Letter to Abigail Franks

Rebecca Franks


Flat Bush, Saturday, 10 o’c[lock]., August 10th, [17]’81

My dear Abby: [ . . . ]

[ . . . ] By the by, few N.York ladies know how to entertain company in their own houses unless they introduce the card tables, except this family (who are remarkable for their good sense and ease). I don’t know a woman or girl that can chat above half an hour, and that’s on the form of a cap, the colour of a ribbon, or the set of a hoop stay or jupon [petticoat]. I will do our ladies, that is Phila’ans, the justice to say they have more cleverness in the turn of an eye than the N.Y. girls have in their whole composition. With what ease, have I seen a Chew, a Penn, Oswald, Allen, and a thousand others entertain a large circle of both sexes, and the conversation without the aid of cards not flag or seem the least strain’d of [or] stupid.

Here, or more properly speaking in N.Y., you enter the room with a formal set curtesy and after the how do’s, ’tis a fine or a bad day, and those triffling nothings are finish’d, [then] all’s a dead calm ’till the cards are introduc’d when you see pleasure dancing in the eyes of all the matrons, and they seem to gain new life. The misses, if they have a fav’rite swain, frequently decline playing for the pleasure of making love, for to all appearances ’tis the ladies and not the gentlemen that shew a preference now adays. ’Tis here, I fancy, allways leap year. For my part that am us’d to quite an other mode of behaviour, cannot help shewing my surprize, perhaps they call it ignorance, when I see a lady single out her pet to lean all most in his arms at an assembly or play house (which I give my honor I have too often seen both in married and single), and to hear a lady confess a partiality for a man who perhaps she has not seen three times. [These women say] “Well, I declare, such a gentleman is a delightfull creature, and I could love him for my husband,” or “I could marry such or such a person.” And scandle sais [with respect to] most who have been married, the advances have first come from the ladies side. Or she has got a male friend to introduce him and puff her off. ’Tis really the case, and with me they loose half their charms; and I fancy there wou’d be more marriage was an other mode adopted. But they’ve made the men so saucy that I sincerely believe the lowest ensign thinks ’tis but ask and have; a red coat and smart epaulet is sufficient to secure a female heart. . . .

And now, my d’r Abby, I am going to tell you a piece of news that you’ll dislike as much as I do. What do you think of Moses [our brother in London] coming out with a cockcade [an officer’s insignia]! He writes to papa and me ’tis his serious resolve, and we must not be surpriz’d if we see him this summer. The idea of ent’ring an ensign at his time of life [he was probably close to thirty] distresses [me] more then any thing I’ve met with since I left you. All the comfort I have is that his Uncle M[oses]. will not allow him. I have not had an oppor[tuni]’ty of asking papa’s opinion of it, as I receiv’d the letter’s since I’ve been here, but I am certain he must disapprove of it as much as I do. Was he ten or twelve years younger, I should not have the smallest objection, but ’tis too late for him to enter into such a life, and after the indulgence he’s ever been us’d to he’ll never brook being commanded from post to pillow by ev’ry brat of [or] boy who may chance to be longer in the service. Tomorrow I shall write to him and make use of ev’ry argument I am misstress of to disuade him from so mad a project, which I hope will arrive in time to prevent it, for if he once enter’s I wou’d be the first to oppose his quiting it, as I ever lov’d a steady character. The danger of the war I have in a measure reconcil’d myself to. ’Tis only his age I object to and the disagreeable idea of his being sent the L[or]’d knows where. If he does enter (which I hope to God he may not), I wish he may join the 17th, or els get into the dragoons; the latter I think he’ll prefer on account of his lameness. He has not, I believe, wrote to you by this oppor[tuni]’ty; Aunt [Moses?] Franks and Aunt Richa [father’s sister], I believe, have. . . .

Nanny VaHorn and self employ’d yesterday morn’g in trying to dress a rag baby [doll] in the fashion, but cou’d not succeed. It shall however go, as ’twill in some degree give you an idea of the fashion as to the jacket and pinning on of the handkerchief. . . .

Yesterday the granadiers had a race at the Flatlands [Long Island], and in the afternoon this house swarm’d with beaus and some very smart ones. How the girls wou’d have envy’d me cou’d they have peep’d and seen how I was surrounded, and yet I shou’d have [felt] as happy if not much more to have spent the afternoon with the Thursday Party at the W[oo]’dlands. I am happy to hear you’r out there as the town must be dreadfull this hot summer. N.Y. is bad enough tho’ I do not think ’tis as warm as Phil’a. . . .

Well, this is sufficiently long; love to everybody. . . .




Words in brackets appear in the source text.


Rebecca Franks, “Rebecca Franks Letter,” August 10, 1781, American Jewish Archives.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 6.

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