A True Woman

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From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

February 8.—Captain S——, lately returned from America to London with an express for government, relates, among many other affecting and uncommon incidents, among the royalists, as well as in the American army, the following narrative of tenderness, evincing to what a height the purity of passion can arrive in the bosom of a virtuous woman, uncorrupted by an erroneous education, or the depravity of fashionable life:—A young lady, long advertised in our public papers by her distressed family, having forsaken her father’s house in Wales, in the beginning of the American war, leaving only a letter behind her to bid them be assured her honor and life should be secure in her own care, followed her lover (a cornet of horse) to whom she had engaged herself privately, during his recruiting in the town in which she lived. She married him the hour she arrived at New York, where his regiment was at that time. Her elegance and beauty inflaming the breast of the commander, as well as of those inferior in command in the regiment, her husband became the pointed mark of their malice as well as envy.

The cornet only exceeded the bounds of the country in search of some medicinal herbs for his beloved wife; the trespass was aggravated into a crime; he was indignantly sentenced to an ignominious confinement, which, by reason of the dampness of his prison, immediately threatened his life, and hers who had closely attended him during his confinement. She received a message whilst under these circumstances, from the general, informing her that if she would leave her husband, her presence availing him little, that she would find an asylum in his protection, and every thing that would be advantageous to her, would she listen to his passion. She replied by an opened letter, publicly read through the camp, in words as follows:—”Unworthy commander, though I would die on the rack without a groan to save my husband, yet I will not forfeit my honor, and dishonor him to save us both. Think not, vain man, that misery, pain, indigence, and chastity, cannot inhabit the same bosom together; know for once you are mistaken, and that being conscious nothing in my conduct could encourage that presumption. The insult is cruel, base, and unmanly. Molest me no more, nor dare to violate my presence. These languid arms, scarce able to lift themselves in tender offices for my husband, my wrongs may animate to avenge his cause and mine.” The commander (who in this instance only stands impeached for want of honor and humanity) stood struck with remorse; he went to her, threw himself at her feet, humiliating himself before the companions of his guilt, avowing it and accusing himself and them for the disgraceful and precipitate step that had ruined a virtuous couple, promising her that for her sake he would ever reverence in future her whole sex. The husband was honorably discharged, and soon after promoted, and is now major in the regiment. This virtuous couple enjoy the veneration of all the corps, interrupted only in their happiness by a languishing state the major’s imprisonment has occasioned. She lately has lain in, and a want of fresh provisions having happened just before the officer left the camp in Charleston, the major being in a state of weakness for want of proper nutriment, he left the lovely heroine supporting her husband with the milk of her chaste breast, that ever heaved with conjugal love, the innocent pledge of their love having died a few days after its birth. Surely such instances as these, and such of the justly celebrated Mrs. ——, should make us look round with contempt on the paltry passions and interested motives that connect and disunite our fashionable lovers in high life. What sensations can they experience in their most enviable hours, that equal the luxury of a virtuous affection? Riches and honor, like every other gratification of appetite and taste, by use, fall into satiety and languor; we look round to the deserted paths of nature and virtuous attachment, for a relief from that lassitude and ennui; but dissipation and habit have too early extinguished or absorbed those finer feelings that give rapture and enthusiasm, with durable rational enjoyment, to the humble, retired, and undepraved.1

 

1 Pennsylvania Packet, July 7.

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