To Kitty Nicholson Few January 6, 1789
To Kitty Nicholson Few January 6, 1789
I sincerely thank you for your very friendly and welcome letter. I was in the country when it arrived and did not receive it soon enough to answer it by the return of the vessel.
I very affectionately congratulate Mr. and Mrs. Few on their happy marriage, and every branch of the families allied by that connection; and I request my fair correspondent to present me to her partner, and to say, for me, that he has obtained one of the highest prizes on the wheel. Besides the pleasure which your letter gives me to hear you are all happy and well, it relieves me from a sensation not easy to be dismissed; and if you will excuse a few dull thoughts for obtruding themselves into a congratulatory letter I will tell you what it is. When I see my female friends drop off by matrimony I am sensible of something that affects me like a loss in spite of all the appearances of joy: I cannot help mixing the sincere compliment of regret with that of congratulation. It appears as if I had outlived or lost a friend. It seems to me as if the original was no more, and that which she is changed to forsakes the circle and forgets the scenes of former society. Felicities are cares superior to those she formerly cared for, create to her a new landscape of life that excludes the little friendships of the past. It is not every lady’s mind that is sufficiently capacious to prevent those greater objects crowding out the less, or that can spare a thought to former friendships after she has given her hand and heart to the man who loves her. But the sentiment your letter contains has prevented these dull ideas from mixing with the congratulation I present you, and is so congenial with the enlarged opinion I have always formed of you, that at the time. I read your letter with pleasure I read it with pride, because it convinces me that I have some judgment in that most difficult science-a lady’s mind. Most sincerely do I wish you all the good that heaven can bless you with, and as you have in your own family an example of domestic happiness you are already in the knowledge of obtaining it. That no condition we can enjoy is an exemption from care-that some shade will mingle itself with the brightest sunshine of life-that even our affections may become the instruments of our sorrows-that the sweet felicities of home depend on good temper as well as on good sense, and that there is always something to forgive even in the nearest and dearest of our friends,-are truths which, though too obvious to be told, ought never to be forgotten; and I know you will not esteem my friendship the less for impressing them upon you.
Though I appear a sort of wanderer, the married state has not a sincerer friend than I am. It is the harbor of human life, and is, with respect to the things of this world, what the next world is to this. It is home; and that one word conveys more than any other word can express. For a few years we may glide along the tide of youthful single life and be wonderfully delighted; but it is a tide that flows but once, and what is still worse, it ebbs faster than it flows, and leaves many a hapless voyager aground. I am one, you see, that have experienced the fate I am describing. I have lost my tide; it passed by while every thought of my heart was on the wing for the salvation of my dear America, and I have now, as contentedly as I can, made myself a little bower of willows on the shore that has the solitary resemblance of a home. Should I always continue the tenant of this home, I hope my female acquaintance will ever remember that it contains not the churlish enemy of their sex, not the inaccessible cold hearted mortal, nor the capricious tempered oddity, but one of the best and most affectionate of their friends.
I did not forget the Dunstable hat, but it was not on wear here when I arrived. That I am a negligent correspondent I freely confess, and I always reproach myself for it. You mention only one letter, but I wrote twice; once by Dr. Derby, and another time by the.Chevalier St. Triss- by whom I also wrote to Gen. Morris, Col. Kirkbride, and several friends in Philadelphia, but have received no answers. I had one letter from Gen. Morris last winter, which is all I have received from New York till the arrival of yours.
I thank you for the details of news you give. Kiss Molly Field for me and wish her joy,-and all the good girls of Bordentown. How is my favorite Sally Morris, my boy Joe, and my horse Button? pray let me know. Polly and Nancy Rogers,-are they married? or do they intend to build bowers as I have done ? If they do, I wish they would twist their green willows somewhere near to mine.
I am very much engaged here about my bridge- There is one building of my construction at Messrs. Walker’s Iron Works in Yorkshire, and I have direction of it. I am lately come from thence and shall return again in two or three weeks.
