“where can I hope to find such friends as I parted from”

The last post referred to the friendship between MARY WHITE MORRIS and the sisters Kitty Livingston and SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY. Sarah was one of the few wives who accompanied their husbands on diplomatic missions abroad. She was brave enough to undertake what was very much a dangerous crossing of the Atlantic and emotionally strong enough to leave their young son in the charge of her parents in New Jersey. She missed her friends in America and tried to stay in touch by mail which was unreliable at best. Following is one of a series of letters she wrote to Mary Morris, this one from Madrid where John had been sent to try to secure loans from the Spanish.

[Madrid April 22d 1781]My dear Mrs. Morris,
. . . As Mr. Jay & myself are interested in Mr. Morris’ and your happiness, we were very anxious last fall about both your healths, for we had heard (from France) that they were impaired, & a letter from Kitty some time after was doubly welcome by giving us the pleasing information of the recovery of persons we so much esteem’d, and likewise the re establishment of mama’s & her own health. How amply, my dear madam! does your affection compensate Kitty for the absence of her sister—but where can I hope to find such friends as I parted from in quitting America—not I am sure in the acquaintances of a few months or in the formal birthday visitors—preserve therefore I charge you the regard you honor me with, that in your company when I return, I may forget how long we have been seperated.
I dare say you were pleased with the marriage of Mr. [William] Bingham & Miss [Ann] Willing, as it promises happiness to the parties interested: shall I request you to present to them our congratulations?
Tell Miss Hetty [the oldest Morris daughter, aged seven] if you please that if she thinks she can smile upon a Don, I’ll use my influence to engage a few to accompany us, for we hope to return before she seriously thinks of paying her devoirs to Hymen. Kitty’s accounts of Maria [a Morris daughter aged two] increase my inclination to see her; and I am quite happy that your little sons are likely to answer the expectations form’d of them. . . .
You & Mr. Morris will do us justice in believing that you have not more sincere friends in the numerous circle of those who love & esteem you, than in Mr. Jay and your humble servt.
Sa. Jay
I have often smil’d at the apologies made for Incorrect letters, but none ever requir’d them more than this.

The expression “paying her devoirs to Hymen” refers to courtship and marriage. I would think Hetty was a bit young to be thinking such thoughts—but maybe not. Ann Willing was a Philadelphia socialite regarded as one of the most beautiful women in America. She married the wealthy William Bingham referred to in this post.

The letter is in the Robert Morris Collection, Henry E. Huntington Library. The print of Sarah Livingston Jay is from the Print Collection Portrait File of the New York Public Library.


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