“as if directed by the Fancy of a FAIRY QUEEN”

Elizabeth Murray Campbell was a successful “she-merchant,” i.e. a shopkeeper, in Boston. See other posts about her here and here. She married three times. A widow at 33, she wed James Smith who was 70. A smart lady, she insisted on a prenuptial agreement that preserved her legal and economic rights which at that time as a married woman would have been ceded, according to the principle of feme couvert, to her husband. When James died, Elizabeth spent two years in Scotland and England. When she returned to Boston she married merchant Ralph Inman with whom she also had a prenuptial agreement.

In July 1772, Ralph Inman gave a huge party to celebrate his son’s graduation from Harvard. Elizabeth, his wife of less than a year, was in charge. It was quite an event. John Rowe, a friend of the family, wrote in his diary that more than 347 people attended the party, including the governor and the lieutenant governor and their families, with 210 people seated at one table. The Boston Gazette of July 20, 1772 featured a description of the festivities.

Among the young Gentlemen who received their first Degree at [the Harvard] Commencement, was the only Son of Ralph Inman, Esq; of Cambridge; who, upon that Occasion gave a very extensive Invitation, in the Name of Himself, Lady and Son, to the Circle of their Acquaintance, to dine at his Seat last Thursday.

We are informed by some of the Company present, that they found a Table of about 150 Feet, under a Canopy on the Green before the House, spread with an Elegance as if directed by the Fancy of a FAIRY QUEEN, but at the same Time capable of giving the most solid Satisfaction to the whole School of EPICURUS; while the Side-board Range would have put a new Smile upon the Cheeks of BACCHUS and his jovial Train. Poor VENUS indeed and her Nymphs must have burst with Envy, had they been present to examine, at one single Prospect, a brilliant Group of more than eight Score Ladies.

The polite, cordial Reception given to the Guests and their benevolent Festivity were mutually a Credit to each other, and need not improve the Advantage of any striking Contrast. After Tea, the Company were conducted to the Pleasures of a Ball at the Court-House.

The newspaper account of the commencement party can be found here. The painting of Elizabeth in 1769 when she was Mrs. Smith is by John Singleton Copley. The image can be found here. The painting is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

posted August 7th, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Boston, Entertainments

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