“I love a Garden and a book”

In 1745, when Eliza Lucas was twenty-three, she married Charles Pinckney of Charleston. They lived for a time in England where Pinckney served as a colonial agent. In 1758 they returned to South Carolina, where one month later Charles died of malaria. Once more it fell to Eliza to manage the family plantations. Her two sons remained in school in England; her daughter was with her. It became quickly apparent that the plantations were in financial difficulty: there had been a severe drought and the overseers were found to be incompetent or dishonest. She found a new overseer and wrote to a family friend in England in 1760 that “if it please God to prosper us and grant good Seasons, I hope to clear all next year.” She continued:

I find it requires great care, attention and activity to attend properly to a Carolina Estate, tho’ but a moderate one, to do ones duty and make it turn to account, that I find I have as much business as I can go through of one sort or other. Perhaps ’tis better for me, and I believe it is. Had there not been a necessity for it, I might have sunk to the grave by this time in that Lethargy of stupidity which had seized me after my mind had been violently agitated by the greatest shock it ever felt. But a variety of imployment gives my thoughts a relief from melloncholy subjects, tho ’tis but a temporary one, and gives me air and exercise, which I believe I should not have had resolution enough to take if I had not been roused to it by motives of duty and parental affection. . . .

In another letter to an English friend that same year Eliza Pinckney expresses some concerns: “A great cloud hangs over this province. We are continually insulted by the Indians on our back settlements, and a violent kind of small pox rages in Charles Town that almost puts a stop to all business.” In the last letter in this letterbook dated February 1762 she writes rather wistfully to a family friend in England:

What great doings you have had in England since i left it. You people that live in the great world in the midst of Scenes of Entertainment and pleasure abroad, of improving studies and polite amusement at home, must be very good to think of your friends in this remote Corner of the Globe. I really think it a great virtue in you . . . writing now and then to an old woman in the Willds of America. . . .

How different is the life we live here; vizeting is the great and almost only amusement of late years. However, as to my own particular, I live agreeable enough to my own taste, as much so as I can separated from my dear boys.

I love a Garden and a book; and they are all my amusement except I include one of the greatest Businesses of my life (my attention to my dear little girl) under that article. For a pleasure it certainly is &c. especially to a mind so tractable and a temper so sweet as hers. For, I thank God, I have an excellent soil to work upon, and by the Divine Grace hope the fruit will be answerable to my indeavours in the cultivation.

For information on Eliza Lucas Pinckney during and after the Revolution see In the Words of Women, pages 144 and 150-51. Her Letterbook can be found HERE.

posted April 17th, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Britain, Daily life, Death, Farming, Indians, London, Smallpox


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