to you for us to come home about the time—our stay will be short and I wish to have all well if possible at this time[.] I expect to be coming home some time about the first of August—how are your brothers, is B Lewes married—
Adieu my dear Fanny & believe
me your most affectionate
M Washington

Austen was a slave. it was the practice of George and Martha to send the slaves they had in Philadelphia back to Mount Vernon regularly to avoid a Pennsylvania law which allowed slaves to gain their freedom after a six-month residency. Martha asks if Fanny is pregnant.

The letter can be found HERE.

posted July 17th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Lear, Frances "Fanny" Bassett Washington,Mount Vernon,Pennsylvania,Philadelphia,Slaves/slavery,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

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