As to news on this side the water, the King is mad, and there is great bustle about appointing a Regent. As it happens, I am in pretty close intimacy with the heads of the opposition-the Duke of Portland, Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke. I have sent your letter to Mrs. Burke as a specimen of the accomplishments of the American ladies. I sent it to Miss Alexander, a lady you have heard me speak of, and I asked her to give me a few of her thoughts how to answer it. She told me to write as I felt, and I have followed her advice.
I very kindly thank you for your friendly invitation to Georgia and if I am ever within a thousand miles of you, I will come and see you; though it be but for a day.
You touch me on a very tender part when you say my friends on your side the water “cannot be reconciled to the idea of my resigning my adopted America, even for my native England.” They are right. Though I am in as elegant style of acquaintance here as any American that ever came over, my heart and myself are 3000 miles apart; and I had rather see my horse Button in his own stable, or eating the grass of Bordentown or Morrisania, than see all the pomp and show of Europe.
A thousand years hence (for I must indulge in a few thoughts), per- haps in less, America maybe what England now is! The innocence of her character that won the hearts of all nations in her favor may sound like a romance, and her inimitable virtue as if it had never been. The ruins of that liberty which thousands bled for, or suffered to obtain, may just furnish materials for a village tale or extort a sigh from rustic sensibility, while the fashionable of that day, enveloped in dissipation, shall deride the principle and deny the fact.
When we contemplate the fall of empires and the extinction of nations of the ancient world, we see but little to excite our regret than the mouldering ruins of pompous palaces, magnificent monuments, lofty pyramids, and walls and towers of the most costly workmanship. But when the empire of America shall fall, the subject for contemplative sorrow will be infinitely greater than crumbling brass or marble can inspire. It will not then be said, here stood a temple of vast antiquity,-here rose a Babel of invisible height, or there a palace of sumptuous extravagance; but here, ah painful thought! the noblest work of human wisdom, the grandest scene of human glory, the fair cause of freedom rose and fell!
Read this and then ask if I forget America- But I’ll not be dull if I can help it, so I leave off, and close my letter to-morrow, which is the day the mail is made up for America.
January 7th. I have heard this morning with extreme concern of the death of our worthy friend Capt. Reed. Mrs. Reed lives in a house of mine at Bordentown, and you will much oblige me by telling her how much I am affected by her loss; and to mention to her, with that delicacy which such an offer and her situation require, and which no one knows better how to convey than yourself, that the two years’ rent which is due I request her to accept of, and to consider herself at home till she hears further from me.
This is the severest winter I ever knew in England; the frost has continued upwards of five weeks, and is still likely to continue. All the vessels from America have been kept off by contrary winds. The Polly and the Pigeon from Philadelphia and the Eagle from Charleston are just got in.
If you should leave New York before I arrive (which I hope will not be the case) and should pass through Philadelphia, I wish you would do me the favor to present my compliments to Mrs. Powell, the lady whom I wanted an opportunity. to introduce you to when you were in Philadelphia, but was prevented by your being at a house where I did not visit.
There is a Quaker favorite of mine at New York, formerly Miss Watson of Philadelphia; she is now married to Dr. Lawrence, and is an acquaintance of Mrs. Oswald: be so kind as to make her a visit for me. You will like her conversation. She has a little of the Quaker primness-but of the pleasing kind-about her.
I am always distressed at closing a letter, because it seems like taking leave of my friends after a parting conversation.-Captain Nicholson, Mrs. Nicholson, Hannah, Fanny, James, and the little ones, and you my dear Kitty, and your partner for life-God bless you all! and send me safe back to my much loved America!
THOMAS PAINE- aet. 52.
or if you better like it
This comes by the packet which sails from Falmouth, 300 miles from London; but by the first vessel from London to New York I will send you some magazines. In the meantime be so kind as to write to me by the first opportunity. Remember me to the family at Morrisania, and all my friends at New York and Bordentown. Desire Gen. Morris to take another guinea of Mr. Constable, who has some money of mine in his hands, and give it to my boy Joe. Tell Sally to take care of Button. Then direct for me at Mr. Peter Whiteside’s London. When you are at Charleston remember me to my dear old friend Mrs. Lawrence, Col. and Mrs.
L. Morris, and Col. Washington; and at. Georgia, to Col. Walton. Adieu.