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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 New England Bride in New York

By Eliza Southgate Bowne (1783–1809)

[By permission of Mr. Walter Lawrence, from Letters copied from the originals by his mother, Mrs. Mary King Bowne Laurence.]

I SIT down to catch a moment to tell you all I have to before another interruption. I have so much to say, where shall I begin?—my head is most turned, and yet I am very happy. I am enraptured with New York. You cannot imagine anything half so beautiful as Broadway, and I am sure you would say I was more romantic than ever, if I should attempt to describe the Battery—the elegant water prospect—you can have no idea how refreshing in a warm evening. The gardens we have not yet visited—indeed we have so many delightful things ’twill take me forever, and my husband declares he takes as much pleasure in showing them to me as I do in seeing them; you would believe it if you saw him. Did I tell you anything of brother John?—handsome young man—great literary taste—he is one of the family—nothing of the appearance of a Quaker. Mrs. King, another sister, they all say, looks like me. Mrs. Murray, who is very sick now, has a daughter, a charming, lively girl, about nineteen, and the little witch introduced me in a laughing way last night to some of her friends as “Aunt Eliza.” I protest against that—her brother Robert, seventeen years old too! I positively must declare off from being “Aunt” to them. Caroline and I went a-shopping yesterday, and ’tis a fact that the little white satin Quaker bonnets, cap-crowns, are the most fashionable that are worn—lined with pink or blue or white—but I’ll not have one, for if any of my old acquaintance should meet me in the street they would laugh; I would if I were they. I mean to send sister Boyd a Quaker cap, the first tasty one I see. Caroline’s are too plain, but she has promised to get me a more fashionable pattern. ’Tis the fashion, I see nothing new or pretty—large sheer-muslin shawls, put on as Sally Weeks wears hers, are much worn; they show the form through, and look pretty. Silk nabobs, plaided, colored and white, are much worn—very short waists—hair very plain….

Last night we were at the play—“The way to get married.” Mr. Hodgkinson in Tangent is inimitable. Mrs. Johnson, a sweet, interesting actress, in Julia, and Jefferson, a great comic player, were all that were particularly pleasing. House was very thin—so late in the season. Mr. and Mrs. Codman came to see me. I should have known her in a moment from her resemblance to Ellen and the family—appeared very happy to see me. Mr. Codman was happy Mrs. Codman would now have somebody to call her friend, etc., etc. Maria Demming told me Uncle Rufus was expected every day—we have such contradictory accounts we hardly know what to believe. As to house-keeping, we don’t begin to talk anything of it yet. Mr. Bowne says not till October—however, you shall hear all our plans. I anticipate so much happiness—I am sure if anybody ought to, I may. My heart is full sometimes when I think how much more blest I am than most of the world. At this moment there is not a single circumstance presents itself to my mind that I feel unpleasant to reflect on—the sweet tranquillity of my feelings, so different from anything I ever before felt—such a confidence—my every feeling reciprocated and every wish anticipated! I write to you what would appear singular to any other. You can easily imagine my feelings. I see Mr. B. now, where he is universally known and respected, and every hour see some new proof how much he is honored and esteemed; these—the most gratifying to the heart, you can imagine, cannot but make an impression on mine. We talk of you when we get to house-keeping—how delightful ’twill be—what a sweet domestic circle!

I must leave you; Caty says, “Mrs. Walter” (for so the servants call me to distinguish), “a gentleman below wishes to see you”—adieu. Who can this said gentleman be?——Mr. Rodman was below—whom I saw at the Springs—and for these two hours there have been so many calling, I thought I should never get up to finish my letter. Mrs. Henderson, whom I mentioned to you as one of the most elegant women in New York, and Maria came in soon after. Engaged to Mrs. Henderson’s for Friday.

Thursday morning—I have been to two of the gardens; Columbia, near the Battery—a most romantic, beautiful place—’tis enclosed in a circular form and little rooms and boxes all round—with tables and chairs—these full of company; the trees all interspersed with lamps twinkling through the branches; in the centre a pretty little building with a fountain playing continually. The rays of the lamps on the drops of water gave it a cool sparkling appearance that was delightful…. Here we strolled among the trees and every moment met some walking from the thick shade unexpectedly—and come upon us before we heard a sound—’twas delightful. We passed a box that Miss Watts was in; she called us, and we went in and had a charming, refreshing glass of ice-cream—which has chilled me ever since. They have a fine orchestra, and have concerts here sometimes. I can conceive of nothing more charming than this must be.

We went on to the Battery. This is a large promenade by the shore of the North River—very extensive; rows and clusters of trees in every part, and a large walk along the shore, almost over the water, gives you such a fresh, delightful air that every evening in summer [it] is crowded with company. Here, too, they have music playing on the water in boats of a moonlight night. Last night we went to a garden a little out of town—Mount Vernon Garden. This, too, is surrounded by boxes of the same kind, with a walk on top of them—you can see the gardens all below—but ’tis a summer playhouse—pit and boxes, stage and all, but open on top; from this there are doors opening into the garden, which is similar to Columbia Garden, lamps among the trees, large mineral fountain, delightful swings, two at a time. I was in raptures, as you may imagine, and, if I had not grown sober before I came to this wonderful place, ’twould have turned my head. But I have filled my letter and not told you half of the Park, the public buildings; I have so much to tell you, and of those that have called on me, I have no room to say half. Yesterday Mrs. Henderson came again to see me, and brought two of my aunt King’s most intimate friends to introduce—Mrs. Delafield and Miss Bull. Mr. and Mrs. Delafield are uncle and aunt to very intimate friends—she is called the most elegant woman in New York. I was delighted with her, and very much gratified at Mrs. Henderson’s attention in coming again on purpose to introduce them. They were so attentive, so polite, and Mrs. Delafield said so many things of Uncle and Aunt King, how delighted they would be to find me settled near them—how much I should love them, and everything of the kind, that were very gratifying to me. Miss Demming has been to see me three or four times—several invitations to tea, but we declined, as our family friends were visiting us this week. This morning we go to make calls. I have got a list of names that most frightens me. All our brothers and sisters say, “Why, Eliza does not seem at all like a stranger to us”—indeed, I feel as easy and happy among them as possible, which astonishes me, as I have been so unaccustomed to Quakers; but their manners are so affectionate and soft, you cannot help it. Mrs. King (sister) is a beauty. She would be very handsome in a different dress—she looks so much like Alicia Wyer, you would love her—just such full, sweet, blue eyes—charming complexion and sweet expression, and her little Quaker cap gives her such an innocent, simple appearance. Imagine Alicia with a Quaker dress, and you will see her exactly. Adieu; I am expecting to hear from you every day. Mr. Bowne is out, would send a great deal of love if he were here. Kiss dear little Mary and all the children. I never go by a toy-shop or confectionery without longing to have them here—love to all. Our best love to my father and mother—Horatio, Isabella and all. I mean to write as soon as I am settled a little—adieu.
NEW YORK, 6 June, 1803.