To Annis Boudinot Stockton
Mount Vernon Feby 18th 1784
The intemperate weather, and very great care which the Post Riders take of themselves, prevented your letter of the 4th of last month from reaching my hands ’till the 10th of this.1 I was then in the very act of setting of on a visit to my aged Mother, from whence I am just returned. These reasons, I beg leave to offer, as an apology for my silence until now.
It would be a pity indeed, My dear Madam, if the Muses should be restrained in you; it is only to be regretted that the hero of your poetical talents is not more deserving their lays: I cannot, however, from motives of false delicacy (because I happen to be the principal character in your Pastoral) withhold my encomiums on the performance—for I think the easy, simple, and beautiful strains with which the dialogue is supported, does great justice to your genius; and will not only secure Lucinda & Aminta from Wits & Critics, but draw from them, however unwillingly, their highest plaudits; if they can relish the praises that are given, as highly as they must admire the manner of bestowing them.2
Mrs Washington, equally sensible with myself, of the honor you have done her, joins me in most affectionate compliments to yourself, the young Ladies & Gentlemen of your family. With sentiments of esteem, regard and respect I have the honor to be Dr Madam Yr Most Obedt & Most Hble Servt
ALS, NjMoHP; LB, DLC:GW.
Annis Boudinot Stockton (1736–1801), sister of Elias Boudinot, widow of Richard Stockton (1730–1781), and mother-in-law of Benjamin Rush (1746–1813), was one of GW’s most ardent admirers. An earlier poem of hers “Addressed to general Washington in the year 1777 after the battles of trenton and Princeton” (NjP: Stockton Papers) was probably the one her brother sent to GW in 1779 (see GW to Elias Boudinot, 27 Feb. 1779). After GW stopped briefly at Mrs. Stockton’s house Morven at Princeton, N.J., on his way to Yorktown in August 1781, she completed and sent to him a long pastoral poem in which Lucinda and Aminta, two shepherdesses, reviewed “‘the events which had occurred since the beginning of the war’” (L. H. Butterfield, “Annis and the General: Mrs. Stockton’s Poetic Eulogies of George Washington,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, 7 [1945–46], 19–39). After GW moved his headquarters to Rocky Hill near Princeton, he and Mrs. Washington became friends of Mrs. Stockton.
1. Letter not found.
2. The poem that Mrs. Stockton enclosed in her missing letter to GW of 4 Jan. 1784 she called, “Peace: A pastoral dialogue part the second.” It was a continuation of the conversation between Aminta and Lucinda (see source note). Like the letter in which it was enclosed, GW’s copy of the poem is missing, but it may be found in the bound volume of Mrs. Stockton’s poems in the Princeton University Library. The poem fills fourteen pages with about twenty lines on a page. At one point she writes of GW:
Such magnanimity, Such public Zeal
As did the breast of our great leader feel
Was never equal’d in the historic page
Of ancient druid or enlighten’d Sage.
And Lucinda’s final speech ends with these lines:
Pale man from a swain a paper took
In which I read the solemn words he spoke
When he his great Commission did resign
Which marks his character in every line.