“… space seperates not the minds as well as persons …”

John Jay and his wife Sarah returned from abroad in 1784. John had served as a diplomat, first in Madrid and then in Paris, where he had helped negotiate the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War. In addition to their son Peter, whom they had left with his grandparents when they went to Europe, the couple now had two girls, Maria and Ann, whom they called Nancy. Congress once again called John to serve his country, naming him minister for foreign affairs. But before he was sworn in on December 21, he was a delegate to Congress from New York. Sarah wrote to him in Trenton where Congress was meeting at that time. While looking forward to the holidays, Sarah wrote of the pleasure she felt imagining that she and her husband had been writing to each other at the same time. She also conveyed how hard it was to cope with two young children.

Elizabeth Town, 5 Dec 1784My dr. Mr. Jay,
Your letter of the 28th reached me last fryday; & from the date of that & yr. former letter I find that both were written at the same times, perhaps the same inst. that mine to you were wrote, & I enjoy’d the idea that we had been mutually employed in marking our attention to each other at the same inst. of time. How happy for us my Love! that space seperates not the minds as well as persons, for otherwise absence would be deplorable indeed. Mr. Renden informs me that Congress are at length assembled & I’m glad of it, for I now hope that by Christmas you’ll be at liberty to pay me the promised visit. …

It is with difficulty I write & I believe it will be as difficult for you to read this scrawl, but Maria will not quit me & I’ve but one hand at liberty & more that but by spells. How imperfect my dr.! is human penetration. While the delicacy of little Nancy’s appearance awakened our fears, & the florid complection of Maria assured us on her part, Nancy recovers health & strength & poor little Maria is attack’d wh. a fever. This is the first in 8 days that she has eat a mouthful. Last Sunday she was taken very ill, monday her fever still continued & her tongue & mouth appeared very sore. That alarmed me, for I apprehended she had the malignant sore throat, but the next day her fever abated, tho’ her mouth continued & still does very sore, & her breath very offensive. The fever has intirely left her & it is wh. pleasure I’ve observ’d ever since I first apprehended the sore throat, that when she drinks she swallows without difficulty, & I now conclude she has the sprue, or as the English call it the thrush: if it is that it will be some time yet before she’ll be quite well. To day she told me in the bed that Pappa Jay wd. come home bye & bye to see Maria. . . .

Mr. Renden waited upon us this afternoon & has promised to call himself or send his servant in the morng. for this letter: Scrawl I might rather call it, & indeed I am quite ashamed of it, but if you knew under what disagreeable circumstances I’ve written, you wd. rather pity than blame me. I’ve just daub’d all my paper wh. syrrup that I had to mix magnesia for Maria. I’ll endeavor to let you know from time to time how she does. Don’t be uneasy, for if I think her dangerous I’ll send an Express to you. …
Adieu my dr. Mr. Jay & believe me to be most affectionatelyYours
SA JAY

Sarah’s letter appears in Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, pages 168-69.

posted December 20th, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Children, Health, Letter-writing, Medicine


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