Not such a modest proposal

From her deathbed Leah Cutler made the following request of her husband Ephraim.
“…For his own good and that of their four children, she had insisted, he must remain single a short time only and remarry. She even went so far as to name the person she thought best suited for him. It was an act of genuine, selfless good intent, and of courage.

The woman she had in mind was not someone she knew, only heard about. Her name was Sally Parker and she was also unknown to Ephraim…” 

“On March 11, 1808, a matter of only a few months after Leah’s death, Ephraim Cutler sat down to write Sally Parker a letter.”

 “It is with great diffidence I presume to address you on a subject which to me is of the highest importance,” he began. I am at this time destitute of that solace of the heart a female friend to whom I can disclose my cares or who can alleviate my sorrows, assuage my grief or share my joys. The author of our natures has given your sex the most unlimited faculties and powers in all those respects and has said that it is not good, for a man to be alone. I am not insensible of the hard terms which I have to offer you and in consequence a total rejection of my suit is what I have a right to expect. . . . I have nothing to give as a compensation for this but my love and respect, but I find the impetuosity of my passion has carried me too far. I will then only ask the favor to address you and cultivate an acquaintance. As I am very anxious to know my fate I must ask the favor that you will condescend so much as to convey to me your sentiment in such a way as you may think proper.” 

“…Four days later came her reply.
She felt herself in an “awkward predicament,” knowing nothing of his “person, manners, taste and sentiments,” but given his reputation as a gentleman: “If a personal interview is consistent with your desire, I am induced by the principles of politeness to accede thereto.”

On April 4, Ephraim wrote what appears to have been his first all-out love letter to Sally.
“The heart when full to overflowing seeks a vent and nothing relieves it so effectively,” he began, “as to pour out our thoughts to [the] one we love.”
The lonely hours I pass, altho’ I am surrounded by noisy workmen and trifling neighbors are tedious. Indeed, there is none to whom I can divulge my thoughts. . . . You may well conceive then the pleasure I take in flying to my pen for relief. . . . You will my dear, pardon me when you consider that my heart has been a long time, as it were, on the rack, its feelings have been strained on the highest cord of grief, sorrow and joy and love, it now wants a repose and how can it enjoy repose when everything that is dear, to it is at such a distance. Oh my sweet girl, how can it be possible for one to live without you. I have felt the rapture of the most refined love. . . . O my dear every little pleasure I enjoy, every beauty of nature I see loudly tells me who is absent.”

“When or where they met for the first time was not recorded though they were married on 13 April.
Ephraim and Sally were to add five more children to the family, that already had four children, the first of whom was born a year after their marriage, the second a year after that.”

McCullough, David. The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West (p. 182). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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