” . . . to see you well settled in the World.”

After the rather somber story of Frances Slocum, perhaps it is time to present a few entertaining excerpts from the gossipy letters of Mary and Henrietta Tilghman, called Hetty. (See a previous post.) Their brother was the well-regarded Colonel Tench Tilghman, aide and private secretary to General George Washington, who may be best known for the speed of his ride conveying news of the surrender of the British at Yorktown to the Confederation Congress in Philadelphia. The sisters lived in Maryland and had numerous family connections there but also in Delaware and Philadelphia. Their correspondent in these exchanges was Mary Pearce, a cousin known as Polly.

Chester Town April 28 [1783 or 1784] If my Dear Polly can find time enough to give what I am going to say a serious reading, I shall be glad. . . . I have many reasons for wishing you well and speedily married, two or three of which I will give you. In the first place, my great Love and affection for you makes me wish to see you well settled in the World. Secondly, I am afraid if you stay where you are much longer you will grow fast to the place, and thirdly, and lastly I shall have my spirits, which are rather low at present a little raised by change of scene, for remember I tell you, the marriage would not be good or lawful, without I was present. Now I am upon the subject of Matrimony I must tell you a little of P.H. (Mary Helmsey, known as Polly.) she is Positively to be married the last day of this month, her Birth Day, and I had the Honour of seeing her Clothes which were made in Philadelphia. She has a white Mantua Robe, trimed with silver and a pink striped satin Habbit, and a Petticoat trimed with Gause. . . . I sent the Bride an elegant White Sattin Pincushion, and garters of the same, with white Ribbon strings, I should take a great Pleasure in exercising my Genius upon the same Occasion for you. If you give me timely notice to get my own things in readyness I will come up and titivate you from top to Bottom. Do my Dear Polly let the Matter be Concluded on shortly, for I dont know anything but your Death, or Marriage, that wold carry me to Cecil this Summer, and you may guage [sic] which would please me the best. I hear the Gentleman has gone to work in a very prudent manner, they say he has made sure of Papa, Uncle Jemmy Earle, Brother Harry, and that he has paid a visit to Uncle Michael, and Aunt Molly, so you see I have very good intelligence, but shall wait to hear from you before I shall believe anything certain about it. I would have you seriously Consider every thing before you answer this Letter, and according as you deal honestly, and Candidly, with me shall I be able to judge how much regard, and affection you have for one who whatever change you may go through still continues to be your affectionate
H.M. Tilghman P.S. as you value either yourself or me burn this when read, for you are too apt to be careless of your Letters.

Hetty’s joking aside, marrying well and being settled was the goal of most women. The earlier the better, as spinsterhood set in at a young age and a family’s unmarried daughter was likely to become the caretaker of her siblings’ children and/or her parents in their old age.

The letter can be found on this SITE, pages 27-29.

posted August 20th, 2015 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Clothes, Courtship, Fashion, Marriage, Tilghman, Henrietta (Hetty)


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