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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Love-Letter of the Last Century

By Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1723–1793)

[Daughter of Lt. Col. Lucas, Governor of Antigua. Wife of Chief-Justice Charles Pinckney. Died, 1792. To the Hon. Charles Pinckney. Written in 1741.]

SIR:—The penance you have enjoined is equal to an Egyptian task; for I take it to be full as hard for me to repeat Doctor Parnell’s “Hermit” to you, having never read it more than twice, as it was to them to make brick without straw; but if you will be so good as to lend me the book, I’ll promise to repeat it to you some time in September next, which is the soonest I can promise myself the pleasure of waiting on Mrs. P. We are much obliged to Mr. Dart for the mocking birds; my papa will be very much pleased with them. To secure them from their mortal foe, the cat, I have put them in my own closet, where they afford me a thousand useful reflections. Here the niggard that eats his morsel alone, and the mean, suspicious wretch whose bolted door ne’er moved in pity to the wandering poor, may learn a lesson of hospitality from the birds of the air.

The little chirpers have drawn to the window an old bird that has a nest in a tree in the garden, with three young ones in it. These six employ her morning in providing for and feeding them. I was one day sitting in the room viewing them perched, and as I supposed expecting their warbling benefactress, when she came to the window, from whence I imagined the sight of me must soon fright her (it was impossible for me to move); but even that could not prevent her generous purpose to the little strangers, but she flew close by me, and perching on the cage dropped in what her bounty had before provided.

This thing pleased me more than you can imagine; I communicated it to some of my neighbors, and begged their company next day to be witness of the fact, for I really thought it would appear incredible. They were so obliging as to say they could never doubt my veracity upon any subject whatever, though what I attested might appear extremely improbable; but in this case there was nothing extraordinary, for it was very common to hang a cage of young mocking birds in the garden, to be raised by the old one, if there was one near; but this I was a stranger to.

I see you smile while you have been reading this to Mrs. Pinckney, and she replies, “The dear girl forgot she was not writing to little Polly when she indulged her descriptive vein, and that the subject of her birds is too trifling a one to engage your attention.” Be it so, but it is your own fault; you will have me write, and as my ideas are trifling my subject must be conformable to them.