Experience only can determine

I did not intend when we parted at the boarding school, that a whole
month should have elapsed without bearing you some testimony of my
continued friendship and affection; but so numerous have been my
avocations, and so various my engagements, that I have scarcely called a
moment my own since I returned home. Having been from town a year, I was
considered as too antique to appear in company abroad, till I had been
perfectly metamorphosed. Every part of my habit has undergone a complete
change, in conformity to the present fashion. It was with extreme regret
that I parted with the neatness and simplicity of my country dress;
which, according to my ideas of modesty, was more becoming. But I trust,
this alteration of appearance will have no tendency to alienate those
sentiments from my heart which I imbibed under the tuition of Mrs.
Williams.

I went, last evening, to the assembly; but though dazzled, I was by no
means charmed, by the glare of finery and tinselled decorations that
were displayed.

There were some ladies, whose gentility and fashionable dress were
evidently the product of a correct taste; but others were so disguised
by tawdry gewgaws, as to disgust me exceedingly.

Mrs. Williams used to say, that the dress was indicative of the mind. If
this observation be just, what opinion am I to form of the gay
multitudes who trip along the streets and throng the places of public
resort in this metropolis; the lightness and gaudiness of whose
appearance, bespeak a sickly taste, to say no more.

I am furnished with feathers, flowers, and ribbons in profusion. I
shall, however, use them very sparingly; and though I would not be
entirely singular, yet I must insist on consulting my own fancy a
little, and cannot willingly sacrifice my own opinion to the capricious
whims of fashion, and her devotees. My aunt Lawrence, who you know, is
extravagantly genteel, is making us a visit. She laughs very heartily at
my silly notions, as she calls them, and styles me a novice in the ways
of the world: but hopes, notwithstanding, that I shall acquire a better
taste when I am more acquainted with fashionable life. That I may be
much improved by a more extensive knowledge of the world, I doubt not;
yet may I never be corrupted by that levity and folly, which are too
prevalent among a part of my sex.

“I will not, however, censure and condemn others; but attend to myself
and be humble. Adieu.”

The tear of regret for your departure is scarcely dried from the cheek
of your Maria; and the pleasing remembrance of the happiness I have
enjoyed in your society is accompanied with a sigh, whenever I reflect
that it exists no more.

My mamma has observed that those friendships which are formed in youth,
provided they be well founded, are the most sincere, lively and durable.
I am sure that the ardency of mine can never abate; my affectionate
regard for you can never decay.

We have another class of boarders; but you and your amiable companions
had so entirely engrossed my confidence and esteem, that I shall find it
difficult to transfer them, in any degree, to others. The sensations of
Anna are very different, though she is capable of the most refined
friendship. The natural vivacity, and, as I tell her, the volatility of
her disposition, renders a variety of associates pleasing to her.

In order to recall your ideas to the exercises of Harmony-Grove, I
enclose the sallies of my pen for this morning, fully assured of your
candour and generosity in the perusal.

Pray omit no opportunity of writing, and favor me with your observations
on the polite world. I shall receive every line as a pledge of your
continued love to your

Hail delight-restoring spring!
Balmy pleasures with thee bring;
Aromatic gales dispense,
Misty vapours banish hence.
Blithe the jocund hinds appear,
Joy supports returning care,
Mirth the ready hand attends,
Pleasing hope the toil befriends.
Hark! the shady groves resound,
Love and praise re-echo round,
Music floats in every gale,
Peace and harmony prevail.
Here no stormy passions rise,
Here no feuds impede our joys,
Here ambition never roams,
Pride or envy never comes.
Come Matilda; ruddy morn
Tempts us o’er the spacious lawn;
Spring’s reviving charms invite
Every sense to taste delight;
Such delights as never cloy,
Health and innocence enjoy.
Youth’s the spring-time of our years,
Short the rapid scene appears;
Let’s improve the fleeting hours,
Virtue’s noblest fruits be ours.

You have left—you have forsaken me, Caroline! But I will haunt you with
my letters; obtrude myself upon your remembrance; and extort from you
the continuance of your friendship!

What do I say? Obtrude and extort! Can these harsh words be used when I
am addressing the generous and faithful Caroline?

But you have often encouraged my eccentricities by your smile, and must
therefore still indulge them.

Nature has furnished me with a gay disposition; and happy is it for me,
that a lax education has not strengthened the folly too commonly arising
from it.

