“to look on the pictures of those we love”

In March, prior to the letter Sarah Cary sent to her son in July (see previous post) she wrote to Sam in Grenada regarding his request for a miniature portrait of his father. Miniatures were a popular form of art as they were portable. One could take a likeness of a beloved relative along on a trip or to a new home, the way a person today might take a photograph of a wife or child to display in a hotel room. In the following letter I love the way Sarah describes the reaction a miniature tends to evoke.

Retreat, Chelsea, March 4, 1792.

My Dear Sam,-. . . . You wrote some time ago to request one of the miniature pictures. I should be happy to gratify you with mine, but no consideration could prevail upon me to part with your father’s, for numberless reasons. He has, perhaps, the same reason for refusing to part with mine. If my purse would allow of a little trifling in that way, I would sit again, and request yours in return. Although absence nor time can efface you from my mind, yet to look on the pictures of those we love excites the tenderest and most pleasing emotions, and makes them, if possible, more dear and amiable to our hearts and affections. In the absence of our friends we contemplate only their virtues; those, too, heightened greatly by the loss of their company and conversation. We look on the little representation, forget their faults, and think them all perfection, as certainly we would wish to appear to one another. Yet how vain the wish! In another life, perhaps, when in different pursuits, and surrounding objects more calculated to calm and harmonize the human passions, we may appear, what in reality we doubtless shall be, as perfect as Him who made us. . . .

My two little girls at Medford are just recovering from the whooping-cough; the others are all well; and the school being completed, with a master at its head, relieves me very much. My dear little Ned, now at my elbow, is scrawling a letter, and, though he cannot write, says, “My dear Sam, I will tell you more stories.” Farewell, my dear boy.
Most affectionately yours, Sarah Cary.

Margaret is well and now writes to you. Your father is now writing to Mr. Barry. He wrote you a little while ago via New London; desires to be kindly remembered to you. He is in excellent health.

Sarah Cary’s letter can be found in Caroline G. Curtis, The Cary Letters (Cambridge, Mass.: Riverside Press, 1891), page 93 online HERE..

posted June 12th, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Art


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