“a Mr. Bowne from New York”

After Eliza Southgate’s dissertation on love and marriage in the letter she wrote to her cousin Moses in 1800 (see previous post), it is interesting to read how she describes to her mother in September of 1802 her encounter with the man she was to marry.

[A]mong the many gentlemen I have become acquainted with and who have been attentive, one I believe is serious. I know not, my dearest Mother, how to introduce this subject, yet as I fear you may hear it from others and feel anxious for my welfare, I consider it a duty to tell you all. At Albany, on our way to Ballston, we put up at the same house with a Mr. Bowne from New York; he went on to the Springs [Saratoga] the same day we did, and from that time was particularly attentive to me; he was always of our parties to ride, went to Lake George in company with us, and came on to Lebanon when we did,—for 4 weeks I saw him every day and probably had a better opportunity of knowing him than if I had seen him as a common acquaintance in town for years. I felt cautious of encouraging his attentions, tho’ I did not wish to discourage it,—there were so many New Yorkers at the Springs who knew him perfectly that I easily learnt his character and reputation. he is a man of business, uniform in his conduct and very much respected, all this we knew from report. . . . his conduct was such as I shall ever reflect on with the greatest pleasure—open, candid, generous, and delicate. He is a man in whom I could place the most unbounded confidence, nothing rash or impetuous in his disposition, but weighs maturely every circumstance; he knew I was not at liberty to encourage his addresses without the approbation of my Parents, and appeared as solicitous that I should act with strict propriety as one of my most disinterested friends. He advised me like a friend and would not have suffered me to do anything improper. He only required I would not discourage his addresses till he had an opportunity of making known to my Parents his character and wishes—this I promised and went so far as to tell him I approved of him as far as I knew him, but the decision must rest with my Parents, their wishes were my law. . . . the first of October he will come. I could not prevent it without a positive refusal; this I felt no disposition to give. And now, my dearest Mother, I submit myself wholly to the wishes of my Father and you, convinced that my happiness is your warmest wish, and to promote it has ever been your study. That I feel deeply interest in Mr. Bowne I candidly acknowledge, and from the knowledge I have of his heart and character I think him better calculated to promote my happiness than any person I have yet seen; he is a firm, steady, serious man, nothing light or trifling in his character, and I have every reason to think he has well weighed his sentiments towards me,—nothing rash or premature. I have referred him wholly to you, and you, my dearest Parents, must decide.

Eliza did marry Walter Bowne in 1803, with her parents consent. They had one child, a boy, in 1806, and two years later in July, a girl. But all was not well with Eliza. She had not recovered her strength after the birth of her daughter and, following her doctor’s recommendation to visit a warmer climate, she went to Charleston, South Carolina, with her sister and brother-in-law, her husband promising to join them later. Unfortunately, Eliza’s health did not improve; she died in February 1809 at the age of twenty-six.

Eliza Southgate’s letter is from A Girl’s Life Eighty Years Ago: Selections from the Letters of Eliza Southgate Bowne, with an introduction by Clarence Cook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), pages 139 to 141.

posted February 20th, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Bowne, Eliza Southgate, Courtship, Marriage


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