Thursday, February 13, 2014

"If This Paper Trembles When You Read It:" A Mysterious Love Letter

Incomplete love letter written by unknown woman, ca. 1790 (M-Letters-4).  Image from Mabee Family Papers, Grems-Doolittle Library. 

There are very few love letters in the collections of our library; one of the few in our collections is a very interesting one from the Mabee Family Papers. It is not clear whether this letter was ever sent; it may possibly be an incomplete draft. We do not know the identities of the letter writer or the intended recipient. This letter was written from a woman to a man, and may have been written in the late 1700s (a clue given by the use of the long s). The letter includes a rare glimpse into how the woman regards herself, saying she is neither a "tawdy gay thing" useful only for making bone lace nor "bed [lain] old," but, rather, what the world calls "a good agreeable woman."

The woman who wrote the letter was very frank in expressing her desire for her beloved, telling him that his form "strikes the eyes of your beholders with ideas more moving and forcible than ever were inspired by music, painting, or eloquence." Having not heard from the man for some time, she reaches out to him overcome with emotion and pleading for him to reply. "Pray, Sir, speak peace to a troubled heart," she writes. "Be pleased to excuse my blushes, for if this paper trembles when you read it, it then best expresses its author." In closing, she reveals "at this rate I am panting" and hopes to hear from him, "otherwise I am inevitably lost."

The original letter is fully transcribed below, with the line breaks, punctuation, and underlining of the original maintained.

it is now along time as I account it Since you and I have had any
mututal Converse by letters or any other way. which to me is a great
uneasyness but possybell you might not no where I am for to direct
any letter or wrighting and on that account I Shall not insist
on your infringment of frind Ship. Sir I formerly had avery
good Opinion of my Self but it is now withdrawn and plased on
you for whom I am not ashamed to declare and I am not without
hopes be Caus I am not like the tawdy gay thing that are fit only
to make bone Lace I am nither bed lani old nor yet yong and
Childish, but as the world Says a good agreable woman
pray Sir speak peace to a troubled heart. troubled only for you
be pleas'd to Ex Cuse my blushes for if this paper trembles when
you read it. it then best expresses its author for a Smile Set on
your lips prefaces your expressions before you utter them and
your aspect prevented you all you Can say tho you have an infinant
deal of wit is but a repitition of what is expressed by your form
which Strikes the eyes of your beholders with ideas more moveing
and forcable than ever were inspird by musick painting or eloquince
at this Rate I am panting who expeels Som Sivil thing
in retirn otherwise I am inevitably lost

No comments:

Post a Comment