Mrs. Williams’ instructions were very seasonably interposed to impress
my mind with a sense of virtue and propriety. I trust they have had the
desired effect; and that they will prove the guardian of my youth, and
the directory of maturer age. How often has the dear, good woman taken
me into her chamber, and reminded me of indecorums of which I was
unconscious at the time; but thankful afterwards that they had not
escaped her judicious eye; as her observations tended to rectify my
errors, and render me more cautious and circumspect in future. How
salutary is advice like her’s; conveyed, not with the dogmatic air of
supercilious wisdom, but with the condescending ease and soothing
kindness of an affectionate parent, anxiously concerned for the best
good of those under her care!

I was very happy at Harmony-Grove; and the result of that happiness, I
hope, will accompany me through life.

Yet I find the gaiety of the town adapted to my taste; nor does even
Mrs. Williams condemn the enjoyment of its pleasures.

I was, last evening, at a ball, and I assure you, the attention I
gained, and the gallantry displayed to attract my notice and
approbation, were very flattering to my vanity; though I could not
forbear inwardly smiling at the futile arts of the pretty fellows who
exhibited them.

Their speeches appeared to have been so long practised, that I was on
the point of advising them to exercise their genius, if they had any, in
the invention of something new. But a polite conformity to the ton
restrained my satire, Adieu.

I am disappointed and displeased, Cleora! I have long been anxious to
procure the Marchioness de Sevigne’s letters, having often heard them
mentioned as standards of taste and elegance in the epistolary way. This
excited my curiosity, and raised my hopes of finding a rich
entertainment of wit and sentiment. I have perused, and perused in vain;
for they answer not my ideas of either. They are replete with local
circumstances, which to indifferent readers, are neither amusing nor
interesting. True, the style is easy and sprightly; but they are chiefly
composed of family matters, such as relate to her own movements and
those of her daughter; many of which are of too trifling a nature to be
ranked in the class of elegant writing. I own myself, however, not a
competent judge of their merit as a whole, even in my own estimation;
for I have read the two first volumes only.

That letters ought to be written with the familiarity of personal
conversation, I allow; yet many such conversations, even between persons
of taste and refinement, are unworthy the public attention.

Equal was my chagrin, not long since, on reading Pope’s letters. He,
said I to myself, who bears the palm from all contemporary poets, and
who is so consummate a master of this divine art, must surely furnish a
source of superior entertainment, when he descends to friendly and
social communications.

Indeed, there are good sentiments and judicious observations,
interspersed in his letters; but the greater part of them have little
other merit than what arises from the style.

Perhaps you will charge me with arrogance for presuming to criticise,
much more to condemn, publications which have so long been sanctioned by
general approbation. Independent in opinion, I write it without reserve,
and censure not any one who thinks differently. Give me your sentiments
with the same freedom upon the books which you honor with a perusal, and
you will oblige your affectionate

DEAR CAROLINE,

I received yours with those lively sensations of pleasure which your
favors always afford. As I was perusing it, my papa came into the room.
He took it out of my hand and read it; then returning it with the smile
of approbation, I think, said he, that your correspondent has played the
critic very well. Has she played it justly, Sir? said I. Why, it is a
long time, said he, since I read the Marchioness de Sevigne’s letters. I
am not, therefore, judge of their merit. But with regard to Pope, I
blame not the sex for retaliating upon him; for he always treated them
satirically. I believe revenge was no part of my friend’s plan, said I.
She is far superior to so malignant a passion, though, were she capable
of seeking it, it would be in behalf of her sex.

Company now coming in, the conversation shifted.

I have often smiled at the pitiful wit of those satirists and essayists,
who lavish abundant eloquence on trifling foibles, the mere whims of a
day; and of no consequence to the body natural, moral, or political. The
extension of a hoop, the contraction of the waist, or the elevation of
the head-dress, frequently afford matter for pages of elaborate
discussion. These reformers, too, always aim at the good of our sex! I
think it a great pity they do not lop off some of their own exuberant
follies; though perhaps they wish us to exchange labours; and in return
for their benevolent exertions, that we endeavor to expose and correct
their errors. I have sometimes thought their satire to be tinctured with
malice; and that the cause of their disaffection may generally be found
in personal resentment. Had Pope and his coadjutors been favourites with
the ladies, I doubt not but they would have found more excellencies in
them than they have ever yet allowed.

I have lately been reading the generous and polite Fitzorsborne’s
letters; and I need not tell you how much I was pleased and charmed with
them.

The justness of his sentiments, and the ease and elegance of his
diction, are at once interesting and improving. His letter and ode to
his wife on the anniversary of their marriage, surpass any thing of the
kind I have ever read. I verily think, that, had I the offer of a heart
capable of dictating such manly tenderness of expression, and such
pathetic energy of generous love, I should be willing to give my hand in
return, and assent to those solemn words, “love, honor, and—(I had
almost said) obey.” Adieu.

