“Do you want to hear that I still love?”

Esther DeBerdt was born in London, the daughter of a merchant who was also the colonial agent for Massachusetts. American Joseph Reed had come to London in 1764 to study law. The two met and fell in love. Joseph proposed but she wrote to him in November of 1764: “as to my going to America, it cannot be. It would bring down the gray hairs of my dear and affectionate parents with sorrow to the grave.” In 1765 Reed had to return to America to deal with family problems. Esther’s father acknowledged their engagement and the two corresponded. Esther wrote in March 1765: “Do you want to hear that I still love? It’s a truth which I am not ashamed to own, and at one time or another, to make it appear to all the world. Never doubt this till I send you word. Your sincere and affectionate friend. . . .” In June Esther wrote: “you will (maybe) wonder when I tell you that your expectations are too high of me I am sure you will not find me that charming creature you expect. Love must have blinded you, or you would have seen faults that would make you love me less. May you be always blind. . . .” The following letter from Esther to Joseph is dated 28 March 1766.

. . . This Scrip comes rich, with presents for you, my Pappas Picture which I have attempted to draw, is packed up with Mrs. Cox goods & Directed for you, I don’t doubt but you will like it, the hand from whence it comes, I know will make it acceptable, we think it a pretty good likeness, but it is not high finished, for fear of taking away the resemblance, & I thot it better to send it you just rough, then to do it only by halves, such as it is you are more welcome to it, than any body in America; I suppose some of our good Friends will wonder at it being sent to you, they must wonder sometime yet, but I assure you it gives me pleasure to have it in my power to shew any particular mark of Regard to you—I have finished your Ruffles at last. Mr Burkitt has taken them to put them into Mr. T. Smiths trunk. I am afraid they are too small in the Arm, you must get Miss Reed to put in a little gore that should be exactly the Size of your wrist, to button with the Shirt,—there must be some care in the Washing of them it must be in Cold water, & your Sister must take up every loop & edge of the ruffles, they must not be Ironed, but when they dry draw the Silk out, I have tried every way & find none so good as this, tell Miss R.—I don’t know if some of your Friends will not begin to suspect our Connexions, the Picture, & seeing a pair of ruffles of a Ladies work, will perhaps be a Sufficient reason, its happy we are not ashamed of one another,—I speak for myself I reckon it one of the greatest honours I have to Boast of, & perhaps I may say it for you too, but that I leave for you I know how partial you are to me, I hope you will always be or you will find what I said to be too true, that my good Qualities are not as numerous as you Imagine. . . .”

More on this long distance courtship in the next post.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 29, 49-50, 52. Other letters can be read online HERE. The letter of 28 March 1766 is in the Joseph Reed Papers at the New-York Historical Society. It was transcribed by Louise North.

posted September 17th, 2015 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad, Courtship, London, Reed, Esther De Berdt, Reed, Joseph


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