Puritan Village; The Formation of a New England Town

Colonial Habits

Customs and Fashions in Old New England

letters of married lovers, such as Governor Winthrop and his wife Margaret; letters like the words of another Margaret—a queen—to her "alderliefest;" letters so simple and tender that truth and love shine round them like a halo:

"MY OWN DEAR HUSBAND: How dearly welcome thy kind letter was to me, I am not able to express. The sweetness of it did much refresh me. What can be more pleasing to a wife than to hear of the welfare of her best beloved and how he is pleased with her poor endeavors! I blush to hear myself commended, knowing my own wants. But it is your love that conceives the best and makes all things seem better than they are. I wish that I may always be pleasing to thee, and that these comforts we have in each other may be daily increased so far as they be pleasing to God. I will use that speech to thee that Abigail did to David, I will be a servant to wash the feet of my lord; I will do any service wherein I may please my good husband. I confess I cannot do enough for thee; but thou art pleased to accept the will for the deed and rest contented. I have many reasons to make me love thee, whereof I shall name two: First, because thou lovest God, and secondly, because thou lovest me. If these two were wanting all the rest would be eclipsed. But I must leave this discourse and go about my house-hold affairs. I am a bad housewife to be so long from them; but I must needs borrow a little time to talk with thee, my sweetheart. It will be but two or three weeks before I see thee, though they be long ones. God will bring us together in good time, for which time I shall pray. And thus with my mother's and my own best love to yourself I shall leave scribbling. Farewell my good husband, the Lord keep thee.
                    "Your obedient wife,
                                        "MARGARET WINTHROP."

Who can read the beautiful words without feeling for that sweet Margaret, who died two centuries ago, a thrill of the affection that must have glowed for her in John Winthrop's heart, when, far away from her, he first opened and read this tender letter.

Warm eulogies did many a staid New Englander write of his loving consort, eulogies in rhyme, and epitaphs, elegies, threnodies, epicediums, anagrams, acrostics, and pindarics, all speaking loudly of loving, "painful" care, if not of a spirit of poesy. And the even, virtuous tenor of the life in New England proved too a happiness and contentment equal to the marital results of more emotional and romantic love-making. There were some divorces. Madam Knight found that they were plentiful in Connecticut in 1704, as they are in that State nowadays. She writes:

"These uncomely Stand-aways are too much in vogue among the English in this indulgent colony, as their records plentifully prove; and that on very trivial matters of which some have been told me, but are not Proper to be Related by a Female Pen."

In town records we find that divorces, though infrequent, still were occasionally given in other New England States; but the causes assigned therefor, to follow Madam Knight's example, need not be "Related by a Female Pen."

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This page was last updated on 12 Sep 2005