I agree with you, that the habits of the weak and vain are too
insignificant to employ the pens of those, whose literary talents might
produce great and good effects in the political, moral, and religious
state of things. Were absurd fashions adopted only by those whose
frivolity renders them the dupes of folly, and whose example can have no
effect on the considerate and judicious part of the community, I should
think them below the attention of statesmen, philosophers, and divines:
but this is not the case. The votaries and the inventors of the most
fantastical fashions are found in the ranks of, what is called, refined
and polished society; from whom we might hope for examples of elegance
and propriety, both in dress and behaviour. By these, luxury and
extravagance are sanctioned. Their influence upon the poorer class is
increased; who, emulous of imitating their superiors, think _that_ the
most eligible appearance, (however beyond their income, or unsuitable to
their circumstances and condition in life) which is preferred and
countenanced by their wealthier neighbors.

Absurd and expensive fashions, then, are injurious to society at large,
and require some check; and why is not satire levelled against them,
laudable in its design, and likely to produce a good effect? Adieu.

Notwithstanding the coldness of the season, every heart seems to be
enlivened, and every mind exhilarated by the anniversary of the new
year. Why this day is so peculiarly marked out for congratulations, I
shall not now inquire; but in compliance with the prevailing custom of
expressing good wishes on the occasion, I send you mine in a scribble

Early I greet the opening year,
While friendship bids the muse appear,
To wish Matilda blest.
The muse, devoid of selfish art,
Obeys the dictates of a heart,
Which warms a friendly breast.

The rolling earth again has run
Her annual circuit round the sun,
And whirl’d the year away;
She now her wonted course renews,
Her orbit’s track again pursues;
Nor feels the least decay.

How soon the fleeting hours are gone!
The rapid wheels of time glide on,
Which bring the seasons round.
Winter disrobes the smiling plain,
But spring restores its charms again,
And decks the fertile ground.

The sweet returns of cheerful May
Come with a vivifying ray,
Inspiring new delight:
Beclad with every various charm
To please the eye, the fancy warm,
And animate the sight.

But youth no kind renewal knows;
Swiftly the blooming season goes,
And brings the frost of age!
No more the vernal sun appears,
To gild the painful round of years,
And wintry damps assuage.

With rapid haste, the moments fly,
Which you and I, my friend, enjoy;
And they return no more!
Then let us wisely now improve
The downy moments, as they rove,
Which nature can’t restore.

O source of wisdom! we implore
Thy aid to guide us safely o’er
The slippery paths of youth:
O deign to lend a steady ray
To point the sure, the certain way
To honor and to truth!

Let thy unerring influence shed
Its blessings on Matilda’s head,
While piety and peace,
Thy genuine offspring round her wait,
And guard her through this transient state,
To joys that never cease!

May constant health its charms extend,
And fortune every blessing lend,
To crown each passing day;
May pleasures in succession shine,
And every heart-felt bliss be thine,
Without the least allay.

I have this week engaged in the celebration of the nuptials of my
friend, Amanda South. A splendid wedding, a gay company, an elegant
supper, and a magnificent ball, were the sum of our entertainment.

I imagine such exhilarating scenes designed to dispel the anxiety and
thoughtfulness, which every reflecting person must feel on this solemn
occasion. This untried state presents to the apprehensive mind such a
variety of new cares and duties, that cheerfulness, festivity and
hilarity seem necessary to banish the thought of them, so far as to
render a delicate and sensible female sufficiently composed to conduct
with propriety. But I must confess that were I called to the trial, I
should choose to retire from the observation of those indifferent and
unfeeling spectators, to whom the blushing modesty of a bride is often a
pastime.

Indeed, Cleora, when we look around the world and observe the great
number of unhappy marriages, which were contracted with the brightest
prospects, yet from some unforeseen cause, have involved the parties in
wretchedness for life, we may well indulge a diffidence of our own
abilities to discharge the duties of the station, and be solicitous that
our future companion should in all respects be qualified to assist in
bearing the burdens of the conjugal state.

Experience only can determine how far we are right in the judgment we
form of ourselves, and of the person of our choice. So many are the
deceptions which love and courtship impose upon their votaries, that I
believe it very difficult for the parties concerned to judge
impartially, or to discern faults, where they look only for virtues.
Hence they are so frequently misled in their opinions, and find, too
late, the errors into which they have been betrayed.

When do you come to Boston, Cleora? I am impatient for your society;
because your friendship is void of flattery, and your sincerity and
cheerfulness are always agreeable and advantageous. Adieu.