“I am quite a country boy”

Following is a letter from Elizabethtown dated 18 July 1781, in the handwriting of SUSAN LIVINGSTON but signed by Peter Augustus Jay, to Sarah Jay in Madrid. Peter was only five so he couldn’t have written the letter no matter how precocious he may have been. It is charming.

I thank my Dear Mama for her kind letter, and good advice, and my dear Papa for his remembrance.

I hope when you return to our Country you will find your little son as you expect, and not be disappointed,

Aunt Susan teaches me to read; every hour the bell rings, and then I go in the office to say my lesson. Aunt Caty [Catharine Livingston] sends me books from Phila. I learn in a very pretty book of Tales, one page has a picture and the opposite one a tale to explain it, all the book through. I have finished with the Continental Primmer. . . .

As soon as I read well Aunt Susan will teach me to write, and then I can have the pleasure of writing to my absent friends. I have a pocket-book full of letters that Grand-Pa printed for me last winter. Every fortnight allmost I received a letter from him, and last month Grand-Mama and I went to meet Grand-Papa and spend a few days with him at Cousin David Clarksons, who lives three miles this side of Princeton. It was a long ride for such a little fellow as me.

Aunt Caty sent me a top, and Uncle Watkins [the husband of his aunt Judith Livingston] made me a Kite for pastime. I am quite a country boy clad in a striped linen waistcoat and trowsers, and sometimes I hoe in the garden and gather the gooseberries and currants, and I help to rake hay on the Lawn in the hay harvest.

We have plenty of fine fruit this summer, while we had cherries, the boys collected from all parts of the Country here, not less than fifty in a day, and soon stripped our trees.

Mama says I must write her what I wish her to bring me. I should like a hat, a pair of shoe and knee buckles, and a pair of sleeve buttons—if she pleases.

Hannah [PA Jay’s nurse] says I must not forget to mention her, but she won’t tell me what to say about her. She has not left me, and is very good to me, and gives her love to Mama. She has received the fine handkerchief and is much obliged to Papa for it. . . .

Please to give my love & duty to Papa & my love to Uncle Henry [Brockholst Livingston] & Cousin Peter [Munro, the son of John Jay’s sister Eve].

I am dear Mama, Your very Affecte. Son,

Peter Augustus Jay at age 21:

See the whole letter at the Columbia University Digital Library Collection of the John Jay Papers HERE. The portrait is by James Sharples and is in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.


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